SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Ezekiel 33:1 through 48:35
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Ezekiel 37:26-27)
The fall of Jerusalem marked a turning point in the subject, tone, and emphasis of Ezekiel’s messages. Up to chapter 33, the prophet’s primary purpose had been to warn the exiles in Babylon of the soon-coming judgment upon Judah (chapters 1-24) and upon the surrounding heathen nations (chapters 25-32). Once Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, God directed the prophet to change from messages of doom and punishment to messages of comfort and future restoration for Israel. While there are still warnings in these chapters, they are part of a larger emphasis on hope.
The climax of the book comes in chapters 40-48, which describe a future time in which the people of Israel will be fully restored to their God. This restoration will fulfill the promise God made to Abraham: that his descendants would be blessed and would be a blessing (see Genesis 12:1-3). In Ezekiel’s vision of God’s final, perfect kingdom, the restored Temple worship portrayed Israel’s future redemption and restoration in a way both the prophet and the people could understand, and confirmed God’s faithfulness to Israel.
These chapters reveal the sovereignty of God, His fairness, and His good plans for Israel that will be fulfilled one day when God and His people live in a new era of blessing and communion. The book of Ezekiel opens with a vision, and closes with the longest recorded vision in the Old Testament — one that offered the people hope in spite of the depressing realities of the captivity they were enduring.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- In the first nine verses of chapter 33, the prophet was reminded of his call to be a watchman who would warn the people of spiritual dangers. God declared that if Ezekiel failed to fulfill this charge, he would be held accountable for the messages he had been commissioned to proclaim. The chapter continues with a message from the Lord asserting that spiritual life could be gained through turning from wickedness to righteousness. What key Bible doctrines are alluded to in Ezekiel 33:13-16?
Verses 13-16 allude to the doctrines of repentance, salvation, and restitution. You may wish to discuss these verses one at a time to make sure each point is clearly understood.
Verse 13 brings out that one who trusts “his own righteousness” (depends upon good deeds) will not receive salvation through those actions. Those who “commit iniquity” (who sin) “shall die for it” — a reference to spiritual death. This verse also refutes the doctrine of eternal security, as it clearly states that previous righteous acts of an individual “shall not be remembered” if that one turns back and commits sin.
The phrase “if he turn from his sin” in verse 14 alludes to repentance. In verse 15, “restore the pledge” is a reference to making restitution. The statement in verse 16 that the one whose sins are not mentioned and who has done what is lawful and right “shall surely live,” is a promise of spiritual life, or salvation.
- Chapter 34 presents a contrast between the behavior of Israel’s unfaithful shepherds — the civil and religious leaders of Israel — and the behavior of a good shepherd. Verses 2-7 outline the offences of the shepherds of Israel, which included exploiting the common people to feed and clothe themselves. In addition, they had neglected the sick and infirm, failed to search for the lost, and ruled with force and cruelty. As a result, the sheep — the people of Israel — were “scattered upon all the face of the earth” and had become prey. In contrast, what did God promise in verses 11-16 that the true Shepherd would do for the people?
Verses 11-16 indicate that out of love for His sheep, the true Shepherd would do what the unfaithful shepherds had not done. The true Shepherd would search for His sheep and deliver them out of the places where they had been scattered. He would bring them to their own land and feed them there in a “good pasture.” He would cause His sheep to lie down “in a good fold,” and would bind up the broken and heal the sick.
The prophetic implications in these verses were wonderfully fulfilled in the work of Jesus Christ. The idea of the Lord as the Good Shepherd of God’s people goes back to Genesis 49:24, and is also reflected in passages such as Psalm 23.
- Military invaders of Ezekiel’s era typically employed a “scorched earth” policy designed to wipe out any future resistance by the conquered nation. Nebuchadnezzar’s lengthy siege of Jerusalem had taken a devastating toll on Judah, and the land was left ravaged and uncultivated. In chapter 36, God indicated through Ezekiel that this severe judgment was because the people had engaged in idolatry and bloodshed (see verse 18). However, Ezekiel also was told to describe a coming restoration that would be truly remarkable. What specific evidences of renewal were promised in verses 8-12?
Ezekiel foretold that the dispersed people one day would be regathered to their land. The “fruit” referenced in verse 8 points to agricultural abundance — the result of the Lord himself turning toward His people and taking their side, which will make it possible for the land to be “tilled” and “sown” again. This in turn will allow for population growth and the rebuilding of the nation’s cities. The resulting prosperity will surpass anything Israel has ever known. The people of Israel will once again walk upon the “mountains of Israel” (a reference to the whole land). Only through God’s great mercy could such a complete restoration come to pass.
