the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
by Peter Pett
A Commentary on Ezekiel.
By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD
The spur to Ezekiel’s ministry was that dreadful event in Israel’s history when King Jehoiachin and the cream of Judah’s society, along with Ezekiel, were transported from Judah to Babylon, a bedraggled file of prisoners, into what seemed like permanent exile in 597 BC (2 Kings 24:12-17). All hope in the promises of God seemed faint, although Jerusalem was still, for the present, left standing.
However, to the people Jerusalem was still a monument of hope. They saw it as God’s holy city, God’s dwellingplace, and because of this they believed that He would never allow it to be destroyed. They saw it as inviolate. It would be Ezekiel’s difficult task to inform them that, in the purposes of God, Jerusalem and the temple were in fact finally to be destroyed, and that soon. And to build up to this event, so that, when it happened, their faith would respond to it.
Ezekiel’s name means ‘God strengthens’, and he certainly needed to be strengthened by God for the ministry before him. He was of an important priestly family, although he probably never ministered as a priest, having not come of age when he was in Jerusalem, but he was chosen by God to minister as a priest-prophet among the exiled Jews in Babylon, to enable them to realise why they had been exiled, and to tell them what the future held in terms of restoration. It was a book both of judgment and restoration, of despair and hope. He graduated from being a proclaimer of God’s certain judgment on Jerusalem and the nations, to being a watchman for the people of God, with a the certain hope of God’s future blessing.
He had grown up in the reign of the godly king Josiah and had watched the way in which Judah had collapsed in its faith after the king’s death. He must have been familiar with the preaching of Jeremiah, and similar ideas to his occur in the book. But his main message centred on the glory of God, against which Judah and Israel had sinned. Although a message of gloom, it was also a message of hope amidst gloom. For this theme of God’s glory see Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 3:12; Ezekiel 3:23; Ezekiel 8:4; Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18-19; Ezekiel 11:22-23; Ezekiel 39:11; Ezekiel 39:21; Ezekiel 43:2-5; Ezekiel 44:4.
This glory was vividly revealed to him at the beginning of his ministry to let all know that God was with them in Babylon (chapter 1). But it was shown to have departed from Jerusalem (chapter 10) leaving Jerusalem a desolate waste, although God did promise that one day that glory would return to a new ideal temple (chapter 43). Meanwhile they were constantly told that God would act to keep His name glorious (Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 20:14; Ezekiel 20:22; Ezekiel 20:39; Ezekiel 20:44; Ezekiel 36:20-23; Ezekiel 39:7; Ezekiel 39:25; Ezekiel 43:7-8), and would make all know that ‘I am Yahweh’. The title ‘Lord Yahweh’ occurs over 200 times. Nebuchadnezzar may have conquered them but Yahweh was still their supreme Overlord.
The book is split into sections by its dating. Ezekiel 1:2 is dated July 592 BC, Ezekiel 8:1 is dated September 592/1 BC, Ezekiel 20:1 is dated August 591/0 BC, Ezekiel 24:1 is dated January 588 BC, Ezekiel 33:21 is dated January 586/5 BC and Ezekiel 40:1 is dated April 573/2 BC, which are in chonological order. The oracles against nations were also dated (Ezekiel 26:1 to Ezekiel 32:32), but not in strict chronological order. There are slight differences among scholars in determining the exact dates. There were differing calendars which cannot always be tied up.