Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Introduction to Ezekiel
We begin the study of Ezekiel with a general introduction. This information informs us of the time of his prophecies, and a general backdrop behind his writings. Ezekiel was one of two exilic prophets; Daniel taken captive during the first aspect of the captivity, 605 B.C.E. and Ezekiel taken captive during the second half, 597 B.C.E. Daniel was not a prophet by occupation, but Ezekiel was, preaching among the people serving especially in the capacity of a shepherd to captives in a foreign land. This fact shows us that all things work toward the good of those who are called according to G-d’s purpose. Being taken captive is not “fun” for anyone. But G-d had a plan for Ezekiel. We can benefit from his prophecies today as they apply to the future, just as the captives could take hope for their plight in Babylon.
Ezekiel provides an exact date of his ministry. Ezekiel 33:21 tells us of his captivity as occurring in the twelfth year before the time when Jerusalem was destroyed, which happened in 586 B.C.E. In 40:1 he speaks of an event that occurred in the 25th year of his captivity, which he states was in the “fourteenth year after the city was smitten.” The captivity of 597 B.C.E. was the same time King Jehoiachin was captured, along with 10,000 others (II Kings 24:11-16). Ezekiel describes the time when he was called to the ministry in “the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity” (1:2), making the year 592 B.C.E. Ezekiel continued in his service at least until the 27th year of his captivity (29:17), which would have been 571 B.C.E. This would have made 22 years of service. His prophetic service may have been longer, but this is the last year reported in his book.
This was the time when Jehoiachim, who was the King of Judah, rebelled against the Babylonian monarch, Nebuchadnezzar. This was after Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack in 605 B.C.E. when Daniel was taken. Nebuchadnezzar was now coming back after attempts to take Jerusalem with smaller forces failed. Nebuchadnezzar left Babylon in December 598 B.C.E, which was the same month Jehoiachim died in Jerusalem. This places Jehoiachin, Jehoiachim’s son and successor just having assumed the throne when Nebuchadnezzar arrived in Jerusalem in March 597 B.C.E. Jerusalem fell with relatively little opposition. Jehoiachin was taken captive with the queen mother, his wives, and servants. Nebuchadnezzar also took 10,000 leading citizens who were mainly craftsmen, depriving Jerusalem of the cream of its population.
Ezekiel was a priest by birth, a son of Buzi (1:3). He probably served as a priest as much as possible in a foreign land, until; G-d called him. In the fifth year of his captivity, G-d commissioned him as a prophet. There may have been others, among 10,000 captives who prophesied, but Ezekiel was especially called to serve the captives during this time. This is an illustration of how G-d never leaves nor forsakes us; that He provides for us in whatever circumstances we are placed. From this time on, Ezekiel preached to the people, urging conformance to G-d’s laws, statutes, and rulings, and conducting pastoral work as he provided counsel and comfort to the captives. He lived by the Chebar river, probably near the great canal which flowed near Babylon. This canal, known as Naru Kabari in the cuneiform inscriptions, ran out of the Euphrates just north of Babylon. It flowed 60 miles in a south-easterly direction to Nippur, and rejoined the Euphrates below Ur. It was an important part of the Babylonian irrigation system. Ezekiel’s home was located somewhere near Tel-Aviv, where he visited at least once. He and other Jews were allowed to move about freely, for he received Jewish elders in his home, perhaps for fellowship and consultation (8:1;20:1). Ezekiel was married, but his wife died in the ninth year of his captivity (24:1,15-18). He continued his ministry at least until the 27th year of captivity or until he was 52 years old.
There was a marked difference in the ministries of Daniel and Ezekiel. G-d covered both areas of the captivity. Daniel served in the palace court in an administrative role. His job was to maintain the honor of G-d and watch over the Jewish captives. Ezekiel spent his time proclaiming the Word of G-d, visiting people, and prophesying. He was not connected with the palace. Both men were important witnesses for G-d and their roles were critical to accomplishing G-d’s plan for His people during the captivity.
