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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Ezekiel

- Ezekiel

by Gary H. Everett

STUDY NOTES ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

Using a Theme-based Approach

to Identify Literary Structures

By Gary H. Everett

THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL

January 2013 Edition

All Scripture quotations in English are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Some words have been emphasized by the author of this commentary using bold or italics.

All Old Testament Scripture quotations in the Hebrew text are taken from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Westminster Hebrew Morphology, electronic ed., Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society, Westminster Seminary, 1996, c1925, morphology c1991, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

All New Testament Scripture quotations in the Greek text are taken from Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (with Morphology), eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, M. Robinson, and Allen Wikgren, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (United Bible Societies), c1966, 1993, 2006, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

All Hebrew and Greek text for word studies are taken from James Strong in The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, c1996, 1997, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

The Crucifixion image on the book cover was created by the author’s daughter Victoria Everett in 2012.

© Gary H. Everett, 1981-2013

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form without prior permission of the author.

Foundational Theme How to Serve the Lord with All Our Mind

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart,

and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Secondary Theme - Israel’s Redemption Through the Holy Spirit’s Sanctification

and Future Glorification

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel:

behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people,

and brought you up out of your graves,

And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.

Ezekiel 37:11-14

A GREAT SHAKING!

God is shaking loose the traditions, commandments of men, false doctrines, unholy living, from His church. We are feeling a glorious freedom to follow the true presence of the Holy Spirit. Our souls are restless, yearning, anxious, and excited as we are coming together for the return of the Groom for His Bride (the Church). Now we are free to worship Jesus without the demands that even our forefathers will not be able to stand. Self-called preachers will not be able to stand. Only preachers that are allowing the moving of the Holy Spirit will be able to hold on to God’s people. Our hearts are one in the Lord.

(Patricia Ann Everett 1936-2011)

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL

Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures supports the view of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the biblical text of the Holy Scriptures, meaning that every word originally written down by the authors in the sixty-six books of the Holy Canon were God-breathed when recorded by men, and that the Scriptures are therefore inerrant and infallible. Any view less than this contradicts the testimony of the Holy Scriptures themselves. For this reason, the Holy Scriptures contain both divine attributes and human attributes. While textual criticism engages with the variant readings of the biblical text, acknowledging its human attributes, faith in His Word acknowledges its divine attributes. These views demand the adherence of mankind to the supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures above all else. The Holy Scriptures can only be properly interpreted by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an aspect of biblical scholarship that is denied by liberal views, causing much misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

The Message of the Book of Ezekiel - The book of Ezekiel is a book well recognized for its end-time prophecies. It was written during a period of history when the nation of Israel was fading out of the international scene of dominance as its people became scattered into a Babylonian Captivity. From the time of Joseph when Israel was in its infancy as a nation, until their Captivity these people stood at the center of events that made up world history. Israel had been raised to a world power under the reigns of King David and his son Solomon. However, during the time of Ezekiel their hopes as a unified people had now been crushed. The dominance of Babylon ushered in the “Age of the Gentiles,” (Luke 21:24) which would allow a number of Gentile nations to take front and center stage in world history until the times of restoration. Babylon would be followed by the Medes and Persians, which would be followed by the Grecian Empire and finally the Roman Empire. The coming of the Messiah ushered in the Church age in the midst of a world dominated by the Romans. The Church then takes center stage in world events for the next two thousand years and will do so until the second coming of the Messiah. At this time, the nation of Israel would be reborn in preparation for a number of end-time prophetic events to usher the world into the thousand-year Millennial Reign of Christ. A great battle would take place to officially end the Age of the Gentiles. As the time of Gentile dominance comes to an end, having been overwhelmed by the growing power of the Church as prophesied in Daniel 2:31-36, the Temple will be rebuild in order to receive the Messiah. He will come to this Temple so that He can rule and reign for a thousand years from the holy city of Jerusalem. Israel will again take center stage in world events. Therefore, the book of Ezekiel is a book of hope for the people of Israel that God will one day restore their nation, that He would again fight for them in battle and that the Temple would be restored more glorious than ever, but first, the Messiah must come. The prophecies of Ezekiel are presented to the people of Israel in order to solidify their hope in the God of Israel and to cause them to look forward to Calvary and to the restoration of their nation rather than looking back in despair. However, these prophecies do make the end-time events as clear as we would like them to be. For example, very often when Old Testament prophecy speaks of the coming of the Messiah we find descriptions of Jesus Christ’s first and second comings placed side by side in a passage of Scripture with no distinction between these two events, although they are separated by two thousand years of Church history. It is as if the prophet sees down a long tunnel and only sees one event. This is the reason that we find the Jews during the time of Christ looking for a Messiah would immediately set up an earthly kingdom by throwing off the Roman rule over the Jewish people. They saw nothing in their Messianic prophecies that spoke of two returns. In contrast, the prophecies of the New Testament make this distinction very clear.

We find a good example of this two-fold prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7 where there is clearly a reference to both the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. This passage tells us of Jesus’ first coming to earth by being born of a woman, and we see a prophecy of His triumphant eternal reign on earth as a reference to His second coming. We understand that the phrase “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,” clearly speaks of Jesus Christ’s birth and earthly ministry up until His crucifixion. Hilton Sutton believes that the rest of the prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7 speaks clearly of Jesus’ second return at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period in which He sets up an earthly kingdom and reigns in Jerusalem. [1] This leads us to the question of why no reference is made to the two thousand years of Church history that takes place between these two Comings of the Lord Jesus Christ. The answer lies in the fact that Isaiah is prophesying primarily to the Jews and not to the Church. Although the Old Testament Scriptures are also for the Church to read and to understand, these prophecies were spoken to the Jewish people as the primary recipients and to the Church as secondary recipients. Thus, Isaiah 9:6-7 only addresses the role that Israel will play during Jesus’ first and second coming. Since Israel does not play a vital role in Church history for a period of two thousand years, the prophet leaves out such events.

[1] Hilton Sutton, Revelation: God’s Grand Finale (Tulsa, Oklahoma, c1984), 31.

Another example of this distinction in end-time prophecy can be found by comparing the books of Ezekiel and Daniel and Revelation. The book of Ezekiel was written to the people of Israel to help them persevere through their time of persecutions during the Babylonian Captivity. However, the book of Revelation was addressed to the Church, and not to the Jews, to help them persevere until the end. Therefore, Ezekiel speaks of three major events that relate to the nation of Israel leading up to the ushering in of the Millennial Reign of Christ Jesus, which are the restoration of Israel (36-37), the great battle with Russia and its allies (38-39) and the rebuilding of the Temple with its institution of worship (40-48). These are the three important events that will involve Israel during these last days leading up to and through the seven-year Tribulation Period. The book of Daniel tells of Christ’s Second Coming from the perspective of the Gentile nations. The book of Revelation tells of the end-time events from the perspective of the Church. Ezekiel tells of these end-time events from the perspective of Israel.

