|9th Century Prophets||8th Century Prophets||7th Century Prophets||Exilic Prophets||Post-exilic Prophets|
The book is named after its author Ezekiel, whose name means “God strengthens.”
God’s glorious presence departs in justice and returns in mercy.
To encourage the exiles to remain faithful to the Lord so that he would fulfill his offer to restore them to the promised land and rebuild the temple and Jerusalem to new heights of glory.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 1304.[/footnote]
4. Key verses
And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city (Ezekiel 11:23)
And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory (Ezekiel 43:2).
5. Key truths
• Judah and Jerusalem deserved the judgment of total destruction and exile.
• Judgment comes on those who have themselves flagrantly violated the law of God.
• God will judge the nations who have turned against his people.
• God would bring great blessings to his people after the exile.
• The center of the restored people of God would be Jerusalem and its temple.[footnote]Ibid., 1304.[/footnote]
1. Personal background
Ezekiel is unknown apart from this book. In 593 BC he was 30 years old (Ezekiel 1:1). This means he was born in 623 BC during the reign of the good king Josiah. He was, therefore, a child when the book of the law was recovered in the course of renovating the Temple in 621 BC. The years of his boyhood and youth were spent in the bright reformation period that followed that recovery. He was a member of a priestly family (Ezekiel 1:3) and was of sufficient status to warrant inclusion among the upper-class hostages whom Nebuchadnezzar took with him to Babylon in 597 BC. There, he settled in a community of exiles called Tell-Abib, about fifty miles south of the city of Babylon. He was a married man, though his wife died in 587 BC when the siege of Jerusalem began (Ezekiel 24).
In 593 BC, at the age of 30, when he should have been taking up his priestly duties in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was called by God to his prophetic ministry in Babylon. He was a respected preacher among the exiled Jews there, although there was not much fruit from his ministry. His last dated sermon was in the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, or 570 BC (Ezekiel 29:17-21). His ministry, therefore, lasted about 22 years.
2. Prophet and/or priest
It is not known whether Ezekiel ever functioned as a priest in the Jerusalem Temple. His knowledge of the Temple and sacrificial system was probably a result of earlier training for the priesthood. He calls himself a priest in Ezekiel 1:3, and his description of the new Temple and cultic functions in Ezekiel 40-48 remove all doubt about his priestly interests.
In Ezekiel prophet and priest converge; it can hardly be said that one role serves the other. Despite the strong cultic elements in the book, he is foremost a prophet. Yet the two offices contribute their essential strengths through him to bring the coming kingdom of God into sharp focus. Each had that as their distinct religious function in Israelite life, so in combination they could theoretically usher in the kingdom with much greater power. The unutterable tragedy in 586 B.C. proved the accuracy of prophetic vision and delineated the necessity of the Temple system, especially the dejection of life without it. It is no accident that when the restoration began to take real shape in the days of Zerubbabel, it did so under the cooperative tutelage of prophets and priests. It would be presumptuous to suggest that Ezekiel had anything to do with that facet of restoration, but it is fair to say that he saw the potential of both offices, empowered by the Lord’s Spirit, to produce the kingdom toward which both had aimed.[footnote]C H Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
3. Single authorship
The book claims to be written by Ezekiel several times (Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 33:1; Ezekiel 40:1-4). Thirteen prophecies are dated and placed by reference to Ezekiel’s life and times. The unity of the book is supported by the unity of theme that runs through it: God’s vengeance in Israel’s destruction and God’s vindication in Israel’s restoration.
Similarity of thought, style, phrasing and arrangement make it clear that the entire book is the work of one mind. The evidence for the authenticity of Ezekiel is so convincing that some scholars who otherwise take a critical view toward the Old Testament have written in support of the book’s claims for itself.[footnote]J E Smith, The Major Prophets (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
A word about Ezekiel’s part in the composition of the book is in order. The dating system that almost consistently uses Jehoiachin’s exile as its reference point, the homogeneity of thought, the well-balanced prophetic/priestly approach to Israel’s present dilemma and future hope, and the consistency of language patterns all point to a single author.[footnote]C H Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
4. Unusual behaviour
Ezekiel’s unusual behaviour has been the subject of much debate. He lies still for long periods (Ezekiel 4:4-7), remains dumb (Ezekiel 3:24-27; Ezekiel 24:25-27; Ezekiel 33:22), does not mourn his wife’s death (Ezekiel 24:15-27), is transported hundreds of miles in visions (Ezekiel 8:1-4), sees strange events (Ezekiel 1-3; Ezekiel 8-11; Ezekiel 15-18; Ezekiel 21; Ezekiel 23-24; Ezekiel 37-48), and performs unusual actions (Ezekiel 2:12; Ezekiel 5:1-4; Ezekiel 12:3-5). Although other prophets have similar experiences (Jer. 16:2; Jer. 27:2; Jer. 28:10; Jer. 32:8-15), only Ezekiel has been regarded as either mentally unstable or mentally ill.
