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John Hepp, Jr.
The questions and answers in this study guide are based on the New American Standard Bible. As usual, the LORD (in all-capital letters) stands for Yahweh, the name of the true God.
The first step in understanding any Bible book is to observe what it says. This study guide will help you observe what the Book of Ezekiel says. It consists primarily of questions and answers on the content of that book. Read each paragraph or section in the Bible, as directed. Then answer the questions before you check the answers provided at the end. My titles and observa¬ions suggest some interpretations and applications. You should read all the notes.
In Bible history what happened in the year 586 B.C. was outstanding. That year saw the end of God’s kingdom on earth, which had begun at the Exodus. Its beginning was clearly marked in Scriptures, such as Psalm 114:1–2: “When Israel went forth from Egypt…Judah became His sanctuary, Israel His dominion.” Just as clearly was its destruction foreseen, as early as Leviti¬cus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.
That destruction began right after Saul, David, and Solomon had reigned. In 931 B.C. God’s kingdom broke into two parts: the ten tribes of Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Later, Isaiah and other prophets predicted the downfall of the ten tribes to Assyria. That happened—and many went into exile—by 722 B.C. However, Judah, including Jerusalem with God’s tem¬ple and the throne of David, survived. Still later, prophets like Habakkuk and Jeremiah predicted that God would finish bringing His kingdom to an end by means of revived Babylonia. That country began to rule the world in 605 B.C. In that same year its king Nebuchadnezzar took the first group of Jews captives from Jerusalem to Babylonia. The final doom for Judah had begun. A much larger group of exiles, Ezekiel among them, went in 597 B.C. The end would be in 586 B.C. A few years before that (in 593 B.C.), Ezekiel began his ministry in Babylonia. His main subject for years was the breakup of God’s kingdom, which he was experiencing in person. Study the chart about deportations, on the next page.
The prophet Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem during all this terrible judgment, until 586 B.C. Most of what he wrote in his books of Jeremiah and Lamentations dealt with it. So did the first half of the book by Ezekiel, who lived in the exile. No one can appreciate such books without understanding God’s kingdom. We must pay close attention to God’s reasons for terminating it, also the many predictions of its future restoration.
Three Deportations from Judah to Babylonia by King Nebuchadnezzar
These completed the breakup of the LORD’s earthly kingdom.
Date & Reference Davidic King in Jerusalem Who Were Taken into Exile Comments
Daniel 1 Jehoiakim Mostly Daniel and other gifted youth, especially of royal and noble families—chosen to be trained in order to help make Babylon great. Also taken: vessels from the LORD’s temple.
2 Kings 24:14–16 Jehoiachin About 10,000 including King Jehoiachin, Ezekiel, warriors, and many craftsmen to help in Babylonian building projects. Jehoiachin was the last Davidic genera¬tion to rule.
2 Kings 25:4–21 Zedekiah King Zedekiah and nearly all the Jews remaining (many died in and after the long siege, Ezek. 24:1–2). Also destroyed: God’s capital city and temple.
Part I. Ezekiel’s Ministry to Israel until the Kingdom Ended (chaps. 1–24)
(that is, until the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 586 B.C.)
A. Ezekiel’s Inaugural Vision (chapters 1–3)
Read 1:1–3, the introduction to Ezekiel’s first recorded vision. After you read all three verses, answer the questions. As always, check your answers in Answers at the end.
1. a. Where was Ezekiel when he saw this first vision?
NOTE: Ezekiel 3:15 shows that the prophet lived at Tel-abib in Babylonia. In Hebrew this name was spelled the same as modern Tel Aviv in Israel. However, the NIV says its meaning was different: “mound of the flood [that is, of destruc¬tion]” instead of “hill of grain.”
b. In what year? (two answers)
NOTE: This is the first of thirteen dates in Ezekiel, nearly all in chronological order. The years in the Bible were usually solar years like ours; that is, the 365 days in which the earth orbits the sun. However, the months were lunar, aver¬aging 29 ½ days each (from one new moon until the next). Some months were 29 days long; others, 30 days. Since twelve lunar months have only 354 days, an extra month was added as needed to fit the solar year. Also, each new year (the “first month”) began at a new moon rather than our January 1. It also began near an equinox, either in the spring or in the fall. The result is that in some Bible pas¬sages, such as, Ezekiel 1, the new year came in our March; in other passages, in our September.
2. What title did Ezekiel give himself? (This showed what occupation he was qualified to follow by birth.)
Ezekiel’s first vision began with a great flashing storm cloud coming from the north. Read 1:4–14, which emphasizes the four living beings from within the cloud.
NOTE: In Scripture the number four often relates to God’s material creation in its many aspects. For example, “the four winds of the earth” (Rev. 7:1) stand for all winds; “the four corners of the land” (Ezek. 7:2) stand for all its parts.
3. What four faces did each living being have?
4. Where did they hold their four wings?
5. What was remarkable about their direction of travel and speed of travel?
NOTE: These awesome creatures were later identified as “cherubim” (10:15, 20). The end¬ing “im” is plural in Hebrew; the singular form is “cherub” (9:3; 10:4, 7, 9). After mankind’s fall, cherubim had been stationed to guard “the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24). In the Book of Revelation (4:6–8, et al.) John saw four of them around the heavenly throne. Although they are creatures, they also represent God’s attributes. For example, their number, speed, and ability to move without turning, point to God’s omnipresence and omnipotence.
Read 1:15–21, about the four wheels associated with the living beings.
6. When Ezekiel first saw the wheels, in what position were they?
7. He saw what looked like “one wheel within another” (1:16). Apparently this made possible a remarkable feature when they moved. What feature?
8. They had lofty and awesome rims full of what?
9. What made them move in perfect harmony with the living beings? (1:19, 21)
Read 1:22–28, about the glory of God.
10. Where was the glory of God when Ezekiel first saw it? (The answer has three parts.)
NOTE: The “expanse” in Ezekiel 1 was “over the heads of the living beings” (1:22), to serve as a platform.
11. Ezekiel described the one seated on the throne above the expanse. Around Him was a radiance like a rainbow (1:27–28; cf. Rev. 4:3). What did God Himself look like?
12. Ezekiel summarized what he saw in this vision as “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (1:28b). What was his immediate response to this vision?
NOTE: God’s glory also included the cloud. When it filled the original tabernacle, it appeared as a “cloud of light” (Exod. 40:34–35). It will be restored in the future king¬dom (Ezek. 43:2). In a sense, it is already in all the earth (Isa. 6:3).
Read 2:1–10, which describes Ezekiel’s call.
1. God addressed Ezekiel with a title He called him often in this book. What title?
2. To whom did God send him? How did God describe them?
3. God told Ezekiel not to fear the sons of Israel or their words (2:6) but to be faithful to his calling (2:7-8). To help him in these aspects, He gave Ezekiel something to eat. What?
Probably it would have been better to start this chapter right after 2:7.
Read 3:1–15, which describes Ezekiel’s commission.
1. When Ezekiel ate the scroll God gave him, how did it taste?
2. What did God again emphasize about Ezekiel’s target audience?
NOTE: “Go to the exiles, the sons of your people” (3:11). Neither the LORD nor Ezekiel could get pleasure from announcing judgment. But the message would help preserve a precious remnant within the audience. Through them the LORD would pass Abraham’s blessing to the world (Gen. 12:3). By knowing beforehand the severity and limits of judgment, the remnant would not despair when it came.
3. When the commissioning was finished, what was Ezekiel’s emotional reaction?
Read 3:16–21, an additional instruction to Ezekiel.
4. What was the obligation of a watchman?
NOTE: His commission as a watchman would be (a) explained in more detail in chapter 18 and (b) repeated under different circumstances in chapter 33.
Read 3:22–27, another vision of the LORD’s glory.
5. What two limitations would Ezekiel have in his ministry?
B. Prophecies of Full Destruction for Judah and Jerusalem (chapters 4–7)
Read 4:1–8, in which God told Ezekiel to portray the coming siege of Jerusalem.
1. How was he to use the brick and the iron plate to portray the siege?
2. How many days was he to lie on each side to “bear the iniquity” of Israel? of Judah?
Read 4:9–17, in which God told Ezekiel to portray the coming famine in Jerusalem.
3. How was he to use special bread and water to portray the famine?
4. What concession did he get from God?
Read 5:1–4, in which God told Ezekiel to portray some results of the siege.
1. Ezekiel was to cut off his hair and beard with a sword, then divide it with scales. How was he to dispose of it? NOTE: The meaning of this is given in 5:12, 16–17.
Read 5:5–17, in which God explained why He would judge so severely.
2. a. Why would God show no pity? (What had they done to anger Him?)
b. There is a refrain in verses 13, 15, and 17 that is used 65 times in Ezekiel. It shows an important result of God’s judging severely, just as He had announced. What result?
Read chapter 6, the LORD’s prophecy against the mountains of Israel.
1. What was the LORD’s objection against the mountains of Israel?
2. One great result of this judgment is repeated four times in this chapter—and often in the rest of the book. What result (seven words)?
Read chapter 7, which announced the major disaster about to take place for Israel. As you read, mark repeated words and phrases.
1. Repeated words and phrases show the emphases of this chapter.
a. What word is used five times in verses 2, 3, and 6?
b. How is verse 3 much like verse 8?
c. What eight-word phrase is nearly identical in verses 7 and 12?
d. What adjective (showing how many would be judged) is used six times in verses 14–18?
C. A Vision of the End of the LORD’s Earthly Kingdom (chapters 8–11)
Read chapter 8, in which Ezekiel saw abominations in the temple. As you read, start marking every verse that mentions the glory of God/the LORD.
1. Since nearly every date in Ezekiel is from the second deportation in 597 B.C., in what year did this vision probably take place (8:1)?
2. Where was Ezekiel taken to see this vision?
3. Ezekiel was shown “abominations” in the temple, first in verse 5, then three “greater abominations” (8:6b, 13, 15). Here is a list of the four places where he saw them, with references. Tell what he saw at each one.
