Introduction to the Book of Ezekiel
and Study of Ezekiel 1-3
August 24th


Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Ezekiel (Overview)

Ezekiel was a prophet during the same era as Jeremiah. However he had been exiled to Babylon along with King Jehoiachin and 3,000 other Jews in the year that we now refer to as 597 B.C. He began his role as a prophet five years later and continued to lived among the exiles in Babylon.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem, where he experienced the final siege of the city that began in 588 B.C. The siege ended in 586 B.C. when the wall was breached, Zedekiah was captured and the temple was looted. Ezekiel and Jeremiah never mention each other directly, but their themes are complementary regarding the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem and eventual redemption.

Ezekiel is the third of the four major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel), and the last long book in the Old Testament, totaling 48 chapters. By contrast, each of the remaining books is no longer than 10-12 chapters. With regard to the organization of their respective books, Jeremiahís moves back and forth between years like a time travelerís diary while Ezekielís book follows a chronological order that makes it easier to understand the context in any given chapter. However there is a lot of symbolism that may require some time, thought, and reflection to fully understand. The themes include God's control over all of creation and his initiative to become involved in the world. We will also see how important it is for us to recognize and acknowledge the sovereignty of God, as evidenced by a clause that appears over 60 times, "Then they will know that I am LORD (1)." Having just concluded many weeks of intense study of Jeremiah we might be tempted to skip Ezekiel, claiming that we already know the story. However, itís worthwhile to hear the story from a different perspective Ė from one already in exile. Moreover, the style and experiences of Ezekiel are unique relative to his peer back in the Holy City.

The report from Ezekiel is also a reminder that Godís intervention is not limited to a single geographic area of the world. He can appear and interact with people in Babylon or anywhere else just as easily as he did in Jerusalem.

The study can be divided up into six major sections(2), which we have dispersed over a two and a half week period as shown below:

    Ezekiel's call 1.1ó3.27

      Ezekiel 1-3 (Ezekiel Saw the Wheel ) - August 24th

    Messages of doom on Jerusalem 4.1ó24.27

      Ezekiel 4-7 (Laying Down on the Job ) - August 25th
      Ezekiel 8-11 (Exit of the Glory of the LORD) - August 26th
      Ezekiel 12-14 (We Walk Sightless Among Miracles) - August 27th
      Ezekiel 15-16 (New Covenant) - August 28th
      Ezekiel 17-19 (Parable of the Eagle and the Cedar) - August 29th
      Ezekiel 20-23 (History of Corrupt Leadership 101) - August 30th
      Ezekiel 24 (Parable of the Cooking Pot) - August 31st

    God's judgement of the nations 25.1ó32.32

      Ezekiel 25-26 (Judgment Against Other Nations) - September 1st
      Ezekiel 27-28 (No Miracle Catch for This Tyre) - September 2nd
      Ezekiel 29-32 (The Cattle Will Not Be Coming Home) - September 3rd

    God's promise to his people 33.1ó37.28

      Ezekiel 33-34 (The Watchman) - September 4th
      Ezekiel 35-37 (Woe to Edom, Hope for Israel) - September 5th

    Prophecy against Gog 38.1ó39.29

      Ezekiel 38-39 (Prophecies Against Gog) - September 6th

    A vision of the future Temple and land 40.1ó48.35

      Ezekiel 40-42 (Plans for a New Temple) - September 7th
      Ezekiel 43-46 (Return of the Glory of the LORD) - September 8th
      Ezekiel 47-48 (Conclusion of Ezekiel) - September 9th


References used for the study of this book include the following:

  • Alexander, Ralph, Ezekiel, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1976 (good relatively brief analysis - divisions of Ezekiel for this study has been based in part on the outline found in this book)
  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984
  • Fee, Gordon D., Stuart Douglas, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002
  • Heschel, Abraham Joshua, The Prophets, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, New York (originally published by Harper & Row in 1962)
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005
  • Taylor, John B, Ezekiel, an Introduction and Commentary, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester England and Downers Grove, IL, 1969 (good indepth analysis)

Ezekile 1-3 (Ezekiel Saw the Wheel)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

- Ezekiel 1:1 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

The first three chapters of this book describe Ezekielís vision of God and his commission from God to prophesize regarding the coming destruction and restoration of Jerusalem. Ezekiel records the time and place in Babylon where he experienced a dramatic vision of God. At first it looked like a normal windstorm on the horizon, but it was much more than that.

