Biography of Ezekiel


Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
July 2017

Today, we begin a new study on the Book of Ezekiel.  Our goal for this morning is to give you a basic introduction to the book and to give you a sample of what this book is all about.

The name Ezekiel in Hebrew is Yechezkel (pronounced yeh–hes-kel).  It means “God will strengthen.” The title of our series is “The Visions of Ezekiel.”  There are visions all through this book.  The book starts and ends with a vision and there are some visions in the middle of the book.

Ezekiel kept a diary of these visions.  He wrote down the exact date and place of these visions.  In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.  (1:1 NIV)

The first vision took place on the fifth day of the fourth month.  That would be April 5 in our calendar but the Jewish calendar did not start in January.  It started in March, so this vision took place on June 5 but it has to be converted to a Gregorian calendar so it is more like June 29.

The Most Ignored Book

It has an important message for the church today and yet most Christians do not have a clue what is in this book.  To many people, Ezekiel is a difficult book to study.  It is perhaps the most ignored book in the Bible. Ezekiel is a book that is rarely preached in the pulpit.

The book uses some graphic and shocking language.  It is a book that contains some sexually explicit language.  It would be very difficult to read some of these chapters in church on a Sunday morning.  I will not tell you which ones they are not but we will come across them as we study the book.

There are some strange visions in this book, like the vision of all the dry bones in a graveyard, scattered everywhere, which suddenly come to life.  The first chapter describes some strange creatures with four faces and eyes all over their bodies.  They are rather grotesque looking. They look like a little like aliens.  They look extraterrestrials.  They are half animal and half human.  They are strange composite beings.

Ezekiel also sees in the first chapter a strange machine in the sky.  It is some vehicle that comes from the north.  It seems to emit rays and shines bright light.  Some have called this vision a UFO.  They believe it describes a flying saucer or an alien space craft from another planet.  Are they right?  Come back next week to find out.

The book not only has some strange visions but Ezekiel does some strange things in this book (hearing voices, lying down on one side for over a year, digging holes in the walls of houses, eating food cooked in dung).  If we did some of the things he did today, people would think we were mentally imbalanced.  Some have concluded that Ezekiel must have been psychotic.  He must have been mentally ill.

He was not only a street preacher; he was an actor.  He was the pantomime prophet. He prophesied in WORDS and in SYMBOLIC ACTIONS. It was an unorthodox style of ministry.  He did not do ministry like the other prophets.  He used object lessons to get the attention of people. A picture is worth a thousand words.  Ezekiel gives people a lot of pictures.  He was a good communicator.

Why Ezekiel Matters Today

Why should we study this book?  Why is this book important today?

One, We should study Ezekiel because it is a prophecy.

One third of the Bible is prophecy.  For those who are interested in prophecy, they will like studying this book.  There is some history in this book for us (e.g., the history of Jerusalem).  It contains one of the few books that describes the fall of Satan.  The book contains some history but it also contains prophecy.

Ezekiel actually predicts the rebirth of the nation of Israel.  The nation has been scattered all over the world for two thousand years and did not become a nation until 1948.  Ezekiel predicted that would take place.  Some of Ezekiel’s prophecies have not been fulfilled yet.

Two, we should study Ezekiel because it is a book of hope, as well as judgment.

No matter how bad things look, there is always hope.  This is an important book if you are going through a difficult time in life and everything is falling apart. We serve a God of hope (II Corinthians 1:3).

Three, We should study we should study Ezekiel because it gives us a fresh view of God. When times are bad (and they were bad for the Jews in Ezekiel’s day), we need a fresh view of God.

1) Ezekiel gives us a fresh view of God’s Glory

We will see that next week.  God shows up.  He makes an appearance to Ezekiel in his glory, accompanied with angels.  His glory appears not just in Jerusalem but in Babylon.  He shows up to exiles in Babylon.

2) Ezekiel gives us a fresh view of God’s Righteousness.

God judges sin.  He judges the people of God when the sin and He judges unbelieving nations as well.  I Peter 4:17 says that “judgment must begin at the house of God” (KJV).  There is a judgment for God’s people and it happens before God judges the wicked.

When we sin, we bear the consequences of our sin.  For the Jews, it was the Babylonian Captivity.  God’s people needed to understand why they were in captivity.  They were not their just because of Babylonian imperialism.  They were there because of their own sin.  They were experiencing divine discipline, which many believers still experience today.

3) Ezekiel gives us a fresh view of God’s Sovereignty.

He is in control of the future. He is sovereign, even in judgment and captivity. He is sovereign, even when bad things happen.

