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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- Ezekiel

by Dr. Robert Utley

INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL

I. NAME OF THE BOOK

A. It is named after its chief spokesman, the prophet and priest (from Zadok), Ezekiel.

B. His name (BDB 306) meant “God strengthens,” “may God make strong,” or even possibly, “God is strong.”

II. CANONIZATION

A. This book had difficulty being accepted into the Jewish yearly cycles of liturgy because

1. Ezekiel's temple and procedures are different from those of Moses (i.e., compare Numbers 28:11 with Ezekiel 46:6)

2. the vivid visionary language, especially Ezekiel 1:8, and 10

3. the glory of YHWH and His Spirit leaves Jerusalem and moves to the exiles in Babylon (i.e., Ezekiel 10:1-2, Ezekiel 10:18-22; Ezekiel 11:22-25)

B. Rabbi Hananiah ben Hezekiah of the rabbinical school of Shammai (the conservative school), is said to have used 300 jars of oil (i.e., staying up late) in order to reconcile Ezekiel with Moses (cf. Shabb. 14b; Menahuth 45a; Hagigah 13a).

C. Jewish tradition said that when Elijah returned before the coming of Messiah (cf. Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5), he would solve the contradictions between Ezekiel and Moses (cf. Menah 45a).

III. GENRE

A. This book contains many genres

1. apocalyptic (Ezekiel 1:8-10, 38-39, and possibly 40-48)

2. prophecy (Ezekiel 37:0, esp. vv. Ezekiel 4:9, Ezekiel 4:12)

3. parables (Ezekiel 17:2; Ezekiel 20:49; Ezekiel 24:3)

4. lament poetry (Ezekiel 19:0; Ezekiel 26:17-18; Ezekiel 27:4-9, Ezekiel 27:25-36; Ezekiel 28:2-23; Ezekiel 30:2-19; Ezekiel 31:2-9; Ezekiel 37:2-8, Ezekiel 37:12-15)

5. dramatic symbols (Ezek. 4-5, Ezekiel 4:12,24)

6. allegory (Ezekiel 16:23)

7. visions (Ezek. 1-3, Ezekiel 1:8-11, 40-48)

B. Ezekiel composed most of his messages in written form. They were not given orally, as were Isaiah's and Jeremiah's. They are very structured.

IV. AUTHORSHIP

A. The authorship of the book has never been doubted. The entire book, except for Ezekiel 1:2-3, is written in the FIRST PERSON, SINGULAR (autobiographical, cf. Ezekiel 4:14; Ezekiel 9:8; Ezekiel 11:13). However, much of the FIRST PERSON, SINGULAR is direct speech from YHWH.

B. Jewish tradition, Baba Bathra 15a, said, “the men of the Great Synagogue wrote Ezekiel and the Twelve.” As we have seen in other books the word “wrote” means edited or compiled.

C. Josephus' The Antiquities of the Jews, 10.5.1, said that Ezekiel wrote two books. This may refer to the characteristic structure of many of the Hebrew prophets because their books easily divide into two halves (note Isaiah 1-39 & 40-66; Daniel 1-6 & 7-12; Zechariah 1-8 & 9-14 and Ezekiel 1-32 & 33-48). In the first part the historical setting is the author's day. In the second part of the book the setting is the future. This may be the reason why Josephus stated he wrote two books.

D. It is written from Babylon (cf. Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 3:11, Ezekiel 3:15; Ezekiel 11:24), but Ezekiel is taken to Jerusalem several times in visions (cf. Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1; 40-48).

E. All we know about the prophet Ezekiel is from his book. He is not mentioned anywhere else in the OT.

1. he was born about 623 B.C. in Jerusalem

2. he was a priest of the line of Zadok, Ezekiel 1:3

3. he was married but had no children, Ezekiel 24:16-18

4. he was taken captive when he was twenty-five years old in 597 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar II along with King Jehoiachin, Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 33:21; Ezekiel 1:0 Kgs. 24:14-16

5. he was exiled to a Jewish settlement not far from the city of Nippur on a man-made irrigation canal, Chebar, Ezekiel 1:1, Ezekiel 1:3, called Tel-Abib, Ezekiel 3:15

6. he preached at least twenty-two years, Ezekiel 1:1-2; Ezekiel 29:17

7. he was a strong but compassionate prophet, Ezekiel 9:8; Ezekiel 11:13; Ezekiel 24:16

F. His priestly training deeply affects his visions. He is particularly interested in the evil of the current temple (Ezek. 8-11) and the purity of the new temple (Ezek. 40-48).

