You are on page 1of 6

c  

 

: Ezekiel
 : 593-573 B.C.
  : Destruction and restoration of Jerusalem
 : Judgment, blessing, moral and individual responsibility

Ezekiel as a prophetic book of the Old Testament with vivid, symbolic language
much like that in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. The Book of Ezekiel is
named for its author, the prophet Ezekiel, who received his prophetic messages from
GOD in a series of visions. He addressed these prophecies to the Jewish exiles in
Babylon.

: The author, whose name means "GOD strengthens", is identified as the
"priest Ezekiel, son of Buzi" (1:3). Although this identification has been put into doubt,
there seem to be no reasons to doubt it. Ezekiel was probably part of the Zadokite
priesthood, which achieved prominence with the reforms of Josiah (621 B.C.). Prepared
in the priesthood during the reign of Jehoiachin, he was deported to Babylon (1:1; 33:21;
40:1) in 597 B.C., and settled in Tel-abib, next to the river Chebar, near Nipur (1:1). His
ministry briefly coincided with that of Jeremiah.

 : Ezekiel's calling took place in 593 B.C., fifth year of the reign of
Jehoiachin. The last date that is mentioned in one of his prayers (29:17) corresponds to
the year 571 B.C., which allows the supposition that his ministry lasted for twenty years.
The death of his wife occurred the day the siege of Jerusalem began in 587 B.C. (24:1,15-
17). Exiled when that city was besieged the second time, he wrote to those who had
remained there about its imminent and total destruction. Parts of the text were apparently
written after the fall of Jerusalem.

  : Ezekiel's personality reflects a strong mystical tendency. The


immediacy of his contacts with the Spirit, his visions, and the frequency with which the
words of the LORD descended upon him, link him with the ancient contemplative
prophets as well as with the classical prophets. His spiritual experiences also constitute an
anticipation of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. He has every right to
hold the title of "Charismatic".

Ezekiel's message was directed to the demoralized remnant of Judah exiled in


Babylon. The moral responsibility of the individual can be considered his main theme.
Collective responsibility doesn't individual sin. Each person should recognize his quota
of responsibility in national calamity. Each individual is responsible for his own sin
(18:2-4). It is the accumulated burden of the sins of the people that had contributed to the
breaking of the covenant of GOD with Israel, and each one bears a part of the blame for
the judgment that led to the Babylonian exile.
Three sections are distinguished easily in the book: The judgment of Judah
(chaps. 4-24); the judgment of the pagan nations (chaps. 25-32), and the future blessings
that the people of GOD will receive (chaps. 33-48).

Two theological questions interact in the prophet's thinking. In his doctrine about
human beings, Ezekiel emphasizes individual responsibility (18:4, "the soul that sins, that
soul will die"). On the other hand, he places emphasis on divine grace in the rebirth of the
nation. The repentance of the faithful remnant among the exiles will give place to the
rebirth of Israel, which will rise from the dry bones of their dead (37:11-14). The divine
Spirit will lead them to a new life. With this emphasis on the regeneration by the Holy
Spirit, Ezekiel anticipates the neotestamental doctrine about the Spirit of GOD, especially
that of the Gospel of John.

  : Ezekiel warned his fellow exiles against any wishful thoughts that
Jerusalem might be spared. As portrayed in Ezekiel's visions, the glory of the LORD had
departed from the city, leaving it vulnerable to destruction. Judah would pay for its
rebellion against the LORD. However, the LORD would eventually restore His people to
the land and reestablish pure worship in a new temple.

   : Although Ezekiel is a long book of 48 chapters, it has a logical,
orderly structure that makes it easy to analyze and understand. After a brief introductory
section about Ezekiel and the nature of his mission, the book falls naturally into three
main divisions: (1) judgment on the nation of Judah (chaps. 4-24); (2) judgment on the
surrounding nations (chaps. 25-32); and (3) the future blessing of GOD's Covenant
People (chaps 33-48).

Ezekiel was a priest who lived among the other citizens of the nation of Judah as a
captive of Babylon during the years of the Captivity. In the very first chapter of the book,
he describes an amazing vision of GOD which came to him at the beginning of his
ministry. He saw four living creatures, each of which had the faces of a man, a lion, an
ox, and an eagle. Clearly visible above these strange creatures was the likeness of a
throne, symbolizing the might and power of GOD. The glory of the LORD was clearly
visible to Ezekiel as He called the prophet to proclaim His message of judgment. This
vision in the very first chapter sets the tone for the rest of Ezekiel. In other encounters
with strange visions throughout the book, Ezekiel proclaims GOD's message for His
Covenant People, as well as the Gentile nations surrounding the land of Israel.

