Some Thoughts on Ezekiel

It is a well-known fact that Ezekiel, in addition to being a prophet, was also a priest. However, it is not usually asserted that Ezekiel also performed some kingly functions as well. For instance, as I look at the infamous passages of 16 and 23, I wonder whether or not those passages (which are surely covenantal lawsuit passages) are meant to portray Ezekiel as exercising some kingly functions in addition to prophetic. Of course, he would be acting as Yahweh’s proxy in the prosecution of the case. But who judges cases in Israel? It is true that the priests were supposed to carry out this function. However, when the kings came along, they took that role for themselves. We find Solomon being the judge in Kings. In exilic Israel, the role of judge would certainly be seen as a kingly function, not so much a prophetic or priestly one.

If this is true (and I haven’t yet done a lot of research on it to lay out the argument), then Ezekiel is a prophet, priest and king. This might help enlighten for us not only the reason why God calls Ezekiel “son of man,” but also why Jesus found the title so very appropriate for Himself. Most people tend to think only of Daniel as being the background material. However, a good case can be made that Ezekiel is more in the background of Jesus’ self-designation than Daniel, or at least that they are equal.

Daniel Block has made a strong case that the phrase in Ezekiel means “mortal human being” (or something very like: I don’t currently have Block’s book in front of me). If so, then a comparison with Daniel’s use of the phrase (which certainly points to deity) yields the following interesting result: Ezekiel’s use of the phrase points out the human side, and Daniel’s use points out the divine.

Put all these thoughts together, and you have a perfectly clear portrait of why Jesus would use the phrase to describe Himself. It is just ambiguous enough not to cause immediate riot because of blasphemy (people would remember Ezekiel’s use of it to describe himself), and yet has enough background meaning to cover not only the offices of Christ, but also His natures. Throw in the additional tidbit that Ezekiel might point to humiliation, and Daniel to exaltation (this is a very tentative point on my part), and you have the perfect set of OT backgrounds for Jesus all wrapped up in the phrase “son of man:” three offices, two states, and two natures.

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17 Comments

  1. Don said,

    April 30, 2014 at 1:41 am

    I’m unclear on why you claim that Israel would expect the role of judge to be fulfilled by a king, in an era when there was no king. Are you implying that they would think there was no one to judge them? I follow most of your argument, but I don’t see where this point comes from.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Don, the history of Israel before the exile would lead them to expect a king to perform that function. So, even if there were no king in Israel at the time, that’s still what they would have expected.

  3. Reed Here said,

    April 30, 2014 at 9:24 am

    You’ve captured that Daniel and Ezekial are the two key prophets in the exile, one in the palace, the other among the poor? Interesting inferences.

    As always, good stimulating thoughts Lane.

  4. Jack Bradley said,

    April 30, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    “Ezekiel’s use of the phrase points out the human side, and Daniel’s use points out the divine.”

    Extremely insightful and helpful, Lane. Thank you!

  5. Jack Bradley said,

    April 30, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    “Throw in the additional tidbit that Ezekiel might point to humiliation, and Daniel to exaltation (this is a very tentative point on my part), and you have the perfect set of OT backgrounds for Jesus all wrapped up in the phrase “son of man:” three offices, two states, and two natures.”

    See above gratitude :-)

  6. Pete Rambo said,

    April 30, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Interesting thought to mull. Thanks.

  7. Martin said,

    May 2, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Please continue to think this through – very interesting! And then write an article for a journal. If your idea holds up to further investigation it is worth publishing!

  8. Pete Rambo said,

    May 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    @ Martin,

    Careful… If you take this prototype thing too far you’ll find that Ezekiel (like all the prophets) pointed to the Torah and roundly condemned Tammuz/Ishtar as well as facing the East and the rising sun… ;)

  9. greenbaggins said,

    May 2, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Pete, why are you bringing this up? It has nothing to do with what I was talking about. Of course, the prophets pointed back to the Torah. That was why they were sent to the people: because they were breaking Torah. Of course they condemned Tammuz and Ishtar. There is no disagreement there. What does that have to do with the Christological analysis that I have laid out in this post?

  10. Pete Rambo said,

    May 2, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    LOL! You must have missed the wink/smile at the end.

  11. hashavyahu said,

    May 16, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    “In exilic Israel, the role of judge would certainly be seen as a kingly function, not so much a prophetic or priestly one.”

    Not for an adherent of Deuteronomy. As I’m sure you know, Deuteronomy establishes a judicial organization that has no role for the king. Cases will go first to local judges, established in every town, for easy cases resolvable by ordinary evidence (16:18). More difficult cases will go to the priests and non-royal judge at the central sanctuary (17:9). The institution of kingship is then outlined primarily with respect to what he may not do. His only positive duty, according to Deuteronomy, is to read Deuteronomy (17:19), where he will learn that the responsibility for judicial decision lies elsewhere. The fact that kings historically took the the role of judge for themselves does not mean that an adherent of Deuteronomy would have agreed that this was their prerogative.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    May 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    hashav, I do not think that I can agree with your exegesis. Of course, Deuteronomy was written well before the kingship appeared. 17:14-20 does not say a word about what the king would be doing vis-a-vis judging matters. I do not think that the passage is intended to be exhaustive in its accounting of what the king’s duties are. One could just as easily read the passage about kings as implying that they would be involved in the judging process. 17:9 does not limit judging to the Levites, as it lists three distinct (though probably mostly overlapping) categories: priests, Levites, and judge.

