Biblical Numerology: NUMBER FOUR & FORTY– Part IX

 Ezekiel, the Priest-Prophet in Type and Antitype: Their Work & Message Before Four Winds Unleashed    

From Prophets and Kings by E.G. White, “The Asssyrian Captivity” chapter, we read:

     “The closing years of the ill-fated kingdom of Israel were marked with violence and bloodshed such as had never been witnessed even in the worst periods of strife and unrest under house of Ahab. For 2 centuries and more the rulers of the ten [northern] tribes of Israel had been sowing the wind; now they were reaping the whirlwind. King after king was assassinated to make way for others ambitious to rule. Every principle of justice was set aside; those who should have stood before the nations of earth as the depositaries of divine grace, ‘dealt treacherously against the Lord’ (Hos. 5: 7) and with one another.” p. 279.

     “The iniquity of Israel during the last half century before the Assyrian captivity, was like that of days of Noah, and of every other age when men have rejected God and given themselves wholly to evil-doing. The exaltation of nature above the God of nature, the worship of the creature instead of the Creator, has always resulted in the grossest of evils. Thus when the people of Israel, in their worship of Baal [sun-god] and Ashtoreth [moon-goddess], paid supreme homage to the forces of nature, they severed their connection with all that is uplifting and ennobling, and fell an easy prey to temptation. With the defenses of the soul broken down, the misguided worshippers had no barrier against sin, and yielded themselves to the evil passions of the human heart.”pp. 281-2.

    “Against the marked oppression, the flagrant injustice, the unwonted luxury and extravagance, the shameless feasting and drunkenness, the gross licentiousness and debauchery, of their age, the prophets lifted their voices; but in vain were their protests, in vain their denunciation of sin.” pp. 282.

     “The evils that had overspread the land, had become incurable; and upon Israel was pronounced the dread sentence; ‘Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.’ ‘The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it.’ Hos. 4: 17; 9: 7.” p. 285. “For a season, these predicted judgments were stayed, and during the long reign of Jeroboam II, the armies of Israel gained signal victories; but this time of apparent prosperity, wrought no change in the heart of the impenitent, and it was finally decreed, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.’ Amos 7: 11.” p. 286.

     “To this the prophet firmly responded: ‘Thus saith the Lord . . . Israel shall surely go into captivity.’ Amos. 7: 17. The words spoken against the apostate tribe were literally fulfilled; yet the destruction of the kingdom came gradually. . . . In judgment the Lord remembered mercy . . . In the days of Pekah, who reigned 20 years, Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, invaded Israel, and carried away with him a multitude of captives . . and were scattered among the heathen, in lands far removed from Palestine. From this terrible blow the northern kingdom never recovered.” p. 287 “In the terrible judgments brought upon the ten tribes, the Lord had a wise and merciful purpose. That which He could no longer do through them in the land of their fathers, He would seek to accomplish by scattering them among the heathen.”p. 292. “God’s favor toward Israel [as the “chosen people”] had always been conditional on their obedience.” p. 293.

However, it also stands on record that 145,000 mighty men of valor” of Sennacherib’s Assyrian army were destroyed in one night by just “one angel of the Lord,” delivering King Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the fervent petitions of the righteous prophet Isaiah. This merciful  deliverance and others like it found throughout the Bible, is an emphatic reminder and stinging rebuke to all whose mouths praise and worship God, professing faith in Him yet in their hearts, as revealed by their panicky reactions and elaborate “survival plans” reveal they don’t really trust God but “fear what man can do to them”—from the “New World Order” paranoia to the “Y2K Crisis” down to this current national and global environment of confusion, instability, unrest, angst, and fanciful conspiracy theories.

Few Christians qualify to be inductees into the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11. But God, in His love, wisdom, and mercy, allows mysterious trials to come to His people, as of old, not to hurt us but to reveal our true condition and purify through sanctification a people in the divinely-tended furnace of affliction even as silver and gold are purified.