(a) at the north of the altar gate, 8:5
(b) inside the wall at the entrance to the court, 8:10–11
(c) at the entrance of the gate toward the north, 8:14
(d) between the porch and the altar, at the entrance to the inner court, 8:16
Read chapter 9, in which God began to judge Jerusalem because of the abominations. Continue marking every verse that mentions the glory of God/the LORD.
1. The executioners were “six men,” including one “clothed in linen with a writing case at his loins” (9:2).
a. Whom did the man clothed in linen mark?
b. Whom did the others kill?
Read chapter 10, in which the glory of God/the LORD began to leave the temple. Continue mark¬ing every verse that mentions that glory (four times in this chapter).
1. a. What was the man clothed in linen to get from between the whirling wheels?
b. What was he told to do with it?
2. Twice in this chapter the glory of God/the LORD changed its location. Where did it go in verse 4? in verses 18–19?
Read chapter 11, in which the glory of God/the LORD abandoned the temple and Jerusalem.
1. Where is the last place Ezekiel saw the LORD’s glory in this vision?
2. To their messages of doom the prophets often added flashes of hope, such as Ezekiel 11:16–21. Though God had removed Israel from their land, He was their sanctuary in exile (11:16). List at least four things He would do for them in the future.
D. The Futility of False Optimism (chapters 12–19)
Read 12:1–7, in which Ezekiel portrayed the exile.
1. What were four steps in his portrayal? (12:3, 4, 5, 6)
Read 12:8–16 for the explanation Ezekiel was to give to the Israelites.
2. What person did the night part of his portrayal especially refer to?
Read 12:17–28, which gives three more messages through Ezekiel to Israel: (1) verses 17–20, (2) verses 21–25, and (3) verses 26–28. Each of these begins with “the word of the LORD came to me saying” (vv. 17, 21, 26).
3. Two of these messages quote mistaken sayings of the people about Ezekiel’s prophetic visions. In one sentence for both, summarize the LORD’s answers to these mistakes.
Read 13:1–16, which pronounces the LORD’s judgment against false prophets in Israel, in this case, the male ones.
NOTE: Ezekiel 13:10–16 says the prophets plastered a weak wall with whitewash. This made it look better but no stronger. The weak wall probably meant sinful Judah, as in 22:28, which uses the same verb (cf. 13:22b). The LORD would bring a storm to tear it down—and them too.
1. These prophets had followed their own spirits but had seen no visions from God (13:3, 6–9). What, in general, had their prophecies promised to Jerusalem?
Read 13:17–23, which pronounces the LORD’s judgment against the female false prophets.
2. These women had hunted down God’s people like wild animals—and had perverted justice. What motivated them to do so?
Read 14:1–11, about people with “idols in their hearts.”
1. Those with idols in their hearts were “some elders of Israel” who came to consult the LORD through Ezekiel (14:1–3).
NOTE: Here as in 20:1, these were the same as the “elders of Judah” in 8:1.
a. What message did the LORD send them?
NOTE: Anyone who refused to respond to the LORD had no right to inquire of Him (14:3, 7; see 1 Sam. 28:6). If a prophet answered him anyhow, it was because the LORD had “prevailed upon that prophet” to answer falsely. The word translated “prevail” is elsewhere translated “seduce” (Exod. 22:16). This shows that the LORD Himself would make the false prophet err (see 1 Kings 22:19–23).
b. What was the LORD’s ultimate purpose in judging severely?
Read 14:12–22, which declares that national judgment was inescapable.
2. a. What were the “four severe judgments” the LORD was sending?
b. In these conditions even godly men like Noah, Daniel, and Job could not save them. To what would those three be limited?
Read chapter 15, which compares the people of Jerusalem to a vine.
NOTE: Verse 3 in the NIV reads, “Is wood ever taken from it to make anything useful? Do they make pegs from it to hang things on?” In verse 7 “They have come out of the fire” refers to the deportation in 597 B.C., of which Ezekiel was a part.
1. They probably considered this comparison a compliment (cf. Psa. 80:8–11). But it was no compliment in this case. Why not?
Read chapter 16, a long allegory about unfaithful Jerusalem. You will notice that Jerusalem was not cared for at birth (vv. 4–5); she was “thrown out into the open field” to die. But she was res¬cued and reared by the LORD (vv. 6–7). He then married her and gave her splendor (vv. 8–14). “I spread my skirt over you” (v. 8; cf. Ruth 3:9) symbolized His promise to protect her by mar¬riage. Her “beautiful crown” (v. 12) was a wedding crown. But she used her beauty and splen¬dor to be a prostitute instead (vv. 15–19)—and even sacrificed her children to idols (vv. 20–22). The rest of the chapter describes her unfaithfulness in more detail.
1. a. How was Jerusalem more perverse than other prostitutes?
b. How did the LORD describe her punishment?
c. Her two sisters were bad but not as bad as she. Who were they?
NOTE: It is fascinating that both of them will be restored (vv. 53, 55).
Read chapter 17, another allegory about Judah and God’s kingdom. As you read, use the chart that follows. Fill in the missing references.
NOTE: Verses 16, 18, and 19 show that breaking an oath and treaty taken in the LORD’s name was a sin against the LORD.
Ezekiel 17: An Allegory about Eagles & Cedars
Reference for Item Item Reference for Meaning Meaning
vv. 3–4 A great eagle plucked off the very top of a cedar in Lebanon and replanted it in a city of traders. v. 12 The king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) took the king (Jehoiachin) and princes from Jerusalem to Babylon.
vv. 5–6 The eagle planted a seed that became a low, spreading vine. vv.______ The Babylonian king made a covenant with one of the royal family (Zedekiah).
vv. 7–8 Though planted in a good place, this vine sought water from another great eagle instead. vv.______ The one under covenant rebelled and sought military help from Egypt.
vv. 9–10 This perverse vine would be pulled up and would wither from the east wind. vv.______ This rebellious king would die in Babylon, and his soldiers be killed, with no help from Egypt.
vv. 22–24 The LORD will take the very top of a cedar and plant it on a high mountain. It will bear fruit and give shelter to birds.
NOTE: Although Ezekiel does not interpret 17:22–24 further at this point, the meaning should be obvious. It is a Messianic promise of the coming kingdom of God, in which another Descen¬dant of David (Jesus) will reign. No doubt Jesus’ disciples understood when He used this figure of speech from Ezekiel to describe His future kingdom (Mark 4:30–32).
1. What three missing references did you supply for column 3?
For this chapter certain comments are adapted from the NIV Study Bible.
Read 18:1–20, which shows that a person can break the chain of guilt inherited from his ances¬tors. As you read, study the chart that follows, completing columns 5 and 6. It shows that there are three generations in this section: (a) a man, (b) his son, and (c) his grandson.
NOTE: In 18:4 “souls…soul…soul…soul” all translate the Hebrew word nephesh (the first one plural). Here, as usual, this word does not refer to a part of a person but to the whole person.
The Chain of Inherited Guilt Can Be Broken.
Generation Reference Person Reference for Commandments His Response The LORD’s Judgment
a 18:5 a man 18:6–9 He obeys. He will live.
b 18:10 the man’s son 18:11–13
c 18:14 the son’s son 18:15–17
1. Ezekiel 18:2–4 and Jeremiah 31:29–30 both speak against the same proverb. It was based on the teaching of Exodus 20:5 and 34:7 but wrongly made that teaching abso¬lute. What was the proverb?
2. Ezekiel 18:5–20 presents three generations (a, b, c in the table) that respond differently to the LORD’s commandments and are judged differently. (Did you complete columns 5 and 6?)
a. How does each respond to these commandments?
b. What is the LORD’s judgment in each case?
NOTE: Twice the people responded, “The way of the LORD is not right” (vv. 25, 29). Apparently they considered He was unjustly judging them for their fathers’ sins, as the proverb implied. Instead, it was for their own sins, which they would not admit. Sons will be judged in the same way as their fathers only if they respond the same (see Lam. 5:16).
Read 18:21–32, which shows that (a) the power of accumulated guilt within a person can be bro¬ken, and (b) how Israel should respond. As in chapter 14, the key word is “turn” (18:21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30). Mark forms of that word as you read.
3. How could Israel break the power of sin within them?
Read chapter 19, an allegorical funeral song for two princes.
NOTE: This song was designed for repeated use: “This is a lament and is to be used as a lament” (19:14c, NIV). There is some doubt in identifying one of the princes. And it is not clear whether the “mother” is Israel (19:1), Judah (8:1, 17), or Jerusalem (5:5).
1. a. What metaphor is used for the “mother” in verses 1–9?
b. Each of her descendants was captured by the nations and taken captive into exile. To where?
2. a. What metaphor is used for the “mother” in verses 10–14?
b. What happens to her in verses 10–11?
c. What happens to her in verses 12–14?
E. The History of Judah’s Corruption (chapters 20–24)
Read 20:1–29, which surveys the nation’s rebellion. The NIV points out that there are at least three, maybe four, acts in this section (see below). Mark them before you read. As you read, mark words and phrases that are repeated.
• Act 1, in Egypt (vv. 5–9)
• Act 2, in the desert with the first generation (vv. 10–17)
• Act 3, in the desert with the next generation (vv. 18–26)
• Possibly Act 4, in the Promised Land (vv. 28–29)
NOTE: Verses 6 and 15 call the Promised Land “the glory [most beautiful] of all lands.” Though small, that land has great variety—and used to have many more trees and crops. Its greatest beauty was the fact that the LORD chose it. Verse 25 says, “I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live.” This refers to the times when He disciplined Israel by letting other nations—with their bad laws—oppress them.
1. This chapter begins with the third date in the book. Since Jehoiachin’s deportation was in 597 B.C., in what year was this third date?
2. List—with references—at least two of the words or phrases that are repeated.
Read 20:30–49, which promises both judgment and restoration. Verses 45–49 probably go better with chapter 21, which they begin in the Hebrew text.
3. This section seems to indicate stages in Israel’s restoration. When the LORD again acts as king over them and brings them from the peoples,
a. where will He first take them?
b. to do what? (Give four statements.)
