Ezekiel, a priest, was among the 10,000 Jews taken captive to Babylon along with King Jehoiachin in 597 B.C. An earlier exile, which included Daniel, had occurred in 605, and another group would be exiled in 586, when Jerusalem fell.
In about 592, the “fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity” (1:2) and six years before Jerusalem’s final doom, the Lord called Ezekiel to prophesy to the still rebellious exiles in Babylon (3:1–7). Ezekiel’s ministry in Babylon overlapped the latter part of Jeremiah’s ministry in Jerusalem; Ezekiel probably began his ministry soon after Jeremiah’s letter to the captives arrived in 593 (see exposition on Jer. 29).
Ezekiel’s ministry covered at least 22 years, from 592 to 570 (compare 1:2 and 29:17). His recorded prophecies come from two distinct periods of his ministry:
• From 592 B.C. till about 585 B.C., shortly after Jerusalem’s fall, he prophesied concerning that event (1–24), God’s judgment on other nations (25–32), and God’s future plans for Israel (33–39).
• Then, after several years of silence, he again prophesied concerning God’s plans for Israel (40–48). While Ezekiel, like Isaiah, had in view both the restoration of 538 and the final great return during the Millennium, he focused primarily on the Millennium.
See Background. The book claims Ezekiel as its author (1:1–3). It is written from a priestly point of view, which fits Ezekiel. Nearly 90 times in the book, the Lord addresses Ezekiel as “son of man” (see exposition on Dan. 7:9–14).
See Background and Unique Features. The date and circumstance of compilation of Ezekiel’s prophecies is unknown.
Ezekiel apparently lived in his own private dwelling among the exiles in a place called Tel-abib, by the Kebar River, about 50 miles south of Babylon (1:1; 3:15, 24).
To explain to the captive Jews in Babylon:
• that their captivity and the destruction of their homeland had resulted from their rebellion against God and their lack of true holiness
• that God, in his mercy, intended to restore them to true holiness; they would be a new and holy people, living in a new and holy city and worshiping in a new and holy Temple
• Ezekiel employs more visions, visual-aid attention grabbers (like shaving the head), and word pictures than any other OT writer. He tells six parables (15; 16; 17:1–21; 17:22–24; 19:1–9; 23).
• Like Haggai, he gives precise dates for his prophecies, underscoring their historical accuracy. Except for the “thirtieth year” noted in 1:1, these dates are calculated from the exile of Ezekiel and Jehoiachin in 597. (Using 586 as the date of Jerusalem’s fall, a date of 597 for Ezekiel’s exile can be calculated from the information
Ezekiel’s messages informed and encouraged the exiles of his day. They answered many “why” questions. Why did Jerusalem fall? It fell because the nation committed religious, sexual, and societal sin. Why should the exiles retain faith in Yahweh? Because God still loves them and plans a bright future for them. Ezekiel teaches that God holds Israel responsible for their sins, yet He is also present with them wherever they go. Ezekiel stresses the future to people with a dismal present. In short, he prophesies to a nation of dry bones that they can live again as a restored people.8