Scriptures

Complete Study Of The Book Of Ezekiel

Introduction

The book of Ezekiel is sadly neglected by many Christians who think it a hard book to understand. That is not the case. Difficult parts there may be, but it’s never a difficult book. The message is very singular, the method of portrayal very interesting and exciting.

Sadly, many have used it as a happy hunting ground for the weirdest of doctrines and ideas, from Erich Von Daniken to Hal Lindsay. But Ezekiel was meant neither for ‘space gods’ nor premillennial teaching. It was, as Paul said written for our instruction. This study is not meant to deny false teaching, but to understand the book.

Although mention will be made on the way through of certain millennial ideas. In accordance with most commentators on the subject, I agree that a good knowledge of the Book of Jeremiah is of great benefit to the student of Ezekiel. Let 20th century Christians learn from both Ezekiel and Jeremiah.

Unlike many other books of the prophets, the book of Ezekiel has never been seriously questioned as to its authenticity or authorship. It plays an important part in God’s revelation to Israel, and shows clearly once again that God can use the individual characteristics of people to serve His purpose.

The Book of Ezekiel is generally ignored. It is probably not even read by most Christians. This is possibly due to the supposed problems with the first chapter, but we must not let the details of the vision in Ezekiel 1 put us off reading this great book.

What is a prophet?

1. Nabhi (Hebrew) used 400 times in the Old Testament.

a. To bubble up or bubble forth.

b. A spokesman on behalf of another, to call or called.

c. Used of Abraham in Genesis 20:7.

d. Used to refer to a class or group of people until Moses. Deuteronomy18:15ff and Deuteronomy 34:10.

2. Roch.

3.Chozeh.

a. Roch and Chozeh are translated ‘seer’ in the Old Testament. They lay emphasis on the function of the Nabhi. Greek – Prophetes.

b. Definition: One who sees things that do not lie in the domain of natural sight, or who hears things which human ears do not ordinarily receive.

c. Thayer:

‘To speak forth or to speak out, hence an interpreter or spokesman for God. One through whom God speaks. One who speaks forth by divine inspiration.’

d. Vines:

‘A proclaimer of a divine message, denoted among the Greeks as an interpreter of the oracles of God. Hence in general the prophet was one upon whom the Spirit of God rested. Numbers 11:17-29. One to whom and through whom God speaks. Numbers 12:2 / Amos 3:7-8’.

e. Bullinger: Two things which together make a prophet.

1. An insight granted by God into the divine secrets or mysteries.

2. A communication of these (divine secrets) to others, which from the very nature of the case are his purposes of grace with the warnings and announcements of judgement that pertain thereto.

f. Bible definition: Exodus 4:16, Aaron, the spokesman of Moses, but in general a spokesman of God, a mouthpiece. Exodus 7:1, a prophet.

Task of a prophet

1. They were conscious of a divine call and of a privilege of access to the inner council of Jehovah. God communicated to them and backed them with authority during emergencies.

a. God communicated his secret things to them. Amos 3:7.

b. Communicated at sundry times and divers manners. Hebrews 1:1.

c. Communicated by angels. Daniel 8:15-26 / Revelation 22:8-9.

d. Communicated by audible voice. Numbers 12:8 / 1 Samuel 3:4ff.

e. Communicated by dreams and visions. Numbers 12:6 / Joel 2:28.

f. They were under the influence of the Holy Spirit while prophesying. Luke 1:67 / 2 Peter 1:21.

g. They spoke in the name of the Lord. Ezekiel 3:11 / 2 Chronicles 33:18.

h. They frequently spoke in parables and riddles. Ezekiel 17:2ff.

i. Frequently their actions were signs to the people. Ezekiel 4:1ff / Ezekiel 5:1-4 / Ezekiel 7:23 / Ezekiel 12:3-7 / Ezekiel 21:6-7 / Ezekiel 24:1ff.

2. They were uncompromising individuals.

3. They were clean, consecrated in life, lives were exemplary.

4. They were God’s agents in revealing the future.

Ezekiel, the man

1. The name, Ezekiel is found nowhere else in the scriptures except in the book itself. Ezekiel 1:3 / Ezekiel 24:24.

2. Ezekiel means ‘God will strengthen’ or ‘God strengthens’. God tells him that the people will not listen to him. But God will strengthen him. He will need it because of Ezekiel 2:5, His wife dies.

a. He was a married man, but his wife died when he was about 36 years old. Ezekiel 24:15ff. This event played a large part in his message.

b. He was of a priestly family, and destined to become a priest serving in the temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel 1:3 / Ezekiel 13:21. However, God changed the direction of his life and although called to be a priest, he was to serve God as a prophet. We must be ready for God to change the direction of our lives.

