Introduction

Ezekiel was a priest (Ezek. 1:3), but he never served in that office because he was taken captive to Babylon during the reign of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:10–16), who was the king of Judah who followed Jehoiakim. It was during the eleven–year reign of Jehoiakim that the first deportation took place when Daniel was taken captive. Jehoiachin then came to the throne and reigned only three months. In 597 B.C. the second deportation took place, and Ezekiel was taken captive.

Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Daniel. Jeremiah was an old man at this time. He had begun his ministry as a young man during the reign of young King Josiah. He had remained with the remnant in the land and then was taken by them down into Egypt. Therefore his ministry at this time was confined to the remnant in Egypt. Daniel had been taken into the court of the king of Babylon and had become his prime minister. Ezekiel, then, was with the captives who had been brought down to the rivers of Babylon. The captives had been placed by the great canal that came off the River Euphrates, which was several miles from Babylon itself. Ezekiel’s ministry was among those people.

Psalm 137 is the psalm of the remnant in Babylon: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof” (Ps. 137:1–2). But at the same time Ezekiel writes: “The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (Ezek. 1:1). What a contrast! While these people had already put their harps on a willow tree and sat down to weep, this man Ezekiel was seeing visions of God!

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were all prophets, but each had a particular and peculiar ministry to a certain group of people, and apparently they never came into contact with each other. From the record in the Book of Daniel you would not gather that Daniel ever visited his people in Babylon where Ezekiel was; yet he had a great concern for them and he actually defended them. But did Daniel and Jeremiah know each other? Well, we know from his book that Daniel was acquainted with the prophecies of Jeremiah. I have a notion that as a young man in his teens he listened to Jeremiah in Jerusalem. Ezekiel also was a young man when he was taken captive, and he too had probably heard Jeremiah, but had no personal acquaintance with Daniel.

The message of Ezekiel is the most spiritual of all the prophets because he dealt particularly with the Person of God. Someone has said, “Ezekiel is the prophet of the Spirit, as Isaiah is the prophet of the Son, and Jeremiah the prophet of the Father.”

During the first years of the captivity the false prophets were still saying that the people were going to return to Jerusalem and that the city would not be destroyed. The city was not destroyed even at the time of the second deportation. It was not until about 586 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar came against the city the third time, that he burned and destroyed Jerusalem. Therefore for a period of about ten years, these false prophets were saying that the people would return and the city would not be destroyed. Jeremiah had sent a message to Babylon saying the city would be destroyed, and Ezekiel confirmed his message. He warned the people that they must turn to God before they could return to Jerusalem. When the time came, a very small remnant did turn to God, and they returned to Jerusalem very discouraged.

Ezekiel began his ministry five years after he was taken captive at about the age of thirty. In many ways, he spoke in the darkest days of the nation. He stood at the bottom of a valley in the darkest corner. He had to meet the false hope given by the false prophets and the indifference and despondency begotten in the days of sin and disaster. The people would not listen to his message. Therefore, he resorted to a new method. Instead of speaking in parables, as the Lord Jesus did, he acted out the parables. He actually did some very interesting stunts. We read in Ezekiel 24:24, “Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.” The people would not listen to his words, so he would act them out, and he attracted a great deal of attention that way.

We have folk who use this very same method today. We have placard carriers, flagpole sitters, and walkathons. People do these things to attract attention and gain publicity. This, too, was Ezekiel’s method. One time he walked into a house, locked himself in, and then started digging himself out. When he came out, he came out in the middle of the street! Here in Pasadena, California, it is nothing new to be digging in the middle of the street, for the city workers keep digging up the streets all the time. But in Ezekiel’s time, when a man came up out of the middle of the street one day, people naturally gathered around and said, “What’s the big idea?” Ezekiel had a message for them, and he gave it to them (see Ezek. 12:8–16).

Ezekiel is the prophet of the glory of the Lord. There were three prophets of Israel who spoke when they were out of the land. They are Ezekiel, Daniel, and John (who wrote from the island of Patmos). All three of these men wrote what is called an apocalypse. They all used highly symbolic language; yet they saw the brightest light and held the highest hope of all the prophets. Ezekiel saw the Shekinah glory of the Lord leave Solomon’s temple, but he also saw the return of the glory of the Lord which was projected into the future and will come to pass during the Kingdom Age, or the Millennium.

The meaning of Ezekiel is seen in this coming of the glory during the Kingdom Age. Ezekiel looked beyond the sufferings of Christ to the glory that should follow. As Peter said of the prophets, they saw the sufferings and they saw the glory that would follow (1 Pet. 1:11). I think Ezekiel saw it better than any of the other prophets.

