Go Home
The BIBLE       Definitions       Images       Topics       Versions    
stitch border
stitch border

Ezekiel, The Book of

RELATED: Prophet(s)
AUTHOR: Ezekiel
READ: American Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible
3.5 star rating


Easton's Bible Dictionary

Consists mainly of three groups of prophecies.

(1) After an account of his call to the prophetical office ( Ezekiel 1 - 3:21 ), Ezekiel utters words of denunciation against the Jews ( Ezekiel 3:22 - 24 ), warning them of the certain destruction of Jerusalem, in opposition to the words of the false prophets ( Ezekiel 4:1 - 3 ). The symbolical acts, by which the extremities to which Jerusalem would be reduced are described in chapters 4 , 5 , show his intimate acquaintance with the Levitical legislation. (See Exodus 22:30 ; Deuteronomy 14:21 ; Leviticus 5:2 ; 7:18 , 7:24 ; 17:15 ; 19:7 ; 22:8 , etc.)

(2) Prophecies against various surrounding nations: against the Ammonites ( Ezekiel 25:1 - 7 ), the Moabites (Ezekiel 8 - 11), the Edomites (Ezekiel 12 - 14), the Philistines (Ezekiel 15 - 17), Tyre and Sidon (Ezekiel 26 - 28), and against Egypt (Ezekiel 29 - 32).

(3) Prophecies delivered after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar: the triumphs of Israel and of the kingdom of God on earth (Ezekiel 33 - 39); Messianic times, and the establishment and prosperity of the kingdom of God (Ezekiel 40 ; 48).

The closing visions of this book are referred to in the book of Revelation (Ezekiel 38=Revelation 20:8 ; Ezekiel 22:1 , 22:2 ). Other references to this book are also found in the New Testament. (Compare Romans 2:24 with Ezekiel 36:2 ; Romans 10:5 , Galatians 3:12 with Ezekiel 20:11 ; 2 Peter 3:4 with Ezekiel 12:22 .)

It may be noted that Daniel, fourteen years after his deportation from Jerusalem, is mentioned by ( Ezekiel 14:14 ) along with Noah and Job as distinguished for his righteousness, and some five years later he is spoken of as pre-eminent for his wisdom ( Ezekiel 28:3 ).

Ezekiel's prophecies are characterized by symbolical and allegorical representations, "unfolding a rich series of majestic visions and of colossal symbols." There are a great many also of "symbolcal actions embodying vivid conceptions on the part of the prophet" ( Ezekiel 4:1-4 ; 5:1-4 ; 12:3-6 ; 24:3-5 ; 37:16 , etc.) "The mode of representation, in which symbols and allegories occupy a prominent place, gives a dark, mysterious character to the prophecies of Ezekiel. They are obscure and enigmatical. A cloudy mystery overhangs them which it is almost impossible to penetrate. Jerome calls the book 'a labyrith of the mysteries of God.' It was because of this obscurity that the Jews forbade any one to read it till he had attained the age of thirty."

Ezekiel is singular in the frequency with which he refers to the Pentateuch (e.g., Ezekiel 27 ; 28:13 ; 31:8 ; 36:11 , 36:34 ; 47:13 , etc.). He shows also an acquaintance with the writings of Hosea ( Ezekiel 37:22 ), Isaiah ( Ezekiel 8:12 ; 29:6 ), and especially with those of Jeremiah, his older contemporary ( Jeremiah 24:7 , 24:9 ; 48:37 ).


Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names

(no entry)


Smith's Bible Dictionary

(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. Ezekiel chapters 1 - 24 contain predictions delivered before that event, and Ezekiel chs. 25 - 48 after it, as we see from ch. ( Ezekiel 26:2 ) Again, Ezekiel chs. 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, Ezekiel chs. 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 Ezekiel 40 - 48.


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia



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-morgenlandishchen Gesellschaft, 1873, and Die gottesdienstlichen Vortrage der Juden), and of Seinecke (Geschichte des Volkes Israel, II, 1) 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 Ezekiel 40; Ezekiel 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 Ezekiel 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; 62, 136, for the case of Hosea; 197 for Isaiah 7-12 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, 3:16; 8:1; 20:1, until in 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 (1:1, with the consecration of the prophet immediately following it; 3:16; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1)--there follow as a second subdivision the seven oracles against the Ammonites (25:1); the Moabites (25:8); the Edomites (25:12); the Philistines (25:15); Tyre (26:1); Sidon (28:20); Egypt (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 26:1-29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1,17). The supplement in reference to Tyre (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 (Ezekiel 40; Ezekiel 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: Isaiah 13-22, i.e. ten; Jeremiah 46; Jeremiah 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 Exodus 25:1;30:10 under EXODUS, and probably the chiastic structure of Ezekiel 34, with 7 and 5 pieces; see below). The oracles against the foreign countries are not only in point of time to be placed between Ezekiel 24 and 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 33:21), which had already been foretold in chapter 24, introduced by the mighty watchman's cry to repentance (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 (Eze 34-39):

(1) the true shepherd of Israel (Ezekiel 34);

(2) the future fate of Edom (Ezekiel 35);

(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 (Ezekiel 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 Gentilepower of the north (Ezekiel 38).

The second subdivision (Eze 40-48) 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) (Ezekiel 40:5 - 43:12);

(2) the altar (Ezekiel 43:13 - 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 (Ezekiel 47:13 - 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 , 17 , 28 , 39 , 48 ; 41:1 , 5 , 12 , 15 ; 42:1 , 15 ; 43:1 ; for

(2) it would be 43:13 , 18 ; 44:1 , 4 , 15 ; 45:1 , 9 , 13 , 18 ; 46:1 , 16 , 19.

At any rate the entire second chief part, Ezekiel 34 - 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 3; of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13; 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 (Ezekiel 23 ; 16 ; Jeremiah 3:6 ; Ezekiel 37:15 ; Jeremiah 3:14 - 18 ; 23:5 ; 30); 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 ; 31:27 - 34 ; 32:39 ; 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 ; 45:22; compare Jeremiah 30:21 ; 33:17; see II, 3, and my work Messianische Erwartung, 320, 354). 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 ; 7:7 , 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, Isaiah, Jerermiah, Ezkiel. 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 Genesis, 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 Esther 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.



bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of ezekiel, define, jerusalem (fall of), judgment of nations, old testament, prophet



top page
spacer spacer
stitch border
stitch border


  Easter Egg





BIBLEing.com - reDISCOVER the Holy Bible!

The American Standard Version Bible, Chinese Union Version Bible, King James Version Bible, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia and Smith's Bible Dictionary are Public Domain and may be freely used and distributed. The New American Standard Bible Copyright (c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved http://www.lockman.org. The "NASB," "NAS," "New American Standard Bible," and "New American Standard" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by The Lockman Foundation. Use of these trademarks requires the permission of The Lockman Foundation. For Permission To Quote information visit www.lockman.org.  All trademarks and tradenames are the sole property of their respective owners. Not responsible for typographical errors. (c) Copyright 2012 - 2014 BIBLEing.com. All rights reserved.