Ezekiel the Faithful Servant
Sermon: Ezekiel the Faithful Servant July 22, 2007
VISION OF OUR GREAT GOD (Ezekiel 1:1)
Read Ezekiel 1:26-28 and 8:2
* Seeing God as he really is……..…allows me to see my circumstances as they really are
VISION OF OUR GREAT SINFULNESS (Ezekiel 8:3)
Read chapters 16 and 23
* Seeing God as he really is ………allows me to see my sins as they truly are
VISION OF HOPE (Ezekiel 37:1)
Read the 10 “I will” in 37:21-28 and the fourteen “I will” in 36:24-38
Seeing God as he really is……….leaves room for the impossible to become possible
VISIONS OF THE FUTURE (Ezekiel 40:2)
Read Ezekiel 48:35 and Revelation 21
Seeing God as he really is……..allows you to genuinely worship Him
Key Words or Phrases in the Book of Ezekiel
Sovereign Lord (217 times)
‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ (122 times)
I am the Lord (57 times)……“you will know that I am the Lord” (22 times)
the word of the Lord (57times)……Word of the Lord came to me (49 times)
holy or holiness (43 times)
“temple” (60 times)
“son of man” (93 times)
Sermón: Ezequiel el Siervo Fiel
VISION DE NUESTRO GRAN DIOS (Ezequiel 1:1)
Lee Ezequiel 1:26-28 y 8:2
Ver a Dios como realmente es……..causa que vea mis circumstancias como realmente son
VISION DE LA GRANDEZA DE NUESTROS PECADOS (Ezequiel 8:3)
Lee Ezequiel capítulos 16 y 23
Ver a Dios como realmente es……..causa que vea mis pecados como realmente son
VISION DE ESPERANZA (Ezequiel 37:1)
Lee Ezequiel 37:21-28 y Ezequiel 36:24-38
Ver a Dios como realmente es……..causa que vea lo imposible como possible
VISIONS DEL FUTURO (Ezequiel 40:2)
Lee Ezequiel 48:35 y Apocalipsis 21
Ver a Dios como realmente es……..causa que genuinamente le adore
Palabras y Frases claves en el Libro de Ezequiel
Jehová el Señor (217 veces)
Así ha dicho Jehová el Señor (122 veces)
sabran que yo soy el Señor (ocurre 78 veces)
palabra de Jehová (57 veces)
santo o santidad (43 veces)
For the average reader of the Bible the Book of Ezekiel is mostly a perplexing maze of incoherent visions—a kaleidoscope of whirling wheels and dry bones that defy interpretation. This impression often causes readers to shy away from studying the book and to miss one of the great literary and spiritual portions of the Old Testament.
3 Deportations (605 Daniel exiled; 597 Ezekiel y 10,000; then 586 Jerusalem destroyed)
Preached 22 yrs during darkest days of Judah’s history: the 70 yr Babylonian captivity.
Contemporary of Jeremiah and Daniel
Jeremiah and Zechariah and Ezekiel were both a prophet and a priest
Ezekiel ministered in Babylon, at Tel Abib near the Chebar River. (SE Iraq)
The broad purpose of Ezekiel is to remind the generation born during the Babylonian exile of the cause of Israel’s current destruction, of the coming judgment on the Gentile nations, and of the coming national restoration of Israel. Central to that hope is the departure of the glory of God from Israel (ch.1) and the prediction of its ultimate return (43:2).
VISION OF OUR GREAT GOD
Ezekiel 1:1 In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. see 1:26-28
* Read 8:2…..cf Rev.4-5
Seeing God as he really is……..…allows you to see your circumstances as they really are
ILLUST: Each wear sunglasses of a different colored shade affects all you see
See all things through the lens of His Word (his promises, commands, example, etc)
Q: Are you seeing God thru the lens of your colored circumstances (past, present, future) OR
Q: Are you seeing your circumstances through the lens of God’s Word & Holy Spirit
VISION OF OUR GREAT SINFULNESS
Ezekiel 8:3 He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. 4 And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain.
*Read chapter 16 and chapter 23
Seeing God as he really is ………allows us to see our sins as they truly are
2 extremes: Seeing ourselves as not that bad OR seeing ourselves as total failures
Confess you sins as you read the Word the Holy Spirit will convict and lead you to confession
VISION OF HOPE
Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones
Dry bones message…..Two sticks message…..One King
Ten “I will” in 37:21-38……..(fourteen “I will” in 36:24-38)
*Read chapter 36 – Restoration of land (1:15); Regeneration of the people (16-38)
Seeing God as he really is……….leaves room for the impossible to become possible
This _(fill in the blank)_____ is my valley of dry bones
VISIONS OF THE FUTURE
Ezekiel 40:2 In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. 3 The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown
*Read Ezekiel 48:35 our eternal home
*Rev.21:2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband
Seeing God as he really is……..allows you to genuinely worship Him
Make God’s house, Hit Temple a place of Worship…..by you being a genuine worshipper
LESSON LEARNED from Key Words or Phrases in Ezekiel
Sovereign Lord (Adonay YHWH…Lord God) 217xs Jehová el Señor [Senor Dios, Senor Omnipotente]
He is absolutely in control at all times… as Lord and Covenant keeping God
2:4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate [lit: stiff-faced] and stubborn [lit: hard-hearted. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ (122 xs) RVR - Yo, pues, te envío a hijos [tercos y de cabeza dura] de duro rostro y de empedernido corazón; y les dirás: Así ha dicho Jehová el Señor [Senor Dios, Senor Omnipotente]
The only opinion that matter is what God says!
6:7 Your people will fall slain among you & “you will know that” (22xs) I am the Lord (57xs)
[NLT - The place will be littered with corpses, and you will know that I alone am the Lord]
[GN-People will be killed everywhere & those who survive will acknowledge that I am the Lord]
RVR Y los muertos [sus propia gente] caerán en medio de ustedes; y sabran que yo soy Jehová [reconocerán que yo soy el Señor]
sabréis que yo soy el Señor. Esta frase ocurre 78xs, con variaciones, dirigida a Israel
Proved by his “judgments” and Proved by his blessings
1:3 the word of the Lord came to [me] Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the Lord was upon him (57xs) [GN - I heard the Lord speak to me and I felt his power] RVR - vino palabra de Jehová al sacerdote Ezequiel hijo de Buzi, en la tierra de los caldeos, junto al río Quebar; vino allí sobre él la mano de Jehová.
36:22-23 “Therefore say to the house [people] of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake [because you deserve it], O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned [shamed] among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show [vindicate] the holiness of my great name [how holy my great name is], which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes (43xs) NBLH - “Por tanto, dile a la casa de Israel: ‘Así dice el Señor Dios: “No es por ustedes, casa de Israel, que voy a actuar, sino por Mi santo nombre, que han profanado [ofendido] entre las naciones adonde fueron. 23 “Vindicaré la santidad de Mi gran nombre profanado entre las naciones, el cual ustedes han profanado en medio de ellas. Entonces las naciones sabrán que Yo soy el Señor,” declara el Señor Dios “cuando demuestre Mi santidad entre ustedes a la vista de ellas
One thing lacking in the ch today is a sincere reverence for the holiness & glory of God.
Casualness with God can be as great a danger as legalism
1:1 In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God (20xs) RVR - Aconteció en el año treinta, en el mes cuarto, a los cinco días del mes, que estando yo en medio de los cautivos junto al río Quebar, los cielos se abrieron, y vi visiones de Dios
2:1 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” (93xs) RVR Me dijo: Hijo de hombre, ponte sobre tus pies, y hablaré contigo
His name means “strengthened by God,” / Dios fortalece. Hace énfasis en su humanidad, la naturaleza mortal, en contraste con la trascendencia del Dios con quien habla dando
33:7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me RVR A ti, pues, hijo de hombre, te he puesto por atalaya [centinela] a la casa de Israel, y oirás la palabra de mi boca, y los amonestarás de mi parte
24:16 “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes [your dearest treasure, the person you love most, your lovely wife]. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears cf 24:21,25 (RVR) Hijo de hombre, he aquí que yo te quito de golpe el deleite [encanto] de tus ojos [la persona que tú más quieres, la delicia de tus ojos]; no endeches, ni llores, ni corran tus lágrimas
40:45 He said to me, “The room facing south is for the priests who have charge of the temple, (61xs) [who supervise the temple maintance] RVR Y me dijo: Esta cámara [este cuarto] que mira hacia el sur es de los sacerdotes que hacen la guardia del templo
1:28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the [glowing halo] radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. (10xs) RVR Como parece el arco iris que está en las nubes el día que llueve, así era el parecer del resplandor alrededor. Esta fue la visión de la semejanza de la gloria de Jehová. Y cuando yo la vi, me postré sobre mi rostro [me incliné hasta tocar el suelo con la frente], y oí la voz de uno que hablaba
8:4 And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain (5xs) RVR - Y he aquí, allí estaba la gloria del Dios de Israel, como la visión que yo había visto en el campo [la llanura].
6:9 Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me—how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices (43xs) NBLH - Entonces los que de ustedes escapen Me recordarán entre las naciones adonde serán llevados cautivos. Porque he sufrido a causa de sus corazones adúlteros que se apartaron de Mí, y a causa de sus ojos que se prostituyeron tras sus ídolos. Pero se aborrecerán a sí mismos por los males que han cometido, por todas sus abominaciones [acciones detestables]
23:38 They have also done this to me: At that same time they defiled my sanctuary [Temple] and desecrated [profaned, violated] my Sabbaths (33xs) RVR Aun esto más me hicieron: contaminaron mi santuario en aquel día, y profanaron [deshonraron] mis días de reposo
2:3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day (25xs)
RVR - Y me dijo: Hijo de hombre, yo te envío a los hijos de Israel, a gentes rebeldes que se rebelaron contra mí; ellos y sus padres se han rebelado contra mí hasta este mismo día
39:7 “I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned [shamed], and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel (14xs) RVR - Y haré notorio mi santo nombre en medio de mi pueblo Israel, y nunca más dejaré profanar mi santo nombre; y sabrán las naciones que yo soy Jehová, el Santo en Israel
22:8 You have despised my holy things [you have no respect] and desecrated [violate] my Sabbaths [days of rest] (14xs) RVR Mis santuarios menospreciaste, y mis días de reposo has profanado [No respetan mis lugares sagrados ni mis sábados]
He prophesied (593-571 bc), twenty-two years, till climactic fall of Jerusalem in 586 bc
The prophet closes his book with glorious vision of a restored people with a renewed worship and the glory of God dwelling with them. He gives Jerusalem a new name: “Jehovah Shammah—the Lord is there” (48:35).
Ezekiel’s purpose was to remind His people of their spiritual unfaithfulness (ch. 16) and of God’s faithfulness to His own promises. Ezekiel showed the people how judgment was a natural outcome of a holy God’s wrath against sin. It was also a loving God’s means of disciplining His people: to correct their beliefs, redirect their behavior, and restore intimate fellowship between Himself and them. Thus Ezekiel preached to the exiles the imminence of God’s judgment and the need for individual and national repentance.
