The Prophet Ezekiel

The Iconography

Most often Ezekiel is pictured along with other prophets, for example in Nativities and among the prophets lining cathedral façades. Sometimes one can distinguish him from the other prophets if he has a scroll with a quotation from his prophecies. A common choice is Non abscondam ultra faciem meam ab eis, "I will hide my face no more from them" (39:29). A quotation relevant to Nativities is Porta haec clausa erit, non aperietur, et vir non transibit in ea, "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it" (44:2). It was thought that this was a prophecy of the virgin birth.

Ezekiel's mantle is sometimes pulled up over his head. As with the other prophets his portraits feature a fairly long gray beard.

In Ezekiel 1:1-28 the prophet sees a fiery chariot. In most images the Lord is guiding the chariot, but in the vision he is above in Heaven. The chariot will look different from one image to the next because the literary description gives little guidance, but if it is on fire the man kneeling before it is most likely Ezekiel.

Another subject seen from time to time is Ezekiel's preaching to the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), as in the second picture at right. God shows the prophet a field of dry bones and tells him to prophesy to the bones that God will "send spirit into you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to grow over you…." After Ezekiel prophesies as instructed the bones do indeed become fully fleshed and living humans. The lesson: "All these bones are the house of Israel.… Behold I will open your graves and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O my people."

Prepared in 2016 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University. Revised 2019-03-07.

HOME PAGE

SHOWN ABOVE

Ezekiel stands in the right panel of this triptych. The scroll bears his prophecy of the virgin birth. The dark beard and bald head are not often seen in portraits of this prophet. See the description page for details.

OTHER IMAGES

An Orthodox icon of Ezekiel kneeling before God on the fiery chariot – See the description page

Tintoretto's painting of the vision of the dry bones – See the description page.

MORE IMAGES

  • 3rd century: The vision is a part of the imagery on the north wall of the Dura Europos synagogue.
  • 4th century: It is thought that this panel in the reliefs on the "Ezekiel Sarcophagus" pictures God restoring life to the "dry bones."
  • Circa 1351-60: Ezekiel's chariot among the frescos at Pomposa Abbey in Italy.
  • Late 15th / early 16th century: A painted panel on the ceiling at Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Venice portrays Ezekiel as a man in middle age.