The phrase Son of man was God’s habitual form of address to the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament. This phrase occurs 93 times throughout his book.
The Hebrew language has several words for man:
1- ’ish, which refers to man as a male or husband.
2- ’enosh, which is a more general term, rarely used in the singular, more usually communal for the whole human family. It seems to see man in his weakness, ailment, and mortality.
3- ’adam, designates man in a broad sense. God said, “Let us make ’adam in our image” (Genesis 1:26). Our English word “mankind” in many examples properly translates ’adam.
4- geber, which designates man in his youthful strength.
The meaning of the “Son of man” in Ezekiel
The Lord called Ezekiel as the “son of man” (ben–’adam), to remind him of the truth that he is a member of the human family. It was through human networks that God planned to carry His message of salvation to lost human beings. He could have used other means. For example, angels might have been used to evangelize the world. Or the Lord could have used a voice from heaven to tell of His truth to the world.
But the Lord wanted to give man the great honor of being a coworker with Him in the mission of reaching out for the lost. Thus, the Lord ordained that man would unite with Him in sharing the “word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This task no true “son of man” may refuse. The destiny of humans depends on man’s responsibility and his work on behalf of others. Thus, when the Lord called Ezekiel as a “son of man,” He presented him with a mission for public ministry.
Jesus the Son of man
Our Savior referred to Himself as the “son of man” over 85 times in the New Testament. This was a direct quotation to the prophecy of Daniel that says, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). By referring to Himself with this title, Jesus wanted the Jews to see Him as the One who was given dominion and glory and the kingdom, thus, fulfilling the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.
Also, the phrase “son of man” means that Jesus was truly a human being. At the incarnation, the Son of God took upon Himself the form of humanity (John 1:1–4, 12, 14; Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14). And He became the Son of man (Mark 2:10). Thus, He united divinity with humanity by a tie which will never be broken. John the beloved wrote, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:2). It is a most comforting thought to repentant sinners to know that their representative before the Father is “One like” themselves but without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
In His service,