Key theme: Showing reverence for the name and glory of God
Key verse: “You will know that I am the Lord” (6:7)
Central to that hope is the departure of the glory of God from Israel and the prediction of its ultimate return (43:2 and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory). Key Verses: 36:24–26 and 36:33–35—“For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (36:24–26). “Thus says the Lord God: ‘On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. So they will say, “This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited” (36:33–35). Key Chap: 37—Central to the hope of the restoration of Israel is the vision of the valley of the dry bones
14 “I wills” of Ezek.36:24-38………..10 “I wills” of Ezek 37:21-38
JM - 37:1 brought me … in the Spirit. 37:1–14 involves another vision. God does not change Ezekiel’s location but gives him a vivid inward sense that he has been taken to a valley “full of bones.” (other visions, 1:1–3:15; 8:1–11:24; 40:1–48:35.) This passage, part of a series of revelations received during the night before the messenger came with the news of the destruction of Jerusalem, was to ease the gloom of the people. in the midst of the valley. It no doubt represents the world area wherever Israelites were scattered (v. 12). 37:2 very dry. This pictures the dead nation lifeless, scattered, and bleached, just as a dry tree (17:24) pictures a dead nation, to which only God can give life. 37:3 “ … can these bones live?” The many dry bones (v. 2) picture the nation Israel (v. 11) as apparently dead in their dispersion, and waiting for national resurrection. The people knew about the doctrine of individual resurrection, otherwise this prophecy would have had no meaning (1 Kin. 17; 2 Kin. 4; 13:21; Is. 25:8; 26:19; Dan. 12:2; Hos. 13:14). 37:4–6 Prophesy to these bones. Ezekiel is to proclaim God’s pledge to reassemble Israelites from the world and restore the nation of Israel to life (v. 5) and give them His Spirit (v. 14) in true salvation and spiritual life. Clearly, God is promising the resurrection of the nation of Israel and its spiritual regeneration (36:25–27). 37:7–10 In the vision, Ezekiel did as he was told and the dead bones became a living nation (v. 10). 37:11–13 This is the key to the interpretation of the vision. It is the resurrection and salvation of Israel. 37:14 I will put My Spirit in you. See 36:25–27. performed it. God’s reputation is at stake in the restoration and regeneration of Israel into the Land. He must do what He promised so all know that He is Lord. 37:15–23 The vision ended and Ezekiel was given an object lesson which his people observed (vv. 18,20). This drama of uniting two sticks offered a second illustration that God will not only regather Israelites to their land, but will for the first time since 931 b.c. (the end of Solomon’s reign, 1 Kin. 11:26–40) restore union between Israel and Judah (vv. 19,21,22) in the messianic reign (Is. 11:12,13; Jer. 3:18; Hos. 1:11). 37:21–23 God made 3 promises that summarized His future plans for Israel: 1) restoration, v. 21; 2) unification, v. 22; and 3) purification, v. 23. These promises bring to fulfillment: 1) the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12); 2) the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7); and 3) the New Covenant (Jer. 31), respectively. 37:22 one king. This leader (vv. 24,25) is the Messiah-King-Shepherd often promised for David’s dynasty (34:23,24; Jer. 23:5–8; 30:9; Dan. 2:35,45; 7:13,14,27), who is the one king of Zech. 14:9 (Matt. 25:31,34,40). 37:23 cleanse them. This is provided by the provisions of the New Covenant (36:27; 37:14; Jer. 31:31–34). 37:24,25 David. This is to be understood as Jesus Christ the Messiah, descendant of David (2 Sam. 7:8–17; Is. 7:14; 9:6,7; Mic. 5:2; Matt. 1:1,23; Luke 1:31–33). 37:25 land that I have given to Jacob. It is natural to see this physical land, so clarified, as the very land God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12:7; 26:24; 35:12). 37:26 covenant of peace. Cf. 34:25. This is the New Covenant in full force. Israel has never yet been in a state of perpetual salvation peace; this awaits fulfillment in the future kingdom of the Messiah who is the “Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). an everlasting covenant. The everlasting nature of the Abrahamic (Gen. 17:7), Levitic (Lev. 24:8), Davidic (2 Sam. 23:5), and New (Jer. 50:5) Covenants are joined together in the redeemed who experience the millennial kingdom “forever” (used 4 times in vv. 25–28). The Heb. word for “everlasting” may refer to a long time or eternity. It is also true that these covenants will continue to be fulfilled after the Millennium in the eternal state. My sanctuary. The Spirit of God begins to prepare for the great reality that God will have a sanctuary in the midst of His people and will dwell with them (Zech. 6:12,13). God promised to dwell with man on earth (47:1–12). This has been God’s desire in all epochs: 1) before Moses (Gen. 17:7,8); 2) in the Mosaic era (Lev. 26:11–13); 3) in the church era (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19); 4) in the Millennium (Ezek. 37:26–28); and 5) in eternity future (Rev. 21:3). 37:27 Paul quotes this in 2 Cor. 6:16.
BKC - the nation restored (chap. 37) Chapter 37 vividly illustrates the promise of chapter 36. God had just announced that Israel will be restored to her land in blessing under the leadership of David her king. However, this seemed remote in light of Israel’s present condition. She was ”dead“ as a nation—deprived of her land, her king, and her temple. She had been divided and dispersed for so long that unification and restoration seemed impossible. So God gave two signs (37:1-14 and vv. 15-28) to Ezekiel to illustrate the fact of restoration and confirm the promises just made.The vision of the dry bones revived (37:1-14) Most Israelites may have doubted God’s promise of restoration. Their present condition militated against the possibility of that being fulfilled. So God stressed the fact of His sovereign power and ability to carry out these remarkable promises. Their fulfillment depended on Him, not on circumstances. Ezekiel reported the vision (vv. 1-10) and then interpreted it (vv. 11-14). 37:1-10. God transported Ezekiel by the Spirit (3:14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 43:5) to a valley . . . full of bones. There he noticed that the bones . . . were very dry, bleached and baked under the hot sun. God asked the prophet a remarkable question: Son of man, can these bones live? Was there potential for life in these lifeless frames? Ezekiel knew that humanly speaking it was impossible, so his answer was somewhat guarded. O Sovereign Lord, You alone know. Only God can accomplish such a feat. God then directed Ezekiel to prophesy to these bones. The content of his message was God’s promised restoration: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. ”Breath“ (rûaḥ) could also be translated ”wind“ or ”spirit.“ In 37:14 the same word is translated ”Spirit.“ Possibly God had in mind Genesis 2:7. In creating man, He transformed Adam into a living being by breathing into his nostrils ”the breath of life.“ Whether God was referring to wind, physical breath, the principle of life, or the Holy Spirit is uncertain. However, the results were obvious. God gave life to these dead bones. As Ezekiel was giving this prophecy, he saw a remarkable thing. The bones came together (Ezek. 37:7), flesh developed, skin covered them (v. 8), breath entered them, and they stood up (v. 10). 37:11-14. To what did this vision refer? God said it was about the nation of Israel (the whole house of Israel) that was then in captivity. Like unburied skeletons, the people were pining away and saw no end to their judgment: Our hope is gone; we are cut off. The surviving Israelites felt their national hopes had been dashed. Israel had ”died“ in the flames of Babylon’s attack, and had no hope of resurrection. The reviving of the dry bones signified Israel’s national restoration. The vision showed that Israel’s new life depended on God’s power, not outward circumstances: I will open your graves . . . I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Also when God restores Israel nationally, He will renew them spiritually. He will put His Spirit in Israel. The breath of life the corpses received symbolized the Holy Spirit, promised in Israel’s New Covenant (36:24-28). The Israelites residing in Palestine today are not the fulfillment of this prophecy. But it will be fulfilled when God regathers believing Israelites to the land (Jer. 31:33; 33:14-16), when Christ returns to establish His kingdom (Matt. 24:30-31). The sign of the two sticks united (37:15-28) Ezekiel’s second sign in this chapter visualized God’s restoration of the nation. First the sign was given (vv. 15-17), then explained (vv. 18-28). 37:15-17. Ezekiel was told to take two sticks of wood and to write on one of them the name of Judah and on the other the names of Ephraim and Joseph. Ezekiel was then to hold them together like one stick. Some have claimed that the two sticks represent the Bible (the stick of Judah) and the Book of Mormon (the stick of Joseph). However, this assertion ignores the clear interpretation in verses 18-28 and seeks to impose a foreign meaning on the sticks. After Solomon died the nation of Israel split asunder, in 931 b.c. The Southern Kingdom was known as Judah because Judah was its larger tribe and because the country was ruled by a king from that tribe (1 Kings 12:22-24). The Northern Kingdom was called Israel, or sometimes Ephraim (Hosea 5:3, 5, 11-14) either because Ephraim was the strongest and most influential tribe or because the first king of Israel, Jeroboam I, was an Ephraimite (1 Kings 11:26). Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria in 722 b.c., and Judah was taken into exile by Babylon in 605, 597, and 586 b.c. 37:18-28. The uniting of the sticks pictured God’s restoring and reuniting His people in the land as a single nation (Hosea 1:11). Cleansed from their backsliding . . . they will be My people, God said, and I will be their God (Ezek 11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:27). When united, Israel will be led by King David himself (34:23-24). As God’s servant, he will be their one shepherd. Then God repeated the blessings to be bestowed on the people in the land. They will have an eternal inheritance there and David . . . will be their prince. God’s covenant of peace (36:15; Isa. 54:10) will be established with them, and His presence will remain with them forever (in contrast with the departing of His glory, Ezek. 9-11). The visible reminder of God’s presence will be His sanctuary, His dwelling place. Then again God added, I will be their God, and they will be My people (11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:23). These promises anticipate the detailed plans for God’s new sanctuary (chaps. 40-43). This literal structure will serve as a visual object lesson to Israel and the nations of God’s presence in the midst of His people.
