Ezekiel — Lesson 2
Historical Background of Ezekiel
A. King Hezekiah died in 687 BC. Between his death and the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 587 BC there was precisely one century. “Seldom has a nation experienced so many dramatically sudden reversals of fortune in so relatively short a time.”
B. What had happened prior to 687 BC was that Shalmaneser (shal’’-muh-nee’zer) IV, king of Assyria, had invaded Israel in 722 BC when King Hoshea had refused to pay him tribute. The ten Northern tribes were taken into captivity by Assyria.
C. The Southern kingdom was spared through the influence of righteous men like Isaiah.
D. In fact, Judah experienced a spiritual revival under King Hezekiah, who was influenced both by what had happened to Israel and by the preaching of Isaiah.
E. All was not well, however. A strong party in Jerusalem advocated an alliance with Egypt against Assyia.
F. Isaiah rejected this plan just as he had rejected Ahaz’s plan to make an alliance with Assyria. Isaiah’s advice was to trust in the Lord.
G. Meanwhile, the Assyrians had a mutiny and Shalmaneser was gone. In his place came Sargon, translated “legitimate king” --- which of course means he was just the opposite!
H. When Sargon defeated Egypt at the Battle of Raphia, Isaiah’s advice to Judah was shown to have been correct.
I. When Hezekiah died in 686, those who sought closer ties with Assyria and its gods came into power.
A. Manasseh was Hezekiah’s son and became king in 686 when Hezekiah died.
B. For nearly 60 years he and his son Amon turned the people toward idolatry and wickedness.
C. The people repudiated the law of God and forgot that it even existed.
D. Children were sacrificed to Moloch.
1. (2 Kings 21:16) “Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.”
2. Indeed, Manasseh sacrificed his own son to Moloch in the Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem.
3. (2 Kings 21:6) Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
E. Hezekiah had resisted the Assyrians. Mannasseh abandoned that resistance and declared himself a loyal vassal of Assyria.
F. 2 Chronicles 33:10-13 tells us that at one point the Assyrians took Manasseh captive to Babylon with hooks and bronze fetters.
G. Manasseh prayed to God, was released, and returned a changed man.
H. He tried to get rid of the idols, but the damage had already been done.
1. As one commentator noted, Manasseh was able to get rid of the idols everywhere except in the heart of his own son, Amon.
A. Amon was Manasseh’s son and Hezekiah’s grandson.
B. His two year reign brought back of all Manasseh’s early policies.
C. Amon ignored his father’s repentance and brought back all of th idols and all of the evil.
D. Amon was assassinated by palace conspirators for reasons unknown, leaving the throne to 8 year old Josiah.
A. Josiah was the son of Amon and the King of Judah from 640 to 609 BC.
B. He was 8 when his father was killed and he became king in his place.
C. Ezekiel grew up during the reforms of Josiah.
D. A copy of the Law was discovered by Hilkiah during Josiah’s renovations of the temple.
E. Josiah read it and was determined to obey it fully.
F. He even dug up the bones of the idolatrous priests and burned them on their altars.
G. The people however were corrupt and did not genuinely repent.
1. (Jeremiah 3:10) “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord.
H. The Mosaic Law that they had just rediscovered said that the people would be taken captive and dispersed if they disobeyed the covenant.
1. Read, for example, Leviticus 26.
A. Assyria was the dominant power in the Near East for 250 years.
B. While Josiah reigned, however, Assyria was too busy with its own problems to pay any attention to him.
C. A new power struggle was beginning around this time.
D. When the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal (ah’’shoor-bah’nee-pal), died in 626 BC, the empire erupted into chaos.
