How to Read Ezekiel

Part 1: Ezekiel 1–33


Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

The book of Ezekiel is the story of an exiled Israelite Priest who sees visions of the Lord and begins to warn Israel that their idolatry will bring further destruction. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Ezekiel, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this first video about Ezekiel 1–33. 




Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the book at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: God will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.


Observe: As you watched the video, what observations did you make about Ezekiel 1–33? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters.)
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Where an observation determines what the book says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the book means. We’ve asked what the book says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) God will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (Interpretation) God will heal their rebellious hearts and give them hearts that are soft—hearts that love and obey Him. 


Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Ezekiel 1–33? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes.)
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Contextualization looks at how the book fits into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fills in the biblical narrative. 

Example: Since the entrance of sin into the world, mankind’s hearts have been hardened toward God. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he would not let God’s people go. Israel’s hearts are hard, and they continue in idolatry and rebellion. God promises to give His people new, soft hearts. The Holy Spirit is given to believers and softens our hearts to love and obey God.


Contextualize: What themes does Ezekiel 1–33 seem to establish? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to Genesis?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this book applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.


Example: My heart, on its own, is hardened with sin and rebellious to God. It reveals itself daily in the dark thoughts I think, the sinful things I do, the good things I do not do, and the gossiping or unkind words I say. But I can ask God again to soften and make my heart new with the Holy Spirit. I can trust Him to convict, to correct, to transform, and to lead me to love and follow Him. 


Apply: How does the truth from this section of Ezekiel affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in chapters 1–33 this week?
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As you finish this first section on Ezekiel, thank God for how He’s speaking to you so far. Ask Him to continue to teach you as you dive into the next part of Ezekiel.


 
Part 2: Ezekiel 34–48


The previous section of this post focused on Ezekiel 1–33. This final session covers God’s promise to raise up a new David, his plan to defeat evil, and the beautiful hope of a glorious future for Israel and all nations in Ezekiel 34–48. As with the last section, the goal of this post is to help you navigate the story of Ezekiel, see what it teaches us and how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and, finally, to apply it to our lives. 




Now that you have an overview of Ezekiel in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Ezekiel. Read how God will spiritually recreate his people in Ezekiel 37. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Ezekiel 37.


Ezekiel 37:1-28 (ESV)

The Valley of Dry Bones

1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones.2And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry.3And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”4Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

7So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.8And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.14And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

I Will Be Their God, They Shall Be My People

15The word of the Lord came to me:16 “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’17And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.18And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’19say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand.20When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes,21then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land.22And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

24“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes.25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.28Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Remember that observation asks the basic who, what, where, and when questions. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. 

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Ezekiel 37? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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We've asked what these verses say about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.


Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What do they mean? What is the main message of Ezekiel 37? How does it connect with the main message of Ezekiel? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 


Contextualize: What themes does Ezekiel 37 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the book of Ezekiel? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible?
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Application considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.


Apply: How does the truth from this passage affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some practical ways you can live out the truths found in these verses this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video. 


Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Ezekiel, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Ezekiel this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice.



To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.