One of the fascinating features of the book of Ezekiel is that Ezekiel is continually called “son of man” by the Lord. How do the study Bibles explain this curious phrase?
ESV Study Bible:
2:1 Ezekiel is never addressed by name, but 93 times as son of man (Hb. ben-’adam), out of a total of 99 times for the phrase in the OT; Daniel is the only other person so addressed in the OT (Dan. 8:17). The Hebrew idiom “son of x” indicates membership in a class. “Son of man” identifies Ezekiel as a creature before the supreme creator. This highlights the humanity and thus the proper humility and dignity of the servant before Israel’s almighty, transcendent God.
NLT Study Bible:
2:3 The Lord addressed Ezekiel regularly as son of man (Hebrew ben-’adam, “son of Adam”). This phrase reminded Ezekiel that he was profoundly different from the heavenly beings before whom he stood. In contrast to them, he was a child of the dust, a mere mortal. It also marked him out from the nation of Israel (literally the sons of Israel). They were a rebellious nation, true descendants of Jacob, whose defining characteristic was striving with God and man (Gen 32:28). As a son of Adam, Ezekiel represented a new community of faith, empowered by the Spirit to form a life of radical obedience. He was a sign of hope to the exiles. Jesus is the ultimate son of man who combines in himself the human aspect of the title with the exalted heavenly aspect (Dan 7:13-14; Rev 1:13-20). By obeying where Adam failed, Jesus became the first member of God’s new community of faith. All other children of Adam find hope in him.
NIV Study Bible:
2:1 Son of man. A term used 93 times in Ezekiel, emphasizing the prophet’s humanity as he was addressed by the transcendent God (see note on Ps 8:4). Da 7:13 and 8:17 are the only other places where the phrase is used as a title in the OT. Jesus’ frequent use of the phrase in referring to himself showed that he was the eschatological figure spoken of in Da 7:13 (see, e.g., Mk 8:31 and note).
This seems to be another instance where we see the differences of purpose behind the ESVSB and the NLTSB. Both present good information and both contain unique information. I really think both study Bibles are going to serve students well. Students will want to consult both study notes for any textual questions. The NLTSB goes a bit further by considering how the phrase “son of man” was also Jesus’ favorite self-description. By the way, I like the NRSV’s translation of “mortal” for “son of man.”