Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Ezekiel—I
THE year is 613 B.C.E. The prophet Jeremiah is in Judah, fearlessly proclaiming the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of the land of Judah. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has already taken many Jews into captivity. Among them are young Daniel and his three companions, who are serving in the Chaldean court. Most of the Jewish exiles are by the river Chebar in “the land of the Chaldeans.” (Ezekiel 1:1-3) Jehovah does not leave those captives without a messenger. He appoints 30-year-old Ezekiel as prophet.
Completed in 591 B.C.E., the book of Ezekiel covers a period of 22 years. Ezekiel is meticulous in his writing. He dates his prophecies, specifying even the day and the month along with the year. The first part of Ezekiel’s message centers on the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. The second part contains pronouncements against surrounding nations, and the final part has to do with the restoration of Jehovah’s worship. This article discusses highlights from Ezekiel 1:1–24:27, covering visions, prophecies, and enactments concerning what was to befall Jerusalem.
“A WATCHMAN IS WHAT I HAVE MADE YOU”
After being given an awe-inspiring vision of Jehovah’s throne, Ezekiel receives his commission. “A watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel,” Jehovah tells him, “and you must hear from my mouth speech and you must warn them from me.” (Ezekiel 3:17) To prophesy the siege of Jerusalem and its effects, Ezekiel is commanded to act out two pantomimes. Referring to the land of Judah, Jehovah says through Ezekiel: “Here I am! I am bringing upon you a sword, and I shall certainly destroy your high places.” (Ezekiel 6:3) To the inhabitant of the land, he says: “The garland [of calamity] must come to you.”—Ezekiel 7:7.
In 612 B.C.E., a vision transports Ezekiel to Jerusalem. What detestable things he sees happening in God’s temple! When Jehovah sends his heavenly executional forces (represented by “six men”) to express his anger at the apostates, only those who have received ‘a mark on the forehead’ will be spared. (Ezekiel 9:2-6) First, though, “coals of fire”—God’s fiery message of destruction—must be tossed over the city. (Ezekiel 10:2) While ‘Jehovah will bring upon the head of the wicked their own way,’ he promises to regather the scattered ones of Israel.—Ezekiel 11:17-21.
God’s spirit brings Ezekiel back to Chaldea. An enactment portrays the flight from Jerusalem of King Zedekiah and the people. False prophets and prophetesses are denounced. Idolaters are rejected. Judah is likened to a worthless vine. An eagle-vine riddle shows the bitter consequences of Jerusalem’s turning to Egypt for help. The riddle concludes with the promise that ‘Jehovah will transplant a tender twig upon a high mountain.’ (Ezekiel 17:22) In Judah, however, there will be “no scepter for ruling.”—Ezekiel 19:14.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:4-28—What does the celestial chariot picture? The chariot represents the heavenly part of Jehovah’s organization made up of faithful spirit creatures. Its source of power is Jehovah’s holy spirit. The Rider of the chariot, who represents Jehovah, is indescribably glorious. His calmness is illustrated by a lovely rainbow.
1:5-11—Who are the four living creatures? In his second vision of the chariot, Ezekiel identifies the four living creatures as cherubs. (Ezekiel 10:1-11; 11:22) In this later description, he calls the bull’s face “the face of the cherub.” (Ezekiel 10:14) This is appropriate because the bull is a symbol of power and strength, and cherubs are powerful spirit creatures.
2:6—Why is Ezekiel repeatedly referred to as “son of man”? Jehovah addresses Ezekiel in this way to remind the prophet that his makeup is that of flesh and blood, thus heightening the great contrast between the human messenger and the divine Originator of the message. The same designation is applied to Jesus Christ about 80 times in the Gospels, clearly showing that the Son of God had come as a human, not as an incarnation.
2:9–3:3—Why did the scroll of dirges and moaning taste sweet to Ezekiel? What made the scroll sweet-tasting to Ezekiel was his attitude toward his commission. Ezekiel was grateful to serve Jehovah as a prophet.
4:1-17—Did Ezekiel really act out the scene depicting Jerusalem’s upcoming siege? Ezekiel’s appeal for the change of cooking fuel and Jehovah’s granting him his request indicate that the prophet actually acted out the scene. Lying on the left side was for the 390 years of error of the ten-tribe kingdom—from its beginning in 997 B.C.E. to the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. Lying on the right side was for Judah’s 40 years of sin, spanning the period from Jeremiah’s appointment as a prophet in 647 B.C.E. to 607 B.C.E. During the entire 430-day period, Ezekiel existed on a meager supply of food and water, prophetically indicating that there would be a famine during the siege of Jerusalem.
5:1-3—What is significant about Ezekiel’s taking a few hairs from the portion he was to scatter to the wind and wrapping them in his skirts? This was to show that a remnant would return to Judah and take up true worship after the 70-year desolation.—Ezekiel 11:17-20.