Point out to your group that in addition to the physical restoration of Israel, God also promised that one day a spiritual restoration of the people would occur . Direct your students’ attention to verses 25-28, where God promised to cleanse the people, give them new hearts, and put His Spirit within them. God’s mercy and His restorative power in Israel can be compared to His mercy and restorative power that transforms the lives of those who turn to Him in repentance, and find new life in Christ.
- After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the people who survived were overcome with hopelessness. They cried in despair, “Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost” (Ezekiel 37:11). God responded by giving Ezekiel a striking and visual message of encouragement. Transported by the Spirit to the midst of a valley full of dry bones, Ezekiel was asked the question, “Can these bones live?” When the prophet responded, “O Lord God, thou knowest,” he was told to prophesy to the bones. What happened when he obeyed? Ezekiel 37:7-10
The bones began coming together. Sinews, flesh, and skin came upon them, but “there was no breath in them” — they were not alive. Then Ezekiel was told to prophesy unto the wind. When he obeyed, breath came into the lifeless bodies and they stood to their feet, “an exceeding great army.” To ensure that Ezekiel would understand the meaning of the vision, God explained it to him in verses 11-14. What a vivid and amazing picture of new life and a nation restored both physically and spiritually!
You may wish to point out to your group that an initial fulfillment of this prophecy occurred when the Jewish exiles returned to their homeland after seventy years in Babylonian captivity. A broader fulfillment took place when Israel became a nation in 1948 after nearly two thousand years of dispersion. The complete fulfillment is yet to come.
- In Ezekiel 37:15-17, God instructed Ezekiel to take two sticks and write on them names representing the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and Southern Kingdom (Judah). Then Ezekiel was instructed to join the two sticks together to “make them one stick” in his hand. According to verses 19-22, how was he to respond when the people asked him the meaning of this object lesson?
Through the symbolic joining of two sticks, the prophet was to tell the people that God had promised not only the restoration of the Southern Kingdom of Judah that had recently fallen, but the reunification of the whole nation in their promised land, under the rule of one king. This was an astonishing promise, since by Ezekiel’s day, the nation of Israel had been divided for nearly 350 years.
Verses 23-28 of chapter 37 reveal that this prophecy will be fulfilled in the future, during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. In that day, Israel will be a cleansed and purified people who observe the statutes of the Lord. God will make an everlasting covenant of peace with them, and will establish His sanctuary in the midst of them forever. (Note: More about this sanctuary and other aspects of restored Israel will be presented in questions 7-9.)
- Ezekiel 38 and 39 are a prophecy against a confederacy of nations, referred to as Gog and Magog, that will attack Israel with the purpose of destroying the Jewish nation. This will draw God’s profound anger; the words “my fury shall come up in my face” in Ezekiel 38:18 describe His wrath when enemy armies set foot in Israel. As a result, the Lord will personally intervene to defeat them. Based on Ezekiel 38:19-22, what are some of the natural elements God will use to overcome the enemy armies in this battle?
God will use a mighty earthquake, hailstones, fire and brimstone, overflowing rain, and an enemy fighting against itself to defeat the armies that come against Israel. These are all “echoes” of past events in the Bible, but will be greater in magnitude and scope than ever before as the Lord defeats the enemies of His people in this battle.
The first sixteen verses of chapter 39 continue the description of the utter destruction of Gog and Magog — an annihilation so terrible that only a small remnant of their army will survive. Ezekiel 39:9-12 indicates that all the enemies’ weaponry will be destroyed. The fact that it will take seven years to burn these weapons signifies the totality of the Lord’s victory and the completion of His plan to vindicate His name.
While the details of this passage are grim, reading of this great victory should encourage us with the thought that God is all-powerful and more than able to defeat any challenger who comes against Him. What a comfort it is to know that we are on this mighty God’s side, and He will stand with us in any trial we face!
Note: Bible scholars interpret the names “Gog” and “Magog” in various ways, but the view that seems to align most closely to the whole of Scripture is that the names represent a coalition of nations that oppose Israel rather than specific kings or military leaders. Battles that reference Gog and Magog are described in both Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20:7-9, and most commentators view these as two separate events. Opinions vary as to the exact timing of the Ezekiel battle in reference to other end-time events, but the Revelation battle clearly takes place after the Millennium.
