To learn about the new life in the prophecy of Ezekiel
“The name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.” (Ezekiel 48:35)
“Ezekiel,” Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
“Ezekiel the Prophet,” Fr. Bishoy Abdel Messih
Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet; he ministered during the darkest days of Judah’s history, the seventy-year period of Babylonian captivity. He was carried to Babylon before the final assault on Jerusalem. He used prophecies, parables, signs and symbols to dramatize God’s message to His exiled people.
I. The Defeat of Jerusalem before the Babylonians
In about 597 B.C., the Babylonians came under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar and besieged Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s king, Jehoiakim, surrendered and the Babylonians looted the city and took with them Jehoiakim and all the strong men as captives; they were sent into exile in Babylon as the Scriptures say: “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the princes of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon” (Jeremiah 24:1).
II. Ezekiel the Prophet
In those days, there was a great prophet whose name was Ezekiel. He prophesied about the Exile before it took place, but the people did not listen to him and were not wise in what they did. Ezekiel was taken captive to Babylon, and there he prophesied about what would happen in the future. The people went to him and asked about the time of salvation and rescue from affliction, and Ezekiel prophesied saying, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me: Son of man, can these bones live? So I answered: O Lord God, You know. Again He said to me: Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.’ So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me: Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army” (Ezekiel 37:1-10).
This prophecy had a direct meaning (which was about to be fulfilled) and a spiritual meaning. The direct meaning indicates the historical events which took place fifty years after this prophecy, when Cyrus King of Persia gave an order that the Jews would return to Jerusalem from exile and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). But the time-distant, spiritual meaning of Ezekiel’s prophesy was about the work of the Holy Spirit and the New Life which is given to men: “Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5).
III. The Work of the Holy Spirit
The Gift of the New Life:
Imagine many human beings before Christ. They were sentenced to death because of sins. That was the wide valley which was full of dead bones; then Christ, the Hope of Gentiles, came and His light shone on those sitting in the valley of darkness and shadows of death, and the voice said, “O you who are still asleep, get up rise from the dead and Christ will send light for you.” The soul that believed passed from death to life and rose with Christ and took, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the new life.
On the day of Pentecost, there was a sound which came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and the Holy Spirit rested on the early Church; all the people were filled with spiritual power. Gifts and miracles were given according to the Holy Spirit, and the new man who rose with Christ began to live a new life with the Holy Spirit; “We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In this way, the rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit saved us (Titus 3:5).
The Source of Unity:
Ezekiel prophesied about the Unity of the Church in which the Spirit of the Lord works: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.” The breathing of the Spirit from the four parts of the world indicates the one Church in the whole world, which is led and guided by the Spirit of the Lord in holy unity of all believers. The Lord Jesus desired that all believers may become one (John 17:21), with a new heart and a right spirit. St. Augustine said, while contemplating this saying, “Come with all your sins and with all your faults; come with your heart, with your spiritual desires, and in secret, take off the works of darkness, take off the sins of humanity...the moment you do this, the Spirit renews your senses which have been corrupted by iniquities and sins. In this way, our souls will be holy temples for God, and the Spirit of God abides in us... Ezekiel the Prophet wrote: Thus says the Lord… Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
The Lord appeared to Ezekiel in a heavenly vision; he fell upon his face, and the Lord said to him, “Son of man, stand upon your feet, and I will speak to you” (Ezekiel 2:1). This encouraged Ezekiel, and the Lord gave him a message to call the captured people to repent; He ordered him to deliver that message.
Do a Bible search for the characters that saw a vision.
Try to find verses from the New Testament that was actually prophesied in the book of Ezekiel.
The Fifth Day of the Blessed Month of Baramoudah The Commemoration of the Great Prophet Ezekiel, the son of Buzi
On this day the great prophet Ezekiel the son of Buzi departed. This righteous man was a priest, and Nebuchadnezzar exiled him with king Jehoiachin to Babylon. There, in the land of the Chaldeans, by the river Chebar, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he prophesied about wondrous things for twenty two years.
He spoke concerning the birth of the Lord Christ by the Lady the Virgin St. Mary and that after she had borne Him, she would remain a virgin: "Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the LORD said to me, ‘This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut’" (Ezekiel 44:1-2). He also prophesied concerning the baptism that sanctifies the soul of man and his body, softens his stony heart, and makes him a son of God by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him.
He admonished the priests for forsaking their duty of teaching the people, warning them that God would require their souls from them if they neglect teaching them. He prophesied concerning the general resurrection, the rising of the bodies with their souls, and about their rewards for whatever they deserved. He said many useful sayings which are of benefit to those who read them, and God manifested through him many signs and great wonders.
When the children of Israel worshipped idols in Babylon, he rebuked them, and their leaders rose up and killed him. They buried him in the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad.
