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Ezekiel (meaning “God strengthens,” or “may God strengthen”), as a prophet, is a sentinel giving warning, one who speaks for Israel’s God, and one who serves as evidence that the divine word can be trusted. He announces the destruction of the Jerusalem temple as an act of God’s judgment, but also announces hope for its restoration as an act of God’s love and faithfulness. The book of Ezekiel is the third prophetic book in the biblical canon and is exceeded in length among the prophets only by the two that come before it—Isaiah and Jeremiah (setting aside the small book of Lamentations that, in Christian Bibles, is located between Jeremiah and Ezekiel). Its messages are challenging, with imagery both grotesque and violent. Its context is the hard experience of Israel’s exile, and it was written for those who had endured that tragedy, an example of what is commonly called trauma literature. As with the accounts of other prophets, Ezekiel sees visions, announces divine messages, and displays symbolic acts. In North America, Ezekiel may be best known for the vision of the wheels (chs. 1, 10, 11) and the valley of dry bones that come to life (ch. 37).


The traumatic experiences addressed by Ezekiel are all too common in today’s world. The distress of warfare, displacement, and loss of national institutions required Ezekiel, as with other biblical prophets, to help explain these horrific events. Ezekiel describes God’s glory leaving Israel, and only later does he offer hope that God’s people may rise again, returning to a renewed land. He engages troubling questions of God’s power and justice, and why God’s people must suffer exile. As reflected in African-American spirituals based on this book, “Ezekiel Saw a Wheel” and “Hear the Word of the Lord,” it is important for the church as God’s hermeneutical community to make connections with today’s context.

“In Ezekiel’s world, superpower politics and small-scale ethnic nationalism were buttressed by idolatrous practices that legitimated military alliances, violent crimes, and oppressive economic policies. In the face of Israel’s disintegrating independence and identity, old theological certainties collided with the massive shock of warfare, destruction, and deportation. Surrounded by political deportees suffering the consequences of imperialistic terror, Ezekiel presents a barrage of evocative, disturbing, bizarre, and unconventional responses to the trauma of exile. Ezekiel’s goal is to reconstitute a people whose character corresponds to the holiness of the Lord, and whose identity declares the Lord’s righteousness and justice among the nations.” (Matties)

In the preface to his Believers Church commentary on Ezekiel, Millard Lind notes the popularity of Ezekiel with sixteenth-century Anabaptists. He especially cites the attention given by them to chapter 18 (each person will be accountable for their own sins) and chapter 34 (the announcement of God’s judgment on Israel’s leaders and the promise of God’s protection). Also of interest to these Anabaptists were Ezekiel texts regarding God’s judgment upon those who violate God’s ways and harm God’s people, Ezekiel’s call as watchman or sentinel for God (chs. 1-3, 33), and prophecies about God’s Spirit, e.g., ch. 36 and the Valley of Dry Bones vision in ch. 37.

Ezekiel’s vision of leadership (as also in Isa 53 and elsewhere, along with the ministry of Jeremiah) contributes to the central New Testament interpretation of Jesus’ ministry and leadership in the world. Jesus instructed his followers not to emulate the pattern of the Gentiles who lord it over their subjects and are tyrants. Rather, Jesus calls leaders to be servants, so that greatness is defined by giving one’s self for others (Mark 10:42-45). For Lind, the suffering of prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah, and their willingness to identify with the sufferings of others, as in exile, is at the heart of this book’s significance.

Although Ezekiel’s name is not mentioned in the New Testament, several texts clearly allude to his book: 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 2:3 (new heart, from Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:25-27), Romans 2:24 (God’s name abused among the nations, in Ezek. 36:22), Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:10-11 (the importance of living by God’s laws, in Ezek. 20:11), and 2 Peter 3:4 (a possible allusion to Ezek. 12:22, 27 on the delay of prophecy; Tiemeyer, 223). As Lind notes, “the NT itself has to be interpreted in light of the OT, as well as vice versa, if the Bible is to be understood as a total book” (p. 14).

