Wednesday Studies No. 9
Takeaways for the study of Ezekiel
Ezekiel is the author of the Book of Ezekiel, which makes sense. He was the son of Buzi born into then Kohen line of priests. Unlike many of the authors of the various books, Ezekiel often gives dates, and ages to the events and people that he writes about. He fortunately provided references to the lengths of time King Jehoiachin of Judah was in exile. Under the direction of Nebuchadnezzar II, Babylonian armies exiled three thousand Jews from Judah, deposing King Jehoiachin around 600 BC. The best guess is that Ezekiel was born around 622 BC.
So Ezekiel, at the age of 25, he as exiled to Babylon. Apparently Ezekiel and his wife lived in their own home where exiled Jewish visitors came to hear his prophetic insights. There is no mention of him having any offspring, just that his wife died rather young, in the ninth year of their exile.
Four years earlier Ezekiel describes his calling to be a prophet, by going into great detail about his encounter with God and the four living creatures or Cherubim with four wheels that stayed beside the creatures. For the next five years he incessantly prophesied and acted out the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, which was met with some opposition. Remember the temple was still standing in Jerusalem. However, Ezekiel realized the fulfillment of his prophecies when Jerusalem was finally sacked by the Babylonians. The date of the sacking, 587 BC is confirmed by Babylonian cuneiform records discovered by archeologists, and Ezekiel was about 35. His wife died at just about the same time.
Ezekiel was 50 years old when he began to have visions of a new Temple. He served as a prophet for at least 22 years until his last experience, an encounter with God in April 570 BC. His time of death has not been recorded.
Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, is said by Talmud and Midrash writing to have been a descendant of Joshua by his marriage with Rahab. Some statements found in rabbinic literature that Ezekiel was the son of Jeremiah, who was (also) called “Buzi” because he was despised by the Jews.
Ezekiel was said to be already active as a prophet while in the Land of Israel at a young age, and he retained this gift when he was exiled with Jehoiachin and the nobles of the country to Babylon.
According to the midrash, it was Ezekiel whom the three pious men, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Bible) asked for advice as to whether they should resist Nebuchadnezzar’s command and choose death by fire rather than worship his idol.
According to Matthew Henry a Bible commentator who flourished in the 17th century, Ezekiel is also believed to have been known as Nazaratus Assyrius, a teacher to Pythagorus. However, James Ussher, in his writings of the Ussher chronology, republished as “The Annals of the World” claims that this is a mistake, basing his opinion on the writings of Clemens Alexandrinus. However, Sir William Smith, in his “Bible Dictionary,” points out that John Selden, among others, consider it a possibility. In the book “Pythagoras: Greek philosopher” it states; “Nazaratus, the Assyrian, one of Pythagoras’ masters, was supposed to be the prophet Ezekiel, and Thomas Stanley’s Life of Pythagoras says that Ezekiel and Pythagoras flourished together.
The Valley of Dry Bones
1 The hand of the Lord was on me,* and He brought me out by His Spirit* and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them. There were a great many of them on the surface of the valley, and they were very dry.
3 Then He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live? “I replied, “Lord God, “only” You know.”*
4 He said to me, “Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Lord God says to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live.* 6 I will put tendons on you, make flesh grow on you, and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you so that you come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”*
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded. While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 As I looked, tendons appeared on them, flesh grew, and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath,* prophesy, son of man. Say to it: This is what the Lord God says: Breath, come from the four winds and breathe into these slain so that they may live! “* 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me; the breath* entered them,* and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.
11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.* Look how they say: Our bones are dried up,* and our hope has perished;* we are cut off.* 12 Therefore, prophesy and say to them: This is what the Lord God says: I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them,* My people, and lead you into the land of Israel. 13 You will know that I am the Lord, My people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.* 14 I will put My Spirit in you,* and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord. I have spoken, and I will do “it”.”* “This is” the declaration of the Lord.
The Valley of Dry Bones
1 The hand (yawd, the open hand of power)of the Lord was upon me, and carried me (to and fro) out in the spirit (ruach, resembling breathe, but not gentle, a strong exhalation) of the Lord, and set me down in the midst (the center) of the valley which was full of bones (bikaw malay etsem), 2 And caused me to pass (awbar, back and forth) by them round about: (saw beeb, in a circle) and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. 3 And he said unto me, Son of man (ben adawm), can these bones live (Chayah, to revive)? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest (yada, to see, experience, to know completely). 4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy (naba, to speak or sing by inspiration) upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear (shamaw, to hear intelligently) the word of the Lord. 5 Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath (ruach, exhalation) to enter (Bo, invade) into you, and ye shall live: 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. 8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. 9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe (nawfawk, puff hard) upon these slain, that they may live. 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. 11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. 12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.
The name Ezekiel means “God strengthens” and is appropriate in light of the difficulties Ezekiel would endure. Ezekiel was, with Jeremiah and Zechariah, one of three prophets who were also priests. He was taken to Babylon from Jerusalem in the second deportation (597 b.c.) along with King Jehoiachin (2 Kgs. 24:8-17; Jer _22:24-30). At the age of thirty (Ezek _1:1), when a priest would normally begin his ministry, Ezekiel received his prophetic call from the Lord (593 b.c.). He spent the rest of his life in Babylon, but he received visions of both contemporary and future events relating to Jerusalem. As might be expected from a priest, Ezekiel was concerned about the desecration of the temple which existed in his time, but also with the glory of the millennial temple of the future. The last date that Ezekiel records (Ezek _29:17) is twenty-two years after his call.
The main topics discussed in the book fall into three basic sections: those prophecies which stress the impending disaster of Jerusalem’s fall (chaps. 1-24); the judgments pronounced on surrounding nations (chaps. 25-32); and the future hopes and trials of God’s people (chaps. 33-48). The purpose of Ezekiel’s book can be described as threefold: (1) to show that Judah and Jerusalem were being judged for their sin; (2) to encourage the exiles with prophecies of God’s future blessing on Israel; and (3) to emphasize God’s glory and His character as that which should be most important to His people. This third reason is expressed over seventy-five times in the phrases “for mine holy name’s sake” (Ezek _36:22) and “they shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek _36:38).
The key phrase in the book, “the son of man” (Ezek _2:1), is used about forty-five times. It stresses the idea that one possesses the qualities and characteristics of his father. Consequently, when Jesus used the terms “Son of man” and “Son of God” to refer to Himself, He was showing that He had the characteristics of both deity and humanity. “The glory of the Lord” is also a prominent theme, being mentioned over fifteen times in the book.
Some summarizing thoughts:
• Determine to stay alive if you find yourself in a valley of dry bones.
• Remain a man or woman of the Word.
• Stay under the Holy Spirit’s anointing, so you can “prophesy” when God so moves. You can’t do it, but God through you can put flesh on bone, and the flesh can breathe and live.
• Remain in prayer — “Come, O breath!”
• Obey God’s promptings to speak into dryness.
••Timing: The restoration of Israel (that is, their return from Babylon) did not occur in Ezekiel’s lifetime, but a generation later.
•• So you determine, like Ezekiel, to be faithful to God in your lifetime, and leave the timing of God’s reviving, and the valley-shaking ruach to Him.