The prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Habakkuk (among others) come to pass, and the Babylonians attacked. In 598, they captured Jerusalem, placed their own puppet on the throne, and took the ruling and intellectual classes into exile. In 587, the puppet king rebelled, and the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, conquered it, broke down the walls, destroyed the temple, and took much of the population into exile in Babylon. During this period of time, the prophets Ezekiel wrote about God’s judgement, and his eventual salvation of his people.
Much of the first section of the book of Ezekiel (chs 4-24) outlines God’s judgement on Judah, and the destruction that is going to follow . Echoing his predecessors, Ezekiel shows that God is using the Babylonian nation as his weapon for punishing his own people (e.g. chs 7, 9). The reason for this punishment is Judah’s idolatry: failing to worship God alone (e.g. chs 8, 16, 23).
In an interesting exposition of the final exile, Ezekiel seems to lay the blame on Judah’s failure to accept the (oppressive) ruler that God had placed over them:
Ezekiel 17:12-17 12 “Now say to that rebellious house: Don’t you know what these things mean? Tell them: The king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, took its king and officials, and brought them back with him to Babylon. 13 He took one of the royal family and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath. Then he took away the leading men of the land, 14 so the kingdom might be humble and not exalt itself but might keep his covenant in order to endure. 15 However, this king revolted against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt so they might give him horses and a large army. Will he flourish? Will the one who does such things escape? Can he break a covenant and still escape? 16 “As I live”– this is the declaration of the Lord God– “he will die in Babylon, in the land of the king who put him on the throne, whose oath he despised and whose covenant he broke. 17 Pharaoh will not help him with his great army and vast horde in battle, when ramps are built and siege walls constructed to destroy many lives.
The next major section of Ezekiel (chs 25-32) continues the pattern we have seen in previous prophets, and outlines God’s wrath against the surrounding nations who have plagued God’s people – and whom have been used by God at times to punish them. God makes it clear in these passages that he will do the punishing – it will be the Day of the Lord (e.g Eze 30:3). He also makes it clear why he will bring these nations to justice:
22 “Therefore, say to the house of Israel: This is what the Lord God says: It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went. 23 I will honor the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations– the name you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh”– the declaration of the Lord God– “when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight. (Eze 36:22-23)
The desire that Judah and the nations ‘will know that I am Yahweh’ is a prominent one in Ezekiel. God will have his name known and praised throughout the nations, and every thing that happens to his people – for good or ill – is intended to accomplish that purpose.
Ezekiel concludes with an eschatological battle against Gog and Magog, which God wins through supernatural power (Eze 38:18-22). After that victory, God will establish the new age that Isaiah looked forward to. Israel would be resurrected like dry bones in a valley (ch 37) and, in that age:
26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. I will establish and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28 When My sanctuary is among them forever, the nations will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel. (Eze 37:26-28)
9 “Then the inhabitants of Israel’s cities will go out, kindle fires, and burn the weapons– the bucklers and shields, the bows and arrows, the clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them to make fires. (Eze 39:9)
God defeats the enemy, and brings about his peace forever.