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Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

 Ezekiel 1:3 2 Kings 24:14-16

Ezekiel's call came in 593 B.C., the “thirtieth year” ( Ezekiel 1:1 ), probably Ezekiel's age (though it has been interpreted as 30 years since the discovery of the law book in 622,30 years since Jehoiachin's imprisonment, or a system of Babylonian chronology).

Scholars have long debated whether Ezekiel was in Babylon or Jerusalem during his ministry. The book bearing his name points unmistakably to a Babylonian locale ( Ezekiel 1:1-3;  Ezekiel 3:15;  Ezekiel 8:1-3;  Ezekiel 33:21 ). However, it has been argued that since most of the messages were addressed to the people of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 16:2;  Ezekiel 21:2;  Ezekiel 22:2 ), it would have been meaningless to deliver them to the exiles. Also, some believe his intimate knowledge of events in Jerusalem (for example, his description of worship practices in the Temple,  Ezekiel 8:1-18; Pelatiah's death,  Ezekiel 11:13 ) would require that he was in Jerusalem. To resolve the difficulties, some have suggested that he was in Babylon part of the time and in Jerusalem at other times.

All objections to the Babylonian locale can be answered satisfactorily, however. Prophets frequently delivered messages for audiences not present (for example, the messages against foreign nations as in  Ezekiel 25-32 ). Furthermore, the genuine visionary experience (through which Ezekiel claimed to receive his knowledge) cannot be dismissed arbitrarily. Of course, visitors from Jerusalem could have kept him informed about events at home and carried his messages back when they returned. Therefore, there is no need to reject Babylon as the location of Ezekiel's entire ministry.

Ezekiel was married, but little else is known about his family life. His wife died suddenly during the siege of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 24:18 ). Ezekiel continued to preach until at least 571 B.C. ( Ezekiel 29:17 ). His ministry can be divided into two phases: (1) 593-587, characterized by warnings of coming judgment on Judah and Jerusalem, and (2) 587-571, a period characterized by messages of encouragement and hope for the future.

It is not known when Ezekiel died or the manner of his death. An ancient Jewish tradition says he was put to death by his own people because of his preaching. A tomb in Kifl, south of ancient Babylon, is claimed to be that of Ezekiel. His influence on later Judaism cannot be overemphasized. Some have insisted that he was “the father of Judaism” rather than Ezra.

Much has been written about Ezekiel's personality. He has been labeled neurotic, paranoid, psychotic, or schizophrenic because of his unusual behavior (for example, lying on one side for 390 days and on the other for 40 days,  Ezekiel 4:4-6; shaving off his hair,  Ezekiel 5:1-4; and his many visions). A better explanation for his strange behavior is that anyone who conscientiously obeys God will be considered “strange” by some people. Nothing God asked Ezekiel to do seemed too difficult. Only once was he reluctant to obey a command that would have made him ceremonially unclean ( Ezekiel 4:14 ). His objection reflected his priestly training.

Historical Background Ezekiel lived in a time of international crisis and conflict. Assyria had become the undisputed world power in the Ancient Near East during the reign of Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.). Her smaller neighbors, including Israel and Judah, survived by paying her tribute. However, in 724Israel tried to throw off Assyria's yoke. After a three-year siege of Samaria by the Assyrians, Israel capitulated and ceased to exist as a nation. Many of her inhabitants were deported, and other subjugated peoples were moved into the area ( 2 Kings 17:20-24 ). With the death of the last of Assyria's able rulers, Ashurbanipal, in 627, the once great empire began to disintegrate. Babylonia under Nabopolassar took advantage of Assyria's weakness and asserted her independence in 626. In 612, Nineveh surrendered to the Babylonians, marking the demise of the once great Assyrian power, although pockets of resistance held out for several years.

In 605, a showdown between Egypt and Babylonia at Carchemish established Babylonia as the dominant world power. Judah was able to maintain her independence by transferring her allegiance to Babylonia. During the last century of her existence, Judah was governed by a succession of wicked kings, with one exception. Josiah (640-609 B.C.) was deeply committed to God and instituted sweeping religious reforms during his reign ( 2 Kings 23:1-25 ). His son Jehoahaz was deposed by the Egyptians after a three-months' rule and was succeeded by another son, Jehoiakim (609-598 B.C.), who rebelled against his Babylonian overlords. Nebuchadnezzar led an army to quell the insurrection. During the crisis that followed, Jehoiakim died or perhaps was killed by those in his own court. His son Jehoiachin (598-597 B.C.) was taken as prisoner to Babylon after a three-months' rule, along with Ezekiel and others. The last of Judah's kings, Zedekiah (597-587 B.C.), did not heed the warnings of Ezekiel and Jeremiah. He also rebelled, and Nebuchadnezzar led an army that besieged Jerusalem for eighteen months before the city fell.

Difficulties with Understanding the Book The messages of Ezekiel are not easy to understand because of their frequent use of symbolic imagery. The modern reader is not alone in struggling to understand Ezekiel. There is evidence of opposition to the book for liturgical purposes and public reading that continued into the first century A.D., although it had been recognized as part of the canon for several centuries. At one time those under age 30 were not allowed to read the first chapter and  2 Kings 40-48 . Rabbi ben Hezekiah burned 300 jars of “midnight oil” in an attempt to harmonize the text. He concluded that he had solved all its problems. It was popularly believed that all the difficulties of the book would finally be resolved when Elijah returned.

History of Ezekiel Studies For centuries few questions were raised about the authenticity of Ezekiel's messages. At the end of the nineteenth century critics who questioned the unity of most other Old Testament books were still reluctant to question the unity of Ezekiel.

The most radical challenge to traditional authorship was first expressed by Gustav Holscher in 1924. He concluded that only 170 of the 1,273 verses of the book were authentic. In 1930, C. C. Torrey denied the entire book to the sixth-century prophet, arguing that it was composed in 230 B.C. For the next two decades other scholars joined in dissecting the book. However, beginning in the 1950s, the negative assessment of the book was reversed so that today most scholars acknowledge its unity.

Influence of Ezekiel on the New Testament Allusions to Ezekiel in the New Testament are found most prominently in the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation. Jesus' presentation of Himself as the Good Shepherd in  John 10:1 surely was intended as a contrast to the wicked shepherd in   Ezekiel 34:1 . His comparison of Himself to the vine in  John 15:1 may have had in mind the parable of the vine of   Ezekiel 15:1 .

Allusions to Ezekiel are found more frequently in the Book of Revelation than any other New Testament book. The living creatures of  Ezekiel 1:1 reappear in   Revelation 4:6-9 . The throne of God ( Ezekiel 1:26-28 ) is described similarly in  Revelation 4:2-3 . “Gog, the land of Magog” ( Ezekiel 38:2 ) becomes “Gog and Magog” in  Revelation 20:8 . The Temple vision of  Ezekiel 40-48 has several parallels in   Revelation 21-22 , with its focus on the Holy City Jerusalem and the river flowing from the throne of God.

Jesus' frequent reference to Himself as the Son of man is generally considered to have its origin in  Daniel 7:13 , but he may have appropriated it from the 93 times God addressed Ezekiel as “son of man.”

Stylistic Characteristics of Ezekiel The Book of Ezekiel has been described by scholars as an artistic masterpiece. It contains a number of distinctive stylistic characteristics. Less than 10 percent of the messages are in a poetic format as compared to the frequent use of poetry in Isaiah and Jeremiah. A number of phrases are repeated frequently “Son of man,” 93 times; “they/you will know that I am the Lord,” 66 times; “the word of the Lord came to me,” 49 times). The entire book is written in the first person with the exception of  Ezekiel 1:2-3 .

Few other books in the Old Testament contain such a rich blend of symbolic actions, visions, figurative speech, and allegories to communicate God's messages. There are at least 11 symbolic acts performed by Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 3:26-27;  Ezekiel 4:1-3 ,Ezekiel 4:1-3, 4:4-8 ,Ezekiel 4:4-8, 4:9-17;  Ezekiel 5:1-4;  Ezekiel 12:1-16 ,Ezekiel 12:1-16, 12:17-20;  Ezekiel 21:6 ,Ezekiel 21:6, 21:18-23;  Ezekiel 24:15-24;  Ezekiel 37:15-23 ). Visions form the content of 17 of the 48 chapters (1-3; 8-11;  Ezekiel 37:1-14;  Ezekiel 40-48 ). The imaginative use of figurative language was characteristic of Ezekiel (the watchman,  Ezekiel 3:17-21;  Ezekiel 33:1-9; a refining furnace,  Ezekiel 22:17-22; Tyre as a merchant ship,  Ezekiel 27:1-36; Pharaoh as a crocodile,  Ezekiel 29:2-5 ). Ezekiel proclaimed many messages by means of allegory ( Ezekiel 15:1-8;  Ezekiel 16:1-63;  Ezekiel 17:1-24;  Ezekiel 23:1-49;  Ezekiel 24:3-14 ).

Contents of the Book There are four major divisions of the book:

1. Messages of judgment on Judah and Jerusalem,  Ezekiel 1:1-24:27

2. Messages of judgment on other nations,  Ezekiel 25:1-32:32

3. Messages of coming restoration of Israel,  Ezekiel 33:1-39:29

4. A vision of the restored people of God,  Ezekiel 40:1-48:35

God first appeared to Ezekiel in a storm cloud seated on a throne surrounded by cherubim ( Ezekiel 1:1-28;  Ezekiel 10:15 ). He commissioned Ezekiel to go to an “impudent children and stiffhearted” ( Ezekiel 2:4 ) and gave him a scroll to eat ( Ezekiel 3:1-3 ), symbolizing his complete identification with God's Word.

After Ezekiel returned to the exiles in Tel-Abib, God spoke to him again, addressing him as “watchman” ( Ezekiel 3:17 ) as a reminder of his responsibility to His people. God imposed silence on him for the next seven and one half years so that he could not speak unless he had a message from God ( Ezekiel 3:26-27;  Ezekiel 33:21-22 ).

Ezekiel's ministry began with the performance of a series of symbolic acts, all designed to communicate God's warnings of the coming siege of Jerusalem and the scattering of its people ( Ezekiel 4:1-5:17 ).  Ezekiel 8-11 contain an extended vision that took Ezekiel to Jerusalem where he saw abominable worship practices in the Temple (  Ezekiel 8:1-18 ).

Ezekiel pronounced woes on the false prophets and prophetesses who were leading the people astray ( Ezekiel 13:1-23 ). However, he did not exempt each individual from his or her responsibility before God ( Ezekiel 18:1-32 ). God told Ezekiel not to weep when his wife died during the siege of Jerusalem to communicate to the people that God's sympathy for His disobedient people was exhausted ( Ezekiel 24:16-17 ,  Ezekiel 24:22-24 ).

Along with all the prophets except Hosea, Ezekiel did not limit his messages to the covenant people.  Ezekiel 25-32 contain a series of messages against the surrounding nations. Though seemingly unrelated to the prophet's task of warning his own people, these messages served as solemn warnings that the covenant people could not expect to escape punishment if God would also punish nations which did not acknowledge Him.

After Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel changed the emphasis of his messages. There was no longer need for warning of impending punishment. Instead, the devastated nation needed encouragement that there was hope for the future. Therefore, the rest of the book, beginning with  Ezekiel 33:1 , contains mainly messages of hope. The vision of the valley of dry bones dramatically proclaimed the future resurrection of the nation ( Ezekiel 37:1-14 ). The prophecies concerning Gog of the land of Magog gave assurance that God would protect His people from their enemies ( Ezekiel 38:1-39:29 ).

The closing vision of the restored community announced hope for God's people in the future ( Ezekiel 40:1-48:35 ). These chapters are interpreted by some to be a literal description of the Temple to be rebuilt after the Exile, by some as an allegorical picture of the church, by others as a literal temple to be rebuilt as part of the fulfillment of the dispensational premillennial interpretation of Daniel's seventieth week ( Daniel 9:2-27 ), and by others as an example of apocalyptic language to describe God's coming kingdom in understandable terms of the destruction of wickedness and the establishment of a sanctified people in whose midst God would dwell.

Major Themes Prominent themes of the book include God's presence ( Ezekiel 1:26-28;  Ezekiel 48:35 ), the sovereign authority of God over all nations (Israel as well as pagan nations), individual responsibility ( Ezekiel 18:1-32 ), righteousness ( Ezekiel 18:5-9 ), submission to God as the key to blessing ( Ezekiel 9:4;  Ezekiel 16:60-63;  Ezekiel 18:30-32;  Ezekiel 36:22-38 ), and hope for the future of the people of God (37–48).


