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by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
From the opening verses of the book we learn that Ezekiel was the son of Buzi, the priest, and belonged consequently to the much honored Zadok family. That he knew the nobility of Jerusalem well and was intimate with them may be indirectly learned from the eleventh chapter. Rabbinical tradition makes Buzi (which means “contempt”) a son of Jeremiah. There is no evidence for this. Eleven years before the complete ruin of the city and the temple by the King of Babylon, Ezekiel was carried away into the captivity. This deportation is recorded in 2 Kings 24:14 . Before Ezekiel with the princes and the mighty men were taken into captivity, others had been removed to Babylon, notably Daniel and his three companions. Ezekiel must have known Daniel personally. His name is found three times in this book (Ezekiel 14:14 ; Ezekiel 14:20 ; Ezekiel 38:3 ).
Ezekiel was not a youth, as generally supposed, when he was deported to Babylon, for the matured character of a priest which appears in his writings and his full and intimate acquaintance with the temple service render such a supposition highly improbable. Jewish tradition declares that he exercised already the prophetic office before he was carried away.
The name Ezekiel means “strengthened by God.” It has been stated by some that this is not the original name of the prophet, but his official title, which he adopted on account of his ministry among the people. Very interesting on this controverted point is the statement in a rabbinical comment. The declaration is made that the prophets of God received their significant names, so closely linked with and expressive of the character of their messages, from above, and not according to the will of their earthly parents. God called them to their work and had them named accordingly before they ever entered upon their offices as prophets. We believe this may be correct, especially in view of Jeremiah 1:5 .
Where He Ministered
The place where we find Ezekiel is the river Chebar. This river is now known by the name Kabour. It emptied into the Euphrates north of Babylon and was also called Nar-Kabari, the great canal. Here Nebuchadnezzar had started a colony of captives. In Ezekiel 3:15 , the name of the place is given; it was at Tel-abib. In this settlement the prophet seems to have lived. Two passages in the book tell us that he had his own house (Ezekiel 3:24 ; Ezekiel 8:1 ). We also know that he was married (Ezekiel 24:16-18 ). The death of his wife is the only event he mentions of his personal history, and that would probably have not been recorded if it were not connected with his prophetic office. The prophecies he uttered among the captives are carefully dated. The first date is found in Ezekiel 1:1-2 .
Ezekiel and Jeremiah
Ezekiel’s great prophetic ministry is closely connected with that of Jeremiah. When Ezekiel had his first great vision on the banks of the river Chebar, Jeremiah had already been a prophet for thirty-five years. Only a few years more remained for this great man of God. That Ezekiel must have been acquainted with Jeremiah and his messages of warning and exhortation is more than likely. Yet it is strange there is not a single reference to Jeremiah in the entire book of Ezekiel. It is strange in view of the fact that the messages of these two men have so much in common. Critics make the assertion that Ezekiel as a prophet was molded by the teaching of Jeremiah. Kuenen claims that Ezekiel must have been for many years the close student of Jeremiah’s writings. Before Ezekiel proceeded to write his own prophecies, his mind, it is claimed, had become so saturated with the ideas and language of Jeremiah that every part of his book betrays the influence of his predecessor. This view would make Ezekiel an enthusiastic admirer and copyist of Jeremiah. But in the book of Ezekiel the phrases “Thus saith the Lord God”--”The Word of the Lord came unto me”--occur over and over again. The words he spoke, the mighty messages he delivered, were not produced by the influence of Jeremiah nor by his example, but by the Spirit of God. Other critics have even done greater dishonor to this chosen instrument of the Lord and to the Word he preached. We quote from The New Century Bible: “It would appear that there runs through all the prophet’s activities, at least in the earlier period, a strain of mental abnormality--perhaps of actual malady. By some writers this has been supposed to be a form of catalepsy. Probably Ezekiel was no more a cataleptic than Paul; with equal probability he was what would now be called a ‘psychical subject,’ and as such liable to trances--and perhaps a clairvoyant.” Such are the ridiculous things invented by men, who claim scholarship, and whose aim is to deny the supernatural origin of the words and the visions of the prophets of God.
The fact is that Jeremiah and Ezekiel were called by Jehovah to specific ministries. In their characters and natural temperaments they differed greatly. Jeremiah, assuming, as a very young man, his prophetic office during the reign of Josiah, was called to deliver the messages of the awful judgments which were to come upon Jerusalem and had to witness these in their execution. He was an extremely kind, gentle, and tender-hearted man. Jeremiah is the prophet of a dying nation; the agony of Judah’s prolonged death struggle is reproduced with tenfold intensity in the inward conflict which rends the heart of the prophet. Ezekiel was of a different temperament. The deep soul exercise we find so often in Jeremiah, his tender, loving sympathies, are almost entirely absent in Ezekiel. He lacked the emotional character of Jeremiah. He was a man of great energy and vigor; he was stern and had a deep sense of his human responsibility. Both prophets uncover the corrupt conditions of Judah and condemn them. The condemnations in Ezekiel are far more severe than those in Jeremiah. The style of Ezekiel is also different from that employed by his contemporary.
In all this he differs from Jeremiah; and more so in the greater and more complete visions concerning the future.
