Ezekiel (the strength of God), one of the four greater prophets, was the son of a

priest named Buzi, and was taken captive in the captivity of Jehoiachin, eleven

years before the destruction of Jerusalem. He was a member of a community of

Jewish exiles who settled on the banks of the Chebar, a "river? or stream of

Babylonia. He began prophesying B.C. 595, and continued until B.C. 573,

a period of more than twenty-two years. We learn from an incidental allusion

(ch. 24:18), that he was married, and had a house (ch. 8:1), in his place of exile,

and lost his wife by a sudden and unforeseen stroke. He lived in the highest

consideration among his companions in exile, and their elders consulted him

on all occasions. He is said to have been buried on the banks of the Euphrates.

The tomb, said to have been built by Jehoiachin, is shown, a few days journey

from Bagdad. Ezekiel was distinguished by his stern and inflexible energy of

will and character and his devoted adherence to the rites and ceremonies of his

national religion. The depth of his matter and the marvellous nature of his visions

make him occasionally obscure.  (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)


The Life of the Prophet.


The sole information available for constructing a biography of Ezekiel is

furnished by his own writings. Outside of these he is mentioned only by

Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 10:5, 1; 6:3; 7:2; 8:2), and Sirach’s son Jesus (Ecclesiasticus.

49:8), neither of whom communicates any item of importance. Whether

Ezekiel was the prophet’s birth name conferred on him by his parents, or,

an official title assumed by himself on commencing his vocation as a seer, cannot

be determined, although the former is by far the more probable hypothesis. In

either case it can hardly be questioned that the appellation was providentially

designed to be symbolic of his character and calling. The Hebrew term laqez]j,y]

in the Septuagint and in Sirach Iezekih>l, in the Vulgate Ezechiel, in German

Ezechiel, or Hezekiel — is a compound either of lae qZij"z]. (Gesenius),

meaning “whom God will strengthen,” or “he whose character is a personal

proof of the strengthening of God” (Baumgarten), or of lae qzej’y] (Ewald),

signifying “God is strong,” or “he in relation to whom God is strong”

(Hengstenberg). As regards suitability the two interpretations stand upon a

level; for while Ezekiel was commissioned to a rebellious house whose

children were “stiff-hearted” (bleAzqez]jiyi) and “of a hard forehead”

(jx"meAyqez]ji), on the other hand he was assured that God had made his

face hard (μyqez]j}) against their faces, and his forehead hard (qz;j;) against

their foreheads (ch. 2:5; 3:7-8). In respect of social rank Ezekiel

belonged to the priestly order, being the son of Buzi, of whom nothing

further is reported, though it is interesting to note that the name Ezekiel

had been borne by one of sacerdotal dignity as far back as the time of

David (I Chronicles 24:16). Unlike Hilkiah’s son Jeremiah of

Anathoth, who, as a priest of the line of Ithamar, sprang from the lower or

middle classes of the community, Ezekiel, as a Zadokite (ch. 40:46;

43:19; 44:15-16; I Kings 2:35), deriving from the superior line of

Eleazar the son of Aaron, was properly a member of the Jerusalem

aristocracy — a circumstance which will account for his having been

carried off in Jehoiachin’s captivity, while Jeremiah was left behind (II Kings

24:14), as well as explain the readiness with which in one of his

visions (ch.11:1) he recognized two of the princes of the people.

How old the prophet was when the doom of exile fell on him and the other

magnates of Jerusalem can only be conjecturally ascertained. Josephus

affirms that Ezekiel was then a youth (pai~v w]n); but, if Hengstenberg be

correct in regarding the thirtieth year (ch. 1:1), corresponding to

the fifth year of exile, as the thirtieth year of the prophet’s life, he must

have been twenty-five years of age when he bade farewell to his native

land. Other explanations have been offered of the date fixed upon by

Ezekiel as the chronological starting point of his prophetical activity. The

thirtieth year has been declared to date from Nabopolassar’s ascension of

the Babylonian throne, which is usually set down at B.C. 625, or from

the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, rendered memorable by the finding of

Hilkiah’s book of the Law, or from the preceding year of jubilee; and

manifestly if either of these modes of reckoning be adopted, the number

thirty will afford no clue whatever to the prophet’s age. All of them, however,

lie open to objections as strong as those directed against the proposal to count

from the prophet’s birth, which, to say the least, is as natural a mode of reckoning

as either of the others, and in any case may be provisionally adopted,

since it practically synchronizes with the so called Babylonian

and Jewish eras above named, and harmonizes with indications. given by

the prophet’s writing, as e.g. with his accurate knowledge of the sanctuary,

as well as with his mature priestly spirit, that when he entered on his calling

he was no longer a stripling.