The book of Ezekiel is different from other prophetic books primarily in the frequency with which such actions are encountered, While modern preachers tend to illustrate their sermons with stories, Israel’s prophets more often used props and presented their sermons in symbolic actions. Their behaviour was the culturally expected and symptomatic behaviour of those possessed by God’s Spirit. The prophet so identified with the fate of his people as vicariously to take their suffering on himself and to dramatize their fate in his own agony. Rather than find his behaviour peculiar or appalling, we ought to see in it the depths of his commitment to God and to his people and to appreciate the way in which the prophet was bearing the shame that so often accompanied proclaiming God’s Word. Ezekiel became a prophetic symbol of his people even in his bodily life, as it were submerged in their dying, overwhelmed by the destructive power of the divine wrath which he himself proclaimed, anticipating the punishment of his fellow countrymen by willingly bearing their guilt.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 319.[/footnote]
5. Ezekiel and other prophets
Daniel and Ezekiel ministered at the same time in the same country. Although they seemed to know one another (Ezekiel 14:14,20 and Ezekiel 28:3), their ministries were quite different. As a palace administrator, Daniel honoured God by witnessing to the King of Babylon and by looking after the interests of the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Ezekiel was a more traditional preacher who went about witnessing to the exiles in person and the remnant in Jerusalem by written word. God gave them different roles but both were vital in His plan for His people.
1. Date of Ezekiel’s ministry
Ezekiel ministered to the Jewish captives who lived near the Kebar River Valley [Ezekiel 1:1], a canal stemming from the Euphrates river. He began prophesying in the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile (Ezekiel 1:2) which was 593 BC and 7 years before Jerusalem’s destruction. His last dated message was in Jehoiachin’s 27th year, 571 BC, 16 years after Jerusalem’s destruction.
The fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC was the most critical event in Ezekiel’s ministry. Prior to that he consistently prophesied God’s just judgment to fall on Jerusalem for her sins. He repeatedly dashed the false hopes of the exiles that Jerusalem would be spared and they would soon be returned there. After Jerusalem was destroyed, Ezekiel began to preach a message of hope and restoration via the path of repentance and trust in the Lord.
2. Location of Ezekiel’s ministry
There has been some debate over whether Ezekiel prophesied in Babylon exclusively. Chapters 8-11 give the impression that Ezekiel was actually present to see events unfold in Jerusalem. This has led some to conclude that his ministry began in Jerusalem and only later moved to Babylon. Others have suggested that Ezekiel travelled frequently between the two places. However, the evidence favours a single Babylonian residence. The insight into events in Jerusalem is easily explained by God given visions of what was happening in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:3). Ezekiel often describes his visionary experiences in terms of transport by the Spirit (Ezekiel 3:12,14; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1,24; Ezekiel 40:1-3; Ezekiel 43). The fact that much of his message in chapters 1-24 would seem to be addressed to the Judahites still in their own land is explained by open channels of communication between the two communities in Jerusalem and Babylon (Ezekiel 33:21; Jer. 29). The fact that the prophet is portrayed as enacting messages for the benefit of Jerusalemites may be explained in a similar way, or else it was for the benefit of the many Jerusalemites (perhaps up to 10,000) who were already in captivity with him in Babylon.
