Lesson 1: Introduction and Chapter 1
Thanks largely to the famous spirituals “Ezekiel Saw the Wheel” and “Dry Bones,” Ezekiel is known as a biblical character by millions of people. Unfortunately, the level of Bible knowledge of his difficult book often doesn’t go too much deeper.
The most unusual thing about Ezekiel (unlike Jeremiah, and to a lesser extent Isaiah and most of the Minor Prophets) is his emphasis, not on judgment, but on comforting God’s people. From the Chebar Canal, which was a sort of concentration camp or refugee camp near Babylon, Ezekiel wrote his prophecies to encourage the Jewish exiles. This is in the southeastern section of modern Iraq, northwest of the Persian Gulf. The Babylonians settled the Jewish exiles in this region to colonize them. Ezekiel’s ministry was primarily to those Jews deported from Judah by the Babylonians and any Israelites that remained in exile from previous deportations by the Assyrians.
Ezekiel (meaning God strengthens or strengthened by God) was one of those who was taken to Babylonia with the second group of captives, eleven years before Jerusalem was destroyed. Ezekiel dated his prophecies precisely. His first prophecy (1:2) came in the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile (593 B.C.); his last dated prophecy was in 571 B.C. (29:17). Hence his ministry lasted at least twenty-two years. If, as a priest, he started his ministry at the age of thirty, he would have been over fifty when he finished his prophesying. Ezekiel ministered to his fellow-exiles immediately before and during the first twenty-some years of the captivity. They falsely expected to return to Jerusalem, so he taught them that they must first return to the Lord.
Ezekiel’s prophecy is divided into three parts. First, he rehearses the sins of Judah and warns of God’s impending judgment in the captivity of the people and the destruction of the capital. This is all vividly announced in unusual visions and symbolic acts. A bright, shining cloud, a figure of God’s presence, is seen lingering over the temple, then reluctantly departing. This meant that God could no longer dwell among His people because of their sin, and His sword of judgment must soon descend on the polluted temple. The glory of the Lord is one of the key thoughts running throughout the Book of Ezekiel.
In the second section, Judah’s neighbors are condemned because of their idolatry and their cruel treatment of God’s people. These are the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, Tyrians, Sidonians, and Egyptians.
Finally, in the last section, Ezekiel tells of the restoration and reunion of the entire nation—both Israel and Judah. When the people repent of their sins, God will put His Holy Spirit within them. The Messiah will come to His people and destroy their last enemies. The temple will be rebuilt, and the glory of the Lord will return to it. These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled, but look forward to Christ’s one- thousand-year reign on earth, the Millennium.
CALL AND COMMISSION OF EZEKIEL (1:1–3:21)
Ezekiel’s Circumstances (1:1–3)
As the book opens, Ezekiel was a prophet of a priestly family, which was carried captive to Babylon in 597 B.C., who prophesied intermittently until 571 B.C. He was about 25 years old when he was taken to Babylon. He prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem six or seven years before it happened. Ezekiel was thirty years of age at this time (“in the thirtieth year”). The first twenty-four chapters were written before the fall of Jerusalem, but after the first deportations.
Ezekiel’s Vision of God’s Glory Riding on a Throne-Chariot (1:4–28a)
The first chapter is taken up with a vision of the glory of God among the captives. Ezekiel first saw a fierce whirlwind coming from the north. Then he saw four living creatures, each of which had four faces (lion, ox, eagle, man), four wings, straight feet, and hands under its wings. The creatures symbolize those attributes of God which are seen in creation: His majesty, power, swiftness, and wisdom. Cherubim are the created beings assigned to guard the throne of God (Ps. 99:1) as well as the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat (Ex. 25:18–22; 37:7–9). Cherubim (plural for cherub) guarded the Tree of Life to keep man from eating of it and, therefore, living forever in his sins. Thus more than one angel guarded the entrance to Eden. The fullest description of cherubim is in Ezekiel 10, where they are closely related to the glory of God and have a part in its presence and its withdrawal, moving at the Almighty’s direction.
Many nations forget about the God above the cloud, who sits on the throne. They worship earthly creatures or kings, forgetting that God is above all. Above the firmament was a throne, with the LORD of glory seated upon it. Ezekiel saw the throne of God and his vision has much in common with John’s vision of the throne in the Book of Revelation. They both describe the throne as being like precious stones, and they both say that there was a rainbow around the throne. The combination of similarities leads to the obvious conclusion that both Ezekiel and John saw the throne of God as it truly exists in the spirit, and they beheld the glory of God. Beside each of the living creatures there was a wheel, or rather a wheel within a wheel (perhaps one wheel at right angle to the other like a gyroscope). Thus the vision seems to represent a throne-chariot, with wheels … on the earth, four living creatures supporting a platform, and the throne of God above it. It was this vision of the glory of God that preceded Ezekiel’s call to the prophetic ministry. Notice that the description of the cherubim and their placement echoes that found in Numbers chapter 2, where God designates the placement of the tribes in certain positions which “shadow” the placement of the cherubim around God’s Throne.
According to the Writings of Moses there were about 600,000 men and also women and children who left Egypt at the exodus. They came out of Egypt in rank and in file and as they journeyed in the wilderness the tribes would camp around the Tabernacle in God-specified locations. The twelve tribes, in groups of three, were divinely situated at a certain distance around the tabernacle. Four of the tribes, Judah, Reuben, Ephraim and Dan were recognized as tribal leaders. Each had its own standard or banner identifying it as a tribal head while the other tribes had ensigns, a lesser type of banner.
Judah occupied the greatest area which was on the eastern side facing the tabernacle entrance behind the tents of Aaron. To their right was the tribe of Issachar and on the other side Zebulun. The tabernacle itself was always found in the very center of the camp with the tents of the various tribes set up at a certain distance. Judah (with Issachar and Zebulun) on the east numbering 186,400 men. Reuben (with Simeon and Gad) in the south numbering 151,450 men. West was Ephraim (with Manasseh and Benjamin) numbering 108,100 men. On the north side was Dan (with Asher and Naphtali) numbering 157,600 men. This brought the total count of men twenty years and upwards to 603,550, not including the tribe of Levi.
Num 2:2 Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting.
Each tribe had a specific banner: According to Jewish history the banners of the tribes were as follows:
Judah – East (Lion of gold with a scarlet background).
Ephraim – West (Ox of black on gold background).
Reuben – South (Man on gold background).
Dan – North (Eagle of gold on a blue background).
Notice that this placement is the same as the placement of the cherubim around the throne of God in Ezekiel 1:1-10, and Revelation 4:2-8. Since the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant was referred to as the “throne of God” because He would speak to Moses from there, it is important that the cherubim, who surround the throne in reality, are symbolized by the banners that surround the “throne” of the Tabernacle.
The second major portion of the vision was the appearance of wheels. There was a wheel in the middle of a wheel (v. 16); the wheels could move in any direction; the wheels touched earth but still reached heaven; and the wheels moved wherever the Spirit led them. The wheels seem to symbolize God’s working on the earth. Nothing stopped them, just as nothing stops the sovereign God who controls all events on earth. This truth would have been very encouraging to the weary exiles to whom Ezekiel was called to minister.
The third part of the vision was the firmament. The Hebrew word used here is the same one used in Genesis 1:6, 7 for the expanse created by God on the second day. Its dazzling brilliance was an appropriate reminder of God’s holiness and transcendent majesty (cf. the description in Rev. 4:6).
Finally, there was a throne and the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. The important reality was that the throne was occupied, signifying that God was in control and judgment proceeded from His throne.
“This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.” Ezekiel saw more than Moses saw, more than David, Isaiah, or Daniel saw. He saw a vision of the glory of God. The presence of God was there. When the Lord Jesus came to this earth and took upon Himself our humanity, His glory was not seen. Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord.
“And when I saw it, I fell upon my face.” This vision had a tremendous effect upon Ezekiel, and it should have this effect upon us: “Oh, God, I am undone. I’m lost and I need You. I turn to You and accept You.” We find throughout the Old Testament that when men came into the presence of God, they went down on their faces. This was true of Isaiah who said: “… Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). In the presence of the Lord, this man found himself horizontal with the ground. That was the position Daniel took also. It was the position John took on the isle of Patmos: “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead …” (Rev. 1:17).
What a picture of our holy God we have here! Someday I am going to look full upon the face of my Savior. I do not know exactly what He looks like, but I am looking forward to that day.
Lesson 2: Chapters 2-5
Ezekiel’s Appointment to Prophesy to the People of Israel (1:28b–3:21)
The Character of the People—Rebellious (1:28b–2:7)
The Spirit entered Ezekiel, set him on his feet, and told him to prophesy to a rebellious nation, Judah, regardless of results. He was to be fearless and obedient.
The Lord commissioned Ezekiel, whom He calls “son of man.” This important expression occurs ninety times in Ezekiel. The first words that God addresses to Ezekiel appropriately put the prophet in his rightful place before the majesty which he has been seeing in his vision. The phrase son of man is a Hebraism which emphasizes Ezekiel’s insignificance or mere humanity. “Son of” indicates “partaking of the nature of” and so when combined with ’adãm, “man,” it means nothing more than “human being.” In the plural it is a common phrase for “mankind”. By the time of Daniel (7:13, 14) this title had taken on near messianic implications, and in the first century it had become a term for the Messiah: Our Lord’s use of the title seems to have taken advantage of the ambiguity between the simple and the technical meanings, so that in one sense He could not be accused of making any overt claim to Messiahship, while in the other sense He did not deny those with spiritual insight from accepting the fuller significance of His person.
The Message—Judgment, as Indicated by the Scroll (2:8–3:3)
Ezekiel was then commanded to eat a scroll on which were written the sorrowful judgments that were to fall on the nation. He was forewarned that his ministry would not be popular. We too are forewarned that a true presentation of the gospel will be offensive to the unsaved. Ezekiel ate the scroll, as commanded. A later prophet, “John the Revelator,” would do the same thing (Rev. 10:8–10). Every prophet or preacher needs to internalize the message, making it a part of his own life (cf. 3:10).
The Character of the People—Impudent and Hard-hearted (3:4–11)
Then God repeated that Ezekiel was being sent to a people who would not listen (Judah is here called Israel). Language barriers can be overcome, as many missionaries tell us. But the barrier of a rebellious heart cannot be overcome. He was to be fearless in speaking to the Jews in the land and to those in captivity. True servants of Christ must be tough-minded but not hard-hearted.
The Role of the Prophet—Watchman (3:12–21)
The Lord then took Ezekiel to the captives at the River Chebar, and he sat with them in silence for seven days.