The influences in the midst of which Ezekiel’s youthful days were spent

can readily be imagined. In addition to the solemnizing impressions and

quickening impulses which must have been imparted to his opening

intelligence and tender heart by the temple services, in which from an early

age, in all probability, like another Samuel, he took part, for an earnest and

religious soul like his, the strange ferment produced by Hilkiah’s book of

the Law, whether that was Deuteronomy, Leviticus, or the whole Pentateuch,

and the vigorous reformation to which, during Josiah’s last years, it led, could

not fail to have a powerful fascination. Nor is it likely that he remained

insensible to the energetic ministry which, during all the twenty-five years

of his residence in Jerusalem, had been exercised by his illustrious

predecessor Jeremiah. Rather is there evidence in his obvious leaning on

the elder prophet, revealing itself in words and phrases, completed

sentences and connected paragraphs, that his whole inner life had been

deeply permeated, and in fact effectively molded, by the spirit of his

teacher, and that when the stroke fell upon his country and people as well

as on himself, he went away into exile, whither Daniel had a few years

before preceded him (Daniel 1:1), inspired with the feelings and brooding on

the thoughts he had learnt from the venerated seer he had left behind.


From this time forward the prophet’s home was in the land of the

Chaldeans, at a city called Tel-Abib (ch. 3:15), or “hill of corn

ears,” perhaps so named in consequence of the fertility of the surrounding

district — a city whose site has not yet been discovered, though Ezekiel

himself locates it on the river Chebar. If this stream (rb;K]) be identified, as

it is by Gesenius, Havernick, Keil, and the majority of expositors, with the

Habor (rwObj;) to which the captive Israelites were carried by Shalmanezer

or Sargon (II Kings 17:6) upwards of a hundred years before, and the

Habor be found in the Chaboras of the Greeks and Romans, which, rising

at the foot of the Masian Mountains, falls into the Euphrates near

Circesium — which is doubtful — then the quarter to which the prophet

and his fellow exiles were deported must be looked for in Northern

Mesopotamia. Against this, however, Noldeke, Schrader, Diestel, and

Smend urge with reason that the two words “Chebar” and “Habor” do not

agree in sound; that whereas the Habor was (probably a district) in Assyria,

the Chebar is invariably represented as having been a river in the land of

the Chaldeans, and that to this land the Judaean exiles are always declared

to have been removed. Hence the last-named authorities prefer to look for

the Chebar in a tributary stream or canal of the Euphrates, near Babylon, in

Southern Mesopotamia.  In favor of the former locality may be

mentioned that in it the prophet would have found himself established in

the midst of the main body of the exiles from both kingdoms, to all of

whom ultimately. although immediately to those of Judah, his mission had

a reference; yet, inasmuch as the northern exiles might easily enough have

been reached by the prophet’s words without his residing among them, this

consideration cannot be allowed to decide the question.


Unlike Jeremiah, who appears to have remained unmarried, Ezekiel had a

wife whom he tenderly cherished as “the desire of his eyes,” but who

suddenly died in the ninth year of his captivity, or four years after he had

entered on his prophetic calling (ch.24). Whether, like Isaiah, the first

of the “greater” prophets, he had children, is not reported. If he had, it is

clear that neither wife nor children hindered him any more than they

hindered Isaiah from responding to the Divine voice which summoned him

to be a watchman to the house of Israel. The summons came to him, as it

had come to Isaiah, in the form of a sublime theophany; only not, as in

Isaiah’s case, while he worshipped in the temple, from which at the

moment he was far removed, but as he sat among the exiles (in the midst of

the Golah) on the banks of the Chebar. He was then thirty years of age.

With few interruptions, he exercised his sacred vocation till his fifty-second

year. How long after he lived it is impossible to tell. Not the slightest value

can be attached to the tradition preserved by the Fathers and Talmudists

that he was put to death by a prince of his own people on account of his

prophecies, and was buried in the tomb of Shem and Arphaxad.