In contrast, the book of Revelation speaks of many other events that take place during this time from the perspective of someone who is standing in Heaven. This is because the Church is raptured at this time and is watching these events while in Heaven. The book of Revelation opens with a message to the seven churches in Asia Minor by telling them to sanctify themselves. This is a message of preparation for the Rapture, which takes place figuratively in Revelation 4:1-2 with the catching up of John the apostle into Heaven. The rest of the events that unfold in this book are events that one would see if he was in Heaven after having been raptured. These events are not something that the Jewish people would see from their nation on earth while awaiting their Messiah, having rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah. This explains why two different biblical writers tell the same story from two different perspectives to two different readers.

Introductory Material - The introduction to the book of Ezekiel will deal with its historical setting, literary style, and theological framework. [2] These three aspects of introductory material will serve as an important foundation for understanding God’s message to us today from this divinely inspired book of the Holy Scriptures.

[2] Someone may associate these three categories with Hermann Gunkel’s well-known three-fold approach to form criticism when categorizing the genre found within the book of Psalms: (1) “a common setting in life,” (2) “thoughts and mood,” (3) “literary forms.” In addition, the Word Biblical Commentary uses “Form/Structure/Setting” preceding each commentary section. Although such similarities were not intentional, but rather coincidental, the author was aware of them and found encouragement from them when assigning the three-fold scheme of historical setting, literary style, and theological framework to his introductory material. See Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction, trans. Thomas M. Horner, in Biblical Series, vol. 19, ed. John Reumann (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1967), 10; see also Word Biblical Commentary, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas, Texas: Word Incorporated, 1989-2007).

HISTORICAL SETTING

“We dare not divorce our study from understanding the historical setting of every passage of Scripture

if we are going to come to grips with the truth and message of the Bible.”

(J. Hampton Keathley) [3]

[3] J. Hampton Keathley, III, “Introduction and Historical Setting for Elijah,” (Bible.org) [on-line]; accessed 23 May 2012; available from http://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-and-historical-setting-elijah; Internet.

Each book of the Holy Scriptures is cloaked within a unique historical setting. An examination of this setting is useful in the interpretation of the book because it provides the context of the passage of Scripture under examination. The section on the historical setting of the book of Ezekiel will provide a discussion on its title, historical background, authorship, date and place of writing, recipients, and occasion. This discussion supports the Jewish tradition that Ezekiel was the author of the book of Ezekiel, with him and others recording his prophecies during his public ministry.

I. The Title

II. Historical Setting

A. The Prophetic and Historical Times of Ezekiel the Prophet - The book of Ezekiel takes us into the most difficult and dark period in the history of Israel, which is the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away of the children of Israel into seventy years of Babylonian captivity. It was a time of divine judgment that God promised to a disobedient people, in which there would be faintness of heart in the land of their enemies, when fear would grip their lives (Leviticus 26:36). One psalm recorded during this period of time reveals how the hearts of the people were weak to sing and worship before the Lord (Psalms 137:1-2).

Leviticus 26:36, “And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.”

Psalms 137:1-2, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.”

The period of history that Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived in was a time of transition for world power. The Assyrian Empire that had so devastated northern Israel in 722 B.C. had grown weak after two hundred and fifty (250) years of international dominance. The Neo-Babylonian Empire, founded by Nabopolassar, was quickly advancing across Assyria’s old empire. The Babylonian Empire took control of this region in 612 B.C. by defeating the Assyrians. What was left of the Assyrian army retreated to Haran and remained there until 609 B.C., when Neco, Pharaoh of Egypt came to rescue them. It was during this march northward through Judah that King Josiah came out to resist Pharaoh and was killed in battle. At the decisive battle of Megiddo, Babylon strengthened its position as a world power by defeating both Egypt and the remnant of Assyria’s army.

The deep backslidden state of the nation of Judah brought God’s impending judgment that could not be turned back even under the reforms of Amon’s son Josiah (640-609 B.C.). His reforms were too late. It was during Josiah’s reign that Ezekiel was born in southern Judah as the son of a priest named Buzi. Josephus tells us that Ezekiel was taken into Babylonian captivity as a very young man. ( Antiquities 10.6.3) Yet, he must have felt the impact of Josiah’s efforts to reform the nation. The king’s sudden death in the plains of Megiddo as he opposed the king of Egypt sent the nation of Judah back into idolatry and ultimate judgment. As the sons of Josiah were rotated on the throne by foreign powers, these young kings vacillated in their submission between Egypt and Babylon, while all of them ignored the words of Jeremiah the prophet.

It was Jeremiah who continued to warn his people to submit to Babylonian rule, which message was rejected by the kings of Judah. During the years following 609 B.C., Egypt placed Judah under tribute and replaced King Jehoahaz with his brother Jehoiakim, who ruled for eleven years. In what is considered one of the most decisive battles in history, King Nebuchadnezzar confronted the combined forces of Egypt and Assyria in 605 B.C. at the battle of Carchemish on the Euphrates River, and gained an overwhelming victory against two former world powers that would never rise to significance again. The Babylonian forces continued to move southward after this battle, driven by the hunger for more victory. At this time, Judah was invaded and many young men were taken captive by this army. The environment in this region became very unstable during this transition of world powers, being terrorized by roving bands of rebels that refused to come under the subjection of Babylon, Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites all fighting among themselves (2 Kings 24:2). In order to conserve their resources, the king of Babylon attempted to negotiate as many cities into subjection as possible without having to exhaust his energies to destroy them. For these cities was his source of tribute to finance his kingdom.

Jehoiakim became a reluctant vassal of the king of Babylon after Egypt was defeated at the battle of Carchemish. When it appeared that Egypt might have renewed its strength because of a stalemate battle in 601 B.C., the king of Judah revolted and withheld tribute from Babylon. This brought further retaliation and deportation upon the city of Jerusalem. During Babylon’s attempt to regain control of Jerusalem in 598 B.C., Jehoiakim died and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin. However, the city of Jerusalem fell within three months and this young king was carried off to Babylon along with his entire family.

Zedekiah, his uncle was then appointed as the regent vassal by King Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah’s refusal to hearken unto Jeremiah’s warnings along with the king’s faith in his false prophets who encouraged such rebellion ultimately brought the armies of Babylon down upon Jerusalem for the final blow and destruction of the nation of Judah in 586 B.C.

Ezekiel was led away to Babylon during the earlier captivity of 597 B.C., but it was not until he was thirty years old (Ezekiel 1:1) that he entered into the office of the priesthood by a divine vision and commission from the throne of God. Here, by the river Chebar, a canal near Babylon, Ezekiel began to serve as priest to the children of Israel in the Babylonian captivity. He served and prophesied in this capacity for approximately twenty years, which is the period of time that the Law of Moses appointed the priests to serve in their office. For at the age of fifty, Ezekiel ceased to prophesy, following the period ordained by the Law.

We find a reference to the prophet Ezekiel in one of the New Testament Apocrypha books entitled The Vision of Paul. In this ancient document Ezekiel tells Paul the apostle that he was slain by being dragged by his feet over a rock in a mountain until his brains were knocked out.