Read chapter 21, which says a lot about the “sword of the LORD.” In verses 1–7 it is drawn for use. In verses 8–17 it is sharpened and told to smite. As you read, mark each occurrence of the word sword.
1. a. How many times did you find the word sword in this chapter?
b. Earthly kings use the LORD’s sword. Who does so in this chapter?
NOTE: After the rebellion of Jerusalem, Tyre, and Ammon against him, this king is seen consulting his idols in 21:18–23. The answer comes for him to choose the road to Jerusalem.
2. In 21:25–27 there is a prophecy against the “prince of Israel, whose day has come.” His rule would be taken away until who would come?
Ezekiel 22 relates three messages from the LORD about Israel’s sin and punishment. These begin at verses 1, 17, and 23. Read the first message, verses 1–16, which emphasizes bloodshed and related sins. As you read, mark every occurrence of “blood(shed)” or its equivalent.
1. How many times did you find “blood(shed)” or its equivalent in 22:1–16?
Read the second message, 22:17–22, about the purifying furnace. As you read, find and mark repeated words or phrases.
2. List at least three repeated words or phrases in 22:17–22.
Read the third message, 22:23–31, about the recipients of judgment. As you read, find and mark five groups to be judged. Make two changes to agree with the NIV: (a) In verse 25 change “prophets” to “princes” (as the Greek Septuagint does, referring to Davidic rulers). (b) In verse 27 change “princes” to “officials.”
3. List five groups to be judged, according to 22:23–31. (Use the recommended changes.)
This chapter is a long allegory about two unfaithful sisters. They were harlots as youths in Egypt —and later as the LORD’s wives. Read 23:1–21, describing them.
1. Give their names and identify them.
2. a. The first sister lusted after some lovers who later punished her. Who were they? (23:5–10)
b. The second sister was worse than the first. She lusted after the same lovers, then what others?
Read 23:22–49 about the punishment of these sisters, especially the second one.
3. They would be punished as guilty of adultery and what else?
This chapter ends the first major division of Ezekiel’s book. The history of Judah’s corruption would result in the end of the LORD’s earthly kingdom over Israel. Read 24:1–14, about the cooking pot.
1. This prophecy was given when the king of Babylonia laid siege to Jerusalem (vv. 1–2, also 2 Kings 25:1). What year was that in our calendar?
2. This is the second time Ezekiel uses the figure of the cooking pot (see 11:3–12). This time, every piece of meat is destroyed (vv. 6, 10). What is the pot?
Read 24:15–27, about two tragic announcements.
3. a. Each announcement was that “the desire [NIV, delight] of your eyes” would be taken away. Find each case and its meaning.
b. Ezekiel was to respond in his own loss as the people would in theirs. How?
4. After a “fugitive” arrived from Jerusalem, how would Ezekiel’s ministry change?
Part II. Ezekiel’s Oracles against Nearby Nations (chaps. 25–32)
A. The Nearest Nations (chapter 25)
Read chapter 25, which predicts judgments on the nations nearest to Judah: Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia. For each nation mark the related words “because” and “therefore” (at vv. 3 and 4; 6 and 7; 8 and 9; 12 and 13; 15 and 16). Also in each case notice the following refrain or its equivalent, “[You] will know that I am the LORD” (vv. 5 and 7, 11, 14, 17).
1. In each case the nation was guilty in regard to Judah. In what ways?
B. Tyre (chapters 26–28)
Chapters 26–28 all have to do with Tyre, the main city of Phoenicia (now Lebanon). South of Sidon, ancient Tyre was primarily an island and port close to the Mediterranean coast. With a great fleet of “ships of Tarshish,” it was “the marketplace of nations” (Isa. 23:3, NIV). That trade and wealth produced great political power; Tyre was “the bestower of crowns” (Isa. 23:8). There are other predictions about Tyre in Isaiah 23; Jeremiah 25:22; 47:4; Joel 3:4–5; Amos 1:9–10; and Zechariah 9:2–4.
Read chapter 26, which predicts Tyre’s destruction. Like the nations of chapter 25, Tyre also rejoiced at the downfall of Jerusalem (v. 2). Being “mighty on the sea” (v. 17), it considered itself invincible. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar (v. 7) besieged it thirteen or more years without suc¬cess. Alexander the Great later conquered it by building a causeway to it in the water (332 B.C.).
1. What would Tyre become? (two answers in vv. 4–5 and 14)
Ezekiel 27 is a lamentation over Tyre. Read verses 1–9, in which Tyre is pictured as one of its many elegant ships. Everything about it was the finest. Its sail, for example, was made of “fine embroidered linen from Egypt” (v. 7).
1. a. What woods were used in this ship’s planks (timbers)? mast? oars? deck?
b. What is Tyre called in verse 3?
Read 27:10–36, which describes Tyre’s worldwide sea trade (vv. 12–25), then shipwreck (vv. 26–36). Tyre’s trade extended to the farthest known ports and countries. “Tarshish,” for exam¬ple (vv. 12, 25), was possibly on the coast of southern Spain. As you read, mark repeated words and phrases, such as, “your wares,” relating to Tyre’s business.
2. List at least three other repeated words and phrases in this section.
3. How would all of Tyre’s customers respond to its destruction?
Read 28:1–10, against the “leader [king?] of Tyre.” He was “a man” (vv. 2, 9).
1. What was this leader’s opinion of himself? (Verse 3 is sarcastic, accepting that opin¬ion.)
Read 28:11–19, a lament for “the king of Tyre.” It exalts this king with images taken from the creation and the fall. Read it considering the following opinion of Charles C. Ryrie (who agrees with many other interpreters):
This section (vv. 11–19), with its superhuman references, apparently describes some¬one other than the human ruler of Tyre; namely, Satan. If so, Satan’s unique privileges before his fall are described in verses 12–15 and the judgment on him in verses 16–19. (The Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1268)
Ryrie’s opinion seems doubtful. In a footnote I will quote my arguments against his same view of Isaiah 14:12–15. It was not unusual to describe oriental kings in extravagant language. For example, the description of this king’s beauty in 24:12, 17 is like that of Tyre in 27:3, 11. Even his being “in Eden” (v. 13) was poetic. In Ezekiel Eden figures in other purely earthly descrip¬tions. For example, chapter 31 says that the trees in Eden “were jealous” of Assyria (31:8, 9, 16, and 18).
2. What are two things said of this king that were not true of Satan?
Read 28:20–26, about Sidon (about twenty miles north of Tyre). Mark the four occurrences of “then they will know that I am the LORD.”
3. Besides the phrase you just marked, what other reason did the LORD give for judging Sidon? (v. 24)
C. Egypt (chapters 29–32)
Chapters 29–32 give seven oracles against Egypt. Number them in the margin of your Bible. They start at 29:1, 17; 30:1, 20; 31:1; and 32:1, 17. All but 30:1 are dated.
1. Look at the beginning of each of the seven oracles (as listed above). What words are repeated in each case?
Read 29:1–16, the first oracle against Egypt. In it Pharaoh was a “great monster” who said, “The Nile is mine, and I myself have made it” (vv. 3, 9). His carcass would be food for the beasts and the birds (v. 5).
2. After being uninhabited forty years, Egypt would be restored (vv. 10–13). But what would never happen?
Read 29:17–21, the second oracle against Egypt. The date for this oracle is the latest in the book, 57l B.C. This was after Nebuchadnezzar had unsuccessfully besieged Tyre for thirteen years (v. 18), from 585 to 572 B.C.
3. Though Nebuchadnezzar had gained no wages for his soldiers in Tyre, what would the LORD give him?
Read 30:1–19, the third oracle against Egypt. This is one case where “the day of the LORD” (vv. 2–3) did not refer to the last days but to a near judgment.
1. This oracle has four parts, each beginning “Thus says the LORD.” Which part names several cities of Egypt?
Read 30:20–26, the fourth oracle against Egypt.
2. Six times this section speaks of “arm(s).” Whose arms? (two answers)
Read chapter 31, the fifth oracle against Egypt. Pharaoh and Egypt were like Assyria in being great but about to fall (vv. 2–3). Apparently, the description of Assyria’s long greatness and recent fall occupy all of verses 3–17. Then verse 18 returns to “Pharaoh and all his hordes”: “Yet, you, too, will be brought down” (NIV).
1. What were Assyria and Pharaoh/Egypt both compared to in this oracle?
Read 32:1–16, the sixth oracle against Egypt. Pharaoh was again pictured as a dangerous and disorderly monster (v. 2) to be fed to birds and beasts (vv. 3–4). His destruction would make other nations fear (vv. 9–10).
1. Who would accomplish this predicted destruction?
NOTE: It is interesting and instructive to notice the poetic description of the heavens, sun, and moon being darkened (vv. 7–8). There is no evidence that this happened liter¬ally.
Read 32:17–32, the seventh oracle against Egypt. In it various nations welcomed Egypt into Sheol, the place of the dead (vv. 21, 27).
2. In verses 20–32 nearly every verse repeats the same four-word phrase. What is it?
Part III. Ezekiel’s Ministry of Comfort Pointing to the Restored Kingdom (chaps. 33–48)
Read 33:1–20, in which the LORD referred to His appointing Ezekiel as “a watchman for the house of Israel” (v. 7). He had so appointed him at the beginning (3:16–21; see 18:21–29). Now, however, the emphasis of his ministry would be to comfort those who listened. For the first time in the book, Israelites spoke of their own sin (vv. 10–11). God was now willing to respond to them. In regard to “statutes which ensure life” (v. 15), compare 20:13, 21.
1. Heeding the LORD’s watchman was a matter of life or death. “Life” did not mean just survival but meaningful and enjoyable existence. What did Ezekiel say was the way to make sure of life?
Read 33:21–33, which emphasizes the fact that Ezekiel’s ministry was changing. “The refugees [NIV, a man who had escaped] from Jerusalem” arrived five months after the temple was burned (v. 21). Just before they (he) arrived, Ezekiel’s “mouth was opened” and he “was no longer speechless” (v. 22). Only a few ungodly people had been left in the ruins of Jerusalem and Judah (vv. 24, 27)—and they would also be destroyed (v. 27).
