The sins of Israel had become irreparable. The Temple would be destroyed, as the sombre later chapters of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles detail. The people looked up the hill at their Temple, confident that it would protect itself and them from King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and his conquering army. No human king could destroy the habitat of God’s presence on earth! But, as the Talmud describes it, the divine presence was receding from the Temple, stage by stage, in ten stages. Holiness had been there because of the people; when they lost their merit, it lost its holiness. The building on the hill was no longer a ‘temple’, it was merely a grand edifice, a shell, devoid of it sanctity. And then it was reduced to a flaming ruin, with its people dead or driven off to exile and slavery in Babylon.
Such was the world of the prophet Ezekiel, an exiled priest who would never have the opportunity to serve in the Temple of his God. His primary mission was not to the Jews of a dying land of Israel, but to the Jews of Babylon, the exiled Jews who thought that they had lost their share in the God of Israel. They reasoned: ‘Does a husband have a claim to his wife’s loyalty after he divorced her? Does a master have a claim to his slave’s services after he sent him away? And can God still claim us as his people after abandoning us to Nebuchadnezzar?’
To these forlorn Jews, Ezekiel was a prophet of hope, as well as rebuke. Most of his prophecy was to the exiles, although he had much to say to the unheeding Jews of Jerusalem as well. He showed them that he truly shared their suffering, becoming the very symbol of their plight as he pounded his hand and stamped his foot in despair, and lost his own beloved wife in a plague, to symbolise for them that even one’s most cherished possessions – a wife, a Temple – could be stripped away.
But ultimately, Ezekiel is a prophet of hope and triumph. He foretells the time when God will pluck Israel from the nations and sprinkle purifying waters upon it, and replace its stubborn heart with a warm, feeling heart of flesh; when Israel, the humble, battered vine, would rise to dwarf the haughty cedar and redwoods.
Ezekiel is the prophet who was shown the vision of the ‘dry bones’ rising and coming back to life. In his prophecy despair disappears, death turns to life; the ‘corpse’ of Israel becomes a vibrant new nation. Judah and Ephraim – the former southern and northern kingdoms respectively – are united again with a scion of David, the Son of God, as their king, with the land of Israel as their home, and with the Lord as their God.
The Book of Ezekiel is surely a book of tragedy, but not a book of despair, for Israel will rise again and return to its home. There, in Jerusalem, it will assume a new and eternal name: ‘The Lord is There’ (Ezekiel 48:35).
|Introduction||Chapter One||Chapter Two||Chapter Three|
|Chapter Four||Chapter Five||Chapter Six||Chapter Seven|
|Chapter Eight||Chapter Nine||Chapter Ten||Chapter Eleven|
|Chapter Twelve||Chapter Thirteen||Chapter Fourteen||Chapter Fifteen|
|Chapter Sixteen||Chapter Seventeen||Chapter Eighteen||Chapter Nineteen|
|Chapter Twenty||Chapter Twenty One||Chapter Twenty Two||Chapter Twenty Three|
|Chapter Twenty Four||Chapter Twenty Five||Chapter Twenty Six||Chapter Twenty Seven|
|Chapter Twenty Eight||Chapter Twenty Nine||Chapter Thirty||Chapter Thirty One|
|Chapter Thirty Two||Chapter Thirty Three||Chapter Thirty Four||Chapter Thirty Five|
|Chapter Thirty Six||Chapter Thirty Seven||Chapter Thirty Eight||Chapter Thirty Nine|
|Chapter Forty||Chapter Forty One||Chapter Forty Two||Chapter Forty Three|
|Chapter Forty Four||Chapter Forty Five||Chapter Forty Six||Chapter Forty Seven|
|Chapter Forty Eight||Summary|
There are three mind maps for the structure of the Book of Ezekiel that may prove useful of study. They are: Chapters 1-24 preceding the fall of Jerusalem, Chapters 25-32 proclaiming oracles against the nations, and Chapters 33-48 moving towards the restoration of the nations