Understanding The Book Of Ezekiel – Talking Christianity

The Book Of Ezekiel:

Book Of EzekielBook of Ezekiel – The prophet Ezekiel had the thankless job of proclaiming God’s message on the crowded and hostile streets of Babylon. At the same time Jeremiah was warning the citizens of Jerusalem of the coming destruction of that holy city, Ezekiel was preaching the same message to exiles in Babylon. Even though these exiles were hundreds of miles away from the Promised Land and the temple, God would not leave them in the dark. Instead He sent Ezekiel to warn, exhort, and comfort the weary exiles.

Book Of Ezekiel About The Author:

Ezekiel received and reported revelations from the living God as an exile in Babylon during 593-571Bc. All that is known of this solitary prophet comes from the prophecy, and no compelling data exist for the acceptance of any author other than the one named in the book itself: Ezekiel, son of Buzi (a priest), who was taken captive with Jehoiachin and other Hebrews in 597 B.C.

Since he was from a priestly family, Ezekiel was a priest as well as a prophet. Therefore he was well acquainted with the Levitical laws and rituals as well as the temple and its regulations. This becomes evident when writes of his apocalyptic vision of the future messianic temple. Furthermore, he has a detailed knowledge of the Mosaic covenant, including the ethical, moral, and spiritual requirements of God’s revelation and the inevitable results of obedience or disobedience to God’s law. Even though his exiled audience was cut off from the temple, the priesthood, and the related ceremonies and feasts, the prophet Ezekiel informed the exiles not only of these details, but also of the importance of obeying God’s law and seeking after Him.

More About The Author:

The book of Ezekiel reveals that the prophets was married (see 24:15-18) and had a house (see 3:24; 8:1). Overall, he enjoyed a large measure of freedom in captivity. The Babylonians had not captured the Jew in order to make them slaves in Babylon; instead they wanted to displace the population of Israel, especially its leadership and nobility, and settle their own citizens and other foreigners in the land. As for his personality and abilities Ezekiel appears to have been articulate, intelligent, and dramatic. He was a person that could withstand great opposition in order to obey the demands God placed on his life.

Chronology Of The Book Of Ezekiel:    

Unlike most biblical prophetic books, Ezekiel gives considerable attention to chronology and exact dates throughout his book. No other prophet provides so many dates (thirteen). By utilizing the data from archaeology and the most recent research into the calendar systems of the ancient Middle East, a précised dating of many events in Ezekiel is possible. The key to dating the opening chronological notice and the other specific dates in Ezekiel is the reference in 1:2 to the “fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity.”  In 2 King 24:2, this deportation is equated with the “eighth year of (Nebuchadezzar’s) reign” or 597 B.C.

Ezekiel began prophesying in 593 B.C calling attention to the Babylonian captivity of Judea. He ended in 571 B.C with a message on God’s coming judgment upon Egypt at the hand of the same Babylonian monarch. Ezekiel prophesied during four different periods: 593 – 588 B.C (1:1 – 25:17); 587 – 585 B.C (26:1 – 29:16; 30:20 – 39:29); 573 B.C (40:1 – 48:35); and 571 B.C (29:17 – 30:19). In all, Ezekiel prophesied from 593 to 571 B.C, a period of twenty two years surrounding the climatic fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Religious And Literary Context Of The Book Of Ezekiel:

During Ezekiel life and ministry, Israel (in northern Kingdom was corrupt politically and spiritually). Their idolatry led to captivity by Assyria in 722 B.C. The leadership of Judea (the southern Kingdom) at that time was righteous; but eventually they too, although experiencing brief revivals at times, fell into idolatry of the neighboring nations. The people refused to heed the prophets’ reminders about the curses and blessings promised by God in the Mosaic covenant.

Ezekiel prophesied that there would come catastrophe and captivity for Judah and Jerusalem. Yet he also has a message from God concerning eventual restoration and renewal, based on God’s faithfulness to the promises of all the covenants made with His people since Abrahamic covenant.

In speaking to his fellow exiles in Babylon, Ezekiel experienced and then employed visions (chapter 1-3, 8-11; 37; 40-48). These visions are similar in structure to “dreams visions” known from Mesopotamian literature of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. These texts have two main sections: (1) an introduction to the setting and general situation, including time, place, circumstances, and the person involved; and (2) a description of the vision. In chapter 37; 40-48, Ezekiel uses such a format to introduce apocalyptic visions – revelations that symbolically describe the end times. Living in Babylon, both Ezekiel and his audience were familiar with this type of literature.

Other Means Of Communication:

Elsewhere, Ezekiel employs themes and illustration from the religious life and literature of the societies whose judgment he predicts. Typically the nations under God’s judgment were those that had mistreated Israel or had led them into idol worship. The exiles and those Israelites still living in Judea knew the religious behavior and beliefs of their neighbors and would not be puzzled by the prophet’s language.

In addition to visions and religious themes, Ezekiel uses many literary techniques to communicate God’s message to the exiles: both prose and poetry, parables and proverbs, lamentations and dirges, allegories and puns.

Book Of Ezekiel Historical Setting:

Ezekiel ministered in Babylon, at Tel Abib near the Chebar River. This is in the southeastern section of the modern Iraq, northwest of the Persian Gulf. The Babylonian settled the Jewish exiles in this region to colonize them.

Ezekiel’s ministry was primarily to those Jews deported from Judea by the Babylonians and any Israelites that remained in exile from previous deportations by the Assyrians. Still his message had great instructional and practical significance for the Hebrews remaining in Israel and for the surrounding pagan nations, whose fate he foretold. Although Ezekiel was transported in visions to Jerusalem (see chapter 8; 11), those revelations were always for the benefit of him and those to whom he was speaking in exile.

Ezekiel’s warnings of national calamity include warnings of disease, death, destruction and deportation. Yet because of God’s unconditional promises and through the people’s repentance, God’s spiritual and material blessings would return to the people. Ezekiel’s purpose was to remind His people of their spiritual unfaithfulness (chapter 16) and of God’s faithfulness to His own promises.

Ezekiel showed the people how judgment was a natural outcome of a holy God’s wrath against sin. It was also a loving God’s means of disciplining His people to correct their beliefs, redirect their behavior and restore intimate fellowship between Himself and them. Thus Ezekiel preached to the exiles the imminence of God’s judgment and the need for individual and national repentance.

Themes Of The Book Of Ezekiel:

The book of Ezekiel stresses the ultimate aim of God’s charity and chastisement: that “they shall know that I am the LORD.” The refrain is repeated 65 times in the book and emphasizes that the purpose of God’s action is always to bring about the spiritual renewal of all people.

Ezekiel teaches both individual and corporate responsibility for sin before God (chapter 18, 23). While themes of idolatry, social injustice, public and private immorality, imminent judgment, and future blessings of restoration and redemption are not unique to Ezekiel, his prophecies relate these themes to the centrality of the temple and the influence of the sacrificial system in the life of Israel. Past defilement and disobedience by the priests and people had led to the present dispersion and would lead to further judgment (chapter 4 – 32).

The people’s behavior was intrinsically connected to how they approached their God in worship. Insincere worship would lead to immoral behavior and judgment; proper worship of the living God would lead to moral behavior and blessings. Yet in the end, Ezekiel concludes with the comforting news that a day would come when God’s rule and practical righteousness would return with a new temple and city and a renewed land and nation (chapter 33 – 48).

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