Ezekiel was appointed a watchman, responsible to speak God’s Word and to warn the people solemnly. The solemn fact of blood-guiltiness is taught not only in the OT (vv. 18–20) but in the NT as well (Acts 20:26). However high the responsibility of God’s messenger is, Christians should not take this as teaching that they ought to cram the gospel down every throat, or witness in every elevator. Despite his great responsibility, Ezekiel was shut up by God and had to wait for God-given opportunities. We also need to be sensitive to His leading in witnessing. Sometimes we need to be silent. However, most of us are silent when we ought to be witnessing.
Judgment of Judah and Jerusalem Depicted
Visual Aids Illustrating Coming Judgment (3:22–5:17)
Judgment, wrote Peter, must begin at the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17). And so God starts with the center of revealed religion, the temple at Jerusalem.
Ezekiel Commanded to Be Mute until Told by God to Speak (3:22–27)
First Ezekiel went out into the plain where he beheld the glory of the LORD. Then he was commanded to go to his house where he would be bound and mute until God revealed to him what to say.
Ezekiel Portrays The Siege Of Jerusalem (Chapter 4)
Chapter 4 predicts the coming siege and famine of Jerusalem. This is graphically done by the prophet, just as the Lord instructed him to do it. Ezekiel took a clay tablet and sketched the city of Jerusalem on it. To picture the siege of an invading force, he built forts around it from which to shoot arrows. Mounds of dirt were moved against the wall, and battering rams were placed in position from which to hurl rocks. An iron pan was set in position as protection against arrows and spears coming from behind the wall, and the army was pitched round about in tents.
Ezekiel lay on his left side behind the iron pan for three hundred ninety days, depicting punishment for Israel’s iniquity, and forty days on his right side depicting punishment for Judah’s iniquity. Terrible famine develops within the city, as symbolized by Ezekiel eating bread made of mixed grain measured out in the small amount of twenty shekels (ounces) a day and drinking but one hin (quart) of water a day. To his horror, he shall prepare the food in a defiling manner, contrary to the Levitical law. The Lord said “this shall be the way you will eat your food (in a defiled manner) in the nations where you will be banished.”
In verse 1 he is told to take thee a tile. The bricks, or tile, were larger in those days than in ours. They were at least 13´´ by 13´´ by 4´´. It was large enough to accommodate a plan of the city. He drew a picture of Jerusalem, built a fort, which was a siege wall or tower, then connected the two with battering rams, or ramps, and arranged an army camp (soldiers) to besiege it. The strength of the besiegers and the impossibility of escape was represented by the iron pan that Ezekiel set up in verse 3.
Ezekiel Portrays The Death And Scattering Of The People (Chapter 5)
In chapter five we have the sign of the sharp knife. All of the signs show the chastisement and judgment still to come upon Israel because of her rebellion against the Lord.
With a sharp sword, using it as a barber’s knife, Ezekiel is to cut off the hair from his head and face. This he is to carefully divide into three parts. One-third he shall put in the city of Jerusalem (the miniature sketched on the tile) and burn it; one-third shall be put around the city, while at the same time, cutting it to pieces; and one-third shall be scattered out to the wind. The meaning is that the sword is the king of Babylon. The hair represents the inhabitants of Jerusalem, of which one-third will be destroyed in the siege, one-third killed by the sword when the siege finally breaks the city, and the remaining one-third scattered among the nations where they will continue to be afflicted.
Then the Lord reveals why Jerusalem and the nation that it represents must go through such terrible chastisement and judgment. The Lord had selected her and her people Israel (when He chose Abraham) to be a testimony in the midst of the nations of His greatness, holiness, goodness, and love. But Israel rebelled by rejecting the Lord and all that He represented and went her own way, serving idols, shedding blood, and becoming even worse than her heathen neighbors. God’s holiness must be preserved at all costs. The sinning rebels among Israel must be cut off, and the erring remnant must be subjected to chastisement in order to purify them.
The means the Lord uses for judgment are: famine, which can be brought about through siege, hail, rain, mice, locusts, and mildew; wild beasts multiplying, leaving their natural habitat and going on a carnage; bloodshed, brought by the sword of the Lord wielded in the hands of enemies; and dispersion among the nations away from Jerusalem, so they will be constantly reminded by the Lord’s chastening hand to turn back to Him.
The context of the book very clearly makes the sword represent the king of Babylon. Balances were used for dividing the hair into three parts. This points to the justice of God. Note that one-third was not cut off, but was subjected to chastisement rather than judgment. God always remembers His remnant.
When man had failed before the Flood (and Noah and his posterity after the Flood) to walk righteously before the Lord, then God began again by choosing a man through whom He planned to make Himself and His blessings of salvation known to mankind. He chose Abraham and the nation of Israel that would issue from him. He plucked him out of the center of idolatry in Ur of Chaldea and set him in a pleasant land. There, Israel was to be a testimony of God’s greatness and goodness to all the nations about her. God blessed her and raised her above the other nations of the world.
Israel forgot the Lord and became worse than the nations about her. However, in view of the greater knowledge that she had than her neighbors, she did more wickedly. Details of her wickedness will be noted in later chapters. When Israel was young and disobedient as a nation, God did not destroy her in a great calamity. He restrained the nations, lest they say that He who had brought them out of Egypt could not preserve them. But when Israel continuously rebelled against God and turned from Him to idols, it became necessary that God demonstrate by His greatness and majesty, both to Israel and to the heathen neighbors, that He indeed is the Lord.
These calamities would come upon Jerusalem because the people acted more wickedly than the surrounding nations, in spite of their greater privileges.
We as Christians have even higher privileges than the Jews. May the Lord give us grace not to misuse them and thus bring about our own temporal judgment and loss of eternal rewards!
Lesson 3: Chapters 6 – 10
The Destruction of Idolatry and Preservation of a Remnant (Chap. 6)
The mountains of Israel are used here to refer to idolatry, since idol shrines (high places) were commonly built on mountains. The land would be punished for its idolatry.
A remnant would be spared; these would remember the Lord in their captivity and loathe themselves for … their abominations (vv. 8–10). Idolatry would be punished by pestilence, warfare, and famine (vv. 11–14). In every age, God maintains a remnant testimony for Himself—not the moral majority but the despised minority.
The Imminence and Severity of the Babylonian Invasion (Chap. 7)
The time for God’s judgment to fall had come, and there would be no question that it was the LORD who was striking (vv. 1–13). No one would answer the call to battle; courage and strength would fail because of the awful destruction (vv. 14–18). Material possessions would be useless (v. 19). Because the temple (“the beauty of his ornaments”) had been polluted with idols, it would be given to strangers—the Babylonians. They would plunder it and defile it (vv. 20–22).
All classes would be affected by the desolation—the king, princes, prophets, priests, elders, and common people. The common people should have been a testimony to God, but they totally failed. The only testimony that can be given to God now is through judgment. What a solemn thought. The judgment is complete: all classes and all the land. Any nation that rejects the knowledge of God loses its moral fiber, and has no means of support when trouble comes. This is true of individuals, too.
The Vision of Gross Idolatry in the Temple (Chap. 8)
The elders had to witness the judgment, which they had failed to help to avert. This often happens today, too. The Lord carried Ezekiel from Babylon to Jerusalem in visions. There he saw some terrible examples of the idolatry of the people. He saw an abominable idolatrous image in the entrance of the temple which provoked the Lord to jealousy. The second thing the prophet saw was in the court of the temple. The elders of Judah were assembled there each with a censer in his hand, worshiping vile pictures portrayed all around on the walls. The third sight was at the north gate; the women were weeping for Tammuz, a Babylonian deity. The vegetation supposedly dried up when he died.
The fourth instance of idolatry was in the inner court of the temple, where about twenty-five men, representing the priests, were worshiping the sun and following the lewd practices of that cult. To put the branch to the nose indicated contempt or scorn for God. The branch was an obscene phallic symbol.
God views idolatry as the most abominable kind of sin that man can engage in. Other sins are against lower forms of creation: against his fellow man and himself. But idolatry is against the Lord God Himself. When man practices idolatry he either refuses to recognize Him at all, or at best places Him alongside the many lesser gods. When man fails to give due recognition and worship to God, he then becomes a law to himself. Whatever he wishes to do he may then have a rational reason for so doing. It is for this reason that the first of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3).
The Removal of God’s Presence and the Destruction of Idolaters (Chap. 9)
In this chapter, six executioners are seen coming from the north (the direction from which the Babylonians were to come) to destroy the idolaters of the previous chapter. The glory cloud of the Shekinah (God’s presence) leaves the holy of holies in the temple, grieved away by the idolatry of the people. The glory cloud moves to the threshold of the temple where its brightness fills the court. Those faithful Jews who opposed the idolatry were sealed by a mark on their foreheads so that they would not be killed. This verse should challenge us. How do we react, if some do not follow the Lord? Do we join them? Will they influence us? Do we justify them? Do we show indifference? These faithful men and women sighed and cried; this reaction showed what was in their heart and kept them from judgment. The sign—or mark on the forehead—was the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (tav), which the rabbis said suggested completeness. It is also the first letter of torah (law). Notes the remarkable similarity between what is stated here and in Revelation 7:1–3. In the earlier form of Hebrew script the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (tav) had the form of a cross.
Then the executioners began to slay the idolaters, starting with the elders. “Do not come near anyone on whom is the mark,” says God. When Ezekiel interceded for the people, the Lord said that He would not spare or have pity. The people were saying that because the LORD God had forsaken them and no longer saw their plight, they owed no loyalty to Him. “The Lord does not see” sounds like a very modern quotation! See 1st Peter 4:17.
The Vision of God’s Glory Visiting Jerusalem with Judgment (Chap. 10)
Chapter 10 is closely linked with Chapter 1, giving further information about the throne-chariot, the living creatures (here identified as cherubim), and the glory of the Lord. However, Chapter 1 was addressed to the exiles whereas this is addressed to rebels in Jerusalem. The Lord commanded the man clothed in linen to take burning coals from between the cherubim, and scatter them over Jerusalem. This signified God’s judgment that was to be poured out on the city.
The saddest event witnessed by Ezekiel was the departure of the LORD’s glory from the temple. The glory moved from the cherubim in the holy of holies to the threshold of the house. Later, “the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold and stood over the cherubim”, when the cherubim went and stood “at the door of the east gate”. The fact that the Spirit of God was not present in the temple explains how Nebuchadnezzar’s men were later, in 586 B.C., able to destroy the temple completely, including the Holy of Holies, without divine judgment.
A detailed description of the cherubim and the wheels of the throne-chariot is given. The glory cloud next moves from the threshold to the east gate of the LORD’s house. Ezekiel then emphasized that the cherubim were the same as the living creature he had seen by the River Chebar in chapter 1.
