The Prophet Ezekiel

Ezekiel was the son of Buzi the priest and trained for the priesthood himself (Ezekiel 1:3). His name means “God will strengthen” .He was probably led captive to Babylon along with King Jehojachin of Judah in about 597 BC (1:2; 2 Kings 24:14-16). At that time the Babylonian’s took ten thousand people away from Judah, this was about ten years before the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel would have been around thirty years of age (1:1). His training as a priest would have finished, so he would have been in preparation to take up full time priestly duties if he had not already done so. It was about this time that God called him to be His prophet to the exiles.

The call of God upon his life came while he was himself an exile in Babylon in the fifth year of the captivity (1:2). In Tel-Abib, near to the River Chebar, Ezekiel lived in his own home with his wife. It appears that he was an important man amongst the captives, for the elders often came to him for advice, insight, and prayer (8:1; 14:1; 20:1). These men obviously knew that Ezekiel was a prophet of God.

He may have been the first one to minister to his own people in exile. He was one of the most unusual of the prophets of the Bible. Not only did he fearlessly preach God’s word, but he would use parables, and at times act out his prophecies.

His use of parables:

[1] Wood and the vine to illustrate Judah’ 5 uselessness and readiness for judgement (15:1-8)

[2] The Foundling – they had betrayed God’s love (Chapter 16)

[3] The Eagles and the cedar tree – Zedekiah’s foolish alliances (Chapter 17)

[4] The Fiery Furnace – Jerusalem is going to greatly suffer (22:17-22)

[5] The Two Harlots – The spiritual adultery of Israel and Judah (Chapter 23)

[6] The Cooking Pot – Jerusalem wilt be punished (24:1-14)

[7] The Shipwreck – Judgement upon Tyre (Chapter 27)

[8] The False Shepherds – the worthless leaders of Jerusalem (Chapter 34)

[9] The Valley of Dry Bones – The restoration of God’s people (Chapter 37)

Today we would put him alongside street evangelists. His messages held severe warnings to God’s people, but also spoke of the hope of restoration.

After nine years in captivity his wife died (24:18). He was a happily married man, yet God told him that he was not to mourn the death of his beloved wife as a sign unto the children of Israel.

His ministry lasted for about twenty years. His first vision came about 593/592 BC when he saw the manifest glory of the Lord; his final vision was around 571/570 BC. In the book God often calls Ezekiel the “son of man” (ninety times), the very title that the Lord Jesus Christ loved to use of Himself It is very likely that he wrote his book shortly after his ministry ended, when he would have been about fifty years old.

The Message of Ezekiel

As mentioned above, Ezekiel ministered to the exiles in Babylon. He spoke as the Lord directed him and was not afraid to announce, “Thus saith the LORD” .The Jews had a hope that one day they would return to their homeland and that the temple would not be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzer. Ezekiel made it clear to them that this was a false hope.

The prophet warned the people about their desperate need for repentance before they could even hope to return to Jerusalem. The death of his wife was a sign that they would not return yet, and that the city and temple would not be spared. He fearlessly exposed the sins of all the people (Chapter 16, 20,23).

His prophetic ministry can be divided up into three sections:

1 … Chapters 1-24

In these chapter Ezekiel speaks about the coming judgement upon Jerusalem for the sins of the people of Judah. The fall of Jerusalem and the captivity would be used by God to chastise His rebellious people, and to draw them back to Him.

He takes away from them their false hope that the temple would be saved and they would return very soon. They needed to realise what they had done by their spiritual adultery and immorality. God would not overlook their unfaithfulness and disobedience. His vision of God’s presence leaving the temple revealed that He could not longer dwell amongst such a sinful people. This vision also revealed that God was holy and absolutely perfect. The prophet explains that not only the nation as a whole, but every single individual was responsible for their sin – therefore they were all accountable before God. Ezekiel was called to be the “watchman” for his people. As such he challenges them to depart from their sin and stubbornness. The glory of God is the key element in this prophecy.

During this section he acted out various details of his message from God:

[1] He dew a map of Jerusalem on a large stone (4:11)

[2] Lay on his left side for three hundred and ninety days (4:4-5)

[3] Lay on his right side for forty days (4:6)

[4] Cook food on fuel made from dung (4:9-17)

[5] Shaved his head and beard (5:1-4)

[6] Left home to demonstrate that the people would be led away captive (12:27)

[7] Sang a dirge about the death of Israel’s leaders (19:1-14)

[8] Made a chart of how Babylon would destroy Jerusalem (21:19-23)

[9] Did not mourn the death of his wife (24:16-17)

2… Chapters 25-32

God promises to pour out His wrath upon all of Judah’s enemies, the Ammonites, Edomites, Philistines, Tyrians, Sidonians, and the Egyptians. Egypt would continue to exist but would never know the power she once knew. All these nations were steeped in idolatry, and were extremely cruel. This proves that God does not exempt any nation from sin and idolatry regardless of the fact that they do not follow the God of the Bible. The people of these nations were saying that Judah’s God was to weak to defend them, the temple or the city. God would not allow them to mock His holy name.

Within these chapters we have information about the fall of Satan (28:11-19), to reveal that these foreign nations are controlled by the Devil. If he fell, they will also!

3… Chapters 33-48

Here Ezekiel speaks of the restoration of God’s people back in their own land. Both Israel and Judah would become one nation again. This truth is seen in his vision of Dry Bones coming back to life (the return of Israel to Jerusalem in 1948 AD may be the beginning of the complete fulfilment of this prophetic vision).

Restoration would not happen until there was true repentance amongst them. These seventy years spent in bondage would be used by God to cleanse and sanctify His people. When they are restored then the Lord would be King and Shepherd, He would give them a brand new heart to both follow and worship Him. God promises to put a new spirit within them.

The temple would indeed be rebuilt. God would establish a new covenant and a new temple (the fullness of this prophecy will not come until the Lord Jesus Christ sets up His millennial reign in Jerusalem. This is because the temple that Ezekiel predicts has never been seen. Only the description in the book of Revelation of the future New Jerusalem fits the prophecy. There are also last days fulfilment of other prophecies also, such as with Gog and Magog, and the final tribulation of the Jews).

Ezekiel promises that the Shekinah Glory of God would come back upon His people and the temple. Then He will pour out His blessings on them, not because of their own goodness but because of His faithfulness to His covenant with them. This new covenant would not be written upon tablets of stone, but on their hearts. It will be based upon the desire to love and serve God. This last part of His message offers hope to the exiles.

The major theme running throughout the message of Ezekiel is the Sovereignty of God (i.e. 7:4, 13:9,20:20,20:28; 23:49,24:24,25:5,7,11, 26:6,28:24,26,29:16, 34:30,36:23,37:27-28, 39:22,28).