“When he had spoken thus far, there came other twelve, and seeing me said: Art thou Paul the glorified in heaven and on earth? And I answered and said: What are ye? The first answered and said: I am Esaias whom Manasses cut asunder with a wooden saw. And the second said likewise: I am Jeremias who was stoned by the children of Israel and slain. And the third said: I am Ezekiel whom the children of Israel dragged by the feet over a rock in a mountain till they knocked out my brains, and we endured all these toils, wishing to save the children of Israel: and I say unto thee that after the toils which they laid upon me, I cast myself on my face in the sight of the Lord praying for them, bending my knees until the second hour of the Lord's day, till Michael came and lifted me up from the earth. Blessed art thou, Paul, and blessed the nation which believed through thee.” ( The Vision of Paul, chapter 49) [4]

[4] The Vision of Paul, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 9, ed. Allan Menzies (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), 165.

B. The Biography of Ezekiel the Prophet - Josephus tells us that Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, was a priest by birth ( Antiquities 10.5.1), who was taken into captivity as a young man ( Antiquities 10.6.3). Ezekiel later began his prophetic ministry at the age of thirty (Ezekiel 1:1), which was the age that a priest began his ministry (Numbers 4:1-3).

“but so did Ezekiel also, who was the first person that wrote, and left behind him in writing two books concerning these events. Now these two prophets were priests by birth …” ( Antiquities 10.5.1)

“Now, a little time afterwards, the king of Babylon made an expedition against Jehoiakim, whom he received [into the city], and this out of fear of the foregoing predictions of this prophet, as supposing he should suffer nothing that was terrible, because he neither shut the gates, nor fought against him; yet when he was come into the city, he did not observe the covenants he had made, but he slew such as were in the flower of their age, and such as were of the greatest dignity, together with their King Jehoiakim, whom he commanded to be thrown before the walls, without any burial; and made his son Jehoiachin king of the country, and of the city: he also took the principal persons in dignity for captives, three thousand in number, and led them away to Babylon; among which was the prophet Ezekiel, who was then but young .” ( Antiquities 10.6.3)

Numbers 4:1-3, “And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers, From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.”

III. Authorship

A. Internal Evidence - The book itself declares that these are the prophecies of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 1:3, “The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.”

Ezekiel 24:24, “Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”

B. External Evidence If we look outside of biblical literature for clues to authorship and into other ancient Jewish literature from which much Jewish tradition is found, the Babylonian Talmud says that the men of the great assembly wrote the books of Ezekiel, the Twelve prophets, Daniel and Esther.

“And who wrote all the books? Moses wrote his book and a portion of Bil’am [Numbers, xxii.], and Job. Jehoshua wrote his book and the last eight verses of the Pentateuch beginning: “And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died.” Samuel wrote his book, Judges, and Ruth. David wrote Psalms, with the assistance of ten elders, viz.: Adam the First, Malachi Zedek, Abraham, Moses, Hyman, Jeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korach. Jeremiah wrote his book, Kings, and Lamentations. King Hezekiah and his company wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, Songs, and Ecclesiastes. The men of the great assembly wrote Ezekiel, the Twelve Prophets, Daniel, and the Book of Esther. Ezra wrote his book, and Chronicles the order of all generations down to himself. [This may be a support to Rabh’s theory, as to which, R. Jehudah said in his name, that Ezra had not ascended from Babylon to Palestine until he wrote his genealogy.] And who finished Ezra’s book? Nehemiah ben Chachalyah.” ( Babylonian Talmud, Tract Baba Bathra (Last Gate), 1.Mishna 5) [5]

[5] Michael L. Rodkinson, New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, vol. 13 (New York: New Talmud Publishing Company, 1902), 45.

Josephus tells us that Ezekiel wrote two books concerning the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem.

“But all the people mourned greatly for him (King Josiah), lamenting and grieving on his account many days; and Jeremiah the prophet composed an elegy to lament him, which is extant till tills time also. Moreover, this prophet denounced beforehand the sad calamities that were coming upon the city. He also left behind him in writing a description of that destruction of our nation which has lately happened in our days, and the taking of Babylon; nor was he the only prophet who delivered such predictions beforehand to the multitude, but so did Ezekiel also, who was the first person that wrote, and left behind him in writing two books concerning these events . Now these two prophets were priests by birth, but of them Jeremiah dwelt in Jerusalem, from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, until the city and temple were utterly destroyed. However, as to what befell this prophet, we will relate it in its proper place.” ( Antiquities 10.5.1)

IV. Date

The earliest prophecy that Ezekiel gives is in the opening verses and is dated in “the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin” (593 B.C.). The latest date given to a prophecy is found in Ezekiel 29:17 to Ezekiel 30:19, which was given in “the twenty-seventh year” (571 B.C.). This gives Ezekiel a period of twenty two years in the ministry of delivering prophecies to the children of Israel and the surrounding nations. Ralph Alexander gives the following dates for the thirteen dated prophecies of Ezekiel. [6] Note how all but the seventh dated message falls in chronological order.

[6] Ralph H. Alexander, Ezekiel, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 6, ed. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976-1992), in Zondervan Reference Software, v. 2.8 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervan Corp., 1989-2001), comments on Ezekiel “Introduction: Date.”

Year

The first year of Jehoiachin's captivity June 597 (2 Kings 24:12)

Ezekiel's ministry begins (Ezekiel 1:1-3) June/July 593

First dated message Ezekiel 1:1-3 June/July 593

Second dated message Ezekiel 8:1 Aug./Sept. 592

Third dated message Ezekiel 20:1 July/Aug. 591

Fourth dated message Ezekiel 24:1 Dec./Jan. 589/588

Fifth dated message Ezekiel 26:1 March/April 587-586

Sixth dated message Ezekiel 29:1 Dec./Jan. 588/687

Seventh dated message Ezekiel 29:17 March/April 571

Eighth dated message Ezekiel 30:20 March/April 587

Ninth dated message Ezekiel 31:1 May/June 587

Tenth dated message Ezekiel 32:1 March 585

Eleventh dated message Ezekiel 32:17 April 585

Twelfth dated message Ezekiel 33:21 Dec./Jan. 586/585

Thirteenth dated message Ezekiel 40:1 March/April 573

The book of Ezekiel clearly states the place where Ezekiel received his prophecies. He was with the captives by the river Chebar. Ralph Alexander tells us that the river Chebar has been identified by scholars “with the “naru kabari” (mentioned in two cuneiform texts from Nippur), which is a canal making a southeasterly loop near the ancient site of Nippur, connecting at both ends with the Euphrates River.” [7]

[7] Ralph H. Alexander, Ezekiel, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 6, ed. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976-1992), in Zondervan Reference Software, v. 2.8 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervan Corp., 1989-2001), comments on Ezekiel “Introduction: Place of Origin and Destination.”

V. Recipients

Ezekiel was taken captive in 597 B.C. along with many other Jews and sent to live in Babylon by the river Chebar. He was called into the priesthood at the age of thirty served in this capacity for the next twenty years. Thus, God uses Ezekiel to speak to the captive children of Israel (Ezekiel 3:11).

Ezekiel 3:11, “And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.”

Ezekiel was also taken in the spirit to Jerusalem in order to observe the idolatry of the Jewish priests in that city. But his prophecies were directed to the captives by the river Babylon.