2. a. Most of Ezekiel’s audience in exile had not taken him seriously (vv. 30–32). How did they consider him?
b. What would change their minds?
Read chapter 34, about the shepherds and sheep of Israel. Although some of this is about judg¬ment, its main purpose is to comfort. The same themes are dealt with in Jeremiah 23:1–6. Rulers were often called “shepherds” in the Ancient East. Elders in the New Testament are once called by the same title (“pastors,” Eph. 4:11) and are told to feed the sheep (Acts 20:28–31; 1 Peter 5:1–4).
1. Verses 1–10 talk about the unfaithful “shepherds” of Israel, whom the LORD God was replacing. What was the task of these shepherds, which they had not fulfilled? (vv. 2, 3, 8, 10)
2. Verses 11–16 show that the LORD Himself would act as Shepherd (as in Gen. 48:15; Psa. 23:1). What are some things He would do for the sheep?
3. Verses 17–27 show that the LORD would also remove unruly sheep, who oppress others. Who will be the ruler to implement the LORD’s justice?
NOTE: A future “prince” is described in 45:22; 46:2, 16–18. If Ezekiel 40–48 is fulfilled literally, this prince can be neither David nor Messiah. (See Appendix B.)
4. Verses 25–31 picture a new arrangement for the flock. There will be no dangerous beasts but plenty of rain and food, also God’s presence. What is this new arrangement called in verse 25 (and 37:26)?
Read chapter 35, another prophecy against Edom. This prophecy may seem out of place, because there were prophecies against Edom and other nations in chapters 25–32. Here, how¬ever, it serves to emphasize the promise in 34:28 that Israel “will no longer be a prey to the nations.” The Edomites were close kin to the Israelites, having descended from Jacob’s twin brother Esau. However, they “had everlasting enmity” against the Israelites (v. 5; see Gen. 27:41; Num. 20:14–21; et al.). Prophecies (such as Isa. 34; 63:1–6) often treated them as repre¬sentatives of all Israel’s enemies.
1. What noun is repeated six times (vv. 3, 4, 7, 9, 14, 15) that shows how Edom would become? (The NIV translates as an adjective.)
Read 36:1–15, about the mountains of Israel. Verses 1–7 promise punishment for those who wrongfully took over the mountains. Verses 8–15 promise a restoration.
1. Whose inheritance would the mountains become?
Read 36:16–38, which speaks in some detail about Israel’s restoration. Twice (vv. 22, 32) the LORD said He would do this “not for your sake.” This means, “not because Israel deserved it.” Instead, it would demonstrate His own holiness (v. 23), which refers to all His perfection in con¬trast to man.
2. In verse 24 the LORD promised to “take you [Israel] from the nations, gather you…and bring you into your own land.” In other words, He would reestablish His kingdom over them. From verses 24–38 list at least four other things He would do for Israel at that time. In Answers see the note that shows how this whole passage relates to John 3.
This chapter again looks at the coming kingdom. It shows Israel being restored as one nation under Messiah (or David). Read 37:1–14, which pictures Israel’s dry bones coming to life. This would happen through the word of the LORD, as Ezekiel demonstrated. Twice, at the LORD’s command, he prophesied.
1. a. What happened after Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones (v. 7)?
b. What happened after Ezekiel prophesied to the “breath” (vv. 9–10)?
NOTE: The Hebrew word for “breath” can also mean “wind” or “spirit.”
c. What did this all mean? (vv. 11–14)
Read 37:15–38, which pictures Israel becoming one nation under one king. Notice that twice the passage speaks of “My sanctuary [temple] in their midst” (vv. 26, 28). That topic will occupy Ezekiel 40–43.
2. a. Ezekiel was told to write on two sticks that one was for Judah (v. 16) and the other for Joseph (that is, Israel, vv. 16 and 19). Then what was he to do?
b. What did the LORD say this meant?
c. Who would be their ruler?
Chapters 38–39 The LORD Defeats Gog and His Allies.
This is another oracle of comfort in this section. It describes a great end-times invasion of the LORD’s land by Gog and many allied nations, then the LORD’s even greater victory. Near the end of this study guide Appendix A discusses this oracle. As always, however, study the facts in Scripture before you read such helps.
This section began in chapter 33. In it Ezekiel has spoken/prophesied to or against the shepherds of Israel (34:2), the LORD’s flock (34:17, 20), Mount Seir (35:2, 3), the mountains of Israel (36:1, 3, 4, 6), the house of Israel (36:22), the dry bones (37:4–5, 7), the breath (wind, spirit) (37:9, 10), the whole house of Israel (37:11–12), and “your people” (37:18–19).
1. To/against whom does Ezekiel prophesy in 38:2–3, 14; 39:1?
Now, read 38:1–16, which tells about Gog and his plans. He is a “prince” (38:2), a common word for a ruler. List everything it says about Gog, such as, his land, the countries he rules, who his allies are, and his plans against Israel. Take into account the following note.
NOTE: Rosh, used often in Ezekiel 38–39, is the usual word for head or chief. Here, however, the NASB takes it as the name of one country Gog rules over. This is possible grammatically. But if so, it would be the only country in this list not mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament. (Isaiah 66:19 is no exception when translated correctly.) Therefore, most versions give Rosh its usual meaning here: “chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (NIV).
2. You have noticed that Gog with his allies attacks the LORD’s people Israel, expecting to carry away lots of plunder.
a. What countries does Gog rule?
b. List five allies that are named.
c. What is the situation of Israel before he attacks? (Give three or more facts.)
d. In what period of time will all this take place? (vv. 8, 16)
e. Why does God allow Gog to do this? (vv. 16, 23)
Read 38:17–23, which emphasizes the outcome the LORD has determined. In wrath and a great earthquake, He will demolish Gog and his allies.
3. Was Gog or his attack predicted by former prophets?
Read chapter 39, which shows how Israel and the LORD Himself will benefit from Gog’s attack. Keep listing everything said about Gog. After you read, compare verses 17–20 to Revelation 19:17–18, 21. In both passages birds are invited to a banquet God has prepared for them. It consists of the flesh and blood of kings and armies slaughtered by God after they oppose Him.
1. a. How will Israel use Gog’s weapons?
b. What benefit will come to the LORD?
2. If necessary, revise or complete your list of all that these chapters say about Gog.
Chapters 40–48 The Restored Kingdom: Sanctuary, Worship, Locations of Tribes
These chapters picture the restoration of the LORD’s earthly kingdom. They all center on the new temple the LORD will adopt as the place for His earthly throne:
• detailed plans for the temple and its dedication (chapters 40–43)
• aspects of the worship to be done in it (chapters 44–46)
• the life-giving river that will flow from it (47:1–12)
• divisions of the land with respect to it (47:13—48:35)
When you finish observing what Ezekiel says in these last chapters, look at Appendix B.
A. Detailed Plans for the Temple and Its Inauguration (chapters 40–43)
Read 40:1–4, which introduces the entire last vision. Ezekiel was to “declare to the house of Israel all that” he saw (v. 4). He had had two earlier visions beginning in chapters 1 and 8. Each vision had included elements that, though true, were not literal. The temple in this vision has never existed; and the post-exilic books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai do not allude to it.
1. a In this vision Ezekiel was taken to the land of Israel. To what sort of geographi¬cal feature?
b. Ezekiel was brought to “a man [with] the appearance of bronze” (v. 3). What did the man have in his hand?
Read 40:5–49, in which the man (a) measured the temple’s surrounding wall and three identical gates leading to the outer court (40:5–27), then (b) began measuring the inner court, including the sanctuary (40:28—41:26). Notice the gates, tables, hooks, and chambers.
2. a. On which sides of the temple area were the three gates?
b. What were the tables for?
Read chapter 41, which continues measurements for the sanctuary and related areas. The chambers in three levels on both sides of the sanctuary (vv. 5–11) were for storage.
1. The sanctuary itself had two rooms. The first room was called “the nave” (v. 1; “the outer sanctuary” in NIV). What was the second room?
2. What were carved on the wood paneling as decorations?
Read chapter 42, which finishes the measurements. It includes various chambers for the priests. Verses 15–20 give measurements for the four sides (the wall) of the holy temple area. NASB, following the Hebrew, gives these in “reeds.” However, that results in a far larger holy area than in 45:2. Therefore, in 42:15–20 many versions (such as, NIV and ESV) follow the Greek Sep¬tuagint, which uses “cubits.”
1. Which verses mention holy things for the priests to eat and holy garments they wear?
2. According to the Greek version (see above), how big is the holy temple area?
Read 43:1–11, which describes the return of God’s glory to the temple and challenges Israel. Notice that verses 10–11 challenge Israel to repent and let the whole design be effected.
1. a. As Ezekiel watched, from what direction did the glory return?
b. What two words in verse 7 show that this is the restoration of God’s kingdom?
Read 43:12–27, which measures the altar and specifies the sacrifices with which to cleanse/ consecrate/inaugurate it.
2. a. From which family line of Levites are these priests who are authorized to min¬ister?
b. For each of seven days, what kind of offering must be made?
B. Aspects of the Worship to Be Done in the Temple (chapters 44–46)
Chapter 44 primarily speaks of the the holiness of priests in the restored temple. Read 44:1–14. Notice that no one, not even the prince, is allowed to use the outer east gate where the LORD has entered (vv. 1–2).
1. Verses 6–9 warn not to repeat the mistake of allowing foreigners into the temple. What phrase of seven words is twice used to describe them?
2. Verses 10–14 discuss Levites “who went astray from [God] after their idols.” From what service will they be excluded in the new temple?
Read 44:15–31, which gives rules for the Zadokite priests, those who minister at the altar. As you read, mark or list the rules and functions mentioned for these priests. They are the same as in the old covenant. For example, they are to receive the people’s first fruits (v. 30) as in Num¬bers 18:12.
3. What is the general rule for these priests when anyone dies?
Read 45:1–8, listing the places or people provided holy areas in the land.
