Ezekiel – the Prophet
The Prophet Ezekiel was born in the city of Sarir in the sixth century BC. He was a priest and the son of the priest Buzi, as he descended from the tribe of Levi. Ezekiel was led off to Babylon when he was twenty-five years old together with King Jechoniah II and many other Jews during the second invasion of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.
While the Prophet lived in Babylon he had a vision of the future of the Hebrew nation and of all mankind. The prophet beheld a shining cloud, with fire flashing continually, and in the midst of the fire, gleaming bronze. He also saw four living creatures in the shape of men, but with four faces (Ezekiel 1:6). Each had the face of a man in front, the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left, and the face of an eagle at the back (Ezekiel 1:10). There was a wheel on the earth beside each creature, and the rim of each wheel was full of eyes.
There have been many attempts to understand this vision, and who these four faces represent, and the meaning of the wheels and eyes. We will not dig into possible interpretations, but briefly state that this vision is closely connected to the Book of Revelation chapter 4 (Rev. 4:6-8), where it is written:
Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
The apocalyptic theme is, in other words, easily found in the introduction of Ezekiel, and we will discover later that it doesn’t disappear before the book ends.
The Prophet Ezekiel was in a special way sent to “the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation” (Ezekiel 2:3). He was sent with strong warnings for Israel to repent from their sins and to come back to their real Shepard (Ezekiel 36).
Ezekiel is very committed to the Word of God. In chapter 2 he physically eats prophesies he has been given, and thereby he “melts” together with the word. This strong connection between himself and the word, is found many places in his prophesies, as if he cannot “breeth” without warning and longing for the people to repent.
In my dealing with the Book of Ezekiel, I will concentrate my focus on chapters 36-39, as these chapters, in a special way, are dealing the end times. I will also shortly comment on the description of the Temple in chapter 40-47. But first we will go back to where many things started for the Jews and for Israel.
Abraham – A Retrospect
In Genesis 12 we are met by the Lord’s instruction to Abraham, telling him to move from his own country, and to another place:
Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
When the Lord promised Abraham that he would make him a great nation, and give him the land we today know as Israel, it seemed to be a question of short time for this promise to be fulfilled.
Abraham expected probably to travel a few months from Ur (in today’s Iraq) to the Promised Land, settle together with his wife Sarah, get children, and see with his own eyes how the Lord fulfilled His promises. As we know now, things took a lot more time. He had to wait for “ages” for his son, Isaac, and he never inherited the land himself.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews, says it this way:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebr. 11:8-10)
Abraham never came to see God’s word regarding the Promised Land be fulfilled. He dwelt in the Promised Land for a long time, but it was still a foreign country for him. He lived as a nomad, dwelling in tents with also Isaac and Jacob. The only thing he “inherited” from Israel was his and his wife Sarah’s grave, and this he had to buy for his own money. Not before his “children”, the Israelites, arrived from Egypt approximately 500 years later, the promise regarding the inheritance of the land was “fulfilled”. For a long period they were now able to call Israel their own land, until they were led into the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC.
This “retrospect” is important for any Bible reader to have in mind, due to the fact that Ezekiel wrote his prophesies during the Babylonian captivity. Even though, some of the Israelites at that time may have thought that the fulfilment of Ezekiel´s prophesies was when they came back to Jerusalem with Nehemiah in approximately 450 BC, this is not possible. In fact, at the time they arrived, Jerusalem and Israel was under the Medio-Persian dominion. And so it went on with other kingdoms and empires coming later, meaning that the “real” fulfilment of Ezekiel chapter 36, could not be before Israel was established as a state in 1948.
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. (Ez. 36:24)
Headlines over the prophesies in chapters 36-39, can be seen in the following overview:
- Chapter 36 – The Jews will have their own country and return to “their place”.
- Chapter 37 – The dead bones of Israel will come alive, as they believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah.
- Chapter 38 – Gog (the beast,) and His allies, attacks Israel, and Gog is destroyed by God.
- Chapter 39 – More details on the judgment upon Gog, and Ezekiel’s conclusion on chapters 36-39.
The prophet describes in Ezekiel 36 that the Jews will come back to their own country, Israel. This incident is then followed by a conversion to the Lord in a time of tribulation as Antichrist, the beast, will attack Israel. Some will say that this sequence shows that Gog and Magog (chapters 38-39) will come after Israel’s revival, but looking into other passages in the Bible, it seems as if these things are happening in the same period. For instance, when looking into Zechariah 12, the army coming against Israel in the end of times, appears both before and after their cry over their son, Jesus Christ. Chapters, 13-14, in Zechariah, indicate that the Jews’ conversion to Jesus will be through hard times.
