Glossary of Terms



Top of Page Bottom of Page



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Ezekiel, the Book of, an ot book of prophecies attributed to the sixth-century prophet Ezekiel (Heb., ‘God strengthens’).

The Prophet: When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon captured Jerusalem in 597 b.c., he took many of the leading citizens of Jerusalem as hostages to Babylon, among whom was Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi (1:3). They were resettled at a place called Tel Abib (Heb. ‘mound of the flood’) on the river Chebar, one of the tributary canals of the Euphrates River southeast of Babylon, near the ancient city of Nippur. It was there that Ezekiel received his call as a prophet of the Lord in 593 b.c. From then on, he prophesied intermittently until 571 b.c.

Ezekiel seems to have been deeply affected by the message he was called upon to deliver. Following his initial call, he sat overwhelmed for seven days (3:15). He was given to extraordinary visions and engaged in prophetic symbolic acts, which must have appeared strange to many of his contemporaries (3:1-3; 4:1-17; 5:1-3). From the time of his call and until the final fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c., he was a virtual recluse in his house and afflicted with fits of dumbness and immobility (3:24-27; 24:25-27; 33:21-22). The sudden death of his wife and his inability to mourn for her according to custom become a symbol of the sudden destruction of God’s sanctuary in Jerusalem (24:15-18). His contemporaries viewed him as somewhat of a curiosity (33:30-33). Only in retrospect was his true greatness recognized and his words were preserved for posterity. We do not know when or under what circumstances Ezekiel died, though presumably it was in exile.

The Book: Ezekiel gives evidence of having been shaped editorially by a school of disciples, who, however, were not far removed in time from the prophet himself. Its outline exhibits a clear threefold structure. Chaps. 1-24 consist chiefly of oracles of judgment against Judah and Jerusalem prior to the fall of the city. This is followed in chaps. 25-32 by oracles against various foreign nations. After a transitional chapter (33) that links the first and third sections, there follow in chaps. 34-48 prophecies about the future restoration of the people in the promised land.


The Book of Ezekiel

I. Oracles of judgment against Judah and Jerusalem (1:1-24:27)

A. Vision of God’s glory and call of Ezekiel (1:1-3:21)

B. Symbolic acts: the coming siege of Jerusalem (3:22-5:17)

C. Oracles of judgment and announcement of its imminence (6:1-7:27)

D. Abominations in the Temple: God’s glory departs (8:1-11:25)

E. Symbolic acts describing the Exile and sayings against unresponsive people and false prophets (12:1-14:23)

F. Historical allegories and sermons: against the people, their kings, and individual wickedness (15:1-20:49)

G. Further oracles of judgment (21:1-32:49)

H. Symbolic acts: the siege begins (24:1-27)

II. Oracles against foreign nations (25:1-32:32)

A. Judah’s immediate neighbors: Ammon, Moab, Edom, the Philistines (25:1-17)

B. Tyre (26:1-28:26)

C. Egypt (29:1-32:32)

III. Prophecies of future restoration (33:1-39:29)

A. Announcement of Jerusalem’s fall: Ezekiel’s role as watchman and importance of individual responsibility (33:1-33)

B. Promises of deliverance from exile and restoration in the land (34:1-37:28)

C. God and Magog: the enemy’s ultimate defeat (38:1-39:29)

IV. Program for reorganization of the restored community (40:1-48:35)

A. Plans for new Temple: God’s glory returns (40:1-43:12)

B. Temple regulations and personnel (43:13-46:24)

C. The healing waters of the Temple spring (47:1-12)

D. Division of the land (47:13-48:35)

The Message: Ezekiel was called to be a watchman in the service of God, whose chief task it was to warn his people in accordance with the words God had given him (3:16-21; 33:1-9). This he did faithfully throughout his ministry, irrespective of whether his compatriots heeded him or not. Ezekiel’s message is imbued with a strong sense of the sovereignty of God and the self-directed purposefulness of God’s activity in history, which cannot be thwarted by human failure. This divine activity in history involves both judgment and salvation and is designed to bring Israel and the nations to the true knowledge of God. Because of Israel’s repeated failure and sin, God had resolved to destroy the nation. This decision was irrevocable (14:12-20; 21:1-7). Unlike Hosea and Jeremiah, who viewed Israel’s history as one of initial faithfulness followed by disobedience, Ezekiel describes Israel’s entire existence from Egypt on as one of disobedience and rebellion (20:1-38). The harlotry metaphor, already used by Hosea and Jeremiah to describe Israel’s waywardness, is elaborated to the extreme by Ezekiel in chaps. 16 and 23. Ezekiel also attacks all false human hopes (12:21-28; 33:23-29), thereby preparing the ground for a hope based not on human merit or potential, but on God’s own character and purpose (36:16-38).

With the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c., Ezekiel’s message of judgment received its ultimate validation. From that point on, the prophet’s message increasingly focuses on the theme of hope and salvation. Ezekiel reminds those who felt cut off from God in a pagan and unclean land that the glory of the Lord was not tied to the Temple in Jerusalem but had traveled with them into exile (chaps. 1 and 10). God himself had even become their sanctuary for a while, until he would bring them back to their own land (11:16-17). Ezekiel gently reminds those crushed by a sense of guilt and despair (33:10) that the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he is more than willing and able to forgive penitent sinners and restore them to life even in exile (33:11-20). The sins of past generations could not prevent the present generation from making life-affirming choices (18:1-20); and the same truth was operative even within the lifespan of one human being or generation (18:21-32). God’s intentions for humanity are fundamentally salvific (18:32; 33:11). Ezekiel goes on to speak of the future restoration of his people in their own land, where they would live in peace and security, under righteous rulers, and with God as their good shepherd (34; 35:1-36:15; 37:1-28). God’s sanctuary would be restored in their midst and the glory of the Lord would return to the place from which it once had departed (40:1-43:5). Not only would the nation be restored outwardly, but God would also renew them inwardly through the gracious bestowal of his spirit and the renewal of the human heart (36:26-27; 37:14; 11:19-20).


Greenberg, M. Ezekiel 1-20. Garden City: Doubleday, 1983.
Zimmerli, W. Ezekiel, vols. 1 and 2. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979, 1983.


All glossary terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
Top of page