The large collections of oracles against foreign nations in the canonical prophets did not require that the prophet travel to those places to deliver them. We need to make a distinction common in literary theory between the putative and actual audience to understand this clearly. Nahum provides another good example: though his ministry and preaching are ostensibly oriented to Assyria (putative audience), the book itself is intended for an audience in Israel (actual audience). When Ezekiel proclaimed oracles about events in Jerusalem, the actual audience to whom he spoke was his fellow exiles. Furthermore, there is ample evidence for frequent contact between the exiles and their countrymen in Israel. Letters to and from the exiles speak eloquently of this.[footnote]Ibid., 318.[/footnote]
3. The writing of his ministry
The earliest possible date for composition is after 571 BC (Ezekiel 29:17). It was definitely written before the Cyrus edict of 538 BC because this important event is not referred to. It was also probably written before the death of Nebuchadnezzar for there is no mention of the excitement and hope that might have been created by the release of Jehoiachin from prison on the monarch’s death.
Earliest date: 570 BC
Latest date: 538 BC
Most likely date: 560-570
III. Historical Analysis
|623||Ezekiel born into priestly family during reign of good king Josiah|
|621||Law recovered during temple renovations leading to reformation (2 Kings 22-23)|
|612||Fall of Nineveh occurs with the rise of Babylon|
|609||Josiah dies at Megiddo in battle against Egypt
Judah dominated by Egypt
Josiah’s son Jehoahaz made king by people and rebels against Egypt
Egypt deports Jehoahaz and Neco (king of Egypt) makes Jehoiakim vassal king of Judah
Idolatry begins to spread again in Judah
|605||Babylonians defeat Egypt at Carchemish
Judah dominated by Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar established as King of Babylon
Daniel taken captive (Dan. 1:1)
|601||Jehoiakim rebels against Nebuchadnezzar when he suffers setbacks in war against Egypt|
|597||Nebuchadnezzar moves against Jerusalem
Jehoiakim dies and his son Jehoiachin and other high-class families (including Ezekiel) exiled to Babylon
Babylon installs Zedekiah as king of Judah
|593||Ezekiel called to prophetic ministry aged 30|
|588-586||Zedekiah rebels against Babylon
Jerusalem destroyed by Babylonians
2. Chronological references
Ezekiel apparently had very methodical habits of recording events and dates. This is seen especially in connection with the messages he received from God. The dating is based on the month, years and days of the deportation of King Jehoiachin who was carried away to Babylon in 597 BC. This would suggest that despite his deportation and replacement with Zedekiah, Jehoiachin was still regarded by the Israelites as the legitimate king of Judah
News of Jerusalem’s Fall
|Jul. 31, 593
Sep. 19, 592
Aug. 14, 591
Jan. 5, 587
Jan. 7, 587
Apr. 30, 587
Jun. 21, 587
Sep. 18, 587
Jan. 4, 585
Mar. 4, 585
Mar. 18, 585
Apr. 29, 573
Apr. 26, 571
[footnote]J E Smith, The Major Prophets (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
Although Ezekiel wrote in Babylon, his prophecies address Israel and the surrounding nations (Ezekiel 25-32). In addition are references to other Mediterranean cities and areas (Ezekiel 27). There is also mention of Gog, an aggressive foreign ruler from Magog. He was prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal (Ezekiel 38:1-2), the latter two areas now known to be located in Turkey.
IV. Literary Analysis
1. Comparative Outlines
Fate of Judah (desolation)
Foes of Judah
Future of Judah and Israel
The Prophet’s Call and Commission
Prophecies against Judah prior to the Fall of Jerusalem
Prophecies against Heathen Nations
Prophecies of reconstruction and restoration after the fall
Judgment against Judah
Judgment against the Nations
Restoration and reconstruction for Judah
The glory departs
The glory returns
Ezekiel shows the same literary structure as several other prophetic books. They begin with a series of oracles oriented largely to judgment during the historical moment in which the prophet himself lived, then turn to an extended section of oracles against foreign nations, and conclude with prophecies of blessing more oriented to a distant future.
