Bible Scholar
« Home  « Previous 
Outline of the Bible
Next »  Have A Question?
Print this Lesson

The book of Ezekiel is the beginning of a new phase in Israelite prophecy, and its form and characteristics differ in style from the books of prophecy we've studied thus far. Ezekiel relies heavily upon apocalyptic images whose meanings have been lost through the centuries. Even its original readers would read apocalyptic pieces for the vivid impressions more than specific de-tails. This genre was commonly used during times of political tur-moil and persecution.

Name - The book is named for the prophet who wrote it.

Author - Ezekiel
    1. Ezekiel was a member of a priestly family. (Ezekiel 1:3)
    2. He was carried away from Jerusalem in the second wave of Babylonian captivity (59 7BC) when he was 25 years old. (Ezekiel 1:2)
    3. While in exile in Tel Abib, Ezekiel was called to be a prophet at the age of 30. (Ezekiel 1:1)
Purpose - Ezekiel has two purposes:
    1. The book tells the "second wave" captives residing in Babylon that further and final judgment against Judah and Je-rusalem is still forthcoming.
    2. Like most of the inspired prophetic books, Ezekiel points to the glory and hope of the future, made possible through Christ.
I. Background of the book.
A. To understand the book of Ezekiel it is helpful to be reminded of the stages of Babylonian captivity.
    1. The first siege by Babylon took place in 606 BC. Daniel and others were taken captive in this group.
    2. The second deportation occurred in 597 BC. Ezekiel was in this group and prophesied to the 10,000 captives-taken- dur-ing this conquest.
    3. In the third siege (586 BC) Jerusalem is sacked, the Temple destroyed, and most of the population taken captive.
    4. Through all of the above, Jeremiah was preaching in Jerusalem.
B. The book employs the first person singular throughout.

C. Ezekiel's prophetic work began in the fifth year of his exile (ca. 592 BC) and extended to at least the 27th year of the exile (ca. 570 BC). (1:2; 29:17)

D. The apocalyptic style of the writing was used to vividly relate tumultuous times of great upheaval. It was loaded with imagery and symbolism familiar to early readers but largely lost on us to-day.

II. Message of the book. The message is the faithfulness of God.
A. He is faithful in bringing consequence for sin. (1-32)

