- Ezekiel's call and commission (1:1 - 3:27)
- The prophecies about Judah before the captivity (4:1 - 24:27)
- The prophecies against the heathen nations (25:1 - 32:32)
- The promise of Israel's restoration (33:1 - 39:29)
- Israel's future in the coming kingdom age (40:1 - 48:35)
Authorship, date, and background The author of this book was Ezekiel, whose name means "God strengthens." Buzi, of the priestly family of Zadok, was his father. Ezekiel was born ca. 621 B.C. He was raised in Jerusalem and was to become a prophet and priest of God during the most difficult period of Judah's history. The Southern Kingdom, or Judah, had been under the yoke of Assyria following the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Samaria in 722 B.C. Babylonia was to crush Assyria more than a hundred years later. In 605 B.C., after Nebuchadnezzar had defeated the Egyptians and Assyrians at Carchemish, the first deportation of Jews from Judea took place and Daniel was numbered among the victims. A second deportation followed in 597 B.C. and Ezekiel was among those sent to Babylon.
Undoubtedly Ezekiel knew both Daniel and Jeremiah. In Babylon he lived beside the Chebar Canal, was married, and had his own home. God called him to his ministry when he had been in Babylon for approximately five years. He exercised the office of prophet for around two decades. His wife died the day the siege of Jerusalem began and he was instructed by God neither to mourn nor weep. Ezekiel's statements about Jerusalem at a time he was in Babylon have occasioned liberal critics to question whether he wrote the book. Bible believers have always accepted the book as genuine and have found adequate archaeological evidence to support their viewpoint.
Characteristics and content The burden of Ezekiel is one of divine judgement on Judah for its sins. In the early part of the prophecy, God commissions him to be a watchman on the wall, warning sinners to flee from God's wrath. In various ways he repeatedly warns of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which is guilty of harlotry, of listening to false prophets, and of failing to put its trusts in God.
In the severest terms Ezekiel also pronounces the judgement of God against the surrounding heathen nations. Ammon, Moab, and Philistia receive the divine sentence. Tyre is given special attention and its end is described in detail. Egypt's treachery and pride are adduced, and Ezekiel prophesies that God will use Babylonia and its king Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar in King James Version) to destroy her.
In the latter part of his prophecy, Ezekiel foresees the ultimate restoration of Israel, which he illustrates in his vision of the valley of dry bones. He describes the erection of a new temple in the latter days and provides detailed information about its dimensions and its auxiliary buildings and rooms. He foretells the return of the glory of God to this temple, along with the restoration of the priesthood and the reinstitution of the Levitical sacrifices. Despite Ezekiel's arraignments which are spoken in connection with the judgements of God in the earlier part of the book, a ray of hope shines through at the end. There will come a time when Israel will turn again to its God in repentance and faith and be fully restored.