EZEKIEL, BOOK OF
This remarkable book bears the name of the prophet who wrote it. Ezekiel the son of Buzi, a priest, may have completed writing the book in Babylonia in about the year 591 B.C.E. It covers a period of approximately 22 years, from 613 to about 591 B.C.E.—Eze 1:1-3; 29:17.
The book of Ezekiel is distinguished by visions, similes, and allegories, or parables, and especially by performance of symbolic actions, as when Ezekiel was told by God to engrave a sketch of Jerusalem on a brick and then to stage a mock siege against it as a sign to Israel. (Eze 4:1-17) Other symbolic actions were the joining of two sticks, representing the two houses of Israel (37:15-23), and Ezekiel’s digging a hole in a wall and going out with his luggage, representing the captivity of Jerusalem. (12:3-13) The illustration of Oholah and Oholibah is one of the vivid allegories of the book. (Chap 23) Another notable feature of the book of Ezekiel is the meticulous care Ezekiel took to date his prophecies, giving not only the year of King Jehoiachin’s exile but also the month and day of the month.—1:1, 2; 29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1; 40:1.
Authenticity. Proof of the book’s authenticity is to be found in the fulfillment of its prophecies. (For examples see AMMONITES; EDOM, EDOMITES; TYRE.) Further attesting to the authenticity of this book is archaeology. The noted American archaeologist W. F. Albright wrote: “Archeological data have . . . demonstrated the substantial originality of the Books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah, beyond doubt; they have confirmed the traditional picture of events, as well as their order.”—The Bible After Twenty Years of Archeology (1932-1952), 1954, p. 547.
The authenticity of the book of Ezekiel is supported by its harmony with the other books of the Bible. Although it is not quoted or cited directly by any of the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures, allusions to some of its statements and similar expressions are, nevertheless, frequent. Ezekiel and Jesus speak of the drying up of a moist tree. (Eze 17:24; Lu 23:31) Ezekiel and Jesus both speak of a judgment of people as sheep and goats. (Eze 34:17; Mt 25:32, 33) The book of Revelation uses many illustrations similar to those in Ezekiel.—Compare Eze 1:28 with Re 4:3; Eze 10:3, 4 with Re 15:8; Eze 12:25 with Re 10:6; Eze 37:10 with Re 11:11.
It is to be noted that among the Chester Beatty Greek Biblical papyri is one codex containing, among other portions of the Bible, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Esther. These are all found in one codex, probably consisting originally of 118 leaves. It is a copy written by two scribes, likely in the first half of the third century, indicating the substantial soundness of the book of Ezekiel as it has come down to us.
Since Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporaries, their prophecies have many things in common. (Compare Eze 18:2 with Jer 31:29; Eze 24:3 with Jer 1:13; Eze 34:2 with Jer 23:1.) Daniel and Ezekiel, also contemporaries, have similarities of expression in their writings. Ezekiel, while bound by cords, prophesied about the kingdom of Judah and designated “a day for a year,” each day of the prophecy corresponding to a year in the fulfillment. (Eze 4:4-8) Daniel spoke of a banded tree stump, a prophecy concerning the Kingdom, and specified the time period until removal of the bands. (Da 4:23) Another time prophecy of Daniel was the 70 weeks in connection with the coming of Messiah the Leader, also using a day to symbolize a year in the fulfillment.—Da 9:24-27.
Arrangement of Material. For the most part, Ezekiel’s prophecies and visions are arranged chronologically as well as topically. The four verses of chapter 29:17-20 are placed out of their chronological order (compare Eze 29:1; 30:20), but topically they belong here with the prophecy against Egypt. Up until the tenth month of the ninth year of the first exile, the central point around which Ezekiel’s prophecies revolved was the complete fall and desolation of Jerusalem, with only brief references to the restoration. Such is the tenor of the first 24 chapters. During the siege of Jerusalem, the prophet turned his attention mainly to pronouncing woes upon the pagan nations foreseen by Jehovah God as rejoicing over the downfall of Jerusalem. After arrival of the news that Jerusalem had fallen, the prophet sounds the glorious note of restoration, which is a dominant theme throughout the remainder of the book.—33:20, 21.
The book of Ezekiel reveals that Babylon’s false religion had been introduced into the precincts of Jehovah’s temple, particularly in the form of worshiping the Babylonian god Tammuz. (Eze 8:13, 14) Besides such detestable false worship at Jehovah’s temple itself, the apostate Jews filled the land of Judah with violence. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in his vision Ezekiel hears the call for Jehovah’s executioners to come with their weapons for smashing and to stand beside the altar in the inner courtyard of the temple. Jehovah then gives them orders to go through the midst of unfaithful Jerusalem and kill off everybody not marked as a worshiper of Jehovah: “Old man, young man and virgin and little child and women you should kill off—to a ruination. But to any man upon whom there is the mark do not go near, and from my sanctuary you should start.” (9:6) Ezekiel reports that Jehovah’s executioners started by killing first the 70 elderly men who were worshiping idolatrous carvings on the wall in a chamber in the inner courtyard. All the women who were sitting at the gate, weeping for the Babylonish god Tammuz, and the sun-worshiping apostates at the temple porch were also killed. (8:7–9:8) The vision of Ezekiel was but a preview of what was about to befall Jerusalem when Jehovah would make her drink the cup of wine of His rage out of His hand by means of His executional servant, King Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar), and his armies.—Jer 25:9, 15-18.
