Ezekiel was taken captive by the Babylonians in 597 B.C. and it was there that he was called to be a prophet of God to the other captives. It is uncertain what the “thirtieth year” (spoken of in the first verse) refers to. The best possibility we have heard is that it is the thirtieth year of his life. We learn in Numbers 4:46-49 that the span of a priest’s service is from the ages of thirty to fifty. Separated from the Temple by his captivity, Ezekiel would complete his entire priestly service there. His final vision (Ezekiel 40:1) is dated the 25th year of the exile, which would coincide with the timeline, making him fifty years old.
The first 24 chapters are of his preaching before the fall of Jerusalem. Chapters 25-32 are prophecies of how foreign nations must fall as well. Chapters 33-48 are his preaching and prophecies after the fall of Jerusalem. There were false prophets that were telling the people that the captivity would not last long, and that Jerusalem itself would stand. So the first 24 chapters are Ezekiel’s prophecies that such was not the case at all. Ezekiel continually preached for the full repentance of all, so that there would be some benefit to the years of captivity to come. But his message was not often well received.
The opening vision in chapters 1-3 describes the awesome picture of the coming of the glory of God (Ezekiel 1:1-28), and his call to prophecy which features the swallowing of the scroll that God gives to him (Ezekiel 3:1-3). This signifies God’s word permeating entirely through him, so that he would speak the will of God. But just as the Lord tells him, they will not listen to his message (Ezekiel 3:4-7). The destruction that he prophecies to the people concerning Jerusalem is often as symbolic as his visions (see chapter 5 for example), but nonetheless graphic. In Ezekiel 3:16-27, God cast him in his role as “the watchman.”
As much of it is apocalyptic literature, some of Ezekiel’s prophecies in this book can be difficult to understand. As such, they are often misinterpreted and misused – like much of the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. When reading, one should not lose sight of the intended audience – the captives in Babylon and those remaining free back in Judah. Context, as always, means everything. Though apocalyptic literature would become more popular in later times, there have been some who believe that Ezekiel’s writings made a significant contribution to the formation of such a genre.
Other highlights include the parable of the eagles and the vine (Ezekiel 17), the parable of the swords (Ezekiel 21), the vision of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39), the vision of the new temple (Ezekiel 40-42), and the flowing river (Ezekiel 46:17-47:12),
For some great reading on the stunning accuracy of Ezekiel’s prophecy of the fate of Tyre in chapter 26, see this article at Apologetics Press.
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.