I. Introduction: Yahweh's Glory Watches Over the Captives in Babylon ( Ezekiel 1:1-28 ).

II. The Glory Brings Divine Judgment on Israel. ( Ezekiel 2:1-24:27 )

A. By calling Ezekiel to be a prophet ( Ezekiel 2:1-3:27 )

B. By predicting the fall of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 4:1-5:17 )

C. By condemning Jerusalem's idolatry and sins ( Ezekiel 6:1-7:27 )

D. By describing and explaining why the Glory departed from the city ( Ezekiel 8:1-11:25 )

E. By showing the futility of the nation's leadership ( Ezekiel 12:1-15:8 )

1. The Davidic ruler would be taken into captivity. ( Ezekiel 12:1-28 )

2. The false prophets and prophetesses would be swept away by a storm. ( Ezekiel 13:1-23 )

3. The idolatrous community leaders had created such a state of alienation from Yahweh that prayer for deliverance would be ineffectual. ( Ezekiel 14:1-23 )

4. Like a useless vine the city would be burned up. ( Ezekiel 15:1-8 )

F. As a means of providing reconciliation ( Ezekiel 16:1-18:32 )

1. In spite of Israel's ingratitude and unfaithfulness, Israel will be restored. ( Ezekiel 16:1-63 )

2. In spite of the king's failure, a universal kingdom will flourish. ( Ezekiel 17:1-24 )

3. On the basis of individual responsibility, the relationship between God and Israel will be maintained. ( Ezekiel 18:1-32 )

G. Resulting in the nation's destruction ( Ezekiel 19:1-23:49 )

1. In spite of the hopeless situations of their rulers ( Ezekiel 19:1-14 )

2. Because of Israel's constant state of apostasy ( Ezekiel 20:1-49 )

3. By means of a sword ( Ezekiel 21:1-32 )

4. Because Israel refused to live by God's covenant demands ( Ezekiel 22:1-31 )

5. Because of the two sisters' (Oholah and Oholibah) incessant immoralities ( Ezekiel 23:1-49 )

H. As seen in two events of unparalleled sadness ( Ezekiel 24:1-27 )

1. In the siege and destruction of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 24:1-14 )

2. In the death of Ezekiel's wife ( Ezekiel 24:15-27 )

III. The Glory Brings Divine Judgment to the Nations. ( Ezekiel 25:1-32:32 )

A. Against Ammon because of her joy over Israel's distress ( Ezekiel 25:1-7 )

B. Against Moab because of her failure to recognize Israel's revelatory status ( Ezekiel 25:8-11 )

C. Against Edom because of her lust for vengeance ( Ezekiel 25:12-14 )

D. Against Philistia because of her perpetual hostility ( Ezekiel 25:15-17 )

E. Against Tyre because of her greed for self-gain at Israel's expense ( Ezekiel 26:1-28:19 )

F. Against Sidon because of her constant threat to Israel's welfare ( Ezekiel 28:20-26 )

G. Against Egypt because of her pride and deceit ( Ezekiel 29:1-32:32 )

IV. The Glory Brings Restoration to Israel. ( Ezekiel 33:1-48:35 )

A. Through Ezekiel's faithful role as a watchman ( Ezekiel 33:1-33 )

B. By means of the messianic leader, “my servant David” ( Ezekiel 34:1-31 )

C. For the entire land ( Ezekiel 35:1-36:38 )

1. By the total destruction of Edom ( Ezekiel 35:1-15 )

2. In the deliverance of Israel ( Ezekiel 36:1-21 )

3. In the implementation of the new covenant ( Ezekiel 36:22-38 )

D. To revive the hopeless state of the people who felt they had perished ( Ezekiel 37:1-28 )

E. By defeating the ungodly forces of the nations under Gog of Magog ( Ezekiel 38:1-39:29 )

F. Resulting in the pure worship of the restored people ( Ezekiel 40:1-48:35 )

1. With the throne of Yahweh's glory replacing the ark ( Ezekiel 40:1-43:12 )

2. With the presence of Yahweh's glory providing far-reaching blessings ( Ezekiel 44:1-47:12 )

3. With a firm inheritance in the land ( Ezekiel 47:13-48:35 )

F. B. Huey, Jr.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

"God will strengthen," Hebrew, Υehezqel . Son of Buzi ( Ezekiel 1:3), a priest. Probably exercised the priestly office at Jerusalem before his departure in the captivity or transmigration ( Galut ) of Jehoiachin, which took place 11 years before the city fell ( 2 Kings 24:15). His priestly character gave him much weight with his Hebrew fellow exiles. His priestly service was as real in the spiritual temple in Chaldaea as it had been in the visible temple at Jerusalem (Ezekiel 11;  Ezekiel 40-48;  Ezekiel 4:13-14;  Ezekiel 20:12-13). The priestly tone appears throughout his book, so that he is the priest among the prophets. Called to prophesy in the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity (595 B.C.) "in the 30th year in the fourth month." i.e. the 30th from the era of Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar's father (525 B.C.), an era he naturally uses writing in Babylonia (Farrar).

But elsewhere he dates from Jehoiachin's captivity alone. This fact, and his expressly calling himself "the priest" ( Ezekiel 1:3), favor the view that his mention of the 30th fear of his own age is in order to mark his entering on a priestly ministry to his exiled countrymen (that being the usual age,  Numbers 4:23;  Numbers 4:30; "the heavens being opened" to him, as they were to his Antitype in beginning His ministry in His 30th year at Jordan,  Luke 3:21-23). Thus, he would be 25 when carried away. The best of the people were apparently the first carried away ( Ezekiel 11:16;  Jeremiah 24:2-8;  Jeremiah 24:10). Believing the prophets they obeyed Nebuchadnezzar's first summons to surrender, as the only path of safety. But the unbelieving were willing to do anything to remain in their native land; and despised their exiled brethren as having no share in the temple sacrifices.

Thus, Ezekiel's sphere of ministry was less impeded by his countrymen than Jeremiah's at home. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29) sent a letter to the exiles to warn them against the flattering promises of false prophets that they should soon return, for that the captivity would last 70 years. This was in the fourth year of Zedekiah or of Jehoiachin's captivity; and one of the captives, Shemaiah, so far from believing, wrote back that Jeremiah should be imprisoned. Ezekiel began his ministry the next or fifth year, confirming Jeremiah's words. The first scene of his prophecies was near the river Chebar (identified by some with Khabour, but rather the nahr Malcha or royal canal of Nebuchadnezzar) (See Babel ; BABYLON.)

Telabib (Thelaba) was his "house," where the elders came to inquire of him God's communications ( Ezekiel 3:15;  Ezekiel 8:1). They were eager to return to Jerusalem, but Ezekiel taught that they must first return to their God. He was married, but lost his wife by a sudden stroke ( Ezekiel 24:18). His prophesying continued for 22 years at least, down to the 27th year of the captivity ( Ezekiel 29:17). On comparing Ezekiel 13 with  Jeremiah 6:14;  Jeremiah 8:11;  Jeremiah 23:9-10;  Jeremiah 23:16;  Jeremiah 23:26; and Ezekiel 34, with  Jeremiah 23:4-5;  Jeremiah 23:33, we see the inner harmony between the two prophets, though Ezekiel did not receive his commission until toward the close of Jeremiah's prophesying; the latter having prophesied 34 years before Ezekiel, and continuing to prophesy six or seven years after him.

Ezekiel began prophesying the year after the communication of Jeremiah's predictions to Babylon ( Jeremiah 51:59-64); Ezekiel's prophecies form a sequel to them ( Ezekiel 1:2). Yet in natural character they widely differ: Jeremiah plaintive, sensitive to a fault, and tender; Ezekiel abrupt, unbending, firmly unflinching, with priestly zeal against gainsayers. He was contemporary also with Daniel, whose ministry was then in the Babylonian court whereas Ezekiel was among the Jews. Daniel's prophecies were later than those of Ezekiel, but his fame for piety and wisdom was already established ( Ezekiel 14:14;  Ezekiel 16: 28;  Ezekiel 16:3); and the Jews in their low state naturally prided themselves on one who reflected such glory on their nation at the pagan capital (Daniel 1-2). Ezekiel and Daniel have a mutual resemblance in the visions and images in their prophecies.

It is an undesigned proof of genuineness that, while prophesying against the enemies of the covenant people, he directs none against Babylon, whereas Jeremiah utters against her terrible denunciations. Ezekiel gave no needless offense to the government under which he lived, Jeremiah on the other hand was still in Judaea. The improved character of the people toward the close of the captivity, their renunciation of idolatry thenceforth and return to the law under Ezra, were primarily under God due in a great measure to Ezekiel's labors. "His word fell like a hammer upon all the pleasant dreams in which the captives indulged, and ground them to powder, a gigantic nature fitted to struggle against the Babylonian spirit of the age, which reveled in things gigantic and grotesque" (Hengstenberg). Realizing energy is his characteristic, adapting him to confront the "rebellious house," "of stubborn front and hard heart."

He zealously upheld the ceremonies of the law ( Ezekiel 4:14;  Ezekiel 22:8, etc.); keeping them before the national mind, in the absence of the visible framework, against the time of the restoration of the national polity and temple. His self sacrificing patriotism, ready for any suffering if only he may benefit his countrymen spiritually, appears in his conduct when she who was "the desire of his eyes" was snatched from him at a stroke ( Deuteronomy 33:9). The phrase shows how tenderly he loved her; yet with priestly prostration of every affection before God's will he puts on no mourning, in order to convey a prophetical lesson to his people ( Ezekiel 24:15-25). His style is colored by the pentateuch and by Jeremiah. It is simple, the conceptions definite, the details even in the enigmatical symbols minute and vivid, magnificent in imagery, but austere. The fondness for particulars appears in contrasting his prophecy concerning Tyre (Ezekiel 28) with Isaiah's (Isaiah 23).

The obscurity lies in the subject matter, not in the form or manner of his communications. He delights to linger about the temple and to use its symbolical forms, with which his priestly sympathies were so bound up, as the imagery to express his instructions. This was divinely ordered to satisfy the spiritual want and instinctive craving felt by the people in the absence of the national temple and the sacrifices. Thus, Ezekiel molded their minds to the conviction that the essence of the law could be maintained where many of its forms could not be observed, a new phase in the kingdom of God; the synagogal worship which he maintained, consisting of prayer and the word, preparing the way for the gospel wherein God who is a spirit is worshipped acceptably by the spiritual wherever they be. His frequent repetitions give weight and force to his pictures; poetical parallelism is found only in Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 21; Ezekiel 27; Ezekiel 28-30.

His mysterious symbols presented in plain words, like our Lord's parables, were designed to stimulate the people's dormant minds. The superficial, volatile, and willfully unbelieving were thereby left to judicial blindness ( Isaiah 6:10;  Matthew 13:11-13, etc.), while the better disposed were awakened to a deeper search into the things of God by the very obscurity of the symbols. In observance of this divine purpose has led the Jews to place his book among the "treasures" ( Genazin ), which, like the early chapters of Genesis and Song of Solomon, are not to be read until the age of 30 (Jerome's Ep. ad Eustoch.).  Sirach 49:8 refers to Ezekiel. So Josephus (Ant. 10:5, section 1), Melito's catalogue (Eusebius, H. E., 4:26), Origen, Jerome, and the Talmud mention it as part of the canon.

The oneness of tone throughout, and the recurrence of favorite phrases ("son of man," "they shall know that I am the Lord, ... the hand of the Lord was upon me," "set thy face against," etc.), exclude the idea of interpolation of sections. The earlier part, treating mainly of sin and judgment (Ezekiel 1-32), is a key to the latter part, which holds out a glorious hope in the last days when the judgments shall have had their designed effect. Thus, unity and orderly progress characterize the whole. The fall of Jerusalem is the central point.

Previously, he calls to repentance, and rebukes blind trust in Egypt or in man ( Ezekiel 17:15-17; compare  Jeremiah 37:7). Afterward he consoles the captives by promising future and final restoration. His prophecies against seven (the number for completeness) foreign nations stand between these two divisions, and were uttered in the interval between the knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar's siege ( Ezekiel 24:2, etc.) and the news that Jerusalem was taken ( Ezekiel 33:21), yet uttered with the prophetic certainty of its capture, so that it is taken as a past fact ( Ezekiel 26:2). One however of this series ( Ezekiel 29:17) belongs to the 27th year of the captivity, and is therefore later than the temple series ( Ezekiel 40:1), which was in the 25th. There are nine sections:

(1) Ezekiel's call: Ezekiel 1-3; 15.

(2) Symbolical prophecies of Jerusalem's fall:  Ezekiel 3:16-17.

(3) A year and two months later a vision of the temple polluted by Tammuz or Adonis worship; God's consequent scattering of fire over the city, and forsaking the temple to reveal Himself to an inquiring people in exile; purer, happier times follow: Ezekiel 8-11.

(4) Sins of the several classes, priests, prophets, and princes: Ezekiel 12-19.

(5) A year later the warning of judgment for national guilt repeated more distinctly as the time drew nearer: Ezekiel 20-2.

(6) Two years and five months later, the very day on which Ezekiel speaks, is announced as that of beginning the siege; Jerusalem shall fall: Ezekiel 24.

(7) Predictions against foreign nations during Ezekiel's silence regarding his own people; since judgment begins at the house of God it will visit the pagan world: Ezekiel 25-32; some of these were uttered later than others, but all began to be given (Havernick) after the fall of Jerusalem.

(8) In the 12th year of the captivity, when the fugitives from Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 33:21) had reached Chaldaea, he foretells better times, Israel's restoration, God's kingdom triumphant over Seir, the pagan world powers, and Gog: Ezekiel 33-39.

(9) After 13 years, the last vision, the order and beauty of the restored kingdom: Ezekiel 40-48.

