Ezekiel, Ethnicity, and Identity


  • Martti Nissinen


book of ezekiel, ezekiel, scribal identity, hebrew bible, mesopotamia, babylon


The written sources from the ancient Near East are for the most part authored from the perspective of the dominant group and yield a very limited view on people’s identities from an emic point of view that would correspond to their own self-identification. Self-defined minority groups in Mesopotamia have not left behind written evidence about themselves and their identity strategies. A notable exception to this rule is the book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. This book documents an intense and enduring attempt at reconstructing the identity of a dislocated group of people. The book of Ezekiel is produced by a group that constructed a diaspora identity from the early sixth century onwards, whether in Babylonia or in Jerusalem; in any case, it is written in an environment where the adaptation of a wide array of Mesopotamian linguistic, iconographic, literary, and theological motifs was possible. Wherever and whenever the book of Ezekiel was produced, it presents itself as a document of an explicit identity strategy of a minority group, unique among written sources from any part of Mesopotamia. It can be read as an example of the survival strategy of a group that distinguishes itself from others by way of self-reidentification. The book does not reflect a stable and universally shared identity of the Judeans. On the contrary, it creates and constructs an inner-Judean antagonism between Ezekiel’s in-group and the delegitimized out-group. The book of Ezekiel, therefore, does not convey much about the integration of the Judean minority into Babylonian society but all the more about conflicts among Judeans themselves.

How to Cite

Nissinen, M. (2023). Ezekiel, Ethnicity, and Identity. Studia Orientalia Electronica, 11(2), 53–71. https://doi.org/10.23993/store.129806