The Times of the Prophet.


When Ezekiel entered on his calling as a prophet in B.C. 595, the northern

kingdom of Israel had for upwards of a hundred years ceased to exist,

while the final overthrow of Judah, its southern “sister,” was rapidly

approaching. When Ezekiel was born, in BC. 625, in the eighteenth year of

Josiah, it seemed as if better days wore about to dawn for both this land

and people. Through the labors of Jeremiah, who had five years before

been invested with prophetic dignity — in the expressive language of

Jehovah, “set over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to

pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant”

(Jeremiah 1:10) — and of Zephaniah, who probably commenced his

work about the same period (Zephaniah 1:1), seconded as these were

by the young king’s vigorous reformation and Hilkiah’s finding of the book

of the Law of Jehovah, idolatry had been well nigh purged from the realm.

Yet the moral and religious improvement of the people proved as transient

as it had been superficial. With the death of Josiah from a wound received

on the fatal field of Megiddo in B.C. 612, and the accession of his second

son Shallum under the throne name of Jehoahaz, a violent reaction in

favor of heathenism set in. At the end of three months, Shallum having

been deposed by Necho II., Josiah’s conqueror, who still lay encamped at

Riblath, his elder brother Eliakim, under the title of Jehoiakim, was

installed in his room as vassal to the King of Egypt. Then followed, in B.C.

605, Necho’s defeat at Carchemish on the Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:1-2),

with the result that Jehoiakim immediately thereafter transferred his

allegiance (if he had not already done so) to the Babylonian sovereign,

which, however, he preserved inviolate for not more than three years

(II Kings 24:1), when, to punish his infidelity, Nebuchadnezzar’s armies

appeared upon the scene and bore off a number of captives, amongst

whom were Daniel and his companions, all princes of the blood (Daniel

1:1, 3, 6). Whether Jehoiakim was eventually deported to Babylon

(II Chronicles 36:6), or how he met his death (Jeremiah 22:19), is not

known; but, after eleven years of inglorious reign, he perished, and was

succeeded by his son Jehoiachin, who proved even a more despicable

character and worthless ruler (ch. 19:5-9; Jeremiah 22:24-30)

than his father, and in three months’ time was forcibly suppressed by his

overlord (II Chronicles 36:9; II Kings 23:8). Having, perhaps, found

reason to suspect his fidelity, Nebuchadnezzar suddenly descended on

Jerusalem, and put an end to his career of vice and violence, idolatry and

treachery, conveying him, along with ten thousand of his chief people,

among them Ezekiel, to the river Chebar, in the land of the Chaldeans, and

setting up ia his room his uncle Mattanias, whose name was, in accordance

with custom, changed to Zedekiah (II Kings 24:10-17). This happened

in the year B.C. 600. Zedekiah turned out no better than his predecessors.

A poor roi faineant, who was quite content to receive a “base”

kingdom from the hands of the King of Babylon, and yet wanted honesty

honesty to keep his oath and covenant with his superior (ch.17:13-15),

this wretched “mockery king” had been five years upon the throne

when Ezekiel felt divinely impelled to step forth as a watchman to the

house of Israel.


The religious and political condition of the times, as well in Jerusalem as on

the banks of the Chebar, may be gauged with much exactness from the

statements of the two prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who exercised their

ministries in these spheres respectively.


