Like other Old Testament prophets, Ezekiel had words forewarning the people of Israel of impending judgment; this time though, it was in spite of the people already enduring judgment in Babylonian captivity. The people of Israel certainly did not like hearing the words that came out of Ezekiel’s mouth, and because so, did not heed the warnings of God. Therefore, judgment came, and after so, Ezekiel’s words changed to comfort and hope.
Ezekiel was a Levite, the son of a priest, and like Jeremiah and Zecharaiah, was both a priest and a prophet. His call began at the age of 30 (like the ministry of Jesus), and was with other Judean exiles in Babylon at the time (the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity). It seems that rather unexpectedly along the Kebar River, God opens the heavens to Ezekiel to give him his inaugural vision. This unusual vision (wheel within a wheel) has been one of the most talked about and artist-rendered visions in the Bible (also in Chapter 10). God gave Ezekiel the warning that his words would not be welcomed by the people of Israel.
But why would God send Ezekiel to warn a people who would not turn? To give the people a chance to repent, and to make God’s judgment righteous: “And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them” (2:5).
Ezekiel’s ministry is probably the most unusual, the most fascinating and probably the most entertaining of any other prophet in the Bible: God has Ezekiel tied up in his home and forbids his tongue to speak (in supplication for the people) with the exception of prophetic words; God commands Ezekiel to bake bread made with dung (Ezekiel banters a bit with God over using human dung vs. cow dung); commands Ezekiel to use a sword to shave his head and beard, then act out a siege with a map of Jerusalem; singing a funeral song for the princes of Israel; enduring the death of his beloved wife and not being allowed to mourn for her (as the people could not mourn openly for their beloved Jerusalem); among other remarkable things.
Some other noteworthy prophetic words and visions in the book are the words to the king of Tyre (thought to be words addressed specifically to Satan about his own impending judgment); plus words against six other nations and the vision of the “Valley of Dry Bones.”
Ezekiel obeyed God’s commands to do these somewhat odd (and in the case of his wife, heart wrenching) things—but what else would Ezekiel have done? Would he have disobeyed God after God told Ezekiel that if he disobeyed, the blood of the people would be on his shoulders? What were the thoughts going through Ezekiel’s mind when God told him to do such strange things? Or is it only strange to we who are in another culture in another time? He did some of these things while married. What did his wife think?
What are we to learn from the Book of Ezekiel? “God’s holiness is unchangeable. This is both a promise and a warning. It is a warning because God will certainly judge sin. It is a promise because God will certainly remain faithful to his people as he has promised” (Men of Integrity Bible, 933).