Read the Bible in a Year
This week, read: Ezekiel 1-21
At Least Know This
Ezekiel spoke to the people sitting in Babylon during the Babylonian Exile. He told them that they would be in Babylon for a while, and he tried to help them understand why they were there.
Author and Date
Ezekiel was a priest (1:3), evidently living in Babylon during the Babylonian Exile (587-538).
The book of Ezekiel is an endlessly fascinating narrative.
Sometimes he wrote in apocalyptic literature (such as chapter 1:4-28). Apocalyptic literature paints pictures with words, trying to evoke emotion (it’s not meant to be taken literally). The book of Revelation borrows heavily from Ezekiel.
The false prophets tried to tell people that the exile would be over in a few months, and then they could go home. Ezekiel told the people they would be there for a while.
While most prophets just spoke their words, Ezekiel often acted them out. He ate a scroll (chapter 3), to symbolize the sweetness of God’s words. He tied himself up with ropes (chapter 4) to symbolize the people being held in Babylon.
The false prophets told the people that the exile was all a big mistake by God, who would rectify the situation quickly. In response, on the road between Jerusalem and Babylon, Ezekiel made a road sign that said, “This way to Jerusalem.” He wanted to make sure the Babylonian army didn’t get lost. That was his way to tell the people that this wasn’t God’s mistake.
The priests said that the people were in Babylon because they didn’t take the temple seriously enough—they should have worshipped in the temple more. Ezekiel, like the other prophets, said that they were in Babylon because they were unfaithful. In fact, in chapter 8 Ezekiel tells of his vision of what was going on way back in the temple of Jerusalem: there was idolatry of every shape and size.
The people in Babylon were not slaves. They were allowed to go to school, get jobs, go to the synagogue, and buy houses. In fact, the city of Babylon was the most modern city in the known world. But the people wanted to be back in their land. They believed God was back in Jerusalem, still sitting in the Temple. They were far away from where they wanted to be.
Chapters 2-3 describes Ezekiel’s call.
In chapters 4-5, Ezekiel acts out what has happened in Jerusalem.
In chapters 6-8, Ezekiel describes the fall of Jerusalem. Note chapter 8, where Ezekiel is shown a vision of what was going on back in Jerusalem (he was probably in Babylon here). The temple was full of idolatry.
In chapter 16:46-50, Ezekiel tells the people that Sodom and Gomorrah were more faithful than they had been. There’s only one place in the Old Testament that tells us the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, in verse 49. It may not be what you expect.
In chapter 20, Ezekiel gives an overview of their whole history. They’re whole history is an idolatrous mess.
In chapters 10-11, Ezekiel gives a wonderful message of hope to the exiles. He sees the cloud and fire of God (symbolizing God’s presence) leave the temple in Jerusalem and travel eastward. The presence of God sets down in Babylon. God would be with his people, no matter where they were.
In the book of Matthew, this is the first thing that said about Jesus (“you shall call his name Immanuel, which means, God with us.”). In Matthew, this is also the last thing said about Jesus (“Lo, I am with you always”).
One of the themes running through the Bible is God’s insistence on being with his people, where ever they are and whatever they are going through. As you journey through life, you can rest assured the God is with you, step by step. He is always with his people.
If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.