2. Original meaning
Ezekiel had three messages for three distinct periods in his audience’s life.
|Chapters||Ezekiel 1–24||Ezekiel 25–32||Ezekiel 33–48|
|Time||Before the fall of Jerusalem
|During the Siege of Jerusalem
|After the Fall of Jerusalem
|Theme||Judgment against Judah||Judgment against the nations||Restoration and reconstruction of Jerusalem|
|Message||God will graciously use Jerusalem’s fall and Babylonian captivity to chastise and correct His disobedient people.||God will judge the nations used to chastise His people.||God will yet restore a repentant remnant of His chastened people in a new kingdom with a new temple and new blessings.|
The captives and many of the people remaining in Jerusalem hoped that the exile would be short, that those who had been deported would soon be returned to the city and that Jerusalem would be spared further disaster. The false prophets encouraged this belief. Since the Lord had chosen Jerusalem as his dwelling and had defended the city in the past, it was popularly believed that Jerusalem was inviolable, Much of Ezekiel’s preaching was devoted to warning the exiles that a worse fate was yet in store for Jerusalem—the city would be destroyed.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 1304.[/footnote]
Ezekiel’s message of hope had credibility because his prophecies of doom came true in his audience’s experience.
The theme of Ezekiel’s prophecy is that the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity are necessary measures for the God of grace to employ if He is to correct His disobedient people and draw them back from complete and permanent apostasy. But the day is coming when Jehovah will restore a repentant remnant of His chastened people and establish them in a glorious latter-day theocracy with a new temple.[footnote]G L Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
3. Literary Character
Ezekiel’s writing contains a mix of oral discourses, visions, symbolic actions, allegories and apocalyptic.
a. Oral discourses
Ezekiel spoke to the exiles personally, usually prefaced by “Then the word of the Lord came unto me saying…” Sometimes we are told that God commanded him to “speak” or “say.”
Due to the number he saw, Ezekiel is known as “The Prophet of Visions.” God revealed truth to Ezekiel in a variety of pictorial and audible forms. Some of Ezekiel’s visions are:
Vision of the Cherubim (Ezekiel 1:4-28)
Vision of the Roll or Scroll (Ezekiel 2:9-3:3)
Vision of the Plain (Ezekiel 3:22-23)
Visions of Jerusalem: (Ezekiel 8-11)
Vision of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-10)
Visions of the New Temple and Associated Scenes (Ezekiel 40:1-48:35)
c. Symbolic Actions
Ezekiel used symbols more than any other prophet. God asked him to do strange things in order to startle his audience and interest them in his message. God told Ezekiel, “I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 12:6). So his symbolic actions were revelatory signs. Some of the things he was commanded to do must have been extremely hard and trying. He was continually exposing himself to the jeers and scorn of the sceptical, but the serious-minded asked him to explain (see Ezekiel 12:9; Ezekiel 24:19; Ezekiel 37:18).
In these actions message and messenger were combined into one inseparable mode of communication. Consistently some words of interpretation accompanied them, and most often the dramatic signs focused on the destruction of Jerusalem and the resulting conditions of siege and exile.[footnote]Walther Zimmerli, Ezekiel 1 , pp. 19–20[/footnote]
Some of Ezekiel’s signs are:
|Sign of the Brick
Sign of the Prophet’s Posture
Sign of Famine
Sign of the Knife and Razor
Sign of House Moving
Sign of the Sharpened Sword
Sign of Nebuchadnezzar’s sword
Sign of the Smelting Furnace
Sign of Ezekiel’s Wife’s Death
Sign of the Two Sticks
|Jerusalem’s siege and fall
Discomforts of captivity
Deprivations of captivity
Utter destruction of the city
Removal to another land
Babylon the captor
Judgment and purging
Reunion of Israel and Judah
Biblical allegories are stories which teach spiritual lessons. They differ from symbolic actions only in that allegories teach by words, whereas the symbolic actions teach by actual events. The main allegories of Ezekiel are:
|The wood of the vine||Ezekiel 15:1-8||The uselessness of Judah for anything other than burning|
|The foundling||Ezekiel 16||The nation’s rejection of God’s pity and love|
|The eagles and the cedar||Ezekiel 17||King Zedekiah’s foolishness which would bring Babylon against Jerusalem|
|The fiery furnace||Ezekiel 22:17-22||God will purify His people through the “hot” siege of Jerusalem|
|The two harlots||Ezekiel 23||Israel and Judah’s spiritual adultery|
|The cooking pot||Ezekiel 24:1-14||God will cleanse the nation of its impurities by turning up the heat|
|The shipwreck||Ezekiel 27||The judgment that was going to fall on Tyre|
|The irresponsible shepherds||Ezekiel 34||How God would deal with the nation’s worthless leaders|
|The dry bones||Ezekiel 37||The spiritual renewal of Israel|
Ezekiel is similar to Daniel and Revelation in its use of apocalyptic language, which is characterized by symbolism, visions, allegories, parables and symbolic actions.