May his prayers be with us. Amen
EZEKIEL AND THE CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN
The book of Ezekiel was written "to the house of Israel" (Ez. 3:1) for every true believer in the Church of God, the new Israel, to live by, to experience the dealings of God, to comprehend the mysteries of the kingdom, and to be filled with the hope of glorious heavenly fellowship.
The prophet Jeremiah has been the last prophet in Jerusalem before captivity. Although he lived during the captivity, he did not go to Babylon with the captives but stayed with the remnants in Jerusalem, strongly testifying to his God. He was ultimately carried with them to Egypt, where he was stoned to death.
As for Ezekiel, the prophet and priest, he has been a young man (25 years old) when he was taken into captivity, to consummate the mission of prophet Jeremiah. He carried the divine voice to remind the people about the reason behind their captivity, calling for repentance and return to God, giving them hope and revealing to them the promises of God and His salvation plan. He was a tool of God which sustained passion for the sake of testimony to the Truth.
If we contemplate on the book of Revelation, it will seem that the prophet Ezekiel has gone forth across the centuries, hand in hand with the beloved Apostle John, to behold heavenly Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God with His people and the heavenly temple.
The book of Ezekiel is a book for every true believer who wishes to have an encounter with Holy God, offering a daily repentance for his sin in order to experience the new life in Christ Jesus and enjoy the precious divine promises.
The book of Ezekiel is your book; it touches your life and depths.
Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
TO THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
By Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty
"Ezekiel" is a Hebrew word which means “God gives strength.” As Ezekiel has been called to minister to an impudent, hard-hearted, stubborn and rebellious nation (Ez. 2:3, 4; 3:7, 8), he was in need for God's strength to support him in order to deal with them.
Origen, in his first homily on the book of Ezekiel, sees in the Lord Christ the new Ezekiel, that is, the God-given strength. If He descended to our land, as though among captives, and was called "the Son of Man" as Ezekiel was called "Son of man," He would truly set us free from captivity in order to experience "God's strength" through His cross.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES AROUND THE PROPHET EZEKIEL
The book of Ezekiel provides us with very limited information about the life of the prophet. The most familiar information about him is that he dwelt in the land of captivity by the River of Chebar (Ez. 1:3), close to Tel Abib (Ez. 3:15), he was married and had a house and his beloved wife died, for whom he "sighed in silence," the only phrase by which the prophet expressed emotions concerning his own life. According to tradition, Ezekiel dwelt in the same location where Noah did, close to the garden of Eden; that is why he often referred to both places (Ez. 14:14, 20; 28:13; 31:8, 16, 9, 18; 36:35).
We can divide his life in two stages: before and after captivity.
EZEKIEL BEFORE CAPTIVITY:
He was born around 623 B.C.; the son of “Buzi,” a priest and a descendant of Zadok who, some Jewish scholars believed, was a son of the prophet Jeremiah; he was also called 'Buzi,' as a sign of disrespect by the Jews.
That period had been characterized by two things that could not be easily disregarded and that influenced the prophet: The first was a movement of reformation on the hand of King Josiah in the year 621 B.C., and the second was a state of prophetical revival.
(1) Undoubtedly, Ezekiel harbored in his mind certain memories of his early childhood when, during the process of restoration of the Temple of Jerusalem by King Josiah, the lost book of the Law was found and read by the king, who was greatly moved by its contents.
Most probably, Ezekiel lived in the quarters of the priests built on the eastern wall, played as a child in the outer courts around the Temple and attended a school on that same campus. He probably helped his priest father’s ministry by preparing the incense or lighting the candles in the holy Temple; he used to listen to the teachers of the Temple and ask them questions, looking forward to his thirtieth birthday when the time would come for him to carry out his priestly task in the Temple of the Lord.
(2) As to the prophetical revival, Ezekiel had to be influenced by the prophets who came before him, like Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, and particularly Hosea, whose fingerprints are obvious on every chapter of Ezekiel’s early prophecies. He must have also been aware of the prophets that are contemporary to him, like Jeremiah, Daniel, Nahum, Zephaniah, and probably Habakkuk and Obadiah. He enjoyed the sweet words of Habakkuk, yet he was influenced to a greater degree by the prophet Jeremiah who believed that, although the restoration efforts of King Josiah had included the building of the Temple as well as the rites of sacrifice offering, statutes, physical circumcision, etc., yet these unfortunately did not touch the inner heart of the people's lives.
Ezekiel was also influenced by the political events during his time. When he was ten years old, the great city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, fell to mark the end and dominion of that empire. After five years later, Necho, Pharaoh of Egypt, invaded Palestine with his army and killed the good king Josiah at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29) because the latter went to the aid of the king of Assyria in his war against Pharaoh. With that, the calm movement of restoration that lasted for about 14 years and for which Ezekiel's father rejoiced, came to an end. Although the new king, Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, reigned only three months in Jerusalem, yet it has been relatively long in the eyes of believers on account of the evil he did in the sight of the Lord, for which the warning voice of the prophet Jeremiah ringed high.