V. DATE

A. He was born about 623 B.C. in Jerusalem.

B. Ezekiel is one of the seventh century prophets: Jeremiah, Daniel, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah.

C. During the period of the rise of Neo-Babylonian power under Nabopolassar and the crown prince Nebuchadnezzar II, God spoke through these prophets in different localities.

1. Daniel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. He was exiled to the palace in Babylon, Daniel 1:1.

2. Ezekiel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. along with 8,000 to 10,000 craftsmen, soldiers, and King Jehoiachin and his family, 2 Kings 24:14-16. They were settled in a refugee camp by the Canal Chebar.

3. Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem until the death of Gedaliah (cf. 582 B.C.).

D. Ezekiel dates his prophecies (which influenced Haggai [cf. Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:15; Haggai 2:1, Haggai 2:10, Haggai 2:20] and Zechariah [Zechariah 1:1; Zechariah 7:1]). These dates show that the book is not in chronological order. However, if you isolate the oracles against the surrounding nations (i.e., Ezek. 25-32) the rest are in a chronological sequence.

DayMonth Years of Jehoiachin's exile
1.a vision, Ezekiel 1:15430 (?)
2.a vision, Ezekiel 1:2545 (593 B.C.)
3.a word from YHWH1245 (593 B.C.)
4.a vision, Ezekiel 8:1566 (592 B.C.)
5.elder's questions, Ezekiel 20:11057 (591 B.C.)
6.siege of Jerusalem began, Ezekiel 24:1; Ezekiel 24:1 (cf. 2 Kings 25:1)10109 (588 B.C.)
7.oracle against Tyre, Ezekiel 26:11?11 (586 B.C.)
8.oracle against Egypt, Ezekiel 29:1121010 (587 B.C.)
9.oracle against Egypt, Ezekiel 29:171127 (571 B.C.)
10.oracle against Egypt, Ezekiel 30:207111 (586 B.C.)
11.oracle against Egypt, Ezekiel 31:11311 (586 B.C.)
12.oracle against Egypt, Ezekiel 32:111212 (585 B.C.)
13.oracle against Egypt, Ezekiel 32:1715(12 from 32:1)12 (585 B.C.)
14.fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel 33:2151012 (585 B.C.)
15.a vision of new Jerusalem, Ezekiel 40:110125 (573 B.C.)

VI. HISTORICAL SETTING

See Appendix Four

VII. LITERARY UNITS

A. Ezekiel's prophecies can be divided into two radically different messages.

1. Before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. his sermons were characterized by a call for repentance (i.e., Ezekiel 14:6, Ezekiel 14:18) because of the coming judgment of God (Ezek. 1-32).

2. After the fall of Jerusalem his sermons (for the most part) turned to hope, restoration, and forgiveness (Ezek. 33-48).

B. Brief Outline

1. His call to ministry, Ezek. 1-3

2. The sinfulness of the Covenant People and the fall of Jerusalem, Ezek. 4-24

3. God's judgment on the surrounding nations, Ezek. 25-32

4. God's promise of restoration of His people, city, and Temple, Ezek. 33-37

5. Apocalyptic invasion from the north, Ezek. 38-39

6. A vision of the restored Temple, Ezek. 40-48

VIII. MAIN TRUTHS

A. The Jews were suffering because of their own sin, not YHWH's weakness.

B. Covenant faith has both a corporate and individual aspect. The New Covenant mentioned in Jeremiah 31:31-34 is basically individual, as are chapters 18 and 33. The New Covenant was also guaranteed by God's action (cf. Ezek. 36-37). This is the same balance between God's sovereignty and humanity's covenental responsibilities expressed in the NT.

C. God is faithful to the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and David (2 Samuel 7:0). The Covenant will be reestablished (cf. Ezek. 37, 40-48). Exile was an act of love (i.e., disciplining parent).

D. The problems for the Jews are not over, Ezek. 38-39 (cf. Daniel 7-12). There is an ongoing struggle between the people of God and fallen humanity (Psalms 2:0).

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