Sep 15, 2019: Ezekiel Overview*

AUTHOR AND DATE

The book of Ezekiel records the preaching and message (collection of 52 oracles) of the sixth-century Hebrew prophet. Ezekiel’s name literally means “God strengthens,” appropriate for a man whose call was to prophesy to a people who had been carried into exile by a foreign power. Ezekiel prophesied in the years following the exile of the Israelite people to Babylon that began in 597 B.C. In fact, Ezekiel himself was one of those carried from Jerusalem to Babylon and settled along the Chebar canal. Many of Ezekiel’s prophecies are explicitly dated, with the earliest coming in the summer of 593 B.C., about four or five years after the exile, and the latest about 22 years after that.

AUDIENCE

Ezekiel prophesied to a people in exile, who were tempted to doubt both the power and the justice of their God. His messages, therefore, stress God’s universal reign and the absolute rightness of his judgment of his own people. Ezekiel’s message is not all about judgment though. Grace shines through, as he also gives the exiled Israelites a series of beautiful messages about God’s ability and determination to restore them, to bring them out of exile, and to give them life, where there has only been death. Most of all, however, he reveals to God’s people that even though they are currently in exile, God has determined that one day he will dwell among them forever. Thus, the book ends with a description of God’s city, and its name “The LORD is There.”

THEME & PURPOSE

Ezekiel spoke to a community forced from its home; a people who had broken faith with their God. As the spokesman for the God of Israel, Ezekiel spoke oracles that vindicate the reputation of this holy God. This radically God-centered point of view finds its sharpest expression in 36:22–23, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name…And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name…And the nations will know that I am the LORD”. Thus, the primary purpose of Ezekiel’s message was to restore God’s glory before the people who had spurned it in view of the watching nations. But Israel’s own welfare was bound up with its God. So, the prophet pleads: “Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live” (18:31–32).

Ezekiel’s message was unrelenting. Of all the books in the Old Testament, only Psalms, Jeremiah, and Genesis are longer. Ezekiel’s uncompromising message is matched by language that often seems harsh and sometimes offensive. If there is no softening his language, at least it appears that the grandeur of Ezekiel’s vision of God rendered much of the earthly reality he observed as sordid, and worse. The appropriate response, in Ezekiel’s terms, is not simply revulsion but repentance and a longing for the restoration of God’s glory.

OUTLINE

  1. Inaugural Vision (chapters 1–3)
  2. Judgment on Jerusalem and Judah (chapters 4–24)
  3. Oracles against Foreign Nations (chapters 25–32)
  4. After the Fall of Jerusalem (chapters 33—39)
  5. Vision of Restoration (chapters 40—42)

* Taken from the ESV STUDY BIBLE

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

Monday: Ezekiel 4 Thursday: Ezekiel 7
Tuesday: Ezekiel 5 Friday: Ezekiel 8
Wednesday: Ezekiel 6 Saturday: Ezekiel 9