General Background

Ezekiel – Grace and Glory
– Presented on 25 Sep 05 by the combined Adult ‘M’ &’N’ Classes (Teacher: Tan SK & Jeffery Leng)
General Background

a. Writer – The autobiographical style of the book supports the prophet Ezekiel, a priest and son of Buzi (Ezek 1:3), as the writer (“I,” “me,” “my” are in almost every chapter of the book; cf. Ezek 2:1-10). The uniformity of language, style, theme, and message also supports the theory of a single author.

Ezekiel was taken captive with Jehoiachin and other Hebrews to Babylon in 597 BC. In 593 BC, at the age of 30, Ezekiel was called to be God’s spokeman and a watchman for the house of Israel. All that is known of this solitary prophet comes from his written prophecy and no compelling data exist for the acceptance of any author other than the one name in the book itself. The book of Ezekiel reveals that the prophet was married (Ezek 24:15-18) and had a house (Ezek 3:24; 8:1). Overall, he enjoyed a large measure of freedom in captivity for the Babylonians had not captured the Jews in order to make them slaves in Babylon.As a priest, he was well acquainted with the Levitical laws and rituals as well as the temple and its regulations. This becomes evident when he writes of his apocalyptic vision of the future messianic temple (Ezek 40-48). Furthermore he had a detailed knowledge of the Mosaic covenant, including the ethical, moral, and spiritual requirements of God’s revelation and the inevitable results of obedience and 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.

b. Date – Ezekiel was called to his prophetic ministry in the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin -593/92 BC. Thirteen of Ezekiel’s message are dated precisely to the day, month and year of King Jehoiachin’s exile to Babylon. Ezekiel’s last discourse was dated in the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin’s exile -571/70 BC (Ezek 29:17). Ezekiel never mentions the release of Jehoiachin in 560 BC. Therefore, it reasonable to conclude that Ezekiel’s messages cover the period from 593/92 to 571/70 BC and were written down in present form from 571/70 BC to 562 BC. The following chart lays out the general chronological arrangement of these prophecies with three exceptions (Ezek 29:1, 17; 32:1) all of which were oracles against Egypt and thus placed together with the other Egyptian prophecies:

c. Recipients

1. Jews in Exile – Though many of Ezekiel’s messages concerned Jerusalem but Ezekiel was prophesying not to the Jews in Jerusalem but to those in exile.

2. Gentile Nations – Ezekiel also prophesied of the Gentile nations of Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, Egypt (Ezk 25-32) and Magog (Ezek 38-39).

d. Themes

The main theme that runs through the book is God’s holiness. The nation that was guilty of idolatry and gross acts of immorality (Ezek 22) must be judged by a righteous and holy God Who cannot tolerate sin (Ezek 9). Fifteen times God declared that He acted for the sake of His Holy name to keep it from being profaned (Ezek 20:9,14,22,39,44; 33:20-23; 39:7,25; 43:7-8). However, God has not dealt with them as he had done with other nations who had committed similar abominations. His dealing with his own covenant people was preventive and corrective, to cleanse the nation and purge them of idolatry.

God’s sovereignty was another prominent theme that runs through the book. God made use of a heathen nation Babylon to be an instrument of judgment for the sins of Judah. Thus Jerusalem was destroyed and the people led into captivity to Babylon. The judgment of the Gentile nations for their malicious treatment of Judah and the ultimate restoration of Israel to their land were also in accordance with God’s divine plan.

The omnipresence of God was manifested in the opening chapters of the book, where Ezekiel’s experience of the Chariot-Throne of Yahweh confirms that the God of Jerusalem was alive and triumphant even in the heathen, polytheistic land of Babylon

e. Purpose1. To warn Israel as a “watchman” of imminent judgment – Ezekiel warned Israel of the certainty of the coming destruction of Jerusalem , against the hopes raised by the false prophets that the exiles would return to the land of Israel soon. In Ezek 1-24, he explained very clearly the manner of destruction of the city, the reasons for the judgment and the imminence of the judgment.

2. To outline the blessing that follows necessary judgment – After the news of the destruction of the city arrived in Babylon (Ezek 33:21), Ezekiel focused his attention upon God’s plan of restoration for the nation. The nation will be united again in the land without the division of Israel and Judah (Ezek 37:17) with “David “ as the true shepherd (Ezek 34:24). The people will also be cleansed (Ezek 36:29) and given a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek 36:26). Thus the nation will be restored physically and spiritually.

3. To stress the need for individual responsibility before God – One of the greatest insights of the Book of Ezekiel is its teaching of individual responsibility. This prophet proclaimed the truth that every person is responsible for his own sins as he stands exposed before God. In Ezekiel’s time the Jewish people had such a strong sense of group identity as God’s Covenant People that they tended to gloss over their need as individuals to follow God and His will. Some even believed that future generations were held accountable for the sins of their ancestors. But Ezekiel declared: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself”(Ezek 18:20). This underscores the need for every person to make his own decision to follow the Lord. No person can depend on the faith of any ancestors to gain entrance into God’s kingdom.

f. Structure Book

There are a five parts to the book of Ezekiel:

I. The commission of Ezekiel (1:1-3:27)

•  Ezekiel see the Glory of God (1:1-28)

•  Ezekiel commissioned as a watchman and prophet of God (2:1-3:27)

II. Judgment on Judah (4:1-24:27)

•  The four signs of coming judgment (4:1-5:15)

•  Two message of coming judgment (6:1-7:7)

•  Four part vision of coming judgement (8:1-11:25)

•  Signs, parables and messages of judgment (12:1-24:27)

III. Judgment on Gentiles Nations (25:1-32:32)

•  Judgment on Ammon (25:1-7)

•  Judgment on Moab (25:8-11)

•  Judgment on Edom (25:12-14)

•  Judgment on Philistia (25:15-17)

•  Judgment on Tyre (26:1-28:19)

•  Judgment on Sidon (28:20-26)

•  Judgment on Egypt (29:1-32:32)

IV. Prophecies of the restitution of Israel (33:1-39:29)

•  The good shepherd (34)

•  National restoration and reunification (37)

V. Vision of a new temple and renewed worship (40-48)