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The Exile and the Prophet’s Wife

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Final Paper

Cristobal Lopez

REL 373

Terry Clark

December 9, 2013

Final Paper:

The Exile and The Prophet’s Wife

Today many people are skeptical about the books that we find in the Bible, because some of them, like Ezekiel, describe things that are very shocking for our society today. It’s not easy to read things like the ones we see in the book of Joshua, for example, where God commanded Israel to slaughter the Canaanites in order to occupy the Promised Land. Or things like in the book of Exodus where God killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, or things like in the book of Ezekiel where God killed Ezekiel’s wife to teach a lesson to his chosen people. These kinds of stories that we find throughout the Old Testament are stories that almost all people struggle with because it’s difficult to picture a God like that. That’s why it’s important for us to study in a deeper way this book of the Bible. Through this paper we are going to show some of the work that Johanna Stiebert, a professor of religious studies of the University of Tennessee, did on developing a closer view of the book of Ezekiel.

In the first chapter of her book, she talks about the social circumstances and historical context during the time of the Exile. One of the important things she discusses is the election of the Israelites as “the chosen people” (p.6). This point will explain later why God was such a Jealous God. Then Stiebert talks about the reasons of the Exile of the chosen ones. She explains how this was something that the people of God couldn’t avoid and it was completely justified and inevitable because of all “the effusive wrongdoings” (p.19).

Chapter two talks about the difference between Judaism and the Babylonian religion; she says some interesting things about how religion was viewed in those times. She says some of the differences of both, such as Jews worship just one God (monotheism) and the Babylonians many different gods (Polytheistic), and that the different gods battle with each other to get control over the people (p.33). She also mentions that in those times it was very common for the Israelite people to have other gods besides Yahweh, which I didn’t know before the reading. That’s why sometimes we see in the Bible stories about the Israelites bringing their images of their different gods to the temple. Then Stiebert also takes the place of Ezekiel’s wife and shows us in a closer way how the Israelites experience the Exile and how they experience living in a culture like Babylon that was a polytheistic society. Then in this chapter we can see the sexism that was present in those societies, especially among the Israelites. It just shocks me the way women were treated in those times. On page 44, Steibert says that Ezekiel’s wife asked her father why women were not able to be priestesses in the temple; his response was: “It’s not proper.” That just really struck me because even the Babylonians were letting women carry out holy duties.

Then in Chapter three, Steibert starts talking about the Prophets of that time. She said that by being called a Prophet they were understood to be the Interpreters of God. But she also says that they were often pictured as people that had unconventional behavior such as self-flagellation, stripping, craziness, madness, etc. (p.49), which is not a very conventional way people view prophets today. She then says that some people sometimes didn’t want to listen to the Prophets because of this. Other highlights of this chapter are when the author talks about the mysticism involve in Ezekiel’s book. She says that portions of Ezekiel were “dammed to be potentially dangerous” because of its high mystical content (p.61). And I understand why she may support this way of thinking because, as we see, there is a high content of Ezekiel that is difficult to digest, specifically the visions that Ezekiel has. Then, in the section of “Ezekiel’s Wife Recalls,” the author pictures Ezekiel as getting crazy. The prophet’s wife says on page 62: “I felt humiliated for him and feared that he had lost his mind entirely,” which the author uses to show the madness that Ezekiel may be dealing with.

Then in Chapter four the author starts to discuss how can we interpret these kinds of texts. She says that one of the ways to do it is by approaching it with an Ideological Criticism which first she defines as “the study of the ideas.” Then she says that this way of criticism seeks to point out the political nature of either the text or interpreters of the text. This way also discloses the value system and cultural morals of a biblical writer or text, as well as of the narrator and the character. Then she talks about how Ezekiel, through his writing, shows behaviors of xenophobia (anti-foreigner) and misogyny (anti-woman). We see that as a Prophet Ezekiel wanted to seek purity and holiness but this kind of goals lead him to be somewhat antisocial and, in some ways, racist. He didn’t see the others as sinners and people that were far away from God, so that made him reject any kind person that didn’t believe what he believed. A lot of scholars contend that there is a “disturbing ideological subtext” in Ezekiel that is clearly misogynistic. If we are able to see the book’s xenophobic overtones, says Stiebert, then we will recognize an “agenda in the book of Ezekiel that is toxic or dangerous.”  The author then says that this kind of interpretation of Ezekiel is “anachronistic,” which means it is incorrect to apply modern concepts to ancient text. But then again she says: “Can or should misogyny and xenophobia ever be condoned? Do they really become right because particular societies past and present promote such agendas?” Here she finishes chapter four and starts with chapter five.

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