Lesson 4: Chapters 11– 14
The Repudiation of the Counsel of Wicked Princes (11:1–13)
The twenty-five men (representing the princes) were advising the people of the city that there was nothing to fear. They could carry on their construction projects as usual. They were as secure as meat encased in an iron caldron. Thus the twenty-five men flatly contradicted the word of the Lord, which said: “The time is not near to build … .” God had given orders through Jeremiah (Jer. 29:4–11) that the captives would build houses in Babylon because Jerusalem would fall. The men who devise iniquity tried to awaken false hopes among the captives by letters. Despite the fire of God’s judgment, the princes in Jerusalem felt quite safe there. In the same way, many nominal Christians feel safe from God’s judgment despite the sin in their lives.
Ezekiel was told to reinterpret their symbolism quite differently. The city of Jerusalem was the caldron, and the slain people were the meat! They themselves would be taken out of the city and judged at the border of Israel (see 2 Kgs. 25:18–21; Jer. 5:24–27). When Pelatiah (the leader of the twenty-five men) dropped dead, seemingly as a result of his evil counsel, Ezekiel interceded to GOD for his people.
The Preservation of a Remnant Promised (11:14–21)
The LORD answered by telling the prophet what the inhabitants of Jerusalem had been saying, namely, that the exiles had wandered far from the LORD and that the land belonged to those remaining in Judah and Jerusalem. But the Lord GOD promised that He would be a little sanctuary to the exiles, and that He would re-gather them to the land of Israel, completely cleansed of idolatry and with a heart to obey the Lord. Ezekiel follows Jeremiah in urging spiritual religion. It is definitely a heart religion that God wants. The heart is beyond repair; and a new one will be provided. The spiritual emphasis will give them a relationship with God that will transform their thinking, their worship, their conduct and their loyalty. The promise of one heart (one of flesh) and a new spirit are unconditional; they are yet to be fulfilled in the New Covenant.
The Removal of the Glory Cloud to the Mount of Olives (11:22–25)
At the close of the chapter, the glory cloud rises from the city and goes to the Mount of Olives, to the east side of Jerusalem. Thus did the God of Israel in lingering love forsake His city and temple, not to return till 43:2 (still future).
Ezekiel’s Signs of the Coming Exile (Chap. 12)
1. His Baggage (12:1–16)
Ezekiel was commanded to move his household goods from one place to another, as a sign to the Jews that they would be moving off into captivity. By digging through the wall at night with his eyes covered, he predicted that Zedekiah (the prince) would flee from the city at twilight (when he could not see the ground). However, he would be captured and taken to Babylon, though he would never see it with his eyes (v. 13). This is exactly what happened. Zedekiah was captured as he fled from Jerusalem, his eyes were put out at Riblah, and then he was carried to Chaldea (2 Kgs. 25:7). The people would be scattered among the nations, and many of them would die from the sword, famine, and pestilence.
2. His Quaking (12:17–28)
When Ezekiel ate and drank with trembling and quaking, he gave a pre-picture of the fear and anxiety that would precede the exile. The people had a proverb that God’s prophecies of doom were never fulfilled. God gave them another proverb, announcing that the day of fulfillment was at hand, and that every prophecy (vision) would come to pass. Those who said that the fulfillment was yet future would see it in their own day. The people’s tendency to explain the prophecies away or apply them to future generations is still with us. When God speaks to us through a message or a book, we immediately seem to know how our brother or sister should apply it and change. It is an evil and destructive tendency to apply God’s Word to others and not to our own lives. We should also watch out for clichés that contradict God’s Word or that deny or postpone His intervention.
The Doom of the False Prophets and Prophetesses (Chap. 13)
The subject here is false prophets (vv. 1–16) and false prophetesses (vv. 17–23). The former invented prophecies out of their own heart; they would fail the people when most needed. They used the words, “The LORD says,” but it was a lie, a false divination. Today we need preachers and teachers who don’t give their own thoughts and opinions, but who get their message in prayer, and from God’s Word. A Commentator named Denis Lane gives the following characteristics of the preaching in Ezekiel’s day: “It never rose higher than the preachers’ own minds. It deceptively claimed to be God’s word. It had no practical or useful effect. It offered cheap grace and a false peace. It simply endorsed the latest world view.” False religious leaders, like foxes in the deserts, are always looking for prey in the midst of destruction, filling their own needs and desires. In a situation like this it is the preacher’s duty to stand in the gaps to intercede and to repair the wall by leading people to repentance and a holy life. This is done by preaching God’s Word.
These false prophets and prophetesses would be destroyed for predicting peace when there was no peace, for whitewashing a wall that was ready to crumble (daubing it with un-tempered mortar). The wall represented the rulers’ efforts to prevent the divine judgment.
The prophetesses practiced witchcraft, putting magic charms on people’s wrists and veils on their heads. They doomed some people to death by magic spells and kept others alive. GOD would deliver His people and destroy these false prophetesses.
God’s Threat to the Idolatrous Elders (Chap. 14)
When some of the elders of Israel—idolaters at heart— visited Ezekiel to get counsel from the Lord, the LORD announced that He would answer idolaters directly, not through a prophet. If a prophet did answer the idolaters, he would be deceived and would be punished together with the inquirers. Even if three righteous men like Noah, Daniel, and Job should be in the land, God would not hearken but would send famine, wild beasts, the sword, and pestilence on the land. Daniel was living at the court of Nebuchadnezzar when Ezekiel wrote, and yet he was reckoned with God’s righteous men of old. It is not true that there cannot be heroes and heroines of the faith today as there have been in former times. Will you be one of them?
If He would severely judge any land, how much more Jerusalem, where His temple was located. But a remnant would be saved to testify that the LORD was justified in doing what He did. Judah’s guilt was too great to be pardoned, even through the intercession of Noah, Daniel, and Job. What about our society with its crime, violence, abortion, immorality, idolatry, drugs, and secular humanism?
Lesson 5: Chapters 15 – 18
The Parable of the Fruitless Vine (Chap. 15)
A vine is good only for bearing fruit; it is not good for making furniture or even a little peg. If it has been charred in a fire, it is even more useless. In one sense, the vine is the people of Jerusalem (v. 6). Failing to bear fruit for God, they were charred by the fire of the Babylonian invasion. But in a wider sense the vine represents the entire nation, including both Israel and Judah (v. 4). The northern end of the branch was charred by the Assyrians. The southern end was charred by the Egyptians. And now the middle, i.e., Jerusalem, would be charred by the Babylonians (see 2 Kgs. 25:9). The second fire of verse 7 pictures the captivity of those who escaped. God has determined to make the land desolate (v. 8).
As believers we have high privileges, but also the responsibility to produce fruit for God’s glory. If we don’t glorify Him with our life, our existence is vain and useless. It is like the vine without fruit, and our testimony will be destroyed (cf. John 15:6). As branches in Christ, the True Vine, our chief function is to bear fruit for God. Primarily that means the development of Christian character as seen in the fruit of the Spirit.
The Parable of Jerusalem’s Marriage (Chap. 16)
The LORD here traces the history of Jerusalem, as a type of the people. It began as a foundling child, unwashed and unwanted. The Lord had pity on her and cared for her lovingly, and she grew, matured, and became very beautiful.
When she came to young womanhood, Jehovah betrothed Himself to her, purified her for marriage, lavished kindnesses upon her, and adorned her. But because she trusted in her own beauty, she turned from Him to idols, becoming a harlot to everyone who passed by. Instead of trusting in the Lord, she played the prostitute to such Gentiles as the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the traders of Chaldea. As someone has said, “She out-heathened the heathen.” She was unlike the usual harlot in that she hired others to sin with her! Who would do something like that? Is it possible that the harlot will pay the man? That she will give her precious possessions away? And yet many who say they follow the Lord give up their precious rewards and inheritance above, spend their money and time on worldly pleasures instead of laying up treasures in heaven. They compromise with the world and lose eternal reward and blessing. This is called spiritual adultery, and whoever is engaged in it pays a high price.
The judgment on her filthiness was that she would be destroyed by the Gentile nations which she solicited as lovers for hire. Those who turn from God like an unfaithful lover and make compromises with the world will be destroyed by the world they wanted to befriend. This is a solemn warning to us (cf. Jas. 4:4–10).
The abominations committed by Jerusalem (Judah) were worse than those of her heathen predecessors, the Hittites, Amorites, Samaria, or Sodom. Sexual perversion was only one of Sodom’s sins. The iniquity of Sodom also included fullness of food and abundance of idleness. This reads only too much like a description of modern Christendom!
Notice how pride was singled out as the root of Sodom’s sin when her abominations were traced to their source. God had blessed her abundantly with fullness of bread (Gen. 13:10), but she monopolized these blessings for her own pleasures and basked in prosperous ease. Provision for her own needs made her insensible to the needs of others; she had no social conscience. Then she committed the abominations and enormities which are linked inseparably with her name. God took her away with a final blow when He saw it (Gen. 18:21).
In grace, God will restore in the future. Verse 53 describes the restoration of cities but in no way suggests the eventual salvation of the wicked dead. He will establish an everlasting covenant with His people, and Judah will be ashamed that she ever forsook the Lord for idols.
The Parable of the Two Eagles (Chap. 17)
The LORD told Ezekiel to pose a riddle to the house of Israel. A great eagle came to Lebanon, broke off the topmost twig from a cedar tree, and carried it to a foreign land. It also took the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. There it grew into a spreading vine. Then the vine began to grow toward another great eagle, but it no longer thrived.
The LORD Himself gives the interpretation of the allegory. The first eagle was Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (v. 12). He carried off Jehoiachin, king of Judah (the topmost twig), from Jerusalem (Lebanon) into Babylon (land of traffic), and Babylon (city of merchants). He also took Zedekiah, the king’s offspring, and set him up as his vassal king in Judah (v. 13). For a while, Zedekiah, a low spreading vine, flourished in the homeland, but then he turned to the king of Egypt (another great eagle) for deliverance from Babylonia. When Zedekiah broke the covenant with Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chron. 36:13), it was the same as if he broke it with God (v. 19). As a result, Zedekiah would be carried into Babylon and die there; Pharaoh-Hophra would not be able to help him (vv. 16–21).
In these verses the coming of the Messiah (the tender twig) is promised; He would be descended from the house of David. He would be a fruitful tree and afford safety to the people (v. 23). The God of hope does not leave them hopeless, but directs their eyes towards the Messiah. We also should have the future in view and comfort each other with these truths. Politics always proves to be a washout. Only the return of Christ offers any hope to this sin-drugged world.
