Ezekiel III - Themes and Theology

August 19, 2018

He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD , you alone know."

– Ezekiel 37:3


Important Dates in Sixth Century B.C.

Chapter 24 begins with a date, ninth year, tenth month, tenth day - January 15th 588. God tells Ezekiel to record the date because the siege of Jerusalem begins this day. God illustrates the cleansing of Jerusalem with the parable of cooking a pot of meat. The "choice" meat is the people left behind and the cooking pot is Jerusalem itself. The meat will be burnt up and the pot will be burnt clean in the fire. The fire is Nebuchadnezzar. The chapter ends with the death of Ezekiel's wife. Ezekiel is not to mourn, not to remove his turban or sandals, not to eat the food of mourners. This is given as an example to how the exiles should act upon news of the destroyed city and temple.

Chapter 33:21. Twelfth year, tenth month, fifth day - January 8th 585, a man who escaped the destruction in Jerusalem arrives with the news, "The city has fallen!". Ezekiel's mouth is opened and he is no longer silent. God tells Ezekiel that there are Jewish survivors living among the ruins in Jerusalem who apparently have some hope of recovery. God directs Ezekiel to tell the exiles that the "survivors" in Jerusalem will be destroyed as well:

Ezekiel 33:27-29 28. I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. 29. Then they will know that I am the LORD , when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done.'

After chapter 33 there is still plenty of fire and judgment and warning, but the book takes on a different tone, becoming more pastoral and comforting. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the exiled Jews were definitely in need of encouragement.

After the Valley of Dry Bones vision, God makes an ominous judgment against Gog and Magog in chapters 38 & 39. The name Gog is only mentioned here and in Revelations 20:8:

Revelation 20:7-8 7. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8. and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.

Chapters 40 through 48 (the end of the book) comprise a final vision in which Ezekiel is shown the details of the newly built temple and given explicit instruction on sacrificial requirements and how to divide the land for the tribes of Israel.



The Valley of Dry Bones

This takes place in chapter 37 and is probably Ezekiels most famous vision. One interesting note: it doesn't start with a date when virtually everything else does. It does however, begin with The hand of the Lord was upon me.

Ezekiel is brought out to a valley covered in bones. He is lead back and forth and sees a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. God asks Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these bones live?" Ezekiel responds, "O, Sovereign Lord, you alone know."

God directs Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. There was a noise, a rattling sound as the bones came together. Tendons and flesh then appeared on the bones and skin covered them. But there was no breath in them. God then directs Ezekiel to prophecy to the breath and the bodies then came to life and stood up on there feet - a vast army.

God explains to Ezekiel that the bones represent the whole house of Israel.

Ezekiel 37:11-14 11. Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' 12. Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD , when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD .' "

Ezekiel is to then take two sticks of wood, writing on one, "Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him." and on the other "Ephraim's stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him." and to join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand. Ezekiel is to explain to the exiles that God is going to bring the Jews back from the lands he has exiled them to, and restore them as one people living under one king. They will never again be a divided nation.

Ezekiel 37:22-24 22. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23.They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 24." 'My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.



Themes

The Bible exists to teach that God holds sovereignty over all of creation. This is abundantly clear in Ezekiel. God's repeated use of the phrase "Then they will know I am the Lord" (my study bible says this occurs 65 times, I counted 58) makes clear his desire and intention. God WILL make his presence and his power known in unambiguous ways. Israel and the surrounding nations will know from his judgments and Israel will know from his restoration and renewal.

God also demonstrates his sovereignty by his mobility. The temple was "the delight of your eyes" to many Jews. There may have been some notion that they maintained the temple so God had a place to live or maybe God only stays in the temple. Through God's abandonment of his sanctuary in Jerusalem, God demonstrates his power to provide to the people wherever they are.

The Jews had an idea that they would be punished for the sins of their fathers. God makes it clear that a man will be punished for his own sins. This dialog is found several times: Eze 3:18-21, All of chapter 18, and Eze 33:1-20. Eze 33:10-11 are particularly interesting:

Ezekiel 33:10-11 10. "Son of man, say to the house of Israel, 'This is what you are saying: "Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?" ' 11. Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD , I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'

Point of interest: Eze 28:11 - Lament concerning the king of Tyre. The verbage used regarding the king of Tyre suggests God is talking about Satan and his fall, but he is not. It is simply the imagery Ezekiel is using to picture the fall of Tyre. I came across several webpages that quoted this with an image of Satan. If you just want to start something with somebody, this would be good.