Christian Military Academy Lecture 1
The Heavens were opened
Ezekiel 1:1-3 says, “Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. “On the fifth of the month in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile, the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and there the hand of the Lord came upon him.” In Hebrew, “Ezekiel” is “Yechezqel” and means “God will strengthen.” It is a compound word consisting of “chazaq” meaning “to strengthen” and “el” meaning “God.” The heavens were opened when Ezekiel was called as a prophet. Ezekiel 1:1 states, “Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” The expression “the heavens were opened” is emphasizing the uniqueness of the prophet Ezekiel’s calling. Then what happened when the heavens were opened to Ezekiel?
God’s visions were shown
The latter half of Ezekiel 1:1 says, “I saw visions of God.” Here, the word “visions” in Hebrew is “mar’ah,” meaning “vision” or “mirror.” God’s visions were not blurry but clear and detailed. God opened the heavens and showed His visions to Ezekiel. This is the primary content of Ezekiel 1:4-28, but ultimately, we can say that it is the content of the entire book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel saw these visions in the fifth year of his exile (Ezek 1:2), which is approximately 593 BC. The Israelites were first taken into Babylonian captivity during the first deportation in 605 BC (during King Jehoiakim’s time). Thus, it was the thirteenth year since they had been taken into captivity. Those captured during the second deportation to Babylon went into captivity in 597 BC. Thus, it was the fifth year of captivity for those who were part of the second deportation. The Israelites, who had come into Babylonian exile, lived near the river Chebar and were tasked with constructing the Grand Canal. As they were forced to work like slaves, they were in despair, feeling abandoned by God. However, by showing His visions through Ezekiel, God planted hope in the Israelites that the day of returning to their homeland would come.
The Word of God came expressly
Ezekiel 1:3 says, “The word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi.” Here, “came expressly” is “hayah hayah” in Hebrew, with the verb “hayah” repeated twice. This is a way of emphasizing the verb’s meaning even more. Therefore, the Word of God had come upon the prophet Ezekiel clearly and with certainty. God, in His sovereignty, chose the prophet Ezekiel and had His clear and mighty Word come upon him. God gave the Word expressly to the prophet Ezekiel to urge him strongly to share the Word he received. Ezekiel 2:7 says, “But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious,” and Ezekiel 3:1 says, “…Son of Man, eat what you find, eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”
The Hand of the LORD Came Upon him
The latter half of Ezekiel 1:3 says, “…the hand of the LORD came upon him.” Here, the word “hand” is “yad” in Hebrew. God’s hand, which represents God’s power and might, had come upon Ezekiel.
Exodus 13:3 says, “By a powerful hand the LORD,” and Exodus 13:14 and verse 16 also say, “with a powerful hand the Lord.” The expression that God’s mighty hand came upon Ezekiel is recorded seven times throughout the book of Ezekiel (Ezek 1:3; 3:14, 22: 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1). The Israelites were freed from the hands of their adversary, Pharaoh, and were able to escape Egypt also by the works of God’s mighty hand. Exodus 13:16 states, “…for with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.” (Exod 15:6; 32:11). Although the Israelites were currently exiles in Babylon, God displaying His “mighty hand” to the prophet Ezekiel early on shows that there will surely be a day when the Israelites will be freed from Babylon just as they were from Egypt.
Conclusion: The Heavens opening represents hope.
In the Old Testament, the expression “heavens were opened” with regard to a prophet is used only in Ezekiel’s calling. Though it was a dark historical reality with all directions blocked, God opened the heavens and began the new work of salvation through Israel and gave the Israelites great courage, hope, and assurance.