From the Editor’s Notebook: Major Prophets, Ezekiel

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Outline Studies of The Major Prophets

Ezekiel: The Book of Hope

Key Word: Glory.

Message: “The goodness and severity of God” (Robert Lee).1

Key Verse: 12:27 —”Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.”


Ezekiel, which means “God strengthens,” was taken into the Babylonian captivity with Jehoiachin in 599 B.C., being then about 25 years old. He belonged to the aristocracy of Jerusalem and, like Jeremiah, he was a priest as well as a prophet (1:1-3). However, because of the captivity he never served as a priest, but he began his prophetic ministry at 30 — the age when priests entered upon their sacred duties. Having commenced his prophecy in the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity, he continued his ministry for at least 22 years (592-570 B.C.; cf. 1:2; 24:17). Ezekiel resided in his own house in Babylon (8:1) and was married, but his wife died in the year when the final siege of Jerusalem began (24:18). He was contemporary with Jeremiah and Daniel. Jeremiah, who spoke to the remnant that remained in the land, was soon to pass from the scene; Daniel spoke to the captives who had been brought to the rivers of Babylon. While the captives wept by Babylon’s rivers at the memory of Zion, an experience graphically depicted in Psalm 137, Ezekiel was exulting in the glorious visions given to him by God.

Numerous Bible commentators have pointed out that Ezekiel stresses the Spirit, Isaiah the Son, and Jeremiah the Father. Ezekiel was the great artist, Isaiah the great poet, and Jeremiah the great preacher. Still another comparison treats Ezekiel as the exile prophet of hope, Isaiah as the statesman prophet of faith, and Jeremiah as the martyr prophet of love.

During the first years of the captivity false prophets had led the people to believe that Jerusalem would not be destroyed, and that they would soon be restored to the land and the Holy City. Having been informed of this, Jeremiah wrote and sent a letter to Babylon stating that the city would be destroyed (Jer. 29). It was the following year that Ezekiel began his ministry and confirmed all that Jeremiah had said, warning the people that before they could ever hope to return to Jerusalem they must return to the Lord. Ezekiel’s task was a difficult one. Though at first he met with great opposition, ultimately his labors were crowned with success, the people’s return to the Lord and to the land having been largely the fruit of his ministry.

The style and method of Ezekiel were unique. In fact, he was not unlike a modern day flagpole sitter in literally acting out various parts of his prophetic ministry, and this, in order to get the attention of a people who would not listen to him or to his message. Thus symbolic action often supplied the text for his message, as in the mimic siege of Jerusalem (4). In addition to this there are visions (8), similitudes (16), parables (17), poems (19), proverbs (12:22-23; 18:2), allegories (16, 23), and prophecies (6, 20, 40-48).

It may be said that Ezekiel prophesied in what were the darkest days of the nation of Israel, having had to cope with the false hope given by false prophets, coupled with the resultant indifference and despondency issuing out of days of sin and disaster.

Today few even bother to read Ezekiel’s prophecy, mainly because they do not understand its key, structure and message. Like Daniel and the Apostle John, Ezekiel prophesied outside of the land and each wrote an apocalypse. Though employing highly symbolic language, they were given to see the sure hope and shining glory of the Lord which shall be the experience and portion of Israel in that coming day. Ezekiel saw the Shekinah Glory of the Lord leave the earthly temple, but he was also projected into the future millennial kingdom and saw the return of that same glory to the new temple, having seen and recorded many other details of the future as well.

W. Graham Scroggie has noted: “The Book begins with Heavenly Glory, in the Cherubic Vision (ch. i); it ends with Earthly Glory, in the vision of the New Order (chs. xl.-xlviii.); and in between, it tells of the Departing Glory (viii.4; ix.3; x.4, 18, 19; xi.22, 23). The idea of Glory runs through the whole Prophecy, and, in a sense, characterizes it.”2

Ezekiel looked beyond “the sufferings of Christ” to “the glory (lit. glories) that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:11) .





