The main character of the Old Testament book Ezekiel is the prophet Ezekiel, whose name means “strengthened by God.” He lived during the time of the fall of Jerusalem and was among those who were exiled to Babylon. He was exiled in 597 BC, along with King Jehoiachin, eleven years before Jerusalem fell, and his prophetic ministry took place in the context of the exile. He was a priest, the son of Buzi the priest. He belonged to the family of Zadok, who was a famous priest. Ezekiel lived with other exiles at the river called Chebar. His home was in Tel-Abib town. His wife died in the 9th year of his exile.
Ezekiel is one of the more colorful—some would say bizarre—characters in the Bible because God intended Ezekiel to give a message to Israel by means of the experiences in his life
Ezekiel 24:24 (NLT) Ezekiel is an example for you; you will do just as he has done. And when that time comes, you will know that I am the LORD.”
For example, Ezekiel symbolically acts out God’s judgment on Israel in his own life:
- Unable to talk,
Ezekiel 3:24-26 (NLT)24 Then the Spirit came into me and set me on my feet. He spoke to me and said, “Go to your house and shut yourself in.25 There, son of man, you will be tied with ropes so you cannot go out among the people.26 And I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be speechless and unable to rebuke them, for they are rebels.
- Lying on his left side for 390 days and his right for another 40 days,
Ezekiel 4:4-6 (NLT)4 “Now lie on your left side and place the sins of Israel on yourself. You are to bear their sins for the number of days you lie there on your side.5 I am requiring you to bear Israel’s sins for 390 days—one day for each year of their sin.6 After that, turn over and lie on your right side for 40 days—one day for each year of Judah’s sin.
- Shaving his head,
Ezekiel 5:1 (NLT) “Son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a razor to shave your head and beard. Use a scale to weigh the hair into three equal parts.
- Packing a bag and pretending to go into exile,
Ezekiel 12:3-6 (NLT)3 “So now, son of man, pretend you are being sent into exile. Pack the few items an exile could carry, and leave your home to go somewhere else. Do this right in front of the people so they can see you. For perhaps they will pay attention to this, even though they are such rebels.4 Bring your baggage outside during the day so they can watch you. Then in the evening, as they are watching, leave your house as captives do when they begin a long march to distant lands.5 Dig a hole through the wall while they are watching and go out through it.6 As they watch, lift your pack to your shoulders and walk away into the night. Cover your face so you cannot see the land you are leaving. For I have made you a sign for the people of Israel.”
- Not mourning for his dead wife
Ezekiel 24:15-17 (NLT)15 Then this message came to me from the LORD:16 “Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure. Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears.17 Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave. Do not uncover your head or take off your sandals. Do not perform the usual rituals of mourning or accept any food brought to you by consoling friends.”
During this season of prophecies Ezekiel describes God’s rejection of Israel as they have rejected him by His leaving the temple.
Ezekiel 10:18-22 (NLT)18 Then the glory of the LORD moved out from the door of the Temple and hovered above the cherubim.19 And as I watched, the cherubim flew with their wheels to the east gate of the LORD’s Temple. And the glory of the God of Israel hovered above them.20 These were the same living beings I had seen beneath the God of Israel when I was by the Kebar River. I knew they were cherubim,21 for each had four faces and four wings and what looked like human hands under their wings.22 And their faces were just like the faces of the beings I had seen at the Kebar, and they traveled straight ahead, just as the others had.
After the fall of Jerusalem in in 587 BC Ezekiel’s prophecies change to God’s punishment of other nations with emphasis on Tyre and Egypt.
Ezekiel 26:1-2, 7-9 (NLT)1 On February 3, during the twelfth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, this message came to me from the LORD:2 “Son of man, Tyre has rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Ha! She who was the gateway to the rich trade routes to the east has been broken, and I am the heir! Because she has been made desolate, I will become wealthy!’ 7 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: From the north I will bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon against Tyre. He is king of kings and brings his horses, chariots, charioteers, and great army.8 First he will destroy your mainland villages. Then he will attack you by building a siege wall, constructing a ramp, and raising a roof of shields against you.9 He will pound your walls with battering rams and demolish your towers with sledgehammers.
Ezekiel 29:1-6, 12 (NLT)1 On January 7, during the tenth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, this message came to me from the LORD:2 “Son of man, turn and face Egypt and prophesy against Pharaoh the king and all the people of Egypt.3 Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: “I am your enemy, O Pharaoh, king of Egypt— you great monster, lurking in the streams of the Nile. For you have said, ‘The Nile River is mine; I made it for myself.’4 I will put hooks in your jaws and drag you out on the land with fish sticking to your scales.5 I will leave you and all your fish stranded in the wilderness to die. You will lie unburied on the open ground, for I have given you as food to the wild animals and birds.6 All the people of Egypt will know that I am the LORD, for to Israel you were just a staff made of reeds. 12 I will make Egypt desolate, and it will be surrounded by other desolate nations. Its cities will be empty and desolate for forty years, surrounded by other ruined cities. I will scatter the Egyptians to distant lands.
Ezekiel ends with a detailed vision of the future. There is the vision of dry bones in the wilderness coming to life symbolizing God's restoration of Israel.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NLT)1 The LORD took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the LORD to a valley filled with bones.2 He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out.3 Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign LORD,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”4 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD!5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!6 I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”7 So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.8 Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.9 Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel.13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD.14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the LORD has spoken!’”
Ezekiel ends his prophecies with a vision of the the restored temple signifying God’s presence returning to Jerusalem and to His people.
Ezekiel 43:1-4 (NLT)1 After this, the man brought me back around to the east gateway.2 Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of his coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with his glory.3 This vision was just like the others I had seen, first by the Kebar River and then when he came to destroy Jerusalem. I fell face down on the ground.4 And the glory of the LORD came into the Temple through the east gateway.
These unusual visions of Ezekiel concern both the immediate and the long-term plans of God. God calls Ezekiel His watchman to both warn and encourage.
Ezekiel 33:1-9 (NLT)1 Once again a message came to me from the LORD:2 “Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman.3 When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people.4 Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die.5 They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives.6 But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’7 “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me.8 If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths.9 But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.
Ezekiel is our example as Christians. We are to be watchmen on this earth, speaking the truth of the gospel to everyone we meet. We cannot possibly turn our backs on the perishing and go our own righteous way without being held accountable for those who die in sin that we could have reached.