Ezekiel, the Priest-Prophet

Many Christians have and will go to their graves never having read the book(s) of Ezekiel (Daniel, and Revelation),pleading the excuse invented by “the father of lies” and propagated by those who stand to benefit from the ignorance of the end-time truths these books reveal, claiming that “only theologians, Bible scholars, and clergymen can interpret them for the laity.” Such are the crafty “wiles” of the devil and his agencies!

Ezekiel means “God will strengthen.” The SDA Bible Dictionary, Commentary Reference Series, Vol. 8, art.“Ezekiel,” pp. 335-6 says:

     “Ezekiel was a priest, the son of Buzi, born in Judah but transported to Babylon with the group that went into Captivity with Jehoiachin in 597 B. C. (Eze. 1: 1-3). He was then about 25 years of age if “the thirteenth year” (ch. 1;1) is a reference to his age (cf. v. 2). He was with a group of Jews settled as Tel-abib [(chs. 1:1, 2; 15) by “the river Chebar” (ch. 1: 1) and irrigation canal known from cuneiform records as Nar Kabari, which passed the city of Nippur.

     Archeological evidence testifies to a large Jewish settlement in this vicinity during the time of the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel was happily married [God requires that His true priests be married, never celibate!], but his wife died about 9 years after their captivity began (ch. 24: 1, 16). He seems to have a house of his own (Eze. 3: 24; 8: 1; cf. Jer. 9: 25).

     In the fifth year of his captivity he was called to the prophetic office (Eze. 1: 2, 3; 2: 3), and served in this capacity for some 22 years (ch. 29: 17), from about 593 to 571 B.C. At a time when the Temple lay in ruins and the people were in exile it was particularly appropriate that the offices of priest and prophet should be united in one person.

     Jeremiah [author of Jeremiah and Lamentations], whose ministry was, in part, contemporary with that of Ezekiel, was likewise, a priest-prophet (Jer. 1:1), as was Zechariah, and also doubtless others. (Zech. 1:1; cf. Ezra 5:1; 6: 14; Neh. 12: 4, 16). In a special sense Ezekiel was God’s messenger to the Jews in captivity, as Jeremiah was to the Jews who remained in Judah and Jerusalem, and as Daniel was to Nebuchadnezzar and the court of Babylon. All three were divinely commissioned with the purpose of securing the divine objectives in the Captivity.  Apparently Ezekiel was well liked by the people to whom he bore his inspired messages, but his mission seems to have met with limited success (Eze.20: 49; 33: 32).

    Ezekiel, Book of. – “The book containing the messages of Ezekiel the prophet to the Jews of the Babylonian exile from 593/92 to 571/70 B.C. In the English Bible Ezekiel follows the writings of Jeremiah and precedes those of Daniel. In Hebrew Bibles Ezekiel is preceded by Jeremiah and followed by Hosea, the book of Daniel being classified in the section known as the Hagiographa, or Writings. The book of Ezekiel seems to have been accepted into the prophetic canon at an early date, and its right to a place there has never been challenged. Unlike many other books of the OT, Ezekiel is usually recognized as genuine even by critical scholars, although some attacks have been made upon it.

     By the time of the Babylonian captivity more than 8 centuries had passed since the formal covenant at Mount Sinai by which Israel as a nation had accepted God’s invitation to become His chosen people and had pledged itself to Him as theocratic ruler.  In the divine purpose the Jewish people, by strict obedience to God’s wise and just requirements, were to reflect God’s character and to become the recipients of spiritual and material blessings that would testify to the nations of the earth of the superiority of the worship and service of the true God above all false gods. But continued and increasing apostasy finally made it clear that only by the most severe measures could the Jewish nation ever be expected to realize its high mission.