Author, Date, and Setting

In the book, Ezekiel is presented as a prophet deported to Babylon (cited as “the land of the Chaldeans”) at the time of the exile. The book’s heading identifies this collection of oracles as the word of the Lord that came to “Ezekiel the priest,” so that his prophetic ministry is located within a priestly context (note his priestly protestations in 4:14). The book reflects priestly concerns of moral and ritual purity and impurity; judgment as well as restoration are described in terms taken from traditional priestly material (such as the Holiness Code in Lev. 18–26). The book may present Ezekiel as starting his ministry at thirty years of age with a twenty-year ministry (1:1, 3; 40:1; cf. the Levitical service ages in Num. 4:1-3, 23, 30), or perhaps as publishing his book in the thirtieth year of his exile.

The book of Ezekiel is unique in the Bible for its presentation of the prophet’s ministry taking place in Babylon. The book’s narrator cites a settlement within Babylon (3:15), a group of elders presumably giving leadership (8:1; 14:1; 20:1), and other prophets (ch. 13). Historical evidence of Jewish names in Babylon during this time supports the probability of such communities.

Tiemeyer describes five factors that favor the identification of the author of at least most of this book with a Jewish deportee in Babylon in the sixth century BCE:

(1) The descriptions of the Babylonian exilic community in the book of Ezekiel fit what we know of Babylon during the exilic period.
(2) Linguistic studies conclude that the language of the book of Ezekiel fits within the sixth century BCE, although a later date cannot be excluded solely on linguistic grounds.
(3) Given the assumption that the divine oracles in the book of Ezekiel reflect to some extent the experiences of the person uttering them, aspects of the oracles suggest one who is suffering posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which would be consistent with Neo-Babylonian attacks on Jerusalem and the deprivation and humiliation of deportation (see Smith-Christopher, 75-104).
(4) Although eschatological and/or apocalyptic images in Ezekiel have similarity with texts from the Hellenistic period, this type of imagery is also present in texts likely from the Persian period (i.e., immediately following the exile).
(5) Although it must remain a conjecture, it is reasonable to align the author of the book of Ezekiel with its first-person narrator.

Scholars largely agree that Ezekiel was part of the first deportation to Babylon in 597 BCE. His commissioning occurred in 593 BCE, and his work continued at least until 571. There are good reasons to conclude that the accounts found in the book were composed fairly closely to the events indicated, for example, critiques of King Zedekiah (17:1-21), critique of foreign alliances (23:14-17), reactions to the responses of foreign nations (25:1-7), and indications of tension between those in exile and those who remained in Judah (11:1-11, 15). Although there are also some indications of the insertion of later material, the earliest materials in the book are addressed to the problems of an audience in exile.


Ezekiel’s messages are addressed to Israelites in Babylon as well as to those remaining in Jerusalem. Some have argued that Ezekiel’s references to worship and other activities in Jerusalem (1:1-2 and chs. 8–11; 40–48) indicate that the prophet was actually based in Judah rather than Babylon for all or part of his ministry. Others note that the descriptions of Judah in the book could have been influenced by the author’s experience prior to deportation or to correspondence between the two locations (note Jer. 29). In addition, the prophet indicates that these descriptions are based on visionary experiences, suggesting a divine source of information. Various prophets addressed oracles to people not present, as did Ezekiel when targeting the populations of other nations.

Ezekiel’s primary audience in Babylon would have been his fellow exiles, mostly the formerly elite of Jerusalem. We rightly expect that they would have been educated, religiously and otherwise, and previously well-positioned financially. This could have included government officials, scribes, and fellow priests. It is also likely that Ezekiel attracted a group of disciples who encouraged and supported him, constituting a subgroup within the main audience. These disciples would have honored his messages and preserved them for subsequent generations.