1. List four or more places or people whose areas are especially holy.
Read 45:9–25, which deals with just standards (vv. 9–12) and with sacrifices provided for or by the prince (vv. 13–25). Notice that he is distinguished from the priest (v. 19; also 46:2).
2. In verses 15, 17, and 20 the purpose of these sacrifices is stated with language identical to that in Leviticus 1:4 and 6:30. What is that purpose?
Read chapter 46, which concludes discussion of the worship to be made in the temple. The last item speaks of kitchens for priests and people to cook sacrificial meals (vv. 19–24).
1. What are some occasions requiring special sacrifices? (vv. 4–5, 6–7, 9, 11, 13–15)
2. Which gate to the inner court will stay closed except for the prince on Sabbaths (or on other special occasions)?
3. The prince can give gifts (of land) to his sons for a permanent possession (vv. 16–18). Where can he get such gifts?
C. The Life-giving River that Will Flow from the Temple (47:1–12)
Read 47:1–12, about this marvelous river. Then read Revelation 22:1–2.
1. Tell about the river in Ezekiel:
a. where in the temple it begins
b. how its depth is unusual
c. what grow on its banks
d. how it affects the Dead Sea
D. Divisions of the Land with respect to the Temple (47:13—48:35)
Read 47:13–23, which gives the general boundaries for the land divisions. Possibly these cover only the areas for residences, since the Lord promised even more to Abraham (Gen. 15:18).
2. How are these boundaries related to the Jordan River?
Read 48:1–22, which lists tribal portions to the north (vv. 1–7), then again discusses “the holy allotment” (vv. 8–22; see 45:1–8). The latter includes the temple and the portion for the tribe of Levi.
1. List in order the seven tribes from the north to “the holy allotment.”
Read 48:23–35, which lists the rest of the tribal portions (vv. 23–29), and concludes by listing the gates of the city and giving its name (vv. 30–35). When you finish, read Revelation 21:9–21.
2. List in order the five tribes from “the holy allotment” to the south.
3. a. How many gates does the city have?
b. What is the name of the city?
1. a. in the land of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) by the Chebar River (1:3)
NOTE: This was the Grand Canal that left the Euphrates River north of Babylon and reentered it far south.
b. in the thirtieth year (of his life?), the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile
NOTE: Like Ezekiel, Jehoiachin was exiled in 597 B.C. Therefore, this year was apparently 593 B.C. (in our June/July).
2. priest (1:3)
3. man, lion, bull, eagle (1:10)
4. two were spread out above, touching another being (1:11)
two covered their bodies (1:11)
5. direction—They always went straight forward without turning (1:9, 12).
speed—like bolts of lightning (1:14)
6. on the earth beside the living beings (1:15)
7. They moved in any of the four directions without turning. (1:17)
NOTE: This means that each wheel was double, two wheels intersecting each other at right angles.
8. eyes (1:18)
NOTE: Ezekiel later noticed that the living beings also had many eyes: “their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings, and the wheels were full of eyes all around” (10:12). Their eyes remind us of God’s omniscience.
9. the fact that the spirit of the living beings was in them (1:20, 21; also 10:17)
10. on a throne (1:26) above the expanse (1:25, 26) over the heads of the living beings (1:22, 26)
11. like fire, which from the loins up seemed to be from glowing metal (1:27)
12. He fell on his face. (1:28)
1. Son of man NOTE: God used this title for Ezekiel 93 times in this book.
2. to “the sons of Israel,” whom He described as rebellious and stubborn (2:3–8)
NOTE: He called them rebellious eight times in chapters 2–3.
3. a scroll with lamentations, mourning, and woe written on front and back (2:8–10)
1. sweet as honey (3:3)
2. their stubbornness (3:7)
3. bitterness and rage (3:14)
NOTE: Apparently he had truly understood what God had written on the scroll about Israel’s rebellion. Compare a similar situation in Revelation 10:10.
4. to warn both the wicked and the righteous not to sin (3:18–21)
5. “Ropes” would keep him from going out of his house (3:25). He could speak only when the LORD revealed something to say (3:26–27).
NOTE: The latter restriction was lifted in 33:22.
1. inscribe Jerusalem on the brick, set it before himself, and lay siege to it (4:2–3)
NOTE: “Besiege it,” the LORD told him (4:3). Apparently Ezekiel represented the LORD, who ordered the siege. Therefore, the iron plate he set up as barrier between him and the city represented the LORD’s unwillingness to intervene (4:3).
2. 390 days for Israel, 40 days for Judah (4:4–6)
NOTE: Lying on his left side put his body north of besieged Jerusalem (the ten tribes had been to the north). Lying on his right would be to the south (where Judah was). Suggestions as to the meaning of 390 and 40 have not been convincing.
3. make the bread himself, then bake and eat it in small amounts, also drink water by measure (4:9–12)
4. to cook the bread over cow’s dung instead of human dung (4:14–15)
1. burn 1/3 in the fire, strike 1/3 all around the city, scatter 1/3 to the wind, bind a few in his robe, then take some of those and burn them
2. a. because they were more wicked than other nations (5:6) and defiled His sanctuary (5:11)
b. “[They will know that] I the LORD have spoken.”
1. the idolatry practiced there. Note “altars” and “idols” in 6:3–6, 9, 13.
2. “will know that I am the LORD” (6:7, 10, 13, 14)
1. a. “end”
b. Each verse mentions God’s (a) sending His anger/wrath on the land of Israel, (b) judging them according to their ways, and (c) bringing their abominations on them.
c. “The time has come, the day is near.”
1. probably 592 B.C.
NOTE: Most of the sixth year would be in 592, the end of it in 591. The NIV gives this date as September 17, 592 B.C.
2. to Jerusalem (8:3)
3. (a) at the north of the altar gate, an idol of jealousy
NOTE: This was probably an image of Asherah, the goddess of fertility. Manasseh had set up such an image (2 Kings 21:7), which Josiah had destroyed (2 Kings 23:6).
(b) inside the wall at the entrance to the court, idols carved on the wall and seventy elders offering incense
(c) at the entrance of the gate toward the north, women weeping for Tammuz
NOTE: This has been identified as Dumuzi, the ancient Sumerian god of spring veg¬etation. Women led in weeping for him after he died each summer. This led to an orgiastic celebration.
(d) between the porch and the altar at the entrance to the inner court, about twenty-five men prostrating themselves, worshiping the sun
NOTE: These were probably the twenty-four heads of priestly orders, plus the high priest. Thus, Ezekiel saw that idolatry extended from the common people (“the idol of jealousy”) to the elders (idols on the wall) to the women (Tammuz) to the priests (the sun)—all in connection with the LORD’s temple!
1. a. those who sighed and groaned over all the abominations (9:4)
b. everyone who was not marked (9:5–6)
NOTE: This slaughter began with the elders who had been seen in 8:11–12.
1. a. coals of fire (10:2, 6)
b. scatter them over the city (10:2)
NOTE: Not only were people to die; the city was also to be burned.
2. v. 4, to the threshold of the temple
vv. 18–19, over the cherubim, who took it to the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’s house
1. “over the mountain which is east of the city” (11:23)
NOTE: This is the Mount of Olives.
2. (a) gather them from the peoples (v. 17)
(b) give them the land of Israel (v. 17)
(c) give them a new heart and spirit (v. 19)
(d) make them His people, with Him their God (v. 20)
(e) punish the idolaters (v. 21)
1. (a) He packed his baggage (belongings; 12:3).
(b) By day he went “into exile…to another place” (12:4).
(c) In the evening he dug a hole in the wall (12:5).
(d) He loaded the baggage on his shoulder and—with his face covered—took it out through the hole (12:5–6).
2. the prince (that is, king Zedekiah, 12:12)
NOTE: The prince would go to Babylonia, yet not see it (12:13). This was fulfilled, as 2 Kings 25:7 shows, by his being blinded.
3. What the LORD had been predicting (about judgment) would no longer be delayed (12:25, 28).
1. peace, when there was no peace (13:16)
2. the expectation of small amounts of food (13:19)
1. a. to repent—turn from their idols and abominations (NIV, detestable practices, 14:6)
NOTE: The Hebrew words translated “repent” and “turn away” are different forms of the same verb (shub), used also in 18:30. The first form is found twice in 33:11. If they did not repent, the LORD would cut them off (14:7–8).
b. to cleanse them and restore their relationship to Him (14:11)
2. a. sword, famine, wild beasts, plague (14:21)
b. They could save themselves but no one else (14:14, 16, 18, 20).
1. because vine wood is useless for most purposes, especially when off the vine and already partly burned. In their case, the LORD would burn the rest of them.
1. a. She disdained money as payment for her favors (16:31), even paid her lovers (16:33–34).
b. He would strip her (16:37) and hand her over to ruthless lovers (16:39–41).
c. Samaria and Sodom (16:46)
1. The missing references for meaning are 17:13–14; 17:15; and 17:16–21. Ezekiel pro¬vides no meaning for the Messianic promise of 17:22–24, but see the note.
1. “The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge” (18:2).
NOTE: The proverb was partly true (see Lam. 5:7) but misleading.
2. a. Generations a and c keep the commandments, but b does not.
b. Generations a and c will live (18:9, 17), but b will die (18:13, 18).
3. by turning from their sins (to the LORD) (especially 18:30–32)
NOTE: It was by turning that they would get a new heart (18:31). In 11:19 the LORD had promised to give such a heart; here they are commanded to get it. Notice that the alternative—punishment—would give the LORD no pleasure (18:23, 32).
1. a. a lionness (with cubs)
b. the first one, to Egypt (v. 4); the other one, to Babylonia (v. 9)
NOTE: Of the last four kings, only Jehoahaz went to Egypt. Therefore, he was the first cub. But both Jehoiachin and Zedekiah were exiled to Babylonia. Since Jeho¬iachin ruled only three months, he hardly had opportunity to do all verse 7 says. Therefore, the other cub was probably Zedekiah.
2. a. a vine
b. She produces lots of fruit.
c. She is plucked up and burned—with no more “scepter to rule.”