In the first major section of the book (chaps. 4-24) Ezekiel describes GOD's
judgment on the nation of Judah because of its rampant idolatry. Chapters 8-11 are
especially interesting because their prophecies were delivered by Ezekiel in the city of
Jerusalem after GOD transported him there during one of his visions (8:3). At the end of
chapter 11, Ezekiel was taken back to Babylon, where he continued his messages (11:24-
25).
The next major division of the book (chaps. 25-32) proclaims GOD's judgment
against the Gentile nations surrounding the land of Israel. Included are judgments against
Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre and Sidon, and Egypt.

The final section of the book (chaps 33-48) speaks of the future restoration of the
people of Israel. It includes Ezekiel's famous vision of the valley of dry bones (chap. 37).
At GOD's command, Ezekiel spoke to the bones and they arose. Then GOD declared to
the bones, "I will put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your
own land" (34:14). This was a clear promise from GOD that His Covenant People would
be restored to their homeland after their period of exile in Babylon. This same theme is
continued in chapters 40-48, which describe the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem
and the renewal of sacrifices and authentic worship. These chapters are similar in tone
and content to the closing chapters of the Book of Revelation. Ezekiel points forward to
the glorious kingdom of Jesus the Messiah.

K    : The Book of Ezekiel belongs to the early years of the
Babylonian captivity of GOD's Covenant People. The Babylonians took captives from
Jerusalem in there stages. In an early campaign about 605 B.C., the prophet Daniel was
among the Jews taken to Babylon. A second attack against the city occurred in 597 B.C.,
when many additional captives were taken. Ezekiel must have been among those carried
away at this time. Then in the extensive campaign of 587-586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar
destroyed Jerusalem and took most of the remaining inhabitants into exile.

In the early prophecies of the Book of Ezekiel, the author wrote as a captive in
Babylon who expected Jerusalem to be destroyed. Chapter 24 describes the beginning of
the final siege of the city. This date wa so important that the LORD had the prophet write
it down as a memorial of the dreaded event (24:2). This was followed by the symbol of
the cooking pot with scum rising from the boiling meat, a clear judgment against Judah.
On this day also the prophet's beloved wife died. Ezekiel was forbidden to mourn her
death as a symbol of GOD's wrath upon the wayward nation (24:15-24).

Portions of the Book of Ezekiel were written during the long siege of Jerusalem.
While Ezekiel and the other captives lived in Babylon, they must have heard of the
suffering of their fellow citizens back home. At last they received word that the city had
fallen, and Ezekiel translated this event into an unforgettable message for the people
(33:21-29). Such were the perilous times in which Ezekiel prophesied.

      : In his use of parables, symbolic behavior, and object
lessons to drive home his messages, the prophet Ezekiel reminds us of the great prophet
Jeremiah. Through the use of parables, Ezekiel portrayed GOD's Covenant People as a
helpless newborn child (16:12), as a lioness who cared carefully for here cubs (19:1-9), as
a sturdy cedar (17:1-10), and as a doomed and useless vine (chap. 15). He also used a
clay tablet to portray the Babylonian siege against the city of Jerusalem (4:1-2), ate his
bread "with quaking" and drank his water "with trembling and anxiety" (12:17) to
symbolize GOD's wrath, and carried his belongings about to show that GOD would allow
His people to be carried into exile by the Babylonians (12:1-16).
Ezekiel may have picked up this technique of acting out his messages from
Jeremiah himself. For about 40 years before Jerusalem's fall in 587 B.C., Jeremiah
prophesied in the capital city. As a young resident of Jerusalem, Ezekiel probably heard
and saw this great prophet at work. When he was called to prophesy to the exiles in
Babylon beginning about 593 B.C., he may have used Jeremiah's methods as a way to get
attention and win a hearing for GOD's message.

  : Among the major literary forms appearing in the book are
prophetic visions, reports of symbolic acts, parables, and messages of judgment and
salvation. Ezekiel used poetic form less than Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Ezekiel 1-24 focuses on the approaching fall of Jerusalem. Chapters 25-32


prophesy judgment upon the surrounding nations, while chapters 33-48 picture the
miraculous restoration of the nation and its worship system.