Unity, Structure, and Form

There has been little challenge to the unity and integrity of the canonical version of Ezekiel, although the first-century CE Jewish historian Josephus refers to Ezekiel’s two books (Antiquities 10.79). Some have noted possible indications of editing: (a) the prophet speaks almost entirely in the first person (1:1, 4) yet he is also described in the third person (1:2-3); (b) chapters 40–48 reflect a difference in style compared to the rest of the book (a guided geographical vision, though cf. chs. 8–11); and (c) chapters 25–32, containing nonsequential date markers, seem to be a thematic collection of messages to the nations. Date references are consistently in relation to the exile of King Jehoiachin in year one (which can be identified as 597 BCE) rather than the year of current king Zedekiah’s accession to the throne, a possible insult to the latter, who ruled from 597 to 587 BCE and is never mentioned in the book.

In regard to the date indicators (26:1; 29:1, 17; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1, 17), in chapters 25–32 they move from years eleven, to ten, to twenty-seven, and then back to years eleven and twelve. Otherwise, the various indications of date throughout the book are sequential and arguably mark off developments in Ezekiel’s message; they indicate oracles in years five, six, seven, nine, twelve, and twenty-five (1:2; 3:16; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 33:21; 40:1). Chapters 1–24 address situations prior to exile, chapters 33–39 address those in exile, and chapters 40–48 are dated thirteen years later, anticipating and planning for the time of reconstruction in the homeland.

Typical assessments of the book’s structure identify prophecies of judgment against Israel (chs. 1–24, 593-588 BCE), judgment against the nations (chs. 25–32, at various times, as late as 571), and prophecies of hope for Israel (Judah’s reconstruction, chs. 33–39, 586 BCE; the renewed temple, chs. 40–48, 573 BCE). One of the complications about this three-part proposal is that there are some words of hope in the early chapters and words of judgment later, a problem also for those who simply divide the book between judgment (chs. 1–33) and hope (chs. 34–48). Lind believes the organization of Ezekiel’s book draws from Israel’s worship. He notes that in the Song of the Sea (Exod. 15:1-21), the Lord is first celebrated as victorious over the enemy empire, the Lord constitutes the community of people at God’s mountain, and finally the Lord announces the sanctuary from which God will rule forever. He finds a similar structure in the book of Ezekiel: chapters 1–33 envision God as warrior defeating both arrogant Jerusalem and Judah as well as arrogant nations, and chapters 34–39 establish the resurrected new community in a renewed land as context for chapters 40–48 in which the eternal sanctuary is established for worship of the ruling God. Somewhat similarly, Matties suggests that Ezekiel moves from God’s abandonment of the temple (chs. 8–11) to its restoration (chs. 40–43). Between those prominent events, there is the destruction of Jerusalem (chs. 20–24; 33:21-22) and the anticipated restoration of land and people (chs. 34–39). At the center are the oracles against the nations that serve as a hinge for the structure (chs. 25–32). Mayfield argues that the structure of a book should be based upon surface-level features. In the case of Ezekiel, he identifies thirteen sections marked off by chronological formulas (see comments above) within which are further prophetic word markers. The summary of Ezekiel’s contents given below employs the structure proposed by Lind.

Scholars consider Ezekiel to be one of the first books in which (at least some) oracles were initially written, rather than being transcribed from oral delivery. The book contains a variety of forms, including autobiographical narrative (cf. Amos, Hosea), oracles introduced by standard prophetic formula (such as declarations of judgment), vision reports (some of which involve a guide), accounts of symbolic acts, extensive literary images (including allegory), disputation oracles, and proof sayings. His priestly background, and the likelihood of priests in his audience, motivated the employment of priestly law in his arguments.

Summary and Comment

“Jerusalem was called to be a spiritual and moral exemplar to the nations (5:5) but is failing in its leadership. Instead of leading the nations, the city rebels to become like the nations (20:32)” (Lind, 16). Ezekiel addresses the people of Judah both before and during exile as well as addressing other nations. As Lind sees it, “Prophecies against the nations are not an afterthought but form the climax of the Lord’s judgments” (p. 18).