  • As regards the situation in Judah, so far from the stroke of judgment which

had fallen on Jerusalem having sobered its idol-mad and vice-intoxicated

inhabitants, it only plunged them deeper into immorality and

superstition. As their fathers from the first had been a rebellious nation, so

continued they to be an impudent and stiff-hearted people (ch.2:4; 3:7),

who changed Jehovah’s judgments into wickedness, and walked not

in His statutes (ch.5:6-7), but defiled His sanctuary with their

detestable things and abominations (Ibid. v.11). Nor this alone, but

high places, altars, and images were conspicuous “upon every high hill, in

all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every

thick oak” (ch.6:13), as from the first it had been with their fathers

(ch.20:28). Whether the picture sketched by Ezekiel of what he

saw in the temple at Jerusalem (ch.8.), when transported thither in

vision, be regarded as a description of real objects that were standing and

of actual incidents that were going forward in the sacred edifice at the time

of the prophet’s visit, or merely as an outline of ideal scenes and occurrences

that were presented to his mind’s eye, the impression it was meant to convey

was that of Judah’s and Jerusalem’s total corruption, of their permanent revolt

from Jehovah, of their total abandonment to and complete saturation with the

wicked spirits of idolatry, immorality, and infidelity. As much as this was

stated by Jehovah Himself to the prophet, when he gazed in horror on the

six executioners, who, in obedience to Divine command, went forth to “slay

utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women” — “The

iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is

full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord hath

forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not” (ch. 9:6,9).  As if, moreover, to

show that this terrible indictment had not been overdrawn, the sins of Jerusalem

were rehearsed by Jehovah in a special communication to the prophet in the

seventh year of the captivity, which recounted a catalogue of abominations

scarcely to be paralleled in any of the surrounding heathen nations — idolatry,

lewdness, oppression, sacrilege, murder, amongst all classes of the population,

from the princes and priests to the people of the land (Ezekiel 22). Nor is there

ground for hinting that perhaps this was a mere fancy sketch dictated by excited

feeling on the part of the prophet, since it is too painfully confirmed by

what Jeremiah reports as having been witnessed by himself in the days of

Jehoiachin, immediately before the deportation of that monarch and the

flower of his nobility: “The land is full of adulterers;… both prophet and

priest are profane; in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the

Lord ....I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing:

they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of

evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all unto me

as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah (Jeremiah 23:10-14).

And that no change for the better was wrought by that terrible

visitation upon the hearts of the people that remained behind in Jerusalem

and Judah as Zedekiah’s subjects, was further revealed to the prophet by

the vision of the two baskets of figs, of which those in the one basket,

representing Zedekiah’s subjects, were so bad that they could not be eaten

(Jeremiah 24:8) — a similitude which more than endorses the truth set

forth in Ezekiel’s parable of the worthless vine (ch.15). In point of

fact, so utterly had Zedekiah’s subjects misconstrued the reason and

purport of that calamity which had sent their countrymen into exile, that

they began mistakenly to flatter themselves that, while their banished

brethren had probably been justly enough punished for their iniquities, they,

the remnant who had been spared, were the special favorites of Heaven,

to whom the land was given for a possession (ch.11:15) — an

hallucination which not even the downfall of their city sufficed to dispel

(ch. 33:24). So far from dreading that a time might come when

they would be ejected from the land like their expatriated kinsmen, they

confidently assured one another they had seen the last of Nebuchadnezzar’s

armies, and that, even if they had not, their city was impregnable

(ch.11:3). In vain Jeremiah told them their city’s fate was sealed

that both they and Zedekiah their king should be delivered up into

Nebuchadnezzar’s hands (Jeremiah 21:7; 24:8-10; 32:3-5; 34:2-3);