B. He is faithful in keeping his covenant of blessing. (33-48)

III. Outline of the book.
A. Prophecies prior to the fall of Jerusalem. (1:1 -24:27)
    1. Ezekiel is called to serve as a "watchman to the house of Is-rael." (1:1 -3:27)
    2. Through the use of symbols, the destruction of Jerusalem is forecast. (4:1-5:17)
    3. Ezekiel offers two specific oracles about the impending event. (6:1 -7:27)
    4. In the sixth year of his captivity, Ezekiel receives a vision of the idolatry in the Temple and the destruction it will incur be-cause of it. (8:1 -10:22)
      a. In that same vision, Ezekiel saw judgment come on the na-tion's leaders. (11:1-15)
      b. He also foresees Judah's return to their homeland. (11:16-25)
    5. The destruction will occur because of Jerusalem's rebellion (12:1-28), false prophets (13:1-23), and idolatry. (14:1-23).
    6. Allegories and metaphors depicting the punishment are of-fered. (15:1-18:32)
    7. Ezekiel laments over the princes of Israel. (19:1-14)
    8. Additional allegories and illustrations are used to symbolize Jerusalem's destruction. (20:1 -24:27)
B. Prophecies against other nations. (Ezekiel 25:1 -3 2:32, 35:1-15) Prophecies are specifically given about:
    1. Ammon. (25:1-7)
    2. Moab. (25:8-11)
    3. Edom. (25:12-14)
    4. Philistia. (25:15-17)
    5. Tyre. (26:1-28:19)
    6. Sidon. (28:20-26)
    7. Egypt. (29:1-32:32)
    8. Edom. (35:1-15)
C. Prophecies of the future. (Ezekiel 33:1 - 48:35)
    1. Ezekiel is called to be a "watchman". (33:1-20)
    2. He predicts Judah's return to their homeland. (33:21-34; 31; 36:1-38)
    3. The first prophecy of the Christ comes through Ezekiel's vi-sion of the dry bones. (37:1-28)
    4. A prophecy against enemies of the church ("Gog" and "Ma-gog" is given. (38:1-39:29)
    5. A "new Israel" is portrayed in divine splendor and under heaven's protection. (40:1 - 48:35)
IV. Key themes of the book.
A. Prophecies fulfilled.
    1. Certainly Ezekiel's prophecies against Judah came to pass as did the specific destines of the other nations prophesied about.
    2. A clear and classic example is the destiny of Tyre, the major city of Phoenicia. (Ezekiel 26-28)
      a. The Lord said of Tyre, "I will bring many nations against you." (Ezekiel 26:3)
      b. He said, "They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers." (Ezekiel 26:4a)
      c. Further, "I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock." (Ezekiel 26:4b)
      d. Ezekiel also prophesied,"... they will breakdown your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your tones, timber, and rubble into the sea." (Ezekiel 26:12b)
      e. The Lord continued, "I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fish nets." (Ezekiel 26:14a)
      f. Finally, "You will never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spo-ken, declares the Sovereign Lord."
    3. Shortly after this prophecy, King Nebuchadnezzar conducted a 13 year siege (ca. 587-574 BC) against Tyre.
      a. He destroyed the mainland city.
      b. The people fled to an island one-half mile away.
    4. The city recovered and rebuilt until 332 BC when Alexander the Great came against it.
      a. Once again, the people fled to the island.
      b. Alexander had his army tear down the city (on the mainland) and laid the stones, timber, and soil into the sea, building a land bridge to the island.
    5. The city was sacked again by one of Alexander's generals, An-tigonus, in 314 BC.
    6. Today, nothing remains of the ancient city of Tyre.
      a. Where it stood is a solid rock.
      b. To this day, fishermen spread their nets there.
    7. Clearly the source of Ezekiel's knowledge of these events was God.
B. The final 11 chapters. (Ezekiel 38-48)
1. The last eleven chapters of Ezekiel are primary fodder used by dispensationalists.
    a. Chapters 38 and 39 have been made to represent some world power and a great conflict ushering the end of time.
    b. Chapters 40-48 are taken literally (not as the apocalyptic imagery intended) and supposedly calls for a physically rebuilt temple, the reinstitution of animal sacri-fices, a priesthood, Old Testament festivals, etc.
2. The inaccuracy of this interpretation should be readily evident.
    a. It grossly underestimates the nature of Christ's finished aton-ing work. (cf. Hebrews 10:10-14)
    b. It misuses the style or type of literature used in chapters 38-48.
3. The chapters in question surely refer to the coming of the Christ and the covenant He will establish.
    a. Ezekiel 37 closes with, "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. and I will put my sanctuary among them forever." (v. 26)
    b. Chapters 38 and 39 used the names of Jewish enemies as symbols of the persecution and enemies Satan would hurl against the church.
    c. Chapters 40-48 portray the beauty of worship and relation-ship through Jesus Christ.
      [1] The "river from the temple" (Ezekiel 47) surely refers to the "stream of living water" Jesus offered. (John 7:38)
      [2] The prince who serves as the gatekeeper (Ezekiel 44:1 -3) is surely the one who has opened heaven's gate for us.
      [3] The presence of the Lord promised in Ezekiel 48:35 is almost certainly a reference to His Spirit living in us.
    d. In short, Ezekiel 38-48 is not a blueprint for future world events; it apocalyptically portrays the fruition of the covenant made with Israel (i.e. the church)
C Personal accountability.
    1. In our study of the prophets, we have seen several examples of collective responsibility.
      a. A whole nation is punished for the severity and prevalence of sin within it. (e.g. - Judah)
      b. We've seen examples of innocent people taken captive be-cause of the sins of a group. (e.g. - Daniel, Ezekiel)
    2. But Ezekiel also gives us the example of personal accountability. (cf. Ezekiel 3:16-21; 9:4; 18:1-32)
      a. It should be noted here that there is a difference between consequence and guilt.
        [1] At times the innocent may bear some of the consequences from the actions of the guilty.
        [2] However, guilt or innocence is always the result of per-sonal choice.
      b. Ezekiel 18 is a great chapter reflecting on the theme of per-sonal accountability. (cf. Ezekiel 18:4b, 17b-18:30)
    3. This vital principle needs to be taught in every generation.
      a. Jesus had to rebuke the idea of collective righteousness. (cf. John 8:39ff; Matthew 3:7-10)
      b. We need to be reminded that my own ultimate destiny comes through personal choice.
D. The Valley of Dry Bones. (Ezekiel 37)
    1. In what was surely one of the more frightening parts of his vi-sion, Ezekiel saw old, dry bones come to life.
    2. This is obviously a prophecy of the Spirit of life that Jesus would breathe into the new Israel (i.e. - His church).
Go To Top Of The Page