THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
Ezekiel was among the captives who were taken to Babylon with Jehoiachin, king of Judah. He was placed by the river Chebar. The elders of Israel, who were in captivity, resorted to him for directions, see Ch. 8:1. During the first eight years of his ministry, he was contemporary with Jeremiah. Daniel also lived at the same time, see Ch. 28:3. The kind of reception the people gave to his ministry is described in Ch. 33:30-38. The book of Ezekiel abounds with sublime visions of the Divine glory, and also contains severe denunciations of Israel because of their rebellious spirit against God. Similar words of judgement are also uttered against certain Gentile nations. The book closes with a word concerning the restoration of Israel, and gives a description of the new temple, which will be used during the kingdom age.
The prophecy can be divided into seven parts, each containing the expression, “The hand of the Lord was upon me”. The following titles are suggested:
Chs. 1 to 3:9. Ezekiel’s preparation and commission.
Chs. 3:10-21. The prophet’s commission as watchman.
Chs. 3:22 to 7:27. Ezekiel’s second vision of the glory.
Chs. 8 to 33:20. Jehovah justified in His judgments.
Chs. 33:21 to 36:38. The future kingdom of the Son of David.
Chs. 37 to 39. The restoration of Israel and judgement of the nations.
Chs. 40 to 48. Worship in the kingdom age.
EZEKIEL’S PREPARATION AND COMMISSION.
The sin of Israel was very acute in God’s sight. So much had been promised them, and to have to punish a people whom He would much rather bless was not an easy thing for our loving Lord to do. In order that God might not be misunderstood, and His acts of judgement be seen in the right line, the prophet was given “visions of God”, Ch. 1:1. In v.3, we read concerning Ezekiel that “the hand of the Lord was there upon him”, and as he looked he saw four living creatures. These are identical with the Cherubim who may be regarded as always a vindication of God in His acts. Such is usually the purpose of their presence, see Genesis 3:24; Exodus 37:9; Revelation 4:6-8. The reason for their appearance to Ezekiel was to vindicate God in His coming acts of judgement and in the chapters, which follow the sins, which caused the outbreak of Divine wrath, are enumerated. The prophet through the vision was thereby prepared to state God’s case, and after he was filled with the Spirit, Ch. 2:2, he was told what he should say to the people, and how unresponsive they would be to his message.
THE PROPHETS COMMISSION AS WATCHMAN.
In Ch. 3:14 we read “the hand of the Lord was strong upon me”, and in v.17, Ezekiel was told that he was to be a watchman unto the house of Israel, to warn the wicked lest he die in his sin without a timely word from God.
EZEKIEL’S SECOND VISION OF THE GLORY.
This section begins in Ch. 3:22 with the same expression, “the hand of the Lord was there upon me”, and in the next verse we read that the prophet saw the glory of the Lord, which had previously appeared to him. Ezekiel was again filled with the Spirit, and moved to enact two symbolic object lessons to the people.
First of all he was made dumb, v26. He was then told to use tile and portray a miniature siege of Jerusalem, Ch.4:1-2. He was then to portion out his good so that it would represent a straitened condition such as besieged people would suffer. The prophet was also told to take a razor and shave off his hair, Ch.5:1. His hair was to be weighed and divided, part burned with fire, part smitten with a knife, and part scattered in the wind. All this was done to demonstrate the overthrow of the nation, and their treatment by their captors. The land also would be made desolate and only a remnant of the people would be allowed to remain, Chs. 6-7.
JEHOVAH JUSTIFIED IN HIS JUDGEMENTS.
Using again the same expression, “The hand of the Lord God fell there upon me”, the prophet tells how he saw a third vision of the glory of God, Ch.8:1-4. Other visions exposing the hidden sinful condition of the people were then given to Ezekiel to explain why God was so displeased with them. The manner in which they had profaned the temple was shown, vs.5, 8-12, 13-14, 15-16, and in another vision the prophet saw the slaying of the people of Jerusalem, Ch.9. After being given a few more visions of like nature, Ezekiel was shown the glory of the Lord departing, and he made the same known to the people who were in captivity, Ch.11:22-25.
