Ezekiel, the other great prophet of the Babylonian Captivity along with Daniel, had much in common with his contemporary. Both spent most of their lives living in Mesopotamia; both died and were buried in foreign lands; the tombs of both became important pilgrimage destinations for the Jews in exile. However, while the site of Daniel’s Tomb has always been questionable, it has remained a beloved place right down to the present day; whereas while the site of Ezekiel’s Tomb is much less disputed, it has been all-but abandoned since the Jews left Iraq in the mid-20th century. A synagogue still marks the site of Ezekiel’s burial, but it is unknown if many Jewish pilgrims visit the place nowadays.
Although Ezekiel is counted among the Major Prophets, his story and prophecies have always been overshadowed by those of Isaiah, Daniel and Jeremiah. His history is full of paradoxes. For example, we know less of his life than we do of many other prophets, and yet the years of his ministry are among the easiest to date (597-571 BC). His prophetic visions were not nearly as spectacular as many of the other prophets, and yet he was associated with at least two of the Old Testament’s most spectacular miracles: the vision of the mysterious wheel of fire, and the resurrection of the dead.
Ezekiel’s ministry took place in the years immediately before and after the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. He is closely associated with a number of the other major figures of the period, including the Prophet Jeremiah. His most famous prophecies during this early period included the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple, which occurred during his lifetime, and which he almost certainly personally witnessed.
Few details are known about Ezekiel’s later life. Since his work continued for at least a decade after the conquest of Jerusalem, and since he was buried in Mesoptamia, it is clear that he was part of the mass deportation that led to the Babylonian Captivity. Unlike Daniel, who went to Babylon as an aristocratic hostage, Ezekiel was probably one of the numberless thousands who were herded eastwards en masse. He attained little in the way of rank or privelage during his lifetime, though both the books of Daniel and Ezekiel suggest that the two men met on at least one occasion.
Ezekiel’s final years were spent living among the Jewish exiles in southern Mesopotamia. His prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel and other future events probably date from this period, and were likely strong influences on Daniel. He died some time around the 560s BC, and was buried in what is modern-day Kefil, Iraq. His tomb was a major pilgrimage destination for the Jews of Mesopotamia until the 20th century, when most were encouraged to leave after the creation of the state of Israel.
The Tomb of Ezekiel is reminiscent of, if less impressive than, the tomb of Daniel in Shush. It is simpler, smaller, and built of plain brick unadorned by tilework. Its conical dome is very similar to that of Daniel’s Tomb, and evokes images of what the ancient Tower of Babylon might have looked like in ancient times.
The austerity of the interior matches the simplicity of the exterior, with little in the way of adornments. In some ways, the sepulcher of Ezekiel has a much more authentic feel than that of Daniel’s. A plain wooden altar stands over the place where Ezekiel is buried. The tomb itself can be viewed through a small peephole.
The town of Kefil is located a little north of Najaf, about eighty miles or so south of Baghdad. Because the Tomb of Ezekiel has always been honored by both Muslims and Jews, it was for centuries one of the more accommodating pilgrimage sites for the latter. Thousands of Jews used to make annual pilgrimages here during the Passover week, but very few now come. There are apparently no restrictions to visiting the site. However, after years of fighting in the region, visiting the Tomb of Ezekiel has become extremely difficult if not outright dangerous. No further visitor information was available as of this writing. Web: Not Available
There is little in the way of other related Jewish sites in the area.
Wow I would love to visit Ezekiels tomb one day. Thank you so much for this article.
Howard Kramer says
You are very welcome Amaechi!