Old Testament Survey - Lesson 26


Dr. Stuart provides a brief overview of Ezekiel, his difficult message of impending judgment on Jerusalem and his uplifting message of the hope to come.

Douglas Stuart
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 26
Watching Now

The Exile:  Ezekiel


I.  Orienting Data

A.  Overview

1.  Fall of Jerusalem

2.  Oracle Against Foreign Nations

3.  New Jerusalem and New Temple

B.  Author

C.  Emphases


II.  Themes and Issues

A.  Major Themes

1.  Give up your false hope

2.  Advisor to the community

3.  Interrelationship of leader and people

4.  Universal divine sovereignty

5.  Hope in a hopeless situation

6.  Individual and national responsibility

7.  Unification as a prelude to eschatological fulfillment

8.  Corporate leadership of the Holy Spirit

9.  Certainty of fulfillment of God's word

10.  Transformation of people prior to eschatological fulfillment

11.  Transformation of the temple

12.  Transformation of the Promised Land

13.  The Presence of God

B.  Highlights

C.  Other Issues in Ezekiel

1.  The Turning of History

2.  Apocalyptic

3.  Lament Form

4.  Dated Prophecies

5.  Prophecies not materialistic

  • The purpose of this overview of the Old Testament is to focus on the content of each of the Old Testament books, the historical events that give context to the books, and specific questions that help draw out the overarching principles contained in the Old Testament. There is also an emphasis on identifying ways to use this material that can help people in their daily lives.

  • Genesis narrates ten stories that describe origins or beginnings. These include the origin of the “heavens and earth,” and the origin of specific families that are significant in God’s dealings with Israel and the nations.

  • Themes from selected passages in Genesis about which there are interpretations that differ greatly. These include Genesis 2 regarding creation of women and their roles, Genesis 6 about the "Sons of God," and Genesis 9 about the "curse of Ham." Other themes are the story of Abraham, and God as a punisher of evil.

  • The three major themes in Exodus are Israel's deliverance from Egypt, establishment of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Other themes are how name repetition in a sentence is significant throughout Scripture, and how humility in the Jewish culture affects the actions and responses of many biblical characters. Exodus contains both apodictic and casuistic laws. There are also paradigmatic laws which are designed to give broad guidance for specific situations that arise. The first part of Exodus is mostly stories, and the second part is mostly a record of the laws which are the basis for how they interact with God and other people.

  • In this lesson, the concept of a covenant is defined as a legal binding agreement between two parties. In the ancient world there were many covenants. There were covenants between individuals, and even between nations. For example, a superior ruling king would make a covenant with a lesser vassal king. Covenants in the ancient near east contained the following six elements.

  • Does God punish the grandchildren for what the grandparents have done? Some people read these passages (Exodus 20:5, 34:7) and assume that they mean God punishes grandchildren based on their grandparents' sins. Unfortunately, they misinterpret these texts because they fail to understand the phenomena of numerical parallelisms. The Hebrew language favors parallelism, so that numbers which are close to other numbers will often be put in parallel to exhibit literary balance.
  • The historical books--Joshua, Judges, and Ruth--are essential reading for understanding how the bible views the progress of history. These books help us understand what the basic stages are in the progress of God’s relations with humanity. There is development, and progress in history we can refer to as epochs. This lecture provides an overview of redemptive history and a summary of the book of Joshua.

  • When discussing violence in the Old Testament it is important to discuss the concept of Holy War. This lesson does not suggest that Christians are soldiers first and nothing else since Christians are also called to be peacemakers. However, this lesson does put forward the idea that God is fighting a holy war. That is, God is seeking to promote blessing for all people by eliminating evil everywhere. The final enemy is death itself, and God is resolute on destroying evil and death. Holy war is a complex set of ideas that should be interpreted in light of the entire corpus of scripture.

  • In this lesson the extent of the conquest is discussed to frame the book of Judges. The orienting data for the book of Judges helps explain how the book recounts the decline of the people of Israel. Finally, the Dueteronomic cycle which recurs in the book is explained and helps frame Israel’s history up to the time of the exile.

  • After the division of the kingdom, 40 kings reigned during this period of the divided monarchy. Only three Kings reigned during the united monarchy—Saul, David, and Solomon. We might be able to assume the time period of the united monarch to be something like 120 years with each of the three kings reigning forty years. But the term “forty” in Hebrew means something like the English expression “several dozen.” That’s why we see the idiomatic expression “forty” so often in Hebrew literature.