The Repudiation of the Parable of the Sour Grapes (Chap. 18)
The people of Judah had a proverb which blamed their sins on the failure of their ancestors: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.” God refutes the proverb, stating that individuals are held responsible for their own sins. He then gives several examples of His principles of judgment:
1. A man who shuns sin and lives righteously shall surely live (vv. 5–9).
2. A righteous man’s wicked son shall surely die (vv. 10–13). The Jews during the captivity as well as in the Lord Jesus’ time prided themselves on having Abraham as their father (Luke 3:8, John 8:39). God points out that it will do no good to have a righteous father, if their own life is wicked. We also have the tendency to rely on the spirituality of others. But the righteous and holy life of our fathers and godly leaders must become a reality in our own lives.
3. An unrighteous man’s righteous son shall surely live (vv.14–17), but the unrighteous father shall die for his iniquities (v. 18).
4. A wicked man who repents and turns from his sins will live (vv. 21–23).
5. A righteous man who turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity shall die (v. 24).
There is no contradiction between verse 20 and Exodus 20:5. It is true, as taught in Exodus, that children are generally involved in the consequences of their parents’ misdeeds. It is also true, as taught here, that each one is personally responsible for his or her actions. In verse 20, the punishment is temporal, not eternal. It is physical death because of sin now. The principles stated in verses 5–24 are not dealing with eternal life; otherwise we would be forced to conclude that salvation is by works (vv. 5–9) and that the righteous may eventually be lost, two doctrines clearly refuted by our Lord in the NT (e.g., Eph. 2:8, 9; John 10:28).
The people continued to accuse God of injustice, but He shows that there is no injustice because even a wicked man can be saved by turning from his sins, and that is what the Lord wants them to do. When God forgives, He forgets (v. 22). This does not indicate a poor memory but the perfect satisfaction of His justice through the atoning work of Christ. For the believer the case is closed.
Lesson 6: Chapters 19 – 21
Lamentation for the Last Kings of Judah (Chap. 19)
This is a lament for the last kings of Judah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. Judah is the lioness. The other nations are the lions, and their rulers are the young lions (v. 2). The whelp who became a young lion (v. 3) is Jehoahaz, who was captured and taken off to Egypt (v. 4). The other whelp (v. 5) is Jehoiachin. Judah was no different than all the other nations, a lioness among the lions. The leaders of the nations are fierce and selfish, “but among you it shall not be so.” The Lord expects His people to be different. If not, they are inviting His judgment.
“Your mother” (v. 10) is Judah or Jerusalem, a vine in their bloodline that was fruitful and full of branches. At one time, she had strong kings (strong branches), but she would be destroyed by Babylon (the east wind), and the people carried into captivity (the wilderness, vv. 11–13). Zedekiah, the fire of verse 14, is regarded as a usurper and the ruin of his people. Israel had wanted a king like the other nations. Here Ezekiel lowers the curtain on the last act of their monarchy. God wants His people to be different from the world, to be a holy people for Himself, and to acknowledge Him as King.
Vindication of God’s Dealings with Israel (20:1–32)
1. Idolatry in Egypt (20:1–9)
When the elders came to Ezekiel to inquire of the LORD, He refused to be inquired of by them. Instead He recounted their repeated rebellions against Him. The elders were quite conservative and orthodox in their practice of their religion; but their hearts were far from Him. Idols keep us from getting God’s answers to our questions. When God recounts our sins and shows us His grace by leading us to repentance, many of us get bored: “We’ve heard that so often.” “The Bible is just full of do’s and don’ts.” “Is there nothing else but judgment in it?” Instead of reacting properly to God’s Word, we are in danger of staying lukewarm. In spite of their idolatry in the land of Egypt (vv. 4–8a), God did not punish them there so that the Gentiles would not mock (vv. 8b–9).
2. Defiling God’s Sabbaths (20:10–17)
Israel profaned God’s Sabbaths in the wilderness (vv. 10–13a). Again the Lord restrained His wrath and spared them from destruction lest the heathen should laugh (vv. 13b–17).
3. Rebellion in the Wilderness (20:18–26)
The rebellion of the children of the original generation in the wilderness is recalled (vv. 18–21a); again God held back His anger against them (vv. 21b–26).
4. Idolatry (20:27–32)
Their terrible idolatry in the land of promise even included making their sons pass through the fire, that is, offering them as human sacrifices.
God’s Promise of Eventual Restoration (20:33–44)
In spite of their efforts, God would never let them become permanently like the Gentiles, serving wood and stone (v. 32). He would re-gather them from the peoples of captivity, set them in judgment before Him, receive the righteous (v. 37), and purge the rebels from among them (v. 38). When the nation is restored to the land of Israel, they will no longer worship idols, but they will worship the LORD in holiness (vv. 39–44).
Pictures of the Imminent Invasion (20:45–21:32)
1. The Sign of the Forest Fire (20:45–49)
Verse 45 marks the beginning of chapter 21 in the Hebrew Bible, a more logical place to break, as our outline indicates. In verses 45–49, we have a prophecy against the South (Heb. Negev, part of Judah); it will be destroyed by the forest fire (Babylonian invasion).
2. The Sign of the Drawn Sword (21:1–17)
God expresses His determination to lay waste Judah and Jerusalem with His sharpened sword. Ezekiel’s sighing was to warn the people of the fearfulness of God’s coming judgment. The sword of Babylon is prepared for the slaughter (vv. 8–13) and will satisfy the fury of Jehovah (vv. 14–17). Verses 10c and 13 mean this: It was no time for Judah to make mirth. They had despised all previous weapons of affliction, which are spoken of in the NKJV as having been made of wood. Now they would experience a sword made of steel, and there was the possibility that the scepter that despises, i.e., Judah, would be no more.
3. The Sign of the Fork in the Road (21:18–32)
Next, the king of Babylon is seen marching toward the land. He comes to a fork in the road: One branch leads to Jerusalem, and the other to Rabbah (capital of Ammon). Which city shall he attack first? He uses three means of divination: (1) He marks an arrow for Jerusalem and one for Rabbah; (2) He consults his household gods; (3) He looks into the liver of some slaughtered animal. The decision? Attack Jerusalem first!
Zedekiah is the profane, wicked prince of verse 25. His kingship is overthrown and he will be the last king over God’s people until the Messiah comes, whose right it is to reign. During the time of Christ, Israel had a king, but he was under the authorities of the Romans (so was truly an independent king).
The Ammonites will next be attacked by the king of Babylon; they will be utterly destroyed. History and current events are full of instances of God overturning human governments until Christ comes, whose right it is to reign.
Lesson 7: Chapters 22 – 24
Three Oracles on Jerusalem’s Defilement (Chap. 22)
Here is presented a catalog of the sins of Jerusalem—bloodshed (v. 9) (meaning human sacrifices in this context) and idolatry (vv. 3, 4); murder (v. 6); contempt of parents, oppression of strangers, orphans and widows (v. 7); desecrating the temple and breaking the Sabbaths (v. 8); slander, idolatry and lewdness (v. 9); immorality (v. 10); adultery, incest (v. 11); bribery, usury, extortion, and forgetfulness of the LORD GOD (v. 12).
For these sins of dishonest profit and bloodshed, the people would be scattered among the nations (vv. 13–16). Jerusalem would be like a refiner’s pot, in which the people, like worthless dross, would be melted (vv. 17–22). All classes of society were guilty before the Lord—rulers (v. 25) [“prophets” in the KJV and NKJV reads “princes” in the Septuagint]; priests (v. 26); magistrates (v. 27); prophets (v. 28); people (v. 29). Not a righteous man could be found, not a reformer nor an intercessor to stand for God (vv. 30, 31). God is not looking for new methods or programs; God is always looking for someone to stand in the gap. One person can make a difference.
The Parable of the Two Harlot Sisters (Chap. 23)
1. Oholah (23:1–10)
This is the parable of two harlot sisters, Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister. Oholah was Samaria, and Oholibah was Jerusalem. Oholah means [she has] her own tent. Samaria had set up her own center of worship. God’s temple was in Jerusalem. Oholah played the harlot to the good-looking and macho horsemen of Assyria; therefore, she was abandoned to her lovers by God, and they uncovered her nakedness and slew her with the sword.
2. Oholibah (23:11–21)
Oholibah (my tent is in her) went even further in her idolatrous harlotry and immorality. First she lusted after the Assyrians, just as Israel had done (vv. 12, 13). Then she doted on the images of the men of Babylon portrayed in vermilion. She lusted for them and sent messengers to them, inviting them to her land (2 Kgs. 16:7). Recalling her youthful sins in the land of Egypt, she also multiplied her harlotry and gave herself over to the Babylonians to commit terrible immorality.
3. The Invasion of the Babylonians (23:22–35)
As a result, God would destroy Oholibah by her Babylonian lovers. Those desirable young men she lusted after would treat her hatefully. She tried to find satisfaction in the fleshly world, apart from God. Now her sins must be judged. Verses 33 and 34 describe the symptoms of depression and despair, which we find all over today. Only if we drink of God’s living water, will we never thirst again.
4. The Judgment of Oholah and Oholibah (23:36–49)
Both sisters were guilty of the same sins: adultery (literal and spiritual), murder, offering human sacrifices (v. 37); desecration of the temple, Sabbath-breaking (v. 38); mixing idolatry with worship of God (v. 39); committing spiritual adultery with foreign nations (vv. 40–44). Righteous men (nations chosen by God) would repay the sisters for their lewdness with well-deserved destruction (vv. 45–49).
Judah’s religion was a combination of the worship of Jehovah with idolatry and paganism. Much of modern Christendom, sad to say, combines elements of the Bible with Judaism, paganism, eastern religion, humanism, and psychology.
The Parable of the Boiling Pot (24:1–14)
On the day the siege of Jerusalem began, Ezekiel spoke the parable of the boiling pot. The pot was Jerusalem; the pieces of meat were the people. The pot was about to boil. It had scum, or rust, in it—the lewdness of idolatry. After the pot was thoroughly emptied, it would be burned to remove the scum. Thus would the LORD seek to purge His people of idolatry.
The Sign of the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (24:15–27)
Ezekiel was warned that his wife, the desire of his eyes, would die. She died on the evening of that day, and, contrary to all normal reactions, he was commanded not to mourn. When the people asked the meaning of his strange behavior, he told them that when the desire of their eyes (the temple) would be destroyed and their sons and daughters would be killed, they were not to mourn. One purpose of fulfilled prophecy is to let the world know who is the Lord GOD (v. 24).
Ezekiel was not to utter any more prophecies to Judah until a fugitive brought him the news that their stronghold had fallen. That event is recorded in 33:21-22. The intervening chapters, 25–32, are prophecies to Gentile nations, not to Judah.
