Philippe R. Sterling
The fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity are necessary measures for the God of glory to employ to correct His disobedient nation; but the day is coming when God will restore a repentant remnant of His chastened people and establish them in a glorious latter-day theocracy with a new temple.
To the casual reader the Book of Ezekiel can be a perplexing ever changing kaleidoscope of whirling wheels, flying creatures, flashing swords, boiling pots, skeletons that challenge focus and understanding. To the attentive reader it can be a fascinating and spiritually rewarding revelation of the God of glory, His judgment of sin, and His purpose to dwell with a purified people in a beautiful and fruitful land.
The author of the book is “Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi” (1:3). His prophecies date from the 5th year of Jehoiachin’s exile (1:2) to the 27th year (29:17). Nebuchadnezzar deports Jehoiachin and other captives with Ezekiel among them to Babylon in 597 BC. The fifth year of this exile is 593 BC. God commissions Ezekiel a prophet when he is 30 years old (1:1). He prophesies mainly to the exiles in Babylon before and after the fall of Jerusalem over a span of 22 years. The meaning of his name is “God strengthens. God made him strong to speak to a stubborn and rebellious people (3:4-11).
Literary Structure and Content
The Book of Ezekiel has a threefold arrangement. Chapters 1—24 deal with
God’s judgment of the nation of Judah. Chapters 25—32 deal with God’s judgment of the surrounding nations. Chapters 33—48 deal with the restoration of the nation in the latter days. The book follows a precise chronological movement indicated by notations in the text (1:2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 29:1, 17; 30:20; 31:1, 17; 33:21; 40:1).
Ezekiel focuses on the God of glory. He receives a vision of the God of glory when he is commissioned as a prophet (1:22-28; 3:12). The God of glory departs from the first temple in judgment (9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-25). The God of glory returns to a new temple (43:1-5). God acts to keep His name from being profaned (e.g., 20:9, 14, 22, 39, 44) and to ensure that His people know that He is the LORD (e.g., 6:7, 10, 13-14).
Ezekiel presents his messages in varied ways to get the attention of a wayward people. He performs dramatic acts, presents sermons and elegies, and relates visions, parables, proverbs, allegories.
I. Judgment of the Nation: God removes His glorious presence from the temple and brings about the fall of
A. The Glory Revealed: The God of glory enlists Ezekiel as His prophet (1—3).
1. The God of glory comes to Ezekiel in the land of the Chaldeans (1:1-3).
2. Ezekiel describes his vision of the God of glory (1:4-28).
- Ezekiel describes his vision of the four living creatures.
- Ezekiel describes his vision of the four wheels.
- Ezekiel describes his vision of the expanse.
- Ezekiel describes his vision of the throne of the God of glory.
3. Ezekiel relates his call and commission from the God of glory (2:1—3:27).
- God sends Ezekiel to a wayward people (2:1-7).
- God gives Ezekiel a scroll to eat (2:9—3:3).
- God appoints Ezekiel a watchman to Israel to sound the alarm of impending judgment on Jerusalem
B. The Glory Removed: God removes His glorious presence from the temple and carries out His covenant
judgments against His people (4—24).
1. Prediction of Judgment: Ezekiel warns the exiles of God’s impending judgment against Jerusalem
through signs, sermons, and vision (4-11).
- Ezekiel acts out four signs of the siege of Jerusalem and explains the meaning of the signs: the sign of the
of the defiled bread—the severity of the siege, and the sign of the shaved head and divided hair—the
results of the siege (4—5).
- Ezekiel delivers two sermons on the cause and nature of God’s judgment of the nation with the promise
- Ezekiel relates his vision of the wickedness in the temple, the execution of God’s judgment on the
in Jerusalem and the future restoration of those in captivity, and the final departure of the God of glory
from the city (8—11).
2. Certainty of Judgment: Ezekiel gives a new series of signs and messages when the people still refuse
to accept the fact of judgment (12—19).
- Because of the people’s unbelief, Ezekiel acts out two more signs of impending captivity: the sign of
trembling while eating (12:1-20).
- Ezekiel delivers five messages concerning the certainty of judgment: a message that repudiates a
imminent judgment, a message against the false prophets and prophetesses, a message
condemning idolatry, and a message of the inevitability of judgment despite the presence of a few
righteous people (12:21—14:23).
- Ezekiel relates three parables on judgment: the parable of the fruitless vine, the parable of the
- Ezekiel gives a message concerning individual responsibility (18).
- Ezekiel concludes the section with a lament for the princes of Israel (19).
3. Righteousness of Judgment: Ezekiel reviews the nation’s history of disobedience and prophesies about
its judgment (20—24).
- Ezekiel gives a message about Israel’s past rebellion and future restoration (20:1-44).
- Ezekiel relates the parables of the forest fire and the sword of the LORD—the sword drawn, the
- Ezekiel gives a series of three messages on judgment: the cause of judgment—the abominations of Israel,
and people (22).