Indications of the Lord’s concern for the nations include not only the collection of oracles addressed to Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt, but also in the so-called “recognition formula,” e.g., You/They will know that I am the Lord (occurring 70 times, e.g., 11:10; 13:21; 25:5; 28:22); these statements, found not only in oracles to Judah but also to surrounding nations, echo similar statements in the first half of Exodus where God shows concern for the Egyptians in the midst of delivering Israelites (e.g., Exod. 6:7; 7:5; 14:4, 18; 16:6, 12). They reflect the Babylonian campaign that in 587 resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem as God’s punishment, and indicate God’s judgment on these nations as well for mocking and celebrating Israel’s fall.

The section summaries below are taken nearly verbatim from Lind’s commentary, organized in three major sections, subdivided into six parts.

First Section: God as Warrior Defeating the Nations (1:1–33:33)

Part 1: Vision of God in a Cosmic War Chariot: Ezekiel’s Commission, 1:1–3:27

Ezekiel’s outline for his book corresponds to that of Israel’s hymnology. Specifically, it is like the hymn celebrating the Lord’s victory over Pharaoh’s chariots (Exod. 15:1-21). This victory motif appears in Ezekiel’s introductory chapters in two major images. The first image is that of “the glory of the Lord” riding on a cosmic war chariot which, in Ezekiel’s vision, reaches Mesopotamia in a storm cloud (1:1-28). This imagery introduces the entire book; it is portrayed throughout the book in the three extensive visions (1:1–3:15; 8:1–11:25; 40:1–48:35, esp. 43:1-9).

The second major image of this victory motif is used of a human being, Ezekiel, whom the Lord appoints as a “sentinel” to warn the house of Israel (3:16-27). This imagery introduces parts two and three of the book, the portrayal of the Lord’s victory over both Jerusalem and the nations (4:1–32:32). The sentinel imagery appears at both the beginning and the end of these judgment oracles (3:16-27; 33:1-22).

The transformation of this Near-Eastern war imagery, employed also throughout the Scripture, was Ezekiel’s major gift to the powerless exiles. Building upon Israel’s long tradition against oppression, Ezekiel uses this imagery, not to promote violent resistance to Babylon but to oppose such revolt (Lind, 24).

Part 2: The Lord’s Victory over Arrogant Jerusalem and Judah, 4:1–24:27

Although the outline of Ezekiel’s book compares to that of Israel’s “Song of the Sea” (Exod. 15:1-18), the theme of part two, the Lord’s victory over God’s own people, is not included in the hymn. But the theme is a major one of Israel’s ancient hymnology (Ps. 78; Deut. 32). Ezekiel’s extensive use of it in this portion of the book is evidence of his moral and spiritual orientation rather than a nationalistic one. Although the structure of this long portion is not easily discerned, Ezekiel’s three meetings with the elders may provide us with a clue (8:1–11:25; 14:1-11; 20:1-44). Their importance is indicated by the fact that of the three dates in this portion, two designate the times of these meetings (8:1; 20:1). Part two may then be structured:

1. From pantomiming against Jerusalem to a first meeting with the elders (4:1–11:25)
2. From pantomiming against official policy to a second meeting with the elders (12:1–14:23)
3. Metaphors against Jerusalem and its royal policy and a third meeting with the elders (15:1–20:44)
4. From pantomiming the sword’s march toward Jerusalem to pantomiming the fall of the city (20:45–24:27)

This segmenting shows that although Ezekiel speaks mainly of Jerusalem, he addresses the concerns of the elders and the exiled community. The elders once were leaders of that city and are presently wondering how they might act now for the best interests of Jerusalem and of their Lord (Lind, 50).

Part 3: The Lord’s Victory over Arrogant Nations and Empires, 25:1–32:32

If the outline of Ezekiel’s book is related to the Song of the Sea (Exod. 15:1-18), then the oracles describing the Lord’s victory over the nations are not an afterthought but the climax of the judgment oracles. Like the Song, the oracles against Pharaoh consummate the oracles against the nations (Ezek. 29–32).

