Lesson 139: Ezekiel 1–3
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“Lesson 139: Ezekiel 1–3,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 139,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 139

Ezekiel 1–3


Ezekiel was a priest numbered among the Jewish captives carried away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. (see 2 Kings 24:11–16; Ezekiel 1:1–2). In his fifth year of captivity, Ezekiel saw a vision and beheld God’s glory. The Lord called Ezekiel to be a prophet and serve as a watchman who would warn, reprove, and call the house of Israel to repentance (see Ezekiel 2:3–7; 3:17).

Suggestions for Teaching

Ezekiel 1

Ezekiel sees the glory of God in vision

Invite a student to read aloud the following situation described by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Wirthlin, Joseph B.

“On December 26, 2004, a powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, creating a deadly tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. It was a terrible tragedy. In one day, millions of lives were forever changed.

“But there was one group of people who, although their village was destroyed, did not suffer a single casualty.

“The reason?

“They knew a tsunami was coming.

“The Moken people live in villages on islands off the coast of Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). A society of fishermen, their lives depend on the sea. For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, their ancestors have studied the ocean, and they have passed their knowledge down from father to son.

“One thing in particular they were careful to teach was what to do when the ocean receded. According to their traditions, when that happened, the ‘Laboon’—a wave that eats people—would arrive soon after.

“When the elders of the village saw the dreaded signs, they shouted to everyone to run to high ground.

“Not everyone listened.

“One elderly fisherman said, ‘None of the kids believed me.’ In fact, his own daughter called him a liar. But the old fisherman would not relent until all had left the village and climbed to higher ground” (“Journey to Higher Ground,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 16).

  • Why do you think some people disbelieved the village elders’ warnings?

  • How do you think the people who disbelieved the warnings at first may have felt toward the village elders after the tsunami?

Explain that there are unseen dangers in the world that threaten our spiritual safety. Invite students to look as they study Ezekiel 1–3 for a principle that teaches how the Lord will warn us of dangers and keep us safe.

Explain that Ezekiel was a priest who was carried away captive into Babylon with other Jews by King Nebuchadnezzar. Invite a student to read Ezekiel 1:1, 3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Ezekiel saw and experienced while in captivity.

  • What did Ezekiel see and experience while in captivity?

Summarize Ezekiel 1:4–25 by explaining that Ezekiel described four heavenly creatures and their manner of movement. He also saw four wheels that moved with the creatures. While some have attempted to explain what these figures and objects represent, the full meaning of Ezekiel’s vision has not yet been revealed to us by the Lord.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Ezekiel 1:26–28. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Ezekiel saw in the expanse above the heavenly creatures. Ask students to report what they find.

  • What words and phrases did Ezekiel use to describe the Lord and the throne He was sitting on?

  • Why do you think Ezekiel fell upon his face when He saw the Lord on His throne?

Ezekiel 2–3

The Lord calls Ezekiel to warn the Israelites in exile

Explain that Ezekiel 2–3 describes what Ezekiel saw next in his vision. Invite a student to read Ezekiel 2:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what helped Ezekiel hear the Lord’s words. Point out that Ezekiel 2:1, footnote a, clarifies the meaning of the phrase “son of man” as it is used in this verse.

  • According to verse 2, what entered into Ezekiel that helped him hear the Lord’s words?

  • What is the Spirit’s role in helping us hear and understand the Lord’s words?

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Ezekiel 2:3–7. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jehovah called Ezekiel to do. Explain that the words impudent and stiffhearted in verse 4 imply stubbornness and an unwillingness to change. The word forbear in verse 5 means to refrain from.

  • According to verses 3–5, what did the Lord call Ezekiel to do?

  • Based on the description of the children of Israel in verses 3–7, what challenges would Ezekiel face as he taught them? (You may want to explain that the briers, thorns, and scorpions mentioned in verse 6 symbolize the difficulties Ezekiel would face as he taught the people.)

  • What can we learn from verse 7 about the role of a prophet? (Students may suggest a variety of truths, but make sure it is clear that prophets speak and teach the words the Lord has given them.)

  • How might understanding that prophets seek to teach the words the Lord has given them influence your attitude toward their counsel and teachings?

Summarize Ezekiel 2:9–10 by explaining that the Lord gave Ezekiel a “roll of a book” (Ezekiel 2:9), which was a scroll with writing on both the front and back. This scroll contained the words the Lord wanted Ezekiel to speak to Israel, which included “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10) for their rebelliousness.

Anciently, some writings were recorded on paper, parchment, or other materials and rolled up like this scroll.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Ezekiel 3:1–3. (You may want to explain that the word roll means scroll.) Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded Ezekiel to do with the scroll. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What do you think eating the scroll represents? (One possible explanation is that eating the scroll represents Ezekiel internalizing the word of God and making it a part of his life [see Ezekiel 3:10].)

  • How did Ezekiel describe the taste of the scroll?

  • Why do you think he would describe the scroll with God’s word written on it as sweet when it contained “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10)?