    In the account of Solomon’s reign, he issues very clear judgments. His judgment in the account of the two prostitutes is portrayed as a direct result of his asking wisdom from God, and being granted it. 1 Kings 3:28 explicitly says that “they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.”

    Pete, is this topic really something to make light of, in view of our history on these topics? I love a laugh as much as the next guy, and I’m perfectly willing to laugh at myself (a seemingly inexhaustible source of hilarity), but this doesn’t seem like the topic on which to utter jokes.

  13. hashavyahu said,

    May 19, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    re “three distinct categories.” Deut does not distinguish priests and Levites, as is well known, either here or elsewhere.

    “One could just as easily read the passage about kings as implying that they would be involved in the judging process.” How do you figure? Deut 16-17 goes into more detail than anywhere else in the OT about the mechanics of a judicial system, and it describes a system with no place for and no need for a royal judge. Accordingly, when it describes the role of the king, it gives no judicial role. What contextual basis is there for your claim that Deut 17 “implies” a judicial role for the king?

  14. greenbaggins said,

    May 20, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    I figure in that the directions for kingship occur in the same context as the judicial system. It was a natural turn of thought for Moses to go from judicial cases to kingship. What ANE king did not engage at all in judicial proceedings? Of course, that is not a proof. However, the expectation was surely that the king would be involved in that sort of thing. Not only is that the case in the history of Israel, but God approved and gave wisdom to Solomon for that very purpose.

  15. hashavyahu said,

    May 21, 2014 at 10:39 am

    It is natural to turn to kingship in ch. 17 because Deut is describing the organization of society (judges in 16-17; kings in 17; prophets in 18). It is not methodologically sound to take this as justification for conflating the particular social roles that Deut assigns to each of these groups. The same logic would imply that prophets (ch. 18) serve a judicial role as well.

    Citing ANE evidence as well as expectations about kingship is, as you seem to already imply, problematic. Deut may well express a different view of kingship than what is expected in the ANE. In fact, Deut 17 surely does just this in its restriction of many horses, wives, and gold. Interestingly, your citation of Solomon in this context is problematic. Leaving aside horses and wives, 1 Kgs 3:13 describes his great wealth of gold as given to him by God. This perspective, by the way, is perfectly at home in standard ANE royal ideology. Two conclusions arise from these observations: 1) Deut 17 has a different position on kingship than what one finds elsewhere in the ANE; this different position corroborates what I’ve said about Deut 17 not giving the kings a judicial role; and 2) the portrayal of kingship in Deut 17 does not wholly cohere with the positive portrayal of Solomon in the early part of his reign in 1 Kgs. 1 Kgs views Solomon’s wealth as a sign of his divine favor; Deut 17 forbids the amassing of such wealth. This corroborates the suggestion that Deut 17 and 1 Kgs likewise do not share the same perspective on the judicial authority of the king.

  16. greenbaggins said,

    May 21, 2014 at 11:47 am

    We will probably have to agree to disagree on this one. I do not see the various roles of prophet, priest, and king as hermetically sealed away from each other as you do. There is, in fact, a fair bit of evidence that the prophetic “rib” patterns of covenantal lawsuit are conducted by the prophets in at least a quasi-judicial pattern. The mere fact that priests were involved in the judicial aspects of Israelite life is also evidence that the categories were not as hard and fast as you portray. Judicial proceedings are aspects of rule, and are not inherently priestly. They were given to the priests when no other tribe had the rule, nor was there any king. Who was there to rule but the Levites? But the lion of the tribe of Judah had to be a king.

    Also, I cannot accept any interpretation of one passage that brings it into direct conflict with another passage of Scripture. God does not lie. Deuteronomy and 1 Kings must be compatible, if one takes a biblical view of the Bible. Take the wealth of the king, for instance. The initial wealth of Solomon is not something he himself amassed, but was something God gave him. That is quite different from pursuing the idol of wealth for oneself. So, that pillar of your argument falls. What Deuteronomy condemns was not true of Solomon’s early reign. Later on, when Solomon starts acquiring money, wives, and chariots in earnest (himself being the one doing it), then you see 1 Kings portraying those later actions of Solomon in a negative light.

  17. hashavyahu said,

    May 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    You continue to conflate your reconstruction of ancient Judean society with a reading of Deut 16-18. This is ironic since the bible itself implies that Deut was implemented during the monarchy only briefly (by the way, you’ve completely misunderstood the prophetic covenant-lawsuit; this takes the FORM of civil judicial procedure to mediate between God and humans but obviously doesn’t replace the practice of civil justice between humans in any way).

    Your implication that there is temporal shift from pre-monarchic judiciary, with Levites at the top in Deut 17:8-13, to monarchic judiciary, with the king at the top in Deut 17:14-20, is completely ad hoc. Nothing suggests a temporal development. Everything supports Deut 16-18 describing a single, synchronic social organization that is imagined to take place at the time of the monarchy. What is more, the assigning of levitical priests as judges is explicitly correlated to the central sanctuary in Jerusalem (17:10), which is to be built when God gives them rest all around (Deut 12:10-11), in other words, by Solomon (2 Sam 7:1 and the rest of the ch.).

    As for the agreement of all Scripture, surely you would admit there is some kind of development of ideas, call it progressive revelation. It may be the case that the author of Deut and the author(s) of DtrH had a similar view of kingship or it may be the case that they differed. The most rational way of answering the question is to first analyze the documents themselves and then compare their ideologies. If there is a difference in ideology, chalk it up to progressive revelation (cf. for instance, the issue of trans-generational punishment; Exod 20:5 vs Ezek 18).


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