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EZEKIEL: SON OF MAN
Ezekiel (God Strengthens) was one of the three great pillars who carried the purpose of God through the terrible epoch of the destruction of God's Kingdom, and the beginning of the dark Gentile night of Nebuchadnezzar's Image that has lasted two thousand five hundred years, and is only now coming to an end.
Ezekiel's name occurs just twice in the whole Bible, both in his own book (chs. 1 and 24). He is addressed by God ninety-two times as "Son of Man," a few more times than this term is applied to Christ himself. Ezekiel clearly was a man of sign. Neither Ezekiel nor his book are mentioned in the New Testament, but Revelation is obviously linked to his prophecies in very many aspects.
When he began his ministry to and among the captives in Babylon, Jeremiah had already been prophesying at Jerusalem for over thirty years, and Daniel had been prominent for seven or eight years at the court of Babylon. Ezekiel and Jeremiah were priestly prophets; Daniel was of the royal line of David.
Ezekiel was carried captive to Babylon at the same time as king Jehoiachin. This is usually dated 597 BC*. Daniel had been carried captive about nine years earlier in 606 BC - the first deportation, from which the basic seventy years captivity dates, to Cyrus' proclamation in 536 BC.
Each of these three men had a vital function to perform: Jeremiah in the land, Ezekiel with the captives in Babylon**, and Daniel in the Babylonian court and government. All was clearly under God's control, though it looked to the natural man like the total collapse of God's power and purpose. Certainly with Daniel in favour and authority the Jews would be well treated. And even more importantly, we see in both Daniel's and Ezekiel's books the controlling angelic hand openly revealed.
We are told the captives with Ezekiel were the better part of the nation: the "good figs" (Jer. 24), as contrasted with those left behind in the land. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel - in a dark day of destruction and scattering - revealed the divine explanation of why it was all happening, and foretold for Israel a final day of regathering and righteousness and glorious worship, the center of a purified earth in prosperity and at rest.
Ezekiel was of the priesthood (1:3), and it appears to have been his mission to be the center of divine approach and intercession for the exiles. God said through him (11:16) that He (God) would be a "little sanctuary" - or Holy Place - to them in their captivity. It is very fitting, therefore, that Ezekiel was the one to reveal the pattern of the great House of Prayer for All Nations hinted at by several of the prophets.
Ezekiel's prophecies are all dated, and the whole book is in strict chronological order, except in one group for the obvious purpose of association*. Ezekiel's recorded prophecies were made over a period of twenty-two years (5th to 27th of his captivity). That is, from six years before until sixteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem. His prophecies are all dated from the year Jehoiachin (and Ezekiel) was taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. This is the great dividing line.
His book contains forty-eight chapters. It pivots around one central event - the final siege and destruction of Jerusalem. This comes in chapter 24 and divides the book exactly in half. Everything before that point is denunciation and condemnation for the wickedness and abominations that made the destruction of the Kingdom inevitable - the glory removed. Everything after that point is consolation and promise - the glory returned.
The last half is subdivided again: eight chapters of judgment on Israel's enemies; sixteen chapters of promise concerning Israel's reestablishment. These figures are all too regular and significant to be chance: forty-eight is twelve fours. The last sixteen chapters for Israel are subdivided chapters 7 and 9: chapter 7 (33-39) the latter days; chapter 9 (40-48) the glorious House of Prayer.
Chapters 1-24 (of judgment) were before the siege of Jerusalem; chapters 25-33 (against Gentiles) at time of the siege; chapters 34-48 (of comfort) after the siege.
The great dividing point at chapter 24 is also marked by a great personal tragedy for Ezekiel: a staggering trial of affection and faith, in which - as "Son of Man" - he faithfully symbolizes both God and the nation.