Author and Time of Writing
The book of Ezekiel (= he will be strengthened of God; some Bible editions Ezechiel according to the Latin Vulgate) bears the name of its author who is mentioned twice in this book (Ez. 1:3; 24:24). In contrast to various other prophets Ezekiel has not been criticised as much. Should the reason for it be that the book does not speak in such detailed manner of the glory of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah?
According to Ez. 1:3 the prophet, together with King Jehoiachin, and many noble of the people of Judah had been brought to Babylon in the second deportation in 597 BC. This event is described in 2 Kings 24:14 and 2 Chron. 36:10.
Ezekiel originated from the priestly family of Aaron (Ez. 1:3). There are various explanations for the not very precise date in chap. 1:1, which says "in the 30th year". One explanation is that Ezekiel is talking about his own age (compare with Num. 4:3; 1 Chron. 23:3). Ezekiel was married; his wife passed away on the day Jerusalem was assaulted (chap. 24:1. 18). After he was taken captive he lived in his own house in Tell-Abib by the river Chebar and he was esteemed by the Jews who had been taken into captivity, for they went to see him more than once (Ez. 8:1; 14:1; 20:1).
Ezekiel started his prophetic ministry in the 5th year of the captivity (chap. 1:2), which is the year 593 BC. At that time Daniel, the prophet, whom Ezekiel probably knew, had already been a prisoner for around 12 years in the palace of the king of Babylon (compare Ez. 14:14.20; 28:3).
The last dated message of Ezekiel was given in the 27th year of the captivity, that is the year 571 BC (Ez. 29:17). Ezekiel therefore prophesied in Babylon for at least 22 years.
In his book Ezekiel gives 13 exact dates for his prophecies. Their chronological order is: Ez. 1:1; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 29:1; 26:1; 30:20; 31:1; 33:21; 32:1.17; 40:1; 29:17. All but three messages are therefore given in chronological order and have probably been written down accordingly.
Ezekiel is not mentioned anywhere else in the Scriptures. We neither find any references to the book in the NT but remarkable parallels (see paragraph on Peculiarities).
Purpose of Writing
The book of Ezekiel is the third in a row of the so-called four Major Prophets. Ezekiel is also one of the prophets who lived in exile. While Jeremiah lived Judah's downfall in Jerusalem Daniel and Ezekiel had already been deported to Babylon.
Ezekiel's prophecies correspond in many aspects to Jeremiah's prophecies as regards to the contents. His prophecies are interspersed with many pictures and symbols as well. Both recall their sad condition to the apostate people; both prophesy the downfall of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem's destruction but also the final restoration in the millennium. In contrast to Jeremiah, Ezekiel arranges his prophecies in clear manner under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (who is mentioned extremely often in this book; e.g. chap. 2:2; 3:12.24). The first part shows the condition of the people that leads to Ezekiel's rejection (chap. 1 - 24). Then Ezekiel announces the judgments over the neighbouring people (chap. 25 - 32). Finally, we are given the prophecy on the return of the united Israel in days to come and the description of the millennium with the temple in Jerusalem (chap. 33 - 48).
Having said this, there are certain parallels with Jeremiah's prophecies in spite of all differences.
In contrast to this Ezekiel and Daniel complete one another. Daniel mainly describes the history of the four great prophetic world empires, that is the "time of the nations" (compare with Luke 21:24) whereas Ezekiel describes the events before and after Jerusalem's treading down. This is why the Messiah's appearing (His first and His second coming to this earth) is not described.
a) Ezekiel and the New Testament
Direct references from the book of Ezekiel cannot be shown in the New Testament.
We may however see an allusion to Ezekiel in John 3 where the Lord Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, about the necessity of the new birth. The birth of water and of Spirit is the divine condition to enter into the kingdom of God on earth. Ezekiel had already written that God would gather His people, cleanse it with clean water from their filthiness and from all their idols, put a new spirit within them and put His spirit within them (Ez. 36:25-27). This Nicodemus should have known and the Lord therefore asks him: "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"
Several striking similarities exist between Ezekiel and the book of Revelation:
In some respects, we will find recurring similarities as, for instance, the description of the throne of God and the four living creatures. In some places the NT prophecy goes further than what had been revealed in the OT. So we find the earthly Jerusalem in Ezekiel but in the Revelation Jerusalem is the heavenly city.
b) The Glory of Jehovah
The glory of Jehovah, which is the visible sign of God's presence with His people Israel, plays an important role in Ezekiel. The glory is represented as a cloud that is resting in the sanctuary of the temple (compare with Ex. 40:35; 1 Kings 8:10.11). Ezekiel mentions the cloud in the following references: chap. 1:28; 3:12.23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4.18.19; 11:22.23; 43:2.4.5; 44:4.
When Jehovah rejected His people this cloud of glory left the temple and the city of Jerusalem. But the cloud reappears at the end of the book and will dwell in the new temple of the millennium. The cloud has been seen once only during the long interval: it was at the Lord Jesus' transfiguration on the mount (Math. 17:5; 2 Pet. 1:17).
Overview of Contents
I. Ezekiel 1 - 24: Prophecies concerning Jerusalem's Destruction
II. Ezekiel 25 - 32: Prophecies against Seven Neighbouring People
III. Ezekiel 33 - 48: Prophecies on Israel's Restoration