     The people had forgotten that it was only by virtue of their covenant agreement with God that they occupied the land of Promise, and apostasy meant the forfeit of that right. Accordingly, God sent them to exile to learn under adverse circumstances the lessons they had failed to learn in times of prosperity. [He who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” works on the same principle today with individuals, families, churches, and even nations professing to be Christian!], namely, that they must accept the responsibility that the leaders of Israel, who were chiefly at fault, should be sent into exile (Isa. 3: 12; 9: 16; Eze. 34: 2-19; Dan. 1: 3, 4), but that the vast majority of the people were to remain in their homeland, awaiting there the return of a chastened leadership. In order that the people might understand and cooperate with the divine purpose in the Captivity, God sent the prophet Jeremiah to instruct those who remained behind, and commissioned Ezekiel to be the spokesman to the exiles in Babylon.  Simultaneously God sent Daniel as His ambassador to the court of Babylon, to secure Nebuchadnezzar’s submission to, and cooperation with, His purpose.

     As Ezekiel himself relates, he “was among the captives by the river of Chebar” (Eze. 1: 1), probably at Tel-abib (ch. 3: 15), having been transported there with the second contingent of exiles, at the time of Jehoiachin’s captivity in 587 B. C., from which event the numerous chronological notices in the book are computed (Eze. 1: 2). Apparently the exiles at Tel-abib were permitted to administer their own local affairs through a group of “elders” (see chs 8: 1; 14: 1; 20: 1, 3), and permitted to communicate with the leaders who remained in Jerusalem (Jer. 29: 1, 24-29). As a whole, the exiles doubtless led a reasonably normal social and economic life (see ch. 29: 5-10, 280.

     Ezekiel was called to the prophetic office in midsummer, in 593/92 B.C. (Eze. 1:2). Whereas former prophets had largely been content simply to date their messages by noting the reign of the king under which the messages were given, Ezekiel and Jeremiah often provide practically complete chronological information, giving the month and date as well as the year, so that it is possible to correlate the messages with specific historical developments.

     This greatly helps in understanding the import of the successive messages, since each is thus dated.  Ezekiel’s ministry, at least in so far as his recorded messages are concerned, seems to have been concentrated largely within the 7 years immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C. and in the next few months thereafter. His ministry extended at least some 15 years later, to 571/70 B.C.

     Captivity and Restoration. –  If a title were to be given the book appropriate to its contents, perhaps none would serve better than “Captivity and Restoration,” since these subjects are the 2 foci around which the messages cluster.  Chapters 1-33 are concerned with the former; chapters 34-48 deal with the latter, the arrival of news concerning the fall of Jerusalem (ch. 33: 21) logically dividing the book into 2 parts.

     The constantly recurring theme that binds the 2 sections together is, “Ye shall know that I am the Lord” (chs 6:7; 7: 4; etc.).  This expression or its equivalent occurs more than 60 times and emphasizes the fundamental cause of Israel’s failure hitherto—they did not understand or appreciate God’s righteous character or the exalted purpose and destiny that the covenant relationship and destiny that the covenant relationship vouchsafed  to them as a nation.

     The Captivity was ordained to teach them this all-important lesson. Messages borne by Ezekiel prior to the arrival of word that [the supposedly-invincible] Jerusalem had fallen were designed to secure the cooperation of the exiles with God’s plan for the Captivity. The exiles were to submit to Nebuchadnezzar (for a period of 70 years; Jer. 25: 12; 29: 10, and compare to Dan. 9: 24-27 of the 70-week prophecy].

    About the time Ezekiel received his call to the prophetic office in Babylonia, King Zedekiah at Jerusalem was entertaining envoys from neighboring nations seeking an alliance to rise in revolt and throw off the Babylonian yoke (Jer. 27: 2, 3), Jeremiah warned that the yokes of wood, they proposed to break would be replaced with yokes of iron (see ch 28: 10, 12).  Among the false prophets at Jerusalem were some who predicted the end of the Captivity and the return of the captives “within two full years” (vs 3, 4, 11). The Jews in Babylonia apparently shared the expectation of a brief captivity ( see ch 19: 28). It was these circumstances that led Jeremiah to counsel submission to God’s plan for an extended captivity.” (Continued next week)