5

In the first verse of the book of Ezekiel, it reads:

Now in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth of the month, as I was among the captives by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
(Ezekiel 1:1, WEB)

In some translations, the elapsed time mentioned in this verse is interpreted as the age of Ezekiel the priest:

In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
(Ezekiel 1:1, NIV)

The elapsed time, does it refer to the age of Ezekiel the priest, or does it refer to another event?

4

Ezekiel identifies the current time as the fifth year of King Jehoiachin's exile (the next verse, Ezekiel 1.2). Ezekiel proceeds to give dates according to this exile. (Notice Ezekiel's prophecies are not all arranged in chronological order.)

  • the sixth year (8.1)
  • the seventh year (20.1)
  • the ninth year (24.1)
  • the tenth year (29.1)
  • the eleventh year (26.1; 30.20; 31.1)
  • the twelfth year (32.1; 32.17; 33.21)
  • the twenty-fifth year (40.1)
  • the twenty-seventh year (29.17)

Ezekiel 33.21 tells us that, 'in the twelfth year of our exile', the Jews in Babylon receive a messenger telling them Jerusalem has been destroyed. This event took place c.587-586 BC, which dates the exile (of Jehoiachin and these others Jews in Babylon) to c.598-597 BC. Ezekiel 1 sets us five years into this exile.

It is during this time, c.593-592 BC, that Ezekiel says he is 'in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month'. Going back thirty years puts us c.623-622. The only event of Israelite interest that could be dated to this time would be the discovery of the covenant scroll in the Jerusalem temple (cf. 2 Kings 22).

Dating the 'thirtieth year' as being Ezekiel's birthdate is an ancient proposition (Daniel Block suggests Origen is the earliest known proponent: Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24, p.82). But identifying the 'thirtieth year' with Ezekiel's birth is just as speculative as identifying it with the discovery of the law in the temple.

We can say for certain it's not related to the exile that Ezekiel proceeds to date the rest of the book with.

1

A persons "30th year" had religious significance in Hebrew culture. It was customary for Levites to begin their ministry at thirty, (Numbers 4:3) and the time a Jewish person could be considered a Rabbi. As we know, Jesus was about 30 when his ministry began. (Luke 3:23)

Therefore, Ezekiel 1:1 seems to be a natural way of opening his prophecy, with a reference to his age credential, followed by a reference to the actual date.

2
  • Interesting! :-) Nevertheless: why does the writer add the month and the day? Wouldn't it be enough to just mention the year? Apr 19 '15 at 4:45
  • Ezekiel is saying 2 things in the same breath: 1st his age credential. 2nd the date of his vision. Apr 19 '15 at 6:41

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