Lesson 8: Chapters 25 – 32
PROPHECIES AGAINST SEVEN GENTILE NATIONS
In these chapters we read of God’s judgment on seven heathen nations. These nations are judged for various forms of rebellion against God. They had contact with God’s people, knew about Him, but were unwilling to turn to Him. We need to observe this closely, for God’s ways always reveal His thoughts, whether in judgment or in grace.
Prophecy against Ammon (25:1–7)
The first nation upon which judgment is pronounced is Ammon. Because the Ammonites rejoiced at the fall of God’s sanctuary, Israel and Judah, and the Babylonian captivity, they would be destroyed by the Babylonians (men of the East). Rabbah would become a stable for camels and Ammon a resting place for flocks.
Prophecy against Moab (25:8–11)
The second nation is Moab, which shared with Seir a hostile attitude toward Judah. The land of Moab would be opened to the Babylonians and would suffer the same fate as Ammon. The territory would be cleared of its cities, and Moab would know that God is the LORD.
Prophecy against Edom (25:12–14)
The third nation is Edom. Because it took vengeance against the house of Judah, the Lord GOD said, it would know His vengeance.
Prophecy against Philistia (25:15–17)
The Philistines are the fourth people. Their never-ending hatred of Judah would bring upon them the vengeance of the LORD.
Prophecy against Tyre (26:1–28:19)
1. The Destruction of Tyre (Chap. 26)
The fifth object of God’s judgment is the seacoast city of Tyre. Its punishment extends from 26:1 to 28:19. Super-commercial Tyre rejoiced when it heard that its rival city, Jerusalem, had fallen, thinking that it would now get all the business! Jerusalem had controlled all the overland trade routes, and its fall meant freer traffic for Tyre with Egypt and other southern countries.
God would use many nations to chastise this city-state. The predictions of verses 4–6 have been literally fulfilled. First Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, king of kings, marched against Tyre from the north and attacked it (vv. 7–11). The siege was extremely long—about 587 B.C.–574 B.C.
But the people fled with their possessions to an offshore island, also called Tyre. They remained secure there for 250 years. Then Alexander the Great built a causeway to the island by scraping clean the original city and throwing the rubble into the sea. This action by Alexander’s soldiers (332 B.C.) is described in this paragraph. Over a hundred years ago a traveler described the ruins of Tyre as being exactly as predicted: “The island, as such, is not more than a mile in length. The part which projects south beyond the isthmus is perhaps a quarter of a mile broad, and is rocky and uneven. It is now unoccupied except by fishermen, as “a place to spread nets upon.”
Tyre has never been rebuilt—a fulfillment of verse 21. In his book, Science Speaks, Peter Stoner says that this entire prophecy concerning Tyre, considering all the details, using the principle of probability, had a one-in-four hundred million chance of fulfillment.
2. The Dirge over Tyre (Chap. 27)
Tyre is likened to a beautiful ship, luxurious in its construction, with materials in it from all over the world. Tyre was not a military force which conquered the world; the Tyrians were merchants. All kinds of merchandise and knowledge were exchanged for the sake of personal gain. This is commonly accepted, but all beauty and knowledge apart from the Lord Jesus is empty.
3. The Downfall of the Prince of Tyre (28:1–19)
The pride, wisdom, and wealth of the prince of Tyre are described in verses 1–6, and then his destruction by the Babylonians (vv. 7–10). No doubt this prince foreshadows the antichrist. In verse 11 there is a change from the prince of Tyre to the king of Tyre. The latter is the spirit that animated the prince. The king of Tyre was noted for his beauty, but because of his pride he was destroyed. The description of the king of Tyre as the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, as having been in Eden, the garden of God, as having every precious stone as a covering, as being the anointed cherub, and as having been on the holy mountain of God, are taken together to be a description of Satan and of his fall from heaven. Feinberg explains:
Ezekiel … appeared to have the situation of his day in mind with his attention riveted upon the ruler of Tyre, the embodiment of the people’s pride and godlessness. But as he viewed the thoughts and ways of that monarch, he clearly discerned behind him the motivating force and personality who was impelling him in his opposition to God. In short, he saw the work and activity of Satan, whom the king of Tyre was emulating in so many ways. Recall the incident in Matthew 16:21–23 where Peter was rebuked by our Lord Jesus. No sterner words were spoken to anyone in Christ’s earthly ministry. But He did not mean that Peter had somehow become Satan himself; He was indicating that the motivation behind Peter’s opposition to His going to Calvary was none other than the prince of the demons. This appears to be a similar situation.
If pride is deadly enough to destroy a most powerful and wise being, how much more should we mortals take heed not to walk independently of the Lord!
Prophecy against Sidon (28:20–26)
The sixth object of God’s judgment is Sidon. It was a seacoast city near Tyre. God warned that it would be subjected to pestilence and sword, but He did not say it would be destroyed forever. Sidon still stands today as a town in Lebanon, though biblical Tyre has been wiped out completely (see 26:21).
28:24–26 These verses predict the restoration of Israel when the Lord GOD sets up His kingdom on the earth.
Prophecy against Egypt (Chaps. 29–32)
The seventh and last nation in this catalog of judgments is Egypt (Chaps. 29–32). These seem to be the most unsparing judgments of all. Without the River Nile, Egypt would be dead, and one would expect its people to cherish life. But no, Egypt is the land of death. Its most famous book is the Book of the Dead. Its greatest monuments are the pyramids, which are huge tombs. Its kings built small palaces but huge sepulchers, and they were embalmed to enjoy their time in the grave! The heart of the Egyptian is quite unimpressed facing death, full of self-assertion. Therefore judgment had to come over Egypt, which nation in the Bible is a picture of the world, especially as being without God.
1. General Threat against Pharaoh and His People (Chap. 29)
In verses 1–5, Pharaoh is compared to a crocodile in the great River Nile. This crocodile is proud, but short-sighted. The fish are the people of Egypt. All are to be punished by God. In looking to Egypt for help, Israel had leaned on a broken reed. Egypt receives the most severe judgment because it was unreliable and untrustworthy. Because of Pharaoh’s pride, the land of Egypt would be desolate for forty years. Then God would gather the people, but Egypt would never be a great kingdom again, and Israel would no longer look to it for help.
Nebuchadnezzar had worked hard besieging Tyre, but received no wages for it (because the people fled to the island fortress with their possessions). Therefore God would give him Egypt as his wages.
2. Lamentation over the Fall of Egypt (30:1–19)
Egypt and all her allies—Ethiopia, Libya, and Lydia—would fall by the sword of the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is named as the one who would destroy the land. The leading cities of Egypt are listed as doomed to destruction with their idols and images. The prophecy, “there shall no longer be princes from the land of Egypt” (v. 13), has been literally fulfilled. No full-blooded Egyptian of the royal family has reigned in Egypt since that time. King Farouk belonged to a dynasty that was founded by an Albanian in the early 1800’s. Farouk was the first member of the dynasty to have even a complete mastery of the Arabic language!
3. The Downfall of Pharaoh (30:20–31:18)
Here the downfall of Egypt is seen in two stages. One of Pharaoh’s arms was broken figuratively when he was defeated in the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.). The other was broken when the Babylonians invaded Egypt and conquered it.
4. Lamentation over Pharaoh and Egypt (Chap. 32)
Pharaoh thought himself a young lion, but God looked upon him as a monster, which He would catch in His net and destroy. The king of Babylon would bring to nothing the pomp of Egypt, and the land would be left desolate and quiet. The nations lamented with tears. The LORD ordered Ezekiel to utter a lamentation over Egypt for all her multitude.
The Lord Jesus also shed tears for a city of murderers that would not accept Him and come under His protective wings. God cares for His creatures and does not enjoy judging them. In verses 17–31, we have a view of Sheol (the Pit) where Egypt is sent. Assyria is there (vv. 22, 23) and Elam (vv. 24, 25), Meshech and Tubal (vv. 26, 27), Edom (v. 29), and the Sidonians (v. 30). Egypt had been great in this world, but in Sheol she is reduced to the same shame as the other nations (vv. 28, 31, 32). This finishes Ezekiel’s oracles against seven nations (and city-states).
Lesson 9: Chapters 33 – 37
From chapter 33 to the end of the book, Ezekiel deals primarily with the restoration of Israel and the rebuilding of the temple.
The Prophet Re-commissioned as a Watchman (Chap. 33)
In this chapter, Ezekiel is again compared to a watchman. If he warns the people faithfully, but they do not hear, then they will be responsible for their own destruction. If he fails to warn the people, and they perish, God will require their blood at the watchman’s hand. God held Ezekiel responsible for the house of Israel. The question arises for every believer: For whom will God hold us responsible? To whom shall we witness? Whom shall we warn? Our relatives, fellow workers, neighbors, friends? It is a solemn responsibility, and we do harm to our own soul if we do not fulfill it faithfully.
The people ask in despair: “How can we then live?” How many people today have lost all hope and are in depression and despair. The Lord’s answer is: Repent! There is hope for the worst sinner, but the only hope is in turning from sin, not in condoning it. The people complained that God’s dealings with them were not just, but He denies this, reminding them that He will pardon a wicked man who confesses and forsakes his sin; also, He will punish a righteous man who turns to wickedness.
In verses 21 and 22, Ezekiel’s mouth was opened, and he was no longer mute when an escapee from Jerusalem came and announced, “The city has been captured!” (see 24:27).
The next verses apparently refer to the few Jews who were left in the land of Israel after the fall of Jerusalem. They argued that if one man—Abraham—had inherited the land, how much more right did such a group as they have to it. But God was interested in quality, not quantity. They were even then committing various forms of idolatry, and the land would have to be cleansed from such abominations, which testified against them. They were not true (spiritual) descendants of Abraham. Their outward profession would not save them from judgment because God was not interested in mere words, but in life (see James 2:14).
The people liked to listen to Ezekiel, but they had no intention of obeying his words! When his prophecies were fulfilled, they would know that a prophet had been in their midst. We should come to the Word of God with the intention of obeying, and constantly checking our hearts, lest we fail to apply what we hear. The best response to a sermon is not, “That was a fine message,” but “God has spoken to me; I must do something.”
The False Shepherds and the Good Shepherd (Chap. 34)
The shepherds (rulers) were interested in themselves and not in the welfare of the sheep (the people). They ruled harshly, and the sheep became scattered.
To this day many religious leaders have not learned the lesson of serving the sheep. They confuse their “service” with a means of gain. The Lord allowed the flock to be scattered first in order to prevent further damage (v. 10). A heart-rending picture is painted of the unfaithful preachers of Ezekiel’s day. The flock are scattered, untended and hungry while selfish shepherds pamper themselves and loll in idleness and luxury without any thought of their responsibility. They are careful to look out for their own food and clothing and comfort but no one else is to be considered for a minute.