Pharaoh took Jehoahaz to Egypt where he died and made Jehoiakim, or Eliakim the son of Josiah, a king in his place. Pharaoh refrained from destroying Jerusalem to enjoy the tax of gold and silver which he imposed on the land. He also planned to keep his relation with the kingdom of Judah with the intention of setting an extended Pharaonic empire in the face of Babylon.
Ezekiel at that time was a young man, well aware of the changes that happened to his people: how new idols shamelessly appeared in the streets of Jerusalem, how evil came to the life of the priests and teachers, and how the ministry of the Temple collapsed. He saw the old prophet Jeremiah rebuking the priests and probably listened to Baruch the scribe publicly reading in the hearing of the people, in the Lord's house, the prophecies of Jeremiah that he wrote on a scroll. He also heard how the king, after hearing a few of its phrases, cut the scroll with a knife and cast it into the fire (Jeremiah 36:1-26). Although the inner soul of that young man Ezekiel was bitter against his fellow priests and religious leaders, yet he could not even refer to the name of Jeremiah or comment on his words.
In the same year, as Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated Necho pharaoh of Egypt in the battle of Carchemish, the ambitions of Necho were devastated for a long time. The loyalty of Jehoiakim was transferred to Babylon, although a great number of his people preferred to submit to the Pharaoh of Egypt against Babylon to avoid what befell the northern kingdom (Israel).That was probably also shared by the king personally, against which Jeremiah strongly warned. Around the year 600 B.C. (namely 5 years later), Jehoiakim rebelled against Babylon. But within one or two years, the Babylonian armies besieged Jerusalem for 18 months, during which Jehoiakim, who kept on challenging Babylon till his last breath, died in doubtful circumstances. His son Jehoiachin, who reigned after him, unconditionally surrendered to the Babylonians, and Nebuchadnezzar entered the holy city with his armies in the year 597 or 598 B.C.
This time, Nebuchadnezzar dealt with the situation in a gentle and unexpected way. He did not destroy the city, its Temple, its public buildings, or even its military walls but only took away the evil king Jehoiachin, whose reign did not exceed three months. He was carried into captivity to Babylon together with the royal family, the elite, and the treasures of the Temple (2 Kings 24:8-16). The heart of Ezekiel was broken to see the treasures of the Temple, beloved to him, that go back 300 years since the days of Solomon, melted and placed in the sacks of the Babylonians. The new king Zedekiah, Jehoiachin's nephew (2 Kings 24:17), together with the uncircumcised pagans, defiled the holy places. Nebuchadnezzar also carried into captivity all the craftsmen and smiths and every gifted young man – in the midst of whom was Ezekiel - to Babylon to make sure that no rebellion could happen against him in Judah; none remained except the poorest people of the land (2 Kings 24:14).
That was the first stage of captivity for the people of Judah, which the Lord allowed to happen in stages in order to give the priests and the people a chance to repent and return to Him, so that He might forgive them. However, on the assumption that the Lord would never allow the destruction of the Temple or the fall of the city, they resorted to every other way but repentance.
The young priest Ezekiel (25 years of age) left Jerusalem as a captive to Babylon, to remain there with no hope of return. There, he lived with the other captives of his people by the River Chebar, at or near 'Tel Abib' - not the city known nowadays by the same name. In the first years of his captivity, Ezekiel silently and bitterly watched what was befalling his people, while Babylon at that time was enjoying the climax of its greatness. Each day, new pearls were added to the crown of Nebuchadnezzar; something, this represented a huge psychological impact on the Jews, who had been deprived of Jerusalem as a lost Paradise.
Captivity was not in itself severe at that time, if we put aside the psychological aspect of the deprivation from living in their home country. The captives were allotted land in Tel Abib by the River Chebar, not far from the capital with all its vast possibilities and luxuries; and they submitted to the law of Hammurabi which was close to their own Law. No limitations were placed on their civil or religious activities; their tribes and families could get together at their own convenience, and their elders could act as judges among them. The authorities encouraged them to do business and allowed them to own their own houses, as Ezekiel himself did. One of the most successful Jewish establishments was the Marashu and Sons Company, whose business documents were discovered by archeologists. Moreover, mail communication between them and their brothers in Jerusalem was voluminous and uninterrupted.
In the fourth year of captivity, King Zedekiah visited Babylon, coming from Jerusalem to have the entire city watch his procession.
In the fifth year of captivity (around 592 B.C.), seven years prior to the fall of Jerusalem on the next stage of captivity, heavens were opened for the first time before Ezekiel to behold visions of God. He saw the divine, fiery chariot as a sign of being given a prophetic mission, which he carried out for about 22 years in the midst of that bitter atmosphere (592-570 B.C.). His prophecies were in the following order:
The fifth year of captivity
The sixth year of captivity
The seventh year of captivity
The ninth year of captivity
The eleventh year of captivity
Ezek. 25-29:18; 30:31.