Wiersbe - Ezekiel 36–37 From Restoration to Reunion Our hope is lost!” That’s what the Jewish exiles were saying to each other as they “pined away” in Babylon (37:11; 33:10), and from the human point of view, the statement was true. But if they had listened to their prophets, they would have had hope in the Lord and looked forward with anticipation. Jeremiah had written to them that they would be in Babylon for seventy years, and that God’s thoughts toward them were of peace and not of evil (Jer. 29:10). Ezekiel had given them God’s promise that He would gather His people and take them back to their land (Ezek. 11:17; 20:34, 41–42; 28:25). A Latin proverb says, “Where there is life, there is hope,” but the reverse is also true: where there is hope, we find reason to live. Swiss theologian Emil Brunner wrote, “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of life.” In his previous messages, Ezekiel looked back and reproved the people because of their sins. Now he looks ahead and encourages the people by telling them what the Lord will do for Israel in the future. These promises go beyond the ending of the Babylonian Captivity & anticipate the end xs. The Jewish people will be gathered to their land, the land will be cleansed & restored & the nation will have a new temple & the presence of the glory of the Lord. Future of Israel summarized: Restoration (36:1-15), Regeneration 36:16-38), Resurrection (37:1-14), Reunion (37:15-
Restoration: the land healed (Ezek. 36:1–15) God gave the land of Israel to the Jews as a part of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1–3; 13:14–18; 15:7–21). That settled their ownership of the land, but their possession and enjoyment of the land depended on their faith and obedience (Lev. 26). The Christian life is similar. We enter God’s family by trusting Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8–9), but we enjoy God’s family by believing His promises and obeying His will (2 Cor. 6:18–7:1). Disobedient children have to be chastened (Heb. 12), and God often had to chasten the people of Israel because of their rebellion and disobedience. Ezekiel had set his face against Mount Seir, which represented the land of Edom (Ezek. 35), but now he addressed “the mountains of Israel” as representative of the land of Israel. The Babylonians had ravaged and plundered the Promised Land and the neighboring nations (especially Edom) had tried to possess the land (36:10). Instead of assisting the Jews, the neighbors had ridiculed them and even helped the Babylonians loot the city of Jerusalem. Why? Because of their long-standing hatred of the Jews and a desire to possess the land of Israel. “Aha, even the ancient high places are ours in possession” (v. 2). But the Lord knew what the enemy was saying and doing, and He determined that there would be serious consequences because of their decisions. That’s why you find the word “therefore” six times in this section (vv. 3–7, 14). First, the fire of God’s jealous love would burn against Israel’s enemies because of the way they had treated His people and His land (vv. 4–6; Lev. 25:23). He even took an oath (Ezek. 36:7) that the nations would be repaid for the way they treated the Jews. They had taunted and ridiculed the Jews, but now they themselves would be put to shame.Ezekiel described that future day when the land would be healed and once again produce abundant flocks, herds, and harvests (vv. 8–9). This was a part of God’s covenant with Israel (Lev. 26:3–5). The land would not only be fruitful, but it also would be safe and secure (Ezek. 36:10–12). The combination of war, pestilence, and wild beasts had decreased the Jewish population (6:1–8; 7:15; 12:16), but God had promised they would be as numerous as the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens (Gen. 13:16; 15:5). If the nation was to fulfill its divine purposes on earth, the people had to multiply. God accused the mountains of Israel of depriving the Jews of their children (Ezek. 36:12–14). This may refer to the fact that the pagan shrines were in the high places, and there some of the Jews offered their own children to the heathen gods. But that would end, because the exile in Babylon cured the Jews of their idolatry, and in the future kingdom, only the true and living God would be worshiped. In Ezekiel 40–48, Ezekiel will have more to say about the restored land of Israel when Messiah reigns on the throne of David in Jerusalem. Since the founding of the nation of Israel in 1948, great progress has been made by the Jewish people in reclaiming the land. There has been a great deal of reforestation and irrigation, and the waste places are being transformed. As wonderful as this is, it is nothing compared with what the Lord will do when His people are gathered back to their land from the nations of the world. “Even the wilderness will rejoice in those days. The desert will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel’s pastures and the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display His glory, the splendor of our God” (Isa. 35:1–2, nlt).
Regeneration: the people cleansed (Ezek. 36:16–38) The Jewish people forgot that the land belonged to the Lord, for He said, “The land is Mine” (Lev. 25:23). In fact, the whole earth belongs to the Lord (Ex. 19:5; Ps. 24:1), and we have no right to abuse the natural resources He shares with us. God’s indictment against His people (Ezek. 36:16–23). Israel was guilty of two great sins, the first of which was polluting God’s land (vv. 16–19). Long before the Babylonians had swept through the kingdom of Judah, the sins of the leaders and the people had polluted the so-called “holy land.” When God’s people disobeyed God’s law and behaved like the heathen nations around them, they defiled the land and broke the covenant (Lev. 18:26–30). Not only did they worship idols and sacrifice their children’s innocent blood, but they also shed blood when they falsely accused the poor and needy in court and led them out to die. Each act of disobedience only polluted the land more, until the Lord was so grieved by their rebellion that He had the land vomit them out, and He sent them to Babylon. In our contemporary world, we wonder how much land is being polluted by the destruction of innocent babies, the murders of innocent people, including children in school, and the general disregard for both the laws of man and the law of God. Their second sin was that of profaning God’s name before the Gentiles (Ezek. 36:20–23). It was bad enough that they had polluted the land God allowed them to enjoy, but they also profaned God’s holy name instead of being godly witnesses in the Gentile lands where He sent them (vv. 20–23). They had imitated the pagans for so long that they felt right at home among them and adopted more of their ways. During the exile, there was a godly remnant that remained true to the Lord, but in general, the Jews tended to forget their calling as the people of God. Five times in this paragraph we’re told that the Jews profaned the name of God before the pagans before whom they had been sent to be a light (Isa. 42:6; 49:6). In spite of their disobedience, what an opportunity the Lord gave the Jews to introduce the Gentiles to the true and living God! The Jews were separated from their temple, now destroyed, and from the things necessary for Jewish worship, but the Lord was still with them and could see their hearts. The Jews had profaned God’s name by defiling the sanctuary (Ezek. 5:11; 22:26), but He had promised to be “a little sanctuary” for them there in Babylon (11:16). They had profaned the Sabbaths (22:8; 23:38), but they knew what day it was in Babylon and could still seek to obey God. The still had the Law and the Prophets and could meditate on the Word and praise the Lord. Instead of the Jews sanctifying God’s name among the heathen, they profaned His name by their lack of separation and godly witness; but is the church today any different? Do we live in such commitment to Christ that the world sits up and takes notice and wants to hear what we have to say? The Lord promises to change the people only because He desires to sanctify and glorify His great name (36:22). In the last days, when the Lord gathers His people back to their land, everything the Lord will do for them will be because of His grace and not because they deserve it. God didn’t give them the land because of their righteousness (Deut. 9:6), and He won’t restore the land because of anything good they have done. God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve, and in His mercy He doesn’t give us what we do deserve! All that we have in Christ comes from God’s grace (Eph. 1:7; 2:8–10) and was designed for God’s glory (1:6, 11, 14). God’s transformation of His people (Ezek. 36:24–38). In the last days, when God brings His chosen people back to the Promised Land (v. 24), He will change them spiritually; for, after all, only a transformed people can enjoy a transformed land. The spiritual experience described in this section illustrates what happens to every sinner who trusts Jesus Christ.
First, God will cleanse them from their sins, and this is pictured by “sprinkling” (vv. 25, 29; 37:23). According to the Mosaic Law, every Jew who became defiled had to be cleansed before he or she could return to the camp and the blessings of the covenant community. This was accomplished either by bathing in running water or by being sprinkled with water prepared for that purpose (Lev. 14:1–9; Num. 19; 8:5–7; Heb. 10:22). Of course, water can never change the heart, but this is only a picture of the gracious forgiveness we have through faith. God forgives trusting sinners because of the death of Jesus on the cross (Eph. 1:7). When believers confess their sins to the Lord, they are cleansed because of Christ’s blood (1 John 1:9).
Second, the Lord will give them a new heart (Ezek. 36:26). Ezekiel had already spoken about this inward change (11:18–20; 18:31), the kind of change that the Lord yearned for Israel to experience before they entered the Promised Land. “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments” (Deut. 5:29). The Prophet Jeremiah shared the same promise that Ezekiel gave: “Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Jer. 24:7). Jeremiah spoke about the New Covenant God would make with the Jews, a covenant not written on stones but on their hearts and in their minds (31:31–33; 32:29; see Isa. 59:21; Heb. 8:8–13). A “stony heart” is a hard heart, one that doesn’t receive God’s Word and nurture spiritual growth (Ezek. 2:4; 3:7).
Third, the Lord will give them the Holy Spirit within (Ezek. 36:27). It is the Spirit who accomplishes these divine miracles in the hearts of those who trust the Lord for salvation. He gives us a new heart and a new spirit and also a new desire to love the Lord and obey Him. The Holy Spirit is given like refreshing water upon parched ground, and this produces the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives (Isa. 44:3; Gal. 5:22–23). The witness of the Spirit in the heart is proof that the person has been born of God (Rom. 8:9, 14–17; Eph. 1:13–14). Because you have God’s Spirit within, you share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:1–4) and therefore want to obey the divine will. It is nature that determines conduct. Dogs act like dogs because they have a dog’s nature, and God’s people act like they belong to God because they have God’s nature within (1 John 3:9). Ezekiel will deal again with this gift of the Spirit in Ezekiel 37:14 and 39:29.
Fourth, the Lord will claim them again as His people (Ezek. 36:28). It will be like a renewal of the covenant, for they will live in the land, He will be their God and they will be His people. This will be a permanent arrangement, for they will no longer rebel against the Lord and disobey His will.
Fifth, the Lord will cause the land to flourish (vv. 29–30, 33–35). Under the covenant God made with Israel before they entered Canaan, He agreed to bless them and meet their needs if they would obey Him (Lev. 26:1–13; Deut. 28:1–14). When you read these promises, you are amazed at what the Jews gave up when they turned from serving God to serving idols. But when Israel enters into the promised kingdom, God will bless them and make the land like the Garden of Eden (Ezek. 36:35). The land will yield its harvests and the people will be enriched by the blessing of the Lord. The cities will be rebuilt and the ruins removed. It will be a wonderful new land for the new people of God. The beauty and fruitfulness of the land will be a testimony to the nations (v. 36).
Sixth, the people will abhor their sins (Ezek. 36:31–32). When some people remember their sins, they enjoy them again in the dirty depths of their imagination. This is evidence that they really haven’t judged them and repented. When true children of God remember their past disobedience, they’re ashamed of themselves and abhor themselves because of what they have done to the Lord, themselves, and others. “You who love the Lord, hate evil” (Ps. 97:10, nkjv). “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Rom. 12:9). One of the evidences of the Spirit’s presence within is a growing sensitivity to sin and a strong desire to turn away from it.
A seventh blessing will be fellowship with the Lord (Ezek. 36:37). In Ezekiel’s day, the people couldn’t inquire of the Lord or pray and be heard because they had sin in their hearts (14:1–5; 20:1–3, 30–31). God even told the Prophet Jeremiah not to pray for the people (Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11). But under the New Covenant, the people will have fellowship with the Lord and be able to pray to Him.
The eighth blessing will be the multiplication of the population (Ezek. 36:37–38). As in chapter 34, God pictures His people as a flock of sheep, and every shepherd wants to see his flock increase. The Jewish population was greatly reduced during the Babylonian invasion, but the Lord will bless His people and cause them to be fruitful and multiply (36:12–13). The picture here is of the men going to Jerusalem for the annual Passover feast, bringing animal sacrifices with them. The number of animals in Jerusalem would increase greatly, and that’s the way the Jewish people will increase in their kingdom.