Therefore God is determined to rescue His sheep from these false shepherds. But all the time He has blessing in mind, and so He will gather the sheep and take care of individual needs. The greatest blessing will be the relation between the Lord and His sheep, an intimate fellowship between God and man. He will be their Shepherd and will gather them to the land and rule over them during the Millennium. Evangelist D. L. Moody nicely outlines God’s ministry to His sheep:
Notice the “I will’s” of the Lord God on behalf of his sheep.
V. 11 I will search them and seek them out.
V. 12 I will deliver them.
V. 13 I will bring them out.
V. 13 I will gather them together.
V. 13 I will bring them in.
V. 14 I will feed them.
V. 15 I will cause them to lie down.
V. 16 I will bind up the broken.
V. 16 I will strengthen the sick.
There are a good many lean sheep in God’s fold, but none in his pasture.
Some people try to suggest that the God of the OT is a harsh and unloving Deity, in contrast to God as He is presented in the NT. However, make sure to note that: The picture of the shepherd searching out the wanderer, in verse 12, is a remarkable foreshadowing of the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4), which our Lord doubtless based on this passage in Ezekiel. It illustrates as clearly as anything can do the tender, loving qualities of the God of the Old Testament, and strikes a death-blow at those who try to drive a wedge between Yahweh, God of Israel, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nor is it the only passage that speaks of the tender shepherd (see Psalms 78:52; 79:13; 80:1; Is. 40:11; 49:9; Jeremiah 31:10).
In verses 17–24, the Lord GOD will also save His true sheep from the false shepherds, which are selfish and cruel. “My servant David” in verses 23 and 24 refers to the Lord Jesus, who is descended from David. The Hebrew Christian, David Baron, explains: Even the Jews explained the name “David” in these passages as applying to the Messiah—the great Son of David in whom all the promises to the Davidic house are centered. Thus Kimchi, in his comment on Ezekiel 34:23, says: “My servant David—that is, the Messiah who shall spring from his seed in the time of salvation”: and in the 24th verse of chapter 37 he observes: “The King Messiah—His name shall be called David because He shall be of the seed of David.” And so practically all the Jewish commentators.
Verses 25–31 describe the security and prosperity of God’s flock during the future reign of Christ. Under a covenant of peace (v. 25) there shall be showers of blessing (v. 26) and a garden of renown (v. 29). The ideal form of government is a beneficent, absolute monarchy with Christ as King.
The Doom of Edom (Chap. 35)
Mount Seir is Edom. That country is here denounced by the Lord because of its perpetual hatred of the Jews, its rejoicing when Jerusalem fell, its cruelty to the fugitives, and its plan to seize the land of Israel. Edom wanted the blessing, but they did not want the Lord. Apart from the Lord Jesus we cannot be blessed, and this still holds true today. Edom is doomed to perpetual desolation, with all trade cut off (v. 7). Edom blasphemed the Jews and treated them as enemies. But the Lord still identified Himself with His people. They were under discipline, but not rejected. Edom failed to notice the difference. As Edom rejoiced over the desolation of Israel, so the whole earth will rejoice over Edom’s destruction.
God is displeased when believers secretly rejoice over the downfall of enemies of the faith. Love that is real does not feel even a quiet satisfaction when others are hurt, whether friends or foes.
The Restoration of the Land and the People (Chap. 36)
Chapter 36 has been called “the Gospel according to Ezekiel,” largely because of verses 25–30.
The nations that seized the land of Israel and scorned God’s people, especially the nation of Edom, would be punished by Jehovah. Israel’s cities and country places would be inhabited, the land would be more fertile and prosperous than ever, and the other nations would no longer taunt Israel. Not only would the land be restored, but the people would be restored to the land. The reasons for their exile were bloodshed and idolatry; they caused the name of God to be profaned among the nations wherever they went.
Paul quotes verse 22 in Romans 2:24 in his indictment of Jewish inconsistencies in relation to the Gentiles and the law. In order to vindicate His own name, and not for Israel’s sake, God would restore the people to their homeland. Verses 24–29 describe Israel’s spiritual regeneration. God would cleanse them, give them a new heart and a new spirit (the new birth), and save them from uncleanness. Cleansing from sins, which corresponds to justification, and is not to be confused with sanctification, is followed by renewal with the Holy Spirit, which takes away the old heart of stone and puts within a new heart of flesh, so that the man can fulfill the commandments of God, and walk in newness of life. When our Lord marveled at Nicodemus’s ignorance of the new birth, this passage in Ezekiel is surely one of the main texts that He expected him, as a teacher in Israel, to know (John 3:10).
Crops of grain and fruit would be increased, and they would never suffer famine again. All this the Lord would do, not because they deserved it, but for the honor of His Name. The surrounding nations will know that God has repopulated and replanted the land. Men will then be as plentiful as the flocks of animals in Jerusalem on its feast days. These prophecies had a partial fulfillment when the Jews returned to the land from Babylon, but the complete fulfillment awaits the future reign of Christ. Modern Israel achieved statehood in 1948. Jews are even now trickling back to the land in unbelief. It must soon be time for the Lord to initiate His “end time” calendar and program.
The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (37:1–14)
In the vision of verses 1 and 2, Ezekiel saw the dry bones of Israel and Judah in a valley. He was ordered to prophesy to the bones that they would come to life. With dramatic force the prophet presents the heartening news that Israel may hope to live. A revival is possible! Even dry bones, without sinew and flesh and blood, can live. The coming of God’s Spirit brings life. The same thrilling truth is still needed in a world that has dry bones everywhere. What we need is to have the Holy Spirit come with His quickening power that a genuine revival may sweep the earth.
The first time he spoke the Word of God, the sinews, flesh and skin came upon the bones. The next time he prophesied to the wind or breath, and the breath came into the bodies. This pictured the national restoration of Israel (vv. 11–14), first the restoration of a people spiritually dead, and then their regeneration.
We should notice the parallel in our own regeneration. There must be the word of the Lord (v. 4) and the Spirit (breath) of God (v. 9).
The Reunification of Israel and Judah (37:15–28)
Ezekiel was next commanded to take two sticks, one representing Judah and the other Israel (Joseph or Ephraim). By holding them end to end, he joined them into one stick. This meant that the two kingdoms, torn apart in the days of Rehoboam, would be reunited. One king (the Messiah) would reign over them, and they would be saved, cleansed, and restored.
David (here the Lord Jesus) would be the king, and the people would obey Him implicitly. God would make an everlasting covenant of peace with them, and the temple would be set in their midst. This is still future.
Lesson 10: Chapters 38 – 39
The first battle of Gog and Magog. As near as I can figure it, this battle takes place at or near the beginning of the “seventieth week” of Daniel. Notice which nation is missing from the list of Middle Eastern nations that will attack Israel.
2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, 3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. 4 I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. 5 Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you.
Gog – a ruler (possibly his name, or title)
Magog – a land that includes Mesheck and Tubal, (which are in Turkey)
Persia – Iran
Ethiopia – North Africa
Libya – west of Israel along the north African coast
Gomer – Southern Ukraine, slightly north of Istambul
Togarmah – Western Armenian region
The phrases “After many days” and “in the latter years” very clearly project the events to the distant future of Israel’s last days before the Second Coming.
What could possibly justify such an all-out military effort by the Muslim confederacy that is described here? The text says “To take a spoil”. The Arab nations despise Israel and call for her destruction. Also, although they have tremendous oil wealth, their agricultural and other natural resources are somewhat scarce. The development of Israel since 1948 has been phenomenal. It is also a known fact that the mineral wealth in the Dead Sea is of almost incalculable value! Much of it is used for production of fertilizer. Israel also stands at a crossroads of world commerce. Whoever controls Israel could control much more.
The greatest military power in the world will not be able to stand when God lets loose His fury by causing mountains, valleys, and buildings to be leveled. Added to this will be inundating floods, fire and brimstone through volcanic eruptions, and even confusion in the troops taking each other’s lives, perhaps as an escape from the holocaust of the elements. Thus, God will be magnified, because it will be recognized that the Lord has done this.
The destruction of the great army will be almost total. The text states that but one-sixth will survive. However, scholars are not agreed on the meaning of the original construction. The bows and arrows may, without difficulty, be viewed as figurative of weapons of warfare of whatever kind they may be. Even the land of Magog, where many of the troops come from, will experience the wrath of fire from the Lord upon them.
To clean up a carnage of this magnitude, supernatural aid is required. Many, of course, will have had their permanent burial through the leveling of mountains and valleys. The ravenous beasts and birds of prey will clean off the flesh. While Israel is burying the skeletons and bones, seven months will transpire. All the people of the land will be involved in the clean-up. It has been estimated that if an individual buried two bodies a day the total may have been in the millions.
This gruesome task would appear to have a very sobering influence spiritually. No doubt it will prove to be one of the means of leading Israel, as well as the Gentiles, toward repentance and faith in the Lord.
Details of God’s purpose in His dealings with Israel are listed in the outline of chapter 39:21-29. They are: to show His glory among the nations in verse 21; a deliverance from the king of the north in verse 22; the nations observing God’s purpose of chastening Israel in verses 23–24; then the nations observing Israel’s re-gathering in verses 25–28; and the regeneration of Israel in verse 29. It should be noted that Israel will be saved by God’s mercy, not by their merit; for the Lord will re-gather Israel for His name’s sake. The re-gathering of Israel will be one of the great demonstrations of God’s power. As Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was in the past, and the resurrection of Christ from the grave is for the present, so Israel’s re-gathering and regeneration in the future will eternally magnify the Lord.
Will Russia be involved in the military events of Ezekiel 38-39? I believe that it is possible, in spite of the fact that the attacking nations are all Muslim dominated. Russia has military sales and defense agreements with all of the nations listed in chapter 38, and so could easily be “dragged” into the conflict. Also, there are several other reasons that could prompt Russia to get involved:
1. Russia needs a warm-water entrance into the waterways of the world. Israel offers that, and Russia is moving in this direction. They are looking for a warm-water port. Admiral Sergei Gorshkov made this statement, “The flag of the Soviet navy now proudly flies over the oceans of the world. Sooner or later the United States will have to understand that it no longer has mastery of the seas.” Russia is looking for a warm-water port. Where are they going? All I know is that they are headed for the Mediterranean Sea. What nation along the east side of the Mediterranean would be suitable as a port? Israel certainly would be. Russia is interested in moving southward today.