The twelfth year of captivity
The twenty-fifth year of captivity
The twenty-seventh year of captivity
Ezek. 49:17 etc.
The most important events that Ezekiel went through during his prophetic mission were:
In the sixth year of captivity, Ezekiel heard of King Zedekiah's pact with the Pharaoh of Egypt against Nebuchadnezzar (Ez. 17:15). He wrote in order to draw his attention to the importance of keeping the oath with which he committed himself, even though it was given to a pagan king, and that breaking it would make him fall under divine judgment.
He proclaimed that Zedekiah's destiny would be the same as that of Jehoahaz, who was taken captive to Egypt in the year 607 B.C. (19:4), and as that of Jehoiachin, taken captive by the Chaldeans (19:9). He proclaimed that “Oholibah” (Jerusalem) would have the same destiny of her older sister “Oholah” (Samaria) on account of her sins which had gotten worse (Ez. 23:1; 23:23). In the eighth year of captivity, a new Pharaoh (Apries) came to reign and pressed Zedekiah to rebel against Babylon in the ninth year of captivity.
In the tenth year of captivity, Jerusalem came to fall under a bitter siege, to realize the prophecies of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel; the latter even fixed the very day of that event (Ez. 24:2). The next year, Zedekiah, trying to escape by night, was caught in Jericho; his sons were killed before his eyes, his eyes put out, and he was taken bound to Babylon. The King of Babylon left nothing in the city of David, neither in the Temple of God nor in the royal palace that he did not destroy. Some people fled to Egypt, dragging with them the prophet Jeremiah and the scribe Baruch, to be welcomed there by the Pharaoh. As the Gentile nations rejoiced for the calamity of Israel, the prophecies (Ez 25-29:18; 30:31) proclaimed God's judgment against them.
Despite all those events, the prophet Ezekiel did not lose hope (Ez 34:13), although the grief of his heart was intense because of the destruction of the Temple. He watched the end of Jerusalem in his days. Yet God granted him visions of a New Jerusalem, a new temple and a new worship. Although Nebuchadnezzar was in the climax of his glory and Jehoiachin was in prison, yet the salvation and the return to Jerusalem were never far from the prophet's eyes (Ez. 36:11, 29, 30). He saw how God would raise His people as He raises the dead, giving the dry bones life and spirit (Ez. 37).
The prophet Ezekiel presented a marvelous portrait of restoration along several aspects of which:
God would forgive sins (Ez. 36:11, 16, 19).
God would restore the two kingdoms of the north (Ephraim or Israel) and that of the south (Judah) to a complete unity under the reign of the royal seed of David.
God would condemn the irresponsible shepherds of the people, would take away their authority and would take on Himself the care for His people (Ez. 34).
Prophesying about the Messianic era (Ez. 34:23), there would be a spiritual return from the captivity of the devil and sin (Ez. 36:26).
The last chapters came to mix the artistic work of rebuilding the new temple with the prophetic vision and priestly work.
It seems that the prophet Ezekiel had no prominent influence over his contemporaries, whom he used to call the "rebellious house" (2:5, 6, 8; 3:9, 26, 27, etc.), complaining that although many came to listen to him, yet they considered his speeches as some sort of entertainment that carried artistic beauty; and they did not heed his words (Ez. 23:30-33).
His countrymen mocked him and resented his persistent rebuke of their evil and abominations. St. Epiphanius referred to an ancient tradition which said that a certain judge had Ezekiel killed because he reproached him for worshipping idols. It was claimed that the prophet was buried in the tomb of “Sam and Ezmekshad” at Kevil, close to Birs Nimrod. During the time of St. Epiphanius, many Jews used to come to visit the tomb and were even joined by some Muslims.
In the days of St. John Chrysostom, Ezekiel's bones were moved from the land of Pontus to the city of Constantinople, on the twenty-second of December, while St. John gave a magnificent speech. The Roman Orthodox and the Latin celebrate this occasion, while our Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates his departure on the fifth of the month of Baramoudah.
THE GOAL OF THIS BOOK
In the first stage of Judah’s captivity, when Nebuchadnezzar refrained from destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, the people assumed that God would never allow the city and the Temple to be harmed, that the captivity would not last long and that the words and prophecies of Jeremiah were untrue. For that reason, when Ezekiel became a captive, he made a point of settling down amid the captives and purchased a house for himself to confirm to them that the captivity would last for a long time. He confirmed to them, in some way or another, the truth of Jeremiah's prophecies, without mentioning his name, giving a portrait of the devastation to come as a result of their abominations and their diversion to idol worship. He confirmed that the Lord's glory would depart from the Temple (Ez. 10:16-18; 11:23) and that Jerusalem would fall (Ez. 23:21).
In this book, the prophet made it clear that repentance was the only way to bring the mercies of God (Ez. 18:27).