      : Like the many prophets who preceded him, Ezekiel
denounced GOD's people for their sins and warned that judgment was imminent. As a
priest Ezekiel was particularly interested in the temple. In a vision he saw the glory of
GOD leaving the polluted temple and abandoning the defiled city. Through speeches,
symbolic acts, and parables Ezekiel prophesied the fall of the city to the Babylonians and
the exile of its people.

GOD's judgment would not be limited to His people. He would also punish the
hostile surrounding nations, especially proud Tyre and Egypt.

Though GOD's people were scattered in exile, He had not abandoned them. He
would miraculously restore them to their land, reunite Israel and Judah under an ideal
Davidic ruler, establish a new covenant of peach with them, and annihilate once and for
all their enemies. Ezekiel's prophecy ends with an idealized vision of a new and purified
temple, out of which flows a life-giving river.

 !  : In Ezekiel Christology and the person and work of the Holy
Spirit are intimately connected. Although a messianic figure isn't clearly distinguished in
Ezekiel's last vision, several messianic titles and functions that appear in the book,
indicate that the Messiah formed part of his eschatological vision.

The title "Son of Man" is mentioned ninety times in Ezekiel. Even when the title
is applied to Ezekiel himself, Jesus adopted it as his favorite way of designating himself.
Therefore, Ezekiel should be considered as a type of Christ. In such capacity, Ezekiel
became a prophet of the age of the Messiah, when "the Spirit of Jehovah" came upon him
(11:5). The descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus in the Jordan gave him the power to
inaugurate the advent of the messianic kingdom (Luke 4:18,19).

Another messianic title is reflected in the vision of the LORD GOD as the divine
Shepherd who regathers his dispersed flock (34:11-16). This figure evokes the image of
Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16).
Ezekiel continues developing his concept of Israel as a "kingdom of priests and a
holy nation", based on the covenant of Sinai (Ezek. 19:6). A restored sanctuary in the
midst of a newly reunited people, whose head is the King-priest, the Davidic Messiah
(37:22-28), prefigures the restored tabernacle of David, the Church of Christ (Am. 9:11;
Acts 15:16).

A final messianic prophecy employs the figure of a restored cedar planted by the
LORD himself on a high mountain, which becomes a vigorous cedar able to provide
fruits and refuge to the birds. This metaphor of nature, like that of the "root of Isaiah" (Is.
11:1,10; Rom. 15:12), serves to represent the future Messiah. The birds and trees
represent the Gentile nations, to demonstrate the universal kingdom of Christ.

  K      : Although prophetic revelation is presented


symbolically through visions, signs, parables and human oratory, Ezekiel considers them
fruit of the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, numerous references to the
Spirit of GOD are offered in the book. The Book of Ezekiel can almost be characterized
as the "Acts of the Holy Spirit" in the Old Testament. Many of these references deserve
special consideration.

In 11:5 the prophet affirms, as an autobiographical fact, "The Spirit of Jehovah


came upon me, and told me". The oracle that follows then communicates the Word of
GOD in words of Ezekiel, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The same chapter (11:24) presents
the Spirit as active protagonist in a vision: "Afterwards the Spirit took me up, and
brought me in a vision of the Spirit of GOD to the land of the Chaldeans, to the captives".

Perhaps the best known case of the activity of the Spirit is in chapter 37; the
vision of the valley of dry bones: "The hand of Jehovah came upon me, and the Spirit of
Jehovah carried me, and put me in the midst of a valley that was filled with bones" (v.1).
The subsequent vision relates the spiritual rebirth of the remnant in exile.

A final aspect of the action of the Spirit in the life of the prophet is found in
36:26: "I will give you a new heart, and will put a new spirit within you". It's not only an
exterior action of the Spirit that "falls" upon someone, but the prophesied inner presence
of the Spirit, like that which Ezekiel experienced when "the Spirit entered" into him (2:2).
Ezekiel anticipated the neotestamental experience of the "new birth", fruit of the Spirit.

     : Three relevant personal lessons can be learned in Ezekiel.
The fist has to do with the importance of individual moral responsibility. Although
GOD certainly blesses and disciplines local churches as a whole (Rev. 2; 3), he is
primordially concerned with individuals. Thus we can't invoke the righteousness of
others to justify ourselves, nor is there any fear of being reprimanded for the sins of
others (18:20).

Second, Ezekiel teaches that although GOD doesn't like severely disciplining his
people, sometimes he has to. He is a just and jealous GOD as well as merciful and
compassionate (12:1-16).
Third, Ezekiel assures us that GOD will triumph in history at the end. His enemies
may be winning battles now, but in the last judgment they will be destroyed (35:1-(