- Ezekiel relates the parable of the two adulterous sisters Oholah and Oholibah—their infidelity and
- Ezekiel relates the parable of the boiling pot (24:1-14).
- God uses the death of Ezekiel’s wife as a sign of the pain to be felt by the captives at the news of the fall
Note the emphasis of the book on the city of Jerusalem:
- Portrayal of the Siege of Jerusalem (4) Judgment
- Abominations in Jerusalem – Sin City (8)
- Unfaithfulness of Jerusalem – Sin City (16)
- News of the Siege of Jerusalem (24:2) Turning Point
- News of the Taking of Jerusalem (33:21)
- Measurements of the New City – City of God (48:30-35) Restoration
II. Judgment of the Nations: The God of glory will judge the surrounding nations for their sins against His
God’s judgment began in Israel and expands to the surrounding nations. Ezekiel pronounces God’s curse on seven nations for their sin against His people: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, Egypt. God will execute his judgments on the nations and restore Israel back to the land (28:25-26).
Ezekiel delivers a long prophecy against Tyre. He tells of the destruction of the city. He singles out the ruler of Tyre for his pride and takes up a lamentation over the king of Tyre who is perhaps Satan the spirit ruler of Tyre influencing the human ruler of Tyre (28:1-19). Paul calls Satan the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). Jesus calls him the ruler of this world who will be cast out (John 12:31).
III. Restoration of the Nation: The God of glory returns and establishes His renewed people in a latter-day
theocracy with a new temple from which flows a life-giving river (33-48).
A. Return of the Nation to the Land – New Life: God returns a united nation to the land and gives the
people spiritual life (33—39).
1. God reappoints Ezekiel as a watchman (33).
God first commissioned Ezekiel to a ministry of judgment (3:16-21). Now He reappoints him to bring a message of restoration. Ezekiel receives this commission when the news of Jerusalem’s fall reaches the captives in Babylon – “The city has been taken” (33:21). He is to speak first to those who remained in the land and then to those who are in Babylon.
2. God will replace the false leaders with a true shepherd (34).
- Ezekiel prophesies against the false shepherds of Israel who brought the nation to ruin (34:1-10).
- God will deliver His flock and set David as a shepherd over them and make a covenant of peace with
3. God will judge the nation’s enemies as represented by Edom (35).
4. God will renew the nation and restore it to the land (36—37).
- Israel can look forward to blessing in the land (36:1-15).
- Israel can look forward to physical and spiritual restoration (36:16-38). The spiritual restoration will
- Ezekiel reinforces the promise of restoration by relating the vision of the valley of dry bones and the sign
- Israel can look forward to the establishment of a new Davidic kingdom under an everlasting covenant
5. War between God and Gog: God will intervene in the latter days on the nation’s behalf (38—39).
There will be a future invasion of Israel by a confederation of nations led by Gog. God will supernaturally defeat this coalition of nations. The battle has two results: the nations will see the glory of God and the nation will turn back to God.
B. Return of the God of Glory to the Nation – New Order: God establishes a new theocratic order for the
nation in the land (40—48).
In the 25th year of his exile Ezekiel receives a final set of visions which focus on a restored temple, worship, land and city in what we now know will be the Messianic Age. All of the detail emphasizes the importance of the worship of the God of glory who comes once again to dwell with a redeemed and renewed people.
1. Messianic Temple: There will be a new temple (40—43:9).
- A vision of the new temple comes to Ezekiel in the 25th year of the exile in 573 BC (40:1-4).
- Ezekiel watches an angel measuring the temple precincts (40:5—42:20).
- Ezekiel watches the God of glory come into the temple (43:1-5).
- The temple will serve as the earthly dwelling place of the God of glory among His people (43:6-9).
2. Messianic Worship: There will be a new worship system (43:10—46:24).
- The people are to follow the law of the house (43:10-12). Its entire area on the top of the mountain
- A new worship system will allow access to the God of glory for the priests, the prince, and the
death, provide for the fellowship purification of the priests and temple, express thanksgiving and dedication
3. Messianic City and Land: There will be a life-giving river flowing from the temple and the tribes will
receive their portion in the land with access to the new city (47—48). The name of the city shall be
“The LORD is there” (48:35).
The Book of Ezekiel focuses on the God of glory who judges and restores His people. In His holy wrath against His people’s perverse idolatries, He removes His glorious presence and brings about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in spite of the ongoing disbelief of the exiles. The surrounding nations will also experience judgment for their sins. In accordance with His covenant faithfulness, He will restore His people and dwell with them once more. The God of glory dwells with a purified people. Know that He is the LORD and worship Him.
The appearances of the God of glory may be appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ. He is the one who will come and rule from His earthly throne in the new temple in the coming Kingdom age (see 21:27).