Reflections on Ezekiel

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Kings, Daniel, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy.

Ezekiel, whose name means ‘God strengthens’ or ‘may God strengthen’ was one of the exiles carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar 10 years before the fall of Jerusalem. He was from a priestly family, and had his first vision from God at age 30 (1:1). His last dated vision (40:1) takes place when he is 50 years old. Numbers 4:34-45 contains references to men aged from thirty to fifty years working in the Tent of Meeting. Thus his prophetic ministry coincides with what would have been his priestly service had he been back in Jerusalem!

Here’s a possible outline for the book:

Passage Subject matter
1:1-3:27 The call of the prophet
4:1-24:27 Prophecies against Judah
25:1-32:32 Prophecies against the nations
33:1-39:29 Prophecies of restoration
40:1-48:35 Vision of a new temple

1:1-3:27

Like Isaiah a century before, Ezekiel’s call hinged on a vision of God. The significance of this first vision was that Ezekiel was seeing God outside of Jerusalem and outside the temple there. For the exiles, it was inconceivable that He would would be found anywhere else. The Lord promised He would be with His exiled people, and so it was.

As he describes what he saw, Ezekiel is clearly groping for words. He uses the word ‘like’ a lot, especially in 1:24-28. After that visual and aural spectacle, the vision climaxes in… a voice.

[I mentioned this in my Jeremiah post, but I’ll do it again. The commissioning of the three prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had something to do with their mouths. Another similarity is they were all warned that the people wouldn’t listen. Despite that, they remained faithful!]

4:1-24:27

In 4:1-5:4, Ezekiel acts out parables of judgment. No doubt his fellow exiles passed by his house daily to see what the prophet was up to. I wonder what his wife thought…

5:5-12 gives us God’s reasons for judgment. The Israelites has rebelled against God’s laws. May we pray that we wisely use the revelation we’ve received.

In chapters 8-10, we have Ezekiel’s second vision. God’s people had abandoned Him, and He abandons them and sends fire from His throne to consume the city. Of note are the people whom the Lord preserves: not just those who don’t participate in the gross idolatry but “[T]hose who grieve and lament over all the detestable things” (9:4). Let us pray for a heart that breaks over false worship.

Chapters 16 and 23 contain some really strong language. It’s revolting. It is meant to drive home just how appalling idolatry and sin are in God’s eyes. These chapters form part of the extended biblical metaphor of Yahweh as Israel’s husband in the OT, and the church as Jesus’ bride in the NT.

25:1-32:32

Oracles against Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon and Egypt.

33:1-39:29

Just as the Lord had said, a fugitive reports to Ezekiel the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s six-year silence is lifted by God, and from this point on his messages are of the future restoration of Israel.

In chapter 34, God lashes out at the shepherds (kings) of Israel, and promises that He Himself will shepherd His people. Later in the chapter, He says He will place His servant David over them to shepherd them. Centuries later, a Galilean carpenter would declare, “I am the good shepherd.”

Chapter 36 gives us the motivation for the coming restoration. It is for the sake of the Lord’s holy name. This ties in to one of the refrains in the book, “They/You will know that I am the Lord.”

40:1-48:35

Ezekiel’s last vision is of a restored temple. As I slogged through all the cubits and long cubits, I repeated to myself 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Why is this included in Scripture? Are these directions for the rebuilding of the temple? From my research here’s what I found:

  1. We have no indication that the builders of the post-exilic temple (Ezra, Nehemiah and co.) followed these patterns.
  2. If they had, they would have run into some problems, as the dimensions of this temple exceed those of the temple mount.
  3. Key elements are missing in this description, e.g. the ark of the covenant, the veil, the golden lampstand, the table of showbread, the altar of incense, etc.

[I also wondered, if the prince is a reference to the Messiah Jesus, why would he need to make a sin offering?]

Another refrain in Ezekiel is, “I will be their God and they will be my people.” (11:20, 14:11, 36:28, 37:27). Fittingly, the book ends with God’s people living in a city named The Lord Is There.

Sources: Reformed Theological Seminary, ESV Study Bible, D. A. Carson, Mark Dever, David Jackman.

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