- Chapters 40-42 continue the theme of Israel’s eventual restoration, with a focus on Ezekiel’s vision of a rebuilt Temple. This vision took place about 573 B.C., fourteen years after the fall of Jerusalem to the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. In the vision, a divinely appointed guide led the prophet through the restored Temple complex. Precise measurements were taken, and Ezekiel was told to record what he saw and declare it to the people of Israel. Why do you think it was important for the people of Ezekiel’s era to hear about a Temple that did not exist at that time?
For the people of Ezekiel’s day, the Temple was a symbol of Israel’s national identity and of God’s relationship to His people. No doubt Ezekiel’s vision of a restored Temple in Israel’s future brought hope because it framed Israel’s future restoration and redemption in a way they could comprehend, and confirmed God’s faithfulness to Israel.
This may be a good opportunity to discuss with your group how the prophecies of coming events such as the Rapture of the Church, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and the Millennial Reign of Christ offer us that same hope, and remind us of God’s faithfulness to His own. The people of Ezekiel’s day would not have understood every detail of what the prophet described to them, and we do not understand every detail regarding what will transpire at the end of time. But like them, we can take hold of the hope God offers us, and rejoice in what the future holds for every child of God.
- After the vivid and detailed description of the Temple complex in the preceding three chapters, in chapter 43 Ezekiel witnessed God’s return by way of the eastern gate. Then Ezekiel was transported to the inner court, where he observed the glory of the Lord fill the Temple, much as had happened at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. Though Ezekiel had witnessed the glory of God twice before, he was so overwhelmed that once again he fell on his face in reverence and awe. Since the departure of God’s glory had signaled the onset of the destruction of the city and Temple, what do you think the return of God’s glory symbolized?
Your group should conclude that the return of God’s glory symbolized the return of God to His people, and the restoration of pure worship.
Amplify discussion of this question by pointing out to your students that one of God’s accusations against the house of Israel before Judah’s destruction was that they had failed to preserve the sanctity of the Temple (see Ezekiel 8). Such neglect would not be tolerated in the new Temple. In chapter 44, God gave instructions for proper worship and explicit directions regarding how they were to keep worship pure. The instructions included both obvious things that could be seen, and the less obvious attitudes of the heart.
- Chapters 45-46 describe the renewal of worship in the Temple and the offerings, feasts, festivals, and worship ordinances that will one day take place in restored Israel. Many Bible scholars believe that the offerings described in these chapters are commemorations of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for the sins of mankind — they will be “picture lessons” and reminders to the people of the Messiah’s marvelous saving work. What type of offerings can we bring the Lord in our day to show our gratitude and appreciation for all He has done for us?
Class suggestions will center on the fact that we must offer ourselves to the Lord, wholly and without reservation. There is no other way we can adequately express our gratitude and appreciation to Him for what He has done and provided for us.
- Chapter 47 begins a description of the transformed land of Israel that continues through chapter 48. We read of the great river that flows from the Temple, which begins as a small stream but rapidly increases in size. A description is also given of the land allotments made to the various tribes. The city at the center of the restored nation will be named “The Lord is there,” using God’s proper name. The details found in these chapters portray a land and city very different from the Israel or Jerusalem that previously existed in all of recorded history. What blessings will be enjoyed by those living in restored Israel? Ezekiel 47:8-9, 12, 21-22
Discussion of this question will be a good way to wrap up your lesson. The specific blessings alluded to in the text include: the healing properties of the great river (Ezekiel 47:8-9), trees that provide multiple types of fruit, good both for nourishment and medicine (Ezekiel 47:12), and a designated portion of land as an inheritance (Ezekiel 47:21-22).
Amplify your class discussion by asking your group to offer thoughts about other blessings and privileges that will be enjoyed by those who dwell in restored Israel. Point out that one of the greatest blessings will be the presence of the Lord himself. Other thoughts might be: worship will be pure and unhindered; peace and perfect harmony will reign; there will be nothing present that is defiling or impure; the focus of all the inhabitants of the city will be praise and adoration for our Lord and Savior. What a hope we have of one day being part of that number!
Although many of us are not Jewish by birth, Jesus Christ made it possible for each of us to have an eternal possession in a place where God will dwell. What a hope! This homeland will be blessed beyond anything we can imagine, and it will be worth any effort necessary to be there.