The fullness of details as to the temple and its offerings favors the view of a literal (in the main) interpretation rather than a purely symbolical one. The prophecy has certainly not yet been fulfilled; the fulfillment will make all dear. There are details physically so improbable as to preclude a purely literal explanation. The main truth is dear. As Israel served the nations for their rejection of Messiah, so shall they serve Israel in the person of Messiah when Israel shall acknowledge Messiah ( Isaiah 60:12;  Zechariah 14:16-19;  Psalms 72:11). The ideal temple exhibits under Old Testament forms the essential character of Messiah's worship as it shall be when He shall reign in Jerusalem among His own people the Jews, and thence to the ends of the earth ( Jeremiah 3:17-18). The square of the temple area is three miles and a half, i.e. larger than all the former Jerusalem.

The city is three or four thousand square miles, including the holy portion for the prince, priests, and Levites, i.e., nearly as large as all Judaea W. of Jordan. Again, the half of the holy portion extends 30 miles S. of Jerusalem, i.e., covering nearly the whole southern territory. Without great physical changes (and the boundaries are given the same as under Moses) no adequate room is left for the five tribes whose inheritance is beyond the holy portion ( Ezekiel 47:19;  Ezekiel 48:23-38). The literal sacrifices seem to oppose  Hebrews 9:10;  Hebrews 10:14;  Hebrews 10:18, and to give a handle to Rome's worst error, the sacrifice of the mass. In Ezekiel's temple holiness pervades the whole, and there is no distinction of parts as to relative holiness, as in the Old Testament temple. But all the difficulties may be only apparent.

Faith waits God's time and God's way; the ideal of the theocratic temple will then first be realized. Israel will show in the temple rites the essential unity between the law and the gospel, which now seem to be opposed ( Romans 10:4;  Romans 10:8). We do not yet see how to harmonize a return to sacrifices with the Epistle to the Hebrew, but two considerations lessen the difficulty: The Jews as a nation stand to God in a peculiar relation, distinct from that of us Christians of the present elect church gathered out of Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately. That shall be the period of public liturgy, or perfect outward worship of the great congregation on earth, as the present time is one of gathering out the spiritual worshippers one by one, who shall reign in glorified bodies with Christ over Israel and the nations in the flesh.

Besides Israel's spiritual relation to Christ as her Savior, she will perform a perfect outward service of sacrifice, (retrospectively referring to Christ's one propitiatory offering, lest this should be lost sight of in the glory of His kingdom), prayer, and praise as a nation to her then manifested King reigning in the midst of her; and all nations shall join in that service, recognizing His divine kingship over themselves also. Christ's word shall be fulfilled, "till heaven and earth pass one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled" ( Matthew 5:18). The antitypical perfection of the old temple service, which seemed a cumbrous yoke unintelligible to the worshippers, shall then be understood fully and become a delightful service of love. Ezekiel was the only prophet, strictly, at Babylon.

For Daniel was rather a seer, unveiling the future in the pagan court, but not discharging the prophetical office as Ezekiel among the covenant people; therefore his book was not classed with the prophets but with the hagiographa. Striking instances of seeming contradictions, which when understood become strong confirmations of genuineness, are  Ezekiel 12:13, "I will bring him (Zedekiah) to Babylon ... yet shall he not see it though he shall die there"; because he was blinded by Nebuchadnezzar before arriving there ( Jeremiah 52:11). Also  Ezekiel 18:20, "the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father"; not really contradicting  Exodus 20:5, "visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me"; the children hating God as their fathers did, the sin with cumulative force descends from parent to child; so  Deuteronomy 24:16 expressly "the fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither the children for the fathers."

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Ezekiel (= ‘Jahweh strengthens’).

I. The Man. Ezekiel was the son of Buzi, a priest of the family of Zadok, and was carried into exile with Jehoiachin, b.c. 597 ( 2 Kings 24:8 ff.). Josephus ( Ant . X. vi. 3) states that he was a boy at the time; but this is doubtful, for in the fifth year from then he was old enough to be called to the prophetic office (  Ezekiel 1:2 ), and could speak of his youth as long past (  Ezekiel 4:14 ): in the ninth year his wife dies (  Ezekiel 24:16 ); his acquaintance with the Temple is best explained by supposing that he had officiated there, and the predictions in ch. 38f. read as though he remembered the inroad of b.c. 626. He and his fellow-exiles formed an organized community, presided over by elders, at Tel-Abib, on the banks of the canal Chebar (  Ezekiel 3:15 ). Ezekiel lived in a house of his own (  Ezekiel 3:24 ), and, for at least 22 years (  Ezekiel 1:2 ,   Ezekiel 29:17 ), endeavoured to serve his people. His call was prefaced by an impressive vision of the Divine glory, and the expression, ‘the hand of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] was upon me’ (  Ezekiel 1:3 ,   Ezekiel 8:1 ,   Ezekiel 37:1 ,   Ezekiel 40:1 ), indicates that the revelations which he received came to him in a state of trance or ecstasy; cf. also   Ezekiel 3:15;   Ezekiel 3:25 with   Ezekiel 24:27 . His message met at first with contemptuous rejection (  Ezekiel 3:7 ), and the standing title, ‘a rebellious house,’ shows that he never achieved the result which he desired. Yet there was something in his speech which pleased the ears of the captives, and brought them to his house for counsel (  Ezekiel 8:1 ,   Ezekiel 14:1 ,   Ezekiel 20:1 ,   Ezekiel 33:30-33 ). No doubt his character also commanded attention. His moral courage was impressive (  Ezekiel 3:8 ); he ever acted as ‘a man under authority,’ accepting an unpleasant commission and adhering to it in spite of speedy (  Ezekiel 3:14 ) and constant suffering (  Ezekiel 3:18 ff.,   Ezekiel 33:7 ); even when he sighs it is at God’s bidding (  Ezekiel 21:6-7 ), and when his beloved wife dies he restrains his tears and resumes his teaching (  Ezekiel 24:15-18 ). Part of his message was given in writing, but the spoken word is in evidence too (  Ezekiel 3:10 ,   Ezekiel 11:25 ,   Ezekiel 20:3 ,   Ezekiel 24:18 ,   Ezekiel 33:30-33 ). It has been said that he was ‘pastor rather than prophet,’ and this would not be far from the truth if it ran, ‘pastor as well as prophet,’ for he both watched over individual souls and claimed the ear of the people. Again, he has been called ‘a priest in prophet’s garb,’ for the thoughts and principles of the priesthood controlled his conduct (  Ezekiel 4:14 ), come out amidst the vigorous ethical teaching of chapter 33, and give its distinctive colouring to the programme unfolded at the close of the book. We know nothing of his later life. Clem. Alex. [Note: lex. Alexandrian.] refers to the legend that he met Pythagoras and gave him instruction. Pseudo-Epiphanius and others assert that he was martyred by a Hebrew whom he had rebuked for idolatry. His reputed grave, a few days’ journey from Baghdad, was a pilgrimage resort of the mediæval Jews.

II. The Book

1 . Division and Contents . Two halves are sharply differentiated from each other in matter and tone. The change synchronized with the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem (  Ezekiel 24:1-2 ). Chs. 1 24 contain denunciations of sin and predictions of judgment; 25 48 are occupied with the hopes of the future. In the first division we distinguish: 1. The Introduction (  Ezekiel 1:1 to   Ezekiel 3:21 ). 2. The first series of prophecies in act and word (  Ezekiel 3:22-27 ). 3. The abominations practised in Jerusalem (  Ezekiel 3:8-11 ). 4. Sins, reasonings, stern threats (  Ezekiel 3:12-19 ). 5. The same subject, and the beginning of the end (  Ezekiel 3:20-24 ). In the second division: 1. The removal of hostile neighbours (  Ezekiel 3:25-27 ). 2. The moral requirements now to be met; the destruction of the last enemy (Eze 3:33 39). 3. A sketch of the community of the future (Eze 3:40 48). In both parts th ere is a scrupulous exactness of dating, unexampled in any earlier prophet (  Ezekiel 1:1-2 ,   Ezekiel 8:1 ,   Ezekiel 20:1 ,   Ezekiel 24:1 ,   Ezekiel 26:1 ,   Ezekiel 29:1;   Ezekiel 29:17 ,   Ezekiel 30:20 ,   Ezekiel 31:1 ,   Ezekiel 32:1;   Ezekiel 32:17 ,   Ezekiel 33:21 ,   Ezekiel 40:1 ).

Ezekiel’s verdict on the national history is of unmixed severity. From their starting-point in Egypt the people had behaved ill (cf.  Ezekiel 20:5-13 with   Jeremiah 2:2 ). Jerusalem to him almost synonymous with the nation was pagan in origin and character (  Ezekiel 20:16 ). The root of their wickedness was an inveterate love of idolatry ( passim ). Even Ezekiel’s own contemporaries longed to be heathens: their God could hold them back only by extreme violence (  Ezekiel 20:32-38 ). The exiles were somewhat less guilty than their brethren in Jerusalem (  Ezekiel 14:22 f.). But, on the whole, princes, priests, and people were an abandoned race. They loved the worship of the high places, which, according to Ezekiel, had always been idolatrous and illegitimate. They ate flesh with the blood in it, disregarded the Sabbath, polluted the Temple with ceremonial and moral defilements, committed adultery and other sexual abominations, were guilty of murder, oppression, the exaction of usury, harshness to debtors. The list can be paralleled from other Prophetic writings, but the stress is here laid on offences against God. And this is in accordance with the strong light in which Ezekiel always sees the Divine claims. The vision with which the whole opens points to His transcendent majesty. The title, ‘son of man,’ by which the prophet is addressed 116 times, marks the gulf between the creature and his Maker. The most regrettable result of Israel’s calamities is that they seem to suggest impotence on Jahweh’s part to protect His own. The motive which has induced Him to spare them hitherto, and will, hereafter, ensure their restoration, is the desire to vindicate His own glory. In the ideal future the prince’s palace shall be built at a proper distance from Jahweh’s, and not even the prince shall ever pass through the gate which has been hallowed by the returning glory of the Lord. Hence it is natural that the reformation and restoration of Israel are God’s work. He will sprinkle clean water on them, give them a new heart, produce in them humility and self-loathing. He will destroy their foes and bless their land with supernatural fertility. It was He who had sought amongst them in vain for one who might be their Saviour. It was He who in His wrath had caused them to immolate their children in sacrifice. God is all in all. Yet the people have their part to play. Ezekiel protests against the traditional notion that the present generation were suffering for their ancestors’ faults: to acquiesce in that is to deaden the sense of responsibility and destroy the springs of action. Here he joins hands with Jer. (  Jeremiah 31:29 f.), both alike coming to close quarters with the individual conscience. He pushes almost too far the truth that a change of conduct brings a change of fortune (  Ezekiel 33:14-16 ). But there is immense practical value in his insistence on appropriate action, his appeal to the individual, and the tenderness of the appeal (  Ezekiel 18:23;   Ezekiel 18:31 ,   Ezekiel 33:11 ). Nowhere is Jahweh’s longing for the deliverance of His people more pathetically expressed. And, notwithstanding their continual wrongdoing, the bond of union is so close that He resents as a personal wrong the spitefulness of their neighbours (  Jeremiah 31:25-32;   Jeremiah 31:35 ). The heathen, as such, have no future, although individual heathen settlers will share the common privileges (  Ezekiel 47:22 f.).

The concluding chapters, 40 48, ‘the weightiest in the book,’ are a carefully elaborated sketch of the polity of repatriated Israel Israel, i.e , not as a nation, but as an ecclesiastical organization. In the foreground is the Temple and its services. Its position, surroundings, size, arrangements, are minutely detailed; even the place and number of the tables on which the victims must be slain are settled. The ordinances respecting the priesthood are precise; none but the Zadokites may officiate; priests who had ministered outside Jerusalem are reduced to the menial duties of the sanctuary (cf.   Deuteronomy 18:8 ). Adequate provision is made for the maintenance of the legitimate priests. Rules are laid down to ensure their ceremonial purity. The office of high priest is not recognized. And there is no real king. In ch. 37 the ruler, of David’s line, seems to count for something; not so here. True, he is warned against oppressing his subjects (  Ezekiel 45:9 ,   Ezekiel 46:16-18 ), but he has no political rôle. A domain is set apart to provide him a revenue, and his chief function is to supply the sacrifices for the festivals. The country is divided into equal portions, one for each tribe, all of whom are brought back to the Holy Land. No land is to be permanently alienated from the family to which it was assigned. God’s glory returns to the remodelled and rebuilt sanctuary, and Ezekiel’s prophecy reaches its climax in the concluding words, ‘The name of the city from that day shall be, Jahweh is there.’ It would be difficult to exaggerate the effect which this Utopia has produced. Some details, such as the equal division of the land, the arrangements respecting the position and revenue of the prince, the relation of the tribes to the city, were impracticable. But the limitation of the priesthood to a particular class, the introduction of a much more scrupulous avoidance of ceremonial defilement, the eradication of pagan elements of worship, the exclusion of all rival objects of worship, went a long way towards creating Judaism. And whilst this has been the practical result, the chapters in question, together with Ezekiel’s visions of the chariot and cherubim, have had no little influence in the symbolism and imaginative presentment of Jewish apocalyptic literature and Christian views of the unseen world.

