The Prophecy of Ezekiel and Dividing the Kingdom
From the Book Reckoning of Time
And lie on your left side, and you shall put the crookedness of the house of Israel on it. As many days as you lie on it, you shall bear their crookedness. For I Myself have laid on you the years of their crookedness, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days. And you shall bear the crookedness of the house of Israel. And when you have completed them, you shall lie again on your right side and shall bear the crookedness of the house of Yehudah forty days, a day for a year. I have laid on you a day for a year. (Eze 4:4-6)
There is a great deal of speculation as to why the prophet was commanded to lie on his left and right sides. If one considers that the direction of orientation in the Ancient Middle East was towards the rising of the sun (as opposed to the North today), then a person facing the east would have the north on his left and the south on his right. Thus, it appears to be significant that when Ezekiel lay on his left side it was to represent the northern kingdom and when he lay on his right side it, represented the southern kingdom. The use of right and left to mean south and north is shown plainly at Eze_16:46 where Samaria is on Yerushalayim’s left and Sodom is on its right. This can be true only when one faces eastwardly. Many translators translate the Hebrew words for right and left in this passage as south and north.
During the reign of King Shlomo, YHVH made a promise to Yarovam the Ephrayimite (1Ki_11:26) to give him ten tribes and even to keep the name Israel for his kingdom at the only condition: to be faithful to the Covenant as King David was (1Ki_11:29-40). The reason being was that King Shlomo was unfaithful to Elohim (1Ki_11:9-13) by having gone after many idols. It is unclear from the Biblical record as to when exactly that promise was made but from the historical context some conclusions can be drawn that that should have taken place in the last years of Shlomo’s reign and wickedness. When King Shlomo learned of this prophecy, he ordered Yarovam killed but Yarovam escaped to Egypt and lived there until Shlomo’s death. Hence, we can say with certainty that the promise to Yarovam was made during the later period of King Shlomo’s reign when his heart turned away from YHVH and indulged in idolatry. After Yarovam’s return he became a king of the Northern Kingdom Israel.
When Ya’aqov placed his right hand upon the head of Ephrayim, Yoseph’s younger son, he said: “… he also (Manasseh) will become a nation, and will become great, yet his younger brother will become greater than he, and his seed will become the fulness of nations.” (Gen_48:19) There are no lack of speculations about the prophetic meaning of the patriarch’s words. Some have suggested the theory that English speaking people are descendants of the lost Ephramyimites. This ungrounded theory is known today as the British Israelism. However, Ya’akov’s blessing over Ephrayim began to be fulfilled from the time of the Judges, when the tribe of Ephrayim so increased in numbers and influence, that it took the lead of the northern tribes and became the head of the ten tribes, and gave even its name Israel to the Northern Kingdom.
Consequently, Yarovam was disobedient to this promise and he also left the Covenant and sank in idolatry never to return to YHVH. He made two gold calves, built high places, appointed priests and his own festivals, and all of that was accounted to him as a sin (1Ki_12:28-33). YHVH sent a prophet to Yarovam to warn him (1Ki_13:1-5) but he did not listen to the words of the prophet (1Ki_13:33-34). The warning was that a king would come out of the house of David (that was King Yoshiyahu, son of Amon, who reigned for thirty-one years; his reign is noteworthy for the great revivals back to the worship of YHVH which he led (2Ki_23:19, 2Ki_23:23-24) would someday desecrate Yarovam’s altar by burning the bones of Yarovam’s priests on it. And indeed, some 300 years later King Yoshiyahu exhumed the bones of Yarovam’s priests and burned them on the altar (1 Kings 13). And since Yarovam had done worse than all that were before him and made for himself foreign gods and molten images to anger Elohim, He cut off from Yarovam every male child and uprooted Israel from the good land that He had given to his fathers and scattered them on the other side of the river Euphrates. And all of that was because of the sins of Yarovam and that had caused Israel to sin (1Ki_7:1-16). This punishment was ultimately fulfilled with the exile of the ten tribes.
A few words about the prophet with connection to the chronology of the events: Ezekiel was one of those who went to Babylon with the second exile and King Yehoyakin in 3346 (2Ki_24:14), and would seem to have belonged to the higher class, a supposition agreeing with Eze_8:1. The chief scene of his ministry was Tel-Aviv in northern Mesopotamia, on the River Kevar, along the banks of which were the settlements of the exiles. The date of his entering upon the prophetic office is given in Eze_1:1-3 when he received his first vision at the legal age of thirty in 3351. The account of Eze_1:1-3 is ambiguous as to how to interpret in the thirtieth year in the fourth month on the fifth day of the month:
And it came to be in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth of the month, as I was among the exiles by the River Kevar the heavens were opened and I saw visions of Elohim. On the fifth of the month, in the fifth year of Sovereign Yehoyakin’s exile, the word of Yehovah came expressly to Yehezqel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Kevar. And the hand of Yehovah came upon him there.