Ezekiel’s spiritual maturity is not as evident as Daniels. But we know he was selected by G-d to be a prophet when he was a priest by birth. He had not aspired to becoming a prophet and had no special training for this role, but G-d saw him as perfectly qualified. We can safely assume that Ezekiel was a G-d-fearing man because G-d chose him for this important role. Furthermore, he was unusually controlled by conscious of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) (Chapter 6). No less than seven times Ezekiel speaks of being transported by the Spirit (3:12,14;8:3;11:1,24;37:1;43:5). It seems he was taken to Tel-Aviv, where he stayed for seven days (3:15), and was transported to Jerusalem, though this was in the manner of a vision (8:3). Ezekiel speaks of the Holy Spirit 8 other times (1:12,20,21:10:17;36:26,27;37:14; 39:29). Examples are as follows: Chapter 1 the Spirit is presented in controlling one of Ezekiel’s visions. Chapter 10 describes the Spirit as being in control of matters involving a similar scenario. In Chapter 36 G-d promises to put His Spirit within His people in a day yet future when they will have a new attitude and heart for G-d. This level of Spirit-awareness clearly indicates that Ezekiel was fully committed to knowing G-d and carrying out His will. Some people today say they are “spirit-filled” with all sorts of manifestations, visions and such. We must be careful and discern from where the “spirit” is coming. The Adversary also manifests as a spirit; the spirit of evil that seeks to devour who he may (1 Peter 5:8). The visions given to Ezekiel were completely consistent with G-d’s Torah and by this we can know which Spirit led Ezekiel. Just because someone is a priest or other religious leader, does not make them G-d-centered. Ezekiel was undoubtedly a G-dly man.
In this same context, Ezekiel gives evidence that he continued his priestly duties along with his prophetic work. In 22:25 he speaks of false prophets and their devious behaviors. In 22:26 he also speaks of priests who had violated G-d’s laws and profaned His holy things, negating or eliminating any difference in holy versus profane. There is also clear evidence of his priestly interests as he describes the future temple of Israel (40-48). How perfect was this man for the job G-d gave him! A priest who was well versed in the Temple, its contents, the sacrificial system, and how it was run was a perfect individual to prophecy about the future millennial Temple! (42:13; 43:27; 44:29-31; 45:17; 46:20)
Ezekiel’s unselfish attitude is evidenced by the way in which he gave himself to G-d’s will to minister among the captives. It is also indicated by the passage in 14:14-20 which speaks of Daniel, who was younger than Ezekiel and held an administrative position in the palace. Daniel had been in Babylon for 8 years prior to Ezekiel’s arrival as a captive. Ezekiel would have check out the kind of person Daniel was and at first, may have been resentful, jealous, or even critical of Daniel, assuming he compromised his beliefs to work in the palace. To the contrary, Ezekiel shows that he was not jealous. Rather, he had come to admire Daniel. The passage speaks of the great sin of Jerusalem and states “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it [Jerusalem], they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the L-rd G-d” (14:14). Ezekiel picked out these three men and said that even though these righteous men were in Jerusalem, even they could not save her from her destruction. This statement echoes Abraham’s conversation with G-d in Genesis about Sodom and Gomorrah. It is remarkable that Ezekiel names Daniel instead of perhaps David or Abraham. Ezekiel had not allowed jealousy or other animal-soul driven emotion obscure his thinking with respect to Daniel. He found him to be a truly righteous man and was ready to give him such honor. Ezekiel found nothing about Daniel to criticize. Daniel had not compromised his G-d and did nothing wrong to achieve the high status in the palace. G-d chose to bless him in this way according to His purpose for Daniel and Daniel’s love and obedience towards G-d.
Ezekiel was knowledgeable of world affairs like many of the other prophets. This is a phenomenon that surprises many scholars because most people are concerned with their own affairs and those of the local area. Ezekiel was one of those who knew of countries around him. He devotes a whole section of his book to speaking about Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre and Sidon, and Egypt. These were all close to Israel and Judah. It would not have been remarkable to know of these nations if he had lived in Judah or Israel, but he was living in Babylon. He may have learned of them before being taken captive at 25 years old, but his book was written much later. He shows his knowledge of and interest in these countries had not waned but probably grew. Somehow, he found ways of gaining this information and he used it.