Sometimes called the “father of apocalyptic,” Ezekiel has a place of distinction in the development of the literary genre known as apocalypse. Several elements of apocalypse appear incipiently in the book: journeys under the propulsion of the Spirit or the hand of Yahweh (Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 40:1-2), visions accompanied by an interpreter or guide (Ezekiel 40-48), and review of history under the guise of symbolism with accompanying interpretation, followed by prediction (Ezekiel 17:3-10,12-21,22-24).[footnote]C H Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
The prophecy of Ezekiel may be regarded as the immediate precursor of the apocalyptic movement. There is a strong affinity between Ezekiel and Daniel (cf. Dan. 7); the connection maybe confirmed by explicit reference to Daniel in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:14,20). If the animal symbolism in those two books is influenced by the Babylonian context, it represents a bold introduction of symbols and art forms of the pagan world. Both books also make a sharp distinction, familiar from later apocalyptic, between the heavenly and earthly spheres. Both have a pessimistic view of the earthly sphere and see little hope in the historical process. Hope is centred in the heavenly realm, from whence Israel’s salvation will come. These perspectives are characteristic of apocalyptic.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 152.[/footnote]
V. Thematic Analysis
1. Judgment and Restoration
The theme of Ezekiel’s prophecy is that the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity are necessary measures for the God of grace to employ if He is to correct His disobedient people and draw them back from complete and permanent apostasy. But the day is coming when Jehovah will punish His people’s enemies, restore a repentant remnant of His chastened people, and establish them in a glorious latter-day theocracy with a new temple.
2. The transcendence of God
Isaiah emphasized God’s salvation, Jeremiah focused on His judgment, and Daniel on His kingdom. Ezekiel stressed the glory of the Lord. To Ezekiel, Jehovah was no mere local or national divinity but was infinitely exalted above the earth, beyond the creation and beyond the prophet, clothed with honour and majesty. The phrase “glory of the Lord” or its equivalent appears eleven times in the first eleven chapters of his book. Key verses which reflect this are: Ezekiel 1:1b, Ezekiel 28b; Ezekiel 2:3; and Ezekiel 3:23.
3. The holiness of God
A holy God could not tolerate an unholy people. God, therefore announces in Ezekiel 4-24 that he will no longer ignore the nation’s sin, especially the sin of idolatry.
Ezekiel stressed that God is holy (Ezekiel 39:7). His name is holy (Ezekiel 36:21f; Ezekiel 39:25). Ezekiel’s God could not overlook sin. Because of the corruption of Jerusalem, he had withdrawn his glory from the Temple (Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23). This holy God placed blistering denunciations against the sin of Judah on the lips of Ezekiel. If anything, this prophet’s condemnation of spiritual waywardness was even more severe than that of Jeremiah.[footnote]J E Smith, The Major Prophets (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
The effect of the exile would be to purify and purge the people so that a purified remnant would live in obedience to a holy God (Ezekiel 6:8; Ezekiel 9:8; Ezekiel 11:12-13; Ezekiel 12:16; Ezekiel 14:22-23).
4. The Sovereignty of God
God rules over the heavens and the earth, of Israel and the Gentiles, individuals and nations. Heathen nations and kings were His providential tools and instruments.
The use of the emphatic first person (“I myself”) to reinforce the subject of the verb (God) illustrates the emphasis upon divine action (Ezekiel 16:60,62; Ezekiel 17:22; Ezekiel 34:11; Ezekiel 34:15; Ezekiel 34:20).
5. The Grace of God
Despite God’s judgment He would not abandon His election of Israel. A remnant of the nation would survive the exile, inherit the promises and be restored to the land.