2. Style . Notwithstanding the favourable opinion of Schiller, who wished to learn Heb. in order to read Ezekiel, it is impossible to regard this prophet as one of the greatest masters of style. His prolixity has been adduced as a proof of advanced age. Repetitions abound. Certain words and formulas recur with wearisome frequency: ‘I, Jahweh, have spoken,’ ‘They shall know that I am Jahweh’ (56 times), ‘Time of the iniquity of the end,’ ‘A desolation and an astonishment’; Ezekiel’s favourite word for ‘idols’ is used no fewer than 38 times. The book abounds in imagery, but this suffers from the juxtaposition of incongruous elements (  Ezekiel 17:3-6 ,   Ezekiel 32:2 ), a mixture of the figurative and the literal (  Ezekiel 31:17 f.), inaptness (  Ezekiel 11:3 ,   Ezekiel 15:1-5 ): that in chs. 16 and 23 is offensive to Western but probably not to Eastern taste; that of the Introductory Vision was partly suggested by the composite forms seen in the temples and palaces of Babylonia, and is difficult to conceive of as a harmonious whole. But as a rule Ezekiel sees very distinctly the things he is dealing with, and therefore describes them clearly. Nothing could be more forcible than his language concerning the sins that prevailed. The figures of   Ezekiel 29:3 f.,   Ezekiel 34:1-19 ,   Ezekiel 37:1-14 are very telling. There is genuine lyric force in   Ezekiel 27:26-32 ,   Ezekiel 32:17-32 , and other dirges; there is a charming idyllic picture in   Ezekiel 34:25-31 . The abundant use of symbolic actions claims notice. Ezekiel’s ministry opens with a rough drawing on a tile, and no other prophet resorted so often to like methods of instruction.

3. Text, integrity, and canonicity . Ezekiel shares with Samuel the unenviable distinction of having the most corrupt text in the OT. Happily the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , and in a minor degree the Targum and the Pesh., enable us to make many indisputable corrections. Parallel texts, internal probability, and conjecture have also contributed to the necessary reconstruction, but there remain no small number of passages where it is impossible to be certain. The integrity of the book admits of no serious question. Here and there an interpolation may be recognized, as at   Ezekiel 24:22 f.,   Ezekiel 27:9-25 a. One brief section was inserted by the prophet out of its chronological order (  Ezekiel 29:17-20 ). But the work as a whole is Ezekiel’s own arrangement of the memoranda which had accumulated year after year. Although the Rabbis never doubted this, Ezekiel narrowly escaped exclusion from the Canon. Chag ., 13 a , informs us that but for a certain Hananiah it ‘would have been withdrawn from public use, because the prophet’s words contradict those of the Law.’ Mistrust was also aroused by the opening which the Vision of the Chariot afforded for theosophical speculation; no one might discuss it aloud in the presence of a single hearer ( Chag ., 11 b ).

J. Taylor.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

Among the people of Judah taken captive to Babylon in 597 BC was the young priest Ezekiel. (For an outline history of the era see Judah, Tribe And Kingdom ) He was only twenty-five years of age at the time and, being a priest, no doubt hoped that soon he would return to Jerusalem and begin his priestly duties in the temple. After he had been in Babylon five years, God made it plain to him that he would not return to Jerusalem. He would become a prophet, or messenger of God, to the Jews in Babylon ( Ezekiel 1:1-3;  Ezekiel 2:3;  Ezekiel 2:5;  Ezekiel 2:7;  Ezekiel 3:4). His prophetic preaching lasted at least twenty-two years ( Ezekiel 29:17), and much of it is recorded in the biblical book that he wrote.

Ezekiel’s preaching

At the time Ezekiel began preaching in Babylon, Jerusalem had not been destroyed. He denounced the sins of its citizens, both those who had been taken to Babylon and those who were still in Jerusalem. He warned that when Babylon finally lost patience, it would destroy city and temple alike ( Ezekiel 4:1-2;  Ezekiel 5:12;  Ezekiel 6:1-7;  Ezekiel 7:5-9).

The exiles responded to Ezekiel’s preaching by refusing to believe his prophecies of judgment, but when Jerusalem finally fell they accepted that he was a true prophet. People came to listen to him, but though they regarded him as an unusual and interesting person, they still took little notice of what he said ( Ezekiel 33:21;  Ezekiel 33:30-33).

Certainly Ezekiel was unusual. He acted some of his messages with very unorthodox behaviour (Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5;  Ezekiel 12:1-16), gave the most striking and colourful illustrations (Ezekiel 16;  Ezekiel 17:1-21; Ezekiel 23), and recounted the strangest visions ( Ezekiel 1:4-28; Ezekiel 8; Ezekiel 9; Ezekiel 10; Ezekiel 11; Ezekiel 37).

Ezekiel was not just a preacher of doom. He was concerned also with preparing God’s people for the new age they could expect after their restoration to Palestine. In dramatic symbolic pictures he spoke of the ultimate destruction of evil and the triumph of God’s people (Ezekiel 38; Ezekiel 39). His picture of the golden age was one of an ideal national life, where God dwelt in the midst of his people and they worshipped him in a religious order that was perfect in every detail (Ezekiel 40; Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42; Ezekiel 43; Ezekiel 44; Ezekiel 45; Ezekiel 46; Ezekiel 47; Ezekiel 48).

Contents of the book of Ezekiel

After seeing a vision of the glorious chariot-throne of God (1:1-28), Ezekiel was called by God to take his message to a people who, God warned, would be very stubborn (2:1-3:27). Ezekiel then announced God’s judgment on Jerusalem. Through a number of acted messages, he demonstrated the horrors of siege, slaughter and exile (4:1-5:17). The reason for the nation’s judgment was its idolatry (6:1-14). Its judgment was certain, and all attempts to withstand Babylon’s attacks were useless (7:1-27).

In a fresh series of visions Ezekiel was taken, as it were, to Jerusalem, where he saw people engaging in idolatry in the temple (8:1-18). As God sent his executioners through Jerusalem (9:1-11), his glorious chariot-throne began its sad departure from the city (10:1-22). The city’s leaders were the chief cause of its downfall (11:1-13), though God would preserve the faithful minority (11:14-25). By further acting and preaching, Ezekiel stressed the certainty of the coming siege and exile (12:1-28), and condemned the false prophets who were building up false hopes of security among the doomed people (13:1-23). Idolatry would now get its just punishment (14:1-15:8).

The nation as a whole had been unfaithful to God who had so lovingly cared for it (16:1-63), and Zedekiah the king had been treacherous in his political dealings (17:1-24). The people had no one but themselves to blame for the coming judgment (18:1-32), and no king would be able to save them (19:1-14). Exile in Babylon was certain (20:1-26), though after cleansing from the filth of idolatry there would be restoration (20:27-44). By further acted messages, Ezekiel indicated the ferocity of the Babylonians’ attack on Jerusalem (20:45-21:32). The nation was corrupt beyond reform (22:1-23:49), and only by destruction could its filth be removed (24:1-27).

After recording a number of judgments against foreign nations – Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia (25:1-17), Tyre (26:1-28:19), Sidon (28:20-26), Egypt (29:1-32:32) – Ezekiel spoke of a new phase in his work, namely, the building up of the people in preparation for the return from exile (33:1-20). Jerusalem had now fallen (33:21-33) and Israel could look forward to better government in the future than there had been in the past (34:1-31). Enemies in the land would be removed (35:1-15); restoration was assured (36:1-38). The ‘dead’ nation would come to life again (37:1-28) and God’s people could look forward to the day when all enemies would be destroyed (38:1-39:29).

Being a priest, Ezekiel pictured life in the new age as centring on an ideal temple, where God would dwell with his people and they would worship and serve him in true holiness. He described the temple (40:1-42:20), God’s coming to dwell in it (43:1-12), and the service to be carried out there (43:13-44:31).

In Ezekiel’s perfectly reconstructed national life, land for priests, Levites and king was justly allocated, and full provision was made for all the national religious festivals (45:1-46:24). Life was one of unending satisfaction, for it came from God himself (47:1-12). The tribes of Israel were given equal portions for their respective tribal territories (47:13-48:29), but the chief blessing was that God now dwelt in the midst of his people for ever (48:30-35).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

like his contemporary Jeremiah, was of the sacerdotal race. He was carried away captive to Babylon with Jehoiachim, king of Judah, B.C. 598, and was placed with many others of his countrymen upon the river Chebar, in Mesopotamia, where he was favoured with the divine revelations contained in his book. He began to prophesy in the fifth year of his captivity, and is supposed to have prophesied about twenty-one years. The boldness with which he censured the idolatry and wickedness of his countrymen is said to have cost him his life; but his memory was greatly revered, not only by the Jews, but also by the Medes and Persians. The book which bears his name may be considered under the five following divisions: the first three chapters contain the glorious appearance of God to the prophet, and his solemn appointment to his office, with instructions and encouragements for the discharge of it. From the fourth to the twenty- fourth chapter inclusive, he describes, under a variety of visions and similitudes, the calamities impending over Judea, and the total destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem, by Nebuchadnezzar, occasionally predicting another period of yet greater desolation, and more general dispersion. From the beginning of the twenty-fifth to the end of the thirty- second chapter, the prophet foretels the conquest and ruin of many nations and cities, which had insulted the Jews in their affliction; of the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Edomites, and Philistines; of Tyre, of Sidon, and Egypt; all of which were to be punished by the same mighty instrument of God's wrath against the wickedness of man; and in these prophecies he not only predicts events which were soon to take place, but he also describes the condition of these several countries in the remote periods of the world. From the thirty-second to the fortieth chapter, he inveighs against the accumulated sins of the Jews collectively, and the murmuring spirit of his captive brethren; exhorts them earnestly to repent of their hypocrisy and wickedness, upon the assurance that God will accept sincere repentance; and comforts them with promises of approaching deliverance under Cyrus; subjoining intimations of some far more glorious, but distant, redemption under the Messiah, though the manner in which it is to be effected is deeply involved in mystery. The last nine chapters contain a remarkable vision of the structure of a new temple and a new polity, applicable in the first instance to the return from the Babylonian captivity, but in its ultimate sense referring to the glory and prosperity of the universal church of Christ. Jerom observes that the visions of Ezekiel are among the things in Scripture hard to be understood. This obscurity arises, in part at least, from the nature and design of the prophecies themselves; they were delivered amidst the gloom of captivity; and though calculated to cheer the drooping spirits of the Jews, and to keep alive a watchful and submissive confidence in the mercy of God, yet they were intended to communicate only such a degree of encouragement as was consistent with a state of punishment, and to excite an indistinct expectation of future blessings, upon condition of repentance and amendment. It ought also to be observed, that the last twelve chapters of this book bear a very strong resemblance to the concluding chapters of the Revelation. The style of this prophet is characterized by Bishop Lowth as bold, vehement, and tragical; as often worked up to a kind of tremendous dignity. He is highly parabolical, and abounds in figures and metaphorical expressions. He may be compared to the Grecian AEschylus; he displays a rough but majestic dignity; an unpolished though noble simplicity; inferior perhaps in originality and elegance to others of the prophets, but unequalled in that force and grandeur for which he is particularly celebrated, He sometimes emphatically and indignantly repeats his sentiments, fully dilates his pictures, and describes the idolatrous manners of his countrymen under the strongest and most exaggerated representations that the license of eastern style would admit. The middle part of the book is in some measure poetical, and contains even some perfect elegies, though his thoughts are in general too irregular and uncontrolled to be chained down to rule, or lettered by language.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [6]

The prophet. His name is very significant, meaning "the strength of God." The ministry of this man seems to have been carried on by signs and representations, more than by open preaching. The Lord indeed said that Ezekiel was for a sign unto his people. ( Ezekiel 24:24-27) And in nothing perhaps do the customs and manners of mankind differ more, than in the method of communication to each other. Language is rather an imperfection, notwithstanding all we boast of its beauty, than an accomplishment. It is most needful in numberless instances, suited to our present state. But in the world of perfection to which we are hastening, the communication of ideas will have a more complete and quick order. The word of God tells us as much, in saying, that in that blessed place, "whether there be tongues they shall cease?" ( 1 Corinthians 13:8) In the eastern countries, and in the days of the prophets particularly, and even now, modern travellers say, that generally more than half the transactions of life are carried on by signs. The prophets delivered their messages by gesticulations and signs, similar to what was then in common use in common concerns, and thus made their message familiar and easy to be understood. Thus Ezekiel's removing into captivity, digging through the wall, not mourning for the dead, and the like, were declared to be tokens and signs respecting the Lord's dealings with his people. So Jeremiah's girdle hid by the river; the potter's earthen bottle, the wooden yoke he wore about his neck; these were all to the same amount, speaking by action, instead of words, and much better understood by the people. Isaiah speaks of the same signs. ( Isaiah 8:18) And Zechariah, of Christ and his fellows. ( Zechariah 3:8) In reading Ezekiel's prophecy, particular attention should be had to these things.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Eze'ki-el. (The Strength Of God). One of the four greater prophets, was the son of a priest named Buzi, and was taken captive in the captivity of Jehoiachin, eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem. He was a member of a community of Jewish exiles who settled on the banks of the Chebar, a "river' or stream of Babylonia. He began prophesying B.C. 595, and continued until B.C. 573, a period of more than twenty-two years.

We learn from an incidental allusion,  Ezekiel 24:18, that he was married, and had a house,  Ezekiel 8:1, in his place of exile, and lost his wife by a sudden and unforeseen stroke. He lived in the highest consideration among his companions in exile, and their elders consulted him on all occasions. He is said to have been buried on the banks of the Euphrates. The tomb, said to have been built by Jehoiachin, is shown, a few days journey from Bagdad. Ezekiel was distinguished by his stern and inflexible energy of will and character and his devoted adherence to the rites and ceremonies of his national religion. The depth of his Matter and the marvellous nature of his visions make him occasionally obscure.

