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11. The exiles who returned

11-1 Ezekiel’s Temple: Based Upon Solomon’s Temple || 11-2 The Nature Of Prophecy || 11-2-1 Conditional Prophecy || 11-2-2 Human Response || 11-2-3 Tyre in Ezekiel 26 || 11-2-4 Delayed Prophecies || 11-2-5 Prophecies With Changed Fulfillment || 11-2-6 The Nature Of Prophecy || 11-3 Command More Than Prediction || 11-4 The Contemporary Relevance Of Ezekiel's Temple || 11-5 The Restoration: Potential Kingdom Of God || 11-6 The Potential And The Reality || 11-6-1 The Weakness Of Judah Under Nehemiah || 11-6-2 Isaiah's Prophecies Of Restoration || 11-6-3 Jeremiah's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-4 Ezekiel's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-5 The Cherubim And The Restoration || 11-6-6 Zechariah's Restoration Prophecies || 11-6-7 The Restoration Psalms || 11.7 “The prince" in Ezekiel || 11-7-1 " The prince" : Potential Messiah || 11-7-2 Zerubabbel- Potential Messiah? || 11.8 The Potential For The Surrounding World || 11-8-1 Haggai 2 || 11-8-2 Meshech And Tubal || 11-8-3 Joel Chapter 3 || 11-9 Different Sequences Of Prophetic Fulfillment || 11-10 Zechariah And Malachi: More Chances || 11-11 The Returned Exiles

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.