While Jeremiah was prophesying in Jerusalem that the city would soon fall to the Babylonians, Ezekiel was giving the same message to the captives who were already in Babylon. Like those in Jerusalem, the captives stubbornly believed that Jerusalem would not fall and that they would soon return to their land. Ezekiel warned them that punishment was certain because of their sin, whether they believe it or not.
Ezekiel condemns the sinful actions of seven nations. The people in these nations were saying that God was obviously too weak to defend his people and the city of Jerusalem. But God is allowing his people to be defeated in order to punish them for their sins. These pagan nations, however, would face a similar fate, and then they would know that God is all-powerful. Those who dare to mock God today will also face a terrible fate.
After the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel delivered messages of future restoration and hope for the people. God is holy, but Jerusalem and the temple had become defiled. The nation had to be cleansed through 70 years of captivity. Ezekiel gives a vivid picture of the unchangeable holiness of God. We too must gain a vision of the glory of God, a fresh sense of his greatness, as we face the struggles of daily life.
Writer of Ezekiel
Ezekiel is both the name of the sixth-century B.C. prophet and the title of the book that records his preaching. Ezekiel’s name (Hb. Yekhezqe’l) means “God Strengthens” or “May God Strengthen,” appropriate for a prophet called to proclaim a message of uncompromising judgment and later a message of restoration for God’s sake, not Israel.
The book of Ezekiel is more frequently dated than those of the other Old Testament prophets. The first date of the book takes the reader to the summer of 593 B.C., five years after the first group of exiles was deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. The latest dated oracle comes 22 years after that summer, in April of 571 B.C.
To Whom Written
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 of oracles that vindicate the reputation of this Holy God. 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.
One of the greatest insights of the book of Ezekiel is its teaching of individual responsibility. The Jewish people had such a strong sense of group identity as God’s covenant people that they tended to gloss over their need as individuals to follow God and His will. He also makes a clear reference to the Messiah, a prophecy fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem more than 500 years later.
Special Consideration of Ezekiel
In his use of parables, symbolic behavior, and object lessons to drive home his messages, the prophet Ezekiel reminds us of the great prophet Jeremiah. Ezekiel portrayed God’s covenant people as a helpless newborn child (16:12), as a lioness who cared carefully for her cubs (19:1-9), and as a sturdy cedar (17:1-10), and as a doomed and useless wine (chapter 15). He also carried his belongings about to show that God would allow His people to be carried into exile by the Babylonians (12:1-16).
Click here to download or print the Bible outline “Ezekiel – Punishment is Certain“.