Ninth, as the result of all these blessings, the Lord will be glorified. Israel didn’t glorify God in their land or the temple, nor did they glorify Him in the countries to which they were scattered. But the day will come when God will be glorified by His people and the glory of the Lord will return to the land. Every born-again believer sees a parallel here with his or her own experience of faith in Christ. The Lord has washed us (1 Cor. 6:9–11), given us new hearts and His Holy Spirit within, and because of this, we should have a holy hatred for sin. We have the privilege of communion with God and prayer for our needs, plus a desire within to do His will. God wants to make our lives abundantly fruitful so we will glorify His name. The Lord has made us a part of His New Covenant (Heb. 8; 10) so that our union with Him through Christ is eternal and unchanging. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Resurrection: the nation reborn (Ezek. 37:1–14) Ezekiel has told the people the Lord’s promise to restore the land and regenerate His people. But what about the nation itself, a nation divided (Israel and Judah) and without a king or a temple? The remnant would return to the ravaged land and rebuild the temple and the city, but none of the blessings Ezekiel promised would come to them at that time. No, the Prophet Ezekiel was looking far down the corridor of time to the end of the age when Jesus the Messiah would return and claim His people. Ezekiel told the people that the dead nation would one day be raised to life, and the divided nation would be united! The dry bones (Ezek. 37:1–3). At the beginning of Ezekiel’s ministry, the Spirit transported him to sit among the discouraged exiles by the canal (3:14ff). Later, the Spirit took him in visions to Jerusalem (8:3ff), to the temple gate and then back to ?Babylon (11:1, 24). Now the Spirit brought him in a vision to a valley filled with many bleached bones, scattered on the ground, the skeletons of corpses long ago decomposed and devoured by carrion-eating birds and animals. These people were slain (37:9), and they may have been soldiers in the Jewish army (v. 10). It was a humiliating thing for the body of a dead Jew not to be washed, wrapped, and buried with dignity in a grave or a tomb. These bodies were left on the battlefield to become food for the vultures to eat and objects for the sun to bleach. But the Lord had warned Israel in the covenant He made with them that their sins would lead to just that kind of shameful experience. “The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies.… Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away” (Deut. 28:25–26). Jeremiah was preaching this same message in Jerusalem: “I [the Lord] will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. Their dead bodies shall be for meat for the birds of the heaven and the beasts of the earth” (Jer. 34:20). The Lord told Ezekiel to walk around among the bones so he could appreciate their vast number and see how dry they were. As a priest, Ezekiel was never to be defiled by the dead, but this was a vision and the bones were not toxic. The prophet must have been wondering why the Lord gave him this vision, but the Lord’s question gave him the answer: “Can these bones live?” From the human point of view, the answer is no, but from the divine point of view, nothing is impossible. It is God who “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17). Ezekiel’s reply didn’t question the power of God; it only expressed the prophet’s conviction that God knew what He was going to do and was able to do it. The dead army (Ezek. 37:4–8). Ezekiel had prophesied to the mountains (6:2; 36:1) and to the forests (20:47), and now he is commanded to prophesy to the dead bones. The Word of the Lord is “living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12); it not only has life but it imparts life (1 Peter 1:23). “The words that I speak to you, are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). God’s word of command in Ezekiel 37:4 is followed by His word of promise in verses 5 and 6. Ezekiel believed the promise and obeyed the command, and the bones came together. Then the skeletons were covered with flesh and skin so that what was lying there in the valley looked like a sleeping army. The bodies lacked only one thing: life. The living army (Ezek. 37:9–14). God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the wind and told him what to say. In the Hebrew language, the word ruah can mean wind, breath, spirit, or Spirit. Jesus made use of this when He spoke to Nicodemus about the blowing of the wind and the new birth through the Spirit (John 3:5–8). There’s also a reference here to the creation of Adam in Genesis 2. At his creation, Adam was complete physically, but he had no life until the breath of God entered into him (v. 7). When Ezekiel spoke the living Word of God, the breath from God entered the dead bodies and they lived and stood to their feet. The Lord then explained the meaning of the vision. The dead dry bones represent the whole Jewish nation, both Israel and Judah, a divided nation and a dead nation, like bleached bones on a battlefield. Israel’s situation seemed hopeless, but “with God, all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). There will come a day when God’s living Word of command will go forth and call His people from their “graves,” the nations to which they have been scattered across the world (Ezek. 37:21; Jer. 31:8; Matt. 24:31). The Children of Israel will come together, but the nation will not have spiritual life until they see their Messiah, believe on Him, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit of life (Ezek. 39:29; Zech. 12:9–13:1). The nation will be born—and born again—“in a day” (Isa. 66:7–9). Of course, there’s a spiritual application in this vision for any individual or ministry that is in need of new life from God. Too often God’s people are like that standing army, lifelike but not alive. How does the life come? Through the Holy Spirit using the faithful proclamation of the Word of God. Said Charles Spurgeon, “Decayed churches can most certainly be revived by the preaching of the Word, accompanied by the coming of the heavenly breath from the four winds.” From time to time, in response to His people’s prayers, the Lord has seen fit to send a new “breath of life” to His church and His servants, and for that blessing we should be praying today.
Reunion: the kingdoms united (Ezek. 37:15–28) The nation of Israel was a united people until after the death of Solomon. His son’s unwise and arrogant policies divided the kingdom in 931 b.c., with ten tribes forming the Northern Kingdom of Israel (also called Ephraim or Samaria) and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin forming the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom soon went into idolatry and apostasy and in 722 b.c. was taken by Assyria, but Judah had some good kings and maintained the Davidic line and the ministry at the temple. However, toward the end of Israel’s political history, some very weak kings reigned and the nation drifted into idolatry and unbelief. The Lord finally brought the Babylonians to chasten His people. There is a political Israel today, but the majority of the Jewish people are scattered around the world.
This is the last of Ezekiel’s “action sermons.” He took two sticks, each one to represent one of the divisions of the Jewish nation. One he labeled “For Judah” and the other “For Joseph.” Like a performer before an audience, the prophet announced that the two sticks would become one in his hands—and they did! The people saw what he did but they didn’t understand what he meant by it. He explained that the Lord would gather the people together to one place, their own land of Israel. He would make them one nation, obedient to one king, and (most important) worshiping one God. There would be no more idols or disobedience to the law of the Lord. But what would maintain the unity of the people?
For one thing, the Lord would cleanse them and renew spiritual life within them so that they no longer had any ambitions to compete with one another. Old jealousies and enmities would be gone (Isa. 11:13) and Israel and Judah would together humble themselves and seek the Lord (Jer. 50:4; Hosea 11:1).
Another factor is that their one king would be the Messiah, and He would shepherd them with love and grace. He would be their “prince forever” (Ezek. 37:25) and serve as the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).
Third, the Lord would so order and bless the land that the nation would be one (Ezek. 37:25). This will be further explained in chapter 45.
The nation would be governed by a “covenant of peace” (37:26; 34:22–25), which is the “New Covenant” that Jeremiah wrote about in Jeremiah 31:31–34.
But central to the nation’s unity will be the new temple (Ezek. 37:26–28) where the glory of God will dwell. In their wilderness days, Israel had the tabernacle to unite the camp of Israel, with each tribe assigned a specific place to pitch their tents. The temple in Jerusalem was also a source of unity, for three times a year the men had to go to Jerusalem to celebrate feasts, and the people were allowed to offer sacrifices only at the temple. In chapters 40–48, Ezekiel will go into detail describing this future temple and its ministries. God called it “my tabernacle” (37:27) because the Hebrew word means “a dwelling place.” God’s presence with His people will sanctify the land, the temple, and the nation, just as He promised in His covenant (Lev. 26:11–12). The nations of the earth will come to worship the Lord with His people Israel (Isa. 2:1–5) and “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). Whether it’s the Children of Israel or the saints in the church today, the Lord wants His people to be united. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1). Paul appealed to the believers in Corinth to cultivate unity in the church (1 Cor. 1:10), and he exhorted the Ephesian believers to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Sometimes it takes prayer, sacrifice, and patience to maintain the unity of God’s people, but it’s important that we do so. Jesus prayed that His people might be one and manifest to the lost world the living unity between Christ and His church and among believers and local churches (John 17:20–23). A divided church is not a strong church or a church bearing witness to the grace and glory of God. God’s people today need the fresh wind of the Spirit to give us new life from God and new love for one another.
Nelson - 37:1, 2 The wording recalls the past visionary experiences of Ezekiel (see 1:1, 3; 2:2; 3:12, 14; 8:1, 3, 7) although the word vision is not employed in these verses. bones: Not only do the bones speak of death, indeed of many deaths, but for bones to be left in the open was an indignity and indecency according to Jewish custom. To leave bodies unburied until the bones were exposed was unthinkable.37:3 You know: The prophet placed his faith completely in the living God. Ordinarily, one would say “no” to the question God posed. But Ezekiel did not limit God; he knew the Almighty could make bones live. 37:4 Prophesy to these bones: Ezekiel’s prophecies had often been directed to people as deaf as these old, dry bones. 37:5 The word translated breath is translated in other places as wind or Spirit. The breath sent by God into the lifeless bodies symbolizes the Holy Spirit (v. 14), who brings renewal, regeneration, and rebirth (vv. 6, 9; John 3:5–8; 6:44; 7:37–39; 16:5–15; Rom. 8:9–11). 37:6 you shall live: This passage is not about resurrection from physical death, but rebirth from spiritual death brought about by divine power. Psalm 87 is another text in the Hebrew Scriptures that speaks of spiritual rebirth. The point of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in John 3:1–16 was that he should have known and understood the concept of a second birth. 37:7, 8 The dramatic noise and then coming together of the bones with new flesh must have been chilling and thrilling to the prophet. This was a prophetic portrayal of the rebirth of Israel (Rom. 9–11). 37:9 The Hebrew word translated breath is the same as the one translated winds. It can also be translated spirit.37:10 an exceedingly great army: The dead bones in the valley (vv. 1, 2) must have looked like the aftermath of a horrible military defeat in which there were no survivors even to bury the dead. But now the army stood upon their feet. 37:11–14 The bones symbolize the whole house of Israel. This identification picks up on imagery already used: (1) those identified as dry or spiritually dead (vv. 2–5); (2) those identified as despondent and dejected, with no apparent hope of being “resurrected” as the people of the living God; and (3) those described as disassembled and dispersed before being rejoined and rebuilt (see vv. 6–10). The major thrust of this passage is the coming spiritual rebirth of God’s chosen people through the agency of His Spirit (vv. 15–28; 36:22–32). The spiritual rebirth would miraculously revive and restore human beings to what God had intended them to be in the beginning. The same body-breath sequence occurs in the creation of Adam (Gen. 2:7). 37:16 a stick: This is Ezekiel’s final symbolic drama employing an object (4:1, 3, 9; 5:1). 37:22 mountains of Israel: This phrase represents the Promised Land (36:1–7, 12). The one king refers to the future ruler, the promised Messiah, also called Shepherd, Servant, and Prince (vv. 24, 25; 7:27; 34:11–31; John 10). 37:23 The Hebrew word translated dwelling places is backsliding in other ancient manuscripts. In Hebrew, the two words differ in the placement of one letter. 37:24, 25 The title David My servant refers to the Messiah and King who would come from David’s line to save Israel (v. 22; 2 Sam. 7:8–16). 37:26–28 The Lord had made an everlasting covenant with Abraham, the nation of Israel, and David (16:60, 61; Gen. 9:16; 17:7; Num. 25:12, 13; 2 Sam. 7:13, 16; 23:5; Jer. 32:40). My sanctuary in their midst: The sanctuary or holy place of the living God is His dwelling place among His people (Zeph. 3:15–18). My tabernacle: This term meaning “dwelling place” is a synonym for sanctuary. Both can be used of God’s dwelling in the midst of His people in the wilderness. Here they point to the future dwelling of the living God in the midst of His people forevermore. We may also compare the use Paul makes of these verses in 2 Cor. 6:16
|Personality||Message of Dream or Vision||Biblical Reference|
|Jacob||Assurance of God’s covenant||Gen. 28:10–15|
|Joseph||Joseph’s future prominence over his brothers||Gen. 37:1–11|
|Solomon||Assurance of God’s wisdom||1 Kin. 3:5–10|
|Jacob||Instructed to go to Egypt||Gen. 46:2–4|
|Isaiah||A Revelation to God’s holiness||Is. 6:1–8|
|Ezekiel||God’s promise to restore His people Israel||Ezek. 37|
|Daniel||The great world powers to come and the glories of Christ||Dan. 7; 8 Dan. 10:5–9|
JM INTRO- Title The book has always been named for its author, Ezekiel (1:3; 24:24), who is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture. His name means “strengthened by God,” which, indeed, he was for the prophetic ministry to which God called him (3:8,9). Ezekiel uses visions, prophecies, parables, signs, and symbols to proclaim and dramatize the message of God to His exiled people.