Here is Rashi’s comment on these verses. He says:
Thus, we may deduce that the thirty years he counted, he counted from the beginning of the jubilee [cycle]: the last jubilee commenced at the beginning of the eighteenth year of Josiah[‘s reign]; that is, the year that Hilkiah found the scroll (II Kings 22). So we learn in Seder Olam (ch. 26), that the beginning of the jubilee was that [year]. Josiah reigned thirty one years. Subtracting from them the seventeen years that had already passed leaves fourteen years. Jehoiakim reigned eleven years; [together, that] totals twenty-five years. Jeconiah [Jehoiachin] his son, had reigned only three months when he was exiled, and the year that Ezekiel prophesied was the fifth [year] of his exile, hence the thirtieth year of the jubilee. And so we find that at the end of his prophecy, he gives a sign using the count of the jubilee [as a reference], for it says (40:1): “In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month.” Our Rabbis said (Arachin 12a): What “year” is it that begins on the tenth of the month? You must say that this is the jubilee year [See Lev 25:9].
According to Rashi, the thirty years must be counted from the beginning of the jubilee cycle which was the eighteenth year of King Yoshiyahu meaning that the preceding year was a jubilee. After thirty years were counted (the thirtieth year of the jubilee), Ezekiel received visions from Elohim. That year, we are told, was also the fifth year of King Yehoyakin and Ezekiel’s exile. Keep in mind that back in the land, that was also the fifth year of King Tzidqiyahu, the last king of Yehudah. In the twenty-fifth year of their exile the prophet received another vision: that of the Millennial Temple:
In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was smitten, on that same day the hand of Yehovah came upon me and He brought me there. (Eze 40:1)
In his comentary, Rashi makes the point that these years have been given as signs of a jubilee cycle. He makes this conclusion based on the rabbinical teaching that a jubilee year begins on the tenth of the seventh Biblical month, namely Yom Kippur. And indeed, from the eighteenth year of King Yoshiyahu to the twenty-fifth year of King Yehoyakin’s exile are nothing more, nothing less than fifty years. However, can we use this count of fifty years as establishing a valid proof of a jubilee year?
The present author holds a different view on the accounts in Eze_1:1-3 and Eze_40:1. YHVH’s choice of the day to deliver this vision to Ezekiel is, in the present author’s opinion, not accidental. At the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month can only refer to the tenth day of the month of the Aviv, the beginning of the year, when the Passover lambs were selected for slaughter. Also, as already established in the previous chapter, the eleventh year of King Tzidqiyahu, year 3357 of the creation, was the year of the destruction of the Temple, which was a jubilee. And the following year was the first year of the next Jubilee cycle (see Jubilees Table), when the seventy years of the Babylonian exile began. If this is correct, the twenty-fifth year of Ezekiel’s exile, year 3371, cannot be possibly a jubilee since there are only fourteen years between the eleventh year of King Tzidqiyahu and the year the prophet received the revelation.
The present author believes that the other possibility, the date of Ezekiel’s entering upon the prophetic office spoken of in Eze_1:1-3 when he received his first vision, was the day when he reached the legal age of thirty to become a priest in year 3351. Therefore, thirty years earlier, year 3321, was his birth. If this is correct, he could not have exercised the priestly functions in Yerushalayim, because the Biblical account says that at the age of thirty he had already been in exile in Babylon. However, since his father was a priest Eze_1:3, there is no doubt that he was brought up in the courts of the Temple, and so he became familiar with its services and arrangements in order to describe the Millenium Temple and its services. In this case, he was born in 3321, in the seventeenth year of King Yoshiyahu, and he was fourteen years of age when King Yoshiyahu died. He was thirty-six years old, in the twelfth year of his exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth of the month of year 3357, when one who had escaped from Yerushalayim came to him in the morning and delivered the news that the city had been smitten. But the evening before that YHVH had already opened his mouth and he started preaching (Eze_33:21-23). Fourteen years later, year 3371, Ezekiel was fifty years old when he received the vision of the Third Temple (Eze_40:1). The year 3321 and 3371 were Sabbatical (see Jubilees Table).
