You will find an introduction and outline to Ezekiel here.
A prayer to use before reading from the Book of Common Worship:
Eternal God, your wisdom is greater than our minds can attain, and your truth shows up our learning. To those who study, give curiosity, imagination, and patience enough to wait and work for insight. Help us to doubt with courage, but to hold all our doubts in the larger faith of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
An Outline (based on Wilson)
I. 1:1-3:27 Introduction to the Prophet and Prophecy: Ezekiel was a priest and part of what is called the “holiness school”. This includes the Holiness Code of Leviticus 17-26 as well as other source in the Old Testament. There is some confusion among scholars about what the dates in these verses signify. Some believe the first date reflects Ezekiel’s age (30 years old), others think it is the thirtieth year of his call, others the thirtieth year of the exile or the date of the book’s composition. The name “Ezekiel” means “God strengthens”. Notice the language “the hand of the Lord was on him/me”. What do you think Ezekiel means?
Verses 1:4-28a describe Ezekiel’s throng chariot vision. While it can be difficult to imagine exactly what Ezekiel saw, (it appears it was also difficult for him to describe, notice the use of “like” in his descriptions) there are some things commentators agree on. Notice the typical elements of a theophany, wind, cloud, fire, mighty waters, thunder. Also notice that the images rise vertically until he sees the “glory of the Lord”. The wheels speak to the ancient concern that a deity was tied to a particular piece of land. Here God has not been left in Jerusalem but can travel and has traveled to Babylon. The multitude of speaks to God’s all seeing nature. This vision preserves the ancient understanding of how the cosmos is structured. For the ancient world, there was a dome over the earth and God resided above the dome, enthroned.
Verses 1:28b-3:27 The commission: Why do you think we are given such detail about Ezekiel’s commissioning? Perhaps it was to lend support to Ezekiel’s prophetic call. Remember that there was disagreement between prophets and understanding who was a true prophet and who was not was important. Ezekiel is called “son of man” or “mortal” (depending on your translation). The title son of man did not have its messianic theological meaning. In Ezekiel’s time it simply meant human being and serves to remind us of the distinction between God and God’s prophets. What do verses 1:28-2:2 tell us about Ezekiel’s role as prophet? Ezekiel’s eating of the scroll indicates that he is to only speak what God has given him to speak. What will be the response to Ezekiel’s prophecy? Verses 3:16-21 are the sentinel passage. Prophets act as sentinels or watchmen who warn the people of danger. Ezekiel was not responsible for the outcome of what he prophesied, his task was to fearlessly speak what God told him. Verse 16 The phrase “the word of the Lord came to me” often precedes Ezekiel’s prophecies. Verse 22 “the hand of the Lord was upon me” often indicates a vision. Scholars think Ezekiel’s speechlessness is a metaphor. What do you think it means?
II. 4:1-24:27 Prophecies and Judgment against Judah and Jerusalem
A. 4:1-5:17 Symbolic Acts of Judgment: Archaeologists have found bricks with city plans on them. The iron plate or griddle symbolizes God’s role in Jerusalem’s fall. Verses 4-8 concern a symbolic act which symbolizes the years of punishment of Israel. What the 390 days symbolizes has been debated. Some think it represents the time from Ezekiel’s time back to the construction of the Temple. Others think it has to do with punishment of the Northern Kingdom (Israel). But the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by Assyria in 722-721 BCE.
4:9-17 Describe the coarse bread and rationing reflect the scarcity of food and water that will happen during the siege. In modern terms it was eight ounces of bread and 0.67 quarts of water. Human dung was considered unclean.
5:1-17 The razor symbolizes military defeat. The fate of the hair represents the fate of the people. Jerusalem was viewed as the mythic center of the earth. Cannibalism was the curse for breaking the Holiness Code. (Levitcus 26.29)
B. 6:1-7:27 Oracles against Land and People
6:1-14 The mountains of Israel represent the promised land. Also the mountains were also the sites of the high places, the locations of illegitimate worship and pagan sanctuaries. 6:11-14 are a second prophecy of judgment which begin with an action that expresses God’s anger. Verse 14 describes the extent of Israelite land.
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of Ezekiel.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Pfisterer Darr, Katheryne, “Ezekiel” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 6, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 2001.
Cook, Stephen L. “Ezekiel” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Wilson, Robert R. “Ezekiel” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.