Author and Date If the “thirtieth year” of 1:1 refers to Ezekiel’s age, he was 25 when taken captive and 30 when called into ministry. Thirty was the age when priests commenced their office, so it was a notable year for Ezekiel. His ministry began in 593/92 b.c. and extended at least 22 years until 571/70 b.c. (25:17). He was a contemporary of both Jeremiah (who was about 20 years older) and Daniel (who was the same age), whom he names in 14:14,20; 28:3 as an already well known prophet. Like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1) and Zechariah (Zech. 1:1 with Neh. 12:16), Ezekiel was both a prophet and a priest (1:3). Because of his priestly background, he was particularly interested in and familiar with the temple details; so God used him to write much about them (8:1–11:25; 40:1–47:12). Ezekiel and his wife (who is mentioned in 24:15–27) were among 10,000 Jews taken captive to Babylon in 597 b.c. (2 Kin. 24:11–18). They lived in Tel-Abib (3:15) on the bank of the Chebar River, probably SE of Babylon. Ezekiel writes of his wife’s death in exile (Ezek. 24:18), but the book does not mention Ezekiel’s death, which rabbinical tradition suggests occurred at the hands of an Israelite prince whose idolatry he rebuked around 560 b.c. The author received his call to prophesy in 593 b.c. (1:2), in Babylon (“the land of the Chaldeans”), during the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, which began in 597 b.c. Frequently, Ezekiel dates his prophecies from 597 b.c. (8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1,17; 33:21; 40:1). He also dates the message in 40:1 as 573/72, the 14th year after 586 b.c., i.e., Jerusalem’s final fall. The last dated utterance of Ezekiel was in 571/70 b.c. (29:17). Prophecies in chaps. 1–28 are in chronological order. In 29:1, the prophet regresses to a year earlier than in 26:1. But from 30:1 on (31:1; 32:1,17), he is close to being strictly chronological. Background and Setting From the historical perspective, Israel’s united kingdom lasted more than 110 years (ca. 1043–931 b.c.), through the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon. Then the divided kingdom (209 years), Israel (north) and Judah (south), extended from 931 b.c. to 722/21 b.c. Israel fell to Assyria in 722/21 b.c. leaving Judah, the surviving kingdom for 135 years, which fell to Babylon in 605–586 b.c. In the more immediate setting, several features were strategic. Politically, Assyria’s vaunted military might crumbled after 626 b.c., and the capital, Nineveh, was destroyed in 612 b.c. by the Babylonians and Medes (Nahum). The neo-Babylonian empire had flexed its muscles since Nabopolassar took the throne in 625 b.c., and Egypt, under Pharaoh Necho II, was determined to conquer what she could. Babylon smashed Assyria in 612–605 b.c., and registered a decisive victory against Egypt in 605 b.c. at Carchemish, leaving, according to the Babylonian Chronicle, no survivors. Also in 605 b.c., Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar, began the conquest of Jerusalem and the first deportation of captives, among them Daniel (Dan. 1:2). In Dec., 598 b.c., he again besieged Jerusalem, and on Mar. 16, 597 b.c. [8 yrs later] took possession. This second time, he took captive Jehoiachin and a group of 10,000, including Ezekiel (2 Kin. 24:11–18). The final destruction of Jerusalem and the conquest of Judah, including the third deportation, came [11 yrs later] in 586 b.c. Religiously, King Josiah (ca. 640–609 b.c.) had instituted reforms in Judah (2 Chr. 34). Tragically, despite his effort, idolatry had so dulled the Judeans that their awakening was only “skin deep” overall. The Egyptian army killed Josiah as it crossed Palestine in 609 b.c., and the Jews plunged on in sin toward judgment under Jehoahaz (609 b.c.), Jehoiakim [Eliakim] (609–598 b.c.), Jehoiachin (598–597 b.c.), and Zedekiah (597–586 b.c.). Domestically, Ezekiel and the 10,000 lived in exile in Babylonia (2 Kin. 24:14), more as colonists than captives, being permitted to farm tracts of land under somewhat favorable conditions (Jer. 29). Ezekiel even had his own house (3:24; 20:1). Prophetically, false prophets deceived the exiles with assurances of a speedy return to Judah (13:3,16; Jer. 29:1). From 593–585 b.c., Ezekiel warned that their beloved Jerusalem would be destroyed and their exile prolonged, so there was no hope of immediate return. In 585 b.c., an escapee from Jerusalem, who had evaded the Babylonians, reached Ezekiel with the first news that the city had fallen in 586 b.c., about 6 months earlier (33:21). That dashed the false hopes of any immediate deliverance for the exiles, so the remainder of Ezekiel’s prophecies related to Israel’s future restoration to its homeland and the final blessings of the messianic kingdom. Historical and Theological Themes The “glory of the Lord” is central to Ezekiel, appearing in 1:28; 3:12,23; 10:4,18; 11:23; 43:4,5; 44:4. The book includes graphic descriptions of the disobedience of Israel and Judah, despite God’s kindness (chap. 23; chap. 16). It shows God’s desire for Israel to bear fruit which He can bless; however, selfish indulgence had left Judah ready for judgment, like a torched vine (chap. 15). References are plentiful to Israel’s idolatry and its consequences, such as Pelatiah dropping dead (11:13), a symbolic illustration of overall disaster for the people. Many picturesque scenes illustrate spiritual principles. Among these are Ezekiel eating a scroll (chap. 2); the faces on 4 angels representing aspects of creation over which God rules (1:10); a “barbershop” scene (5:1–4); graffiti on temple walls reminding readers of what God really wants in His dwelling place, namely holiness and not ugliness (8:10); and sprinkled hot coals depicting judgment (10:2,7). Chief among the theological themes are God’s holiness and sovereignty. These are conveyed by frequent contrast of His bright glory against the despicable backdrop of Judah’s sins (1:26–28; often in chaps. 8–11; and 43:1–7). Closely related is God’s purpose of glorious triumph so that all may “know that I am the Lord.” This divine monogram, God’s signature authenticating His acts, is mentioned more than 60 times, usually with a judgment (6:7; 7:4), but occasionally after the promised restoration (34:27; 36:11,38; 39:28). Another feature involves God’s angels carrying out His program behind the scenes (1:5–25; 10:1–22). A further important theme is God’s holding each individual accountable for pursuing righteousness (18:3–32). Ezekiel also stresses sinfulness in Israel (2:3–7; 8:9,10) and other nations (throughout chaps. 25–32). He deals with the necessity of God’s wrath to deal with sin (7:1–8; 15:8); God’s frustration of man’s devices to escape from besieged Jerusalem (12:1–13; cf. Jer. 39:4–7); and God’s grace pledged in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1–3) being fulfilled by restoring Abraham’s people to the land of the covenant (chaps. 34,36–48; cf. Gen. 12:7). God promises to preserve a remnant of Israelites through whom He will fulfill His restoration promises and keep His inviolate Word. Interpretive Challenges Ezekiel uses extensive symbolic language, as did Isaiah and Jeremiah. This raises the question as to whether certain portions of Ezekiel’s writings are to be taken literally or figuratively, being bound with ropes, 3:25; whether the prophet was taken bodily to Jerusalem, 8:1–3; how individual judgment can be worked out in chap. 18 when the wicked elude death in 14:22,23 and some of the godly die in an invasion, 21:3,4; how God would permit a faithful prophet’s wife to die (24:15–27); when some of the judgments on other nations will occur (chaps. 25–32); whether the temple in chaps. 40–46 will be a literal one and in what form; and how promises of Israel’s future relate to God’s program with the church. These issues will be treated in the study notes. Outline The book can be largely divided into sections about condemnation/retribution and then consolation / restoration. A more detailed look divides the book into 4 sections. First, are prophecies on the ruin of Jerusalem (chaps. 1–24). Second, are prophecies of retribution on nearby nations (chaps. 25–32), with a glimpse at God’s future restoration of Israel (28:25,26). Thirdly, there is a transition chapter (33) which gives instruction concerning a last call for Israel to repent. Finally, the fourth division includes rich expectations involving God’s future restoration of Israel (chaps. 34–48)
BKC INTRO - For the average reader of the Bible the Book of Ezekiel is mostly a perplexing maze of incoherent visions—a kaleidoscope of whirling wheels and dry bones that defy interpretation. This impression often causes readers to shy away from studying the book and to miss one of the great literary and spiritual portions of the Old Testament. Authorship and Date. The author of this book is ”Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi“ (1:3). The name Ezekiel means ”God will strengthen“ or ”God will harden.“ Like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1) and Zechariah (Zech. 1:1; cf. Neh. 12:4, 16), Ezekiel was a priest (Ezek. 1:3). Ezekiel’s father Buzi is mentioned only in 1:3. Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Ezekiel (and Jesus) were the only prophet-priests; and all three prophesied during the exilic or postexilic periods. Ezekiel’s priestly background explains in part his emphasis on the temple in Jerusalem, the glory of the Lord, the actions of Jerusalem’s priests, and God’s future temple. The date for Ezekiel’s ministry can be determined by noting the chronological notations in his book (1:2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 29:1, 17; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1, 17; 33:21; 40:1). All Ezekiel’s prophecies are arranged chronologically (starting with ”the 5th year of the exile,“ 1:2, and ending with ”the 25th year of our exile,“ 40:1, except the prophecies introduced in 29:1, 17). These two variations may be explained by the fact that they are grouped topically as part of the prophecies against Egypt in chapters 29-32. Ezekiel’s ministry began ”in the fourth month on the fifth day“ of ”the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin“ (1:1-2). Jehoiachin came to the throne in December 597 b.c. after Jehoiakim died (2 Kings 24:1-12). After a reign of only three months Jehoiachin was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and deported to Babylon. The fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile was 593 b.c., and the fourth month was the month Tammuz. Therefore Ezekiel began his ministry on July 31, 593 b.c. (the ”fifth day“ is inclusive, counting both July 27 and 31). Ezekiel also said his ministry began ”in the 30th year“ (Ezek. 1:1). Scholars debate the exact meaning of this statement, but many feel it refers to Ezekiel’s age. If so, he was commissioned as a prophet at the age he was qualified to enter the priesthood (Num. 4:3). The last dated prophecy in Ezekiel was ”in the 27th year, in the first month on the first day“ (Ezek. 29:17). Since Ezekiel began prophesying in 593 (the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile, 1:2), this prophecy was 571 b.c. (March 26). So Ezekiel’s prophetic activity spanned at least 22 years (593-571 b.c.), from age 30 to 52. Historical Background. The Book of Ezekiel was written during the time of Judah’s bondage to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. Ezekiel lived with a group of captives in Tel Aviv (not the modern-day city in Israel by that name), located beside the Kebar River (3:15) in Babylon. The exact site of this settlement is unknown, but the Kebar River has been identified with the Grand Canal (Akk., naru kabaru) in Babylon. This canal branched off from the Euphrates just above Babylon and flowed east of the city. It continued through the site of ancient Nippur and then reentered the Euphrates near Uruk (biblical Erech). During these final years Ezekiel was ministering in Babylon, predicting the coming collapse of Jerusalem. His message fell on deaf ears till word of the city’s destruction was received in Babylon. The fall of the city prompted a change in Ezekiel’s prophetic message. Before Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel’s message focused on Judah’s forthcoming destruction because of her sin. After Jerusalem’s fall, Ezekiel’s message centered on Judah’s future restoration. Structure and Style. The structure and style of Ezekiel’s book has at least four major characteristics.1. Chronological arrangement. As noted earlier under ”Authorship and Date“ a definite chronological movement is evident within the book. Ezekiel is the only major prophet with such a precise chronological arrangement but the Books of Haggai and Zechariah have a similar arrangement. 2. Structural balance. In addition to its chronological arrangement Ezekiel’s book also has a structural order and harmony. The first 24 chapters focus on the judgment of Judah; chapters 33-48 focus on the restoration of Judah. These two extremes are balanced by chapters 25-32 which deal with God’s judgment on other nations. The glory of God departed from the temple in judgment (9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-25) and reappeared in the temple for blessing (43:1-5). Ezekiel was commissioned to deliver a message of judgment (chaps. 2-3) and later was recommissioned to give a message of deliverance (chap. 33).3. Focus on the glory and character of God. Ezekiel emphasized the glory and character of God. Having received a vision of God’s glory before he was commissioned, Ezekiel continued to refer to God’s glory throughout the book (1:28; 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23; 39:11, 21; 43:2-5; 44:4). God’s character determined His conduct throughout the book. Fifteen times God declared that He had acted for the sake of His name to keep it from being profaned (20:9, 14, 22, 39, 44; 36:20-23 [twice in v. 23]; 39:7 [twice], 25; 43:7-8). Over 60 times God said He had acted so that the people would ”know that I am the Lord“ (6:7, 10, 13-14).4. Use of literary devices. Ezekiel used unique literary devices to drive home his message to a ”hardened and obstinate“ people. These included proverbs (12:22-23; 16:44; 18:2-3); visions (chaps. 1-3; 8-11; 37; 40-48); parables (chap. 17; 24:1-14); symbolic acts (chaps. 4-5; 12; 24:15-27); and allegories (chaps. 16-17). By these means Ezekiel presented his messages in dramatic and forceful ways, thus getting the people’s attention so they would respond.