The fact that the book of Ezekiel was written in the Hebrew language while the author was in a faraway land that spoke Aramaic testifies to the fact that its recipients were the Hebrews. In contrast, during this same period of time, and in the same land of Babylon, Daniel wrote a large portion of his material in Aramaic. This testifies to the fact that his initial recipients to the material of his public ministry (Daniel 2:4 b to Daniel 7:28) were Chaldeans.

VI. Occasion

The Law of Moses had given the children of Israel the conditions to serving Him in the Promised Land. There were blessings for serving Him and curses for disobeying him. Six tribes stood on mount Gerizim and six upon mount Ebal to pronounce these divine blessings and curses (Deuteronomy 27:11-13). Thus, these Words settled upon the land of Israel and affected every life there for eternity. When the children of Israel rebelled, the curses came, as in the book of Judges. When these people served the Lord, His wonderful blessings abounded, as during the reigns of kings David and Solomon. But there came a time when their sins took them into God’s final phase of judgment, which was their removal from the Promised Land. We find in Deuteronomy 28:0, that these harsh judgments were for signs and wonders for themselves and others to know that the Lord was God over the earth (Deuteronomy 28:46).

Deuteronomy 28:46, “And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.”

God fulfilled His promise of removing them from the land (Deuteronomy 28:49; Deuteronomy 28:64-68) during the time of the prophet Ezekiel.

Deuteronomy 28:49, “The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;”

Deuteronomy 28:64-65, “And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:”

It was the most devastating time in the history of their nation. It was only under these conditions that the Jews were ready to listen to His prophets.

LITERARY STYLE (GENRE)

“Perhaps the most important issue in interpretation is the issue of genre.

If we misunderstand the genre of a text, the rest of our analysis will be askew.”

(Thomas Schreiner) [8]

[8] Thomas R. Schreiner, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c1990, 2011), 11.

Within the historical setting of the kingdom of Israel, the author of the book of Ezekiel chose to write using the literary style of the ancient prophetic literature. Thus, the book of Ezekiel is assigned to the literary genre called “prophecy.” Included in the genre of prophecy are the three books of the Old Testament major prophets and twelve minor prophets.

A. The Phrase “That They May Know That I Am The Lord” - A look at the book of Ezekiel reveals that the phrase “that they may know that I am the Lord” is repeated 76 times, thus revealing a major theme woven throughout this prophetic book. Another six times in the book, we find the phrases, “that they may know that a prophet has spoke”, “that they may know their sins”, “that they may know My vengeance” and “that they may know My deliverance”. Therefore, the theme of Ezekiel’s collection of prophecies is to reveal the Almighty, All-Knowing and Eternal God as the only One who is able to deliver, so that the people of this earth may put their trust in Him. We also see this statement at another time in Israel’s history when God sent the Ten Plagues upon Egypt.

Exodus 14:4, “And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so.”

The miraculous feats that God performed upon the Egyptians were done so that they, the Egyptians, may know that the Lord is the Almighty God. Judgment always has a divine purpose that is for the good of mankind. This is seen in the Psalms when David asks the Lord to consume his enemies so that all may know that God rules in Jacob.

Psalms 59:13, “Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah.”

B. The Phrase “Son of Man” - Another common phrase used through the book of Ezekiel is “Son of man”. On ninety-three occasions, God addresses Ezekiel as the “Son of man”, which reveals the frailty of man, who stands in need of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. This book reveals that God has ordained from the foundation of the world a plan for the redemption of mankind, while the children of Israel count the days of their captivity. Although each man will have to live out his part in this great plan of redemption, God continues to dwell in eternity.

C. The Names of God - The names of God that are used in this prophetic book reflect the theme of the book. There are three names used.

1. The Almighty - He reveals Himself to Ezekiel as “The Almighty”, who knows all things, who is able to deliver, who is able to meet every need of His children.

Ezekiel 1:24, “And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty , the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.”

2. The Lord - He also reveals Himself to Ezekiel as “The Lord”, which literally means “the Great I Am”, for His is not bound by time or distance and He is the One who inhabits Eternity (Isaiah 57:15).

Ezekiel 1:28, “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD . And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.”

Isaiah 57:15, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

3. The Lord God - Third, He reveals Himself to Ezekiel as the Lord God, the one and only God of all nations.

Ezekiel 2:4, “For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD .”

Therefore, all three of these names reveal an aspect of God’s character that match the theme of this book.

THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK

“Perhaps the most important issue in interpretation is the issue of genre.

If we misunderstand the genre of a text, the rest of our analysis will be askew.”

(Thomas Schreiner) [9]

[9] Thomas R. Schreiner, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c1990, 2011), 11.

Based upon the historical setting and literary style of the book of Ezekiel, an examination of the purpose, thematic scheme, and literary structure to this book of the Holy Scriptures will reveal its theological framework. This introductory section will sum up its theological framework in the form of an outline, which is then used to identify smaller units or pericopes within the book of Ezekiel for preaching and teaching passages of Scripture while following the overriding message of the book. Following this outline allows the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to take his followers on a spiritual journey that brings them to the same destination that the author intended his readers to reach.

VII. Purpose

God never leaves His people without a voice. When He sent His disobedient children into captivity, in His mercy, He also gave them Ezekiel to proclaim His Word. Thus, Ezekiel became their watchman. This prophet proclaimed to these captives Jews that Jerusalem would certainly be utterly destroyed (1-24), which took place in 586 B.C. After this event, Ezekiel gave only one more dated prophecy. But he also gave them hope, for not only would God judge the nations that supported their destruction (25-32). He would also raise up this nation again and rebuild the Temple more glorious than before (33-48). The Lord proclaimed His faithfulness to His people, which unending faithfulness to these people was revealed to Abraham and David. Without judgment, the Lord could not bring about healing and restoration. Thus, the people were given the words of hope that would give them the strength to endure their captivity. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of the book of Ezekiel was to give the people is a message of hope in order that they might look to the Lord and know Him as their Redeemer.

VIII. Thematic Scheme

A. Foundational Theme of the Books of Prophecy (How To Worship the Lord With All thy Mind) - While the book of Psalms and other Hebrew poetry move us to worship God with all of our hearts and the historical narratives and writings inspire us to serve the Lord with all of our strength, the Prophets stir us up to seek God with all our mind as they reveal to us God’s eternal plan and destiny for Israel and the Gentiles. The Prophets teach us the future so that we will serve the Lord now in hope of obtaining our eternal, divine destiny. We find several examples in the New Testament as to the purpose of the books of prophecy. In 1 Peter 1:10-12, we are told that these Old Testament prophets did a mental search in order to understand the meaning of their prophecies of the future. They realized that they were speaking of events that would not happen to themselves, but to a future generation.

1 Peter 1:10-12, “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”

One story that illustrates the theme of prophetic literature is found in the New Testament. In Acts 8:30-31 we find Philip the evangelist meeting the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert while reading the book of Isaiah. This eunuch was inspired by reading this book of prophecy to seek a deeper understanding of its meaning and of the ways of God. Philip then took the opportunity to instruct him in the ways of righteousness by faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 8:30-31).