Prophecy of Ezekiel. - The book is divided into two great parts, of which the destruction of Jerusalem is the turning-point. Chapters 1-24 contain predictions delivered before that event, and chapters 25-48, after it, as we see from  Ezekiel 26:2. Again, chapters 1-32 are mainly occupied with correction, denunciation and reproof, while the remainder deal chiefly in consolation and promise. A parenthetical section in the middle of the book, chapters 25-32, contains a group of prophecies against Seven foreign nations, the septenary arrangement being apparently intentional. There are no direct quotations from Ezekiel in the New Testament, but in the Apocalypse there are many parallels and obvious allusions to the later chapters 40-48.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Ezekiel ( E-Zç'Ki-El ), The Strength Of God. A prophet who was taken captive eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem. He was a member of a community of Jewish exiles who settled on the banks of the Chebar, a "river" of Babylonia. He began to prophesy b.c. 595, and continued until b.c. 573, a period of more than 22 years. He was married and had a house,  Ezekiel 8:1;  Ezekiel 24:18, in his place of exile, and lost his wife by a sudden and unforeseen stroke. He was esteemed by his companions in exile, and their elders consulted him on all occasions. He is reputed to have been murdered in Babylon, and his tomb, said to have been built by Jehoiachin, is shown, a few days' journey from Bagdad. Ezekiel was noted for his stern and inflexible energy of will and character and his devoted adherence to the rites and ceremonies of his national religion.

The Book Of Ezekiel.— The book of his prophecy is divided into parts, of which the destruction of Jerusalem is the turning-point. Chapters 1-24 contain predictions delivered before that event, and chaps. 25-48 after it, as we see from chap. 26:2. Again chaps. 1-32 are mainly occupied with correction, denunciation and reproof, while the remainder deal chiefly in consolation and promise. A parenthetical section in the middle of the book, chaps. 25-32, contains a group of prophecies against Seven foreign nations, the septenary arrangement being apparently intentional. There are no direct quotations from Ezekiel in the New Testament, but in the Apocalypse there are many parallels and obvious allusions to the later chapters.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

  • One of the great prophets, the son of Buzi the priest ( Ezekiel 1:3 ). He was one of the Jewish exiles who settled at Tel-Abib, on the banks of the Chebar, "in the land of the Chaldeans." He was probably carried away captive with Jehoiachin (1:2;  2 Kings 24:14-16 ) about B.C. 597. His prophetic call came to him "in the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity" (B.C. 594). He had a house in the place of his exile, where he lost his wife, in the ninth year of his exile, by some sudden and unforeseen stroke ( Ezekiel 8:1;  24:18 ). He held a prominent place among the exiles, and was frequently consulted by the elders (8:1; 11:25; 14:1; 20:1). His ministry extended over twenty-three years (29:17), B.C. 595-573, during part of which he was contemporary with ( Daniel 14:14;  28:3 ) and Jeremiah, and probably also with Obadiah. The time and manner of his death are unknown. His reputed tomb is pointed out in the neighbourhood of Bagdad, at a place called Keffil.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Ezekiel'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/e/ezekiel.html. 1897.

  • American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [10]

    Son of Buzi, a prophet of the sacerdotal race, was carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, with Jehoiachin king of Judah, B. C. 598, and placed by the river Chebar. See  Ezekiel 1:1 , which answers to the fifth year of Ezekiel's captivity. The elders of Israel resorted to him for direction,  Ezra 8:1   10:44,44,44 . He prophesied twenty years, B. C. 595-575, till the fourteenth year after the final captivity of Jerusalem. During the first eight years he was contemporary with Jeremiah. Daniel also lived at the same time,  Ezekiel 14:14,16   28:3 , though most of his predictions are of a later date.

    The Book Of Ezekiel abounds with sublime visions of the divine glory, and awful denunciations against Israel for their rebellious spirit against God, and the abominations of their idolatry,  Ezekiel 1:1-24:27 . It contains also similar denunciations against Tyre and other hostile nations,  Ezekiel 25:1-32:32 . The latter part of the book contains oracles respecting the return and restoration of the people of God,  Ezekiel 33:1-48:35 .

    Morrish Bible Dictionary [11]

    Son of Buzi; a priest and one of the four great prophets. He was carried into captivity with Jehoiachin, about B.C. 600, eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem, and laboured among the captives about two years. He faithfully fulfilled his duties, sternly rebuking at times, and yet holding out gracious encouragements. His prophecy is full of symbo and imagery: he not only stated some of his parables, but acted them, that they might be seen as well as heard. His style is vigorous and rapid. Ezekiel's personal history is further referred to under his prophecy.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

    ē̇ - zē´ki - el  :

    I. The Prophet and His Book

    1. The Person of Ezekiel

    Name, Captivity and Trials

    2. The Book

    (1) Its Genuineness

    (2) Its Structure

    (3) Relation to Jeremiah

    (4) Fate of the Book and Its Place in the Canon

    II. Significance of Ezekiel in Israel's Religious History

    1. Formal Characteristics of Ezekiel

    (1) Visions

    (2) Symbolical Acts

    (3) Allegories

    (4) Lamentations

    2. Ezekiel and the Levitical System

    (1) Ezekiel 44:4ff: Theory That the Distinction of Priests and Levites Was Introduced by Ezekiel

    (a) The Biblical Facts

    (b) Modern Interpretation of This Passage

    (c) Examination of Theory

    (i) Not Tenable for Preëxilic Period

    (ii) Not Sustained by Ezekiel

    (iii) Not Supported by Development after Ezekiel

    (d) The True Solution

    (2) Ezekiel 40 through 48: Priority Claimed for Ezekiel as against the Priestly Codex

    (a) Sketch of the Modern View

    (b) One-Sidedness of This View

    (c) Impossibility That Ezekiel Preceded P

    (d) Correct Interpretation of Passage

    (3) Ezekiel's Leviticism

    3. Ezekiel and the Messianic Idea

    4. Ezekiel and Apocalyptic Literature

    5. Ezekiel's Conception of God

    I. The Prophet and His Book

    1. The Person of Ezekiel

    The name יחזקאל , yehezḳē'l , signifies "God strengthens." The Septuagint employed the form Ἰεζεκιήλ , Iezekiḗl , from which the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible , 390-405 ad) took its "Ezechiel" and Luther "Hesekiel." In  Ezekiel 1:3 the prophet is said to be the son of a certain Buzi, and that he was a priest. This combination of the priestly and prophetic offices is not accidental at a time when the priests began to come more and more into the foreground. Thus, too, Jeremiah (  Jeremiah 1:1 ) and Zechariah ( Zechariah 1:1; compare  Ezra 5:1;  Ezra 6:14;  Nehemiah 12:4 ,  Nehemiah 12:16 , and my article "Zechariah" in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary ) were priests and prophets; and in  Zechariah 7:3 a question in reference to fasting is put to both priests and prophets at the same time. And still more than in the case of Zechariah and Jeremiah, the priestly descent makes itself felt in the case of Ezekiel. We here already draw attention to his Levitical tendencies, which appear particularly prominent in Ezek 40 through 46 (see under II, 2 below), and to the high-priestly character of his picture of the Messiah (  Ezekiel 21:25 f;   Ezekiel 45:22; see II, 3 below).

    We find Ezekiel in Tel-abib ( Ezekiel 3:15 ) at the river Chebar ( Ezekiel 1:1 ,  Ezekiel 1:3;  Ezekiel 3:15 ) on a Euphrates canal near Nippur, where the American expedition found the archives of a great business house, "Murashu and Sons." The prophet had been taken into exile in 597 bc. This event so deeply affected the fate of the people and his personal relations that Ezekiel dates his prophecies from this event. They begin with the 5th year of this date, in which year through the appearance of the Divine glory (compare II, 1 below) he had been consecrated to the prophetic office ( Ezekiel 1:2 ) and continued to the 27th year ( Ezekiel 29:17 ), i.e. from 593 to 571 bc. The book gives us an idea of the external conditions of the exiles. The expressions "prison," "bound," which are applied to the exiles, easily create a false impression, or at any rate a one-sided idea. These terms surely to a great extent are used figuratively . Because the Jews had lost their country, their capital city, their temple, their service and their independence as a nation, their condition was under all circumstances lamentable, and could be compared with the fate of prisoners and those in fetters.

    The external conditions in themselves, however, seem rather to have been generally tolerable. The people live in their own houses ( Jeremiah 29:5 ). Ezekiel himself is probably the owner of a house ( Ezekiel 3:24;  Ezekiel 8:1 ). They have also retained their organization, for their elders visit the prophet repeatedly ( Ezekiel 8:1;  Ezekiel 14:1;  Ezekiel 20:1 ). This makes it clear why later comparatively few made use of the permission to return to their country. The inscriptions found in the business house at Nippur contain also a goodly number of Jewish names, which shows how the Jews are becoming settled and taking part in the business life of the country.

    Ezekiel was living in most happy wedlock. Now God reveals to him on a certain night that his wife, "the desire of his eye," is to die through a sudden sickness. On the evening of the following day she is already dead. But he is not permitted to weep or lament over her, for he is to serve as a sign that Jerusalem is to be destroyed without wailing or lamentation ( Ezekiel 24:15 ). Thus in his case too, as it was with Hosea, the personal fate of the prophet is most impressively interwoven with his official activity.

    The question at what age Ezekiel had left Jerusalem has been answered in different ways. From his intimate acquaintance with the priestly institutions and with the temple service, as this appears particularly in chapters 40 to 48, the conclusion is drawn that he himself must have officiated in the temple. Yet, the knowledge on his part can be amply explained if he only in a general way had been personally acquainted with the temple, with the law and the study of the Torah. We accept that he was already taken into exile at the age of 25 years, and in his 30th year was called to his prophetic office; and in doing this we come close to the statement of Josephus, according to which Ezekiel had come to Babylon in his youth. At any rate the remarkable statement in the beginning of his book, "in the 30th year," by the side of which we find the customary dating, "in the 5th year" ( Ezekiel 1:1 ,  Ezekiel 1:2 ), can still find its best explanation when referred to the age of the prophet. We must also remember that the 30th year had a special significance for the tribe of Levi ( Numbers 4:3 ,  Numbers 4:13 ,  Numbers 4:10 ,  Numbers 4:39 ), and that later on, and surely not accidentally, both Jesus and John the Baptist began their public activity at this age ( Luke 3:23 ).

    It is indeed true that the attempt has been made to interpret this statement of Ezekiel on the basis of an era of Nabopolassar, but there is practically nothing further known of this era; and in addition there would be a disagreement here, since Nabopolassar ruled from 625 on, and his 30th year would not harmonize with the year 593 as determined by  Ezekiel 1:2 . Just as little can be said for explaining these 30 years as so many years after the discovery of the book of the law in 623, in the reign of Josiah (2 Ki 22 f). For this case too there is not the slightest hint that this event had been made the beginning of a new era, and, in addition, the statement in  Ezekiel 1:1 , without further reference to this event, would be unthinkable.

    As in the case of the majority of the prophets, legends have also grown around the person of Ezekiel. He is reported to have been the teacher of Pythagoras, or a servant of Jeremiah, or a martyr, and is said to have been buried in the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad. He indeed did stand in close relationship to Jeremiah (see 2, 3 below). Since the publication of Klostermann's essay in the Studien und Kritiken , 1877, it has been customary, on the basis of  Ezekiel 3:14 f,26 f;   Ezekiel 4:4;  Ezekiel 24:27 , to regard Ezekiel as subject to catalepsy (compare the belief often entertained that Paul was an epileptic). Even if his condition, in which he lay speechless or motionless, has some similarity with certain forms of catalepsy or kindred diseases, i.e. a temporary suspension of the power of locomotion or of speech; yet in the case of Ezekiel we never find that he is describing a disease, but his unique condition occurs only at the express command of God ( Ezekiel 3:24;  Ezekiel 24:25 ); and this on account of the stubbornness of the house of Israel ( Ezekiel 3:26 ). This latter expression which occurs with such frequency (compare  Ezekiel 2:5;  Ezekiel 3:9 ,  Ezekiel 3:27 , etc.) induces to the consideration of the reception which the prophet met at the hand of his contemporaries.

    He lives in the midst of briars and thorns and dwells among scorpions ( Ezekiel 2:6 ). Israel has a mind harder than a rock, firmer than adamant ( Ezekiel 3:8 f). "Is he not a speaker of parables?" is cast up to him by his contemporaries, and he complains to God on this account (  Ezekiel 20:49 ); and God in turn sums up the impression which Ezekiel has made on them in the words ( Ezekiel 33:32 ): "Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not." They consequently estimate him according to his aesthetic side (compare II, 1, below), but that is all.

    2. The Book

    (1) Its Genuineness

    When compared with almost every other prophetic book, we are particularly favorably situated in dealing with the genuineness of the Book of Ezekiel (compare my work, Die messianische Erwartung der vorexilischen Propheten , zugleich ein Protest gegen moderne Textzersplitterung ), as this is practically not at all called into question, and efforts to prove a complicated composition of the book are scarcely made.