their princes and prophets encouraged them in the delusion that they

should not serve the King of Babylon (Ibid. ch. 27:9). In Zedekiah’s

fourth year, exactly  twelve months before Ezekiel’s stepping forth as a

prophet, one of these false prophets — “lower,” or “fallen prophets,” as

Cheyne prefers to call them, regarding them as “honest though misguided

enthusiasts” — Hananiah by name, announced in the temple, before the

priests and all the people, as well as in Jeremiah’s hearing, that within two

full years Jehovah would break the yoke of the King of Babylon from off

the neck of all the nations (Ibid. ch. 28:1-4). To such a vaticination he

had probably been moved by the arrival shortly before of an embassy from

the Kings of Edom, Moab and the Ammonites, Tyre and Zidon, which had

for its object the formation of a league against the eastern conqueror

(Ibid. ch.27:3), and which seemingly had so far succeeded as to draw

into its meshes the weak Judaean sovereign, and to excite among THE

UNREFLECTING POPULACE wild expectations of a speedy deliverance

from the yoke of Babylon. These expectations, however, were doomed to

disappointment. So far from Hananiah’s vain glorious announcement

coming true, was Jeremiah’s instantaneous rejoinder, within a brief space

the easy yoke of wood the nation then bore would be exchanged for one of

iron, which moreover Hananiah himself would not behold, since in that

year he should die for having taught rebellion against the Lord

(Ibid. ch. 28:16). Yet the ferment occasioned by Hananiah’s prediction

did not cease, but spread beyond the bounds of Palestine, till it reached the

banks of the Chebar and penetrated to the palace of the king. “The valiant

son of Nabopolassar,” who seldom dallied with incipient revolt, but usually

pounced upon his victims in the midst of their treasonable projects, would

speedily have crushed the new alliance, and with it Zedekiah, had not

Zedekiah, fearing an evil fate, taken time by the forelock and dispatched an

embassy to Babylon (Ibid. ch. 29:3), if he did not afterwards proceed

thither himself (Ibid. ch. 51:59). to give to his offended suzerain

assurances of continued loyalty. How much of truth such assurances

contained was not long in appearing, as five years later he broke into open

revolt against the King of Babylon (II Kings 24:20), leaguing himself

with Tyre and Ammon, and calling in the aid of Hophra, or Apries, of

Egypt (Ezekiel 17:15), who promised him “much horses and people.”

With that rapidity of movement which characterized “the favorite of

Merodach,” as it has distinguished all great generals, the troops of Babylon

were on the march, and stood in front of Jerusalem before the war chariots

of Hophra could be mustered; and although for a time, when these latter

did arrive, the Chaldean soldiers were compelled to raise the siege, it was

only to return after Hophra’s defeat or retreat — it is uncertain which —

to invest the city with stricter closeness than before. After a siege of

eighteen months, the supposed impregnable fortress fell. Zedekiah, who

with his court had precipitately fled from the palace, was captured in the

plains of Jericho and conducted to the presence of his conqueror at Riblath,

who cruelly massacred his sons and his nobles. before his eyes, blinded

himself, bound him with chains, and carried him to Babylon, thus

unconsciously fulfilling both the word of Jeremiah uttered one year before,

that “Zedekiah should speak with the King of Babylon mouth to mouth,

and that his eyes should behold the king’s eyes” (Jeremiah 32:4), and

that of Ezekiel spoken five years before, that Zedekiah should be brought

to the land of the Chaldeans, which yet he should not see, though he should

die there (ch. 12:13). On the city’s fall a massacre of its inhabitants

ensued, pitiless and unsparing, realizing all the horrors suggested by

Ezekiel’s parable of a boiling pot (ch.24:2-5). A month after, its

fortified walls were laid in ruins, its temple, palaces, and mansions, with

all the houses of Jerusalem,” being given to the flames, and its population,

such of them as had escaped both sword and fire, swept away to swell the

company of exiles upon the Chebar, leaving only a handful of the poorest

of the poor upon their native soil, to act as its vine dressers and

husbandmen, with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam as their governor, and

Jeremiah as Jehovah’s prophet by his side II Kings 25.; II Chronicles 36.;

Jeremiah chapters 39., 40., 52.).