1. NIV says 591 B.C. (August 14).
2. You should have noticed some of these:
• “inquire [of the LORD]”—vv. 1, 3a, 3b (also 31a, 31b; cf. 14:3, 7; 1 Sam. 28:6)
• “I swore”—vv. 5a, 5b, 15, 23 (also 42)
• “for the sake of My name”—vv. 9, 14, 22 (also 44; cf. 39)
• “My Sabbaths”—vv. 12, 13, 16, 20, 21, 24
NOTE: Some of these verses, like others, emphasize that the Sabbath was a sign between Israel and the LORD (Exod. 31:13–17; Jer. 17:14–27). The Sabbath looked back to the LORD’s completed first creation and forward to His promised new crea¬tion.
3. a. “into the wilderness of the peoples” (v. 35)
b. “to enter into judgment” (v. 35)
make them “pass under the rod”
and bring them “into the bond of the covenant” (v. 37)
“purge from [them] the rebels” before they “enter the land of Israel” (v. 38)
1. a. fifteen times
b. the king of Babylon (vv. 19, 20)
2. “until he comes whose right it is” (v. 27)
NOTE: The same Hebrew expression is used in Genesis 49:10, in Jacob’s prophecy about the tribe of Judah. There it is translated “until he comes to whom it [the ruler’s sceptre] belongs” (NIV). This refers to Messiah, the king from that tribe. Jesus’ “tri¬umphal entry” into Jerusalem claimed this right (Matt. 21:1–11; Zech. 9:9).
1. You probably found seven occurrences: in vv. 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, and 13.
2. Some of the repeated words and phrases are “dross” (three times), “gather” (three times), “furnace” (three times), “melt[ed]” (five times), “My wrath” (three times).
3. “princes” (v. 25), “priests” (v. 26), “officials” (v. 27), “prophets” (v. 28), and “people” (v. 29)
1. Oholah=Samaria (capital of the ten tribes)
Oholibah=Jerusalem (capital of Judah)
2. a. the Assyrians (vv. 5, 9)
b. the Chaldeans/Babylonians (vv. 14–17)
3. murder (bloodshed, vv. 37, 45)
1. 588 B.C. (The NIV note says January 15.)
2. Jerusalem (v. 6)
3. a. In vv. 16–18 it meant Ezekiel’s wife. In vv. 21 and 25 it meant the LORD’s sanctuary (the temple).
NOTE: The NIV note says that Ezekiel’s wife died the same day the temple was burned.
b. by not mourning outwardly (vv. 16–17)
4. He would be able to speak (v. 27).
1. They were pleased with Judah’s destruction and/or took revenge (vv. 3, 8, 12, 15).
1. “a bare rock” (vv. 4–5, 14)
“a place for the spreading of nets” (vv. 5, 14)
NOTE: “You will never be found again” (v. 21). As pointed out in the introduction to chapters 26–28, the fulfillment of this was in stages. In fact, Isaiah 23:17–18 shows that after the seventy years for Babylonia, Tyre would return to its commerce. The benefit, however, would go to the LORD.
1. a. fir planks (NIV, pine), cedar mast, oak oars, boxwood deck (NIV, cypress)
b. “merchant of the peoples to many coastlands [= faraway nations]”
2. Some of them are “your customer(s),” “your traders,” “your merchandise,” “your market,” “your payment,” and “traded with you.”
3. They would all lament. Some would also fear (v. 35).
1. that he was a god (vv. 2, 9), as wise as a god (vv. 2–4)
2. (a) He was a trader (vv. 16, 18; true of the leader in verse 5).
(b) He had “sanctuaries” (v. 18).
3. so that there would “be no more for the house of Israel a prickling brier or a painful thorn from any round about them”
1. “The word of the LORD came to me saying”
2. Egypt would never “rule over the nations” (v. 15). NOTE: This has been the case.
3. the wealth of Egypt (vv. 19–20)
1. the last part, vv. 13–19
2. the arms of Pharaoh, to be broken (vv. 21, 22, 24, 25)
the arms of the king of Babylon, to be strengthened (vv. 24, 25)
1. “a cedar in Lebanon” (v. 3)
1. Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 11–16)
2. “slain by the sword”
1. turn from wicked ways (vv. 8, 9, 11) and do what is just and right (vv. 14, 16, 19)
NOTE: The unrepentant wicked man would “die in his iniquity” (vv. 8, 9). Even a “righteous man” who “so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity…in that same iniquity…will die” (v. 13). In contrast, when a wicked man “turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness…he will surely live” (vv. 14–15, 19). In each case they were responding to the LORD’s word, either in obedience or disobedience. Similar¬ly, the gospel of grace must produce obedience (Rom. 1:5; 8:1–4; 15:18; 1 John 2:3).
2. a. “like a sensual song by one who has [NIV, one who sings love songs with] a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument” (v. 32)
b. the fulfillment of all his prophecies (v. 33, “when all this comes true—and it surely will,” NIV)
1. to feed (take care of) the flock
NOTE: This was primarily the duty of the ruler, as seen in the description of King David in 2 Samuel 5:2.
2. search for them, deliver them back to their own land, give them good feed and rest, etc.
3. David (vv. 23–24; also 37:24–25)
NOTE: This may refer to David’s Descendant, Jesus the Messiah. In accordance with God’s eternal covenant with David (Psa. 89:19–29), his successor was often called “David” (as in 1 Kings 12:16). Jesus’ claim to be the good Shepherd (John 10:2, 11, 14, and especially 16) seems to refer to His being this king.
4. “covenant of peace”
NOTE: “‘Peace’ (Hebrew shalom) is more than absence of hostility; it is fullness of life enjoyed in complete security” (NIV Study Bible, p. 1275).
1. desolation NOTE: Verse 9 says “everlasting desolation.” Compare Isaiah 34:8–17.
1. the LORD’s “people Israel” (v. 12)
2. Other promises include
(a) “sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean” (v. 25)
(b) “give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (v. 26)
(c) “put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes” (v. 27)
(d) “call for the grain and multiply it” (vv. 29–30)
(e) “increase their men like a flock” (vv. 37–38)
NOTE: Some of these, such as, the water, the Spirit, and the new heart (= new birth) are the things Jesus referred to when talking to Nicodemus (John 3). That teacher of Israel (v. 10) should have known that no one can enter the kingdom without such a new birth.
1. a. With a noise they came together, with sinews, flesh, and skin.
b. The breath came into them, and they came to life and stood up.
c. The dry bones referred to the nation being punished. The living exiles said, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished” (v. 11). But the LORD would open their graves and make them come out (putting His Spirit in them), and bring them into their land.
NOTE: This refers to national, not physical, resurrection. There is a question wheth¬er this prophecy was fulfilled in 1948, when modern Israel began. Possibly the first stage took place.
2. a. “join them…into one stick” (v. 17)
b. that the LORD would “make them one nation in the land” (v. 22)
c. “David” (vv. 24, 25) That may mean Messiah. See the note for answer 3 on chapter 34.
1. Gog, of the land of Magog
2. a. Meshech and Tubal (See the note explaining that Rosh is probably not a country.)
b. Persia, Ethiopia (which then included the area of modern Sudan), Put (Libya), Gomer, Beth-togarmah (vv. 5–6)
c. (1) They “have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel” (v. 8).
(2) They “are living securely, all of them” (v. 8).
(3) They “are at rest…live securely…without walls, and having no bars or gates” (v. 11).
(4) They “have acquired cattle and goods” (v. 12).
d. “in the latter years” (v. 8) “in the last days” (v. 16)
NOTE: Only in this part does Ezekiel use this eschatological language (referring to the end times).
e. “in order that the nations may know [Him]” when He defeats Gog
NOTE: This is the same result He will achieve when He brings Israel back from all the lands (Ezek. 36:23–24).
3. probably yes. Verse 17 asks if Gog is the one (and his invasion) of whom the LORD spoke through the prophets. NIV assumes that the answer is yes.
NOTE: Ezekiel 39:8 seems to justify the NIV assumption: “That is the day of which I have spoken.” Various passages, such as Isaiah 29:1–8 and Joel 3:1-2, 9–13 had earlier described future attacks on the Holy Land and/or Jerusalem. It would seem that Ezekiel has now identified the leader in such attacks as Gog.
1. a. to make fires (vv. 9–10)
b. It will set His “glory among the nations” when He judges them, also showing that He had good reason to judge Israel (vv. 21–24). They will know that He is “the LORD, the Holy One in Israel” (v. 7).
2. You should have included all or most of these facts about Gog:
of the land of Magog (38:2; 39:6)
chief prince of Meshech and Tubal (38:2, 3; 39:1)
has a mighty army with horses and full armor (38:4, 15–16)
has many allies (38:9) who come with him from “the remote parts of the north”: Persia, Ethiopia, Put (Libya), Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah (38:5–6, 15, 22)
NOTE: Magog was north of the Caucasus Mountains that run between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah were all in the area of modern Turkey. The word translated “Ethiopia” (Hebrew Cush) included much of modern Sudan. “Put” is Libya. In their zeal to modernize this prophecy, some have relied on flimsy evidence. Various interpreters have identified Gomer as ancestor to Germany, Rosh as Russia, even Meshech as Moscow and Tubal as Tobolsk.
1. a. to “a very high mountain” (v. 2)
b. “a line of flax and a measuring rod”
NOTE: The line was also for measuring. The unit was a special cubit, 20–21 inches. Having six such cubits, the rod measured about ten feet, four inches.
2. a. On the east, north, and south (vv. 6, 20, 28)
b. as places for slaughtering animals for sacrifice (vv. 39, 41; see also 43:18–27)
1. “the most holy place” (v. 4)
2. cherubim and palm trees (vv. 18, 20, 25)
1. v. 13, holy things that priests eat
v. 14, holy garments they wear
2. 500 cubits on each side
1. a. from the east (vv. 2, 4) NOTE: Ezekiel had seen it depart from there (11:23).
b. My throne
2. a. “the offspring of Zadok” (v. 19)
b. sin offering
1. “uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh” (vv. 7 and 9)
2. service as priests (offering sacrifices, vv. 13, 15)
3. not to defile themselves (by contact with the dead body) unless it is a near relative (v. 25; cf. Lev. 21:1–4)
NOTE: Did you notice that these priests, as usual under the old covenant, were to teach (v. 23) and even judge (v. 24)?