In Ch. 12, the prophet was told to prepare his goods for moving as a sing of the coming captivity, and to cover his face as a sign that the rule would grope his way when he tried to escape, and that he should afterwards be blinded by Nebuchadnezzar and taken captive to Babylon, v.13; and Jeremiah 52:11. In Chs. 13 to 24, still more is said about the sins of the people and their rulers, and by visions and parables God showed the reason for His displeasure, that He might be vindicated in His chastisement of Israel. Ezekiel’s wife was taken from him by a stroke, Ch 24:16-18. This was to be a sign of the great calamity, which would come to the people when Jerusalem would be overthrown, and the rest of the nation would go into captivity.
Following this the prophet gives a series of predictions of judgment against the neighboring nations, Chs. 25-32. The Ammonites, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Zidon, and Egypt are thus mentioned, all of whom would be overthrown by the king of Babylon. Special mention should be made of Ch. 28, in which we find first of all a reference to the prince of Tyrus, and then in vs. 11-19 the figure is enlarged under the title of the king of Tyrus, and Satan in all his original majesty is clearly pictured. His everlasting defeat is also mentioned. Ch. 33:1-20 closes this section with the ethical instructions to those who were in captivity.
THE FUTURE KINGDOM OF THE SON OF DAVID.
Again we read the expression, “The hand of the Lord was upon me”, Ch. 33:22. This is followed by a prediction of Israel’s future. After speaking a word against the faithless shepherds, the prophet shows how the Lord’s sheep will be gathered and David the good Shepherd will be over them, Ch.34:11-15, 23-24. This refers to the future kingdom of Christ, the Son of David.
When the people are restored the land will also enjoy the return of God’s blessing, Ch. 36:1-15, and the people we be restored spiritually so that God can dwell among them as in times past, vs. 16-38.
THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL AND THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS.
After the statement of the above-mentioned restoration the prophet again uses the expression, “the hand of the Lord was upon me”. Then he tells of seeing a vision of a valley full of dry bones, Ch. 37:1. Being caused to prophecy over the dry bones he saw them come together, and after the wind was commanded to blow over them, they stood upright as a great army. Ezekiel was informed that this represented the whole house of Israel, which would be fully restored. Then by joining together two sticks the prophet was told to instruct the people that it was a sign of the future union of Israel and Judah, vs. 11-22.
Gog and Magog are referred to as a people who would become allied in a war against Palestine and God Himself would fight against them, Chs. 38-39. Bible students usually speak of these two peoples as those northern European powers who in the end time will combine their forces under antichrist and fight against the holy land, but Christ will overthrow them when He is revealed in mighty power taking vengeance upon His enemies, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. So great will be the slaughter that blood will reach to the horses bridles for a distance of two hundred miles, Revelation 14:20, and it will take seven months before the last bone is buried, Ch. 39:12-14.
WORSHIP IN THE KINGDOM AGE.
With the expression once more, ”the hand of the Lord was upon me”. Ch.40:1, Ezekiel draws our attention to a description of the great temple, which will be erected in Jerusalem and used during the millennium. As it is pictured in details one finds it difficult to visualize the structure in all its glory and beauty, but it is surely going to be a very wonderful edifice. In Ch. 47, a river of water is shown issuing out from under the threshold of a door of the temple, and it flows to a deeper depth the farther it goes. A good spiritual lesson can be drawn from this of the river of life which flows from God’s heavenly temple to our souls, and we go deeper and deeper into the grace of God the farther on we go. The last chapter tells of the division of the land, of the portions for the Levites and for the Prince, and closes with the mention of the name of the city in that day, Ch. 48:35. It shall be called Jehovah-shammah, “the Lord is there”. Thus the glory, which departed, shall be restored, and God shall dwell in the midst of His people.