The Song of the Sea names other nations with Egypt. Likewise, in Part 3 of Ezekiel are four states adjacent to Israel—Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia (ch. 25), the commercial empire(s) of Tyre and Sidon (chs. 26–28), and Egypt—seven nations, according to the editor (cf. Deut. 7:1; Exod. 15:14-15).

A purpose of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was that Pharaoh and his people might know the Lord (Exod. 3:14; 5:2; 7:5; 14:4, 18). Similarly, the purpose of these oracles against the nations is that they might know the I AM who delivers Israel. “I am the Lord” occurs nine times in the judgment oracles against the four small states, Tyre and Sidon (chs. 25–28; 25:7, 11; etc.); and nine times in the judgment oracles against Egypt (chs. 29–32; 29:9, 16, 21; etc.). The purpose of these judgment oracles against the nations is not only that they might know, but that Israel might know the Lord when, as in the time of Pharaoh, Israel is again called from these nations (28:24-26; 29:16, 21).

Thus the goal of the book of Ezekiel is not nationalistic but universal. Israel, rebel moral leader of the nations, is first done in by the nations; then the nations are judged, and Israel is delivered (28:24-26; 29:21). But besides recognizing the Lord because of judgment, do the nations have a positive future? There is just a hint: Egypt is saved, a lowly kingdom (Lind, 214).

The Great Divide: The Lord’s Victory: Report of the City’s Fall, 33:1-33

Of the twelve significant dates in the book of Ezekiel, two mark historical events important to Jerusalem. The first pins down the beginning of the city’s siege by the army of Babylon (24:1-2). Ezekiel’s initial pantomime depicted this siege (4:1–5:4). Its negative impact upon the person of Ezekiel was signified by its sign, the death of his wife (24:15-24). The event closed off his prophecies against the city.

The second historical date marks the coming of a messenger from Jerusalem with the news, “The city has fallen” (33:21-22). Again, Ezekiel’s initial pantomime predicted this outcome of the siege (5:1-4). But the event not only closes off the oracles of judgment against Jerusalem and the nations (Ezek. 4–32). It is accompanied with a positive sign, the reversal of a malady which plagued Ezekiel from the start of his ministry (3:26-27). This cure was promised when the siege began—the opening of his mouth, the ability to speak (24:25-27).

Between the statement of these two events, the beginning and end of the siege, lie two years’ worth of Ezekiel’s preaching against foreign nations, preaching which preceded and followed the announcement of the city’s fall (Ezek. 25-32). Such negative preaching may have cushioned the report of the fall to the exiles somewhat, for it opened the possibility of a future in their homeland.

For Ezekiel, the report of Jerusalem’s fall is the continental divide of his ministry. With opened mouth he now can proclaim that there will be a renewed people in a renewed land. Also, Ezekiel’s forecast of the death of the nations is no mere nationalism. Like the death of Jerusalem, it marks a new future of the Lord’s victory for Jerusalem and the nations: “And they shall know that I am the Lord” (33:29; Lind, 262).

Second Section: New Community with Concluding Victory (34:1–39:29)

Part 4: The Lord’s Victory: A New Community in a Renewed Land, 34:1–37:28

After the report of the fall of Jerusalem, the image of Ezekiel as sentinel is largely left behind. With opened mouth the prophet proclaims the positive phase of the Lord’s victory. He begins with a promise of new leadership and ends with a pledge of a new sanctuary among God’s people. There, as in The Song of the Sea, the Lord will dwell forevermore (34:1-31; 37:27-28; cf. Exod. 15:18). The term shepherd (ch. 34) is a metaphor used of gods and kings in much of ancient Near Eastern literature. Ezekiel 34 is the longest allegory in the Bible on shepherds and the flock. John 10 is the next longest, where Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. Instead of representing Near Eastern power politics, God’s “servant David” (Ezek. 34:24) will fit into God’s new political order, the “covenant of peace” between God and Israel (34:25–31).

The summary statement promising a new sanctuary is not yet the end of the story (37:27-28; Lind, 272–76).

