“Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you.” The Spirit came into me as He spoke, and He set me on my feet. I listened carefully to His words. “Son of man,” He said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against Me to this very day. They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them. (Ezekiel 2:1-2 NLT)
What’s Going On?
Ezekiel was one of the Jews deported from Judah, along with King Jehoiachin, ten years before the Fall of Jerusalem. We learn that he is from a family of priests and living in a settlement of exiles along the Kebar/Chebar River in Chaldea, just south of Babylon. He is thirty years old when the Lord began to speak to him and show him visions, prophesying to the other exiles in Babylon. We’ll read about two of his visions this week (chap 1 and 8) and then another next week (chap 40). These visions seem odd to us, but can you imagine how odd they would have seemed to its original audience?
Ezekiel, like all of the prophets, will deliver messages from God. The messages are given to Ezekiel both directly and indirectly, both verbally and visually, both literally and symbolically, involving both heavenly things and earthly things. Sometimes God will tell him exactly what to say and other times He will use parable and allegory. Notice the way the words are laid out on the page. This is written mainly in prose where most of the other books in this section are written as poetry.
While Jeremiah was called to deliver the Word of God to the people in Jerusalem, Ezekiel will speak only to those already in exile. Ezekiel may have known Jeremiah, but if you remember, the priests didn’t take too kindly to the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem. After these prophecies came true, it’s possible that Ezekiel remembered the words of Jeremiah and understood them more clearly. But, like Jeremiah, Ezekiel will also speak of a future restoration of Jerusalem. His message in the first part of the book is one of judgment but next week he will turn to words of Salvation. Hope. There was a flicker of hope amidst all of the despair.
There will be a lot of symbolism used throughout the book of Ezekiel with references to Israel and Judah as well as Jerusalem and Babylon. Sometimes these will be obvious as in chapter 16 where Israel is the bride who prostituted herself with others. Other times these symbolisms aren’t as obvious. I’m sure there are volumes of research on the matter, but as we read through Ezekiel just notice the wide range of symbols used, even if we don’t understand them all.
When and Where Are We?
Ezekiel probably arrives in Babylon during the second wave of deportations in 597 BC. (The first wave was in 605.) This is about ten years before the Fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel lives as an exile in the Babylonian kingdom and most scholars agree that Ezekiel never physically went back to Israel but was transported there in his visions only. Some of the story takes place in Jerusalem, but Ezekiel is probably a thousand miles away and only able to witness the events through his visions. Notice that many of Ezekiel’s prophecies have specific dates giving historical accuracy.
- Ezekiel – priest, prophet, seer living in Babylonian exile during the time of the Fall of Jerusalem; often called “Son of Man.”
- Nebuchadnezzar – ruler of Babylonian Empire
- Jehoiachin – the last king of Judah who is deported as an exile to Babylon
- Zedekiah – Jehoiachin’s uncle who is left to rule the remaining Jews after Jehoiachin is taken away
- “The prophets of Israel” – usually refers to the false prophets
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Ezekiel 1-5
- Tuesday: Ezekiel 6-9
- Wednesday: Ezekiel 10-12
- Thursday: Ezekiel 13-16
- Friday: Ezekiel 17-20
- Saturday: Ezekiel 21-24