Ezekiel begins his prophetic work during the first exile from Jerusalem (597 BC) that began when King Jehoiachin surrendered Jerusalem to the Babylonian army. The time of his first vision, given in 593 BC, to his last vision, in 571 BC, is over 20 years. Ezekiel is a younger contemporary of Jeremiah and was both a priest and a prophet. In exile at the age of 30, Ezekiel is called from his duties as a priest to the work of a prophet. Ezekiel’s ministry bridges the transformation of the religion of ancient Israel. This transformation is from a temple and sacrifice-based religion to a religion that is primarily identified with the study of the Law and based in the synagogue.
This book was primarily written by Ezekiel. His prophecies are often accompanied by dramatic actions. His prophecies are also filled with bizarre and fantastic images (wheels within wheels, beasts emerging from seas, valley of dry bones). At its core, however, it contains a message of hope for redemption and restoration and eventually, a return to the land of Judah and Jerusalem. Choice and responsibility are vital to Ezekiel’s message.
Ezekiel can be outlined as follows:
· Ezekiel 1:1-3:21 Ezekiel empowered
· Ezekiel 3:22-27 Ezekiel confined
· Ezekiel 4:1-5:17 Actions symbolic of the judgment of Jerusalem
· Ezekiel 6:1-7:27 Oracles of judgment
· Ezekiel 8:1-11:25 God punishes Jerusalem for its abominations
· Ezekiel 12:1-24:27 Jerusalem’s fate predicted
· Ezekiel 25:1-32:32 Judgment passed against enemy nations
· Ezekiel 33:1-37:28 Israel to be restored; the kingdom established
· Ezekiel 38:1-39:29 Gog will be destroyed
· Ezekiel 40:1-48:35 Revelation of “Utopia”
Vital Lesson: God is forming a people for himself. In the wilderness of being in exile, God does not abandon his people but forms and shapes them like a potter working at a wheel.