3. He was 30 years old when he was called to the prophetic office. Ezekiel 1:1. He was married and lived in his own house. Ezekiel 8:1 / Ezekiel 24:18.

a. If we understand Ezekiel 1:1, 30th year, as Ezekiel’s age, then he would have been 25 when taken captive in 597B.C. to Babylon. 2 Kings 24:14 / Jeremiah 24. He would be preparing for that time when he would serve in the temple, but he would never see his home land again in the flesh.

4. Ezekiel would have been one of the ‘cream of the crop’, the best that can be offered. 2 Kings 24:14ff / Jeremiah 29:1ff.

3 deportations. Daniel was in the first. Ezekiel was in the second deportation. 597 B.C. into exile.

5. Ezekiel was one of three prophets to the captivity, Jeremiah and Daniel being the other two, also some minor prophets like Zechariah and Haggai. Ezekiel refers to Daniel in Ezekiel 14:14 / Ezekiel 14:20 / Ezekiel 28:3.

His contemporaries

1. Jeremiah a. Jeremiah worked in Jerusalem. He was much older than Ezekiel, by some 20 years. Jeremiah had begun his work in the days of King Josiah 627 B.C. Jeremiah1:2ff. Josiah died in 609 BC.

b. It is possible that Ezekiel and Jeremiah knew each other, as they were both connected with priests.

2. Daniel a. Daniel was taken into captivity in 606 B.C. 9 years before Ezekiel. He had already made a name for himself in the Babylonian court. Ezekiel 14:14 / Ezekiel 14:20 / Ezekiel 28:3.

3. Ezekiel

a. Was meticulous/careful/accurate in dating his prophecies. Ezekiel 29:17, date 575 B.C. last dated prophecy which indicates that he was about 22/23 years in the business of prophecy.

b. Ezekiel was a vivid character. He carried a harsh message to his people, and was often unable to give it because he identified so much with them.

At the same time, he was a bit of an extrovert, and used allegory, figures and symbolic actions and language to enhance his message. Ezekiel 4:1-8.

c. ‘It would appear that there runs through all the prophet’s activities, at least in the earlier period, a strain of mental abnormality, perhaps of actual malady.’ W.F. Lofthouse. ‘The Book of Ezekiel’ (The Century Bible) p.7

‘He loved the symbol, not for itself alone, but for the majesty which it contained, the hidden light which it guarded. It is in this region alone that he seems to wear an absorbed and pontifical air, not with the false sacerdotal desire to enhance personal impressiveness and private dignity, through the ministry of divine powers and holy secrets, but with the unconscious emotion of one whose eyes behold great wonders enacting themselves upon the bodiless air, which the dull and contentious may not discern.’ W.F. Lofthouse ‘The Book of Ezekiel’ p.11 quoting A.C. Benson.

The book and its message

1. Ezekiel uses the bifid method in constructing his narrative. (taking 2 major parts with a cleft in the middle.)

The approaching fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel 1-24 (major part) Prophecies concerning foreign nations. Ezekiel 25-32 (cleft side issue) Israel’s future restoration. Ezekiel 33-48 (major part)

2. It was Ezekiel’s responsibility to remind Israel of the sins which had brought judgement and exile upon them. At the same time, he encourages and strengthens their faith with prophecies of future restoration and glory.

3. Ezekiel vindicates God’s judgements throughout. Ezekiel 14:23 / Ezekiel 18:5-20 / Ezekiel 33:10-20.

4. The prophet is called to be a watchman to the house of Israel. Ezekiel 3:17 / Ezekiel 33:7. He is to give warning to the wicked men and his persistence in it.

5. The only way that this can be achieved is by listening to God and his spokesman and not to the false prophets. Consequently, Ezekiel uses the expression ‘Thus saith the Lord’ at least 117 times in the book.

6. To get across his message he used a number of ecstatic and dramatic acts. Ezekiel 3:25-26 / Ezekiel 4:1-15 / Ezekiel 5:1-4 / Ezekiel 12:3-7 / Ezekiel 12:17 Ezekiel 24:3-5 / Ezekiel 24:15-18 / Ezekiel 37:15-17.

