The Prophet. His name means “God will strengthen”. He was a priest and was carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. B. C. 597. He had a home on the river Chebar where the Elders of Judah were accustomed to meet. His wife died in the ninth year of his captivity. He was a man of very powerful intellect and apparently from the better classes of those carried into captivity. He is less attractive than Isaiah and less constant in the flow of his thought than Jeremiah. He is not so timid or sensitive as Jeremiah but has all his horror for sin and all of his grief, occasioned by the wickedness of his people and the suffering which they endured. In his boldness of utterance he was not surpassed by his predecessors.
Nature of the Prophecy. The nature of the prophecy or the methods by which he exercised or manifests his prophetic gift differs from that of the other prophets. He does not so much predict as see visions of them. Allegories, parables, similitudes and visions abound, some of them symbolic of the future and others of existing facts and conditions. The prophet remains on the banks of Chebar and in spirit is transported to Jerusalem and the temple. Much of the book is in character similar to Revelation and while the general subjects are very plain, much of the meaning of the symbols is obscure. There are, however, powerful addresses and eloquent predictions of Divine judgments on the nations. It was probably due to the services of Ezekiel that Israel’s religion was preserved during the exile.
The Main Aspects of his Teaching. (1) Denunciation of Judah’s sins and the downfall of Jerusalem, Chs. 1-24. (2) Judgments upon foreign nations, Chs. 25-32. (3) Repentance as a condition of salvation, 18:30-32. (4) The glorious restoration of Israel, li:16ff; 16:60ff; 27:22-24; 20:40ff; Chs. 33-48. (5) The freedom and responsibility of the individual soul before God. 18:20-32. (6) The necessity of a new heart and a new spirit, 11:19: 18:31; 36:26.
Condition of the Jews. (1) Political and social condition. They are captives living in Babylon but are treated as colonists and not as slaves. They increased in numbers and accumulated great wealth and some of them rose to the highest offices. (2) The religious condition or outlook. They had religious freedom and in this period they forever gave up their idolatry. They sought out the books of the law, revised the cannon, wrote some new books and perhaps inaugurated the synagogue worship which became so powerful afterward.
I. Ezekiel’s Call, Chs. 1-3.
1. Preliminary vision, Ch. 1.
2. The call, Chs. 2-3.
II. The Destruction of Jerusalem, Chs. 4-24.
1. The siege and certain judgment of the city, Chs. 4-7.
2. The condition of the city and the sins of the people, Chs. 8-19.
3. Renewed proofs and predictions of the doom of Judah and Jerusalem, Chs. 20-24.
III. Predictions against Foreign Nations and Cities. Chs. 25-32.
IV. Prophecies concerning the Restoration, Chs. 33-48.
1. The restoration of Judah to the promised land, Chs. 33-39.
2. The Messianic times, Chs. 40-48.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The condition, the particular sin and the judgment promised upon each of the nations mentioned-has the prediction been fulfilled? (2) The duties and responsibilities of a preacher as illustrated by Ezekiel’s watchman, Ch. 33. (3) The vision of dry bones. Ch 37. (4) Judah and Israel under the figure of an evil woman, Ch. 23. (5) The healing river, 47:1-12. (6) The teachings about the Restoration, in the following passages: 36:8, 9, 29, 30, 34, 35, 25-27; 37:1-14; 24:11-24; 37:22; 26,27; 43:11-12. (7) The symbols and types of the book.
Name. The name is taken from its leading character, Daniel, which means “God is my Judge.”
Author. It was very probably Daniel, though some think it may have been one of his companions, and still others think the history may have been gotten together and written about 166 B. C.
The Date. The date then would have been between the captivity, 605 B. C., and the death of Daniel, 533 B. C., perhaps late in his life, or if by some other (which I do not think likely) about 166 B. C.
The Prophet. He was probably born in Jerusalem and was one of the noble young captives first carried into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar. He was educated by order of the king and soon rose to great favor and was chosen to stand before the king in one of the highest government positions under the Chaldean, Median and Persian dynasties. He lived through the whole period of the captivity and probably died in Babylon. It is said that not one imperfection of his life is recorded. The angel repeatedly calls him “greatly beloved.”
World Empires of the Book. (1) The Babylonian Empire (625-536 B. C.) with Nebuchadnezzar as the leading king and the one who carried Israel captive. (2) The Persian Empire (536-330 B. C.) which became a world power through Cyrus, under whom the Jews returned to Jerusalem. (3) The Grecian Empire, which, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, subdued the entire Persian world. (4) The Roman Empire, which was anticipated by and grew out of the Syrian Empire.
Purpose of the Book. The purpose of the book seems to be: (1) To magnify Jehovah, who delivers his servants, who is God of all nations, and who will punish idolatry, who is pure, righteous, etc. (2) To encourage his countrymen to resist the forces that threaten the foundation of their faith. This was done by the example of Daniel and his companions whom Jehovah saved. (3) To give a prophecy or vision of all times from the day of Daniel to the Messianic period. (4) To outline the religious philosophy of history which would issue in a great world state, which the Messianic King would rule by principles of justice and right, and which would subdue all kingdoms and have everlasting dominion. The main idea is the ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God. As compared with former prophetic books there are two new teachings. (1) Concerning angels. (2) Concerning a resurrection from the dead.
I. Daniel’s History, Chs. 1-6.
1. His youth and education, Ch. 1.
2. Interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s image dream. Ch. 2.
3. In the fiery furnace. Ch. 3.
4. Interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s tree dream, Ch. 4.
5. Interpretation of the hand-writing on the wall for Belshazzar, Ch. 5.
6. In the Lion’s den, Ch. 6.
II. Daniel’s Vision of the Kingdom, Chs. 7-12.
1. The four beasts, Ch. 7.
2. The ram and the he-goat, Ch. 8.
3. The seventy weeks, Ch. 9.
4. The final vision, Chs. 10-12.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Make a list of the various visions of Daniel and become familiar with the contents of each. (2) Make a list of all the passages that refer to the fact of Daniel’s praying and point out some of the specific prayers with their answers. (3) Point out the different attempts to overthrow or kill Daniel and tell the cause, by whom he was opposed and how he escaped. (4) Make a list of the different symbols such as the lion and learn the description given of each symbolic animal. (5) Point out the several decrees made by the different kings and learn what led to the decree, how it affected Daniel, how it bore upon the worship of the people of his nation, how it affected the worship of Jehovah, etc. (6) The difficulty and possibility of right living in bad surroundings. (7) The openness of Daniel’s conduct. (8) The elements of strength of character displayed by Daniel. (9) The inevitable conflict between good and evil.