17:1-24—Who are the two great eagles, how are the young shoots of a cedar plucked off, and who is the “tender one” transplanted by Jehovah? The two eagles represent the rulers of Babylon and Egypt. The first eagle comes to the treetop of the cedar, that is, to the ruler of the government in the royal line of David. This eagle plucks off the top of the young shoots by replacing King Jehoiachin of Judah with Zedekiah. Despite having taken a loyalty oath, Zedekiah seeks the help of the other eagle, Egypt’s ruler, but to no avail. He is to be taken captive and is to die in Babylon. Jehovah also plucks off “a tender one,” the Messianic King. This One is transplanted upon “a high and lofty mountain,” upon heavenly Mount Zion, where he will become “a majestic cedar,” a source of real blessings for the earth.—Revelation 14:1.
Lessons for Us:
2:6-8; 3:8, 9, 18-21. We should neither be intimidated by the wicked nor hold back from proclaiming God’s message, which includes a warning to them. When facing indifference or opposition, we need to be as hard as a diamond. However, we should be careful not to become tough, insensitive, or ruthless. Jesus felt compassion for the people he preached to, and we should likewise be moved by compassion to preach to others.—Matthew 9:36.
3:15. After receiving his commission, Ezekiel dwelled at Tel-abib, ‘stunned for seven days,’ digesting the message he was to declare. Should we not take time to study diligently and meditate in order to understand deep spiritual truths?
4:1–5:4. It took humility and courage on the part of Ezekiel to act out the two prophetic pantomimes. We too ought to be humble and courageous in carrying out any God-given assignment.
7:19. When Jehovah executes his judgment upon this system of things, money will have no value whatsoever.
8:5-18. Apostasy is spiritually deadly. “By his mouth the one who is an apostate brings his fellowman to ruin.” (Proverbs 11:9) We are wise to turn away from even the thought of giving a listening ear to apostates.
9:3-6. Acquiring the mark—the evidence that we are dedicated, baptized servants of God and that we have the Christian personality—is essential for surviving the “great tribulation.” (Matthew 24:21) Anointed Christians, represented by the man with the secretary’s inkhorn, are taking the lead in doing the marking work, that is, the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. If we want to retain our mark, we must zealously help them in this work.
12:26-28. Even to those scoffing at his message, Ezekiel was to say: “There will be no postponement anymore as to any words of [Jehovah].” We must do all we can to help others put their confidence in Jehovah before he brings an end to this system of things.
18:1-29. We are responsible for the consequences of our own actions.
“A RUIN, A RUIN, A RUIN I SHALL MAKE IT”
In the seventh year of exile, 611 B.C.E., the elderly ones of Israel come to Ezekiel “to inquire of Jehovah.” They hear a long history of Israel’s rebellion and a warning that ‘Jehovah will bring forth his sword’ against them. (Ezekiel 20:1; 21:3) Addressing the chieftain of Israel (Zedekiah), Jehovah says: “Remove the turban, and lift off the crown. This will not be the same. Put on high even what is low, and bring low even the high one. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it. As for this also, it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right [Jesus Christ], and I must give it to him.”—Ezekiel 21:26, 27.
Jerusalem is arraigned. The guilt of Oholah (Israel) and of Oholibah (Judah) is exposed. Oholah has already been given “into the hand of those passionately loving her, into the hand of the sons of Assyria.” (Ezekiel 23:9) The desolation of Oholibah is in the offing. In 609 B.C.E., the 18-month siege of Jerusalem begins. When the city finally falls, the Jews will be too stunned to express their grief. Ezekiel must not speak God’s message to the exiles until he receives a report of the destruction of the city from “the escaped one.”—Ezekiel 24:26, 27.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
21:3—What is the “sword” that Jehovah brings forth out of its sheath? The “sword” that Jehovah uses to execute his judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah proves to be Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and his army. It could also include the heavenly part of God’s organization consisting of mighty spirit creatures.
24:6-14—What does the rust of the cooking pot represent? Jerusalem under siege is likened to a widemouthed cooking pot. Its rust represents the moral filth of the city—the uncleanness, loose conduct, and bloodshed for which she is responsible. So great is her uncleanness that even standing the pot empty upon its coals and making it very hot fails to remove the rust.
Lessons for Us:
21:18-22. Even though Nebuchadnezzar used divination, it was Jehovah who made certain that the pagan ruler would come against Jerusalem. This shows that even demons cannot turn aside Jehovah’s executional agents from accomplishing his purpose.
22:6-16. Jehovah detests slander, loose conduct, the abuse of power, and the taking of bribes. We should be firm in our determination to avoid such wrongdoings.
A Message That Is Alive and Exerts Power
What beautiful lessons we learn from the first 24 chapters of the Bible book of Ezekiel! The principles set out there show what leads to God’s disfavor, how we may receive his mercy, and why we should warn the wicked. The prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem clearly portrays Jehovah as a God who ‘causes his people to know new things before they begin to spring up.’—Isaiah 42:9.
Such prophecies as those recorded at Ezekiel 17:22-24 and 21:26, 27 pointed to the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom in heaven. Very soon, that rulership will result in God’s will being done on earth. (Matthew 6:9, 10) With strong faith and conviction, we can look forward to Kingdom blessings. Yes, “the word of God is alive and exerts power.”—Hebrews 4:12.
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What is pictured by the celestial chariot?
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Having a zealous share in the preaching work helps us to retain our “mark”