Part 5: The Lord’s Victory: Defeat of Imperialism, Arrogance, and Terror, 38:1–39:29

The high drama of the book of Ezekiel climaxes in the Lord’s battle against Gog. Though this narrative interrupts the texts on temple building (cf. 37:26-28; 40:1-5), it resembles the flow of an ancient liturgy which gives structure to the entire book.

The drama begins with a vision of God’s war chariot and Ezekiel’s call (chs. 1–3). This is followed by the first battle scene against Judah, who rejected its calling as a holy community to lead the nations to a knowledge of God (chs. 4–24). The flow continues with the second battle scene against the nations, who subverted God’s intention to redeem history through Israel as exemplar (chs. 25–32).

Now, at the end of the salvation oracles (33–39), the drama issues in the Lord’s final victory over Gog. Gog stands for that arrogant imperialism which, like Pharaoh at the sea (Exod. 14–15), opposes God’s alternative leadership as represented by Israel, a community with a new heart and spirit in a renewed land (Lind, 312).

Third Section: Eternal Sanctuary for the Ruling God (40:1–48:35)

Part 6: The Lord’s Victory: Eternal Sanctuary, Place of God’s Throne, 40:1–48:35

Though dated late in Ezekiel’s ministry, his temple vision is no mere addition to the book, tacked on after the high drama of the defeat of Gog (38:1–39:29). The fall of Jerusalem is forecast before the fugitive reports it. The envelope shows that. The forecast (24:25-27) and report (33:21-22) of the fall enclose the oracles against the nations (chs. 25–32). In the same way this temple vision is preceded by its promise. Thus promise (37:26-28) and vision (40:1–48:35) enclose the oracles against Gog (chs. 38–39). Though this is a vision, Ezekiel reports it mainly in past tense, just as the fugitive reports Jerusalem’s fall in past tense. For Ezekiel, the vision has an element of accomplished event and yet also a purpose for the future. A communal life can be built around this vision.

The commanding place of this temple vision becomes evident when one realizes that the flow of the book compares to that of Israel’s ancient victory hymn (Exod. 15:1-18). After the defeat of Pharaoh’s army at the sea (Exod. 14), the Lord built the sanctuary (Exod. 25–40), fulfilling the exodus (3:18; 5:1-3). From this “sanctuary” (15:17), “the Lord will reign forever and ever” (15:18; cf. Ezek. 43:7).

The nations are not mentioned in this temple vision but could understand its claim. They also have epics in which their god, after victory, builds a temple to rule forever. Ezekiel’s vision is a competing claim by which, according to promise, the nations will acknowledge not their power gods but the Lord, God of the exiled Israel, as the one who determines history (37:28). Ezekiel would agree with another prophet at a later temple building: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6; Lind, 324).

The book of Ezekiel was embraced into the Jewish and Christian biblical canons only slowly. This was primarily because of Ezekiel’s claim to have seen God (1:26-28) and because some of the cultic regulations in the book appear to lack agreement with those in the Pentateuch. Contemporary concerns include the book’s sexual and marital imagery (esp. chs. 16, 23) and descriptions of violence toward female Israel and Judah. In light of the holocaust, there is concern about Ezekiel’s texts that blame the victim of brutality for their own suffering. Some have accounted for Ezekiel’s imagery and theology as a result of the author’s traumatic exilic experience.

Conclusion and the Anabaptist Tradition

Here are six theological reflections from Ezekiel, supplemented from Lind’s presentation.

