The book of Ezekiel gives insight into the glory of the God of Israel in a special way. Ezekiel falls down on his face several times at the sight of that glory. That is also the effect with us if we open ourselves to the working of God’s Spirit as we read this book.
Most of what is passed on to the reader in this commentary is not original. I have gratefully used what others have received from the Lord in terms of insight about this book. I did make many new discoveries through it, and as a result have been impressed even more by the richness of God’s Word.
It is not my custom to mention names of those from whom I have received help – in written or spoken form – in writing a commentary. It seems clear to me that it is not possible to write a commentary without help from others. It may be someone who has given a comprehensive explanation, it may also be someone who has pointed out a detail with a suggestion for improvement. The Lord has arranged it in the church in a way that the members need each other to perform the task He has given each member. He will reward each one who has contributed to this book for that. I could just forget someone, but He does not forget one.
I will now make an exception by mentioning that I am particularly grateful to the Lord for the help I received from Ron Vellekoop of Zoetermeer. It is because of the special form of collaboration on this book. We consulted intensively on many passages. His contribution has resulted in numerous substantive and linguistic improvements.
In one of his first contributions, he wrote: ‘I am deeply impressed that He Who sat on the throne descended and lay in a manger. Wrapped in cloths. And that He Who has lain there is now sitting on that throne again. With the signs of suffering and death in His hands and in His side ...’
This is what we wish for the reader: to be deeply impressed with the Lord Jesus Christ. His glory is what the book of Ezekiel and this commentary are all about.
Ger de Koning
Middelburg, September 2017, translated March 2021
The person Ezekiel
Of Ezekiel’s personal history, we know only what we find of him in this book and what is known of the time in which he lived. Some of the things we know about him:
1. His name (Eze 1:3). Ezekiel means ‘God makes strong’ or ‘May God strengthen’.
2. During the reign of Jehoiachin, he was taken into exile (Eze 1:2).
3. In the fifth year of his exile he is called a prophet (Ezekiel 1-3).
4. His father’s name and that he belongs to a priestly family (Eze 1:3).
5. He has been married. His wife dies during his service, but God expressly forbids him to mourn (Eze 24:16-18).
6. He has a home of his own (Eze 8:1). The elders of Israel come to him there to seek his counsel.
7. He was active as a prophet for about 22 years, from 593 BC to 571 BC (Eze 1:2; 29:17).
We can best understand the time in which he lives through a review of some prior events:
1. The ten tribes were taken away by the Assyrians in 722 BC.
2. The two tribes experience a revival after that. This revival takes place under Josiah, who is king over Judah from 640/639-609 BC (2 Kings 21:24-23:30; 2 Chronicles 33:25-35:27). However, the revival is only temporary.
3. Josiah is succeeded by his son Jehoahaz, also called Sallum. Jehoahaz is king for only three months in the year 609 BC (2Kgs 23:30-34; 2Chr 36:1-4).
4. Then another son of Josiah comes to the throne, Jehoiakim, also called Eljakim (2Kgs 23:34-37; 24:1-6; 2Chr 36:4-8; Jer 36:1-31; Dan 1:1-2). He reigns from 609-598 BC. During his reign, around the year 606 BC., Nebuchadnezzar comes to Jerusalem and besieges the city. The LORD gives Jehoiakim and some of the temple utensils into his hand (2Chr 36:5-8; Dan 1:1-2). Also, at Nebuchadnezzar’s command, a number of “Israelites ... from the royal family and from the nobles” are transported to Babylon, including “from among the Judeans: Daniel, Hananiah, Malay, and Azariah” (Dan 1:1-6). This fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy to Hezekiah (Isa 39:5-7; 2Kgs 20:16-18).
5. After the death of Jehoiakim, Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah), a grandson of Josiah, comes to the throne (2Kgs 24:6-17; 2Chr 36:9-10). He reigns from December 7, 598 to March 16, 597 B.C., which is only three months and ten days (2Chr 36:9). When Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem in 597 BC., Jehoiachin and a number of others go out of the city to the king of Babylon, who captures them (2Kgs 24:12). Of this transportation into exile, Ezekiel is a part (2Kgs 24:14-16; Eze 1:1-2). He is then twenty-five years old.
6. Zedekiah (Mattaniah), a third son of Josiah, is the last king of Judah (2Kgs 24:17-20; 25:1-7; 2Chr 36:10-14). He is appointed by Nebuchadnezzar in place of Jehoiachin and rules from 597-587 BC.
7. Zedekiah meets his end because he rebels against Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar goes up to Jerusalem and destroys the city in 586 BC. and leads again some of the population away into exile (2Kgs 25:11).