1. the sanctuary and the priests, vv. 1–4
the Levites, v. 5
the city, v. 6
the prince, v. 7
2. to make atonement
1. the sabbath day (vv. 4–5)
the day of the new moon (vv. 6–7)
the appointed feasts (vv. 9, 11)
each morning (vv. 13–15)
2. the gate facing east (vv. 2, 8, 12)
NOTE: Distinguish this from the east gate of the outer court, which should never open (44:1–2).
3. only from his own possession, not the people’s (v. 18)
1. a. “from south of the altar” (v. 1)
b. In thousand cubit distances it grows from a trickle (v. 2) to ankle deep (v. 3) to loin deep (v. 4) to an unfordable river (v. 5).
c. many trees for food and healing (vv. 7, 12)
d. It makes it fresh, with many fish (vv. 8–10).
NOTE: Located in the deep valley east of Judea, the Dead Sea has no outlet and loses water only through evaporation. Therefore, it has always been extremely salty and rich in minerals, but with no fish.
2. It is the east boundary (v. 18).
NOTE: Throughout the Old Testament kingdom, some tribes lived east of the Jordan River. But that area is not included in the Ezekiel boundaries.
1. Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, Judah.
2. Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad
3. a. twelve gates
NOTE: These are for the twelve tribes, as are those in Revelation. Though Levi is included, the total remains at twelve because Joseph gets only one gate (instead of counting his sons Manasseh and Ephraim as two tribes).
b. “The LORD is there” (v. 35).
Gog and His Invasion, Ezekiel 38–39
For many years Bible students have puzzled over Ezekiel 38–39, which predicts an invasion of the Holy Land “in the last days.” In relation to other prophecies, it is not easy to identify the wicked leader or the time of the attack. We will list the main facts of the prediction, then con¬sider both questions.
• The general time for this event is “the latter years” (38:8) and “the last days” (38:16).
• The wicked leader is “Gog of the land of Magog” (38:2).
• Gog’s country and allies are in Turkey and just northeast of it, Persia (Iran), and North Africa (38:2–6; see question 1 below).
• He and his allies “will come from [their] place out of the remote parts of the north…against [the LORD’s] people Israel like a cloud to cover the land” (38:15–16).
• When they attack, the nation Israel will be in “the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations…and…are living securely, all of them” (38:8). None of them will have walls, bars, or gates (38:11).
• The invaders expect “to capture spoil and to seize plunder” (38:12).
• Instead, the LORD will see that Gog and his allies all “fall on the mountains of Israel” (39:4).
• That defeat will leave the enemies’ weapons for Israel to burn as firewood for seven years (39:9–10) and their bodies to bury for seven months (39:11–16).
• The Lord GOD will invite the birds and beasts to eat this sacrifice of His—flesh and blood on the mountains of Israel (39:17–20).
• As a result of this event, the LORD will be magnified and known by the nations and by Israel (38:23; 39:21–22).
1. Who will Gog be? Identifying Gog’s land and his allies should help decide who he is. In Ezekiel’s time Gog’s land, Magog, was just north of the Caucasus Mountains that lie between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Several of Gog’s countries and allies—namely, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-Togarmah—were in the area of modern Turkey:. Another ally was Persia, located east of Mesopotamia, where it is now. Two allies were in North Africa: “Ethio¬pia” (Hebrew Cush), which also included much of modern Sudan; and “Put,” which was Libya. Historically we can find no Old Testament Gog and no alliance matching his. But there are two common suggestions for the identity of Gog of the last-days.
A. Will he be ruler of Russia? Look at three common arguments for that view, with counter-arguments.
• Some Bible versions say that Gog is also “the prince of Rosh” (38:2, NASB). If so, Rosh may refer to Russia. Counter: Rosh is a common Hebrew word meaning “head” or “chief,” as it is usually translated in Ezekiel 38. But there is no evidence, either in Ezekiel or elsewhere in the Bible, that it refers to Russia or to any other country.
• Gog’s land, Magog, in ancient times was in the southern extremity of modern Russia (see above). Counter: That does not prove that it stood for modern Russia or part of Russia.
• Gog will be from “the remote parts of the north” (38:6, 15), and Moscow is due north and far north from Jerusalem. Counter: Exactly the same expression is used for historic Bab¬ylon, which, though east, invaded Judah from the north (Jer. 6:22). The expression was also more than geographical; it was used figuratively for the sacred mount where the pagan gods supposedly lived (Isa. 14:13). For this reason, even Jerusalem and Mount Zion were said to be in the far north (Psa. 48:2; compare vv. 11–13). They were supernatural.
B. Will he be the Antichrist (and his country Magog the final “Babylon”)?
• Jewish “Rabbinic writers” seem to support this view. They “identify Gog and Magog as the final enemy who will attack Israel in the messianic age.”
• This view solves the problem about Ezekiel’s apparent silence in regard to Babylon. As seen in chapters like Isaiah 13–14, 46–47, Jeremiah 50–51, and Revelation 17–19, Babylon is extremely important. Why then does Ezekiel prophesy about other nations (chaps. 25–32) but not Babylon? This view answers that Babylon is really the theme of chapters 38–39.
• This view agrees with Ezekiel that the LORD had spoken through earlier prophets about Gog and his future attack on the Holy Land. There are examples of such earlier proph¬ecies in Isaiah 29:1–8 and Joel 3:1-2, 9–13. They had all foreseen the same final attack on Israel before the kingdom begins, not different attacks. Ezekiel had now identified the leader as Gog.
• This view may explain the reference to “Gog and Magog” at the end of the first millennium of Jesus’ kingdom (Rev. 20:7–8). It identifies the final Satan-driven political power opposed to God (called “Babylon” in Rev. 17–19) as that of Gog. Although that power will be destroyed and replaced, Satan will be allowed to resume his attack once more after a millennium. That will not be the original “Gog and Magog” but a new one after Israel will have long been faithful (Rev. 20:7–8).
2. When will Gog’s attack take place? Here are two suggestions depending on who Gog is.
A. Suppose Gog is Antichrist and the attack was predicted in earlier Scriptures. In that case (1) it will take place at the end of the Great Tribulation in Israel’s “seventieth week” (Dan. 9:27), and (2) it will lead to the immediate conversion of Israel and the beginning of Messiah’s kingdom (Zech. 12–14). The great sacrifice God will prepare for the birds and beasts (39:17–20) will be identical to “the great supper of God” in Revelation 19:17–18, 21. There He invites the birds to feast on kings and armies who will oppose the returning Messiah. Two objections to this timing are (1) Israel will not feel secure during the Great Tribulation. (2) Neither seven months nor seven years of cleanup seem necessary to begin the kingdom.
B. Suppose Gog is the leader of future Russia. In that case the attack will take place in the first part of Israel’s “seventieth week.” At that time Israel will be in its land and apparently safe because of the covenant secured by the Antichrist (Daniel 9:26). One objection to this view is based on the results of the LORD’s victory: Ezekiel announces that the LORD will be mag¬nified and known by the nations and by Israel (38:23; 39:21–24). Other prophecies, even in Ezekiel (36:23), show that such results will not happen early in the “seventieth week” but at its end (Daniel 9:24; Zech. 12–14).
Probably Gog will be the Antichrist rather than a leader of Russia. Thus, the time of the attack on Israel will be just before Messiah’s second coming rather than years earlier. But both identifi¬cations, and both times, have difficulties. The subject is worthy of much more study and medita¬tion.
Ezekiel 40–48 and New Testament Teaching
We believe it to be a sound principle of exegesis in general that unless there is some serious objection to the literal interpretation of a passage, this should be given first preference. Are there, then, serious objections to our taking Ezekiel’s description literally? There are. Certain of its main features are such that a literal fulfilment of them is surely unthinkable. (J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, IV:31)
Chapters 40–48 are the grand finale to Ezekiel’s book, building far greater what has been torn down. Ezekiel’s previous words and deeds have centered on the LORD’s dissolving His kingdom on earth. Through many earlier prophets the LORD warned that this would happen—that He would judge Israel and remove His kingdom. Ezekiel has seen it happen, has seen the LORD’s glory depart as He has abandoned His throne in the earthly temple. In chapters 40–48, however, Ezekiel sees that same glory return to a future restored Jerusalem and fill a restored temple. He describes that renewed temple and worship, the life-giving river flowing from Jerusalem, and the allocation of the restored tribes. Thus, the LORD rebuilds His kingdom on earth and lives “among them forever” (Ezek. 43:1–9). If you have not read all nine chapters, do so before con¬tinuing.
Is Ezekiel’s prophetic picture of the LORD’s future kingdom rare? By no means. Prophets often showed how the LORD would fulfill His covenants with Israel and the royal house of David. He will establish only one such kingdom but has provided many partial descriptions of it. Given by the same Spirit, such descriptions complement—but in essence cannot contradict—each other. They are designed to enlighten us rather than befuddle us. We “believe the prophets” (Acts 26:27) and try to interpret their prophecies in a literal (normal) way. However, literal interpretation of Ezekiel 40–48 seems to clash with New Testament (NT) teaching, especially the Book of Hebrews. By means of questions I will indicate below some reasons for saying so.
Sidlow Baxter, quoted above under the heading, is quite conservative and premillennial. He believes that the LORD’s kingdom will indeed be restored and eternal. But he strongly objects to interpreting Ezekiel 40–48 literally. Some of his objections seem to be based on a faulty Hebrew text. Others are unaffected by textual differences. Baxter’s objection about sacrifices is reflected in some of the questions I will ask.
Questions Raised by the Literal Interpretation of Ezekiel 40–48
My questions on Ezekiel 40–48 are expressed below under four categories, A to D. Each cate¬gory has two parts: (a) a summary statement of some aspect of Ezekiel’s teaching, followed by (b) specific examples of that aspect in question form. In each part Ezekiel’s teaching is given first, then New Testament teaching that seems to be contradicted. Look below at category A as an example.