2. God has a second hook—oil. The oil deposits of the Near East are essential for the survival of modern nations. Russia needs oil. Today we are being constantly reminded that the world is running short of energy. Oil is one of the resources in short supply. As a result, the world is turning to the places where they can get oil. There is oil in the Near East. Whether or not the oil is actually in the land of Israel is not the important thing. The important consideration is that, in spite of the strained relations between the Arabs and the Jews, a great deal of that oil is going through the land of Israel. When ships were not able to go through the Suez Canal, they put the oil off at a port which had been taken by Israel, and then the oil was taken across the land of Israel to the Mediterranean ports.
3. The third hook concerns the Dead Sea. The mineral deposits in the Dead Sea are so great that they cannot be evaluated on today’s market. Chemicals saturated in the water represent untold wealth. It is estimated that the Dead Sea contains two billion tons of potassium chloride, which is potash—needed to sweeten and enrich the soil that is readily being depleted around the world, including our own area. The Dead Sea also contains twenty-two billion tons of magnesium chloride, twelve billion tons of sodium chloride, and six billion tons of calcium chloride. The Dead Sea, in addition to all of this, contains cerium, cobalt, manganese, and even gold. There is much effort being made today to extract this wealth from the Dead Sea.
Lesson 11: Chapters 40 – 48
EZEKIEL’S VISION OF THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE
The Millennial Temple in Jerusalem (Chaps. 40–42)
Commentator Paul Lee Tan writes: “Non-literal interpreters maintain that this prophecy is a symbol of the Christian church. However, this major prophecy in the Book of Ezekiel contains descriptions, specifications, and measurements of the millennial Temple which are so exhaustive that one may actually make a sketch of it, just as one might of Solomon’s historic temple.”
1. The Man with the Measuring Rod (40:1–4)
In the opening verses, Ezekiel is given a vision of the city of Jerusalem and the millennial temple. In the fourteenth year after Jerusalem was captured, Ezekiel was taken up in visions and set on a very high mountain. He was shown a vision of the city of Jerusalem and the millennial temple by a man whose appearance was like bronze. The prophet was commanded to fix his mind on everything he saw and to declare it to the house of Israel. This he does in the following chapters.
2. The East Gate of the Outer Court (40:5–16)
Since the temple was situated east and west, the natural entrance was the east gate, and with this gate the architectural description begins. First, the wall all around the outside of the temple is measured (v. 5). Then the east gate of this outer court is described (vv. 6–16).
3. The Outer Court (40:17–19)
Facing the pavement, which may well be a mosaic, as in 2 Chronicles 7:3 and Esther 1:6, there are to be thirty chambers.
4. The Other Two Gates of the Outer Court (40:20–27)
The gateway facing north is to be like the eastern one, with its archways and its palm trees. The gateway facing south had the same measurements and structure. There is no gateway facing west.
5. The Three Gates to the Inner Court (40:28–37)
The inner court also has three gateways: the southern gateway (vv. 28–31); a second gateway facing east (vv. 32–34); and a north gateway (vv. 35–37).
6. The Equipment for Sacrifice (40:38–43)
Eight tables at the vestibule will be provided at the north gateway for animal sacrifices. Also, four tables of hewn stone will be used for burnt offering. Both instruments for slaughtering the sacrifices and also hooks fastened all around will be provided.
7. The Chambers for the Priests (40:44–47)
Chambers will be provided for the singers, one set facing south and one facing north. The first is to be for the priests who have charge of the temple; the one facing north is for the priests who have charge of the altar (the sons of Zadok).
8. The Vestibule of the Temple (40:48, 49)
The vestibule or porch of the temple seems to be planned like the one in Solomon’s temple. The pillars remind us of the ones named Jachin and Boaz in that structure (1 Kgs. 7:21).
Chapter 40 deals primarily with the area surrounding the temple; chapter 41 describes the temple itself.
The detailed measurements in chapters 40–43 remind us that in all our service we must build according to God’s specifications (see Ex. 25:40). Precise measurements also would seem to be meaningless unless this is to be a literal building.
9. The Sanctuary and Most Holy Place (41:1–4)
The measurements of the sanctuary are to be the same as in Solomon’s temple and twice as large as the tabernacle in the wilderness. The man with the appearance of bronze brought Ezekiel into the sanctuary, but he alone went into the Most Holy Place, reminding us of the ancient temple and tabernacle restrictions of entry (see Heb. 9:8, 12; 10:19). The same twofold division of the ancient temple apparently will be continued in the millennial temple.
10. The Side Chambers (41:5–11)
The temple will be very massive and spacious; it will have three stories with thirty chambers in each story. They will increase in size as one ascends, probably by going deeper into the main structure in stair-like fashion (v. 7).
11. A Building West of the Temple (41:12)
Facing the western end of the temple complex is a separate building seventy by ninety cubits. The purpose of this structure is not given.
12. The Measurements of the Temple (41:13–15a)
Ezekiel’s guide to the temple measured it at one hundred cubits long and one hundred cubits wide.
13. The Interior Decoration and Furnishing of the Temple (41:15b–26)
The interior of the temple is to have galleries on both sides, doorposts, and beveled window frames. Cherubim and palm trees will be the decorations, alternating all around the building. The cherubim, which speak of God’s holiness (see Genesis 3), have the face of a young lion toward one palm tree and the face of a man toward the other palm tree. Palm trees are symbolic of victory and righteousness in Scripture. The altar, which is to be made of wood, is called by Ezekiel’s guide “the table that is before the LORD.” The temple is to have two doors of two panels each, also carved with cherubim and palm trees. The vestibule outside will be covered with a wooden canopy. No mention is made of any veil, ark, or high priest. The veil was split apart at Calvary. The symbolism of the ark is fulfilled in Christ. And He is there as Great High Priest.
14. The Priests’ Quarters (42:1–14)
The priests will have quarters located both north and south of the temple. These areas will be where the priests will eat the most holy offerings, and in which they will keep their sacred garments for ministering.
15. The Measurements of the Outer Court (42:15–20)
The measurements of the outer court are to be five hundred rods on each of its four sides. The distinction between holy and common in verse 20 is the difference between what we might call sacred and secular. It is the difference between worship and the common affairs of everyday life.
The Millennial Worship (Chaps. 43, 44)
Earlier in the Book of Ezekiel (11:23) we saw the glory cloud reluctantly leaving the temple at Jerusalem. But the glory of the God of Israel will return in the Person of the Lord Jesus when He comes to reign. He will dwell forever in the midst of His people; no more will they practice spiritual harlotry (idolatry) and related abominations in the shadow of the temple.
When the House of Israel is ashamed of all that they have done, they will see the pattern, design, and arrangement of the new temple. As soon as they repent, God will give them new hope. The people were to be told that the whole area surrounding the mountaintop on which the temple would be built would be most holy. A true sight of the glory of the Lord makes us ashamed of our iniquities (v. 10).
The measurements of the altar, apparently like a terraced platform, are given next. The altar hearth is the surface of the altar, where the fire is built. It will have four horns extending upward from the hearth. An unusual feature of this altar is the fact that it has steps leading up to it; this was banned in the previous temples. This one will be so high that it will need a way to mount up to the top.
Next is given the ritual to be followed in consecrating the altar by blood. This will take seven days, and its importance in Israel’s public worship can be seen in several OT texts: Exodus 29:37; Leviticus 8:11, 15, 19, 33; 1 Kings 8:62–65; and 2 Chronicles 7:4–10. After all these rites, on the eighth day, the regular offerings will begin.
The chapter ends on an encouraging note: not only would God accept the people’s offerings, but, “I will accept you,” says the Lord GOD.
Note that the priests in that day will be the sons of Zadok (v. 19), an honor probably stemming from Zadok’s unwavering loyalty to David and Solomon.
In Chapter 44 we see:
The east gate of the outer court must be permanently shut because once the LORD returns to the temple, He will never leave. Only the prince could sit in the vestibule of the gate and eat the sacrificial meal there. Some think that the prince is the Messiah Himself, others that he is a descendant of David who will serve as a vice-regent under Christ, the King. However, commentator F. W. Grant points out that he cannot be the Messiah because he has sons (46:16) and he offers a sin offering for himself (45:22).
When the Lord brought Ezekiel to the front of the temple, the prophet was awestruck by the glory of the LORD as it filled the house. Verse 4 should create a passionate desire for worship meetings where the glory of the Lord is so manifest that the worshipers are prostrate before Him. The Lord instructed him to pay close attention to the new ordinances concerning the temple, its entrance and exits (v. 5), and to warn the people that the use of any foreigner in the service of the temple must cease (vv. 6–9).
Henceforth, the menial work would be assigned to the Levites, who had once fallen into idolatry. Only the sons of Zadok could serve as priests, drawing near and ministering to God. The sons of Zadok were faithful in the times of trouble under David (2 Sam. 15:24; 1 Kgs. 1:32 etc.; 2:26, 27, 35). The Levites might be suspended from priestly service because of the curse on Eli’s family or because of unfaithfulness during the times of the kings. We learn from all this that sin often has bitter consequences, and that faithfulness will be rewarded.
The priests would be required to wear linen garments, not woolen. The expression “in their holy garments they shall not sanctify the people” (v. 19b) refers to a ritual holiness reserved only for the service of the sanctuary and not for the priests’ regular duties (Ex. 29:37; 30:29; Lev. 6:18, 27; Hag. 2:10–12).
Regulations are given concerning well-trimmed haircuts, restrictions on wine, and suitable marriages for the priests.
The sons of Zadok would also serve as teachers and judges, making God’s people discern between what is holy and clean on the one hand, and unholy and unclean on the other.
They will be supported by things dedicated to the Lord. The Lord wants to be their inheritance, and they will have nothing on earth. This is true for the servants of God today; He wants us to find our full satisfaction in Him, and thus be free to serve unhindered by worldly attachments. Like Paul we can learn to be content in every state (Phil. 4:11), but we do have to learn it because it does not come naturally to anyone. A broken man can say, “There is none upon earth that I desire besides You. God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25, 26).
The Millennial Administration (Chaps. 45, 46)
In the center of the land of Israel, a piece of land will be set apart for the LORD as a holy district. It will be twenty-five thousand cubits by ten thousand. (A standard cubit is 18 inches. Thus the holy district will be 37,500 feet by 15,000 feet) It will be divided into two strips. The top half will contain the sanctuary, and will also be for the priests. The lower half will be for the Levites. At the bottom of the square will be a third strip, a common place, which will include the city of Jerusalem. All the land to the east and west of this square, as far as the boundaries of the land, will belong to the prince.
The princes of Israel are to execute justice in their dealings (v. 9), using honest scales and measures. In these verses, all the people are required to offer a certain percentage of their crops to the prince in Israel in order to provide for the regular offerings and appointed seasons. On the first day of the first month, the sanctuary is to be cleansed, and on the seventh day of the same month, the people are to be cleansed of sins committed unintentionally or in ignorance. The Passover is to be kept on the fourteenth day of the first month and the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. No mention is made of the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, or the Day of Atonement.