Ezekiel’s prophecies of restoration must have been of comfort to the exiled Jews. In the 25th year of his exile (593 B.C.E.) Ezekiel had a remarkable vision of a new temple of Jehovah, the pattern of which came from Jehovah God himself, and of an adjacent city called Jehovah-Shammah, meaning “Jehovah Himself Is There.” (Eze 40:1–48:35) In the midst of a land of pagan idolatry, it strengthened hope in the repentant Jewish exiles of again worshiping the true God, Jehovah, at his temple.
Ezekiel’s prophecy emphasizes the theme of the Bible, the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty and the sanctification of his name by means of the Messianic Kingdom. It points out that while God would permit a long period of vacancy on the throne of David, God had not abandoned his covenant with David for a kingdom. The Kingdom would be given to the One who had the legal right. Ezekiel thereby pointed the Jews, as did Daniel, to the hope of the Messiah. (Eze 21:27; 37:22, 24, 25) Jehovah caused Ezekiel to say more than 60 times that people ‘will have to know that I am Jehovah.’ Ezekiel magnifies the memorial name of God by using the expression “Sovereign Lord Jehovah” 217 times.—Eze 2:4, ftn.
[Box on page 794]
HIGHLIGHTS OF EZEKIEL
Prophecies regarding the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and the restoration of a faithful remnant. A central theme is that people “will have to know that I am Jehovah”
Written in Babylon—most of it during the six years before Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E., and some of it as late as about 591 B.C.E.
Jehovah commissions Ezekiel (then an exile in Babylonia) as watchman (1:1–3:27)
Given awe-inspiring vision of Jehovah’s glory, along with cherubs having four faces and accompanied by wheels having rims full of eyes
Serious responsibility as watchman
Warning prophecies against unfaithful Judah and Jerusalem (4:1–24:27)
Ezekiel is directed to enact Jerusalem’s coming siege by lying before an engraved brick for 390 days on his left side and 40 days on his right, while subsisting on meager amounts of food and water
The land, including sites used for idolatry, to be desolated; unfaithful people to perish, with a remnant to survive; neither gold nor silver of value in providing escape
Because idolatrous practices are carried on in temple precincts, Jehovah determines to express his rage, showing no compassion; only those marked by secretary clothed with linen to be spared
Flight of King Zedekiah and people illustrated by Ezekiel’s carrying out luggage through an opening dug in a wall
Jehovah’s judgment against false prophets and prophetesses
Eagle-vine riddle indicates bitter consequences because people turn to Egypt for help
Judgment of Jehovah to be according to individual action and not, as wrongly claimed, merely for sins of fathers
Wicked Zedekiah’s crown to be removed, and royal rule in David’s line to cease until coming of the One having the legal right
Unfaithful Samaria and Jerusalem represented as two prostitutes, Oholah and Oholibah; Jerusalem to receive severe treatment from her former lovers
Besieged Jerusalem compared to heated cooking pot, and the inhabitants to meat inside
Prophecies against surrounding nations, a number of which Jehovah foresees as rejoicing over Jerusalem’s downfall (25:1–32:32)
Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia to be desolated
Tyre to be besieged by Nebuchadnezzar and, in time, to become a desolated site; destruction likened to the sinking of a fine ship with its cargo; Tyrian dynasty to end because of arrogance and treachery
Egypt to be plundered by Nebuchadnezzar in payment for his services as executioner of divine judgment against Tyre; Pharaoh and his crowd compared to a cedar that would be cut down
Prophecies of deliverance and restoration of God’s people (33:1–48:35)
Jehovah to regather his people, his sheep, and raise up his servant David as a shepherd over them
Whereas Edom is to be desolated, the land of Israel is to flourish like the garden of Eden
As exiles in Babylon, the Israelites resemble dry, lifeless bones, but they are to be raised to life
The union of two sticks, one representing Joseph and the other Judah, illustrates the bringing back of the exiled people into a unity under God’s servant David
Jehovah’s restored people to come under Gog’s attack, but Jehovah promises to protect them and destroy Gog’s forces
Ezekiel is given vision of a temple and its features; a stream flows from the temple to the Dead Sea, where waters are healed and a fishing industry develops; trees along the stream’s banks yield edible fruit and leaves for healing
Land assignments are outlined; the city “Jehovah Himself Is There” is described