    Both the efforts of Zunz, made long ago (compare Zeitschrift der deutsch-morgenländishchen Gesellschaft , 1873, and Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden ), and of Seinecke ( Geschichte des Volkes Israel , II, 1ff) to prove a Persian or even a Greek period as the time of the composition of the book; as also the later attempt of Kroetzmann, in his Commentary on Ezekiel , to show that there are two recensions of the book, have found no favor. The claim that Ezek 40 through 48 were written by a pupil of Ezekiel was made as a timid suggestion by Volz, but, judging from the tendency of criticism, the origin of these chapters will probably yet become the subject of serious debate. But in general the conviction obtains that the book is characterized by such unity that we can only accept or reject it as a whole, but that for its rejection there is not the least substantial ground. This leads us to the contents.

    (2) Its Structure

    The parts of the book are in general very transparent. First of all the book is divided into halves by the announcement of the fall of Jerusalem in Ezek 33; of which parts the first predominantly deals with punishments and threats; the other with comfort and encouragement. Possibly it is these two parts of the book that Josephus has in mind when he says ( Ant. , X) that Ezekiel had written two books. That the introduction of prophecies of redemption after those of threats in other prophetical books also is often a matter of importance, and that the right appreciation of this fact is a significant factor in the struggle against the attacks made on the genuineness of these books has been demonstrated by me in my book, Die messianische Erwartung der vorexilischen Prophelen (compare 39-40 for the case of Amos; 62ff, 136 f, for the case of Hosea; 197ff for Isa 7 through 12; 238ff for Micah; see also my article in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary ).

    Down to the time when Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel was compelled to antagonize the hopes, which were supported by false prophets, that God would not suffer this calamity. Over against this, Ezekiel persistently and emphatically points to this fact, that the apostasy had been too great for God not to bring about this catastrophe. There is scarcely a violation of a single command - religious, moral or cultural - which the prophet is not compelled to charge against the people in the three sections,  Ezekiel 3:16;  Ezekiel 8:1;  Ezekiel 20:1 , until in  Ezekiel 24:1 , on the 10th day of the 10th month of the 9th year (589 bc) the destruction of Jerusalem was symbolized by the vision of the boiling pot with the piece of meat in it, and the unlamented destruction of the city was prefigured by the unmourned and sudden death of his wife (see 1 above). After the five sections of this subdivision I, referring to Israel - each one of which subdivisions is introduced by a new dating, and thereby separated from the others and chronologically arranged ( Ezekiel 1:1 , with the consecration of the prophet immediately following it;  Ezekiel 3:16;  Ezekiel 8:1;  Ezekiel 20:1;  Ezekiel 24:1 ) - there follow as a second subdivision the seven oracles against the Ammonites ( Ezekiel 25:1 ); the Moabites ( Ezekiel 25:8 ); the Edomites ( Ezekiel 25:12 ); the Philistines ( Ezekiel 25:15 ); Tyre ( Ezekiel 26:1 ); Sidon ( Ezekiel 28:20 ); Egypt ( Ezekiel 29:1 ), evidently arranged from a geographical point of view.

    The most extensive are those against Tyre and the group of oracles against Egypt, both provided with separate dates (compare 26:1 through 29:1;  Ezekiel 30:20;  Ezekiel 31:1;  Ezekiel 32:1 ,  Ezekiel 32:17 ). The supplement in reference to Tyre ( Ezekiel 29:17 ) is the latest dated oracle of Ezekiel (from the year 571 bc), and is found here, at a suitable place, because it is connected with a threat against Egypt (Ezek 40 through 48 date from the year 573 according to  Ezekiel 40:1 ). The number seven evidently does not occur accidentally, since in other threats of this kind a typical number appears to have been purposely chosen, thus: Isa 13 through 22, i.e. ten; Jer 46 through 51, also ten; which fact again under the circumstances is an important argument in repelling attacks on the genuineness of the book.

    Probably the five parts of the first subdivision, and the seven of the second, supplement each other, making a total of twelve (compare the analogous structure of Ex 25:1 through 30:10 under Exodus , and probably the chiastic structure of Ezek 34 through 48, with 7 and 5 pieces; see below). The oracles against the foreign countries are not only in point of time to be placed between Ezek 24 and  Ezekiel 33:21 , but also, as concerns contents, help splendidly to solve the difficulty suggested by chapter 24, and in this way satisfactorily fill the gap thus made. The arrival of the news of the fall of Jerusalem, in 586 bc (compare  Ezekiel 33:21 ), which had already been foretold in chapter 24, introduced by the mighty watchman's cry to repentance ( Ezekiel 33:1 ), and followed by a reproof of the superficial reception of the prophetic word (see 1 above), concludes the first chief part of the book.

    The second part also naturally fails into two subdivisions, of which the first contains the development of the nearer and more remote future, as to its inner character and its historical course (Ezek 34 through 39): (1) The true shepherd of Israel (Ezek 34); (2) The future fate of Edom ( Ezekiel 35:1-15 ); (3) Israel's deliverance from the disgrace of the shameful treatment by the heathen, which falls back upon the latter again ( Ezekiel 36:1-15 ); (4) The desecration of the name of Yahweh by Israel and the sanctification by Yahweh (Ezek 36:15-38); (5) The revival of the Israelite nation ( Ezekiel 37:1-14 ); (6) The reunion of the separated kingdoms, Judah and Israel ( Ezekiel 37:15-28 ); (7) The overthrow of the terrible Gentile power of the north (Ezek 38 f).

    The second subdivision (Ezek 40 through 48) contains the reconstruction of the external affairs of the people in a vision, on the birthday of 573, "in the beginning of the year" (beginning of a jubilee year? ( Leviticus 25:10 ); compare also Day Of Atonement ). After the explanatory introduction ( Ezekiel 40:1-4 ), there follow five pericopes: (1) directions with reference to the temple (compare the subscription  Ezekiel 43:12 ) (Ezek 40:5 through 43:12); (2) The altar (Ezek 43:13 through 46:24); (3) The wonderful fountain of the temple, on the banks of which the trees bear fruit every month ( Ezekiel 47:1-12 ); (4) The boundaries of the land and its division among the twelve tribes of Israel (Ezek 47:13 through 48:29); (5) The size of the holy city and the names of its twelve gates ( Ezekiel 48:30-35 ).

    In (3) to (5) The prominence of the number twelve is clear. Perhaps we can also divide (1) and (2) each into twelve pieces: (1) would be  Ezekiel 40:5 ,  Ezekiel 40:17 ,  Ezekiel 40:28 ,  Ezekiel 40:39 ,  Ezekiel 40:48;  Ezekiel 41:1 ,  Ezekiel 41:5 ,  Ezekiel 41:12 ,  Ezekiel 41:15;  Ezekiel 42:1 ,  Ezekiel 42:15;  Ezekiel 43:1; for (2) it would be  Ezekiel 43:13 ,  Ezekiel 43:18;  Ezekiel 44:1 ,  Ezekiel 44:4 ,  Ezekiel 44:15;  Ezekiel 45:1 ,  Ezekiel 45:9 ,  Ezekiel 45:13 ,  Ezekiel 45:18;  Ezekiel 46:1 ,  Ezekiel 46:16 ,  Ezekiel 46:19 .

    At any rate the entire second chief part, Ezek 34 through 48, contains predictions of deliverance. The people down to 586 were confident, so that Ezekiel was compelled to rebuke them. After the taking of Jerusalem a change took place in both respects. Now the people are despairing, and this is just the right time for the prophet to preach deliverance. The most important separate prophecies will be mentioned and examined in another connection (II below).

    The transparent structure of the whole book suggests the idea that the author did not extend the composition over a long period, but wrote it, so to say, at one stretch, which of course does not make it impossible that the separate prophecies were put into written form immediately after their reception, but rather presupposes this. When the prophet wrote they were only woven together into a single uniform book (compare also Exodus , IV, 1, 2).

    (3) Relation to Jeremiah

    As Elijah and Elisha, or Amos and Hosea, or Isaiah and Micah, or Haggai and Zechariah, so too Jeremiah and Ezekiel constitute a prophetic couple (compare 1 above); compare e.g. in later time the sending out of the disciples of Jesus, two by two ( Luke 10:1 ), the relation of Peter and John in Acts 3ff; of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13ff; of Luther and Melanchthon, Calvin and Zwingli. Both prophets prophesy about the same time; both are of priestly descent (compare 1 above), both witness the overthrow of the Jewish nation, and with their prophecies accompany the fate of the Jewish state down to the catastrophe and beyond that, rebuking, threatening, warning, admonishing, and also comforting and encouraging.

    In matters of detail, too, these two prophets often show the greatest similarity, as in the threat against the unfaithful shepherds ( Ezekiel 34:2;  Jeremiah 23:1 ); in putting into one class the Northern and the Southern Kingdom and condemning both, although the prediction is also made that they shall eventually be united and pardoned (Ezek 23; 16;  Jeremiah 3:6;  Ezekiel 37:15;  Jeremiah 3:14-18;  Jeremiah 23:5 f; 30 f); in the individualizing of religion (compare the fact that both reject the common saying: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge,"   Ezekiel 18:2;  Jeremiah 31:29 ); in their inwardness ( Ezekiel 36:25;  Jeremiah 24:7;  Jeremiah 31:27-34;  Jeremiah 32:39;  Jeremiah 33:8 ); in their comparisons of the coming judgment with a boiling pot ( Ezekiel 24:1;  Jeremiah 1:13 ); and finally, in their representation of the Messiah as the priest-king (see 1 above; namely, in  Ezekiel 21:25 f;   Ezekiel 45:22; compare  Jeremiah 30:21;  Jeremiah 33:17; see II, 3, and my work Messianische Erwartung , 320ff, 354ff). Neither is to be considered independently of the other, since the prophetical writings, apparently, received canonical authority soon after and perhaps immediately after they were written (compare the expression "the former prophets" in  Zechariah 1:4;  Zechariah 7:7 ,  Zechariah 7:12 , also the constantly increasing number of citations from earlier prophets in the later prophets, and the understanding of the "exact succession of the prophets" down to Artaxerxes in Josephus, CAp , I, 8), it is possible that Ezekiel, with his waw consecutivum , with which the book begins, is to be understood as desiring to connect with the somewhat older Jeremiah (compare a similar relation of Jonah to Obadiah; see my articles "Canon of the OT" and "Jonah" in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary ).

    (4) Fate of the Book and Its Place in the Canon

    With Jeremiah and Ezekiel, many Hebrew manuscripts, especially those of the German and French Jews, begin the series of "later prophets," and thus these books are found before Isaiah; while the Massorah and the manuscripts of the Spanish Jews, according to the age and the size of the books, have the order, Isa, Jer, Ezk. The text of the book is, in part, quite corrupt, and in this way the interpretation of the book, not easy in itself, is made considerably more difficult. Jerome, Ad Paul ., writes that the beginning and the end of the book contained many dark passages; that these parts, like the beginning of Gen, were not permitted to be read by the Jews before these had reached their 30th year. During the time when the schools of Hillel and Shammai flourished, Ezekiel belonged to those books which some wanted "to hide," the others being Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Esther and Canticles. In these discussions the question at issue was not the reception of the book into the Canon, which was rather presupposed, nor again any effort to exclude them from the Canon again, which thought could not be reconciled with the high estimate in which it is known that Est was held, but it was the exclusion of these books from public reading in the Divine service, which project failed. The reasons for this proposal are not to be sought in any doubt as to their authenticity, but in reference to their contents (compare my article "Canon of the Old Testament," in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary ). Possibly, too, one reason was to be found in the desire to avoid the profanation of the most sacred vision in the beginning of the book, as Zunz suggests. There is no doubt, however, that the difference of this book from the Torah was a reason that made it inadvisable to read it in public. It was hoped that these contradictions would be solved by Elijah when he should return. But finally, rabbinical research, after having used up three hundred cans of oil, succeeded in finding the solution. These contradictions, as a matter of fact, have not yet been removed, and have in modern times contributed to the production of a very radical theory in criticism, as will be shown immediately under II, 2.

    II. Significance of Ezekiel in Israel's Religious History

    Under the first head we will consider the formal characteristics and significance of the book; and the examination of its contents will form the subject under the next four divisions.

    1. Formal Characteristics of Ezekiel

    It is not correct to regard Ezekiel merely as a writer, as it is becoming more and more customary to do. Passages like  Ezekiel 3:10 f;   Ezekiel 14:4;  Ezekiel 20:1 ,  Ezekiel 20:27;  Ezekiel 24:18;  Ezekiel 43:10 f show that just as the other prophets did, he too proclaimed by word of mouth the revelations of God he had received. However, he had access only to a portion of the people. It was indeed for him even more important than it had been for the earlier prophets to provide for the wider circulation and permanent influence of his message by putting it into written form. We will, at this point, examine his book first of all from its formal and its aesthetic side. To do this it is very difficult, in a short sketch, to give even a general impression of the practically inexhaustible riches of the means at his command for the expression of his thoughts.

