As we begin our review of Ezekiel, let me set it in proportion. It is some 600,000 words long in its original languages. To put that into perspective, there are approximately 50,000 words per 200 pages of any book. Below is the basic number of Hebrew words used in each of the following books.
1 Jeremiah 33,002
2 Genesis 32,046
3 Psalms 30,147
4 Ezekiel 29,918
5 Exodus 25,957
6 Isaiah 25,608
If it were placed in a stand-alone paperback book, Ezekiel would contain approximately 120 pages to put some perspective on the size of three of the major prophets: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah.
Without a doubt, Ezekiel is the most neglected of all the major prophets. Ezekiel's style of writing is filled with intricate visions, allegories, and parables, so it lends itself to being fancifully corrupted by those with science-fiction, extraterrestrial, UFO-type imaginations. Ezekiel has long been a place to make beyond-Gospel fiction seem a reality. Due to the perplexing visionary detail of the book and our cultural lack of familiarity with its symbols, it has almost been completely abandoned.
Written by Ezekiel, son of Buzi (1:1; 8:1; 33:1; 40:1-4), it is a book filled with what I would call propho-dramas (prophetic-dramas). In chapter 8, Ezekiel is found digging a hole in the wall of the Temple to witness the vilest of idolatry. In chapter 4, he engraves the siege plans for the city of Jerusalem on a brick. In chapter 5, he cuts off his hair and then scatters it in the wind to provide a word picture for the coming confusion. All of these kinds of communication have led to Ezekiel’s being ignored.
Beyond the style of writing, his content has presented problems for years. Unlike other literary prophets of his day, Ezekiel seems to go back to earlier times of prophetic utterance where an almost hypnotic-like state was experienced. He thus appears more mystical than his contemporary prophets, leading to the opinion that his book may be less essential.
It is my hope during this review to restore Ezekiel’s relevance to our sacred bookshelves.
The Prophet Ezekiel
The prophet Ezekiel was born during the reign of Josiah. See the chart below taken from http://www.biblequestions.org/bqar419.html.
This timeline concerns the last three kings of Judah.
The year of Ezekiel's birth was the year King Josiah launched a huge spiritual revival for the worship of Yahweh. In the middle of Josiah's revival, he was killed in a battle at Megiddo. Josiah was seeking to slow the Egyptian army and their Assyrian allies, which were advancing north to take on Babylon.
With the death of Josiah, the last reformation of Judah was brought to an abrupt end, and Judah began an unbridled downward spiral into idolatry.
Shallum was placed on the throne in Josiah's place, taking the name of Jehoahaz. He was deported swiftly to Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaoh Neco then placed Eliakim on the throne, who took on the name Jehoiakim. It was then, during Jehoiakim's reign, that Nebuchadnezzar defeated the allied forces of Assyria and Egypt in the famous battle of Carchemish. Assyria was never heard from again. Egypt was thoroughly routed.
Jehoiakim immediately shifted his loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar, and it was at this time that Daniel and others from the royal family became the first to be deported to Babylon (Daniel 1:1).
Jehoiakim became a loyal vassal to Nebuchadnezzar for three years and then decided not to pay the annual tax required for protection. While Jehoiakim flexed his independent muscle, Nebuchadnezzar began to march.
In an outrage, Nebuchadnezzar led his army to Jerusalem to correct the rebellion and its treachery. By the time Nebuchadnezzar’s army arrived, Jehoiakim was dead and Jehoiachin, an eighteen-year-old teenager, was installed in his place. The teenager determined to withstand the Babylonian army and did so for three months.
Eventually, Jerusalem surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and thousands of hostages were taken captive to Babylon, among them Ezekiel, the temple treasures, the officials, and the men of valor (2 Kings 24:10-17).
Nebuchadnezzar enthroned Mattaniah, Josiah's third son, who took on the name Zedekiah.
Ezekiel and His Family
Ezekiel was a married priest (1:3), who possessed a tender relationship with his wife (24:16). It is likely that Ezekiel had no children by her, and she died in the ninth year of their captivity (24:1); this was used in a prophetic way to picture a coming judgment.
Ezekiel and His Prophetic Ministry
The fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. marked the middle of Ezekiel's ministry. Although Jerusalem's fall did not mark the chronicle middle of his message, the tone certainly changed based on that watershed event.
Jerusalem's fall (593–586 B.C.) was the pivotal event in the prophet’s career. That disaster divided Ezekiel’s ministry into two distinct phases. In the first phase, Ezekiel sought to destroy the illusion that God would never allow for the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple. Ezekiel also shattered the prospects that Judah would return to her homeland quickly.
After the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel's tone radically changed over the next fifteen years. Ezekiel sought to capture what it would require for Judah to return in absolute faith to Yahweh and become, once again, a repentant people.
Ezekiel had to be the most visionary and symbolic prophet of the Old Testament.
His prophetic contemporaries are shown in the timeline below, taken from http://www.seekyethetruth.com/Branham/resources-deep-prophets.aspx
Ezekiel's message is basic and simple: Yahweh is faithful to His purpose. He is a Father Who disciplines His wayward children but never, under any circumstances, abandons them.
Unlike any other prophet, Ezekiel portrays Yahweh as the God of all glory Who is supreme, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, holy, and exalted above all others, not just in strength but in glory. He also portrays God as gracious and compassionate, tenderly calling Judah to return.
Isaiah reveals Yahweh as Savior, Jeremiah as Judge, and Daniel as the King, but Ezekiel reveals Yahweh as the Glory of all Creation. In this book, the reader experiences both the reprisals of God and restoration of God.
The Outline of Ezekiel
Vision of the Throne 1-3
Judah Judged (4-24)
Foreign Nations Judged (25-32)
Jerusalem Judged (33-39)
Vision of Restoration (40-48)