“From the first to the last chapter of Ezekiel one supreme thought runs throughout, that of the sovereignty and glory of the Lord God. He is sovereign in Israel and in the affairs of the nations of the world, though the loud and boisterous claims of men seem to have drowned out this truth. In His sovereign will God has purposed that we should glorify Him in life and witness to the ends of the earth.”—Charles Lee Feinberg
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.
Like many other prophetic books, Ezekiel is not entirely chronological, though more so than Isaiah and Jeremiah. We should take notice of the dates or time periods that are given at the beginning of many chapters. Albert Barnes puts the prophecies in chronological order as follows:
The prophecies are divided into groups by dates prefixed to various chapters, and we may assume that those prophecies which are without date were delivered at the same time as the last given date, or at any rate, they followed closely upon it.
1. The fifth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity.
Chs. 1–7. Ezekiel’s call, and prediction of the coming siege of Jerusalem.
2. The sixth year.
Chs. 8–19. An inspection of the whole condition of the people, with predictions of coming punishment,
3. The seventh year.
Chs. 20–23. Fresh reproofs and fresh predictions of the coming ruin.
4. The ninth year.
Ch. 24. The year in which the siege began. The declarations that the city should be overthrown.
5. The same year.
Ch. 25. Prophecies against Moab, Ammon and the Philistines.
6. The eleventh year.
In this year Jerusalem was taken after a siege of eighteen months and the temple destroyed.
Chs. 26–28. Prophecies against Tyre.
7. The tenth year.
Ch. 29:1–16. Prophecy against Egypt.
8. The twenty-seventh year.
Chs. 29:17–30:19. Prophecy against Egypt.
9. The eleventh year.
Chs. 30:20–31:18. Prophecy against Egypt.
10. The twelfth year.
Ch. 32. Prophecy against Egypt.
11. The same year.
Chs. 33–34. Reproof of unfaithful rulers.
12. The same year, or some year between the twelfth and twenty-fifth.
Ch. 35. Judgment of Mount Seir.
13. The same year.
Chs. 36–39. Visions of Comfort. Overthrow of Gog.
14. The twenty-fifth year.
Chs. 40–48. The vision of the temple.