    (1) Visions

    Thus, a number of visions at once attract our attention. In the beginning of his work there appears to him the Divine throne-chariot, which comes from the north as a storm, as a great cloud and a fire rolled together. This chariot is borne by the four living creatures in the form of men, with the countenances of a man, of a lion, of an ox and of an eagle, representing the whole living creation. It will be remembered that these figures have passed over into the Revelation of John ( Revelation 4:7 ), and later were regarded as the symbols of the four evangelists. In Ezek 10 f this throne-chariot in the vision leaves the portal of the temple going toward the east, returning again in the prediction of deliverance in Ezek 43. Moreover, the entire last nine chapters are to be interpreted as a vision (compare  Ezekiel 40:2 ). We must not forget, finally, the revivification of the Israelite nation in Ezek 37, represented in the picture of a field full of dead bones, which are again united, covered with skin, and receive new life through the rūaḥ (word of two meanings, "wind" and "spirit").

    As a rule the visions of Ezekiel, like those of Zechariah (compare my article "Zechariah" in Murray's Illustrated Bible Dictionary ), are not regarded as actual experiences, but only as literary forms. When it is given as a reason for this that the number of visions are too great and too complicated, and therefore too difficult of presentation, to be real experiences, we must declare this to be an altogether too unsafe, subjective and irrelevant rule to apply in the matter. However, correct the facts mentioned are in themselves they do not compel us to draw this conclusion. Not only is it uncertain how many visions may be experiences (compare e.g. the five visions in Am 7ff, which are generally regarded as actual experiences), but it is also absolutely impossible to prove such an a priori claim with reference to the impossibility and the unreality of processes which are not accessible to us by our own experience. As these visions, one and all, are, from the religious and ethical sides, up to the standards of Old Testament prophecy, and as, further, they are entirely unique in character, and as, finally, there is nothing to show that they are only literary forms, we must hold to the conviction that the visions are actual experiences.

    (2) Symbolical Acts

    Then we find in Ezekiel, also, a large number of symbolical acts. According to Divine command Ezekiel sketches the city of Jerusalem and its siege on a tile ( Ezekiel 4:1 ); or he lies bound on his left side, as an atonement, 390 days, and 40 days on his right side, according to the number of years of the guilt of Israel and Judah ( Ezekiel 4:4 ). During the 390 days the condition of the people in exile is symbolized by a small quantity of food daily of the weight of only 20 shekels, and unclean, being baked on human or cattle dung, and a small quantity of water, which serves as food and drink of the prophet ( Ezekiel 4:9 ).

    By means of his beard and the hair of his head, which he shaves off and in part burns, in part strikes with the sword, and in part scatters to the wind, and only the very smallest portion of which he ties together in the hem of his garment, he pictures how the people shall be decimated so that only a small remnant shall remain ( Ezekiel 5:1 ). In Ezek 12, he prepares articles necessary for marching and departs in the darkness. Just so Israel will go into captivity and its king will not see the country into which he goes (compare the blinding of Zedekiah,  2 Kings 25:7 ). In  Ezekiel 37:15 , he unites two different sticks into one, with inscriptions referring to the two kingdoms, and these picture the future union of Israel and Judah. It is perhaps an open question whether or not some of these symbolical actions, which would be difficult to carry out in actuality, are not perhaps to be interpreted as visions; thus, e.g. the distributing the wine of wrath to all the nations, in  Jeremiah 25:15 , can in all probability not be understood in any other way. But, at any rate, it appears to us that here, too, the acceptance of a mere literary form is both unnecessary and unsatisfactory, and considering the religio-ethical character of Ezekiel, not permissible.

    (3) Allegories

    In regard to the numerous allegories, attention need be drawn only to the picture of the two unfaithful sisters, Oholah and Oholibah (i.e. Samaria and Jerusalem), whose relation to Yahweh as well as their infidelity is portrayed in a manner that is actually offensive to over-sensitive minds (Ezek 23; compare Ezek 16). In Ezek 17, Zedekiah is represented under the image of a grapevine, which the great eagle (i.e. the king of Babylon) has appointed, which, however, turns to another great eagle (king of Egypt), and because of this infidelity shall be rooted out, until God, eventually, causes a new tree to grow out of a tender branch.

    (4) Lamentations

    Of the lamentations, we mention the following: according to  Ezekiel 19:1-14 , a lioness rears young lions, one after the other, but one after the other is caught in a trap and led away by nose-rings. The ones meant are Jehoahaz and certainly Jehoiachin. The lion mother, who before was like a grapevine, is banished (Zedekiah). Another lamentation is spoken over Tyre, which is compared to a proud ship (compare  Ezekiel 27:1 ); also over the king of Tyre, who is hurled down from the mountain of the gods ( Ezekiel 28:11-19 ); and over Pharaoh of Egypt, who is pictured as a crocodile in the sea ( Ezekiel 32:1 ).

    That his contemporaries knew how to appreciate the prophet at least from the aesthetic side, we saw above (I, 1). What impression does Ezekiel make upon us today, from this point of view? He is declared to be "too intellectual for a poet"; "fantastic"; "vividness in him finds a substitute in strengthening and repetition"; "he has no poetical talent"; "he is the most monotonous prose writer among the prophets." These and similar opinions are heard. In matters of taste there is no disputing; but there is food for reflection in the story handed down that Frederick yon Schiller was accustomed to read Ezekiel, chiefly on account of his magnificent descriptions, and that he himself wanted to learn Hebrew in order to be able to enjoy the book in the original. And Herder, with his undeniable and undenied fine appreciation of the poetry of many nations, calls Ezekiel "the Aeschylus and the Shakespeare of the Hebrews" (compare Lange's Commentary on Ezk, 519).

    2. Ezekiel and the Levitical System

    (1)  Ezekiel 44:4 : Theory That the Distinction of Priests and Levites Was Introduced by Ezekiel

    (A) The Biblical Facts

    In the vision of the reconstruction of the external relations of the people in the future (Ezek 40 through 48), in the second pericope, which treats of the cult (43:13 through 46:24; compare I, 2, 2), it is claimed that Ezekiel, at the command of Yahweh, reproaches the Israelites that they engage in their room strangers, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to take charge of the service of Yahweh in the sanctuary, instead of doing this service themselves, and thus desecrate the temple ( Ezekiel 44:4-8 ). From now on the Levites, who hitherto have been participating in the service of the idols on the high places and had become for Israel an occasion for guilt, are to attend to this work. They are degraded from the priesthood as a punishment of their guilt, and are to render the above-mentioned service in the temple ( Ezekiel 44:9 ), while only those Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who had been rendering their services in the sanctuary in the proper way, while Israel was going astray, are to be permitted to perform priestly functions ( Ezekiel 44:15 ).

    (B) Modern Interpretation of This Passage

    The modern interpretation of this passage ( Ezekiel 44:4 ) is regarded as one of the most important proofs for the Wellhausen hypothesis. Down to the 7th century bc it is claimed that there are no signs that a distinction was made between the persons who had charge of the cults in Israel, and this is held to be proved by the history of the preceding period and by the Book of Deuteronomy, placed by the critics in this time. It is said that Ezekiel is the first to change this, and in this passage introduces the distinction between priests and the lower order of Levites, which difference is then presupposed by the Priestly Code. According to this view, the high priest of the Priestly Code, too, would not yet be known to Ezekiel, and would not yet exist in his time. More fully expressed, the development would have to be thought as follows: the Book of Deuteronomy, which abolished the service on the high places, and had introduced the concentration of the cults, had in a humane way provided for the deposed priests who had been serving on the high places, and, in  Deuteronomy 18:6 , had expressly permitted them to perform their work in Jerusalem, as did all of their brethren of their tribe, and to enjoy the same income as these. While all the other Deuteronomic commands had in principle been recognized, this ordinance alone had met with opposition: for in  2 Kings 23:9 we are expressly told that the priests of the high places were not permitted to go up to Jerusalem. Ezekiel now, according to Wellhausen's statement, "hangs over the logic of the facts a moral mantle," by representing the deposition of the priests of the high places as a punishment for the fact that they were priests of the high places, although they had held this position in the past by virtue of legal right.

    It is indeed true, it is said, that these priests did not submit to such a representation of the case and such treatment. The violent contentions which are said to have arisen in consequence are thought to have their outcome expressed in Nu 16 f (the rebellion of Korah, the budding staff of Aaron). The Priestly Code, however, continued to adhere to the distinction once it had been introduced, and had become a fact already at the return in 538 bc (compare  Ezra 2:36 ), even if it was found impossible to limit the priesthood to the Zadokites, and if it was decided to make an honorable office out of the degraded position of the Levites as given by Ezekiel. The fact that, according to  Ezra 2:36-39 , in the year 538 bc, already 4,289 priests, but according to  Ezra 2:40 , only 74 Levites, returned, is also regarded as proving how dissatisfied the degraded priests of the high places had been with the new position, created by Ezekiel, to which they had been assigned. With the introduction of the P C odex in 444 bc, which made a distinction between high priest, priests and Levites within the tribe of Levi, this development reached an end for the time being. While Deuteronomy speaks of the "Levitical priests," which expression is regarded as confirming the original identity of the priests and the Levites, it is claimed that since the days of Ezekiel, priests and Levites constitute two sharply distinguished classes.

    (C) Examination of Theory

    Both the exegesis of  Ezekiel 44:4 and the whole superstructure are in every direction indefensible and cannot be maintained (compare also my work, Are the Critics Right? 30ff, 124ff, 196ff).

    (i) Not Tenable for Preëxilic Period

    Proof that the hypothesis cannot be maintained for the preëxilic period. The claim that down to the 7th century bc there did not exist in Israel any distinction among the persons engaged in the public cults is in itself an absurdity, but has in addition against it the express testimony of history. In preëxilic times the high priest is expressly mentioned in  2 Kings 12:9;  2 Kings 22:4 ,  2 Kings 22:8;  2 Kings 23:4 . Accordingly he cannot have been a product of the post-exilic period. The rank of an Eli (1 Sam 1ff), Ahimelech ( 1 Samuel 21:1-15 f), Abiathar (  1 Kings 2:26 f), Zadok (  1 Kings 2:35 ), is vastly above that of an ordinary priest. The fact that the expression "high priest" does not happen to occur here is all the less to be pressed, as the term is found even in the Priestly Code only in  Leviticus 21:10;  Numbers 35:25-28 . From  Deuteronomy 10:6;  Joshua 24:33;  Judges 20:28 , we learn that the office of high priest was transmitted from Aaron to his son, Eleazar, and then to his son, Phinehas (compare also  Numbers 25:11 ). Before the time of Eli, according to  1 Chronicles 24:3 , it had passed over to the line of the other surviving son of Aaron, that of Ithamar, but, according to  1 Kings 2:26 f,35, at the deposition of Abiathar and the appointment of Zadok, it returned again to the line of Eleazar (compare   1 Samuel 2:27 ,  1 Samuel 2:28 ,  1 Samuel 2:35 f with   1 Chronicles 24:3 ). Distinctions within the tribe are also expressly presupposed by  Jeremiah 20:1;  Jeremiah 29:25 f,29;   Jeremiah 52:24;  2 Kings 25:18 . In the same way Levites are expressly mentioned in history (compare  Judges 17:1-13 f; 19 through 21;   1 Samuel 6:15;  2 Samuel 15:24;  1 Kings 8:3 ). This very division of the priestly tribe into three parts possibly suggested the three parts of the temple of Solomon (the holy of holies, the holy place, the forecourt). According to all this, it is not possible that this distinction is not found in Deuteronomy, especially if this book was not written until the 7th century bc and throughout took into consideration the actual condition of affairs at that time, as is generally claimed. But this difference is found in Deuteronomy, the false dating of which we can here ignore, and is probably suggested by it; for, if this were not the case, then the addition of the words "the whole tribe of Levi" to the words "Levitical priests" in  Deuteronomy 18:1 would be tautology. But as it is, both expressions already refer to what follows: namely,   Deuteronomy 18:3-5 to the priests and   Deuteronomy 18:6 to the rest of the Levites. In the same way, the Levites are in   Deuteronomy 12:12 ,  Deuteronomy 12:18 f;   Deuteronomy 14:27 ,  Deuteronomy 14:29;  Deuteronomy 16:11 ,  Deuteronomy 16:14 the objects of charity, while   Deuteronomy 18:3 prescribes a fixed and not insignificant income for the priests. Then, finally, such general statements as are found in   Deuteronomy 10:8;  Deuteronomy 18:2;  Deuteronomy 33:8 , not only demand such specific directions as are found only in the Priestly Code (P), but in  Deuteronomy 10:9;  Deuteronomy 18:2 there is a direct reference to   Numbers 18:20 ,  Numbers 18:24 (from P). On the other hand, Deuteronomy, in harmony with its general tendency of impressing upon Israel in the spirit of pastoral exhortation the chief demands of the law, does not find it necessary, in every instance, to mention the distinctions that existed in the tribe of Levi.

