11.7 “The prince” In Ezekiel
11-7-1 " The prince" : Potential Messiah
The restoration was to be associated with the appearance of a potential
Messiah figure. This is a point repeatedly made in so many prophecies
of the restoration. Take Is. 61:1-4: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD
is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings
unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to
proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison
[Babylon] to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year
of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all
that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [the “poor of
the land” allowed to remain after the Babylonian invasion], to give
unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment
of praise for the spirit of heaviness [cp. how they sat and wept
by the rivers of Babylon]...And they shall build the old wastes,
they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair
the waste cities, the desolations of many generations”. And there
are many other such prophecies which connect the appearance of a
Messiah with the rebuilding of Zion. Haggai prophesied to encourage
the people to get on with building the temple (Ezra 5:1), and yet
he spoke of the desire of all nations (Messiah) coming with an earthquake
and glory filling the temple (Hag. 2:7). I submit that this is a
prophecy of what could have happened at that time, but
it has been deferred to the second coming of the Lord Jesus.
The cherubim visions of Ez. 1,9 and 10 are applied in the New Testament
to the glorified Christ (Rev. 2:18; 1 Pet. 4:17; 2 Pet. 2:4-9).
This surely implies that they were ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah;
and perhaps we are to understand that they could have had fulfilment
in a Messiah figure at the time of the restoration.
Ezekiel 17:22,23 spoke of how at the restoration, Babylon would fall
and a “tender one” arise, who would grow into a tree under whose branches
all the birds would find shelter. This is the very language of the Kingdom
of Jesus in Mt. 13:32. The Kingdom of Babylon- also likened in Daniel
to a tree with birds beneath it- could have been replaced with God’s Kingdom
when it fell soon after the restoration of Judah. But no Messiah figure
arose, and so the prophecy had a changed fulfilment- the tree that was
abased and then lifted up could have have been Israel, but it was re-applied
to the Lord Jesus, the ultimate “servant” of Yahweh. Ezekiel 19:13,14
help us perceive this more clearly- Judah in Babylon were as it were “planted
in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground”. She had “no [Messianic]
strong rod to be a sceptre to rule”, and this was “for a lamentation”.
But the prophecy was fulfilled in another way- for the Lord Jesus was
the root out of a dry ground who sprang up and did fulfil God’s
intention (Is. 53:1).
“The prince” of Ezekiel 40-48 is hard to understand as an immortal
being such as the Lord Jesus. “The prince” of Ezekiel 21:27 was
Judah’s last ruler- so “the prince” later in Ezekiel would appear
to be a promise of a restored monarchy. Yet tragically, the royal
family chose to remain in Babylon. “The prince” offers as He is
able (46:11)- hard to apply to the Almighty Lord Jesus. According
to Ezekiel, He offers sacrifice for his own sin, and has children,
to whom He will pass an inheritance. And he has to be warned not
to oppress the people (46:18). It is a more comfortable interpretation,
surely, to see him as primarily referring to Zerubbabel or Joshua
the High Priest (44:3). Under Joshua, the iniquity of the land could
have been removed, and “ye shall call every man his neighbour under
the vine and under the fig tree” (Zech. 3:8-10). The Messianic Kingdom
could have been brought in, the new covenant accepted by Israel.
It could have been Eliashib- but despite his apparent enthusiasm,
he didn’t even build the wall outside his own house (Neh. 3:20-22),
and arranged for his grandson to marry Sanballat’s daughter (Neh.
12:10,11). It is evident from 46:3 and 44:3 that the promised Messiah
figure was to be both a king and a priest- which would fit Joshua.
He is described as a crowned High Priest, called “the branch”, who
would build the temple and reign as “a priest upon his throne”.
But this didn’t happen. Because Zechariah concluded this prophecy
with the comment: “And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently
obey the voice of the Lord” (Zech. 6:10-15). Joshua-Jesus didn’t
live up to it. And Zerubbabel never ruled in Jerusalem- he returned
to the soft life in Babylon after the temple was rebuilt. But the
prophecies suffered a deferral. They will be fulfilled in Jesus
Christ, the branch.
The image of Daniel 2 can be understood as referring to a succession
of kings of Babylon who would arise after Nebuchadnezzar, who personally
was represented by the head of gold. Or at least, the various metals
could refer to successive stages of the Babylonian empire. In this
case, the coming of Messiah (the little stone) to destroy Babylon
and establish God’s Kingdom could have come within a few generations
after Nebuchadnezzar- i.e. at the time of the restoration. But this
potential fulfilment of the image prophecy didn’t happen.
The idea of deferral of fulfiment is common enough in Scripture once
you look for it. “The wrath of the Lord was upon Judah” in Hezekiah’s
time; but he made a covenant with God and cleansed the temple “that
his fierce wrath may turn away from us” (2 Chron. 29:8,10). But
this day of the Lord’s wrath was deferred until 90 years later (Zeph.
1:18; 2:2). Hezekiah’s zealous cleansing of the temple (2 Chron.
9:12-16) cannot fail to have been behind Ps. 69:9 “The zeal of thine
house hath eaten me up”- and yet these words are applied to the
Lord’s cleansing of the temple and His death in the 1st century.
Could it not be that Jesus cleansed the temple fully understanding
these things, and seeking to defer God’s wrath upon Judah, to give
them a chance to repent? And it was delayed- in that there was no
immediate wrath from Heaven against the Jews for murdering the Son
of God. And yet the days were shortened as well as deferred for
the elect’s sake. An amazing Father somehow builds all these various
factors into His time periods. Truly everything happens in our lives
at the ‘right’ time!
A Hidden Potential Messiah?
The restoration prophecies continually refer to an individual called
"the righteous one"- the references are somewhat masked
in the English translations which speak simply of "righteousness",
but it is evidently 'the righteous one' who is being addressed rather
than abstract righteousness. Consider the statements of intent about
this Person: The righteous one would be prepared and kept hidden
by Yahweh (Is. 42:6); he was to be raised up to rebuild Zion and
release the captives from Babylon (Is. 45:13); he is pictured as
near / approaching (Is. 51:5), called to Yahweh's footstool in Zion
(Is. 41:2); he was to be "brought in" to the temple at
the end of the 70 weeks prophecy (Dan. 9:24); then, Jerusalem would
be known as the habitation of the righteous one (Jer. 50:7 and often-
AV "habitation of justice"), the intention of Ez. 48:35
would be fulfilled, in that Jerusalem would be known as the city
where Yahweh dwells; the righteous one of Yahweh would then "go
out" in blessing to the surrounding nations. Hence Jer. 33:16;
23:6 etc. outline God's intention that after the restoration, the
rebuilt Zion would be named "The Lord our righteous one"
because Jerusalem would be the habitation of the righteous one (Jer.
31:23). This is similar language to the restoration prophecies of
Isaiah- the surrounding Gentile world would see / perceive / believe
in "the righteous one" who would reign in the rebuilt
Zion (Is. 62:2).
The impression seems inescapable that at the time of the restoration,
God had prepared a Messiah-figure, hidden (as it were) in Yahweh's
quiver (Is. 49:2), not revealed to Israel, who could have restored
Judah, rebuilt Zion and converted the surrounding Gentiles. It could
be that this person was Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah or some other
known historical figure. Or it could be that this person was prepared,
waited in the wings, but was never used by God. He could have been
revealed to Judah by the anonymous messenger of Isaiah 40. But all
these prophecies had to be reapplied- to the Lord Jesus, with John
the Baptist and later the latter day Elijah as the announcing messenger.