There is an evident connection between the communication which Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem unto the captives in Babylon and the beginning of Ezekiel’s ministry. The letter of Jeremiah is found in chapter 29 of the book of Jeremiah. It is an interesting document. It seems to have been occasioned by a number of false prophets who had appeared among the captives, and who encouraged the rebellious and disobedient spirit which prevailed among the exiles. They prophesied falsely, led the people away, and awakened the delusive hope of an early return from the captivity. While Jeremiah continued to minister to the feeble few and the poor, who were left behind, Ezekiel was engaged among the captives and contended against these false prophets and against the false hopes of the people who gave no evidences of repentance. Inasmuch as Jerusalem had not yet been completely destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the captives, who had listened to the false prophets, expected a speedy return to their own land. To dispel this false hope Jeremiah had sent them the message, “For thus saith the LORD, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” Jeremiah 29:10 . Ezekiel then labored also to dispel this false hope preached by the prophets, whom the Lord had not sent. By his stern and solemn words, by divinely commanded actions and symbols, he had to deliver the message that there was no hope for Jerusalem. When the catastrophe came at last, his ministry changed. He comforts the disappointed and heartbroken people and delivers his great restoration messages.
This great prophet had to do certain divinely commanded things in the presence of the people who were living in deception after having listened to the false prophets. In Ezekiel 3:24-26 he had to shut himself up, bind himself, and then he was made dumb. Then he was commanded to lie upon his right side and upon his left for 430 days (Ezekiel 4:4-8 ). In Ezekiel 4:9 he had to eat unclean bread. Then he had to shave his head and beard (Ezekiel 5:1 ); to carry a captive’s baggage (Ezekiel 12:3-7 ); when his wife died, he was not to mourn (Ezekiel 24:15-20 ); and again he lost his speech (Ezekiel 24:27 ). The key to all this is found in Ezekiel 24:24 .
The visions of glory Ezekiel had belong to some of the greatest recorded in the Word of God. Much in the beginning of the book reminds of the last book of the Bible, the Revelation. We mention a few passages to be compared: Ezekiel 1:1-28 with Revelation 4:1-11 ; Revelation 5:1-14 .Ezekiel 3:3; Ezekiel 3:3 with Revelation 10:10 . Ezekiel 8:3 with Revelation 13:14-15 .Ezekiel 9:1-11; Ezekiel 9:1-11 with Revelation 7:1-17 Ezekiel 10:1-22 with Revelation 8:1-5 . The critics declare upon this striking correspondency that “much of the imagery of Revelation is borrowed from Ezekiel.”
The Division of the Book
A careful reading of the book of Ezekiel shows, in the first place, that the prophet received messages and saw visions before the final destruction of Jerusalem, and after that catastrophe had taken place in fulfillment of his inspired predictions, he received other prophecies. The predictions preceding the fall of Jerusalem are the predictions of the judgment to fall upon the city and upon Gentile nations, the enemies of Israel. The predictions Ezekiel received after the city had been destroyed are the predictions of blessing and glory for Israel and Jerusalem in the future. The first part of the book has found a fulfillment in the destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar. The second part is awaiting its fulfillment at the close of the times of the Gentiles, when Israel will be regathered, restored and the glory of the Lord returns to another temple, which Ezekiel beheld in a magnificent vision. All will be accomplished when the Lord returns to dwell in the midst of His people, so that the name of the city will be “Jehovah-Shammah”--”the Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35 ). These two main divisions are clearly marked in the book itself In Ezekiel 33:21 , after the prophet had received a renewed call as watchman, we read: “And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.” This determines the two parts.
To show the perfect and orderly arrangement of the whole book of Ezekiel we shall give a complete analysis.
I. PREDICTIONS BEFORE THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
Section A. judgment Predictions Concerning Jerusalem (1-24)
1. The Vision of the Glory of the Lord and the Call of the Prophet (1-3:14)
2. The judgment Announced, Four Signs and Their Meaning, and the Two Messages. (3:15-7:27)
3. Visions in Relation to Jerusalem (8-11)
4. Signs, Messages, and Parables (12-19)
5. Further and Final Predictions Concerning the Judgment of Jerusalem (20-24)
Section B. Predictions of judgments against the Nations (25-32)
1. Against Ammon, Moab, Edom, and the Philistine (25:1-17)
2. Against Tyrus and Zidon (26-28)
3. Against Egypt (29-32)
II. PREDICTIONS AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
Section A. The Watchman and the Shepherds (33-34)
1. The Renewed Call of Ezekiel as watchman (33:1-20)
2. Ezekiel’s Mouth Opened After Jerusalem’s Fall (33:21-33)
3. Message Against the shepherds of Israel (34:1-19)
4. The True Shepherd and restoration Promised (34:20-26)
Section B. judgment Announced Against Mount Seir and Israel’s Final Restoration Promised (35-36)
1. The Message Against Seir and Idumea (35:1-15)
2. The Message of Comfort for Israel (36:1-38)
Section C. The Future Blessings of Israel, the Nation Regathered, Their Enemies Overthrown and the Millennial Temple (37-48)
1. The Vision of the Dry Bones and Judah and Israel Reunited (37:1-28)
2. The Last Enemies, Gog and Magog, and Their Destruction (38-39)
3. The Millennial Temple, and Its Worship, the Division of the Land (40-48)
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12