  • The situation on the Chebar was, in some respects, different from what

it was in Jerusalem. From the first, among the exiles there would doubtless

be kindred spirits to Ezekiel, pious hearts who recognized in their

banishment from Judah the judgment of Heaven upon an apostate people,

who mourned over their own and their country’s declension, and who, as

by the rivers of Babylon they sat down and wept (Psalm 137:1),

remembered Zion, and longed for a restoration to its sacred precincts; but

just as certainly there would be others, and these probably the larger

number, who carried with them their old habits of idolatry, and showed as

little disposition to abate their devotion to heathenism as their fathers had

done before them (ch.20:30), or as their brethren were then doing

in Jerusalem. Even at the moment when they pretended through their elders

to be inquiring at Jehovah’s prophet, they were setting up idols in their

heart (ch. 14:4); when they listened to the prophet’s preaching,

whether he denounced their heathen practices and called them to

repentance, or prophesied against them Heaven’s judgments for their

wickedness, they applauded his eloquence (ch.33:32), and puzzled

their heads over his parables (ch. 20:49), but never dreamed of doing

as he told them. In the breasts of both sections of the community there kept

on slumbering delusive hopes of a speedy deliverance from exile, fostered

on the one side by the secret conviction that Jehovah would not prove

unfaithful to His chosen city and people, and, on the other side, by the

unauthorized utterances of false prophets and prophetesses in their midst,

who “saw peace for Jerusalem when there was no peace,” and “caused the

people to trust in their lies” (ch.13:16, 19). It was to meet and, if

possible, to dissipate these baseless hallucinations that Jeremiah’s letter

was dispatched by the hands of Zedekiah’s ambassadors, counseling the

exiles to settle down quietly in their new country, seek the peace of the city

and empire to which they had been carried, and serve the King of Babylon,

since not until seventy years rolled by would Jehovah cause them to return

to their own land (Jeremiah 29:5-14; II Chronicles 36:21); and although

perhaps both parties in the Golah, the pious and irreligious, had they been

left to themselves, might not have felt indisposed to acquiesce in the course

recommended by the prophet — the one, prompted by that habit of

obedience and submission to the Divine will which was not in them entirely

extinguished, and the other, by the comparatively comfortable environment

in which they found themselves, materially, socially, politically, and

religiously (or rather, irreligiously), in the rich, powerful, pleasure-loving

and idol serving empire of Babylon yet, as a matter of fact, they were

not left to themselves, but were injuriously acted on by the false prophets

in their midst, one of whom, Shemaiah the Nehelamite, actually went the

length of sending back a reply to Jeremiah’s communication, suggesting

that the Priest Zephaniah should arrest and confine the prophet as a

madman (Jeremiah 29:24-29); and so the dream kept on haunting them

that the Captivity would not be long. It is even possible that Jeremiah’s

prophecy of Babylon’s ultimate overthrow (Jeremiah 50), which Seraiah

had been commissioned to read in Babylon (Ibid. ch.51:59-64), may

have contributed to keep alive the delusion that after all the “orthodox”

prophets had been right, and Jeremiah, the “renegade” and “heretic,” in the

wrong, and that before long the dreary period of exile would terminate;

and when, as the years went by, Zedekiah seemed to be firmly established

on his throne, and tidings came from the old country of the stout resistance

Tyre was offering to the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, as well as of the

projected alliance of Tyre and Ammon with Judah against the common

oppressor, it was scarcely surprising that this delusion should gather

strength, and that a large part of Ezekiel’s fulminations should be directed

against it. It was manifestly in close connection with Jeremiah’s letter to

the exiles, and in support of the policy it advised, that Ezekiel, in the fifth

year of Zedekiah, stepped forth as a prophet of Jehovah.



The Mission of the Prophet.


The special task assigned to the prophet, rather than spontaneously

undertaken by him, was in general to act as a watchman unto the house of

Israel (ch.3:17; 33:7), by giving warning to the wicked man of the

danger of persevering in his wickedness, and to the righteous man of the

peril involved in turning aside from his righteousness. More particularly the

prophet’s duty should be fourfold:


Ø      to beat down and dispel forever the foolish hopes that had been excited in

the minds of his fellow exiles as to a speedy deliverance from the yoke of



Ø      by proclaiming the absolutely certain and positively near approach of

Jerusalems overthrow; to bring to light and expose the inveterate

apostasy and incurable corruption of Judah’s capital, and, indeed, of

the whole theocratic people, as the all-sufficient justification both of

the judgments that had already overtaken them, and of these that

were still impending;


Ø      to awaken in them individually a feeling of sincere repentance, and so

to call out from the ruins of the old a new Israel that might inherit all

the promises which had been given to the old: and when this was done,



Ø      to comfort the sorrowing community of pious hearts with a prospect of

restoration after the term of seventy years should have been fulfilled.


In all these respects the mission of Ezekiel was distinct from the parts which had been

assigned to his renowned predecessors, Isaiah and Jeremiah, as well as from that

devolved on his illustrious contemporary, Daniel. Whereas Daniel served as a

prophet of Jehovah to the mighty world empire in which he was a high and

trusted official, Ezekiel exercised the same function towards the exiles

from Judah who were planted in the heart of that heathen land; and

whereas Isaiah had been summoned to begin his official labors at the time

when the final overthrow of Israel was first clearly made known (Isaiah

10:1-6; 39:6-7), and Jeremiah saw the outbreak of that awful visitation

which the son of Amoz had foretold, to Ezekiel fell the task of “personally

introducing the rebellious house of Israel into its thousand years of trial in

the waste of the heathen” (Baumgarten, in Herzog’s ‘Real-Encyclopadie,’

art. Ezechiel”). Or, to express the life problem of Ezekiel more shortly, it

was his business to interpret for Israel in exile the stern logic of her past

history, and to lead her forth “through repentance unto salvation” (Cornill,

Der Prophet Ezechiel,’ p. 22).