Wiersbe INTRO - One thing that is lacking in the church today is a sincere reverence for the name and glory of the Lord. At least a dozen times in the Book of Psalms, you find the psalmist praising God’s holy name. In fact, God’s people are identified in Scripture as those who reverence God’s name (Rev. 11:18). Associated with God’s name is God’s glory, for His name is a glorious name (1 Chron. 29:13). When God’s people glorify Him, they bring honor to His name, just as obedient children bring honor to their family name. “Hallowed be thy name” is the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9), and one of the reasons God answers prayer is that His name might be glorified. The messages of the Prophet Ezekiel focus on the glory of God, the throne of God, and the honor of the name of God. God is called “Lord God” (“Sovereign Lord,” NIV) over 400 times (I only found 223xs) in this book, and you find the solemn phrase “I am the Lord” 59 times. In all that God says and does, He has one purpose in mind: “You will know that I am the Lord” (Ezek. 6:7). When Ezekiel lived, spoke, and wrote his book, the Jewish people were captives in Babylon, and Ezekiel was there with them. He was not only a servant sent to speak to his people, but he was also a sign to the people (24:24, 27). God asked him to do many unusual things in order to get the attention of the people so they would hear the Word of God. His spoken messages and his “sign messages” were both needed, because the people had blind eyes and hard hearts. Ezekiel was a master of metaphor and imagery. Is the prophecy of Ezekiel a book that’s needed today? One thing is sure: our generation needs the message of Ezekiel, for we are a people who lack the reverence we should have for the glory of God and the name of God. We can write “Ichabod—the glory has departed” over the doors of many homes, churches, and Christian ministries. Yet Ezekiel’s message isn’t only a negative exposure of the sins of God’s people; it’s also a positive encouragement because of the future God has planned. The prophet closes his book with the glorious vision of a restored people with a renewed worship and the glory of God dwelling with them. The prophet gives Jerusalem a new name: “Jehovah Shammah—the Lord is there” (48:35).
Key theme: Showing reverence for the name and glory of God
Key verse: “You will know that I am the Lord” (6:7) (This statement is found 70xs in book)
I. The prophet’s call (1–3)
1. Seeing God’s glory—1
2. Hearing God’s Word—2
3. Becoming God’s watchman—3
II. The fall of Jerusalem (4–24)
1. The judgment predicted—4–7
2. God’s glory departs—8–11
3. Godless leaders exposed—12–17
4. God’s justice defended—18–21
5. The end of the city—22–24
III. The nations judged (25–32)
2. Moab— 25:8–11
IV. The glorious future of Israel (33–48)
1. The city of Jerusalem restored — 33–34
2. The land of Israel renewed—35–36
3. The nation of Israel resurrected and reunited—37–39
4. The temple and the priesthood reestablished—40–48
A Time Line for Ezekiel’s Ministry
605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar takes the temple treasures to Babylon; Daniel taken captive
597 B.C. Ezekiel taken captive to Bablyon at age twenty-five
593 B.C. Ezekiel called to ministry at age 30 (Ezek. 1–3)
592 B.C. Ezekiel’s vision of the temple in Jerusalem (Ezek. 8:1ff)
591 B.C. Ezekiel interprets Israel’s history (Ezek. 20:1ff)
588 B.C. Siege of Jerusalem begins (Ezek. 24:1ff)
587–585 B.C. Ezekiel’s messages against Egypt (Ezek. 29–32) and Tyre (Ezek. 26:1ff)
586 B.C. Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonian army
585 B.C. News comes to Ezekiel of Jerusalem’s destruction (Ezek. 33:21–22)
573 B.C. Visions of Israel’s glorious future (Ezek. 40-48)
571 B.C. Ezekiels’s message that Babylon will defeat Egypt (Ezek. 29:17–21)
Nelson INTRO - The prophet Ezekiel had the thankless job of proclaiming God’s message on the crowded and hostile streets of Babylon. At the same time that Jeremiah was warning the citizens of Jerusalem of the coming destruction of that holy city, Ezekiel was preaching the same message to the exiles in Babylon. Even though these exiles were hundreds of miles away from the Promised Land and the temple, God would not leave them in the dark. Instead He sent Ezekiel to warn, exhort, and comfort the weary exiles. Author • Ezekiel received and reported revelations from the living God as an exile in Babylon during 593–571 b.c. All that is known of this solitary prophet comes from his written prophecy, and no compelling data exist for the acceptance of any author other than the one named in the book itself: Ezekiel, son of Buzi (a priest), who was taken captive with Jehoiachin and other Hebrews in 597 b.c. Since he was from a priestly family, Ezekiel was a priest as well as a prophet. Therefore he was well acquainted with the Levitical laws and rituals as well as the temple and its regulations. This becomes evident when he writes of his apocalyptic vision of the future messianic temple. Furthermore, he had a detailed knowledge of the Mosaic covenant, including the ethical, moral, and spiritual requirements of God’s revelation and the inevitable results of obedience or disobedience to God’s law. Even though his exiled audience was cut off from the temple, the priesthood, and the related ceremonies and feasts, the prophet Ezekiel informed the exiles not only of these details, but also of the importance of obeying God’s law and seeking after Him. The Book of Ezekiel reveals that the prophet was married (see 24:15–18) and had a house (see 3:24; 8:1). Overall, he enjoyed a large measure of freedom in captivity. The Babylonians had not captured the Jews in order to make them slaves in Babylon; instead they wanted to displace the population of Israel, especially its leadership and nobility, and settle their own citizens and other foreigners in the land. As for his personality and abilities, Ezekiel appears to have been articulate, intelligent, and dramatic. He was a person that could withstand great opposition in order to obey the demands God placed on His life. Chronology • Unlike most biblical prophetic books, Ezekiel gives considerable attention to chronology and exact dates throughout his book. No other prophet provides so many dates (thirteen). By utilizing the data from archaeology and the most recent research into the calendar systems of the ancient Middle East, a precise dating of many events in Ezekiel is possible. The key to dating the opening chronological notice and the other specific dates in Ezekiel is the reference in 1:2 to the “fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity.” In 2 Kin. 24:12, this deportation is equated with the “eighth year of (Nebuchadnezzar’s) reign” or 597 b.c. Ezekiel began prophesying in 593 b.c. calling attention to the Babylonian captivity of Judah. He ended in 571 b.c. with a message on God’s coming judgment upon Egypt at the hand of the same Babylonian monarch. Ezekiel prophesied during four different periods: 593–588 b.c. (1:1–25:17); 587–585 b.c. (26:1–29:16; 30:20–39:29); 573 b.c. (40:1–48:35); and 571 b.c. (29:17–30:19). In all, Ezekiel prophesied from 593 to 571 b.c., a period of twenty-two years surrounding the climactic fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. Religious and Literary Context • During Ezekiel’s life and ministry, Israel (the northern kingdom) was corrupt politically and spiritually. Their idolatry led to captivity by Assyria in 722 b.c. The leadership of Judah (the southern kingdom) at that time was righteous; but eventually they too, although experiencing brief revivals at times, fell into the idolatry of the neighboring nations. The people refused to heed the prophets’ reminders about the curses and blessings promised by God in the Mosaic covenant. Ezekiel prophesied that there would come catastrophe and captivity for Judah and Jerusalem. Yet he also had a message from God concerning eventual restoration and renewal, based on God’s faithfulness to the promises of all the covenants made with His people since the Abrahamic covenant. In speaking to his fellow exiles in Babylon, Ezekiel experienced and then employed visions (chs. 1–3; 8–11; 37; 40–48). These visions are similar in structure to “dream visions” known from Mesopotamian literature of the seventh and sixth centuries b.c. These texts have two main sections: (1) an introduction to the setting and general situation, including time, place, circumstances, and the person involved; and (2) a description of the vision. In chs. 37; 40–48, Ezekiel uses such a format to introduce apocalyptic visions—revelations that symbolically describe the end times. Living in Babylon, both Ezekiel and his audience were familiar with this type of literature. Elsewhere, Ezekiel employs themes and illustrations from the religious life and literature of the societies whose judgment he predicts. Typically the nations under God’s judgment were those that had mistreated Israel or had led them into idol worship. The exiles and those Israelites still living in Judah knew the religious behavior and beliefs of their neighbors and would not be puzzled by the prophet’s language. In addition to visions and religious themes, Ezekiel uses many literary techniques to communicate God’s message to the exiles: both prose and poetry, parables and proverbs, lamentations and dirges, allegories and puns. Historical Setting • Ezekiel ministered in Babylon, at Tel Abib near the Chebar River. This is in the southeastern section of modern Iraq, northwest of the Persian Gulf. The Babylonians settled the Jewish exiles in this region to colonize them. Ezekiel’s ministry was primarily to those Jews deported from Judah by the Babylonians and any Israelites that remained in exile from previous deportations by the Assyrians. Still his messages had great instructional and practical significance for the Hebrews remaining in Israel and for the surrounding pagan nations, whose fate he foretold. Although Ezekiel was transported in visions to Jerusalem (see chs. 8; 11), those revelations were always for the benefit of him and those to whom he was speaking in exile. Ezekiel’s warnings of national calamity include warnings of disease, death, destruction, and deportation. Yet because of God’s unconditional promises and through the people’s repentance, God’s spiritual and material blessings would return to the people. Ezekiel’s purpose was to remind His people of their spiritual unfaithfulness (ch. 16) and of God’s faithfulness to His own promises. Ezekiel showed the people how judgment was a natural outcome of a holy God’s wrath against sin. It was also a loving God’s means of disciplining His people: to correct their beliefs, redirect their behavior, and restore intimate fellowship between Himself and them. Thus Ezekiel preached to the exiles the imminence of God’s judgment and the need for individual and national repentance. Themes • The Book of Ezekiel stresses the ultimate aim of God’s charity and chastisement: that “they shall know that I am the Lord.” This refrain is repeated 65 times in the book and emphasizes that the purpose of God’s actions is always to bring about the spiritual renewal of all people. Ezekiel teaches both individual and corporate responsibility for sin before God (chs. 18; 23). While themes of idolatry, social injustice, public and private immorality, imminent judgment, and future blessings of restoration and redemption are not unique to Ezekiel, his prophecies relate these themes to the centrality of the temple and the influence of the sacrificial system in the life of Israel. Past defilement and disobedience by the priests and people had led to the present dispersion and would lead to further judgment (chs. 4–32). The people’s behavior was intrinsically connected to how they approached their God in worship. Insincere worship would led to immoral behavior and judgment; proper worship of the living God would led to moral behavior and blessings. Yet in the end, Ezekiel concludes with the comforting news that a day would come when God’s rule and practical righteousness would return with a new temple and city and a renewed land and nation (chs. 33–48).