The Book of Ezekiel is divided into three parts:
- The announcement of Jerusalem’s approaching destruction, written between the time of Ezekiel’s call and the time when Jerusalem proper fell in 586 B.C.E.
- There are prophecies against foreign nations
- There are prophecies of Israel’s future restoration
The book is written in an orderly arrangement and many of the prophecies are dated in chronological order. The basis for this dating is a reference always to Jehoiachin’s captivity. One example goes like this: in 1:2 he states that his call to the prophetic ministry came in the “fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity.”
In the first section of the book that was written prior to Jerusalem’s destruction, Ezekiel speaks strongly against the sins of the people including those still living in Judah and those who were in captivity. These are the same sins spoken of by Jeremiah, because Jeremiah was writing from Jerusalem at the same time Ezekiel was writing from Babylon. It is as if G-d had his “reporting staff” at all of the crucial locations at the right time so that none of the “action” was omitted. Ezekiel strongly denounced the false prophets of the time, who were leading the people in false hopes of peace. We see the same thing going on in contemporary society with a “don’t worry, be happy” mantra that resounds in the midst of a crumbling social structure. Ezekiel saw the people of Jerusalem as a worthless vine and the people among whom he lived as a “rebellious house,” “briars and thorns,” and “scorpions.” Everyone was continuing in the ways of their fathers, seeking sin and enjoying the rebellious life.
In the last division, Ezekiel brings a message of hope and anticipation of a glorious future. He is careful to say that those who will be grafted into the one stick that will be held in G-d’s hand will be partakers of the covenants of Israel, lest people think all will be well and all will be saved no matter how they have lived. Israel in the context of “all Israel shall be saved” means true believers defined by Yahshua Himself in the Seven-fold witness in the Book of Revelation, Yahshua also defines a “true Jew” in Romans 2-3. Finally, one who loves Him is one who keeps His commands described in detail by Yahshua in Jon 14. This understanding is critical in order to understand who will be included in the two sticks spoken of in Ezekiel. Ezekiel speaks of a day of deliverance when Israel’s disgrace and suffering will be over and the long-separated kingdoms of Judah and Israel will be reunited. Their enemies will all be defeated, and a magnificent new Temple and manner of worship will be restored in the land. Note that this will not be a kingdom of “all love and mercy.” Yahshua will rule this kingdom with a hand of iron. The sacrificial system will be reinstated, and people will bring sacrifices to the Temple. Why? Because there will be people who have not accepted Yahshua’s sacrifice who will be living after the Tribulation. An in-depth teaching on this subject is for another study but warrants mention here.
The Book of Ezekiel, penned by him alone, may be outlined as follows:
- Prophecies against Judah prior to Jerusalem’s destruction (1:1-24:27).
- Ezekiel’s call and commission (1:1-3:27).
- Prediction of Jerusalem’s destruction (4:1-7:27).
- Vision of Jerusalem’s sin and imminent punishment (8:1-11:25).
- Certainty of punishment due to sin (12:1-19:14).
- Final warnings before Jerusalem’s fall (20:1-24:27).
- Prophecies against foreign nations (25:1-32:32).
- Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia (25:1-17).
- Tyre and Sidon (26:1-28:26).
- Egypt (29:1-32:32).
III. Prophecies if Israel’s future restoration (33:1-39:29).
- Events occurring prior to the millennium (33:1-39:29).
- Parable of the watchman (33:1-33).
- False shepherds and the true shepherd (34:1-31).
- The Land of Israel to be restored (35:1-36:38).
- Visions of the dry bones and the two sticks (37:1-28).
- G-dless nations (Gog and others) to be destroyed (38:1-39:29).
- Worship in the millennial kingdom (40:1-48:35).
- The Temple (40:1-43:27).
- Worship (44:1-46:24).
- The millennial land (47:1-48:35).
Vaughan, C. (1991). The Word: the Bible from 26 translations. Moss Point, MS: Mathis Publishers
Wood: L.J. (1979). The prophets of Israel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House