Three major lessons

1. The relationship of the individual responsibility to corporate guilt. (the whole nation.)

2. Amid this harsh judgement of God, his loving arms are ever outstretched.

3. Its result: Society can be reconstituted.

a. The book of Ezekiel is a collection of the events in the prophet’s life, and of his words of prophecy to the exiles in Babylon, delivered to the exiles in Babylon.

b. Ezekiel’s prophecy is directed in three ways:

1. Ezekiel speaks to the exiles in Babylon. Ezekiel 11-25 about their attitudes and actions.

2. Ezekiel speaks to the people of Judea. If I was there, this is what I would say.

3. Ezekiel speaks to the exiles about the people in Judea. What they are saying and thinking.

c. In all of this, he never, literally left the area of Babylon. Ezekiel, once taken captive, never returned to Jerusalem in the flesh. His work was primarily for the exiles in Babylon; Jeremiah was working with the people in Jerusalem.

d. The people’s response to Ezekiel’s message caused the prophet problems. Their response to his message and the events going on around them stimulated part of the message of this book. Their general response was disbelief, and undue optimism. They placed their trust in promises of the past, although they did not properly understand them. They refused to believe that Jerusalem would be destroyed. BECAUSE:

1. The land promise. Genesis 17:8ff.

2. God’s name had been placed in the Temple forever. 2 Chronicles 7:16.

3. God’s covenant with David and Solomon. Psalm 89 / 2 Chronicles 7:18.

e. The problem was, the people missed the punitive IF clauses in these promises and covenants. 2 Chronicles 7:19 / Psalm 89:30ff / Genesis 17:9ff.

e. The message Ezekiel and Jeremiah were trying to get across was that there was to be a total, national captivity, and their city and temple would be destroyed. Ezekiel 1-24 deals with this point.

f. Another problem was Idolatry against which Isaiah warned them. Isaiah 48:8-11. Foreign nations who might question and doubt the reality of Jehovah because of Judah’s destruction, are clearly told that they too will be judged by God. Ezekiel 25-32 deal with that.

g. We then reach historically, the destruction of the city. Ezekiel 33. The judgements having taken place, Ezekiel’s message then changes to one of hope and promise for the future. Ezekiel 34-48.

Outline

The prophet’s call and commission. Ezekiel 1:1-3:15

Prophecies from Ezekiel’s call until the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel 3:16-24:17.

Predictions against and lamentations over foreign nations. Ezekiel 25-32.

The Responsibilities of a watchman and a shepherd. Ezekiel 33-34.

Edom is denounced. Ezekiel 35.

The valley of dry bones. Ezekiel 36-37.

Gog and Magog are judged. Ezekiel 38-39.

The vision of a restored temple. Ezekiel 40-48.

a. One of the major themes running through the book is the sovereignty of God. In over 60 places we find the phrase,

‘They shall know that I am the Lord.’

It occurs in 27 of the 48 chapters. Ezekiel 6:7 / Ezekiel 13:9 / Ezekiel 33:29.

b. Another theme is that of the holiness of God, shown in that he cannot dwell in a temple which is the centre of false worship. Ezekiel 8:6 / Ezekiel 43:10. God will demand holiness of the people when he promises them a future.

c. Ezekiel compiles the book almost as a journal or diary. Throughout, it is carefully dated and arranged in basically chronological order. Ezekiel 1:1-2 / Ezekiel 8:1 / Ezekiel 20:1 / Ezekiel 24:1 / Ezekiel 35:21.

d. Why does Ezekiel date his book so precisely?

It may be partly due to his own personality, but undoubtedly when a date is normally given in a book of the prophets, it usually speaks of a need to understand the historical background. Generally speaking, the prophets cannot be fully understood without a knowledge of the history of the times.

Ezekiel and John

a. There are many similarities and connections between the books of Ezekiel and Revelation.

Compare:

Cherubim, Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10:15 with Revelation 4:6ff.

Protect God’s Holiness. Gog and Magog, Ezekiel 38 with Revelation 20:7ff.

Enemy of God’s people Eating a book, Ezekiel 3 with Revelation 10:1ff.

Make my message yours Written on heart. New Jerusalem, Ezekiel 40-48 with Revelation 21.

River of water of life, Ezekiel 47 with Revelation 22.

Blessing of God overflowing to his people.

Historical background.

a. The Biblical history of the period of Ezekiel’s life is found in 2 Kings 21-25 / 2 Chronicles 33-36 / Jeremiah 21-45. Ezekiel was born during the reign of Josiah, king of Judah in about 622 B.C. But we need to go further back to the reign of Manasseh to understand the full background.

b. Internationally, there was a power struggle going on between the failing Assyrians who had been world rulers for some time, the Egyptians who would have been happy to continue an alliance with them, and the Chaldeans led by Nabopolassar who eventually came out on top. (Dates according to Thiele.)