  • David is a man after God’s own heart. How is this possible when he made so many moral mistakes? Being after God’s own heart does not mean David is morally upright, but that he has unwavering faith in the one true God of Israel. That is unique to David in these narratives. The narratives are clear that both Saul and Solomon conjoined belief in the God of Israel with the worship of other gods. David, however, is never portrayed as worshipping other gods or setting up altars to Idols.

  • In this lesson several key elements from the lives of Saul, David and Solomon are briefly reviewed. The rejection of Saul as King is explained. The rebellions against David are highlighted. And the disobedience of Solomon is described. Although these three kings are imperfect, God keeps the Kingdom of Israel unified throughout their successive reigns.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart provides an overview of the ten types of Psalms found in Scripture, a few suggestions regarding preaching through the Psalms, and addresses how we are to interact with the hystoricizing statements within the Psalms.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the structure of Proverbs, which seems to be the most secular book of the bible. Proverbs is a book of wise memorable sayings collected by Solomon. These sayings are collected from various individuals in Israel and the Ancient Near East and serve to provide wisdom for how to live in the world.

  • There is a chiastic structure to the book of Job that begins with the prologue and ends with the epilogue. In a chiasm, the middle portion is a convenient hinge of the book, it is not necessarily the most important piece of textual material. The main question the book is asking is, where do you find wisdom? The answer is, wisdom is found in the LORD. Proverbs is monological wisdom, whereas Job is dialogical wisdom. People are debating back and forth throughout the book about the nature of wisdom.

  • This lesson briefly describes existentialism as a philosophical movement in order to frame Ecclesiastes as an ancient type of existentialist literature. Existentialism tends to argue that this life is all there is. Ecclesiastes entertains these various perspectives in the first six chapters, which serve as a literary foil, before ending with a surprise for the reader—life does have meaning because there is a God who will judge our actions.

    There is a storyline to the Song. A clue is found in the term Shulamite, which in Hebrew can be translated as Mrs. Solomon. So this is a story about Solomon marrying his wife. It conveys some of the challenges Solomon and his wife face in coming together in covenant marriage. The beginning of the book outlines their engagement. In the middle of the book they get married, and the end discusses their honeymoon. What we see in the Song is the biblical ideal of a monogamous marriage, which, ironically, Solomon failed to live up to.

  • While it is difficult to preach through the prophets it can be done well if some basic views are taken regarding the prophetic books in general.

  • This lesson provide an overview concerning three contemporaries Prophets during the period of the divided monarchy at the end of the 8 th Century BCE.

  • The passage discusses a period of time when great materials are produced, including the Book of Isaiah. The rise of the Assyrian Empire becomes a significant concern, as they expand their territory across various regions. Tiglath-Pileser III, also known as Pul, leads the Assyrians into the domain of Israel, Palestine, and Syria. The expansion is driven by economic considerations, as kings seek wealth for grand projects through tribute, tax, and tolls. The cycle of conquering and resistance repeats itself, impacting the Israelites. The passage also highlights the importance of 2 Kings, focusing on Elijah and Elisha, Jehu’s massacre of Baal worshippers, the kings of Judah, the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, and the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.

  • Historical context is vital when one moves to reading the prophets. After Solomon’s death in 931 BCE, the kingdom of Israel undergoes an extended period of civil war as rivaling leaders take control of the northern and southern regions of the kingdom. Unfortunately, this split eventually becomes permanent. In the north the kings reigned for short periods and when compared with the southern kingdom of Judah this shows a tremendous amount of upheaval. This may have to do with the fact that the north is never ruled by a descendant of David. In addition, the north fails to worship at the Jerusalem temple, and decides instead to worship idols.

  • In this lesson an overview is provided for the prophetical books of Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum.

  • An overview of the revival under King Josiah, the fall of King Josiah, and the subsequent fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

  • Jeremiah begins his ministry in 627 BCE. This is five years before the great revival under Josiah in 622 BCE. So Jeremiah spans the time from the Assyrian domination to the invasion of Judah by Babylon. Unlike other prophets who predicted a short exile, Jeremiah preached a long, though not unending exile. Because of this Jeremiah was not popular with the government establishment of Jerusalem.

  • Dr. Stuart provides an overview of Joel, Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah and how they each relate to end times and God’s eternal reign.

