Previous studies of the book of Ezekiel have overlooked its peculiar association with the expression בית ישראל (“house of Israel”). While most commentaries content themselves with briefly mentioning that Ezekiel is the main promoter of the idiom (83x; 56.5% in the Hebrew Bible), an investigation of its function and meaning within the overall rhetoric of the prophet is lacking. This article addresses this shortcoming and analyzes the term בית ישראל by means of three arguments: its distribution and connotations within the Hebrew Bible and the book of Ezekiel, the effects of the exilic period on Judean deportees, and the use of the theoretical concept of “collective memory” to read Ezek 20. I conclude that בית ישראל directly answered to the crisis of the exile and offered a new identity to the Babylonian exilic community. This idiom emphasized the role of past cultural traditions (e.g., the exodus), religion, and kinship for the maintenance and perpetuation of its identity.

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