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Introduction to Ezekiel

 

I. NAME OF THE BOOK

 

A. It is named after its chief spokesman, the prophet and priest (from Zadok), Ezekiel.

 

B. His name (BDB 306) meant "God strengthens," "may God make strong," or even possibly, "God is strong."

 

II. CANONIZATION

 

A. This book had difficulty being accepted into the Jewish yearly cycles of liturgy because

1. Ezekiel's temple and procedures are different from those of Moses (i.e., compare Num. 28:11 with Ezek. 46:6)

2. the vivid visionary language, especially chapters 1, 8, and 10

3. the glory of YHWH and His Spirit leaves Jerusalem and moves to the exiles in Babylon (i.e., 10:1-2,18-22; 11:22-25)

 

B. Rabbi Hananiah ben Hezekiah of the rabbinical school of Shammai (the conservative school), is said to have used 300 jars of oil (i.e., staying up late) in order to reconcile Ezekiel with Moses (cf. Shabb. 14b; Menahuth 45a; Hagigah 13a).

 

C. Jewish tradition said that when Elijah returned before the coming of Messiah (cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5), he would solve the contradictions between Ezekiel and Moses (cf. Menah 45a).

 

III. GENRE

 

A. This book contains many genres

1. apocalyptic (chaps. 1, 8-10, 38-39, and possibly 40-48)

2. prophecy (chap. 37, esp. vv. 4,9,12)

3. parables (chaps. 17:2; 20:49; 24:3)

4. lament poetry (chaps. 19; 26:17-18; 27:4-9,25-36; 28:2-23; 30:2-19; 31:2-9; 37:2-8,12-15)

5. dramatic symbols (chaps. 4-5,12,24)

6. allegory (chaps. 16,23)

7. visions (chaps. 1-3, 8-11, 40-48)

 

B. Ezekiel composed most of his messages in written form. They were not given orally, as were Isaiah's and Jeremiah's. They are very structured.

 

IV. AUTHORSHIP

 

A. The authorship of the book has never been doubted. The entire book, except for 1:2-3, is written in the first person, singular (autobiographical, cf. 4:14; 9:8; 11:13). However, much of the first person, singular is direct speech from YHWH.

 

B. Jewish tradition, Baba Bathra 15a, said, "the men of the Great Synagogue wrote Ezekiel and the Twelve." As we have seen in other books the word "wrote" means edited or compiled.

 

C. Josephus' The Antiquities of the Jews, 10.5.1, said that Ezekiel wrote two books. This may refer to the characteristic structure of many of the Hebrew prophets because their books easily divide into two halves (note Isaiah 1-39 & 40-66; Daniel 1-6 & 7-12; Zechariah 1-8 & 9-14 and Ezekiel 1-32 & 33-48). In the first part the historical setting is the author's day. In the second part of the book the setting is the future. This may be the reason why Josephus stated he wrote two books.

 

D. It is written from Babylon (cf. 1:1; 3:11,15; 11:24), but Ezekiel is taken to Jerusalem several times in visions (cf. 8:3; 11:1; 40-48).

 

E. All we know about the prophet Ezekiel is from his book. He is not mentioned anywhere else in the OT.

1. he was born about 623 b.c. in Jerusalem

2. he was a priest of the line of Zadok, 1:3

3. he was married but had no children, 24:16-18

4. he was taken captive when he was twenty-five years old in 597 b.c. by Nebuchadnezzar II along with King Jehoiachin, 1:1; 33:21; I Kgs. 24:14-16

5. he was exiled to a Jewish settlement not far from the city of Nippur on a man-made irrigation canal, Chebar, 1:1,3, called Tel-Abib, 3:15

6. he preached at least twenty-two years, 1:1-2; 29:17

7. he was a strong but compassionate prophet, 9:8; 11:13; 24:16

 

F. His priestly training deeply affects his visions. He is particularly interested in the evil of the current temple (8-11) and the purity of the new temple (40-48).