Summarize Ezekiel 3:4–14 by explaining that the Lord commanded Ezekiel to speak His words to the people. Though Ezekiel would face opposition, the Lord had strengthened Ezekiel’s resolve to teach the rebellious children of Israel.

Explain that the Lord used an analogy to help Ezekiel understand his mission and role as a prophet. To help students understand this analogy, invite them to imagine they live in an ancient city. Divide students into groups of two or three, and invite each group to make a list of ways they would fortify their city against enemy attacks. Ask a few students to share their lists with the class.

Invite a student to read Ezekiel 3:17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord likened Ezekiel to.

  • What did the Lord liken Ezekiel to?

Watchman on the Tower

Show students a picture of a watchman on a tower, or draw a simple illustration of one on the board. Explain that in Ezekiel’s day, a watchman on a wall or tower had the responsibility to warn the people of impending danger from enemy attacks (see Ezekiel 33:1–6). Display a picture of the current President of the Church.

  • How are the responsibilities of a prophet similar to those of a watchman?

  • How might prophets be like watchmen for us? (Students may use different words, but help them identify a principle similar to the following: If we heed the warnings of prophets, we can be prepared to face challenges and dangers that threaten us. Consider writing this principle on the board and inviting students to write it in their scriptures next to Ezekiel 3:17.)

To help students understand the importance of giving heed to prophetic warnings, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:

Eyring, Henry B.

“Because the Lord is kind, He calls servants to warn people of danger. That call to warn is made harder and more important by the fact that the warnings of most worth are about dangers that people don’t yet think are real” (“A Voice of Warning,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 32).

  • According to President Eyring, why are prophetic warnings so important for us to follow today?

  • What are some warnings prophets have given us recently? (List students’ responses on the board. Also consider sharing a few statements of warning delivered by prophets at recent general conferences.)

Ask students to pick a warning listed on the board. Invite them to ponder and then respond to the following question:

  • How can following this prophetic warning protect you from danger?

Invite students to review at home the most recent addresses from the President of the Church and sections of the For the Strength of Youth booklet. Encourage them to follow the warnings and counsel they find.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Ezekiel 3:18–21. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the consequences Ezekiel would suffer if he failed to warn the people by calling them to repentance.

  • What did the Lord say would happen to Ezekiel if he failed to warn the people? (Explain that the word blood in verses 18 and 20 refers to sins.)

  • According to these verses, what truth did the Lord emphasize to Ezekiel? (Students may use different words, but be sure it is clear that the Lord holds us accountable to fulfill the responsibilities He gives us.)

Summarize Ezekiel 3:22–27 by explaining that the Lord promised to help Ezekiel know when he should teach the people and what he should say to them. The Lord instructed Ezekiel to tell the people he would prophesy regardless of whether they listened to his message.

Conclude by testifying of the role of the Lord’s prophets as watchmen and the blessings that come from heeding their warnings and counsel.

Commentary and Background Information

Ezekiel 1:5–14. The four creatures with four faces

“In his vision, Ezekiel saw four creatures, each of which had four faces. ‘They four had the face of a man, … a lion, … an ox … [and] the face of an eagle’ (Ezekiel 1:10). The Apostle John had a similar vision. In his vision, the creatures were described as being ‘like a lion, … like a calf, … [having] a face as a man, and … like a flying eagle’ (Revelation 4:7). The Prophet Joseph explained that the four beasts in John’s vision were representative of classes of beings (see D&C 77:3). The faces of the creatures in Ezekiel’s vision seem to represent the same thing. The following interpretation, from an ancient Jewish commentary, is in harmony with that view: ‘Man is exalted among creatures; the eagle is exalted among birds; the ox is exalted among domestic animals; the lion is exalted among wild beasts; and all of them have received dominion, and greatness has been given them, yet they are stationed below the chariot of the Holy One’ (Midrash Shemoth Rabbah 23; in D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 667).

“Ezekiel saw that the throne of God was above the creatures (Ezekiel 1:26–28). That placement represents His having dominion over all living things, though He provides the means for all His creations, both human and animal, to enter into eternal glory, each in their appropriate order (see D&C 77:2–3)” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 266).

Ezekiel 1:15–21. The four wheels in Ezekiel’s vision

The wheels that Ezekiel saw in his vision are an example of images that are open for interpretation. About such images, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don’t be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject” (in History of the Church, 5:343).

Ezekiel 2:7; 3:4. “Thou shalt speak my words unto them”

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught how modern prophets seek the guidance of the Lord:

“[General] conferences are always under the direction of the Lord, guided by His Spirit [D&C 46:2]. We are not assigned specific topics. Over weeks and months, often through sleepless nights, we wait upon the Lord. Through fasting, praying, studying, and pondering, we learn the message that He wants us to give” (“General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 6).

Ezekiel 2:7; 3:4. The words of prophets

While prophets are called to speak and teach God’s word, not every statement they make necessarily constitutes doctrine. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that ‘a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such’ [in History of the Church, 5:265]” (“The Doctrine of Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 88).