Ezekiel Chapter 36
The strong and beautiful prophesy of Ezekiel 36:24-38:
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!”
Thus says the Lord God: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the Garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken it, and I will do it.”
Thus says the Lord God: “I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. Like a flock offered as holy sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast days, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.
I will only comment on one thing in the passage above, as it mainly speaks for itself – and that is what the Lord says in verse 32:
“Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!”
We will never be able to calculate God’s love and dealing with us as His people or children. To me the greatest miracle, whatsoever, is that I met my Lord and saviour when I was 17 years old. I do not have the faintest idea why His salvation was revealed to me and not to some of my friends or neighbours (maybe except my Mother’s prayers for me). This incident is the greatest miracle in my life, and as years passes by, it seems to become so far from a matter of course as it possibly can. To me there is only one reason and answer for His love to me, and that is that He loves me for His own sake.
This is also what Israel experienced after the Lord had punished His people by sending them into the Babylonian captivity. They had been disobedient for generations, worshipping other gods and also been unfaithful to His word. Now they were in Babylon, left with nothing else than tears and the Lord’s promises for them. These they read over and over again, as they were suffering and longing for Jerusalem. Especially they found refuge in the “Book of Comfort”, the promises from the prophet Isaiah:
But you have not called upon Me, O Jacob;
And you have been weary of Me, O Israel.
You have not brought Me the sheep for your burnt offerings,
Nor have you honoured Me with your sacrifices.
I have not caused you to serve with grain offerings,
Nor wearied you with incense.
You have bought Me no sweet cane with money,
Nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices;
But you have burdened Me with your sins,
You have wearied Me with your iniquities.
I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.
Even then, God blotted out their transgressions for His own name’s sake. So it was for Israel then, so it is for us now, and so it will be when the Lord opens the eyes of Israel in the future.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance,
And the young men and the old, together;
For I will turn their mourning to joy,
Will comfort them,
And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
Ezekiel Chapter 37
It´s worth dwelling upon the following passage from this wonderful chapter, Ezekiel 37:
The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.”
Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”
So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’”
Some scholars will say that this chapter has already been fulfilled on anyone hearing the Word of God. When hearing the Word of God, and believing it, a person comes alive, and is raised up, even though there are only dead bones in this person’s life. Altough this is most certainly true, the fulfilment of this prophecy is related to something more specific, namely the fact that there will come a time for the Jews when they will start to believe in Jesus Christ. This time has not yet come, but it will come in the years before and after they have been gathered into their own country, Israel.
The life described in Ezekiel 37, comes into the dead bones after the prophet prophesies. The Word of God creates life, not by explaning the dead bones to get up, or walk, but by the prophet prophesising the Word to these dead bones. In other words, the bones come alive as the Lord says “Live”.
Many times we seem to forget this fact, when standing on our pulpits, trying to convince people to believe in Jesus. They might start to think, reflect and maybe start to read their Bibles as a result of this “preaching”. But it is when the Gospel is proclaimed into the dead bones that faith becomes a real thing:
And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare.
When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord God.
Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk.
What Ezekiel prophesizes in chapter 37 is somehow starting to be fulfilled today, as many Jews are accepting Jesus as their saviour. However, as already written, it is hard to describe the nature of the happening to come. We don’t know how many will turn to Jesus and at exactly what time this incident will occur, but the scriptures confirm itself several times that this will be in the times of Antichrist.
Anyway, here I shall not explore the details of chapter 36 and 37 further, only (again) emphasize that we need to work on the salvation of the Jews now, as they are a people living under the law, and therefore under God’s condemnation. We are not to give them any false hope that they are somehow blessed without Christ, although all these wonderful prophecies are given them as a gift. Too many Christians have directly or indirectly given them this impression with the intention to help, only harming their case.
Ezekiel 38-39 Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog: These are names that are repeated again and again in discussions regarding the end times. Who is Gog? Where is Magog? We have already met the two names when dealing with the millennium in Revelation 20 where their appearance is closely connected with the fact that the devil will be released from his prison. Apparently, we are not given much help from their meaning in Hebrew. Gog means “the highest point of the roof”, and Magog means “off the roof”.
Churchfather Augustine saw these names in close connection with the binding of Satan (Rev. 20). He said that Gog being “stored” on the roof (Magog) represents the period of the Gospel when the devil was bound. But in the end times Gog will be released from the roof, he said. Others might see a connection between roof and north, but we are honestly not given much help in our interpretation of these names as they are only appearing in Ezekiel 38 and 39, and the Book of Revelation in the Bible.
From Ezekiel 38:
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you’. (Ezekiel 38:1-6)
We are given some places and people as help when working with these texts. These are Rosh, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Togarmah. Some Bible scholars say that these names sounds like Russia, Moscow, meaning that Gog will be from Russia etc. However, when looking closely at these names, we will find some interesting details, not absolutely denying these guesses, but not confirming this way of thinking either.