God would again be in their midst (Ezekiel 48:35; cf. Ezekiel 11:20; Ezekiel 14:11; Ezekiel 36:28; Ezekiel 36:23,27). The nation would again live under a Davidic prince (Ezekiel 37:24-25; Ezekiel 45:7) who would rule righteously (Ezekiel 34:23). God would give to his people a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-28). The God who had abandoned his temple (Ezekiel 10) would return to it in glory again (Ezekiel 43).[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 325.[/footnote]
Yahweh has no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23,32; Ezekiel 33:11). In the midst of thundering threats, he woos his wayward people to repentance (Ezekiel 14:22; Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 20:11). Though his people were undeserving of his mercy (Ezekiel 36:32), yet he promised to them a glorious future.[footnote]J E Smith, The Major Prophets (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
On the one hand God declares that He will turn His face from Israel (e.g., Ezekiel 7:22), and on the other that He will not hide His face from them any more (Ezekiel 39:29). At one pole Israel drives Yahweh from His sanctuary (Ezekiel 8:6), and at the other Yahweh gives instructions for a new Temple where He will take up His everlasting residence (Ezekiel 37:26-28; Ezekiel 40-48). The glory of the Lord leaves the Temple (Ezekiel 11:23), and it returns (Ezekiel 43:1-5). He gives up the land to destruction so that even Noah, Daniel, and Job could not save it (Ezekiel 14:12-20), and He reclaims and repartitions the land for His people (Ezekiel 47:13-48:35). On the one side Israel breaks the Mosaic covenant (Ezekiel 16:59), and on the other the Lord establishes an everlasting covenant. The shepherds neglect His flock (Ezekiel 34:10), and He Himself becomes the good Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:11).[footnote]C H Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
6. Recognition formula
The phrase “they/you will know that I am the Lord” or its equivalent occurs over 70 times (Ezekiel 2:5; Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 6:7,10,13-14; Ezekiel 7:4,9,27; Ezekiel 11:10,12; Ezekiel 12:15-16,20; Ezekiel 13:9,14,21,23; Ezekiel 14:8,23; Ezekiel 15:7; Ezekiel 16:62; Ezekiel 17:21,24; Ezekiel 20:12,20,26,38,42,44; Ezekiel 21:5, and in many other verses). It is often called the “recognition formula.” When the Lord brought to pass what Ezekiel had announced beforehand, Israel and the nations would know that Yahweh was God. To bring Israel to the knowledge of the Lord was the aim of classical prophecy, as Jeremiah explained when he used this terminology to explain the effects of the new covenant.
Ezekiel’s stress on that object far outruns any OT prophet and anticipates the emphasis that Jesus in the gospel of John places on His mission to establish the knowledge of God. The degrees of that knowledge range from mere recognition of Yahweh as sovereign God of the world to knowledge of Him as Saviour of Israel. It encompasses a range that extends from mental perception to dynamic interaction with Yahweh’s moral demands and acts in history. Even His judgment on the nations eventuates in the knowledge of the Lord, although it is likely sovereign knowledge rather than saving knowledge. However, at last the whole world will know Him as Yahweh, will know that He is Israel’s God and that there is no match for Him among the gods of the nations.[footnote]C H Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
The “knowing of the Lord” is a way of expressing the vindication of God and His character. This is what Ezekiel is most concerned with, and His judgment on Israel and the nations together with the eventual restoration of Israel are means to the great end of protecting and promoting His reputation.
VI. New Testament Analysis
There are at least sixty-five direct or indirect quotations of Ezekiel in the New Testament, forty-eight of them in Revelation.
It is true that Ezekiel does not have so many direct prophecies of the Messiah as Isaiah. The emphasis is more on the effects of the Messiah’s person and work. Nevertheless, as we shall see, there is significant teaching regarding the Messiah.
The Messiah is represented as a “tender twig” taken from the highest branch of the cedar of Judah’s royalty, then planted upon a high mountain (Ezekiel 17:22–24). He is the one to whom the diadem of Israel’s sovereignty rightfully belonged and to whom it would be given after it had been removed from the head of the wicked Zedekiah (Ezekiel 21:27). The Messianic “David” would be a faithful prince among God’s restored people. He would perform all the functions of a true and faithful Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:23f), ruling over them as king (37:24). This Prince would eat and drink before the Lord in his capacity of special representative of God’s people (44:3).[footnote]J E Smith, The Major Prophets (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]
VII. The Message of Ezekiel
Original Message: The predicted judgments against Judah and the nations have come to pass, therefore the restoration and reconstruction of Judah will come to pass
Present Message: Just as God’s predicted judgment against the Church and the nations have come to pass, so the restoration and reconstruction of the Church will come to pass.