  • Lamentations is a massive, huge, compound, complex lament that seeks to help God’s people see God’s goodness in the midst of tragedy.

  • Dr. Stuart provides a brief overview of Ezekiel, his difficult message of impending judgment on Jerusalem and his uplifting message of the hope to come.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart describes the characteristics of apocalyptic literature and gives an overview of the books of Daniel. Esther, and the latter half of Isaiah.

  • An overview of the background to the post-exilic books including the necessity of the temple and the role of the Persian empire in it’s rebuilding.

  • An overview of Haggai and Zechariah, the beginning of the rebuilding of the temple, the encouragement of God’s people to put the things of God first, God’s sovereignty, the need to be faithful, the nature of God’s covenant, and God’s promises being fulfilled.

  • A look at the latter days, the closing of the prophetic cannon, and the books of Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and tells us the stories of people whose lives still affect world events today? Are you familiar with the Old Testament prophets that describe in detail the characteristics of the Messiah and the events that happen when he comes, hundreds of years before they take place? Have you ever read the Old Testament books of poetry and wisdom literature that contain inspirational and instructional passages that we still use today to inspire, comfort and inform our lives during life events, and are ubiquitous in both classic and contemporary literary works?

In Dr. Stuart’s Old Testament Survey class, he guides you through each of the Old Testament books by giving you the historical background, major themes and insight into the stories, characters and teaching of the book. In the historical books, you will become familiar with Old Testament Names like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and David. In the Old Testament prophets, Dr. Stuart will introduce you to the lives and messages of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and others. When you study the Old Testament books of wisdom literature, Dr. Stuart will give you insights into the teachings, structure and creativity in Proverbs, Psalms and other books in the Writings.

From the description of Creation in Genesis, to the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, the Old Testament contains stories and teachings that can inform, inspire and transform your life. Dr. Stuart’s years of training and his skill in communicating, provides you with this opportunity to study and learn from one of the best. Now it’s up to you!

You may download a syllabus for the class including the Course Outline by clicking on the link in the Downloads section. We do not have access to the notes or the 130 exam questions that he mentions in the lectures. The Syllabus is from the SemLink class that was originally offered online through Gordon-Conwell Seminary so you can see the class outline and suggested readings. The links are not active. If you want to participate in the assignments and tests and earn credit, you may contact Gordon-Conwell Seminary to find out if they still offer this class.

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes. Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Recommended Books

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and...

Old Testament Survey: Genesis-Malachi - Student Guide

I. Orienting Data

Let me then start talking about Ezekiel and what we have in the Book of Ezekiel.

A. Overview

It is a big book, forty-eight chapters; it is one of the Major Prophets. I am going to summarize it in a relatively greater speed than how carefully we looked at Lamentations.

1. Fall of Jerusalem

The first thing I would say is that Ezekiel has a special emphasis here on the fall of Jerusalem. Indeed, what Ezekiel does is devote half the book, as we measure it by chapters, to hammering away at basically one message. If you look at chapters 1 through 24 you will see, for the most part, that they have a single theme expressed in many, many beautifully varied ways, which is this: do not fool yourselves, the exile will not be short and it will not be partial.

Ezekiel went into exile in 598 BC when King Jehoiachin was exiled. Jehoiachin was the last legitimate king of the Judeans and he was deposed and taken into captivity to Babylon in 598 BC after just reigning for a few months. He was the king featured in the tablet inscribed with the food distribution lists that confirms the ending of the Book of 2 Kings. After him the Babylonians put a puppet king named Zedekiah on the throne. Zedekiah was really the Babylonian choice for king, but he was also a descendent of David. He is the one who is deposed of in 586. Many people hoped that the exile would be brief. Jeremiah encountered a prophet named Hananiah and descriptions are given in chapter 37 about how he had to deal with this prophet who was saying, “Two years and then the exile will be over. The Babylonians will be off the scene. Give it two years.” Jeremiah said, “No, it is going to seventy.” That was hard. Hananiah saying was, “Oh, it will just be 598 to 596. Jeremiah says, “No, it hasn’t even come yet. When it comes it will last seventy years.” Therefore, people like Ezekiel are up against the same kind of opposition that Jeremiah was up against. People said, “Come on, not for a whole lifetime, you don’t mean that.” So, they are all giving positive words and saying it cannot be that bad and Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, has to preach a very, very unpopular message and has to say, “Look, here is the situation; it’s going to be bad, bad, bad.”

