Today we begin the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet of Judah, and also a priest (1:3). He was taken into captivity by Babylon prior to the final siege of Jerusalem (see 33:21), likely with Jehoiachin (1:2 – see 2 Chr 36:10, 2 Kings 24:10-16). The book begins with Ezekiel’s famous vision of the glory of God. We need to remember that the description of such visions in the Bible are the writers best attempt to describe the indescribable.
Ezekiel’s vision begins with a cloud coming out of the north (v. 4). This is cosmic north, as in, coming from heaven. The cloud represents the presence of God (see Ex 13:21, 24:16, 40:34, 1 Kings 8:10). The body of gleaming metal is common to visions of heavenly beings (see v. 7, 27, 8:2, Dan 10:6, Rev 1:15). The four living creatures represent Christ (v. 5). They are human, with feet of burnished bronze (v. 7 – see Rev 1:15). They have a human likeness (v. 5) with human hands (v. 8). They have four faces (v. 6): human, lion, ox, and eagle (v. 10). These symbolize Christ as human, as King, as servant, and as God. They moved with the wind without turning (v. 12). This and the static facing wheels (v. 17) represent God the Son’s omnipresence.
Each living creature has a wheel beside them (v. 15). The wheels are full of eyes, representing God the Son’s omniscience (v. 18). Over the heads of the four creatures is an expanse like crystal (v. 22). This is the separation between heaven and earth (see Rev 4:6 and 15:2). Over the heads of the creatures was also a throne, and He Who sits on the throne had a human appearance (v. 26). This is Christ the King. The fire is His means of judgment (v. 27), but the brightness of the rainbow represents His patience in holding off His judgment (v. 28 – see Gen 9:11-17). This vision Ezekiel describes as his seeing “the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”
God then addresses Ezekiel as “Son of man” (2:1). There are two words in Hebrew for man: אָדָם (adam) and אִישׁ (ish). Here, Ezekiel is called a son of adam. This is as opposed to Daniel’s vision of one like a son of ish (Dan 7:13). God tells him he is to prophesy to the people of Israel (v. 3). Two things to note. First, now that God was bringing an end to Judah like He did Israel, the term Israel covers all of His physical people (as it did through Christ’s day). Second, Ezekiel is in exile (see 1:1-3). Even in exile, God is still calling His physical people to repentance. Remember, this is before the final siege and captivity, so like Jeremiah called for repentance up until the very end in Judah, so God has Ezekiel do in Babylon.
God uses the word “rebel” or “rebellious” six times in verses 3-8 to describe Israel, who He refers to as goiim, or nations (Gentiles!) in verse 3. God twice calls Ezekiel to prophesy regardless of whether or not the people hear his message (like Isaiah and Jeremiah) (v. 5, 7). God then hands a scroll to Ezekiel (v. 9) and tells him to eat it (v. 8 – see Rev 10:9-11). The scroll has writing on both sides (v. 10 – see Rev 5:1). In visions, scrolls represent God’s revelation. Here (as in Revelation 10) we see that it is a message of judgment: “lamentation and mourning and woe.”
Chapter 3 begins with Ezekiel eating the scroll (3:2). Eating a scroll is the giving of the message to the prophet by God. Here, we see that it was sweet as honey in Ezekiel’s mount even though it is a message of judgment (v. 3). Why? Because the with the judgment of the wicked comes the salvation of the elect – God’s spiritual people (see Rev 10:10 where it is sweet when first received, but becomes bitter when the prophet “digests” the message of judgment).
God calls Ezekiel to again go to the house of Israel even though they are in Babylon, a foreign nation (vv. 4-6). Note that God says the foreigners would listen to his message, but Israel will not (vv. 6-7 – see Isa 6:9-10). Nevertheless, God tells Ezekiel not to fear them (v. 9 – see Jer 1:8), and again commands him to speak even if they don’t listen (v. 11). After the vision ends (vv. 12-14), Ezekiel needs seven days to get himself together before starting his prophetic ministry (v 15).
After the seven days, God tells Ezekiel that he is a watchman for Israel (v. 16). He is to warn them of the wrath to come (v. 17). If Ezekiel does not act as watchmen, even though the wicked will die for their own sin, God will still hold Ezekiel responsible (vv. 18-19). If he does not warn the righteous and they fall into sin, they are responsible, but so is Ezekiel (vv. 20-21). God holds the church to the same standard. God then sends Ezekiel to the valley (v. 22) where he again has that vision of the glory of God (v. 23). God tells Ezekiel he will be bound with ropes (25). This symbolizes the judgment he will predict. Ezekiel will also be unable to speak except when prophesying (vv. 26-27). This is a sign to the people that God has sent him as His prophet.