Acts 8:30-31, “And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”

In John 12:14-16 we see how the Holy Spirit brought the Old Testament prophecies to the remembrance of the early Church so that they could understand the events that took place in the life of Jesus Christ.

John 12:14-16, “And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.”

In these three New Testament passages, the prophetic books were used to stir up the minds of men to seek God. In other words, it inspired men to seek God with all of their minds.

1. The Central Theme of Daniel: The Times of the Gentiles The theme of the book of Daniel is God’s Plan of Redemption during the Times of the Gentiles. The book of Daniel stands alone in the Old Testament in its structure and content in much the same way that the book of Revelation is unique to the New Testament. Both are apocalyptic in nature, using symbolic figures to prophesy of future events. Daniel is structured different than the three major prophets, being similar to the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther in its narrative material, while containing a large amount of prophecy. The book of Daniel takes us through the Times of the Gentiles when God divinely works in this group of people to carry out His divine plan of election and redemption. He makes mention of the Kingdom of Heaven from the view of the ages of the worldly kingdoms. Thus, the theme and prophecies of Daniel focus upon the “Times of the Gentiles” from the fall of Jerusalem until the full restoration of the nation of Israel at Christ’s Second Coming. Daniel’s prophecies encompass the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, so that it serves as a foundational book of prophecy.

While the other thirty-eight books of the Old Testament focus upon the nation of Israel, the prophecies in the book of Daniel focus upon the period of human history called the “Times of the Gentiles” and upon the destiny of the Gentile nations from the fall of Jerusalem up until the time when the nation of Israel is fully restored at Christ’s Second Coming. Thus, its primary theme is about the period of history called the “Times of the Gentiles”. The fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar began this period of human history and it will last until the time when Christ returns again and usher the world into the thousand-year Millennial Reign. At that time Christ will rule and reign from the holy city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel will again take center stage and be restored to its fullness. The prophet Daniel ministered directly to the Babylonian kings. As a result he was given insight into the “Time of the Gentiles.” However, this Jewish Old Testament writing ministers to the Jews as well in that it tells them when their nation will be fully restored and when their Messiah will come to deliver them from the oppression of the Gentiles. Thus, we can then see the importance of Daniel’s understanding of the seventy-year prophecy of Jeremiah. He understood by a vision that a temporary restoration would take place in a seventy-year period, but that a full restoration would not be accomplished until a seventy-week period was fulfilled.

The book of Daniel weaves the theme of God’s sovereign power and destiny for mankind within the revelation of the Times of the Gentiles. Despite the historical setting of the destruction of Jerusalem and enslavement of God’s people, these prophecies clearly show that the God of Israel is still on the throne and determining the outcome of mankind. Thus, the foreknowledge of God the Father is the underlying theme of the Old Testament with the book of Daniel being given special emphasis upon the destiny of the Gentile nations as they are a part of God’s redemptive plan for mankind.

The prophet Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel. While Daniel was ministering to the kings of the Gentile nations, Ezekiel was providing comfort and hope to the Jews in Babylonian captivity. If we compare their two ministries, we see that they both served to provide to the Jews a hope of future restoration. Daniel’s prophecies emphasize their restoration from the time frame of the Age of the Gentiles, while Ezekiel’s prophecies reveal Israel’s restoration from the perspective of a clear understanding of divine judgment upon His people Israel, His pending judgment upon their enemies and their future restoration. Although Ezekiel did prophesy about the judgment of those nations surrounding Israel, his main focus reveals the rebirth and establishment of Israel, while Daniel focused upon the rise and fall of the Gentile nations. In addition, both prophets show us that all nations will one day be made subject to the Ancient of Days, the King of Kings, when Jesus Christ will rule and reign over this earth with His saints. The book of Daniel plays an important role in the books of the prophets in that it sets a framework and timelines for all other prophetic events to take place. Daniel literally predicted the year A.D. 27 as the year of the Messiah’s atonement. Although the prophet Isaiah, as well as King David in Psalms 22:0, described the coming and death of the Messiah, Daniel established the timeline for Christ’s first and second Coming.

If we compare the three prophetic books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation, we can make the following observations. Regarding the end-time events, Daniel addresses the Gentiles, Ezekiel addresses the Jews on these same events, and the book of Revelation addresses the Church on this subject. The book of Ezekiel was written to the people of Israel to help them persevere through their time of persecutions during the Babylonian Captivity; but the book of Revelation was addressed to the Church, and not to the Jews, to help them persevere until the end. Therefore, Ezekiel speaks of three major events that relate to the nation of Israel leading up to the ushering in of the Millennial Reign of Christ Jesus, which are the restoration of Israel (36-37), the great battle with Russia and its allies (38-39) and the rebuilding of the Temple with its institution of worship (40-48). These are the three important events that will involve Israel during these last days leading up to and through the seven-year Tribulation Period. Thus, Ezekiel tells of these end-time events from the perspective of Israel. In contrast, the book of Daniel tells of Christ’s Second Coming from the perspective of the Gentile nations. Finally, the book of Revelation tells of the end-time events from the perspective of the Church.

Finally, it is interesting to note how the prayers of the saints throughout history determined the outcome of many historical events within God’s framework of His plan of redemption. This reveals the important role of God’s people in shaping history for good by overcoming evil. Thus, both God and men have a role to plan in God’s eternal plan of redemption for mankind.

2. The Three Major Prophets: Israel’s Redemption through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - As we study the life of the three Major Prophets, we see how each of them received a divine visitation from the Lord that launched them into their respective ministries. In these visitations, they received their unique commissions. For example, the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all have a common opening in that each one of them has an encounter with the Lord. Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord upon His majestic throne. Jeremiah was overwhelmed with the word of the Lord as it came to him with visions revealing God’s judgment upon Judah and other nations. Ezekiel saw the living creatures going forth before the throne of God, exalted high in the heaven. In contrast, the twelve Major Prophets did not receive such a divine visitation in order to commission them.

One reason why these three prophets received such a mighty visitation is understood in a comment by Kenneth Hagin, who said that when the Lord gives us a vision or a word for the future, it often precedes a trial, and is used to anchor our soul and take us through the trial. [10] If we look at the lives of the three Major Prophets, this is exactly what we see. These three men faced enormous trials and objections during their ministries. Their divine commissions certain were the anchor of their souls as it gave them strength and assurance that they were in God’s will despite their difficulties. We see such dramatic encounters in the lives of Moses and Saul of Tarsus, as God gave them their divine commissions for a work that was difficult and even cost them their lives.

[10] Kenneth Hagin, Following God’s Plan For Your Life (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1993, 1994), 118.

a) The Central Theme of Jeremiah: Israel’s Redemption Through God the Father’s Foreknowledge - The prophecies of Jeremiah emphasizes God the Father’s divine timeline of judgment and redemption for the nation of Israel and Gentile nations, as stated in its opening passage (Jeremiah 1:10). Jeremiah’s prophecy of Israel’s seventy-year captivity serves as God’s remedy for divine judgment upon His people Israel before He can bring about their restoration. God also called Jeremiah to judge the nations (Jeremiah 1:10) in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Thus, we can see how Jeremiah’s prophecies ushered in the Times of the Gentiles.