1. The book of Ezekiel tells about the victory of the rule of God, depicting God as majestic and powerful (e.g., 8:2-5). The book begins with a vision of God in a war chariot. God is active, e.g., 22:14, “I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it” (cf. 17:24; 24:14; 36:36; 37:14). When God’s rebellious people and the rebellious nations are defeated, a resurrected community will be established by God. God is portrayed as particularly concerned with (rebellious) Israel, has made a covenant by grace with “my people” (a term used 34x), and the covenant formula is used numerous times: “I will be your God and you will be my people” (e.g., 11:20; 14:11; 34:24, 30-31; 36:28; 37:23). Ezekiel’s messianic texts focus on Israel rather than incorporating peoples outside the nation (e.g., 34:22-23; 37:22-25).
2. God is also concerned for the nations. Israel and its sanctuary are established so that the nations benefit from Israel as spiritual and moral exemplar (5:5; 37:28). God defeats the nations in order that they might acknowledge the rule of the Lord, a rule requiring a moral rather than a military understanding of history. Declarations that “I (am) the LORD” throughout demonstrate God’s desire to be known, both by God’s people and by the nations. The phrase “they shall know” occurs frequently (e.g., 5:13; 39:28). Though God threatens a judgment of death, God’s desire is that all will receive life (18:30-32).
3. Access to the Lord, who rules from the temple (not a palace), is by way of the altar (43:13–46:24). Worship of God involves cleansing, forgiveness, and reconciliation, symbolized by a living stream flowing out from the temple (47:1-12). Further, Ezekiel emphasizes God’s Spirit more than any other prophet, conveying Ezekiel (3:12), animating (3:23-24), inspiring prophecy (11:24), and as sign of divine ownership (39:29).
4. Ezekiel’s vision marks a division between the common and the Holy (22:26; 42:20; 44:23). People are called to obey the law of God and to subject themselves to the Holy. God’s people should not expect to receive the blessings of God without living in faithful obedience. Ezekiel does not use the title “Holy One” for Israel’s God, yet God’s holiness is cited throughout as well as God’s reference to “my holy name” (20:39; 36:20, 21, 22; 39:7 [3x], 25; 43:7, 8), holy mountain (20:40; 28:14), holy things (22:8, 26; 44:8, 13), holy offerings (42:13), as well as numerous references to the holy district concerning the temple, the Holy Place (41:21; 44:27), and Most Holy Place of the temple (41:4; 45:3). Israel is exhorted to “keep my Sabbaths holy” (20:20; 44:24).
5. The city is integrated into the covenant structure of the tribes with egalitarian concepts of justice (45:10-12. The governmental leader is not to intrude upon God’s law nor upon the rights of the people (45:9; 46:18). The city is not owned by the prince, but this leader has a specific allotment, implying that the leader shall not take from others to increase it (48:21-22). Likewise today, says Lind, “The state is not to interfere in the legitimate affairs of the church” (p. 14). Ezekiel 18 instructs that the congregation in exile must continue to obey God’s law, and chapter 23 rejects participation in “the Near East’s military culture” (p. 14). Sometimes for followers of Jesus, the willingness to suffer martyrdom is the price for this separation from the state.
6. Ezekiel’s boundary between holy and secular has implications not only for politics but also for worship. Worship has three important characteristics. First, the Lord is a personal God, and thus is not to be identified with the impersonal powers of economics or human politics. Second, worship of God requires individual decision even in the context of a corporate people. Third, worship of God requires a response to grace of obedience to God’s instructions (11:19-20). (Lind: 360-61, 382)

Recommended Essays in the Commentary

Economic Justice
The Glory of the Lord
Son of Man


  • Block, Daniel I. “Ezekiel: Theology.” In New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, edited by Willem VanGemeren, 4:615–28. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997.
  • Lind, Millard C. Ezekiel. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1996.
  • Lyons, Michael A. An Introduction to the Study of Ezekiel. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2015.
  • Matties, Gordon. ”Ezekiel: Introduction and Commentary.” In The New Interpreters Study Bible, edited by Walter Harrelson, 1153–1230. Nashville: Abingdon, 2003.
  • Smith-Christopher, Daniel. A Biblical Theology of Exile. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002.
  • Tiemeyer, L.-S. “Ezekiel: Book of.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, edited by Mark J. Boda and Gordon J. McConville, 214–229. Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity, 2012.
  • Wilson, Robert R. “Ezekiel.” In HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed., 583-622. HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.

Invitation to Comment

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Douglas B. Miller

Published BCBC commentary by Millard C. Lind