The first of the above-named parts of the prophet’s calling he discharged,

first by performing a variety of symbolic actions and rehearsing others he

had witnessed, in which were represented the siege of Jerusalem

(ch. 4:1-8; 24:1-14), the miseries to be endured by its inhabitants

(ch. 4:9-17; 5:1-11; 9:7-11; 12:17-20), the burning of the city

(ch.10:1-2) from which (ch.11:23) as already from its temple the glory of

Jehovah had departed (ch. 10:18), ending in the exile and captivity of Zedekiah

and his subjects (ch.12:1-13); next, by delivering a number of parabolic or allegorical

addresses, in which were depicted Jerusalem’s rejection (ch.15.) and Zedekiah’s

deportation to Babylon (ch.17:20); and finally, by exhorting them in poetical

compositions (ch. 19:1-14; 21:8-17) and spirited narrations (Ibid. vs.18-27), in

which the same melancholy events, the approach of Nebuchadnezzar and the

desolation of Jerusalem, were foretold.


The second he fulfilled by reporting to the elders who sat before him in his house, the

visions Jehovah had caused him to behold of the image of jealousy and of the chambers

of imagery in the temple at Jerusalem (ch.8:1-18), as well as of the princes who devised

mischief and gave wicked counsel in the city (ch.11:1-21); by reciting in their

hearing the story of Israel’s original condition and subsequent apostasy,

both in highly figurative (chps.16 and 23) and in plainly prosaic speech

(chps. 20 and 22); and by reproving both them and the people they

represented for their own insincerity and apostasy (ch.14.).


The third part of his mission he pursued throughout, never exulting in the lurid

pictures he drew, either of Israel’s sin or of Israel’s overthrow, but always

aiming at awakening in the breasts of his hearers a conviction of their

guiltiness and a feeling of repentance; and although, while Jerusalem was

standing, his endeavors only met with resistance and mostly ended in

failure, yet there cannot be a doubt that after the city fell his words gained

a readier access to his listeners’ hearts, and were more successful in

conducting the exiles to a better state of mind.


The fourth and last part of his life work, which became possible only when the city

had succumbed and the people’s hearts had been softened, he carried out by giving

them in God’s name the promise of a true Shepherd, who should feed them in place

of the false shepherds who had neglected and destroyed them (ch. 34:23); by

assuring them of the final overthrow of, their old adversary Edom (ch.35), as well

as of any new combinations that might arise against them (ch.38); by illustrating the

possibility of their political and religious resuscitation (ch. 37:1-14) as well as of

their ultimate reunion (Ibid. vs.15-20); and finally, by depicting, in a vision of a

re-erected temple, a re-divided land, and a reorganized worship (chps.40-48),

the glories of the future, when, at the close of seventy years, Jehovah

should turn again their captivity


In addition to his mission to Judah and Israel, the prophet had a calling to

fulfill with reference to the heathen nations by which God’s ancient people

had been surrounded and not infrequently opposed, and this he discharged

by composing the prophecies comprised in Ezekiel 25-32. Some

interpreters regard these predictions as the commencement of the

consolation Ezekiel was directed to offer to humbled Israel; as

if the prophet’s thoughts were that Israel, though overthrown herself,

should derive comfort and hope from the fact that, even while punishing

her, Jehovah was preparing the way for her recovery by pouring out the

vials of His wrath upon her foes. It is, however, doubtful if the prophet did

not mean, along with this at least, to sound a note of warning to these

foreign peoples who had in times past so often harassed Israel, and were

even then exulting in her overthrow, as if the day and hour of their final

triumph over her were at hand; that although Jehovah had visited her on

account of her iniquities, He certainly did not mean them to escape, but

rather intended they should read in Israel’s doom the precursor and pledge

of their own; for “if judgment had begun at the house of God, what should

the end be” of those that did not belong to, but were the enemies, of that

house?  (I Peter 4:17)



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