2. Oracle Against Foreign Nations

Also he has oracles against foreign nations as you might expect by now, especially Egypt, Tyre and a new one, Magog, a nation that does not really exist, a nation that seems to be kind of a composite that speaks about all the nations gathering against God’s people.

3. New Jerusalem and New Temple

Then he has visions of the New Jerusalem and the new temple.

A. Author

He was a priest. His prophesies go from 593 to 571.

B. Emphases

1. God’s judgment

2. The idea of the presence of the Lord in His glory leaving and then returning in his visions

3. The idolatry that is all over the place in the final days of Jerusalem and how that confirms that God’s people are not faithful

4. God’s omnipresence and omniscience

5. Destruction of final world powers

6. Total final victory of God

7. Ezekiel is very helpful in showing how different the age of the New Covenant will be from that of the Old. When you read Ezekiel he describes the future for the nation of Israel and it does not look anything like actual ancient Israel. Nothing like it; geographically it is totally different. He describes Jerusalem; it is nothing like the actual historical Jerusalem. He describes the new temple; it is nothing like the actual historical temple. What he is saying is this: in the age to come there are going to be realities that are totally different than what we are used to. It is not the same. It is not just that we will come back and start up life as it once was. No, what God has in mind after the exile is something much, much better. Much bigger, much different; not the same old thing. I think you can see it in Ezekiel even better, more clearly than you can in most prophets, and it helps you to understand what the prophets are really doing; that they are saying the restoration era is an era of vastly different blessing on a vastly different scale.

II. Themes

A. Major Themes

1. Give up your false hope.

There are people who you will encounter all your life in ministry who have false hope. They will have the notion, for example, that if they raise their children correctly their children will be good all through their teenage years, college years, and thereafter and will reflect their values and be nice, quiet, obedient kids and never have a problem. There are people who believe that and it hurts then if that is their confidence, if that is what they really believe God owes them to have that not work out. You will have people who will say, “If your relationship to Christ is good, you just are not going to get sick; you should not have to be sick.” Many people hold onto that. It makes sense to them, it fits somehow into their psyche and they are expecting that they are not going to get sick if they know Christ. So they just cannot understand it if they get sick; it just does not make sense. There are even groups, as some of you probably know, where people will say, “Haven’t been sick a day in my life, had some symptoms but never really been sick.” They talk about having symptoms. Professor Fea who taught here for a long time wrote an article called The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel and in it tried to demonstrate how wrong that way of thinking is. I could go on and list many kinds of false hopes.

There are many people who are convinced that Christ is supposed to make their life smooth, that everything should go well. Often Christian testimonies are this way. Someone stands up in some kind of a church meeting and says, “I was a prominent rascal before I accepted Christ. Now everything is going just great.” The implication of that kind of mentality follows that, if everything is not going great for you, you must not be much of a Christian. People need to know that often the proof that you are in God’s will is that you are suffering as He predicts. That is what Paul says. Paul says, “What proof do you want that I am an apostle? Christ came to suffer and did, He is a suffering servant. I am suffering for Him, let me describe my suffering. What more proof do you need?” He gives his suffering as the credential that makes him a true apostle. That is just a way of thinking that many people do not have in mind, and Ezekiel is really useful for teaching that.

2. Ezekiel is also an advisor to the community

People come to him and ask about this and that, and he says, “I don’t know, I’ll go ask the Lord.” He goes and prays and God frequently gives him answers and he comes back and says, “Here is what God told me.”

3. Interrelationship of leader and people

He addresses the interrelationship of leader and people in his foreign nation oracles. Unlike some of the other books, Ezekiel will talk about the Pharaoh more than about Egypt per say, more about the king of Tyre than about Tyre per say, etc. That is one of his special characteristics. You see in Ezekiel the significance of the government leadership. It is one of his very useful themes.

4. Universal divine sovereignty

Ezekiel starts with a vision that involves the picture of the wheel in a wheel and so on. This really is not mysterious. This is not something that cannot be comprehended. He says in Ezekiel 1:4, “I saw a windstorm coming out of the north flashing light, brilliant light, the center of the fire looked like glowing metal, then there is four living creatures, each of them has four kinds of things and they have got wings and they all face in different directions, each one goes straight ahead and don’t move as they turn.” What can this be? You go on and see the whole thing and you might say, “What kind of a weird thing is this?” Some people have even tried to argue it is obviously a flying saucer. What Ezekiel sees is God’s super fast worldwide chariot. This is a bird’s eye view. He sees this chariot that has the wheels all around; it has wheels in a wheel, not like hubs or something, but rather wheels on different axes so that the wheels do not need to turn. There is a wheel facing this way and a wheel facing that way, like a gyroscope would look. It has got living creatures pulling this, facing in every direction so they do not need to turn this chariot around. This rather can just go.