Jeremiah 1:10, “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

Jeremiah also spoke of the rise and fall of Babylon and gave prophecies of other nations besides Israel. The prophecy of Israel’s seventy-year Captivity was perhaps the most important prophecy he made because it dealt with the nation of Israel and gave us a timeline of the Last Days. We find a two-fold fulfillment in this prophecy when studying Daniel 9:0. Jeremiah was speaking of the Jews returning to Jerusalem after a literal 70-year period. The angel explained to Daniel that this prophecy also served as a prediction of the time of the Messiah’s First and Second Coming. Thus, Jeremiah places emphasis upon God the Father’s foreknowledge of Israel’s redemption as well as the Gentile nations in that he shows us a time-table for God’s plan of redemption. Thus, God’s remedy for divine judgment is to bring about full redemption to Israel and the nations through the First and Second Coming of the Messiah.

b) The Central Theme of Isaiah: Israel’s Redemption Through Jesus the Son’s Justification - The prophecies of Isaiah emphasize the cleansing of the rebellious nation of Israel, as stated in its opening verses (Isaiah 1:2). The prophet calls them to repentance by saying, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” (Ezekiel 1:18). He will explain how this cleansing works later in chapters 52-53 by giving them a lengthy description of Christ’s sacrificial death on Calvary as a reference to Jesus’ first coming. This is because the remedy for rebellion is reconciliation, and God chose Calvary as the means of reconciling Israel and the Gentiles back unto Himself. We may be able to say that Isaiah focuses upon the justification of God’s people which was accomplished by Jesus’ work on Calvary. [11]

[11] The book of Isaiah is sometimes referred to as “the Gospel of the Old Testament” or “the Gospel of Isaiah” because the emphasis upon the redemptive work of Jesus Christ is well recognized. Literary evidence is offered by Davies and Allison, who note that half of the Old Testament quotes found in the Gospel of Matthew come from the book of Isaiah. See W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew: Commentary on Matthew XIX-XXVIII, vol. 3, in The International Critical Commentary (London: T. & T. Clark Ltd, 1988), 575.

In his commission, Isaiah found himself unclean before the throne of God and received cleansing by the angel from the live coals of fire being placed upon his tongue. He was then told to preach a message of conversion and healing to a rebellions people. We see this message in the preaching of Jesus Christ. Thus, in this vision we see the theme of justification.

God then told Isaiah to speak to a rebellious people that will reject his message so that they are scattered and a remnant allowed to remain (Isaiah 6:9-13). Isaiah’s prophecies were two-fold in application also. They were fulfilled by the carrying away of the Babylonian Captivity. They were also prophetic of the Messiah’s First Coming. Thus, they had a two-fold application. Isaiah places emphasis upon Jesus’ work of Calvary, which offers justification to a sinful world. Thus, the remedy for Israel’s rebellion is provided for in justification through the coming Messiah.

c) The Central Theme of Ezekiel: Israel’s Redemption Through the Holy Spirit’s Sanctification and Future Glorification Ezekiel emphasizes Israel’s future restoration through the rebirth of the nation and building of the new temple that will allow God to once again dwell with men. At his commission the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of four creatures that were sent from the throne of God to set in motion God’s divine plan of the restoration of the nation of Israel. This is why God gave to Ezekiel three major prophecies regarding the role of Israel’s during the times leading up to Christ Jesus’ Second Coming. He closes his prophecies by telling about God’s three-fold method of restoring Israel to its fullness through (1) the restoration of the nation, (2) the battle of Armageddon and (3) the rebuilding of the Temple, for this is the method in which God has chosen to restore His people. In this vision we see the theme of glorification emphasized as Ezekiel seems to focus upon the glorification of God’s people Israel at the time of Christ’s second coming.

3. The Central Theme of the Twelve Minor Prophets The twelve Minor Prophets carry the themes of the three Major Prophets. Hosea reveals the heart of God by showing His unfailing love for His people. Micah emphasizes the birth of Jesus and deliverance of God’s people, and he portrays the Messiah as the Shepherd of Israel. Jonah emphasizes Jesus’ resurrection after three days in the grave, and His provision of justification for the ungodly. Zechariah is the most Messianic of the twelve minor prophets, giving more prophecies of Jesus’ life and passion than any of these others.

Figure 1 Thematic Scheme of Prophet Books

B. Secondary (Structural) Theme of the Book of Ezekiel - Israel’s Redemption Through the Holy Spirit’s Sanctification and Future Glorification - The secondary theme of each book of the Holy Scriptures can be found in its opening passages. When we examine the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel, we see a vision of God’s living creatures going forth from eternity where God dwells onto the earth where man dwells. These creatures have been sent forth from the throne of God to put His divine plans into motion. Man lives in the realm of time, but God inhabits eternity. The little wheel within a wheel in this opening vision represents the realm of time that man lives in, while the larger wheel represents eternity where God dwells.

In contrast to God’s eternal dwelling place, there are thirteen of Ezekiel’s recorded visions are dated with specific days, months and years, telling us that God is intervening in the affairs of man in order to bring about His eternal plans and purposes. Calamities tend to cause man to focus in the realm of time, on his circumstances, waiting anxiously for the day of deliverance. Many sick patients can tell you the exact length of their illnesses, to the year, month and day that such illness came upon them. Such near sightedness causes man to not see the bigger picture of God’s divine plan in his life. We see in the book of Job that when God revealed Himself to this righteous saint in the last section of the book, Job responded by worshipping God and humbling himself in the presence of Almighty God. It was then that God delivered Job. It was the vision of the bigger wheel representing eternity that brought Job out of his calamities.

God is giving these collections of prophecies to Ezekiel in order to reveal to us His divine plan for mankind, which will surely come to pass. Thus, Ezekiel’s emphasis on days, months and years reveals man’s limitations and inability to alter his own eternal destiny while the revelations of the eternal God reveal His power to control the entire destiny of His creation.

We find in the book of Ezekiel that in the midst of the most devastating period of Israel’s history, God reveals Himself to His people as the Almighty God, who will bring them into His eternal rest. This is because He controls the destiny of His very own creation. Even the name Ezekiel means, “God strengthens”, which supports the theme of this book. It is during our deepest sorrows that God reveals Himself to us as the One who is in control of the present situation and as the One who is going to bring good things out of the midst of tragedy. God’s revelation to His people in the book of Ezekiel as the Almighty God is intended to encourage them to place their trust in Him despite their present circumstances in the Babylonian captivity. Note that Ezekiel sought the Lord before the terrible calamity befell Jerusalem. Thus, when the event took place, Ezekiel was able to understand why it happened and to put his trust in God in the midst of a great trial. When we seek the Lord in our lives, we to are able to put our trust in the Lord during the midst of great trials.

Some of the prophecies of Ezekiel are addressed to other nations, seven in fact. As the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 could represent all churches, so could these seven nations represent all nations. Therefore, God is telling all peoples of all places and in all periods of history that everything God does in His divine plan for mankind, whether by blessing or by cursing, is done for the purpose of bringing them all into His eternal rest, which He describes in chapters 40-48.