    In  Numbers 18:7 we have in P even an analogon to   Deuteronomy 10:8;  Deuteronomy 33:8; since here, too, no distinction is made between priests and high priests separately, but the whole priestly service is mentioned in a summary manner (compare further  Leviticus 6:22 in comparison with   Leviticus 6:25; Nu 35 in comparison with Josh 21). That Deuteronomy cannot say "Aaron and his sons," as P does, is certainly self-evident, because Aaron was no longer living at the time when the addresses of Deuteronomy were delivered. And how the expression "Levitical priests," which Deuteronomy uses for the expression found in the Priestly Code (P), and which was entirely suitable, because under all circumstances the priests were of the tribe of Levi, is to be understood as excluding the subordinate members of the cults-officers belonging to the same tribe, is altogether incomprehensible (compare the emphasis put on the Levitical priesthood in P itself, as found in  Numbers 17:1-13;  Joshua 21:4 ,  Joshua 21:10 ). So are other passages which originated at a time after the introduction by Ezekiel, or, according to the critics, are claimed to have been introduced then (compare  Malachi 2:1 , Malachi 2:4 ,  Malachi 2:8;  Malachi 3:3;  Jeremiah 33:18;  Isaiah 66:21;  2 Chronicles 5:5;  2 Chronicles 23:18;  2 Chronicles 29:4;  2 Chronicles 30:27 ), and even in Ezek ( Ezekiel 44:15 ). The claims that Dt is more humane in its treatment of the priests who had engaged in the worship in high places (compare e.g. 2 Ki 22 f) cannot at all be reconciled with Dt 13, which directs that death is to be the punishment for such idolatry. If, notwithstanding this, it is still claimed that  Deuteronomy 18:6 allows the priests of the high places to serve in Jerusalem, then it is incomprehensible how in   2 Kings 23:9 these men did not appeal directly to Dt in vindication of their rights over against all hindrances, since Dt was regarded as the absolute norm in carrying out the cult tradition.

    (ii) Not Sustained by Ezekiel

    Examination of the hypothesis on the basis of Ezekiel: No less unfavorable to the view of the critics must the judgment be when we examine it in the light of the contents of Ezekiel itself. The prophet presupposes a double service in the sanctuary, a lower service which, in the future, the degraded priests of the high places are to perform and which, in the past, had been performed in an unlawful manner by strangers ( Ezekiel 44:6-9 ), and a higher service, which had been performed by the Zadokites, the priests at the central sanctuary, in the proper way at the time when the other priests had gone astray, which service was for this reason to be entrusted to them alone in the future (compare, also,  Ezekiel 40:45 ,  Ezekiel 40:46;  Ezekiel 43:19 ). Since in  Ezekiel 44:6 the sharpest rebukes are cast up to Israel (according to the reading of the Septuagint, which here uses the second person, even the charge of having broken the covenant), because they had permitted the lower service to be performed by uncircumcised aliens, it is absolutely impossible that Ezekiel should have been the first to introduce the distinction between higher and lower service, but he presupposes this distinction as something well known, and, also, that the lower service has been regulated by Divine ordinances. As we have such ordinances clearly given only in   Numbers 18:2 (from P) it is in itself natural and almost necessary that Ezekiel has reference to these very ordinances, but these very ordinances direct that the Levites are to have charge of this lower service. This is confirmed by   Ezekiel 48:12 f, where the designation "Levites" in contradistinction from the priests is a fixed and recognized term for the lower cult officials. For Ezekiel has not at all said that he would from now on call these temple-servants simply by the name "Levites," but, rather, he simply presupposes the terminology of P as known and makes use of it. He would, too, scarcely have selected this expression to designate a condition of punishment, since the term "Levites" is recognized on all hands to be an honorable title in the sacred Scriptures. And when he, in addition, designates the Zadokites as "Levitical priests" (  Ezekiel 44:15 ), this only shows anew that Ezekiel in his designation of the lower temple-servants only made use of the terminology introduced by P.

    But, on the representation of the critics, the whole attitude ascribed to Ezekiel cannot be upheld. It is maintained that a prophet filled with the highest religious and ethical thoughts has been guilty of an action that, from an ethical point of view, is to be most sharply condemned. The prophet is made to write reproaches against the people of Israel for something they could not help ( Ezekiel 44:6 ), and he is made to degrade and punish the priests of the high places, who also had acted in good faith and were doing what they had a right to do ( Ezekiel 44:9; compare "the moral mantle" which, according to Wellhausen, "he threw over the logic of facts"). Ezekiel is accordingly regarded here as a bad man; but at the same time he would also be a stupid man. How could he expect to succeed in such an uncouth and transparent trick? If success had attended the effort to exclude from the service in Jerusalem the priests of the high places according to  2 Kings 23:9 , and notwithstanding  Deuteronomy 18:6 , which according to what has been said under (a) is most improbable, then this would through the action of Ezekiel again have been made a matter of uncertainty. Or, was it expected that they would suffer themselves to be upraided and punished without protesting if they had done no wrong? Finally, too, the prophet would have belonged to that class whose good fortune is greater than their common sense. This leads us to the following:

    (iii) Not Supported by Development After Ezekiel

    Examination of the development after the time of Ezekiel: Ezekiel's success is altogether incomprehensible, if now the distinction between priests and Levites has, at once, been introduced and at the return from captivity, in the year 538 ( Ezra 2:36 ), certainly was a fact. It is true that we at once meet with a host of difficulties. Why do only 74 Levites return according to  Ezra 2:40 if their degradation from the ranks of the priesthood through Ezekiel had not preceded? asks the Wellhausen school. Why did any Levites, at all, return, if they had been so disgraced? is our question. But, how is it at all possible that so many priests could return (4,289 among 42,360 exiles, or more than one-tenth of the whole number; compare   Ezra 2:36-38 with   Ezra 2:64; but many more than one-tenth if women are included in the 42,360), if, since the times of Ezekiel, there were none other than Zadokite priests? In examining the writers claimed as the authors of the Priestly Code (P), all those difficulties recur again which are found in the case of Ezekiel himself. That Nu 16 f indicates and reflects the opposition of the degraded is nothing but an unproved assertion; but if they had revolted, which was probable enough, then there would have been no worse and more foolish means than to change the degraded position of the Levites according to Ezekiel into the honorable position assigned them in the Priestly Code (P). This would only have made the matter worse. The Levites would again have been able to claim their old rights and they would have acquired the strongest weapons for their opposition. The fact that Ezekiel's restoration of the priesthood to the Zadokites would have been ignored by the Priestly Code (P), as also the descent of Aaron through Eleazar and Ithamar, according to the account of the Priestly Code (P), that is, that in reality also others were admitted to the priesthood, would only have the effect of making those who still were excluded all the more rebellious, who could app

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

    Eze´kiel (God-strengthened), one of the greater prophets, whose writings, both in the Hebrew and Alexandrian canons, are placed next to those of Jeremiah. He was the son of Busi the priest , and, according to tradition, was a native of Sarera. Of his early history we have no authentic information. We first find him in the country of Mesopotamia, 'by the river Chebar' , now Khabûr, a stream of considerable length flowing into the Euphrates near Circesium, Kirkesia. On this river Nebuchadnezzar founded a Jewish colony from the captives whom he brought from Jerusalem when he besieged it in the eighth year of King Jehoiachim . This colony (or at least a part of it) was settled at a place called Tel-Abib, and it seems to have been here that the prophet fixed his residence. He received his commission as a prophet in the fifth year of his captivity (B.C. 594). Ezekiel is remarkably silent respecting his personal history; the only event which he records (and that merely in its connection with his prophetic office) is the death of his wife in the ninth year of the captivity . He continued to exercise the prophetic office during a period of at least twenty-two years, that is, to the 27th year of the captivity and it appears probable that he remained with the captives by the river Chebar during the whole of his life. That he exercised a very commanding influence over the people is manifest from the numerous intimations we have of the elders coming to inquire of him what message God had sent through him (;;; , etc.). Carpzov relates several traditions respecting his death and sepulcher. It is said that he was killed at Babylon by the chief of the people, on account of his having reproved him for idolatry; that he was buried in the field of Maur in the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad, and that his sepulcher was still in existence. Such traditions are obviously of very little value.

    Ezekiel was contemporary with Jeremiah and Daniel. The former had sustained the prophetic office during a period of thirty-four years before Ezekiel's first predictions, and continued to prophesy for six or seven years after. It appears probable that the call of Ezekiel to the prophetic office was connected with the communication of Jeremiah's predictions to Babylon , which took place the year preceding the first revelation to Ezekiel. The greater part of Daniel's predictions are of a later date than those of Ezekiel; but it appears that his piety and wisdom had become proverbial even in the early part of Ezekiel's ministry (;; ).

    Most critics have remarked the vigor and surprising energy which are manifest in the character of Ezekiel. The whole of his writings show how admirably he was fitted, as well by natural disposition as by spiritual endowment, to oppose the 'rebellious house,' the 'people of stubborn front and hard heart,' to whom he was sent. The figurative representations which abound throughout his writings, whether drawn out into lengthened allegory, or expressing matters of fact by means of symbols, or clothing truths in the garb of enigma, all testify by their definiteness the vigor of his conceptions. Things seen in vision are described with all the minuteness of detail and sharpness of outline which belong to real existences. But this characteristic is shown most remarkably in the entire subordination of his whole life to the great work to which he was called. We never meet with him as an ordinary man; he always acts and thinks and feels as a prophet. This energy of mind developed in the one direction of the prophetic office is strikingly displayed in the account he gives of the death of his wife . It is the only memorable event of his personal history which he records, and it is mentioned merely in reference to his soul-absorbing work. There is something inexpressibly touching as well as characteristic in this brief narrative—the 'desire of his eyes' taken away with a stroke—the command not to mourn, and the simple statement, 'so I spake unto the people in the morning, and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded.' That he possessed the common sympathies and affections of humanity is manifest from the beautiful touch of tenderness with which the narrative is introduced. We may even judge that a mind so earnest as his would be more than usually alive to the feelings of affection when once they had obtained a place in his heart. He then, who could thus completely subordinate the strongest interests of his individual life to the great work of his prophetic office, may well command our admiration, and be looked upon as (to use Havernick's expression) 'a truly gigantic phenomenon.' It is interesting to contrast Ezekiel in this respect with his contemporary Jeremiah, whose personal history is continually presented to us in the course of his writings; and the contrast serves to show that the peculiarity we are noticing in Ezekiel belongs to his individual character, and was not necessarily connected with the gift of prophecy.

    That Ezekiel was a poet of no mean order is acknowledged by almost all critics. Michaelis remarks that Ezekiel lived at a period when the Hebrew language was declining in purity, when the silver age was succeeding to the golden one. It is, indeed, to the matter rather than the language of Ezekiel that we are to look for evidence of poetic genius.

    The genuineness of the writings of Ezekiel has been the subject of very little dispute. Its canonicity in general is satisfactorily established by Jewish and Christian authorities. There is, indeed, no explicit reference to it, or quotation from it, in the New Testament. Eichhorn (Einleit p. 218) mentions the following passages as having apparently a reference to this book:; comp.;;; comp.;; comp.; but none of these are quotations. The closing visions of Ezekiel are clearly referred to, though not quoted, in the last chapters of the Apocalypse.

    The central point of Ezekiel's predictions is the destruction of Jerusalem. Previously to this catastrophe his chief object is to call to repentance those who were living in careless security; to warn them against indulging in blind confidence, that by the help of the Egyptians (; comp. ) the Babylonian yoke would be shaken off; and to assure them that the destruction of their city and temple was inevitable and fast approaching. After this event his principal care is to console the captives by promises of future deliverance and return to their own land, and to encourage them by assurances of future blessings. His predictions against foreign nations stand between these two great divisions, and were for the most part uttered during the interval of suspense between the divine intimation that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem , and the arrival of the news that he had taken it . The predictions are evidently arranged on a plan corresponding with these the chief subjects of them, and the time of their utterance is so frequently noted that there is little difficulty in ascertaining their chronological order. This order is followed throughout, except in the middle portion relating to foreign nations, where it is in some instances departed from to secure greater unity of subject (e.g. ).

    The whole book is divided by Havernick into nine sections, as follows:—

    1. Ezekiel's call to the prophetic office ( to ).

    2. Series of symbolical representations and particular predictions foretelling the approaching destruction of Judah and Jerusalem ( to ).

    3. Series of visions presented to the prophet a year and two months later than the former, in which he is shown the temple polluted by the worship of Adonis—the consequent judgment on the inhabitants of Jerusalem and on the priests—and closing with promises of happier times and a purer worship ( to ).

    4. A series of reproofs and warnings directed especially against the particular errors and prejudices then prevalent amongst his contemporaries ( to ).

    5. Another series of warnings delivered about a year later, announcing the coming judgments to be yet nearer ( to ).

    6. Predictions uttered two years and five months later, when Jerusalem was besieged, announcing to the captives that very day as the commencement of the siege (comp. ), and assuring them of its complete overthrow (Ezekiel 24).

    7. Predictions against foreign nations ( to ).

    8. After the destruction of Jerusalem a prophetic representation of the triumph of Israel and of the kingdom of God on earth ( to ).

    9. Symbolic representation of Messianic times, and of the establishment and prosperity of the kingdom of God ( to ).

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [14]

    A Hebrew prophet, born in Jerusalem; a man of priestly descent, who was carried captive to Babylon 599 B.C., and was banished to Tel-abib, on the banks of the Chebar, 201 m. from the city, where, with his family about him, he became the prophet of the captivity, and the rallying centre of the Dispersion. Here he foretold the destruction of Jerusalem as a judgment on the nation, and comforted them with the promise of a new Jerusalem and a new Temple on their repentance, man by man, and their return to the Lord. His prophecies arrange themselves in three groups—those denouncing judgment on Jerusalem, those denouncing judgment on the heathen, and those announcing the future glory of the nation.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

    Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ezekiel'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/e/ezekiel.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.