“son of man.” The phrase “son of man” is a Semitic idiom for a human being (see commentary on Daniel 7:13). Because of that, most commentators say that the reason that God refers to Ezekiel as “son of man,” which He does over 90 times, “distinguishes the prophet from the nonhuman beings that are present in the world of his vision” (text note: NET Bible). However, while the phrase “son of man” distinguishes the human prophet from the divine visions he sees, it almost certainly does more than that. Many prophets had profound visions of the divine realm, including Isaiah, who saw Yahweh on his throne (Isa. 6:1-13), and Daniel, who had angelic visitations and very complex visions of the future. Amos had a vision of Yahweh, but Yahweh just called him “Amos,” not “son of man” (Amos 7:7-8). No prophet except Ezekiel is called “son of man,” so there have to be deeper reasons for that besides just that Ezekiel was human.
Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries, and it was Daniel who saw the vision of “one like a son of man,” the Messiah, coming in the clouds of heaven and getting everlasting dominion of the earth from “the Ancient of Days,” that is, God. Thus, it was in the time of Ezekiel and Daniel that “son of man” became a Messianic title as well as an idiom meaning “human being,” and Jesus referred to himself as “the son of man” on many occasions.
One reason that God called Ezekiel “son of man,” a title Jesus regularly used of himself, was to establish the typological relationship between Ezekiel and Christ. Many of the Old Testament figures were types of Jesus Christ in one way or another. Joseph was a type of Christ who went from a lowly person in Egypt to second-in-command under Pharaoh himself. Joshua was a type of Christ who took charge of the army of God and conquered the Promised Land. David was a type of Christ who ruled Israel in a time of great prosperity. The list goes on and on.
One profound way that Ezekiel was a type of Christ was they were both priests who could not perform their priestly function in their earthly life but would in their next life. Ezekiel was a priest in exile in Babylon and removed from the Temple by some 600 miles. Similarly, Jesus was not only a priest, but God’s High Priest, but due to the circumstances of his life he could not function as a priest in his first life. But of all the prophets in Israel, it was to Ezekiel that God showed the revelation of the Millennial Temple (Ezek. 40-48), and in the Millennium both Jesus and Ezekiel will minister in that temple as priests.
Another way that Ezekiel was a type of Christ concerned the consistent contact the two of them had with God. Jesus was in consistent contact with God, so much so that John 3:34 says that Jesus spoke the words of God because God “continues to give to him the spirit without measure.” God consistently gave revelation to Jesus Christ. Although Ezekiel did not have the consistency of contact with God that Jesus did, you might not know that from a quick read of the book of Ezekiel. Of the 48 chapters of Ezekiel, all but two, chapters 14 and 20, open with God speaking to Ezekiel, or God’s hand being upon him, or him seeing a vision from God, or God or His angel somehow directing him; and the two chapters that don’t have that contact in the opening verse have it in the second verse. No other prophet seems to have had the constant contact with God that Ezekiel did. Based upon what he saw in Ezekiel, Jesus Christ could be confident that God would be in regular contact with him.
Ezekiel, the prophet that God called “son of man,” was not just called that because he was human and not divine, Ezekiel was an important type of Christ.