While Jeremiah was in Jerusalem during the two year siege by Babylon which brought her fall (586 BC), Ezekiel had already been exiled to Babylon in 597 BC along with 10,000 other captives. He writes in Chapter 1:1-2 ” 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 up and I saw visions of God.” (2) “On the fifth of the month-it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin…” The Hebrew date being July 31, 593 BC by this description. This was when he was called by God to prophesy to the people of Judah who were exiled with him.
Ezekiel gives an elaborate and full description of the glory of God through the entire first chapter which was his first vision. In Daniel ch. 10:4-6 Daniel gives the same vision. John also gives the same vision in Revelation chapter 4:1-14. Ezekiel’s and Daniel’s visions were of the preincarnate Christ. John describes the glorified and risen Christ. Ezekiel receives his call from God in chapter 2. In chapter 3 God orders him to eat a scroll. The same scroll reappears in Daniel and in Revelation.
The description of God’s glory, though difficult to understand, is the key to the book of Ezekiel. He was also a priest and was concerned about the future of the temple. It had been ordained by God as His home among His people. When God called Him to prophecy to His people it was proof He had not forsaken them. Ancient Jews described “the chariot chapter” when speaking of Ezekiel’s vision of God’s glory. In present day some have described it as an unidentified flying object which truly diminishes God’s glory. At the end of my post I’ve provided two short videos on the Book of Ezekiel. One gives the figure Ezekiel saw in the form of a drawing and makes it easier to understand than the written description is to read.
The Book of Ezekiel is divided into three parts chronologically: Chapters 1-24 cover the period before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC of his ministry. Chapter 33-48 cover the post period 586 BC. The transition between these two divisions in Chapters 25-32 are oracles to foreign nations.
It can also be divided by subject matter. In this manner it is divided into four parts: Ezekiel’s call (1:1-3:21); judgement against Israel (3:22-24:27); oracles against the nations (25:1-32:32); and proclamation of hope (33:1-48:35).
The reason Ezekiel is called “the weird prophet” is his prophesies were most often acted out (as instructed by God) rather than spoken. In doing this the audience had to figure out what exactly he was prophesying by the way he was acting. It reminds me of a game of Charades.
In his symbolic acts he is foretelling of the future desolation of the people if they did not turn away from their idolatry. They were going to false prophets which included women who sewed magic charms and made veils for their heads to ensnare people. In chapter 14:4-6 he writes, ” This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry.” (5) “I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.” (6) ” Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!”
Ezekiel was quite graphic when he pantomimed his prophesies. Again, it will be worth the few minutes it takes to watch the Bible Project’s videos on YouTube I have provided with this post. They are each about 7 minutes long. The prophesies are all drawn out in detail.
In the end the people do not listen to Ezekiel. But he had no choice. God had told him that if they didn’t listen to him they would be responsible for Judah’s fall, but if he did not warn them God would hold Ezekiel responsible and he would have to pay the price. The punishment they brought to themselves was famine and disease and near desolation but a small remnant remained.
Ezekiel uses narration, poetry, and parables throughout his writing. The Book of Ezekiel, in the last chapters, describes the hope and restoration of Israel as God turns their hearts to repent and worship Him as the one true God. He restores their “dry bones” and returns them to the land he promised in His covenant with Abraham. Moreover Ezekiel foretells of a New Covenant between God and his people. This new covenant is the way, the truth and the life through Jesus Christ.
The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible
Logos Bible Study with Dr. Bill Creasey
Logos Bible Software by Faithlife.
© Phyllis Weeks Rogers 3/30/2018