AN EXPOSITION OF CHAPTERS 1-39
Originally published as a series in The Bible Student magazine. Thoroughly revised second edition published August 1999
“I have set thee for a sign to the House of Israel”.
It is possible that the prophet Ezekiel is not so well known to us as some of the other prophets. Yet his life is one of outstanding dedication, not only for the unpopular yet faithful message he delivered to his generation, but also for the complete surrender he made personally to Yahweh in order to give power to the message he delivered. In chapter 12 Ezekiel is told to act as one going in to exile. He was to bring forth all his “stuff’, his worldly possessions, in the daylight and then in the evening to dig through a wall as though he was making his escape into exile. He was to make himself an object lesson for the people of Jerusalem and so it was emphasized to him that he was to carry out this strange behaviour in their sight.
‘Then thou shalt bring forth thy stuff by day in their sight, as stuff for removing: and thou shalt go forth at even in their sight, as they that go forth into captivity. Dig thou through the wall in their sight, and carry out thereby. In their sight shalt thou bear it upon thy shoulders and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover thy face, that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto the house of Israel” (v. 4-6).
Ezekiel was further instructed that he should say to the people, “I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity” (v. 11). It was a remarkably similar experience to Isaiah the prophet who so openly declared “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts.” (Isa. 8:18). In many ways Ezekiel is portrayed to us as one whose life was completely overtaken by Yahweh for Whom he was the most willing and uncomplaining vessel.
• In chapter 4: l-3 there was the sign of the tile in which was portrayed the siege and destruction of the city of Jerusalem.
• In 4:4-17 he lay on his side in the dust for 430 days to illustrate the iniquity of Israel and Judah, eating nothing but defiled bread and drinking only a ration of water.
• In 5:1-4 his hair was divided into thirds to symbolize the tripartite destruction of the city of Jerusalem with one third destroyed by the terror of the siege, another third by the sword, and another taken into exile.
• In 7:23-27 the prophet was told to make a chain to illustrate the capture of the king of Judah and his people.
• In 12:17-20 Ezekiel was instructed to eat his bread with quaking and drink his water with trembling to drive home to the people, well in advance, the extremity of the circumstances coming upon them.
The prophet Ezekiel had his own house in the Jewish colony on the river Chebar (1: 1). It must have been quite a reasonable residence for the elders of Judah used to come to this priestly man’s home and sit before him to hear his words (8:1). He was apparently a very good speaker with a pleasant voice and interesting manner for the people loved to hear him speak! (33:30-33). He was very happily married to one so touchingly described as “the desire of thine eyes” (24:16). We may have imagined him well placed for a comfortable and recognized career. The responsibility of being a prophet precluded this. The days were urgent. Judgement was coming! The people were unresponsive, and evasive. Even where there was acknowledgment of the prophet, they were not about to change their evil ways just because of his words.
Ezekiel lost his voice and he lost his wife. Both his role and his comfort in life were gone in a stroke! Yet so dire were the warnings to the house of Israel and Judah that he was not to divert his attention even in such extremity of grief, not even a tear was to fall (chapter 24).
Oh, brethren of these latter days, let us acknowledge how far we fall short of the lives of the prophets! A great brother is before us, a man of God, willingly abandoning himself in the service of his God. As the apostles after him, he was a “spectacle to the world, and to angels and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9).
In the following pages we have a careful and thoughtful exposition of the Prophecy of Ezekiel (chapters 1-39). There has been need of such for a long time and we pray that the many hours that the author spent in exposition may find fruitfulness in the appreciation of many readers as they study the prophecy of Ezekiel, the “Son of Man”.
B.N. Luke, Secretary
I was born two years before the Second World War commenced. When the war came it had a great impact on the small ecclesia to which my parents belonged. My earliest memories have to do with “the meetings” which, in the early years of my childhood, were held in our house. I remember distinctly going with my father to enquire about a lease on a shop that was to become the meeting room. I recall the enthusiasm with which my aged and ailing great-grandfather set about the work of renovating some solid wooden benches that were to be used for seating in the meeting room. But, as the war progressed, what stands out the clearest in my mind, is the animated discussion in which the brethren frequently engaged which always seemed to be concerned with “Gog of the land of Magog” mentioned in Ezekiel, and whether the German dictator was Gog (as some brethren then thought).
Thus at a very early age I developed a fascination with Ezekiel’s prophecies and this has grown over the years. However, my interest in Ezekiel alone would not have led to the production of this book. In the late 1960’s Geoff and Ray Walker produced a series of magazines entitled The Apocalypse. I had been giving a series of talks on the prophecy of Ezekiel in a Staffordshire Bible Class and, as The Apocalypse studies drew to a close, Geoff and Ray suggested that I join them in a new venture-a magazine to be called The Bible Student-in which, among other things, the results of my Ezekiel studies would be published. The first issue appeared in March 1970. The final article in the Ezekiel studies appeared in January 1979. In the intervening years, with my family, I had emigrated to Canada and returned to UK, changed jobs four times and moved house seven times! A great deal of the writing of the Ezekiel articles was done under those difficult circumstances-and it showed! However, to Geoff and Ray, who encouraged me to start the project, I am deeply indebted.
