There were three Babylonian invasions of Judah.
In 605 B.C., Babylon went to war with Egypt and God’s people were caught in the middle. Judah had sided with Egypt, and for that transgression, the King of Babylon defeated Judah as well, taking some of her princes as hostage back to Babylon. It wasn’t just unfortunate happenstance. God had planned it. Among the hostages was Daniel, who wrote the book which bears his name. He wrote in Babylon, and his book is a reminder of how God rules over the nations of men and can bless His people no matter where they live.
In 597 B.C., Babylon once again went to war with Egypt, and once again, Judah sided with Egypt. This time, in defeating Egypt and Judah, the king of Babylon took hostage the King of Judah, replaced him with another, and took more hostages. Those in captivity did not believe they would stay long. They earnestly believed they would be delivered, and the source of deliverance would be their kinsmen back home in Jerusalem. They believed their sins had separated them from God and His people and the Promised Land. Those left behind in Jerusalem must be the truly righteous, they thought, because they were not in captivity! In time, they would come rescue their brethren.
Ezekiel offers his readers in Babylon insight into what was truly going on in Jerusalem. If they were expecting deliverance from that quarter, they will be disappointed. The sins of Jerusalem’s inhabitants are every bit as bad, and more so, than any they have committed. There will be no deliverance by them.
Ezekiel was a priest in the temple of God. Taken captive at age 30, he would have only just begun his priestly service. He speaks and writes to his countrymen who are exiled as he is. Exile is not being homeless. “Rather, it is knowing that you do have a home, but that your home has been taken over by enemies.” It is not being without roots. “On the contrary, it is having deep roots which have now been plucked up, and there you are, with roots dangling, writhing in pain, exposed to a cold and jeering world, longing to be restored to native and nurturing soil. Exile is knowing precisely where you belong, but knowing you can’t go there – not yet. In exile, life cannot be “business as usual” (Ian Duguid, The NIV Application Commentary: Ezekiel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999) p. 48).
The book is divided by dates into 13 sections. Watch for the date changes in your readings. They do not always signal a subject change, but they are good markers for your readings.
Ezekiel is important to us because Christians are also “in exile” (1 Peter 1:1,17; 2:11). This is not our home. We are looking for a better city, a city whose architect and builder is God. Ezekiel tells us how to live until we finally get to “go home.”