Since some people felt that they were unjustly punished on account of the sins of their fathers and that they were innocent victim of the abominations of the Jewish nation (Ez. 18; 33), the prophet revealed the evil that those people, men and women together with their priests, were currently committing, even in the house of the Lord (Ez. 9:11). The punishment was therefore not for sins committed by a preceding generation but for those committed by the contemporary one. He confirmed that every soul was responsible for its own sins and not for those of others (Ez. 18:2), that no one would be delivered at the expense of another (Ez. 14:20) and that man would be judged by his present condition and not by his past.
Although the people felt that the captivity was a temporary situation and that the Temple would never be destroyed, yet they were tortured by a feeling of despair as time dragged on and conditions got worse. So the book proclaimed the Lord's capability of offering a new heart and a new spirit to His children, giving them the comfort of knowing that they would eventually return and that divine justice would fall on their prevailing enemies.
Having given them this hope, he brought them to the Messianic era, when the Lord Christ would come forward as the new David to reign in place of the evil kings and to bring all back to the one spirit. The book brought them to a new temple, different from the old one which the prophet used to see in his young days, and in place of the small hill of Zion, he would see a mighty mountain, crowned by new, holy and great buildings. Since God forsook the old temple because of their abominations (Ez. 10:19, 19; 11:22-24), He comes back to the new temple to fill it with His glory (Ez. 43:1-6). It is set on the river of holy water that flows from under the threshold of the temple, where the holy altar is (Ez. 47); along the banks of that river are all kinds of trees (congregations of saints who incessantly quench their thirst from the Holy Spirit). It is to be noted that in this book, instead of hearing about the passions of the Lord Christ, His death and His rejection by the Jews, as was the case in the book of the prophet Isaiah, we are presented with the glories of the new house of the Lord and His holy temple in order to grant the people joy and hope after so much rebukes.
He prophesied against certain nations, like Edom, Tyre, Sidon, Philistia, and Egypt, etc.
As to Tyre, he proclaimed its devastation (Ez. 26) because of its stand against Jerusalem, on the assumption that the desolation of Jerusalem would eventually lead to its own revival. That destiny was not expected; Tyre has been a great city on the coast and dated back to the year 2750 B.C., but for defensive reasons, it was moved to a rocky island facing its original location and carrying the same name. That city of 142 acres used to receive the raw materials brought by ships from the whole known world to Phoenicia, and then go back loaded by every kind of goods.
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, failed to conquer it after a war that lasted for 13 years, and so did Nebuchadnezzar after him. But God proclaimed through his prophet Ezekiel that it would eventually fall, and its walls would crumble to the water. This was realized at the hands of Alexander the Great, who reached it by building a ridge from the main coast to the island and defeated it, never to recover its fame again.
The Lord Christ visited it (Matthew 15:21) and also the apostle Paul (Acts 21:3-7). In the thirteenth century, after the Muslims invaded and destroyed it, it was never rebuilt but turned into a heap of rocks on which fishermen spread their nets to dry, a literal and detailed realization of Ezekiel's words: "You shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt" (Ez. 26:14) .
This book included prophecies that concern the end of ages and the time preceding the end of the world. We shall deal with all this in due time if God wills.
The prophet Ezekiel recorded his visions and his prophetical homilies in a book that represents an integral unit, written in a unique way. He gave us a full report of what he saw, how he acted, and the words he uttered.
As God called him to prophesy amid a stubborn, impudent, hard-hearted and rebellious people (Ez. 2:3, 4), He provided him with a brave, unsuspecting spirit, a warm zeal for the glory of God and a heart to confront and encourage all those under oppressions and tribulations. His book is incomparable to other books as far as zeal is concerned.
He used several analogies and symbols. As an example of analogy, he likens Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh to two great eagles and Jehoiachin to a branch of cedar with its topmost young twig cropped off and carried to Babylon (Ez. 17:1-10). Concerning prophetic symbols, they are of two kinds:
Practical symbols that are practiced by the prophet before the eyes of the people (Ez. 37:16, 17), as when he joined two sticks together as a symbol of joining together the two kingdoms of Ephraim and Judah
Theoretical symbols, as when he prophesies about the dry bones (Ez. 37:1-10) and about measuring New Jerusalem with its temple (Ez. 40)
Ezekiel was called the creator of symbolism, although he was preceded in this task by Isaiah and Jeremiah. The later did it often, as when he went down to the potter's house to see in it an example of divine work, turning the clay into a vessel of dignity (Jeremiah 18), and also as when he broke a potter's earthen flask in the sight of his people as a prophecy that they and the city would be likewise broken (Ez. 19).