Notable Notes

“Ezekiel,” wrote Guy H. King, “is a book largely neglected, not often read. Of course, it bristles with difficulties, yet it abounds in treasures. It is a deep well of truth …”3

There are at least 25 references to the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel (e.g., 2:2; 3:12, 14, 24).

The full details of the future new temple (40-47), and of the new river (47), are revealed only by Ezekiel, coupled with the fact that he was given to see the same city the Apostle John saw later which is called, “The Lord is there” (48:35).

It is alone in this great prophetic book that Satan’s past history before his fall is disclosed (28:11-19).

Ezekiel has been called “the prophet of reconstruction,” and so he was (cf. 36-37). He virtually took up where Jeremiah left off, having developed the theme of Israel’s future. Along with Jeremiah, he shares the distinction of promulgating the doctrine of individual responsibility, although he gives this theme an emphasis all his own (cf. 18 with Jer. 31:29-30).

The dominating notes of Ezekiel’s ministry are sin, punishment, repentance and blessing. The burden of his soul was to destroy false hopes and to awaken true ones. The most familiar phrase of the book is, “They shall know that I am Jehovah” (at least 70 times; see chs. 25-32 in particular). The key phrase of the prophecy, “the glory of the Lord,” occurs 14 times in the first 11 chapters.

Ezekiel speaks of Israel in Egypt more than any other prophet, and it is only in this book that Israel’s idolatry in Egypt is learned, and of God’s thought to destroy them because of it (20:1-9).

In summary fashion, Scroggie has perceptively commented as follows: “Isaiah had blown the silver trumpet over Jerusalem, Jeremiah was playing the mournful flute in Judah, and Ezekiel was striking the iron harp by the Chebar. This prophet has not the sustained flight of Isaiah, nor the tenderness of Jeremiah, but there is a directness which is common only to stern natures.”4

In Ezekiel the LORD JESUS CHRIST is revealed as the SON OF MAN, and further, as the “PRINCE” of Ezekiel’s prophecy.

Odds and Ends

Some time ago the editor was asked if the Bible studies which appear in “From the Editor’s Notebook” are written by me. Yes, they are, including the current article on Ezekiel. If material appearing in my column has not been written by me, then I try to be careful always to identify the source. In some instances, however, I can only place at the end of a quotation or brief article: Author Unknown or Selected.

As you know from your reading of “Food for the Flock,” I still wrestle with occasional typos. As indicated in a past issue, I am unable to proofread the final setup work before the magazine goes to press. This is a great disadvantage but something that cannot be helped. As it is, I generally proofread the galley sheets three times before returning them to the printer. Perhaps in the future arrangements can be made to pay someone at Midland Printers Company Ltd., to carefully go over each issue just before it goes to press. The present proofreading responsibility rests entirely on my shoulders and, be assured, my perfectionist ways feel keenly each typo. One glaring typo, which virtually drove me up the wall and across the ceiling, appeared in the 30th anniversary issue. The word “not” was inserted on page 23 in the last paragraph, totally changing the meaning of what was intended. A check of the original material showed that it was not my fault, but such is little comfort once the die has been cast (Jan.-Feb. 1985 issue).

In the will of the Lord, I expect to spend most of October in Peterborough, Ontario, to again teach a course on 1 CORINTHIANS at Kawartha Lakes Bible School. This will extend through the last day of the month. A number of changes are being implemented at the school this year in order to make room for a growing enrollment of students. If you would like to receive information about KLBS, please feel free to write to: Mr. Daniel Degeer, Kawartha Lakes Bible School, Box 1101, Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7H4.

The Annual Meeting of our “Food for the Flock” committee members is scheduled for Saturday, October 26th, in Toronto at Don Valley Bible Chapel.

“Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25).

1 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.

2 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, I, p. 203.

3 Guy H. King, A Day At a Time, p. 27.

4 Scroggie, op. cit., p. 202.