E. The Neo-Babylonian empire under Nabopolassar came into existence that same year.
F. Jeremiah began his ministry a year earlier.
A. The Scythians traveled in hordes, leaving desolation in their wake.
B. They appeared in the Near East in the 7th century from a region north of the Black Sea.
7. Medes and Persians
A. The Medes migrated from what is now southern Russia about 1000 BC.
B. They settled in the Iranian plateau.
C. The Persians also came from that area, but settled further south.
A. Pharaoh Necho reigned from 609 to 594 BC.
B. Long a great power, Egypt was now in decline.
A. Nabopolasser was king from 626 to 605 BC.
B. (His son, Nebuchadnezzar, reigned from 605 until 562 BC.)
C. Nabopolasser defeated Assyria in battle in 612 BC. It was at this time that Nineveh (the Assyrian capital) fell to a coalition of nations including the Medes and the Babylonians.
1. Read Nahum 3:1ff (“Woe to the bloody city!”).
2. Two centuries later a Greek army passing that way had to ask what that large mound of earth was. It was all that was left of Ninevah.
D. The remnant of the Assyrian army retreated to Haran.
10. The Battle of Megiddo
A. Necho of Egypt marched to the aid of Assyria in 609 BC.
1. Why? Egypt did not like the Assyrians, but it liked the growing Babylonian power even less.
B. Josiah tried to stop Necho at Megiddo and was killed in battle.
C. Necho continued on to Haran to help the Assyrians, but the delay caused by Josiah proved fatal to Necho’s plans.
D. Babylon defeated them both at the Battle of Megiddo.
1. From the most ancient times to the time of Napoleon, Megiddo was one of the great battle-grounds of the world.
2. God chose this same famous battlefield to depict the complete judgment and utter destruction of Rome in the book of Revelation, where it is called Armageddon --- the Mount or City of Megiddo.
A. Jehoahaz was Josiah’s second son and became King of Judah in 609 BC.
B. The party in Judah that wanted political independence was able to pass by Jehoiakim and instead put his younger brother Jehoahaz on the throne.
C. After Necho was defeated by Babylon, he returned to Egypt and began to consolidate his power in Palestine and Syria.
D. He invited Jehoahaz to his headquarters at Riblah, deposed him, and carried him off to Egypt, where he died after having been king for only three months.
E. In his place, Necho placed Jehoiakim as a vassal king in Judah.
A. Jehoiakim was Josiah’s eldest son and was King of Judah from 609 BC until 597 BC.
B. He was known to be pro-Egyptian, which was why Necho put him in charge.
C. The people of Judah knew what they were doing when they passed over Jehoiakim and put his younger brother on the throne.
D. The temple treasures had been removed and heavy tribute was being paid to Egypt, yet Jehoiakim built for himself a luxurious royal house with forced labor to make himself appear a successful ruler.
1. Read Jeremiah 22:13-19. (Verse 15) “Shall you reign because you enclose yourself in cedar?”
E. Jehoiakim was the king who cut and burned up the prophecies of Jeremiah.
1. Read Jeremiah 36.
F. Also, he was the King mentioned in the opening verse of Daniel.
13. Jeremiah’s Warnings
A. The lifetime of Jeremiah spanned the time from Josiah to the Babylonian exile.
B. While Isaiah assured his generation that Assyria would not enter Jerusalem, Jeremiah warned that destruction from Babylon was imminent.
C. Jeremiah warned the people to submit to the Babylonians and not to follow the enticements of Egypt -- but they did not listen.
D. The writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel converge at many points, yet neither verbally acknowledges the work of the other.
14. The Battle at Carchemish
A. In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar lead the armies of his father Nabopolassar and attacked the combined Assyrian and Egyptian forces at Carchemish on the Euphrates river.
1. Read Jeremiah 46.
B. This was one of the most important battles in history. Babylon won overwhelmingly. Assyria passed away forever. Egypt later aspired to power by never again rose to international significance.
15. The First Deportation
A. Babylon continued southward after their conquest at Carchemish and invaded Judah.
B. They deported a group of young nobles, including Daniel and his friends.
16. Jehoiakim’s Revolt
A. Jehoiakim is still the King, but instead of being a vassal to Egypt, he is now a reluctant vassal of Babylon.
B. After three years of unwilling submission to Babylon, he revolted against Babylon in favor of Egypt. In doing so, he ignored the warnings of Jeremiah.