Ezekiel himself has been a symbol of the house of Israel (Ez. 12:6, 11; 4:3; 24:24, 27). He carried out strange acts, sometimes spending long days being silent and not uttering a single word, some other time referring to the calamities that will befall his people by lying for 390 days on his left side then for 40 days on the other side, eating by weight and drinking water by measure. Sometimes cutting the hair of his head and beard to burn one-third of it, striking one-third around with the sword and scattering one-third in the wind. And sometimes, he would break his silence to sing and play on an instrument (Ez. 33:32). When his beloved wife died, he was commanded by God to shed no tears, and he just sighed in his heart. Thus, the prophet bound his life to the tragedy of his people, and probably because of this, God called him "the son of Adam" about ninety times, having carried an image of the bitterness of the sin that weighed upon man, the son of Adam. God used this name to demonstrate to him his weakness and his need for Him as a support and a mystery of success. The Lord Christ was called "the Son of Man" about 80 times.
His actions led some later scholars to claim that he was probably suffering of certain mental sicknesses, and some of them even tried to diagnose the sicknesses. While some others saw in him the greatest spiritual personality that ever appeared in human history; from the beginning of his call, he was keen on putting all his life on the account of ministry and sanctifying all the energies of his mind, his heart, and his thoughts on the account of God's word. Whether he spoke or remained silent, sighed or slept, ate, drank, drew or played on a musical instrument, he did it not for his own sake but for his prophetic work.
The book of Ezekiel revealed the personality of that prophet, not only as a man of visions and revelations but also as a man of the Holy Bible. He often referred to the five books of Moses and other books: He referred to the story of creation (Ez. 28:11-19), mentioned the Cherubim (Genesis 3:24), spoke of Noah, Daniel, and Job (Ez. 14:24; 28:3) and prophesied on Gog and Magog (Genesis 10; 1 Kings 1:5).
This book came to embrace integral views, of which the following are examples:
In talking about God, it says that He is a jealous God, who saves His people and enters with them into a covenant for the sake of His holy Name. He does everything for the sake of His glory; yet at the same time, he speaks of His deep love for His people, likening them to a girl that’s neglected and loathed by all. He cared for her, cleansed her, adorned her and set her as a bride for Himself (Ez. 16). He works, not only for the sake of His Name, but also because of His love for us, although the two are inseparable.
He proclaims God’s care to His people, as one nation and one bride, as a congregation worshipping one God. Yet, He does not disregard the individual, saying that no man will be judged by the fruits of the sins of another (Ez. 18:4, 29).
Together with harsh rebuke for sins, this book is rich with hope, even during the darkest moments.
Although this book shows great interest in the rites and priestly worship, it concentrates on the inner life and on purifying the heart. There is no separation between the communal and spiritual worship.
Finally, Prophet Ezekiel is shown as a priest and the son of a priest, bound to the Temple, the sacrifice and liturgies, as a prophet who proclaims mysteries of the future, as a seer who is brought by the Spirit to heaven to reveal the mysteries of divine greatness, as a theologian who realizes the mysteries of faith, as a preacher who cares for repentance, and as a literary, a gifted poet and an artist.
While Isaiah has been the prophet of the nation who called for faith and Jeremiah has been the martyr prophet who called for love, Ezekiel, the prophet of captivity, called for hope. The prophecies of the first glorify the Savior Son, those of the second glorify the Father, and the prophecies of the third glorify the Holy Spirit.
More than any other prophet, Ezekiel got his messages through visions. His book is considered one of the most difficult in the Holy Bible. When a Jewish Rabbi once promised to give a complete interpretation of it, the Synagogue allotted 300 barrels of oil for his lamp, assuming that he would never complete his assignment.
Ezekiel, the great prophet of captivity, differs from the other two prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, in two important aspects:
He did not deal with the government of Judah - namely the king and his statesmen; he was neither a political nor a social reformer. But he cared for the salvation of every man as an individual and for leading him to repent, without disregarding the communal aspect. He was likewise far from the royal court of Babylon, where the prophet Daniel lived.
For this same reason, he was unique among the prophets for being an author more than a speaker. He wrote to the whole "house of Israel" and to successive generations.
This book reveals the unique multi-sided nature of the prophet Ezekiel, having been a priest, a prophet, a shepherd, a seer, a theologian, a religious planner, a poet, and an artist.
As a priest, he was very keen on the purity of the rite and the individual, on sound communal worship and on abiding to the Law of God. The holiness of God dominated his life and thoughts.
As a prophet, he exposed the sins of Israel, of Judah, and of the Gentiles and proclaimed the chastisement of God. He called for repentance and revealed God's promises, especially in the Messianic era.
As a shepherd, he shared the sufferings of the flock of God, warned them and sought their comfort in the truth.
As a seer, he had several visions.
As a theologian, he clarified the theologian concepts behind the devastation of Jerusalem and the reform.
As a religious planner, he established the spiritual basis of the society after captivity, for the sake of leading an appropriate life.
As a poet, he gave us fantastic pieces of literature as well as very touching lamentations.
As an artist, he provided unusual imagery filled with horrible secrets which are sometimes difficult to imagine.