First of all: The prince of Rosh is not the correct translation from Hebrew. The meaning of the following Hebrew letters נְשִׂיא, רֹאשׁ מ is “Chief Prince of” or “President of” meaning that “Gog” is a president, a king or a leader.
The KJV’s translation is more faithful to the original Hebrew text:
Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal… (Ezekiel 38:1, KJV)
Gog is a chief prince, maybe a president, ruling Magog (apparently), but what about Meschech and Tubal? Is he a ruler of these places also, or is he somehow connected to these places in other ways? As KJV says, “The Chief Prince of Meshech and Tubal”? These places are interesting, as they are mentioned in the “presentation” of Gog, but not among the allies in verse 5 and 6.
Anyhow – this person Gog is a leader with a great army. In addition, he has some allies. They are according to Ezekiel 38:5-6:
- “Libya are with them, all of themwith shield and helmet”
- “Gomer and all its troops”
- “the house of Togarmahfrom the far north and all its troops”
- “many peopleare with you”
The names given for Persia, Ethiopia and Libya are somehow misleading. Persia is Iran, as we all know, but the area of the ancient Persia was quite bigger, also including today’s Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The expansion of extreme groups, as IS, may create some concern about what is going on in these areas, although it seems as if the allies Russia, Iran and Syria (Assad’s troops) might be a potential “winner” of the war being fought right now. (March 2016)
Ethiopia and Libya are not precisely the places covering these countries today, why I find it misleading to use these names as seen in NKJVs translation. The correct words for these two areas, according to the Hebrew texts, are Cush and Put. The Cushitic-speaking peoples of today comprise the Agaw, Oromo, Somalia, Afar and several other tribes meaning that Cush covers the whole Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, parts of Sudan, all the way up to Egypt. Put, which is translated Libya, is more likely the countries covering the northern coasts of Africa.
Today, it may be easier to understand that the Islamic northern Africa together with Iran and Syria will attack Israel, than the Horn of Africa with the “Coptic Ethiopia” will do the same. However, with the strong influence of Islam in some parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and also Egypt and Sudan, the picture could change very fast.
Regarding Togarmah, this is a person appearing in the Book of Genesis chapter 10, and he was related to the Indo-European Japheth. Today he might cover the peoples in the Caucasus and western Asia, including the Georgians, the Armenians and some Turkic peoples.
Gomer covers areas that are not delineated by the same country borders as the time of the prophecy meaning that “he” is a bit more challenging to find today. However, we know that he was a son of Japheth, and therefore was spread over many parts of Europe.
Gog’s army seems, in other words, to be more or less all the countries surrounding Israel, in a wide scale. Amazingly, Israel has until then survived smaller wars and attacks, but now it’s just a question of time before they will lose, facing “all countries in the world”. Nevertheless, the hand of God will defeat this enormous army.
Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand. You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.
It is God who is the ruler of history. We may see wars and rumours of wars in the future, but through it all, the Lord has the overview, also when leading Gog towards Israel for his, and all his allies’ destruction.
Regarding my point of view on the millennium, Revelation 20, some may question why the (re)building of the temple seems to appear in Ezekiel 40-47 (after Ezekiel 36-39), as if this might be the future millennial temple, and not an image of a reality in Heaven.
A few comments to this assumption:
- The area of the temple courts 500 x 500 “reeds”, or about one square mile, would be larger than the entire ancient walled city of Jerusalem. The holy portion for priests and Levites (20,000 x 25,000 reeds, or about 40 x 50 miles) would cover an area six times the size of greater London today and could not possibly be placed within present-day Palestine, that is between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (Ezekiel 47:18). The “Millennial Jerusalem” would be about 40 miles in circumference and thus ten times the circumference of the ancient city. Furthermore, it would be somewhat north of the present site of the city, and the Temple area would be about ten miles north of that, on the way to Samaria! This is quite unthinkable, for such a city would not be the Jerusalem of Jewish memories and associations, and a Temple in any other locality than Mount Moriah would hardly be the Temple of Jewish hope” (J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, IV, 32).
- When we read in Ezekiel 47:1-12 of a stream that issues from the Temple and increases to a great river within a few miles with no tributaries, we may be in the realm of idealism. We find such a stream pictured in the eternal state (Rev. 21:1,2).
- Finally, but not the least, it is unthinkable that a system of animal sacrifices will be reinstituted after the one perfect sacrifice of Christ has been accomplished, especially in the light of Hebrews 7-10.
In my opinion, and on this background, this passage is a description of the temple from Heaven, the New Jerusalem. (Compare Revelation 21-22)