C. Nebuchadnezzar retaliated against Judah in December 598 BC.
D. Jehoiakim died during the month that Babylon attacked, apparently assassinated.
E. Jeremiah tells us that he received the burial of an ass. (Jeremiah 22:19)
A. Jehoiachin was 18 when his father died and he became king.
B. He surrendered the city of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar 3 months after he became king.
18. The Second Deportation
A. After the surrender in 597 BC, Jehoiachin, his mother, his wives, his officials, and the leading men were deported.
B. Ezekiel was also deported at this time.
C. Ezekiel’s first message was in 592 BC, 5 years after the second deportation.
A. Zedekiah was Josiah’s youngest son (Jehoiachin’s uncle).
B. Nebuchadnezzar established him as a regent vassal over Judah, a position he held from 597 until 586 BC.
C. Though in exile, Jehoiachin appears to have remained the recognized king of Judah.
1. This is shown by administrative documents that have been found in the excavations at Babylonia.
2. Also, Ezekiel provided dates based on the years of Jehoiachin’s captivity.
3. Jehoiachin was well treated in Babylon. Clay tablets record the quantity of oil that was delivered monthly to “Ja’ukinu, king of the land of Jaudi.”
4. At one point, he had a position that was “above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon.” (2 Kings 25:28)
D. Zedekiah, on the other hand, was a miserable and pitiable figure.
1. He had Jeremiah imprisoned, yet secretly sent for him and asked him for advice. (Jeremiah 37:16ff)
E. It was during Zedekiah’s regency that Ezekiel from Babylon denounced the moral depravity of Judah and said that the glory of God would leave the temple.
20. The Second Revolt
A. False prophets told Zedekiah that Nebuchadnezzar’s power would soon be broken. They also said that the exiles would soon triumphantly return.
1. Read Jeremiah 28:1-4 (Hananiah).
B. Also, the Pharaohs that ruled after Necho in Egypt appeared to have renewed strength.
C. All of this prompted Zedekiak to listen to the pro-Egyptian party and seek aid from the new Egyptian king Hophra in 589. The final rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar had begun.
D. The patience of Nebuchadnezzar was exhausted. Babylon responded immediately and marched toward Jerusalem.
E. Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem in 588 BC.
F. Descriptions of the siege speak of pestilence, famine, and cannibalism.
G. After 18 months and despite some Egyptian help, the city was razed to the ground.
21. The Destruction of the City
A. Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC.
B. Zedekiah was captured trying to flee.
C. He was blinded after witnessing the execution of his sons.
D. He was then led off to Babylon, where he died.
22. The Third Deportation
A. Many of the Jews were murdered by the Babylonians.
B. Others were deported to Babylonia.
C. Judah had fallen.
23. Judah after the Third Deportation
A. The Edomites watched with approval as the city was destroyed.
1. Read Obadiah for God’s reaction to the Edomites.
2. Habakkuk also prophesied at this time, describing the Babylonians as the rod of God’s wrath.
B. Jeremiah was treated well by Nebuchadnezzar and offered complete freedom. He instead chose to stay in Judah with the governor, Gedaliah, that Nebuchadnezzar had appointed.
C. Ishmael, a royal relative, staged a revolt and killed Gedaliah.
D. Many of the remaining Jews wanted to flee to Egypt.
E. Jeremiah told them that Babylon would not give them anymore trouble, but that Egypt would soon fall.
F. They rejected his prophecy, and they forced him and Baruch to accompany them to Egypt.
G. Jeremiah delivers his final prophecy at Taphanes in Egypt.
H. In 586, the word comes to Ezekiel that the city is smitten.
I. From a state of undue optimism (dealt with by the first third of Ezekiel), the Jews switch to feelings of despair (dealt with by the last third of the book).
J. Read Psalm 137.
1. (Verse 1) “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.”
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)