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Book of Ezekiel

Book of Ezekiel
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The book of Ezekiel, who was a priest as well as a prophet, is dated at the time of the Babylonian Captivity. Once again, the prophet is directly concerned with God's righteous anger over the sins of His People, making specific reference to the presence and departure of the Lord's glory in the Jerusalem Temple. Ezekiel, however, like all of the prophets, is not without hope in the mercy of God. The moving passage about God's resurrection of the "dry bones" of dead Israel through the breathing in of His Holy Spirit is read over the tomb of Christ at the Great Saturday service of the Orthodox Church.

The prophet Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, was born in Judaea. Together with king Jehoiachin and 10,000 Jews he was led captive to Babylon in 597 B.C. and settled in Mesopotamia at the river of Chebar, a tributary of the River Tigris.

Ezekiel was called to the ministry of a prophet at the age of thirty by the vision of the "appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD." It was in the fifth year of the reign of Jehoiachin, and since then he prophesied to the settlers of the Mesopotamian Tel Aviv for 22 years, from 592 till 570 B.C. The description of his vision of the four living creatures with the faces of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle was later used for the symbols of the Four Evangelists (Ezekiel 1:10). Ezekiel preached not only to the captive Jews, but also to the "rebellious house of Israel" — the Israelites who had been led here after the devastation of their kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. These Israelites had no spiritual leaders in the land of captivity and fully degraded spiritually.

Ezekiel lived far away from Judaea, yet in his prophetic spirit he flew to Jerusalem (8:1-3) and from Mesopotamia he saw every detail of the siege of Jerusalem (4:1-17), capturing of king Zedekiah, destruction of the city and the Temple. The prophet passed on his visions to the Israelites who cared for the fate of their native land. The prophet had a wife who died in the fourth year of his prophetic ministration as a prophetic symbol of the grief of the Jews, and her death was made known to Ezekiel the day before (24:15-24).

The tradition says that Ezekiel was a "judge" of the captives, that is their spiritual leader. Once he rescued a group of captives from robbers, and multiplied food by his prayer when the crop was poor. The prophet Ezekiel was martyred for the exposure of the idolatry of the elders of Israel.

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A detailed narrative outline follows.

The book begins with a vision of the appearance of the glory of God and Ezekiel's vocation to the ministry of a prophet (Chapters 1-3). Ezekiel's calling is followed by thirteen reproving speeches against the Jews and the symbolic acts mimicking the fall of Jerusalem (Chapters 4-24). In Chapter 25 is the denouncement of Gentiles, the neighbors of the Jews, and Chapters 26-28 he denounces the people of Tyre. Verses 13-19 in Chapter 28 refer to the devil, personified by the king of Tyre (see a similar speech about anti-Christ in Isaias 14:5-20). Ezekiel delivers prophecies about the Egyptians in Chapters 29-32. The prophet's new mission after the fall of Jerusalem is announced in Chapter 33: console and encourage. The people are reminded that the Lord is the shepherd of revived Israel (Chapter 34). Then comes the punishment of Edom (Chapter 35), revival of Israel (Chapter 36), raising of dead bones as the prophecy about resurrection of the dead (Chapter 37), apocalyptic prophecies about the enemies of the Church and the defeat of the hordes of Gog (Chapters 38-39), and the new eternal Kingdom of God and the new Temple (Chapters 40-48). Prophecies of the last 14 Chapters of Ezekiel, referring to the last times, have many common features with the mysterious visions of Daniel and the Apocalypse of the Apostle John the Theologian.

We now turn our attention to the Book of Daniel in our next article.

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Bibliography:

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