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
II. 4:1-24:27 Prophecies and Judgment against Judah and Jerusalem
N. 23:1-49 Allegory of the Two Sisters: There is some debate about why Samaria and Judah are renamed Oholah and Oholibah. Both words are based on the Hebrew word for “tent”. It may be that Oholah “her own tent” and Ohilibah “my tent is in her” may be suggesting that while Samaria had a sanctuary (tent), Judah was the the site of the Temple. This allegory roughly follows the history of the two kingdoms. Recall that during the reign of Solomon they were one nation (one mother). The imagery of adultery was used by Ezekiel in chapter 16. Scholars think that over time as the book was composed and edited these chapters influences each other. The imagery comes from Hosea who writes of God and Israel being husband and wife. Ezekiel’s language and imagery are graphic and crude with the intent to shock his readers and to emphasize the severity of their actions. Verses 32-34 are the poem of the cup of wrath. Verses 36-49 are the case against the sisters.
O. 24:1-14 Allegory of the Pot: Some people quoted nationalistic slogans about Jerusalem being like a pot, see Ezekiel 11:3. Verses 3-5 are a short song and then the allegory is extended and explained. Verse 1, the date is January 588 BCE the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is like a corroded pot.
P. 24:15-27 The Death of Ezekiel’s Wife: Ezekiel is told to act as a sign for the exiles. Ezekiel’s wife dies and, as commanded, he does not observe the signs of mourning. Verse 25-27 when news of the fall of Jerusalem reaches Ezekiel and the exiles, Ezekiel’s tongue would be loosened (3:24-27). What do you think the purpose of this command and sign is?
III. 25:1-32:32 Oracles against Foreign Nations: After the previous chapters which were judgments against Jerusalem and Judah, now there is a collection of oracles against other nations. Amos, Isaiah,and Jeremiah had similar collections. There are no oracles against Babylon in this collection. The nations names either had a role in the destruction of Jerusalem or had tried to prevent Babylon for taking over. Babylon has been chosen as God’s instrument and to acts against Babylon is to oppose God’s will.
A. 25:1-17 Oracles against Israel’s Neighbors: Ammon, Moab, Edom and the Philistines were the nearest neighbors of Judah and had a long history of conflict with Judah. Notice the pattern of “because” and ‘therefore”.
B.26:1-28:26 Oracles against Phoenicia: These oracles focus on the city-state of Tyre which was one of the major political powers in the ancient world. Tyre was an island and Babylon laid siege against it for 13 years. Tyre is condemned for its joy over the fall of Jerusalem and its anticipation of taking over Jerusalem’s trade. Tyre also was one of the nations that joined with Judah to try and stop Babylonian advances.
26:1-21 The destruction of Tyre:Tyre is condemned, the siege is described, the reaction of other nations is described and Tyre’s destruction is theologically explained.
27:1-36 A lament over Tyre: Tyre is lamented with the imagery of Tyre as a ship. The ship is made of the finest materials and it’s cargo came from many places and was expensive. Verse 26 begins the description of Tyre’s end.
28:1-19 Oracles against the rulers of Tyre:In the first oracle (v1-10) the ruler compares himself to god. Verse 7 the most terrible of nations is Babylon.The second oracle (v 11-19) is a lament presented in mythological terms. For Christian readers there will be images that remind us of the Garden of Eden story, but similar myths were present in other cultures ( such as the Ugaritic god Athtar). The fate of the ruler is similar to what Ezekiel has described for Israel in exile. This may have given the oracle a double meaning- a oracle against Tyre but also a reminder that Jerusalem’s situation was no better than other pagan nations.
28:20-23 Oracle against Sidon: Sidon was a Phoenician coastal city and had been an ally of Jerusalem against Babylon.
28:24-26 a promise to Israel: At the end of this collection of oracles against Israel’s neighbors, there is a promise to Israel. Wilson reminds us that while this promise oracle seems out of place to us, oracles against Israel’s enemies could be considered reassuring to Israel (615).
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.