When, some years ago, Aleck Crawford suggested that the articles be reproduced in book form I re-read them and was appalled! It was clear that a major revision would be needed and in fact the entire manuscript has been subjected to a thorough review and most of it completely rewritten after further thought and research. Not only did Aleck typeset the manuscript and its revisions, often struggling with my hand written comments and emendations, he also made innumerable useful suggestions many of which have found their way into the text. Without his help and encouragement the book would not have been written.
I have tried to acknowledge all references to the writings of others. In the circumstances in which the original articles were written it would not be surprising if something has crept into the text which, through lapse of memory on my part, I have been unable to acknowledge. If such should come to light I would like to know. I am grateful to those who have read parts of the manuscript and who have subjected it to comment and criticism. I am sure that it is all the better for having gone “through the mill”. Disagreement, where it has existed, has been mainly on those prophetic portions of Ezekiel that impinge on the latter days, but such differences of opinion have always been kindly and graciously expressed by the author’s critics. He hopes that they feel that he has reciprocated in kind.
The production of a work such as this, in one’s “spare time”, impinges greatly on home life. I express my thanks to Maureen, my wife, for her patience and encouragement.
Finally, but by no means last in my thinking, I place on record my thanks to the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who has allowed me the necessary health to pursue the task and placed me in circumstances that were propitious to its execution.
SECTION 1-THE CALL OF THE PROPHET (1:1-3:21)
Ezekiel and his times (1:1-3) 13
Visions of God (1:4-2:2) 18
Ezekiel commissioned and instructed (2:3-3:14) 51
Ezekiel-Israel’s watchman (3:15-21) 57
SECTION 2-PROPHECIES AGAINST JUDAH AND JERUSALEM (3:22-24:27)
The prophet made dumb (3:22-27) 60
The siege of Jerusalem (4) 64
The barber’s razor (5) 74
Judah’s idolatry and impending judgement (6:1-7:27) 85
The glory departs (8:1-11:25) 96
The fate of king and people (12) 130
False prophets (13) 138
God’s four sore judgements (14) 148
The parable of the vine (15) 154
An allegory concerning Jerusalem (16) 159
The parable of the eagle, the cedar, and the vine (17) 171
Coming judgement and individual responsibility (18) 178
A lamentation (19) 188
Rebellious Israel (20:1-44) 194
Fire and sword (20:45-21:32) 208
Reprobate silver (22) 217
The parable of Aholah and Aholibah (23) 222
The fall of Jerusalem (24) 232
SECTION 3-PROPHECIES AGAINST THE NATIONS (25:1-32:32)
1. Prophecies against the East (25:1-14) 241
2. Prophecies against the West (25:15-17) 250
3. Prophecies against the North (26:1-28:26) 261
4. Prophecies against the South (29:1-32:32) 282
SECTION 4-PROPHECIES REGARDING ISRAEL’S RESTORATION (ch. 33-39)
Ezekiel’s introduction to new labours-(33) 315
1. The One Shepherd and His sheep-(34) 321
2. God’sjudgementonEdom-(35:1-36:15) 330
3. The restoration of Israel-(36:16-38) 348
4. The vision of the Valley ofBones-(37:1-14) 360
5. The parable of the Two Sticks-(37:15-28) 373
6. The destruction of Gog’s armies-(38:1-39:16) 384
7. God’s glory among the nations-(39:17-29) 430
at the place-used to refer to the appropriate place in a com mentary where there are no page numbers
The Authorized Version (KJV) 1611 Brown, Driver, Briggs (cf. Bibliography) compare
and the pages that follow
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon
in the same place i.e. in the book previously referred to. that is
comment inserted by the author into a quotation Jerusalem Bible
The Septuagint (Greek OT) margin
New American Standard Bible New English Bible
New International Version, 1979 New Jewish Version
New Testament in the work cited Old Testament
Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible Revised Standard Version 1952 Revised Version 1881
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (cf. Bibliography)
NOTE: Quotation from any of the above translations does not indicate endorsement or agreement with all of its contents.
Key to type styles
Ordinary italic is used to indicate Hebrew or Greek words in the commentary. Ordinary italic or words between square brackets [ ] in the text indicate words inserted by the translators.
The author has also used square brackets where he has changed a word m the Bible text e.g. “[God’s] eyes beheld the nation”.
Bold italic is a reference to the text in Ezekiel being commented upon.
Bold is for emphasis in the commentary.
I SECTION 1
THE CALL OF THE PROPHET
Ezekiel and his times (1:1-3)
Ezekiel conducted his ministry as a prophet, not in Israel, but in the land of Chaldea, or Babylon. He was in captivity, having apparently been carried away at the time of King Jehoiachin’s captivity when some ten thousand Jews were taken into exile (2 Kings 24:12-14; Ezek. 1:2, cf. 33:21; 40:1).
While Ezekiel was prophesying in Chaldea at a place called Tel Abib on the river Chebar1, Jeremiah was prophesying in Jerusalem. He had been faithfully proclaiming God’s word for some twelve or thirteen years before Ezekiel commenced his work in the fifth year of Jehoiachin’ s captivity. Daniel, who had been t