EZEKIEL AND THE RENEWAL OF THE HEART
If the prophet Jeremiah concentrated on the inner reform instead of the outer appearances and on the circumcision of the heart and ears instead of the outer apparent circumcision, Ezekiel likewise confirms the need for the renewal of the heart: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and you will keep my judgments and do them" (Ez. 36:26-27). “By the new heart, you will enjoy the new Temple, the new land and the new life.”
The signs of the new heart are:
To enjoy the Spirit of the Lord within (Ez. 36:27)
To carry the strength of walking in the statutes of the Lord and keeping His judgment (Ez. 36:27)
To find comfort in the divine promises (Ez. 36:28)
To be delivered from all uncleanness (Ez. 36:29)
To enjoy a state of fulfillment (Ez. 36:29, 30)
After being desolate, the land will become like the Garden of Eden (Ez. 36:35).
The surrounding nations shall testify to the increasing divine fruits (Ez. 36:36).
To enjoy persistent growth (Ez. 36:37, 38)
BETWEEN EZEKIEL AND JEREMIAH
Unlike Jeremiah, Ezekiel was a married man and had a house. He was greatly influenced by Jeremiah and quoted his instructive rhetoric and short homilies, clarifying them and giving them his own literary touch:
2- The two sisters
3- Forgiveness of transgressors
4- The wicked shepherds and the coming of a new king
5- Personal responsibility
6- Spiritual creation
11:19, 20; 36:25-29
7- Hope for the future
The prophet Jeremiah differed from the prophet Ezekiel in being more gentle and delicate in his rebukes, revealing the bitterness of his soul for the sake of his people and counting their sufferings and their iniquities as his own. Ezekiel, on the other hand, having come in a dark period and aware of the ferocity of those in authority toward Jeremiah and their doubts in his prophecies, had to be harsh in his rebukes as though judging and condemning. However, we can not disregard his great love for his people and the bitterness of his soul for their sake. His book is the best in feeling the extent of iniquity against God; his words seem as though God would judge them more than He would do with other nations.
EZEKIEL AND THE VISIONS
Scholars believe that St. John was well aware of the book of Ezekiel, as there are the following analogies:
Compare the Living Creatures of Ezekiel (1:5, 10) with those in Revelation (4:5, 7)
Compare the mark on the forehead in Ezekiel (9:4) with that in Revelation (13:16)
The prophet Ezekiel ended his book by a description of the coming temple as a symbolic image of the heavenly temple or the greater Jerusalem, as described in the book of Revelation:
The "Branch of the Lord" (Ez. 17:22; 24): In the book of Isaiah it’s said, "In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing, for those of Israel who have escaped... when the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion" (Isaiah 4:2, 4). The Lord will come down as a Branch, washing away the filth of our sins by His blood, so that we become branches in which birds dwell and carry within us the fruits of the Spirit.
The Loving Shepherd (Ez. 34), who seeks the prodigal, recovers the castaway, heals the broken, and comforts the wounded... saying, "Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out" (Ez.34:11).
David (Ez. 34:23), who watches over his sheep, makes a covenant of peace with his people, uproots the wild beasts from the land, and makes His sanctuary among them (Ez. 34:25-28).
A Garden of Renown (Ez. 34:29): His people shall no longer bear the shame and will have fame and glory.
Baptism and the era of grace (Ez. 36:25-27): Renewal of human nature and enjoyment of the new man
The Church of the New Testament, as though made from dry bones (Ez. 37:1-10) and the new temple
Birth of Christ from a virgin who remains a virgin (Ez. 44:2)
Origen spoke of the prophet Ezekiel as a symbol and an example of the Lord Christ:
The thirty year-old Ezekiel, by the River of Chebar, saw the heavens open. And by the River Jordan, the heaven opened during the baptism of the thirty year-old Lord Christ.
Ezekiel was called "the son of Adam," and the Lord Christ was called "the Son of Man" to confirm His incarnation, His suffering passion and crucifixion for our sake.
The name "Ezekiel" means “the mighty power of God.” Who can represent the mighty power of God but the Lord Christ Himself?!
Ezekiel dwelt among captives, and the Lord Christ came among us to set us free from the captivity of sin.
The heaven opened before Ezekiel, and he saw the heavenly chariot; and the Lord opened for us His heavens to share praises with the heavenly hosts and to fill the world with angels.
GOD IN THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
When the people were humiliated in the land of captivity, instead of returning to themselves and considering what befell them due to their own transgressions, they doubted the ability and capability of God. That is why, as the prophet Ezekiel came to call for repentance, he revealed to them the greatness and might of God, with some of His attributes:
God is glorious and awesome (Ez. 1:25-28; 3:23).
God is holy and cannot stand iniquity (Ez.5:l 1; 36:23).
God is mighty everywhere (Ez.3:12-27; 5:5).
God has authority over all nations (Ez. 25:1-32; 32:32).
God is fair (Ez. 18:25; 33:30).
God is known for His capability (Ez. 6:7,14; 20:38).