 

V. DATE

 

A. He was born about 623 b.c. in Jerusalem.

 

B. Ezekiel is one of the seventh century prophets: Jeremiah, Daniel, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah.

 

C. During the period of the rise of Neo-Babylonian power under Nabopolassar and the crown prince Nebuchadnezzar II, God spoke through these prophets in different localities.

1. Daniel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 b.c. He was exiled to the palace in Babylon, Dan. 1:1.

2. Ezekiel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 b.c. along with 8,000 to 10,000 craftsmen, soldiers, and King Jehoiachin and his family, II Kgs. 24:14-16. They were settled in a refugee camp by the Canal Chebar.

3. Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem until the death of Gedaliah (cf. 582 b.c.).

 

D. Ezekiel dates his prophecies (which influenced Haggai [cf. 1:1,15; 2:1,10,20] and Zechariah [1:1; 7:1]). These dates show that the book is not in chronological order. However, if you isolate the oracles against the surrounding nations (i.e., chapters 25-32) the rest are in a chronological sequence.

 

    Day Month   Years of Jehoiachin's exile
1. a vision, 1:1 5 4 30 (?)
2. a vision, 1:2 5 4 5 (593 B.C.)
3. a word from YHWH 12 4 5 (593 B.C.)
4. a vision, 8:1 5 6 6 (592 B.C.)
5. elder's questions, 20:1 10 5 7 (591 B.C.)
6. siege of Jerusalem began, 24:1 (cf. 2 Kgs. 25:1) 10 10 9 (588 B.C.)
7. oracle against Tyre, 26:1 1 ? 11 (586 B.C.)
8. oracle against Egypt, 29:1 12 10 10 (587 B.C.)
9. oracle against Egypt, 29:17 1 1 27 (571 B.C.)
10. oracle against Egypt, 30:20 7 1 11 (586 B.C.)
11. oracle against Egypt, 31:1 1 3 11 (586 B.C.)
12. oracle against Egypt, 32:1 1 12 12 (585 B.C.)
13. oracle against Egypt, 32:17 15 (12 from 32:1) 12 (585 B.C.)
14. fall of Jerusalem, 33:21 5 10 12 (585 B.C.)
15. a vision of new Jerusalem, 40:1 10 1 25 (573 B.C.)

VI. HISTORICAL SETTING

 

See Appendix Four

 

VII. LITERARY UNITS

 

A. Ezekiel's prophecies can be divided into two radically different messages.

1. Before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. his sermons were characterized by a call for repentance (i.e., 14:6,18) because of the coming judgment of God (chaps. 1-32).

2. After the fall of Jerusalem his sermons (for the most part) turned to hope, restoration, and forgiveness (33-48).

 

B. Brief Outline

1. His call to ministry, 1-3

2. The sinfulness of the Covenant People and the fall of Jerusalem, 4-24

3. God's judgment on the surrounding nations, 25-32

4. God's promise of restoration of His people, city, and Temple, 33-37

5. Apocalyptic invasion from the north, 38-39

6. A vision of the restored Temple, 40-48

 

VIII. MAIN TRUTHS

 

A. The Jews were suffering because of their own sin, not YHWH's weakness.

 

B. Covenant faith has both a corporate and individual aspect. The New Covenant mentioned in Jer. 31:31-34 is basically individual, as are chapters 18 and 33. The New Covenant was also guaranteed by God's action (cf. chapters 36-37). This is the same balance between God's sovereignty and humanity's covenental responsibilities expressed in the NT.

 

C. God is faithful to the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) and David (II Samuel 7). The Covenant will be reestablished (cf. chapters 37, 40-48). Exile was an act of love (i.e., disciplining parent).

 

D. The problems for the Jews are not over, chapters 38-39 (cf. Daniel 7-12). There is an ongoing struggle between the people of God and fallen humanity (Psalm 2).

 

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Bible Study Methods