But first, we need to understand the time in which Ezekiel lived. Both Jeremiah and Daniel were contemporary prophets to Ezekiel, although Ezekiel was the youngest of the three. Daniel was ten years younger than Jeremiah, and Ezekiel was 6 years younger than Daniel. Ezekiel was born during the time of King Josiah, who was the last good king of Judah. Josiah became king when he was only 8 years of age. Over the next 12 years, he started making many reforms and instituted the largest celebration of Passover since the time of the prophet Samuel (2Ch 35:18). When Josiah was about 25 years of age, he started making significant temple repairs and discovered the book of The Law in the temple remains (2Ch 34:8-21). This was the time in which Ezekiel was born.
Ezekiel was born into a time of revival in Judah and Jerusalem. Since he was the son of a priest (Ek 1:3), he likely grew up with a full knowledge of who God was and of God’s significance not only for Judah, but for him personally. He was likely trained to be a priest after his father. When Ezekiel was 13 years of age, king Josiah went to fight King Necho of Egypt (2Ch 35:20). The reason for him doing this is not clear. Yet, the Scythians had ruled Palestine during the time of Josiah and they had good relations and allowed Josiah’s reforms to spread all the way to north of Galilee in Naphtali (2Ch 34:6-7). Because some of the Scythians had plotted with Babylon against the Assyrians, Josiah may have wanted to prevent King Necho from reaching the Assyrians to provide aid. More than likely, Necho wanted the Assyrians and Babylonians to annihilate each other so he could regain control of the area.
Josiah headed off King Necho and his army at Megiddo, the pass through the Carmel mountains as one comes up the Way of the Sea (2Ch 35:22). Yet, Josiah was wounded with an arrow, was taken back to Jerusalem, and died (2Ch 35:23-24). King Necho and his Egyptian army headed to Carchemish where the battle between Assyria and Babylon commenced. While Babylon conquered Assyria, Necho pushed the Babylonians back. Likely to show his dominance, and probably for spite, King Necho took Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz, to Egypt and put Josiah’s eldest son, Eliakim as king and changed his name to Jehoiakim (2Ch 36:1-4).
It seems King Necho went back to Carchemish and was this time defeated by the Babylonians, through the skill of Nebuchadnezzar, and pushed Necho all the way back to the Egyptian border. Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem and captured Jehoiakim. Yet, he was called back to Babylon because of the death of his father Nabopolassar. He therefore left Jehoiakim in charge, but imposed taxation (2Ch 36:5-7). He also took many prominent people captive at this time—one of them being Daniel, who was likely 23 years of age at the time.
A few years later, Egypt and Babylon fight in Gaza. Although Babylon wins, they encounter heavy losses by the hand of Egypt. Jehoiakim then decides he will no longer pay taxes to Babylon. Three years later, Nebuchadnezzar returns to Jerusalem to collect his taxes. Before he arrives, Jehoiakim is killed by a raiding party, being thrown over the city’s wall (2Ki 23:2; Jr 36:30-31). His son, Jehoiachin, is made king, but reigns for only three months before Nebuchadnezzar arrives. Nebuchadnezzar deposes Jehoiachin and makes Josiah’s other son, Mattaniah, king and changes his name to Zedekiah (2Ch 36:9-10). Jehoiachin is taken to Babylon with about 10,000 other captives—one of whom was Ezekiel, being 25 years of age. So, Ezekiel is taken away from the temple before he was able to become a priest. Priests must be 30 years of age to be a priest (Nu 4:23).
Therefore, Ezekiel is taken to a Tel-Abib, a place just south of Babylon on the Chebar canal which is a tributary of the Euphrates River. After being in captivity for five years, God gives him a vision and charges him to be a prophet to both those Jews in Babylonian captivity and to those Jews back in Jerusalem.
It is interesting that God revealed himself to Ezekiel when Ezekiel turned thirty, the age he would have begun his priestly duties at the temple if he was still in Jerusalem. God gave him an even greater duty—to be a prophet to the people he was to have served as a priest. He was still going to be serving them and pointing them to God in a way he never would have as a priest.
The same can be true for us as well if we are willing. While we have plans that seem to fail, if we trust in what God has for us, we may find he has something even greater in store for us than we could ever have imagined. Are you looking for that opportunity? That is what God is looking for. Have the right attitude and the willing heart and God will use you mightily. I wish you much success in your walk with the Lord.
Fall Jewish Holidays - Part 3: Sukkot
Fall Jewish Holidays - Part 5: Jubilee
God’s Prophecy of Hope