God Himself is the Shepherd of His people (Ez. 34:11-16).
God grants a new heart and a new life (Ez. 36:25-32).
The book began by the proclamation of "God's glory," an expression that came several times in the first eleven chapters then disappeared to resume again, starting from chapter 43; it’s as though confirming that when sins and abominations dominate, the glory of God would disappear and His name would be blasphemed because of us. God, in His love, created us to enjoy beholding His glory and rejoice. But through our rebellion, we lost this privilege. He did not forsake us but sent His Only-begotten Son to set for us the new spiritual temple and to bring us into fellowship to be worthy of His blood.
Such is the experience of the Church and of every member in it. When we fall in sin, we bring grief to the Spirit of God and lose His glory in us. By repentance, we return to Him and our glorified and the crucified Christ would be transfigured in us.
Some scholars believe that the book of Ezekiel started with the vision of the Divine throne to proclaim to Israel that God is glorified in heaven and is in no need for the Temple which they defiled. He rejects their Temple, their sacrifices and their worship, as long as they mingle with abominations.
SECTIONS OF THE BOOK
This book, like all-prophetic books, carries two integral sections, namely: Judgment or verdict of perdition (Chapters 1 to 24), then salvation after chastening the nations (Chapters 25 to 48). But we can divide this book into six main sections:
A call for Ezekiel Chapters 1-3
Warnings before the fall of Jerusalem Chapters 4-12
Iniquities of Israel and Jerusalem Chapters 13-24
Prophecies against the nations Chapters 25-32
Prophecies about the return from captivity Chapters 33-39
Restoration of the Temple and Jerusalem Chapters 40-48
CONTENTS OF THE BOOK
The First Section: A call to Ezekiel
Ch. 1-3: Calling Ezekiel to the prophetic work after the appearance of a fiery chariot, then receiving the Word of God as a scroll which he ate, filled his stomach and was in his mouth like honey in sweetness.
Ch. 4-5: Prophecies through symbolic acts (Portraying Jerusalem on a tablet, lying on one side, eating by weight and drinking by measure, and cutting the hair of his head and beard)
Ch. 6-7: Speaks clearly about the fruit of Judah’s iniquities
Ch. 8-11: Ezekiel gets carried by the Spirit to Jerusalem to behold the abominations as they enter the house of God; the city burns with fire, and the Lord departs from His house with a promise to return and grant them a new heart and a new spirit.
Second part of the warnings:
Ch. 12: Other symbolic prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity, with a reference about the destiny of King Hezekiah
The Third Section: The iniquities of Israel and Judah
Ch. 13: Confirmation of the prophecy’s realization and rejection of the false prophets (Departing from his place to another place as a sign of going into captivity, digging into the wall while covering his face so as not to see, eating his bread with quaking and drinking his water with trembling and anxiety)
Ch. 14: The personal responsibility for one's transgressions
Ch. 15: Israel became a fruitless vine, like a vine branch that’s useful only for fire
Ch. 16: Likening Israel to a loathsome and forsaken girl who, after God beautified and betrothed to Himself, went back to play the harlot behind His back
Ch. 17: Judah betrays the king of Babylon and resorts to Egypt; God sends the King of Babylon to chasten her.
Ch. 18: Man is responsible for his own actions.
Ch. 19: A lamentation for the princes of Israel
Ch. 20-24: The iniquities of Israel and Judah are exposed in the form of poetry or through symbols (The Blacksmith who blows fire on minerals to melt them and purify them from dross, the two sisters and the death of the prophet's wife)
The Fourth Section: Prophecies against the nations for their chastisement
Ch. 25-32: Prophesies against Amon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, and Egypt because they rejoiced in heart with disdain for what befell the land of Israel.
The Fifth Section: Prophecies concerning the return from captivity
Ch. 33-39: God speaks about caring for His people (34), about rebuilding their cities (36), about raising them as though from the dead (37), about granting them the spirit of unity, and about the perdition of Gog and his army as a sign of God's triumph over idols (38, 39).
The Sixth Section: Restoration of the Temple and Jerusalem
Ch. 40-48: The new temple, the new land, and the new river in which all who come to it will be baptized
Ezekiel the Prophet
The name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.
Ezekiel the prophet was taken captive to
Who was the prophet that wasn’t taken into exile but remained in Jerusalem?
Who was the king that initiated the exile of the Israelites?
Around when did the captivity of Israel occur?
Ezekiel prophesied about (circle all that apply)
Coming of the Holy Spirit
Unity of the Church
“I will give you a new ______________ and put a new spirit within you; I will take the ____________ of stone out of your flesh and give you a _____________ of flesh.” Ez 36
How were the following Ezekiel prophesies fulfilled?
“O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.”
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.”
“Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”
From Ezekiel (A Patristic Commentary), by Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty, Translated by Dr. George Botros, Coptic Orthodox Christian Center, Orange, California, 2003