Ezekiel, whose name means ‘God strengthens,’ was born in Jerusalem during a time of great upheavals caused by the invading Babylonian army. He can be found on the Biblical Timeline at the end of 600 BC. Ezekiel is introduced in the first chapter as ‘the priest, the son of Buzi’. He received one of his first fantastic visions of four-faced and winged creatures as well as ‘the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God’ while living in exile near the Kebar river in Babylon. His ministry started seven years before the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and covered the events between 590 B.C. and 571 B.C. He was already working as a priest when he was captured and taken to Babylon in 597 B.C.
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Daniel and Ezekiel were roughly the same age, although Daniel was already established in his prophetic ministry in Babylon by the time Ezekiel arrived (Ezekiel 14:14 and 20, 28:3). Ezekiel was married, the death of his wife is recorded in Ezekiel 24:15-27.
The Book of Ezekiel
Destruction of Jerusalem
Ezekiel’s prophecies are divided into three parts:
- the condemnation of Judah and the total destruction of Jerusalem (chapters 1-24)
- the prophecies against foreign nations (25-39)
- the plans for rebuilding the new temple (40-48)
The first part consists of a series of prophecies concerning Judah. He was called by God to prophesy against the people by eating a scroll with laments written on it (2:8-10; 3:1-3). The prophecies of Ezekiel about the fall of Jerusalem were full of symbolism which included
* The drawing of a map of Jerusalem under siege on a clay tablet (4:1-3).
* Lying on his left side for 390 days for each year of Israel’s sins and 40 days on his right side for each year of Judah’s sins (4:4-8).
* The ration of bread baked with cow dung as fuel to symbolize scarcity and Israel’s impending captivity into the land of the Gentiles (4:9-17).
* The divine razor used by Ezekiel in cutting up his hair into three parts which symbolized the people who will die of famine and disease in the city, those killed outside the city walls, and those who will be scattered (5:1-13).
The last prophecies against Jerusalem can be read on the 24th chapter, while the 25th chapter up to the 32nd is series of messages against Judah’s neighbors. Those who received condemnation were the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, the Phoenicians of Tyre and Sidon, and Egyptians.
Promise of Restoration
Ezekiel is not all gloom and doom. The last parts of his prophecies were promises of restoration. His fantastic vision of a valley full of dry bones connecting with each other and coming back to life is a symbol of hope for the people of Israel who will be freed from captivity and will return to Jerusalem in due time (37:1-14). He received a vision as early as the 14th year from the fall of Jerusalem (40:1) about God’s detailed plans for a new temple. Ezekiel also received instructions on the new borders and divisions of the land for each tribe. A sacred site will be allotted between Judah and Benjamin as the place where the new temple will stand. A river of healing will flow out from the temple to the Dead Sea.
Curtis, Adrian, and Herbert G. May. Oxford Bible Atlas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007
Picture By Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18884417
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