1. Manasseh. 686-642 BC

a. The reign of this king was one of the blackest periods in Judah’s history. Manasseh was almost totally in the hands of the kings of Assyria throughout his reign.

b. He had a tremendous zeal for every kind of idolatry that could be found, even filling the Temple with idols from all over. The worst of these was the god ‘Molech’ to whom they sacrificed live children to be burnt in the ‘hands’ of the image.

c. Any opposition was quickly quenched, until it was said of him,

‘he shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.’ 2 Kings 21:16 / 2 Kings 24:4

d. During his reign, God pronounced that He had had enough. Judah would go into exile for 70 years because of their conduct. 2 Kings 21:10-15. This was despite a turnabout by Manasseh. He was taken captive by the Assyrians, and after his return, Manasseh repented.

e. His turn about was not, however, enough to affect most of the people. This is clearly seen in his own son Amon, who had been influenced into idolatry too far to change him.

2. Amon. 642-640 BC

a. Amon’s reign was insignificant. Simply an extension of his father’s evil reign. He was assassinated in a very short time. Ezekiel 21:19.

3. Josiah. 640-609 BC.

a. Josiah came to the throne when he was 8 years old. He was a good king, one of the best ever in Judah. His reforms were extensive, beginning when he was only 20, in purging idolatry and in promoting true worship of God. He made extensive repairs to the temple, and whilst that was being done, a ‘Book of the law’ was found.

b. This was probably part or most of the book of Deuteronomy. This increased Josiah’s zeal, when the book was read to him, he went on a campaign, purging idolatry wherever he found it. 2 Kings 23:4-14.

c. There is little doubt that his reforms were encouraged by Zephaniah and the young Jeremiah.

d. Josiah’s 31 good years ended when he foolishly faced the Egyptians led by Pharaoh Neco. Neco had no argument with Judah, but was forced to fight with them by Josiah. Josiah was fatally wounded and returned to Jerusalem and died in 609 B.C.

e. The death of Josiah marked the end of obedience to the will of God, and it marked the end of Judah’s independence. Apart from a short period (142-61 B.C.), Judah was always ruled or occupied by someone.

f. However, Josiah’s zealous purge was not enough to undo all the evil done by previous kings, the Lord had already passed judgement on Judah. 2 Kings 23:25-27. Josiah’s reform was ‘too little, too late’. (McGuiggan)

g. Ezekiel was now 13 and would have been influenced by the great reforming king, and the emerging prophet Jeremiah.

5. Jehoahaz. 609 BC.

a. He was the son of Josiah, and reigned for 3 months. On his way back to Egypt, Neco took Jehoahaz captive, put his elder brother Jehoiakim on the throne and made Judah an Egyptian vassal state/tributary.

6. Jehoiakim. 609-598 BC.

a. The 11 years of his reign proved him to be a strong character but a wicked man. Now it was evident how superficial the reforms of Josiah had been. Back came the idolatry, false prophets, corruption, etc. that had been rife in the days before Josiah.

b. Many who opposed this retrograde step were murdered, and Jeremiah himself only narrowly escaped being put to death. Jeremiah 26:10-19.

c. In 605 B.C. the Babylonians showed their supremacy by defeating the Egyptians at Carchemish. Nebuchadnezzar accepted Judah as a vassal state and took some of the people back to Babylon with him (amongst whom were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azeriah). Daniel 1:3-6.

d. Jehoiakim was not a good ruler. He built himself a luxurious house to show off his ‘greatness’. Jeremiah 22:13ff.

e. A short rebellion was soon dealt with by Nebuchadnezzar in 598/7 B.C. when he besieged Jerusalem. During the siege Jehoiakim met his death.

7. Jehoiachin 598-597 B.C. (3 months).

a. Another 3-month region. He took the throne during the siege, but was taken captive to Babylon when the city fell. This time, not a few, but thousands of the people were taken captive to Babylon. 2 Kings 24:14-16. Amongst this group was Ezekiel.

8. Zedekiah. 597-586 B.C.

a. He was the uncle of Jehoiachin, brother to Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim. His 11 years proved his weakness of character. The remaining rulers in Jerusalem at this time were divided between a pro-Babylonian party and a pro-Egyptian party. Jeremiah and the prophets preached submission to the Babylonians, but Zedekiah was not strong willed enough to stop the rebellion against Babylon, nor an alliance with Egypt.

b. Even though it is possible that he knew the right way to go. Jeremiah 36. Late in 589 B.C. the Babylonians besieged the city and by July 586 B.C. Jerusalem fell.

c. Zedekiah and his family tried to flee but were caught; his sons were killed before his eyes, then he was blinded and taken captive to Babylon. The other rebellious leaders were also killed. The city was burned, the walls broken down, the temple treasures taken by Babylon and the temple itself destroyed.

9. The Aftermath.

a. Gedaliah was appointed governor of what was left, but was too soon murdered by a small resistance movement among the Jews. They fled to Egypt taking the ailing Jeremiah with them.

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Complete Study Of The Book Of Ezekiel  

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