(a) The summary statement is on two lines. The first line gives an aspect of Ezekiel’s teaching (in this case, about barriers); the second line gives the contrasting NT teach¬ing.
(b) Following the summary are three specific examples (1, 2, 3) of that aspect in question form. Each example is introduced by “Why would God…” and closed by saying “instead” and citing some pertinent NT teaching.
Look up and read all Scripture references, which, unless specified, are to Ezekiel.
A. Ezekiel pictures barriers in place
that have been demolished.
1. Why would God reestablish in the temple barriers to accessing Himself, such as, thick gates (40:5, 6), guards (40:7), and areas for priests only (42:14; 44:13–19)?
Instead, He emphasizes, in several epistles, the right of every believer to approach Him (e.g., Rom. 5:1–2; Heb. 4:16; 10:19–22).
2. Why would God rebuild barriers between Israel and the nations (44:7–9)?
Instead, He tore those barriers down (Acts 10:28; Gal. 2:11–18).
3. Why would God revert to distinctions between clean and unclean foods (44:23)?
Instead, He made all foods clean (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:14–16).
B. Ezekiel pictures only unglorified participants,
whereas only glorified people can inherit the kingdom.
Glorified people will be all those with incorruptible, eternal bodies obtained in the resurrec¬tion of the just.
4. Why would God ordain unglorified people to rule in this restored kingdom, implying that their subjects will also be unglorified? For examples, (a) even the prince would marry and have children (44:16–18, 22) and (b) those in priestly families would die (44:25–27).
Instead, God will give glorified bodies to all who will actually “inherit the kingdom” (1 Cor. 15:50–54). To “receive the promised eternal inheritance” those under the ”first covenant” must pass under the “new covenant” (Heb. 9:15). Their inheritance, as Jesus declared, will become available when He inaugurates the kingdom at His Second Com¬ing:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, then He will sit on His glorious throne .…Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.…” And the righteous [will go] into eternal life. (Matt. 25:31, 34, 46, emphasis added; cf. Rev. 11:18)
Having suffered with Him, they will now rule with Him (Rom. 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:11–12). Since glorified people will neither marry nor die (Luke 20:34–36), they cannot be the rulers described in Ezekiel 44. In fact, Ezekiel’s picture leaves no room for such heirs.
5. Why would God ordain as “prince” an unglorified person rather than Messiah? As seen before, the prince will have children. Not a priest himself, he will also require sin offer¬ings made by others (45:22–23).
Instead, God has already designated as Ruler Jesus the Messiah. Jesus’ very title (Christ = Messiah) means that. Being Priest as well as King (Heb. 7:1), He needs no one to offer for Him. But there is no hint of Him in Ezekiel 40–48.
C. Ezekiel pictures worship led by Levitical priests and including animal sacrifices,
both of which have been superseded.
6. Why would God return to the Levitical priesthood (40:46; 43:19; 44:15–16; 48:11)?
Instead God has named Messiah to be priest (Heb. 5:5–10). Though not Levitical, He is the far better priest of the new order. Hebrews 7:11–28 explains this in detail, verse 12 saying that “the priesthood is changed.” Why change back?
7. Why would God again require animal sacrifices for sin (43:19, 27; 45:15, 17, 20)? Ezekiel 45:15, 17, 20 says their purpose will be “to make atonement.” This is the same language expressing the same purpose as in the former kingdom (Lev. 1:4; 4:20, 26, 31; 6:30).
Instead, God has accepted Messiah’s perfect sacrifice, and “there is no longer any offer¬ing for sin” (Heb. 10:18). Can the purpose-language in Ezekiel refer merely to memo¬rials of Messiah’s sacrifice? If so, how would they relate to the current memorial in the Lord’s Supper, given “until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26)?
8. Why would God require that special days, such as, the first day of the year, be observed (45:18–20)?
Instead, God labeled such days as “weak and miserable principles,” mere shadows of the reality in Messiah (Gal. 4:9–11; Col. 2:16–17). If in the kingdom they will become reminders of spiritual truth, why not now? Why did the apostle Paul fear for the Gala¬tians when they observed them?
D. Ezekiel pictures the capital city as earthly Jerusalem (48:30–35)
rather than “the Jerusalem that is above [that] is our mother” (Gal. 4:26).
9. Why would earthly Jerusalem be the eternal (or even temporary) capital ?
Instead, God has prepared “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). Though superficially similar to the earthly city, this “New Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2, 10) is far more impressive. It was clearly Abraham’s goal: “He was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). It is our goal, too: “Here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come” (Heb. 13:14).
Views of the Kingdom Described in Ezekiel 40–48
The preceding questions have illustrated some interpretive difficulties occasioned by Ezekiel 40–48 (and similar prophecies). If it were all to be fulfilled literally, it would sometimes contradict the New Testament. It would perpetuate the conditions of the old covenant, which has passed away (Gal. 3:19, 24–25; Heb. 7:12; 9:13). Instead, His kingdom is based on the new covenant (Heb. 7:18–19). How do we resolve these problems? I will list with related warnings three views that have been suggested of the kingdom Ezekiel pictures.
1. Does Ezekiel describe a kingdom that will never exist? Some consider Ezekiel 40–48 an offer made at the prophet’s time but not a definite prediction. Their view fits the fact that Ezekiel’s generation was apparently invited to secure what he described:
Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them…its whole design and all its regulations and laws.…Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regu¬lations. (Ezek. 43:10d–11)
Ezekiel’s generation was challenged to “be faithful to [that plan’s] design.” If they had been faithful, the whole plan—with all its old covenant features—would have been enacted. But God knew that Israel was incapable and would refuse the offer. In other words, the described kingdom was a proffer contingent on a response Israel could not make. So it will never be fulfilled as described.
In effect, this first view treats Ezekiel 40–48 as a holy fiction. It says that through Ezekiel God offered a plan knowing that it would never become a reality. If this view were valid, we could hardly limit its application to Ezekiel’s prophecy only; many shorter prophecies have the same elements. Must we consider them all contingent? It seems unlikely that God would indulge in so much fiction anywhere—but especially in Ezekiel. These chapters are the grand finale and climax of the book, in which God’s glory returns to stay forever. It would seem misleading and unworthy to describe here in detail the core of a kingdom that will never exist!
2. Does Ezekiel describe a kingdom for Jews but not for the church? Many dispensational¬ists so affirm. First, they point out that Scriptures predict the spiritual restoration of the nation of Israel (e.g., Zech. 12:10; 13:1; Rom. 11:25–27). After that, they say, Ezekiel 40–48 will be fulfilled literally for the converted nation. In contrast, the church will share the rule with Christ, as His bride. (However, some of them recognize that the “prince” Ezekiel describes cannot be Christ.) Accordingly, most dispensationalists label Israel’s hope as earthly (the kingdom) but the church’s hope as heavenly (with Christ). Furthermore, they recognize that the kingdom described by Ezekiel will be imperfect even for Israel. Thus, they think of it as lasting only a thousand years and call it “the millennium” or “the millen¬nial kingdom.” After that, they believe, will come the eternal condition for all believers: “According to His promise, we are looking for new heavens and a new earth” (2 Pet. 3:11–14).
This second, “Jewish,” view of Ezekiel 40-48 misunderstands our final goal. Both the church and Israel have essentially the same goal, for which we pray, “Our Father…your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:9–10; 25:34, 46; Acts 14:22; James 2:5; Heb. 2:5–10; 11:16). That kingdom will be eternal heaven on earth under the eternal new covenant and ruled by the eternal Messiah. With Him His servants “will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
The kingdom we wait for will have an introductory, transitional phase, and different assign¬ments to God’s servants and godly nations. But once started, it “will never end” (Luke 1:33). Scripturally we are obliged to call even its imperfect stage the “new heavens and new earth.” For when Peter says “according to His promise” (see above), he specifically refers to Isaiah 65 and 66. That basic promise in Isaiah certainly includes what dispensationalists identify as the millennium. It is the earthly, eternal rule so often promised to the Messiah. When Mes¬siah was here, He promised to return and immediately—not after an additional thousand years—create a new world (Matt. 19:28; cf. Acts 3:20–21). A glorified ruler over a glorified, new covenant world. But Ezekiel 40–48 pictures no glorified Messiah, no glorified citizens, no new covenant world. The “Jewish” view of that prophecy rightly recognizes some of its old covenant limitations but cannot justify them. Assigning Ezekiel’s kingdom to the Jews explains neither the absence of glorified Messiah and glorified citizens nor the reversion to the covenant that has disappeared (Heb. 8:13).
3. Does Ezekiel describe a kingdom that will exist in a different form? This view says that the picture of the kingdom in Ezekiel 40–48 must be transformed to a later, new covenant version. Prophecies like Ezekiel 40–48 are similar to “types” that must be “updated.” Such prophecies pictured the world as it existed then but will not be the same in the end. For example, they used horses instead of tanks, suffered from national enemies that have since disappeared, and counted on first-covenant priests and their sacrifices. We must modify their expectations by comparing New Testament teachings and prophecies.
With reluctance and with several reservations, I accept this view. It seems valid if used with great care. The picture in a given prophecy will be transformed if there is clear scriptural authorization. However, its features that are supported by God’s covenants and statements of purpose, will remain the same. Consider two of the factors that must not be changed.
• The locale for God’s eternal kingdom will be earth, not heaven. Genesis 1, reflected in Psalm 8, Hebrews 2, and in many other prophecies, makes God’s design obvious. So transferring Ezekiel’s picture to heaven would contradict His plan.
• God will fulfill His promises for ethnic Israel. Such promises are obvious in repetitions of the Abrahamic covenant and in many other prophecies (including Romans 11). So we are not free to reinterpret kingdom prophecies so as to exclude that nation.
There are other features in Ezekiel 40–48 that will remain the same. Among them:
• God and His glory will dwell on earth forever.
• The whole world will worship Him.