8. Finally, around 582 BC., the final leading away into exile takes place (Jer 52:30).
A Prophet of God in Babylon
As we see in the chronology above, Zedekiah, one of the sons of Josiah, is appointed by Nebuchadnezzar as the successor to Jehoiachin to govern Judah. During his reign, God uses the prophet Jeremiah to warn the people and their wicked king Zedekiah in Judah and Jerusalem. We find his service in the book of the Bible named after him, Jeremiah. Also among the exiles, God uses a prophet to warn the part of His people who are in exile: Ezekiel. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesy about the fall, but also about the restoration of Jerusalem and Judah. That restoration is connected with the coming, that is, the return, of the Messiah.
Prophets are always called to be prophets in the promised land. Ezekiel, along with Daniel, is an exception to this. We see in the book of Ezekiel – and also in the book of Daniel – that God’s presence is not confined to the temple in Jerusalem, which is what many Jews have thought. Even David thought in that direction. We hear this in what he says when he is driven out of his inheritance by Saul (1Sam 26:19-20). Similarly, the Jews who were led into exile felt far from the presence of God. It is conceivable that it is a great surprise to Ezekiel when the glory of God appears to him in Babylon. He will not have counted on it.
Why is God calling a prophet in Babylon? Surely He has withdrawn His hands from the exiles in Babylon, hasn’t He? Surely those who are in Judah are in the place where God is, aren’t they? However, it is exactly the other way around. Jeremiah brought this out in his preaching time and again. Those who have been transported to Babylon are in the place where God wants them to be. Those who have remained in Jerusalem and Judah do not repent and remain disobedient to God. Therefore, they too will be removed from the land.
In Babylon, the people as a whole become disobedient to God. There are even false prophets at work who turn things around by suggesting to the people that they will soon be back in Judah. Therefore, in His mercy, God also gives a man in Babylon who tells His people that they should not hold out false hopes of a speedy recovery, but that acknowledgment of God’s judgment opens the way of blessing.
The glory of Christ
We see in this book from beginning to end the sovereignty and glory of the LORD. He is sovereign in all things concerning Israel and all nations, no matter how it may seem at times that man is thwarting Him. Ezekiel is a book that often speaks of the Spirit of God. The Spirit is mentioned nineteen times, sometimes twice in one verse (Eze 1:12,20,21; 2:2; 3:12,14,24; 8:3; 10:17; 11:1,5,24; 36:27; 37:1,14; 39:29; 43:5). Not surprisingly, the “glory” of the LORD or of God is mentioned up to eighteen times in this book, sometimes even twice in one verse (Eze 1:28; 3:12,23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4,18,19; 11:22,23; 39:21; 43:2,4,5; 44:4). After all, the Holy Spirit does nothing but glorify the Lord Jesus (Jn 16:14), for it is about Him when the glory of the LORD or of God is spoken of (Jn 12:37-42).
Ezekiel is in many ways a type of Christ. We see this especially in the oft-used expression "son of man" that the LORD uses to address him. This expression occurs over one hundred times in the Old Testament, of which over ninety times in this book. “Son of man” is the translation of the Hebrew ben adam, which means “son of adam” or “son of man”. The name “son of man” is the name used for the Lord Jesus in the Gospels and in the book of Revelation. He is the true Son of Man. It is the title that designates both His humiliation and rejection and His exaltation (Mt 8:20; Lk 9:22; Rev 14:14).
Division of the book
The book can be divided as follows:
A. Introduction (Ezekiel 1-3)
1. The vision of the glory of the LORD (Ezekiel 1)
2. The calling of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2-3)
B. The fall of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4-24)
1. Announcement of the judgment on Jerusalem and the land (Ezekiel 4-7)
2. The glory of the LORD leaves Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8-11)
3. The sins of the leaders denounced (Ezekiel 12-17)
4. Defense of God’s righteousness (Ezekiel 18-21)
5. The guilt and end of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 22-24)
C. Judgment on the peoples (Ezekiel 25-32)
1. Ammon (Ezekiel 25:1-7)
2. Moab (Ezekiel 25:8-11)
3. Edom (Ezekiel 25:12-14)
4. Philistia (Ezekiel 25:15-17)
5. Tyre (Ezekiel 26:1-28:19)
6. Sidon (Ezekiel 28:20-26)
7. Egypt (Ezekiel 29-32)
D. The future glory of Israel (Ezekiel 33-39)
1. The faithful watchman and the faithful Shepherd (Ezekiel 33-34)
2. A renewed land (Ezekiel 35-36)
3. A renewed people (Ezekiel 37)
4. Extermination of the last enemy (Ezekiel 38-39)
E. The glory of the LORD in the new temple (Ezekiel 40-48)
1. The new temple (Ezekiel 40:1-43:12)
2. The new priestly service (Ezekiel 43:13-47:12)
3. The new division of the land (Ezekiel 47:13-48:35)