He says at the end of chapter 1, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” That is what God caused him to see. In effect, God suddenly shows up and says, “Hi Ezekiel, here you are way over here near the Tigris River and I’m just dropping by. How do you like My chariot? Nice, huh? It’s fast. Ezekiel, I want you to preach and just tell people that I’m sovereign over the whole universe. I’m not localized back in Judah like many, many people think. I’m the only God and I’m universal; I’m over it all and I’m commissioning you to preach My word to a bunch of people that will be hard hearted, stiff necked, and resist everything you say but that’s your commission. So long,” and off He goes. I know that is a caricature but that is the idea of what is going on in Ezekiel. In exile these people are not way off from Yahweh’s influence and control. There is no place where he does not have any influence or control. That does not happen; it does not work that way.

5. The need to have hope in an otherwise hopeless situation comes partly from that divine sovereignty.

6. Individual and national responsibility; he does not drop that as a concept.

7. Unification as a prelude to eschatological fulfillment. He talks about the fact that Israel and Judah together, all of God’s people must be unified. The unity of God’s people is a great theme in Scripture.

8. Corporate leadership of the Holy Spirit is a big theme for him.

9. The certainty of fulfillment of God’s word. It will happen so do not have false hope. If God says He is going to punish, He is going to punish. You cannot naively figure that something will not happen if God has said it will.

10. The transformation of people prior to eschatological fulfillment is important. Ezekiel wants everybody to understand that they need to become a new people. You do not say, “Make me Lord. Force me to be part of your New Covenant.” No, there has to be a will to get into that. It just does not automatically happen.

11. Transformation of the temple

12. Transformation of the Promised Land

13. The presence of God. If God is not present than we are in trouble. If He is present and we are sinful then we are in trouble too. You have the beneficent limited presence of God that reflects itself in Ezekiel.

B. Highlights

1. In the first half of this bifid book, this two-part book, Jerusalem must fall. That is woe.

2. Then come the more positive stuff. The oracles against foreign nations are positive from the point of view of God’s people because they all say these oppressor nations must decline and God’s people must rise.

3. Hope after the fall.

4. The great visions of the future; nothing like the present.

C. Other Issues in Ezekiel

1. Ezekiel reflects the sense of the turning of history which is what the exile period is.

2. Ezekiel is apocalyptic, but I am going to talk about more apocalyptic when we get to Daniel. However, Ezekiel still has plenty of examples of it.

3. Ezekiel has plenty examples of the lament form. He is a lamenter, but it is not the lament form as we have it in the Psalms. It is another kind of lament which is more like the funerary lament where you are imagining what you say at the death of somebody. You are imagining the funeral of someone who is now in a very sad position. He does that in a lot of his foreign nation oracles.

4. The dated prophecies, as we have already said.

5. When you read the Prophets, it can seem like they are talking materialistically, just as it can seem in the New Testament when you read about streets of gold in Jerusalem. That is a misunderstanding. When you read about the supposedly material restoration in Ezekiel, it is more like that they will get their land back but not the same land. They will get your city back but not the same city. They will get their temple back but not the same temple. Everything changes. What he is really saying is, “We prophets do give our predictions in what sound like material terms. But, if you really examine what we are doing, we are using that as a means of conveying the fact that there is something ahead that we don’t even understand. It is beyond, it is great. You don’t understand it; we don’t understand it. It is something fabulous in the plan of God. We can only describe it from the point of view of the material but that is not really what we are thinking.” If you understand, you can see it so well in Ezekiel 40-48. It will be like a prism through which you can also then suddenly understand what Amos means, for example, when he says, “The days are coming when the person trying to plant his field will tell the person who is still harvesting, would you please get out of the way, I need to plant the crops,” because the harvest will be so abundant that they will go right around to planting time again. That is just crazy in any agricultural society; you do not have harvests like that. It is a way of using material terminology to say that there is something great and wonderful ahead that we do not have any ability to portray as well as we would like to.