THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET EZEKIEL.

INTRODUCTION.

This book, as the introductory paragraph clearly states, was written by Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, a priest of Jerusalem. He belonged to that company of Jews which had been carried into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon about 597 B. C., Some ten years before the destruction of the city. In the fifth year of his captivity he was called by God in a majestic vision to be his prophet. In this capacity he labored for at least twenty-two years among the captive Jews. He lived in the northern part of Mesopotamia, at Tel-a-bib, by the river Chebar. He owned a house there and was married. He apparently enjoyed the confidence of his fellow-exiles, for their elders frequently sought his advice and guidance; yet he shared the lot of other true prophets inasmuch as most of his hearers did not hearken to him nor do his words. The fall of Jerusalem served to give his words more emphasis and established his standing in a fair measure. The last date given in his book is the twenty-seventh year of the captivity; but we do not know how long he lived after that.

The special problem of Ezekiel was to testify to the Babylonian Jews, who were, for the most part, in comfortable circumstances and had built up a lively commerce with the Jews still remaining in Judea, but were still hardhearted and idolatrous, showing them that the destruction of Jerusalem was not only inevitable, but also well deserved under the circumstances, lest they harden their hearts by a false comfort and refuse to be brought to repentance. It was necessary, moreover, to dissipate the false and foolish hopes which had been raised in the hearts of the exiled Jews by the alleged visions of false prophets and prophetesses. Ezekiel was eminently fitted for this task, for he possessed an unusual measure of mental and spiritual gifts; he had a good education; he had the priestly attitude and viewpoint; he was endowed with a wonderful imagination and a powerful gift of oratory; and he had received the firmness and courage for his difficult calling in an unusual degree. His activity, therefore, had a decisive influence on the development of the Jewish people during the Exile. Nor is it to be overlooked that one of the objects of Ezekielís ministry was to comfort the true believers among the people, the faithful few who felt the loss of the Temple and its cult very deeply and longed for the salvation which was to come out of Zion.

The style of Ezekielís book is in accordance with the energetic, fiery character of the prophet. While a part of his prophecy is in the didactic form and teaches in the usual manner of parables and proverbs, the general trend of his writing is toward symbolism and allegory, a fact which makes some parts of his book somewhat difficult to explain satisfactorily. But his object is always clearly presented, especially in the Messianic prophecies which we have in this book. Mingled with the messages of divine wrath and punishment we find sweet promises to the effect that God will not utterly destroy the entire nation, but will preserve a remnant of His people and at the end of seventy years bring them back to Palestine and pour out upon them the blessings of His mercy. But the climax of the book is reached in the passages describing the Shepherd whom the Lord has promised to set up over his redeemed people, and in those speaking of the promised King.

The outline of the Book of Ezekiel may easily be discerned. The introductory section, chap. 1, 1-3, 21, speaks of the call and commission of the prophet. Then follow prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, up to and including chapter 24. We next find prophecies regarding the heathen nations, the enemies of Godís people, chaps. 25-39. The last part is a prophetical description of the future glory of Godís kingdom under the picture of the division of Canaan and of the New Jerusalem, chaps. 40-48. 1)