Read the Bible in a Year
This week, read: Ezekiel 22-48
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. He also promised them that God would recreate them to be his people again.
Author and Date
Ezekiel was a priest (1:3), evidently living in Babylon during the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC).
The book of Ezekiel is an endlessly fascinating narrative.
Sometimes he wrote in apocalyptic literature (such as chapter 47). 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.
Ezekiel often spoke in allegory. Chapter 23, 24, 34, and 37 are examples of allegories to describe God’s action..
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 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.
Chapter 23 describes (in an allegory) why the people are in Babylon. It was because they were running after false gods, forsaking the love of God to run after idols. Ezekiel pulls no punches here.
In chapters 33-48, Ezekiel switches over to words of comfort. The fall of Jerusalem is behind them, and the people are sitting in Babylon wondering if God still loves them. Ezekiel tells them, in no uncertain terms, that God still has a plan for his people.
In chapter 34, God tells them that the people are like a flock of sheep, and the shepherds (the kings and priests) have betrayed the people. Ezekiel says that God will be the Good Shepherd, not like the kings and priests who ripped the people off. In the Gospel of John (chapter 10), Jesus picks up on this language, calling himself the Good Shepherd.
In chapter 36, Ezekiel tells them that God will bring them home—but not just geographically. He will also bring them home spiritually—by creating in them a steadfast faith and heart for Himself. Ezekiel tells the people that they were not worthy—but God is!
The often misinterpreted chapters 38-39 have become a happy hunting ground for people who want to use the Bible to predict the future. The chapters talk about a battle between two entities, Gog and Magog. This is not written to predict the future, it’s not describing a future political battle. It’s words of comfort for a people who think they’re being oppressed by the forces of evil. It’s words of comfort!
In chapter 37, God shows him a valley of dry human bones. And as Ezekiel watches, God rattles those bones, and then puts human flesh on them. Soon, the old dry bones are humans again (this is where that old African American spiritual comes from “Them bones gonna rise again.”).
The point here is that the people of Judah are spiritually dead—but God can make them rise again! God will resurrect his people.
Today, in the worst of times, when we feel spiritually dead, or we feel close to physical death, or we feel like we are going through an emotional death, God is there. God is always in the business of resurrecting his people. Just like Ezekiel watched God give life to dry bones, we can watch God give life to us again. Even when we don’t feel like it, we, like Jesus, can rise again.
If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.