Four, we should also study Ezekiel because we live in days similar to the days in which he lived.

Ezekiel lived in days of complete apostasy.  The nation worshiped idols.  They left the true worship of God.  We live in end-times.  We live in days of apostasy today.  The Apostle Paul said thatthe Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith” (I Timothy 4:1 ESV).

We have entire denominations that have departed from the faith today.  They have rejected the Bible.  There are all kinds of signs of apostasy in the church today: theological liberalism, rejection of miracles, literal interpretation of Scripture, mocking the bible, acceptance of Darwinian evolution, acceptance of same sex marriage in the church, homosexual clergy, universalism, relativism, etc.

Ezekiel encountered false teachers in his day.  Many Jews in Babylon promoted false theology.  The false teachers in Ezekiel’s day gave the people false hope.  They were all positive.  They told people what they wanted to hear.  They had a popular message.  They spoke peace when there was no peace.

They said “We have the temple of the Lord.  We have the divine worship system.  We have the promises of God.  We have the Davidic kings.  We do not have anything to worry about.”  They claimed to have a word from the Lord but were liars.

Their problem was like the problem with false teachers today.  They preached only part of the Bible. The Law of Moses was a conditional covenant.  It promised blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.  The nation was under a curse because it broke the covenant. Many preachers today only tell you part of the Bible.  They tell you the parts that you want to hear.

Outline of the Book

The Book of Ezekiel can be divided into three main sections. It is easy to outline.  The book can be outlined with three words: revelation, retribution and restoration.

1) Ezekiel 1-3 describes a REVELATION of God.

Chapter one is Ezekiel’s vision.  Chapter two is Ezekiel’s call. Chapter three is Ezekiel’s commission by God.

2) Ezekiel 4-32 describe RETRIBUTION (or judgment).  It is divided into two parts

  • Ezekiel 4-24 deal with God’s judgment on Judah.

This section deals with the FATE OF JUDAH.  God had already started to judge the nation.  There had already been two deportations and treasures had been taken out of the Temple but Ezekiel predicted that something worse would happen.  He predicted that Jerusalem would fall and the Temple would be destroyed.  No one believed him but about six years after he began preaching, his prophecies came true.

  • Ezekiel 25-32 deal with God’s judgment on the Gentile nations.

It tells what will happen to the FOES OF JUDAH.  It describes judgment on seven nations surround Jerusalem who participated in or celebrated the destruction of Jerusalem.  These seven nations are Muslim nations today.  Ezekiel does not predict Judgment on Babylon but other prophets do.

3) Ezekiel 33-48 deal with the RESTORATION of Israel.

This does not deal with the foes of Judah.  It deals with the FUTURE OF JUDAH.  Ezekiel was a balanced preacher.  Some preachers are all negative.  They are hell, fire and brimstone preachers.  Their favorite topic to preach on is Hell.  Others are all positive.  They never preach on sin or judgment.  They are the Joel Osteens of the world.  Ezekiel preached both.  He preached judgment and restoration.

Ezekiel preached that Jerusalem will be destroyed but also predicts that Jerusalem will be restored.  There are some incredible prophecies in this section.

The Shekinah glory is the visible manifestation of God’s glory.  It was a bright light that represented the majesty and holiness of God.  It was located in the Holy of Holies in the Temple.  It was manifested in the time of Moses (1440 BC).  For over eight hundred years God dwelt on the earth and manifested His presence in the Tabernacle or Temple but, one day, he left the earth.

Ezekiel described the glory of God departing from the Temple (Ezekiel 10) but he predicted that the glory would one day return (Ezekiel 43).  in fact, the latter glory will be greater than the former glory.  One day, a new temple will be built in Jerusalem and the Shekinah glory will return.

There will be a new temple and a new worship.  The twelve tribes will eventually be united again.  The nation will return to the land.  We are not as interested in the new Temple but Ezekiel was born as a priest (1:3) and would have been very interested in that topic.  The book ends on a positive note.  Ezekiel is a prophet of restoration and hope.

Life & Times of Ezekiel

Before we look at the first chapter, I want to give you a little background about the man Ezekiel.  What do we know about him?  Who was he?  What problems did he face in his life?  Here are some highlights from his life.

1) Ezekiel was alive during Israel’s greatest revival as a nation

Ezekiel lived six hundred years before the time of Christ.  We even know the exact year he was born.   Ezekiel was born in 622 BC.  We know that from the first verse of the book.  The vision that he sees in the first chapter takes place in 592 BC.  It takes place five years after the second deportation, which took place in 597 BC.