In Ezekiel 43:20, 26; 45:15, 17 some of the offerings that will be presented during the Millennium are distinctly said to be for the purpose of making atonement. How can this be reconciled with Hebrews 10:12: “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” Or Hebrews 10:18: “Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin?” As used in the OT, the word “atonement” (lit., covering) never means the putting away of sins. Hebrews 10:4 reminds us that “ … it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Rather the sacrifices were an annual reminder of sins (Heb. 10:3). What then did atonement mean? It meant that the sacrifices produced an outward, ceremonial cleanness. They conferred a ritual purification on people, enabling them to draw near as worshipers in fellowship with God. The sacrifices even made atonement for inanimate things, such as the altar (Ex. 29:37), where there could be no thought of remission of sins. All it means is that the altar was cleansed ceremonially and thus made fit for God’s service. When we read of the forgiveness of unintentional sin in connection with atonement (Lev. 4:20), it can only mean the removal of ceremonial defilement so that the person could draw near in worship.
In our day the word “atonement” has acquired a much wider and deeper meaning. It is used, for instance, to describe the entire sacrificial work of Christ by which our sins are put away and we are reconciled to God. But it never has this meaning in the Bible. (In Rom. 5:11 KJV, the word “atonement” should be “reconciliation,” as in NKJV and other versions.) The sacrifices in Israel’s history looked forward to the perfect and complete sacrifice of Christ. The sacrifices in the Millennium will commemorate His work on Calvary. They will be memorials for Israel just as the Lord’s Supper is. The passages in Hebrews do not rule out any sacrificial ceremony in the future. But they insist that no future sacrifices can ever deal effectively with sins, any more than they did in the past.
Verses 1–8 tell how the prince is to stand in the east gate of the inner court to worship when he brings his offerings for the Feast of the Sabbath and of the New Moon (v. 6). He cannot enter the inner court. The people are to stand behind the prince and worship as the priests sacrifice. Neither the prince nor the people can enter the inner court. In the Millennium, Israel will see Christ in the offerings, something the nation as a whole never did in the past.
The people are to leave the outer court by the opposite gate to which they entered. They were to follow the movements of the prince. In verses 11 and 12, the prince’s freewill offerings are described; in verses 13–15, the daily sacrifices. Laws with respect to the prince’s property prevent him from losing it permanently or from adding to it unjustly. Kitchens are provided for the priests and for the people.
The Millennial Land (Chaps. 47, 48)
1. The Healing of the Waters (47:1–12)
Ezekiel saw in a vision a river flowing from the door of the temple, past the altar, through the wall south of the east Gate, and down to the Dead Sea. The waters of the sea will be healed, and fish will abound in it. The water of life is a favorite figure in the Old Testament. Desert areas need water that life may be possible. This stream which Ezekiel sees flowing from the Temple makes its way toward the arid regions of the Arabah. In an ever deepening stream it goes on its way to bring life and health and abundant fruit wherever it goes. It is the one remedy that is needed. Jesus took that figure as a basis for his sermon to the woman at the well. (Cf. also Ps. 1:3; 46:4; Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8; John 4:7–15; 7:38; Rev. 22:1, 2.) This stream (which will be an actual geographical river) is a striking figure of the blessing, widespread yet incomplete (v. 11), that will flow out during the Millennial Reign of Christ. God will dwell in the temple and therefore a stream of blessing, ever increasing, will go forth to other places. Today God does dwell in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:19) and therefore a stream of blessing should be flowing to others around us (John 7:37, 38). “If a man is filled with the Holy Spirit, and his life touches other lives, something happens for God.” What a challenge for us to meet the conditions that will produce a blessing! The river will bring life wherever it flows—a vivid picture of the life-giving ministry of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Boundaries of the Land (47:13–23)
47:13–20 The future borders and divisions of the land are next given. The boundaries are described here. Ezekiel’s mention of the Jordan River as a boundary of the land (v. 18) cannot be a mistake; he certainly knew that the land would stretch east to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18). Here he may be referring to a preliminary occupation of Israel itself. Within each tribal portion, the land will be divided by lot, according to the tribes of Israel, but strangers will not be excluded from an inheritance.
3. The Division of the Land (Chap. 48)
It seems that the land will be divided in horizontal strips, from the Mediterranean to the eastern boundary of the land. The northernmost strip will be for the tribe of Dan (v. 1). Then below that, for Asher (v. 2), for Naphtali (v. 3), for Manasseh (v. 4), for Ephraim (v. 5), for Reuben (v. 6), and for Judah (v. 7).
South of Judah will be the portion already assigned to the prince, and including the sanctuary and the city of Jerusalem. This “holy district” will be a large square area bordering on the northern part of the Dead Sea. It will be divided into three horizontal strips, the northernmost one belonging to the priests, and having the Millennial temple in its center. The middle strip will be for the Levites, and the southern strip for the common people, with Jerusalem in its center. The remaining territory east and west of the square will belong to the prince.
Then south of the holy district will be sections for the tribes of Benjamin (v. 23), Simeon (v. 24), Issachar (v. 25), Zebulun (v. 26), and Gad (v. 27).
The city of New Jerusalem will have twelve gates, three on each side, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Its name will be: Jehovah Shammah—THE LORD IS THERE. This name reminds us of what was always in the heart of God: He loves His creatures so much that He always planned to have them close to Himself. He is ever searching, asking, “Where are you?”, calling to repentance and faith.
Eight Items Missing From Ezekiel’s Temple
The Wall Of Partition – separating Gentiles from the inner areas of the Temple.
The Court Of The Women – keeping women from the closest areas of the Court of Israel.
These two are done away with according to Galatians 3:27-28
The Laver – for the washing of priests for ceremonial cleansing.
See Titus 3:5
The Golden Menorah – to provide light in the Holy Place.
See John 8:12
The Table Of Showbread – unleavened loaves representing the tribes of Israel, and the Manna God provided in the wilderness.
See John 6:35
The Altar Of Incense – to provide the sweet smelling savor to arise before the Lord, representing the prayers of the people as they seek for the Lord.
See Ezekiel 48:35
The Veil That Separates - to keep the Holy of Holies closed from the people.
See Isaiah 25:7 and Mark 15:37-38
The Ark Of The Covenant – the residing place of the tablets of the Law, and the Mercy Seat, described as the footstool of God’s Throne.
See Jeremiah 3:16-17 and Ezekiel 43:5-7
Notes On Millennial Sacrifices
“Some commentators hold that a reinstitution of sacrifices contradicts Hebrews
8:8-13. Yes, we see sacrifices in the Millennial kingdom because the Bible
prophecies this. We do realize there is no need for sacrifice for sin, however there are other sacrifices, and these sacrifices in the Millennium may be similar to the Lord’s Table in meaning. They may have commemorative value.
The problem is that the objectors probably misinterpret Hebrews, and ignore that the prophecies always mention that the Millennial sacrifices are a
memorial or some other form, rather than the sin sacrifices that are no
From “Derrickson’s Notes On Theology”
In Ezekiel 43:20, 26; 45:15, 17 some of the offerings that will be presented during the Millennium are distinctly said to be for the purpose of making atonement. How can this be reconciled with Hebrews 10:12: “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” Or Hebrews 10:18: “Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin?”
As used in the OT, the word “atonement” (lit., covering) never means the putting away of sins. Hebrews 10:4 reminds us that “ … it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Rather the sacrifices were an annual reminder of sins (Heb. 10:3). What then did atonement mean? It meant that the sacrifices produced an outward, ceremonial cleanness. They conferred a ritual purification on people, enabling them to draw near as worshipers in fellowship with God. The sacrifices even made atonement for inanimate things, such as the altar (Ex. 29:37), where there could be no thought of remission of sins. All it means is that the altar was cleansed ceremonially and thus made fit for God’s service.
When we read of the forgiveness of unintentional sin in connection with atonement (Lev. 4:20), it can only mean the removal of ceremonial defilement so that the person could draw near in worship. In our day the word “atonement” has acquired a much wider and deeper meaning. It is used, for instance, to describe the entire sacrificial work of Christ by which our sins are put away and we are reconciled to God. But it never has this meaning in the Bible. (In Rom. 5:11 KJV, the word “atonement” should be “reconciliation,” as in NKJV and other versions.) The sacrifices in Israel’s history looked forward to the perfect and complete sacrifice of Christ. The sacrifices in the Millennium will commemorate His work on Calvary. They will be memorials for Israel just as the Lord’s Supper is for us.
The passages in Hebrews do not rule out any sacrificial ceremony in the future. But they insist that no future sacrifices can ever deal effectively with sins, any more than they did in the past. “
From “The Believer’s Bible Commentary”
“One feature of the millennial kingdom will be a rebuilt temple, complete with animal sacrifices. Since the Scriptures indicate that much typological significance of both the temple and its service has already been fulfilled by Christ, we might question the need for a temple or for animal sacrifice in the next dispensation. But the temple will (1) demonstrate God’s holiness; (2) provide a dwelling place for the glory of God; (3) perpetuate a memorial of sacrifice; (4) become a center for divine government; and (5) assure victory over the curse. Illustration: The sacrifices in the Millennium will be memorial, much as the observance of the Lord’s Supper is memorial today. When both practices were instituted, they were pointing typologically to the atoning death of Christ. At no time did the sacrifices or the Lord’s Supper have atoning value, though the atonement message is central to their symbolism. When practiced after the Cross, both can have only a memorial significance. Application: As the believer confesses his sin (1 John 1:9) God will forgive and cleanse. (First Reference, Ezek. 47:1–12; Primary Reference, Ezek. 47:1–12; cf. Rev. 20:12.)
The mention of the burnt offering here and in connection with the altar (43:13–27) has proved problematic. Under the new covenant, Jesus Christ “after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). How then may one explain this seeming reversion to the Levitical system of bloody sacrifices? Some have suggested that Ezekiel is merely presenting the worship of the Millennium in terms familiar to himself and his readers. Others have pointed out that several good reasons for the use of animal sacrifices can be given. Even the Levitical sacrifices did not take away sin, but were only pictures of Christ’s work prior to its accomplishment. There is no reason that the millennial sacrifices cannot have the status of memorials to the work of Christ, just as the Old Testament sacrifices had their status as precursors of Christ’s work. In the early New Testament church Christian Jews sometimes observed the temple worship (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:42) even to the point of offering sacrifices (Acts 21:26). Certainly they knew that these sacrifices added nothing to the work of Christ, but only pictured it. “
From “The KJV Study Bible”