The four living creatures in the first vision of chapter one were being sent forth from the presence of God to perform His divine will. Their straight, unaltered path signifies the fact that God’s plans and purposes are predetermined and planned. It also signifies that God’s plans are unaltered and will surely come to pass. However, what was this predetermined, divine plan of Almighty God? This plan will be found in the rest of the visions contained in the book of Ezekiel.

C. Third (Imperative) Theme of the Book of Ezekiel - Israel Must Place their Hope in the Future Restoration of the Nation of Israel

IX. Literary Structure

The book of Ezekiel reveals God’s plan of restoration and ultimate redemption for His people Israel. This book can be divided into five major sections. In chapters Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:21, God commissions Ezekiel as His prophet. We see God’s divine foreknowledge as He judges the nations in Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 32:32. The coming judgments upon Jerusalem are found in Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 24:27. The oracles against seven nations that surround Israel are found in Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 32:32. God then calls the nation to repentance and justification in Ezekiel 33:1-33. We see God’s plan to sanctify His people in Ezekiel 34:1-31 as He calls for a shepherd who will feed His flock, which is prophetic of Jesus Christ as their Messiah ruling over Israel. Finally, the restoration of Israel is seen in Ezekiel 35:1 to Ezekiel 48:35. As the fullness of the Times of the Gentiles closes (Luke 21:24), God will restore the nation of Israel and usher in the Thousand-Year reign of Christ. The valley of dry bones symbolizes the restoration of Israel as a nation (Ezekiel 37:1-28), followed by the great battle against Gog and its allies (Ezekiel 38-39), both events immediately preceding the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. After His Coming, the Lord will rebuild a more glorious Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 46:24) as well as restore the land to its glory (Ezekiel 47:1 to Ezekiel 48:35).

The three sets of prophecies of (1) the judgment against Jerusalem, (2) then the nations, and (3) then Israel’s restoration, reveal God’s divine plan of redemption for mankind. It tells us that the period of Israel as a nation will soon cease, and the Times of the Gentiles will be ushered in until their fullness brings them to an end under God’s wrath.

Once the city of Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 B.C. (Ezekiel 1-24), then the words of the prophet turn to comfort and hope (Ezekiel 25-48), just as in the book of Isaiah when the Lord told the people, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” (Isaiah 40:1) Thus, the book of Ezekiel can be divided into Judgment (1-24) and Hope (25-48).

The fact that the judgments against Jerusalem (Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 24:27) precede those upon the seven nations (Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 32:32) reveals to us the truth that the events taking place in the nation of Israel are a forewarning from God, even today, of the events that about to come upon the nations of the world. In other words, we can watch the events taking place in Israel and see events that are to take place upon the earth. For example, the Muslims of Palestine who declared a holy war against Israel in 1998 resulted in this “jihad” spilling over into many other nations of the world. In addition, since Jerusalem is a symbol of the Church, the order of judging Jerusalem first symbolizes the fact that God will judge His Church immediately before He ushers in the Great Tribulation period upon the earth in preparation for His Second Coming. This is seen again in Revelation 2-3 where Jesus judges the seven churches immediately before the Great Tribulation.

I. Predestination: Ezekiel’s Commission (Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:21 )

II. Call to Repentance: Divine Judgment (Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 32:32 )

III. Justification (Ezekiel 33:1-33 ) The book of Ezekiel reveals God’s plan to redeem His people Israel back unto Himself. The theme of Ezekiel 33:1-20 is God’s plan to justify Israel in righteousness. Ezekiel has prophesied of judgments upon Judah and other nations in the preceding chapters. Now God is telling this prophet how the Jewish people are to respond to such prophecies of future judgments. These destructions are intended to bring repentance and righteousness to Judah and the nations; for God takes no pleasure in their destruction (Ezekiel 33:11), but rather in their repentance, in the way the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah. The phrase, “When I bring the sword upon a land” (Ezekiel 33:2) refers to the time when these prophecies of judgment come to pass. God’s statement that He has placed Ezekiel as a watchman over the house of Israel (Ezekiel 33:7) means that God will divinely place His watchmen amongst the people in a position where they will be heard as proclaim the truth to the people. The people should recognize them as a fulfillment of God’s prophecies and repent; for this is God’s plan to redeem His people Israel. In the case of Ezekiel, God divinely placed him in the office of a priest over the Jews in Captivity so that he would be heard, because it was the Jewish tradition to assembly together on the Sabbath and to hear the Scriptures being taught by the priests. However, they justified themselves as God’s people because their father was Abraham (Ezekiel 33:21-29). When they did assemble to hear the local priest exhort them from the Law, they did not obey what they had heard (Ezekiel 33:30-33).

IV. Sanctification (Ezekiel 34:1-31 ) The theme of the preceding passage (Ezekiel 33:1-33) was on restoring righteousness to the children of Israel. For those who would repent and obey God’s word, there was the need for sanctification; and this is the theme of Ezekiel 34:1-31. God’s divine plan to sanctify His people was to place shepherds among them to lead and guide them daily. Because these shepherds failed to strengthen God’s people, He was going to judge them and place a true shepherd over them, which is a prophecy of the coming of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

V. Israel’s Glorification (Ezekiel 35:1 to Ezekiel 48:35 ) Ezekiel 35:1 to Ezekiel 48:35 deals with the topic of Israel’s glorification. The description of the restored land of Israel and the new Temple and its worship (36-48) reveals a building and nation more majestic and beautiful that that found during the time of Solomon. These passages reveal the glorification that God has in planned for His people Israel. This glorification is different than what He has planned for the Church. The prophecies of this passage signify the fact that God has a much greater blessing in store for His people than any earthly kingdom in the past, even greater than Israel in its golden age of King Solomon. The future glories of the heavenly kingdom will far exceed the earthly. The Book of Jubilees (4.26-27) tells us that this Mount Zion will be sanctified in the new creation for a sanctification of the earth; through it will the earth be sanctified from all (its) guilt and its uncleanness throughout the generations of the world.

From these last chapters in the book of Ezekiel we know that the full restoration of Israel involves three key events that will take place in order to make their restoration complete and everlasting. These events will involve the restoration of Israel as a nation (36-37), the battle against Gog and its allies (38-39), and the restoration of the Temple and its worship (40-46) and its land (47-48).