(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 25: Ezekiel. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)

Poems & Quotes

Ezekiel Introduction—1:4

“If anyone asks whether the vision is lucid, I confess its obscurity, and that I can scarcely understand it.”
          –John Calvin

Ezekiel 1:4-28

“You want to be Christlike? Alright--take a look at Jesus. When we'd sing that song, 'Take time to be holy; speak oft with thy Lord' in chapel, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer used to always stop us and say, 'Change that first line. Let us sing it, Take time to behold Him.’” You want to be holy? Behold Him, then. 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.' I need this. I hope you sense a need of seeing Jesus Christ on the pages of the Word of God so that you and I might grow like Him.”
          –Dr. J. Vernon McGee

“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it was he saw in plain language.”
          –John Ruskin

Ezekiel 2:1—3:19

“Here in this second chapter, God says to Ezekiel: 'Now, I want you to bring a message to the house of Israel, and very candidly, they're not going to hear you, that is, they won't believe you, they won't accept it, but you're to do it.' And God says, 'That's alright, they don't believe Me either.' And I feel that we today are cast in very much that kind of a role in the day in which we live. It's a day when many are hearing the Word of God, and we rejoice in that. But many do not hear the Word of God, and what about that? Well, Paul says that we're a Savior of life unto those that are saved and a Savior of death unto those that are lost. In other words, there's going to be a whole lot of people that listen to this program that are going to do nothing about it and, actually, the gospel is going to condemn them, instead of saving them, because they'd never be able to go into the presence of God and say 'Look, I never heard it at all.' But, many are responding, and right now, we're in the thick of a theological debate or discussion, or controversy, or whatever you'd want to call it, in this country: What really happens when a person is born again? We've been talking about that so long. What are the steps, if there are steps in it? Is the first thing that takes place that you believe? And how can a lost man who has no capacity for God? They've all gone out of the way. Each one has turned to his own way. There's none that seeketh after God. That's the condition of any lost person. It was the condition of you, if today you're a Christian. You at one time had no desire for God. That certainly was my condition, a time when I had no desire for God. Well, what is the first step? Well, we're going to be saying a great deal about this later on, but right now let me say this, that I think that the first step is conviction and that conviction comes from hearing the Word of God, and that's the thing that's important.”
          –Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Ezekiel 3:20—5:17 and 7:1—8:4

“This is the age of pacifism, but it is not the age of peace.”
          –G.K. Chesterton

Ezekiel 10, 11

My Friend

My friend, I stand in judgment now
And feel that you are to blame somehow.
On earth I walked with you by day
And never did you point the way.
You knew the Lord in truth and glory
But never did you tell the story.
My knowledge then was very dim,
You could have led me safe to Him.
Though we lived together here on earth,
You never told me of the second birth.
And now I stand this day condemned
Because you failed to mention Him.
You taught me many things, that’s true,
I called you friend and trusted you.
But I learned now that it’s too late,
And you could have kept me from this fate.
We walked by day and talked by night
And yet you showed me not the light.
You let me live and love and die,
You knew I'd never live on high.
Yes, I called you friend in life
And trusted you through joy and strife.
And yet on coming to this dreadful end,
I cannot now call you my friend.
          –Author unknown

Ezekiel 38, 39

“The word Rosh should be Russia. This is the only reference to a modern nation in the entire Old Testament.”
          –Dean Stanley, History of the Eastern Church

“Rosh taken as a proper name in Ezekiel signifies the inhabitants of Scythia from whom the modern Russians drive their name.”
          –Attributed to Bishop Lowther

“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
          –Winston Churchill, describing Russia

“The Great Upside-down Philosopher: Top is bottom, black is white, far is near, and day is night. Big is little, high is low, cold is hot, and yes is no.”
          –Title and caption of cartoon about Joseph Stalin, by Rube Goldberg

“We have deposed the czar of the earth, and we shall now dethrone the Lord of heaven.”
          –Joseph Stalin

“Russia will not move into western Europe, but will move into Asia and the Near East.”
          –Attributed to Lord Beverly; General Douglas MacArthur concurred with him in that viewpoint

Ezekiel 38, 39

“Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes, desolate and unlovely. It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land? Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition. It is dreamland.”
          –Mark Twain

“There is a land without a people. There is a people without a land. Give the land without a people to the people without a land.”
          –Dr. Theodore Herzl

“The Jewish nation is a ghost nation. Only the God of Israel has kept the Jewish people alive.”
          –Dr. Chaim Weizmann

“Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled, and the nation Israel is hearing the footsteps of the Messiah.”
          –David Ben-Gurion

Ezekiel 40—48

God’s Sermon (Mount St. Helens)

God Spoke to us on May 18.
Did you hear or see His hand?
His sermon was a warning
To the people of this land.
This was not a quirk of nature
or some scientific thing.
God’s sermon shook a mountain
And made the valleys ring.
God plainly says, “I’m still around,
In case your memory’s short.
Do I have to raise My voice louder
Than I today have spoken?”
Yes, God gave a mighty sermon
On the 18th day of May.
Did we have the sense to listen,
Or will He speak louder another day?
          –A listener in Marysville, Washington