THE PROPHET EZEKIEL
Ezekiel’s name means “God strengthens.” He is often called “son of man” in his book, a name that implies human weakness and mortality. But his proper name, “Ezekiel,” reminds us that his strength came from God. When Ezekiel’s ministry was completed, the people indeed knew that a strong prophet of God had been among them. God strengthened, as his name says. Ezekiel prophesied at the same time as Jeremiah but in a different location. Ezekiel was the prophet to the exiles in Babylon. He was born about 622 B.C. in Judah to a priestly family. His father’s name was Buzi. Until he was about 25 years old he lived in Judah. Then in 597 B.C. he was carried off to Babylon together with Jehoiachin and about 10,000 other Jews. (Remember that Daniel had been similarly carried off to Babylon eight years earlier in 605 B.C.) In Babylon he lived with the other Jews of the Captivity by the Kebar River, a canal connecting the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Babylon. We know little more about Ezekiel’s personal life except that he was married but later lost his wife in death at the same time that Jerusalem was besieged in 588/587 B.C. (Chap. 24). After spending five years of captivity in Babylon, God called Ezekiel “in the thirtieth year.” (1:). This probably means the thirtieth year of Ezekiel’s life. His ministry lasted more than 20 years among the exiles. As his name suggests, Ezekiel was a strong preacher. His message came from God who had called him. To point out that his message was not his own but God’s, Ezekiel liked to use the expression, “the hand of the Lord was upon me” (1:3). His message and his book are therefore the result of divine inspiration. Although his preaching was strong, clear, interesting, and from God, still his words were usually resented and rejected. When God called him, He warned him that his message would often fall on hard hearts. But still he was to faithfully preach. God had said: “And whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet has been among them” (3:5). Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel is a splendid example of a faithful church worker who did not give up when the going was difficult. In the end the faithful preaching of Ezekiel and the other faithful prophets must have brought some results. After the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews were cured of open idolatry. God’s word never returns to him empty when it is faithfully preached. It always accomplishes what He desires. Ezekiel’s prophetic career can logically be divided into two periods. The first period was the time before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. During this period he preached with sharp words condemning the people’s sins and threatening destruction for Jerusalem. During the second period of his ministry, following the destruction in 587 B.C., Ezekiel’s message was mainly one of comfort and the promise of the restoration of Israel.
THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
The entire book with its 48 chapters is written in the first person (“While I was among the exiles … I saw visions of God … he said to me“). It is obvious from this that Ezekiel himself is the author of the book that carries his name.
GENERAL OUTLINE OF EZEKIEL:
- Ezekiel’s Call (1-3) The prophet is given a special vision of God’s glory. Then he eats the scroll on which are written the words of owe that he is to preach. He is commanded to be God’s watchman to the people in exile, to warn them of their evil ways in order to save their lives.
- Prophecies Against Jerusalem (4-24) Ezekiel predicts Jerusalem’s destruction by symbolic acts; see 4-7. Ezekiel is carried in spirit to Jerusalem to see the sins being carried on in the city. He also sees the glory of the Lord depart from the temple, a symbol that depicts God leaving his unrepentant people; see 8-11. In chapters 12-24 we find symbolic sermons and actions of Ezekiel that tell of the coming fall of Jerusalem. Chapter 24 is an especially sad chapter. It tells of the death of the prophet’s wife, for whom he is not permitted to mourn. The day she dies, the siege of Jerusalem begins. This is a symbolic picture for the exiles. Just as death ended Ezekiel’s relationship with his wife, so God’s special relationship with Jerusalem ended and destruction followed.
- Prophecies Against the Nations (25-32)
- Prophecies of the Restoration of Israel (33-48) These prophecies include beautiful prophecies of the coming Kingdom of Christ (see 34:23). Chapter 37, concerning the vision of the dry bones, is an especially well-known chapter of the Bible. Just as dry bones were revived into a vast army, so hopeless Israel would be restored.
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