Ezekiel had a vision of God in 592 BC.  He tells us that he was thirty at the time of that vision.  If you add thirty years to that date, you get 622 BC as the date of his birth.

If Ezekiel was born in 622 BC, we know who the king was in Judah.  It was Josiah.  He would have been king for the first twelve or thirteen years of Ezekiel’s life.  He was one of the best kings Judah ever had.  A revival took place while he was king.  He died in 609 BC.  Ezekiel would have been a boy when Josiah was king.

2) Ezekiel watched his nation go into decline

After he died, the nation went downhill.  It went into decline, moral decline and religious decline.  The nation fell into idolatry.  Jehoiakim, who was the second king after Josiah, was so wicked that when the book of Jeremiah was read to him, he took the scroll, cut it up and threw it into the fire.  That was what he thought of the Word of God.

3) Ezekiel watched foreign troops invade his country

The Babylonians began to emerge as the leading power in the world at that time.  They conquered the Assyrians.  They conquered the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish.  They invaded Israel

4) Ezekiel was taken from his home and country as a young man

Some Jews were taken to Babylon in 605 BC.  That was the first deportation.  Daniel was part of the first deportation.  He was a teenager and went to Babylon with his friends.  Ezekiel did not go in 605 BC.  He would have been seventeen years old at the time Daniel was taken into captivity.

Eight years later, there was a second deportation in 597 BC.  The Babylonians took over the country but let local kings control the country but the king of Judah rebelled against him, so he went back into the country and this time took ten thousand leading citizens out of the country.  Ezekiel was one of them.

Ezekiel lost his freedom and all of his dreams in 597 BC.  He would have been twenty-five at the time of his deportation, since this was eight years after the first deportation.  When Ezekiel got to Babylon in 597 BC, Daniel had already been in Babylon eight years.

In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. 13 As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord. 

14 He carried all Jerusalem into exile: all the officers and fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans—a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left. (II Kings 24:12-14 NIV)

During the second deportation, only the poor were left in the land.  The wealthy and prominent members of society were taken to Babylon in the second deportation (II Kings 12:14).  That tells that Ezekiel’s family was prominent and wealthy.  The King Jehoiakin went with Ezekiel to Babylon.

5) God called Ezekiel to ministry with a spectacular vision

Five years after he arrived in Babylon, God showed up in a vision, which we will look at next week.  Ezekiel encountered God and it changed his life. He says he was thirty when this vision took place.  He began a ministry to his fellow exiles.  For five years, the captives had no preachers but the Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel and he obeyed its call.

Ezekiel became God’s spokesman in a foreign land to his own people in their time of greatest need. For more than twenty years, he had a refugee ministry.  He had a ministry to Jewish refugees or, as we would call them today, hostages in a foreign land against their will.

These exiles were given a lot of freedom.  Ezekiel was wealthy and owned his own home (8:1). They were not all locked up but they were transported seven hundred miles against their will.  They were not tourists.  They lost their home.  They lost their country.  They lost their place of worship.

Ministry for Ezekiel was hard.  People did not like what he said.  It was unpopular.  Other prophets contradicted his message.  God told him from the beginning that he would have a hard time.  People would not listen to him.

6) Ezekiel experienced personal tragedy in his home life

He experienced a death in the family.  Jeremiah never got married.  God said that he was not allowed to get married or have kids (Jeremiah 16:2).  Ezekiel was married.  He is not said to have any kids but he did have a wife but his wife died early in his ministry.  She died in the fourth year of his ministry (about four years after he received his vision of God).

15 The word of the LORD came to me: 16 “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears (24:15-16 NIV).

The death of his wife symbolized destruction of the temple.  Is God cruel to use his wife as an object lesson and not even allow Ezekiel to mourn for her? Come back when we get to Ezekiel 24. This is just the teaser lesson.

7) Ezekiel never returned to the Promised Land once leaving it

Ezekiel lived and ministered in Babylon, which is modern-day Iraq, the rest of his life.  Cyrus the Great, the one who conquered Babylon, allowed some Jewish exiles to return home in 535 BC but Ezekiel was no longer alive.  Men do not live long without their wives.

He also died there. Ezekiel is buried in Babylon.  We may even know the location of his tomb.  According to Jewish tradition, he is buried in Kifl, Iraq.[1] It is a small town in southeastern Iraq near the Euphrates River. There is a mosque built there.  Muslims still pray at this tomb, which is a little strange.  They pray at the tomb of a Jewish prophet.


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