Ezekiel recorded a detailed description of an out-of-this-world vehicle that resembled a chariot. The vehicleís structure featured a set of four living creatures that looked like part man and part beast, but it also had four sets of intersecting wheels that moved according to the will and spirit of the creatures - and the wheels were filled with eyes!

A voice could be heard coming from above the structure. There was a figure that looked like a man. This figure was surrounded by brilliant light and spoke to Ezekiel. Ezekiel recognized him as the LORD.

Chapters 2 and 3 describe the conversation between the LORD and Ezekiel. God gave Ezekiel his assignment to speak to the people of Israel, even if they would not listen:

    You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.Ē

    - Ezekiel 2:7-8 (NIV)

Then the LORD showed Ezekiel a scroll and commanded Ezekiel to eat it. Ezekiel obeyed, and noted the pleasant taste of the words from the LORD.

The LORD than repeated the assignment - but in more detail. He made clear that Ezekiel was supposed to warn the people, even if they did not listen. The people could save themselves by listening but Ezekiel would not be held responsible for their decision. He would be saved as long as he spoke to them as the LORD instructed.

At the end of the third chapter, Ezekiel records that the LORD told him to remain mute until he told him otherwise, and Ezekiel complied.

    And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house.

    But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.

    - Ezekiel 3:26-27 (KJV)

Reflection and Application

The description of Ezekielís vision is worth re-reading several times in order to try to picture it in oneís mind. It might remind some of us of a computer-enhanced science fiction movie like ďAvatar.Ē But this was not a scientific observation and it was certainly not fiction Ė it was a true vision from heaven that captured Ezekielís attention and has captured the attention of artists for many centuries.

Is this account from Ezekiel hard for us to swallow? We have read about many miracles so far, but up to this point in the Bible there had not been anything quite like this one. But then again, there had not been destruction quite like what Jerusalem experienced. As humans we are unable to understand the scope of actions that God could or would do to achieve his plan. We ought to prepare ourselves for encounters with God that may be beyond our imagination.

How did you like the part where God makes Ezekiel swallow a scroll? Was this some cruel hazing ritual or an important symbolic act? To his credit, Ezekiel did not hesitate, and was rewarded with the sweet taste of honey. Ezekiel is asked to perform a lot of unusual tasks, but rarely raises any objections. This is a model for us to follow: If we receive unusual directions from God, we ought to follow them and will one day taste the sweet honey.

It is very important for us to take notice of Ezekielís role with regard to saving other people. His job is solely to speak the LORDís message. The remainder is up to God and the free will of this person. The same rule applies to us. We are not responsible for saving anyone else, but we are called to share the Good News. God will do the rest.

Two examples of artistic interpretation of Ezekiel's vision are provided below. One is the traditional gospel song about Ezekiel performed by The Charioteers, an American choral group that perfomed Gospel and Popular music in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s:

"Ezekiel Saw the Wheel"


The second example is from an unknown modern artist who created a YouTube video with an animated interpretation of the vision, which you can see by clicking the object below:

"Vision of Ezekiel Chapter 1"


Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection


Related Questions

  1. What is the strangest animal you ever saw?
  2. What types of assignments would you expect God to give you?
  3. What types of assignments do you hope that he does not give to you?
Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we know that you are capable of any miracle. Help us to appreciate and understand the miracles all around us.

Suggested Prayer Concerns
Wildlife photographers

Footnotes

(1) Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993, p.930
(2) British Bible Society, Good News Bible digital version, "Introduction to Ezekiel,", August 24, 2016

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Ezekiel 4-7 (Laying Down on the Job)

Comments and Questions
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