OPEN Bib INTRO- THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL Ezekiel, a priest and a prophet, ministers during the darkest days of Judah’s history: the seventy-year period of Babylonian captivity. Carried to Babylon before the final assault on Jerusalem, Ezekiel uses prophecies, parables, signs, and symbols to dramatize God’s message to His exiled people. Though they are like dry bones in the sun, God will reassemble them and breathe life into the nation once again. Present judgment will be followed by future glory so that “you shall know that I am the Lord” (6:7). The Hebrew name Yeheze’l means “God Strengthens” or “Strengthened by God.” Ezekiel is indeed strengthened by God for the prophetic ministry to which he is called (3:8, 9). The name occurs twice in this book and nowhere else in the Old Testament. The Greek form in the Septuagint is Iezekiel and the Latin form in the Vulgate is Ezechiel. THE AUTHOR OF EZEKIEL Ezekiel, the son of Buzi (1:3), had a wife who died as a sign to Judah when Nebuchadnezzar began his final siege on Jerusalem (24:16–24). Like Jeremiah, he was a priest who was called to be a prophet of the Lord. His prophetic ministry shows a priestly emphasis in his concern with the temple, priesthood, sacrifices, and Shekinah (the glory of God). Ezekiel was privileged to receive a number of visions of the power and plan of God, and he was careful and artistic in his written presentation. Some objections have been raised, but there is not a good reason to overthrow the strong evidence in favor of Ezekiel’s authorship. The first person singular is used throughout the book, indicating that it is the work of a single personality. This person is identified as Ezekiel in 1:3 and 24:24, and internal evidence supports the unity and integrity of Ezekiel’s prophetic record. The style, language, and thematic development are consistent throughout the book; and several distinctive phrases are repeated throughout, such as, “they shall know that I am the Lord,” “Son of man,” “the word of the Lord came to me,” and the “glory of the Lord.” THE TIME OF EZEKIEL Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in three stages. First, in 605 b.c., he overcame Jehoiakim and carried off key hostages including Daniel and his friends. Second, in 597 b.c., the rebellion of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin brought further punishment; and Nebuchadnezzar made Jerusalem submit a second time. He carried off ten thousand hostages including Jehoiachin and Ezekiel. Third, in 586 b.c., Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city after a long siege and disrupted all of Judah. If “thirtieth year” in 1:1 refers to Ezekiel’s age, he was twenty-five years old when he was taken to Babylon and thirty years old when he received his prophetic commission (1:2, 3). This means he was about seventeen when Daniel was deported in 605 b.c., so that Ezekiel and Daniel were about the same age. Both men were about twenty years younger than Jeremiah who was ministering in Jerusalem. According to this chronology, Ezekiel was born in 622 b.c., deported to Babylon in 597 b.c., prophesied from 592 b.c. to at least 570 b.c., and died about 560 b.c. Thus, he overlapped the end of Jeremiah’s ministry and the beginning of Daniel’s ministry. By the time Ezekiel arrived in Babylon, Daniel was already well known; and he is mentioned three times in Ezekiel’s prophecy (14:14, 20; 28:3). Ezekiel’s Babylonian home was at Tel Abib, the principal colony of Jewish exiles along the River Chebar, Nebuchadnezzar’s “Grand Canal” (1:1; 3:15, 23). From 592 to 586 b.c., Ezekiel found it necessary to convince the disbelieving Jewish exiles that there was no hope of immediate deliverance. But it was not until they heard that Jerusalem was destroyed that their false hopes of returning were abandoned. Ezekiel no doubt wrote this book shortly after the incidents recorded in it occurred. His active ministry lasted for at least twenty-two years (1:2; 29:17), and his book was probably completed by 565 b.c. THE CHRIST OF EZEKIEL Ezekiel 17:22–24 depicts the Messiah as a tender twig that becomes a stately cedar on a lofty mountain, as He is similarly called the Branch in Isaiah (11:1), Jeremiah (23:5; 33:15), and Zechariah (3:8; 6:12). The Messiah is the King who has the right to rule (21:26, 27), and He is the true Shepherd who will deliver and feed His flock (34:11–31). KEYS TO EZEKIEL Key Word: The Future Restoration of Israel—The broad purpose of Ezekiel is to remind the generation born during the Babylonian exile of the cause of Israel’s current destruction, of the coming judgment on the Gentile nations, and of the coming national restoration of Israel. Central to that hope is the departure of the glory of God from Israel and the prediction of its ultimate return (43:2). Key Verses: Ezekiel 36:24–26 and 36:33–35—“For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (36:24–26). “Thus says the Lord God: ‘On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. So they will say, “This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited”’” (36:33–35). Key Chapter: Ezekiel 37—Central to the hope of the restoration of Israel is the vision of the valley of the dry bones. Ezekiel 37 outlines with clear steps Israel’s future. SURVEY OF EZEKIEL Ezekiel prophesies among the Jewish exiles in Babylon during the last days of Judah’s decline and downfall. His message of judgment is similar to that of his older contemporary Jeremiah, who has remained in Jerusalem. Judah will be judged because of her unfaithfulness, but God promises her future restoration and blessing. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel proclaims a message of horror and hope, of condemnation and consolation. But Ezekiel places special emphasis on the glory of Israel’s sovereign God who says, “They shall know that I am the Lord.” The book breaks into four sections: the commission of Ezekiel (1–3), the judgment on Judah (4–24), the judgment on the Gentiles (25–32), and the restoration of Israel (33–48). The Commission of Ezekiel (1–3): God gives Ezekiel an overwhelming vision of His divine glory and commissions him to be His prophet (the experiences of Moses in Ex. 3:1–10, Isaiah in 6:1–10, Daniel in 10:5–14, and John in Rev. 1:12–19). Ezekiel is given instruction, enablement, and responsibility. The Judgment on Judah (4–24): Ezekiel directs his prophecies against the nation God chose for Himself. The prophet’s signs and sermons (4–7) point to the certainty of Judah’s judgment. In 8–11, Judah’s past sins and coming doom are seen in a series of visions of the abominations in the temple, the slaying of the wicked, and the departing glory of God. The priests and princes are condemned as the glory leaves the temple, moves to the Mount of Olives, and disappears in the east. Chapters 12–24 speak of the causes and extent of Judah’s coming judgment through dramatic signs, powerful sermons, and parables. Judah’s prophets are counterfeits and her elders are idolators. They have become a fruitless vine and an adulterous wife. Babylon will swoop down like an eagle and pluck them up, and they will not be aided by Egypt. The people are responsible for their own sins, and they are not being unjustly judged for the sins of their ancestors. Judah has been unfaithful, but God promises that her judgment ultimately will be followed by restoration. The Judgment on the Gentiles (25–32): Judah’s nearest neighbors may gloat over her destruction, but they will be next in line. They too will suffer the fate of siege and destruction by Babylon. Ezekiel shows the full circle of judgment on the nations that surround Judah by following them in a clockwise circuit: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, and Sidon (25–28). He spends a disproportionate amount of time on Tyre, and many scholars believe that the “king of Tyre” in 28:11–19 may be Satan, the real power behind the nation. Chapters 29–32 contain a series of oracles against Egypt. Unlike the nations in chapters 25–28 that were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, Egypt will continue to exist, but as “the lowliest of kingdoms” (29:15). Since that time it has never recovered its former glory or influence. The Restoration of Israel (33–48): The prophecies in these chapters were given after the overthrow of Jerusalem. Now that the promised judgment has come, Ezekiel’s message no longer centers on coming judgment but on the positive theme of comfort and consolation. Just as surely as judgment has come, blessing will also come; God’s people will be regathered and restored. The mouth of Ezekiel, God’s watchman, is opened when he is told that Jerusalem has been taken. Judah has had false shepherds (rulers), but the true Shepherd will lead them in the future. The vision of the valley of dry bones pictures the reanimation of the nation by the Spirit of God. Israel and Judah will be purified and reunited. There will be an invasion by the northern armies of Gog, but Israel will be saved because the Lord will destroy the invading forces. In 572 b.c., fourteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel returns in a vision to the fallen city and is given detailed specifications for the reconstruction of the temple, the city, and the land (40–48). After an intricate description of the new outer court, inner court, and temple (40–42), Ezekiel views the return of the glory of the Lord to the temple from the east. Regulations concerning worship in the coming temple (43–46) are followed by revelations concerning the new land and city (47 and 48).