X. Outline of Book

Here is a proposed outline of the book of Ezekiel:

I. Predestination: Ezekiel’s Commission Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 3:21

A. The Vision Ezekiel 1:1-28

B. The First Charge Ezekiel 2:1 to Ezekiel 3:21

II. Call to Repentance: Divine Judgment Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 32:32

A. Prophecies of Judgment upon Jerusalem Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 24:27

1. First Prophecy (Demonstration) Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 5:17

2. Second Prophecy Ezekiel 6:1-14

3. Third Prophecy Ezekiel 7:1-27

4. Fourth Prophecy (6 th year) Ezekiel 8:1 to Ezekiel 11:25

5. Fifth Prophecy Ezekiel 12:1-28

6. Sixth Prophecy Ezekiel 13:1-23

7. Seventh Prophecy Ezekiel 14:1-23

8. Eighth Prophecy Ezekiel 15:1-8

9. Ninth Prophecy Ezekiel 16:1-63

10. Tenth Prophecy Ezekiel 17:1 to Ezekiel 19:14

11. Eleventh Prophecy (7 th year) Ezekiel 20:1-49

12. Twelfth Prophecy Ezekiel 21:1-17

13. Thirteenth Prophecy Ezekiel 21:18-32

14. Fourteenth Prophecy Ezekiel 22:1-16

15. Fifteenth Prophecy Ezekiel 22:17-22

16. Sixteenth Prophecy Ezekiel 22:23-31

17. Seventeenth Prophecy Ezekiel 23:1-49

18. Eighteenth Prophecy (9 th year) Ezekiel 24:1-14

19. Nineteenth Prophecy Ezekiel 24:15-27

B. Prophecies of Judgment upon Seven Nations Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 32:32

1. Ammon Ezekiel 25:1-7

2. Moab Ezekiel 25:8-11

3. Edom Ezekiel 25:12-14

4. Philistia Ezekiel 25:15-17

5. Tyre Ezekiel 26:1 to Ezekiel 28:19

a) First Prophecy (11 th year) Ezekiel 26:1-21

b) Second Prophecy Ezekiel 27:1-36

c) Third Prophecy Ezekiel 28:1-19

6. Zidon Ezekiel 28:20-26

7. Egypt Ezekiel 29:1 to Ezekiel 32:32

a) First Prophecy (10 th year) Ezekiel 29:1-16

b) Second Prophecy (27 th year) Ezekiel 29:17-21

c) Third Prophecy Ezekiel 30:1-19

d) Fourth Prophecy (11 th year) Ezekiel 30:20-26

e) Fifth Prophecy (11 th year) Ezekiel 31:1-18

f) Sixth Prophecy (12 th year) Ezekiel 32:1-16

g) Seventh Prophecy (12 th year) Ezekiel 32:17-32

III. Israel’s Justification (A Call to Repentance) Ezekiel 33:1-33

IV. Israel’s Sanctification (A Call for a Shepherd) Ezekiel 34:1-31

V. Israel’s Glorification Ezekiel 35:1 to Ezekiel 48:35

A. Judgment Upon Edom Ezekiel 35:1-15

B. Restoration of Israel as a Nation Ezekiel 36:1 to Ezekiel 37:28

C. The Battle against Gog Ezekiel 38:1 to Ezekiel 39:28

D. Restoration of the Temple (25 th year of captivity) Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 46:24

E. Restoration of the Land of Israel Ezekiel 47:1 to Ezekiel 48:35

BIBLIOGRAPHY

COMMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, Ralph H. Ezekiel. In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 6 . Ed. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976-1992. In Zondervan Reference Software, v. 2.8 [CD-ROM] Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervan Corp., 1989-2001.

Clines, David J. A. Job 1-20. In Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD-Rom, vol. 17. Eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Dallas: Word Inc., 2002. In Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.

Davies, W. D. and Dale C. Allison. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew: Commentary on Matthew XIX-XXVIII, vols. 1-3. In The International Critical Commentary. London: T. & T. Clark Ltd, 1988.

Block, Daniel I. The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25-48. In The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Ed. Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.

Metzger, Bruce M., David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker, eds. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas, Texas: Word Incorporated, 1989-2007.

GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY

Asher, A. Ed. and Trans. The Itinerary of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, vol. 1. New York: “Hakesheth” Publishing Co., n.d.

Berry, George Ricker. “Gomer.” In International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939. In The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008.

Booth, G. The Historical Library of Diodorus the Sicilian, in Fifteen Books, vol. 2. London: W. McDowall, 1814.

Custance, Arthur. The Doorway Papers: A Study in the Names in Genesis 10:0 [on-line]. Accessed 28 March 2009. Available from http://www.custance.org/Library/Volume1/Part_II/Chapter4.html; Internet, 6.

Fleming, Wallace B. The History of Tyre. New York: Columbia University Press, 1915.

Fletcher, Lazarus. “Stones, Precious.” In International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939. In The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008.

Frommert, Hartmut and Christine Kronberg. “The Milky Way Galaxy.” [on-line]. Accessed 1 September 2009. Available from http://www.maths.tcd.ie/~powersr/New/notes/3rd year misc/3013 galaxies/The Milky Way Galaxy.htm; Internet.

Gunkel, Hermann. The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction. Trans. Thomas M. Horner. In Biblical Series, vol. 19. Ed. John Reumann. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1967.

Hagee, John. John Hagee Today (San Antonio, Texas: John Hagee Ministries). On Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California). 24 November 2008. Television program.

Hagin, Kenneth. The Art of Intercession. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1980, 1984.

Hagin, Kenneth. Following God’s Plan For Your Life. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c1993, 1994.

Herodotus. The Histories of Herodotus. Trans. Henry Cary. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1899.

Hinn, Benny. This is Your Day (Irving, Texas). On Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California). Television program.

Jeffrey, Grant. The Next World War. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Waterbrook Press, 2006.

Keathley, III, J. Hampton. “Introduction and Historical Setting for Elijah.” (Bible.org) [on-line]. Accessed 23 May 2012. Available from http://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-and-historical-setting-elijah; Internet.

Kösenberger, Andreas J. Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2011.

“Meshech,” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia (San Francisco, California: Wikipedia Foundation, Inc.) [on-line]. Accessed 26 September 2009. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meshech; Internet)

Negev, Avraham. The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, 3rd ed. New York: Prentice Hall Press, c1990, 1996.

Pratt, P. The History of, the Life and Reign of Alexander the Great by Quintus Curtius Rufus, vol. 1. London: Samuel Bagster, 1809.

Roberts, David Francis. “Javan.” In International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939. In The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008.

Roberts, Frances J. Come Away My Beloved. Ojai, California: King’s Farspan, Inc., 1973.

Rodkinson, Michael L. New Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, vol. 13. New York: New Talmud Publishing Company, 1902.

Rooke. Arrian’s History of Alexander’s Expedition, vol. 1. London: T. Worrall, J. Gray, L. Gilliver, and R. Willock, 1739.

Ruthven, Mark and Thab Griess, The Prophecy that is Shaping History: New Research on Ezekiel’s Vision of the End. Longwood, Florida: Xulon Press, 2003.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c1990, 2011.

Singh, Sadhu Sundar. At the Master’s Feet. Trans. Arthur Parker. London: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1922 [on-line]. Accessed 26 October 2008. Available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/singh/feet.html; Internet.

Stone, Perry. Interviewed by Benny Hinn. This is Your Day. On Trinity Broadcasting Network (Santa Ana, California). Television program.

Sutton, Hilton. Revelation: God’s Grand Finale. Tulsa, Oklahoma, c1984.

Swaggart, Jimmy. “Amazing Answers To Prayers.” In The Evangelist (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, February 1988).

Tisdall, W. St. Clair. “Madai,” and “Medes.” In International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939. In The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008.

The Vision of Paul. In The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 9. Ed. Allan Menzies. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906.

Wallace, Henry. “Meshech, Mesech.” In International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939. In The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008.

Weir, Thomas Hunter. “Sheba.” In International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939. In The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008.

Wolf, Horace J. “Tiras.” In International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Ed. James Orr. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939. In The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008.