Ezekiel, whose name, Yehézq'el signifies "strong is God ", or "whom God makes strong" (Ezek. i, 3; iii, 8), was the son of Buzi, and was one of the priests who, in the year 598 B.C., had been deported together with Joachim as prisoners from Jerusalem ( 2 Kings 24:12-16 ; cf. Ezekiel 33:21 , 40:1 ). With the other exiles he settled in Tell-Abib near the Chobar (Ezek. i,1; iii, 15) in Babylonia, and seems to have spent the rest of his life there.In the fifth year after the captivity of Joachim, and according to some, the thirtieth year of his life, Ezekiel received his call as a prophet (Ezek. i, 2, 4 etc) in the vision which he describes in the beginning of his prophecy (Ezek. i,4; iii, 15). From Ezek. xxix, 17 it appears that he prophesied during at least twenty-two years.
Ezekiel was called to foretell God's faithfulness in the midst of trials, as well as in the fulfilment of His promises. During the first period of his career, he foretold the complete destruction of the kingdom of Juda, and the annihilation of the city and temple. After the fulfilment of these predictions, he was commanded to announce the future return from exile, the re-establishment of the people in their own country and, especially, the triumph of the Kingdom of the Messiah , the second David, so that the people would not abandon themselves to despair and perish as a nation, through contact with the Gentiles, whose gods had apparently triumphed over the God of Israel. This is the principal burden of Ezekiel's prophecy, which is divided into three parts. After the introduction, the vision of the calling of the prophet (Ezek. i-iii, 21), the first part contains the prophecies against Juda before the fall of Jerusalem (Ezek. iii, 22-xxiv). In this part the prophet declares the hope of saving the city, the kingdom, and the temple to be vain, and announces the approaching judgment of God upon Juda. This part may be subdivided into five groups of prophecies.
In the second part (xxv-xxxii), are gathered together the prophecies concerning the Gentiles. He takes, first of all, the neighbouring peoples who had been exalted through the downfall of Juda, and who had humiliated Israel. The fate of four of these, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Edomites, and the Philistines, is condensed in chapter xxv. He treats more at length of Tyre and its king (xxxvi-xxviii,19), after which he casts a glance at Sidon (xxviii, 20-26). Six prophecies against Egypt follow, dating from different years (xxix-xxxii. The third part (xxxiii-xlviii), is occupied with the Divine utterances on the subject of Israel's restoration. As introduction, we have a dissertation from the prophet, in his capacity of authorized champion of the mercy and justice of God, after which he addresses himself to those remaining in Juda, and to the perverse exiles (xxxiii). The manner in which God will restore His people is only indicated in a general way. The Lord will cause the evil shepherds to perish; He will gather in, guide, and feed the sheep by means of the second David, the Messiah (xxxiv).
Though Mount Seir shall remain a waste, Israel shall return unto its own. There God will purify His people, animate the nation with a new spirit, and re-establish it in its former splendour for the glory of His name (xxxv-xxxvii). Israel, though dead, shall rise again, and the dry bones shall be covered with flesh and endowed with life before the eyes of the prophet. Ephraim and Juda shall, under the second David, be united into one kingdom, and the Lord shall dwell in their midst (xxxvii). The invincibleness and indestructibility of the restored kingdom are then symbolically presented in the war upon Gog, his inglorious defeat, and the annihilation of his armies (xxxviii-xxxix). In the last prophetic vision, God shows the new temple (xl-xliii), the new worship (xliii-xlvi), the return to their own land, and the new division thereof among the twelve tribes (xlvii-xlviii), as a figure of His foundation of a kingdom where He shall dwell among His people, and where He shall be served in His tabernacle according to strict rules, by priests of His choice, and by the prince of the house of David.
From this review of the contents of the prophecy, it is evident that the prophetic vision, the symbolic actions and examples, comprise a considerable portion of the book. The completeness of the description of the vision, action and similes, is one of the many causes of the obscurity of the book of Ezekiel. It is often difficult to distinguish between what is essential to the matter represented, and what serves merely to make the image more vivid. On this account it happens that, in the circumstantial descriptions, words are used, the meaning of which, inasmuch as they occur in Ezekiel only, is not determined. Because of this obscurity, a number of copyist mistakes have crept into the text, and that at an early date, since the Septuagint has some of them in common with the earliest Hebrew text we have. The Greek version, however, includes several readings which help to fix the meaning. The genuineness of the book of Ezekiel is generally conceded. Some few consider chapters xl-xlviii to be apocryphal, because the plan there described in the building of the temple was not followed, but they overlook the fact that Ezekiel here gives a symbolic representation of the temple, that was to find spiritual realization in God's new kingdom. The Divine character of the prophecies was recognized as early as the time of Jesus the son of Sirach (Eccles. xlix, 10, 11). In the New Testament , there are no verbatim references, but allusions to the prophecy and figures taken from it are prominent. Compare St. John x etc. with Ezek. xxxiv, 11 etc.; St. Matthew xxii, 32, with Ezek. xvii, 23. In particular St. John, in the Apocalypse, has often followed Ezekiel. Compare Apoc. xviii-xxi with Ezek. xxvii, xxxviii etc., xlvii etc.
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