JM - 1:1 thirtieth year. Most likely this was Ezekiel’s age, since the date relative to the king’s reign is given in 1:2. Thirty was the age when a priest (v. 3 with Num. 4) began his priestly duties. River Chebar. A major canal off of the Euphrates River, S of Babylon. visions of God. This scene has similarities to the visions of God’s throne in Rev. 4,5, where the emphasis is also on a glimpse of that throne just before judgment is released in Rev. 6–19. 1:2 fifth year. This is 593 b.c. The king, Ezekiel, and 10,000 others (2 Kin. 24:14) had been deported to Babylon in 597 b.c., Ezekiel at the age of 25.
|Dates in Ezekiel|
|1.||Call (1:2)||5||4/5||July 31||593|
|2.||Temple tour (8:1)||6||6/5||Sept. 17||592|
|3.||Elders’ visit (20:1)||7||5/10||Aug. 17||591|
|4.||Siege begins (24:1)||9||10/10||Jan. 15||588|
|5.||Against Tyre (26:1)||11||?/1||?||587/586|
|6.||Against Egypt (29:1)||10||10/12||Jan. 7||587|
|7.||Against Tyre, Egypt (29:17)||27||1/1||April 26||571|
|8.||Against Pharaoh (30:20)||11||1/7||April 29||587|
|9.||Against Pharaoh (31:1)||11||3/1||June 21||587|
|10.||Lament for Pharaoh (32:1)||12||12/1||March 3||585|
|11.||Pharaoh to Sheol (32:17)||12||?/15||?||586/585|
|12.||Refugee report on Fall of Jerusalem (33:21)||12||10/5||Jan. 8||585|
|13.||Vision of Future Temple Begins (40:1)||25||1/10||April 28||573|
JM - 1:3 word of the Lord … hand of the Lord. As God prepared Isaiah (Is. 6:5–13) and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:4–19), so the Lord prepares Ezekiel to receive revelation and strengthens him for his high and arduous task to speak as His prophet. Ezekiel the priest. See v. 1. 1:4–14 The opening vision focuses on angels surrounding God’s presence. 1:4 whirlwind … fire. Judgment on Judah in a further and totally devastating phase (beyond the 597 b.c. deportation) is to come out of the N, and did come from Babylon in 588–586 (as Jer. 39,40). Its terror is depicted by a fiery whirlwind emblematic of God’s judgments and the golden brightness signifying dazzling glory. 1:5 four living creatures. Four angels, most likely the cherubs in 10:1–22, appearing in the erect posture and figure of man (note face, legs, feet, hands in vv. 6–8) emerge to serve God who judges. The number 4 may have respect to the 4 corners of the earth, implying that God’s angels execute His commands everywhere. 1:6 four faces. See v. 10. four wings. Four wings instead of two symbolize speed in performing God’s will (v. 14). 1:7 legs. They were not bent like an animal’s, but “straight” like pillars, showing strength. calves’ feet. This points to their stability and firm stance. 1:8 hands of a man. This is a symbol of their skillful service. 1:9 did not turn. They were able to move in any direction without needing to turn, giving swift access to do God’s will. Apparently all were in harmony as to the way they moved (v. 12). 1:10 faces. These symbols identify the angels as intelligent (“man”), powerful (“lion”), servile (“ox”), and swift (“eagle”). 1:12 the spirit. This refers to the divine impulse by which God moved them to do His will (1:20). 1:13 like … fire … torches. Their appearance conveyed God’s glory and pure, burning justice (cf. Is. 6); judgment which they assisted in carrying out even on Israel, who had for so long hardened themselves against His patience.1:14 Intense, relentless motion signifies God’s constant work of judgment.1:15–25 This section looks at the glory of God’s throne in heaven.1:15 a wheel. This depicts God’s judgment as a war machine (like a massive chariot) moving where He is to judge. The cherubim above the ark are called chariots in 1 Chr. 28:18. 1:16 wheel in the middle of a wheel. This depicted the gigantic (v. 15, “on the earth” and “so high,” v. 18) energy of the complicated revolutions of God’s massive judgment machinery bringing about His purposes with unerring certainty.1:17 did not turn aside. vv. 9,12. The judgment machine moved where the angels went (vv. 19,20).1:18 eyes. These may picture God’s omniscience, i.e., perfect knowledge, given to these angelic servants so that they can act in judgment unerringly. God does nothing by blind impulse.1:19,20 spirit. See on 1:12.1:24 noise of many waters. This imagery could have in mind a thunderous rush of heavy rain or the washing of surf on rocks (43:2; Rev. 1:15; 14:2; 19:6).1:25 voice. No doubt this is the “voice of the Almighty” (v. 24), since God’s throne (v. 25) was “over their heads.”1:26 a throne. Cf. Ps. 103:19; Rev. 4:2–8. a man. The Godhead appears in the likeness of humanity, though God is a spirit (John 4:24). The Messiah, God incarnate, is the representative of the “fullness of the Godhead” (Col. 2:9), so this can be a prelude to the incarnation of Messiah in His character as Savior and Judge (Rev. 19:11–16). 1:28 the glory of the Lord. That glory shines fully in the person of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), which is a constant theme in Ezekiel.
2:1 fell on my face. John, in Rev. 1:17, had the same reaction to seeing the glory of the Lord. Son of man. A term used over 90 times by Ezekiel to indicate his humanness. 2:2 the Spirit entered me. What God commands a servant to do (v. 1), He gives power to fulfill by His Spirit (3:14; Zech. 4:6). This pictures the selective empowering by the Holy Spirit to enable an individual for special service to the Lord, which occurred frequently in the OT. For examples see 11:5; 37:1; Num. 24:2; Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 1 Sam. 10:10; 16:13,14; 19:20; 2 Chr. 15:1; Luke 4:18.2:5 The people cannot plead ignorance.2:6 briers and thorns … scorpions. Cf. 3:7,9; 22:29. These are figures of speech God used to describe the people of Judah whose obstinate rejection of His Word was like the barbs of thorns and stings of scorpions to Ezekiel. The wicked were often so called (2 Sam. 23:6; Song 2:2; Is. 9:18).2:8 open your mouth and eat. Ezekiel was to obey the command, not literally eating a scroll (vv. 9,10), but in a spiritual sense by receiving God’s message so that it became an inward passion. Cf. also 3:1–3,10 and Jer. 15:16.2:10 writing on the inside and … outside. Scrolls were normally written on one side only, but this judgment message was so full it required all the available space (Zech. 5:3; Rev. 5:1) to chronicle the suffering and sorrow that sin had brought, as recorded in chaps. 2–32.
3:1–3 eat this scroll … So I ate. God’s messenger must first internalize God’s truth for himself, then preach it. 3:3 like honey. Even though the message was judgment on Israel, the scroll was sweet because it was God’s Word (Pss. 19:10; 119:103) and because it vindicated God in holiness, righteousness, glory, and faithfulness, in which Jeremiah also delighted (Jer. 15:16). Bitterness also was experienced by the prophet (3:14) in this message of judgment confronting Judah’s rebellion (v. 9). The Apostle John records a similar bittersweet experience with the Word of God in Rev. 10:9,10.3:7 Cf. John 15:20.3:8,9 I have made your face strong. What God commands (“do not be afraid”) He gives sufficiency to do (“I have made”) so God will enable the prophet to live up to his name (which means “strengthened by God”). Cf. 2:2; 3:14,24; Is. 41:10; Jer. 1:8,17.3:9 rebellious. It is sad to observe that the exile and affliction did not make the Jews more responsive to God; rather, they were hardened by their sufferings. God gave Ezekiel a “hardness” to surpass the people and sustain his ministry as prophet to the exiles.3:12,14 the Spirit lifted me up. This is a phrase used to describe the prophet being elevated to a heavenly vision, as in the experiences of 8:3 and 11:1.3:14 bitterness. See note on 3:3.3:15 the captives. Tel Abib was the main city for the Jewish captives, who may have included some of the 10 tribes taken long before in the conquering of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 b.c., as 2 Kin. 17:6 may indicate (“Habor” is the same river as Chebar). remained … seven days. Ezekiel sat with the sorrowing people for 7 days, the usual period for manifesting deep grief (Job 2:13). He identified with them in their suffering (Ps. 137:1), thus trying to win their trust when he spoke God’s Word.3:17 a watchman. This role was spiritually analogous to the role of watchmen on a city wall, vigilant to spot the approach of an enemy and warn the residents to muster a defense. The prophet gave timely warnings of approaching judgment. The work of a watchman is vividly set forth in 2 Sam. 18:24–27 and 2 Kin. 9:17–20. See notes on 33:1–16. 3:18–21 Cf. chap. 18.
3:18 the wicked … him … his. The emphasis of singular pronouns was on individuals. The ministry of Habakkuk (2:1), Jeremiah (6:17), and Isaiah (56:10) were more national than individual. Ezekiel’s ministry was more personal, focused on individual responsibility to trust and obey God. Disobedience or obedience to God’s messages was a matter of life or death; Ezek. 18:1–20 is particularly devoted to this emphasis. no warning … die. Men are not to assume that ignorance, even owing to the negligence of preachers, will be any excuse to save them from divine punishment. Cf. Rom. 2:12. save his life. This refers to physical death, not eternal damnation, though that would be a consequence for many. In the Pentateuch, God had commanded death for many violations of His law and warned that it could be a consequence of any kind of consistent sin (Josh. 1:16–18). The people of Israel had long abandoned that severe standard of purification, so God took execution back into His own hands, as in the destruction of Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. On the other hand, God had also promised special protection and life to the obedient. Cf. 18:9–32; 33:11–16; Prov. 4:4; 7:2; Amos 5:4,6.3:18,20 his blood I will require. Though each sinner is responsible for his own sin (18:1–20), the prophet who is negligent in his duty to proclaim the warning message becomes, in God’s sight, a manslayer when God takes that person’s life. The responsibility of the prophet is serious (James 3:1), and he is responsible for that person’s death in the sense of Gen. 9:5. The Apostle Paul had this passage (and Ezek. 33:6,8) in view in Acts 18:6 and 20:26. Even for preachers today, there is such a warning in Heb. 13:17. Certainly the consequence for such unfaithfulness on the preacher’s part includes divine chastening and loss of eternal reward (1 Cor. 4:1–5).3:20 a righteous man. Here is a person who was obeying God by doing what was right, but fell into sin and God took his life in chastisement. The “stumbling block” was a stone of judgment that kills. Ps. 119:165 says: “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.” The crushing stone always falls on the disobedient. Hebrews 12:9 says it is better to obey and “live.” Cf. 1 Cor. 11:30; James 1:21, 1 John 5:16. 3:21 delivered your soul. The prophet had done his duty.3:23 the glory of the Lord.
|Ezekiel’s Sign Experiences|
|(Ezek. 24:24, 27)|
|1.||Ezekiel was housebound, tied up, and mute (3:23–27).|
|2.||used a clay tablet and an iron plate as illustrations in his preaching (4:1–3).|
|3.||Ezekiel had to lie on his left side for 390 days and his right side for 40 days (4:4–8).|
|4.||Ezekiel had to eat in an unclean manner (4:9–17).|
|5.||Ezekiel had to shave his head and beard (5:1–4).|
|6.||Ezekiel had to pack his bags and dig thru the wall of Jerusalem (12:1–14).|
|7.||Ezekiel had to eat his bread with quaking and drink water with trembling (12:17–20).|
|8.||Ezekiel brandished a sharp sword and struck his hands together (21:8–17).|
|9.||Ezekiel portrayed Israel in the smelting furnace (22:17–22).|
|10.||Ezekiel had to cook a pot of stew (24:1–14).|
|11.||Ezekiel could not mourn at the death of his wife (24:15–24).|
|12.||Ezekiel was mute for a season (24:25–27).|
|13.||Ezekiel put two sticks together and they became one (37:15–28).|
3:24 shut yourself inside your house. He was to fulfill much of his ministry at home (8:1; 12:1–7), thereby limiting it to those who came to hear him there.3:25 they will put ropes on you. These were not literal, but spiritual. On one hand, they could be the inner ropes of depressing influence which the rebellious Jews exerted on his spirit. Their perversity, like ropes, would repress his freedom in preaching. More likely, they imply the restraint that God placed on him by supernational power, so that he could only go and speak where and when God chose (cf. vv. 26,27).3:26,27 you shall be mute. He was not to speak primarily, but to act out God’s message. The prohibition was only partial, for on any occasion (v. 27) when God did open his mouth, as He often did in chaps. 5–7, he was to speak (3:22; 11:25; 12:10,19,23,28). The end of such intermittent dumbness with regard to his own people closely synchronized with Ezekiel’s receiving a refugee’s report of Jerusalem’s fall (24:25–27; 33:21,22). He also spoke with regard to judgments on other nations (chaps. 25–32).