It is interesting to notice that the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel intersect, with Jeremiah writing from Yerushalayim and attempting to warn the kings of Yehudah, while Ezekiel was in exile with the nobility of Yehudah writing similar entreaties of doom on the city and its Temple to the remaining people and rulers. Therefore, Jeremiah wrote to the elders of Yehudah in exile (Jer_29:1) while Ezekiel was sending his prophecies of doom in the opposite direction to Yerushalayim. Therefore, “the house of Israel” in Eze_3:1 is not to be understood as the northern kingdom which had been exiled long before that, but to the whole Israel, as seen from the context of chapters 3, 18, and 33 in which identical messages were sent.
Having said all that, let us return to the prophecy. Ezekiel was commanded by YHVH to lie on his left side for 390 days (Eze_4:4-5) for the crookedness of the House of Israel, a day for a year. It is widely accepted that the crookedness of Israel, thus the 390 years in Ezekiel’s prophecy, began when Israel was carried away captive to Ashshur in the sixth year of Hizqiyahu, the ninth year of Hoshea (2Ki_18:9-10), if their purpose was for punishment. The second most accepted suggestion is that it started at the time of the division of the kingdom into the House of Israel and the House of Yehudah in the first year of King Rehavam (1Ki_12:1-20, 1Ki_12:28-31). If these interpretations that the 390 years began either with the division of the kingdom or with the captivity of Israel are correct, then they would not lead to a reasonable explanation as to what significant event in the history of Israel their end would be.
Also, the 430 years for the northern and the southern kingdoms were not for punishment which the prophet had to bear on him, as commonly understood, but a presentation of the crookedness of the house of Israel and the house of Yehudah. The punishment for their crookedness is given in the next verses in Eze_4:7-17 and was a result of their sin. What was their sin? As already stated, their crookedness was that the Israelites failed to conquer the whole land as they were commanded which was one of the clauses in the Covenant.
Some scholars have suggested that these 390 years of punishment are to be multiplied by seven according to the sevenfold curse in Leviticus 26, where YHVH said to Israel that He would give them seven times more punishment, if they refused to repent (Lev_26:14-18). But Israel never repented, therefore, its total iniquity would pile up to 2,730 years (390 x 7). This is the common understanding of the application of Lev_26:14-18 in Ezekiel’s 390 Years prophecy.
However, a very important moment has been missed. The warning of Leviticus 26 continues with three more sets of sevenfold curses (Lev_26:19-35), if the rebellion continues and in the context of prophecy of Eze_4:4-6 this would be four sets of sevenfold curse of 390 years: total of 10,920 years. This is a unbearable punishment; even the universe is not so old much less the punishment of Israel. Therefore, there must be other explanation for this.
In Mat_18:21-22 and Luk_17:4 there is a similar expression to the sevenfold prophecy of Ezekiel in which Yeshua gives His teaching on how many times we are to forgive (Shem-Tov Hebrew Matthew reads “seventy-seven times”):
Master, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Yeshua said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
The understanding of this author is that the phrases in Lev_26:14-34 and Mat_18:21-22 are Hebraic expressions meaning “as long as it takes” as used in Gen_4:24 “seventy-seven fold”: Heb. שִׁבְעִים וְשִׁבְעָה an expression meaning many sevens. So, how long does Israel have to be in exile for her transgression? As long as it takes to repent: seven times seven times seven, etc. even until the last great trumpet sounds when everything will be restored.
On the other hand, however, if the 2,730 years are counted from year 3235 when the land of the Northern Kingdom was purged from the iniquities of the rebellious people and started enjoying its rest, then their end would come to year 5964 and the present author does not see any noticeable significance of these dates other than that 3235 and 5964 happened to be Sabbatical (see Jubilees Table).
Then Ezekiel was also commanded to lie on his right side for forty days (Eze_4:6) for forty years of the iniquities of Yehudah. Why forty years? Other than the number seven, the next most significant numerical usage in prophetic themes is forty. For instance, a generation represents a span of forty years. The Book of Hebrews records (Heb_3:9-10):
Your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation.
The fact that forty years are “one generation” in prophetic interpretation is a well established belief. The number forty itself was normally attached to the symbol of trial, punishment, or a span of time associated with special human experiences. Yeshua’s temptation with Satan continued forty days (Mat_4:2). The time between Yeshua’s resurrection and his ascension was 40 days (Act_1:3). Mosheh spent forty days on Mt Sinai receiving Torah (Exo_24:18), and there was the trip of forty days to the same area by the prophet Elijah (1Ki_19:8). There were forty days and nights of the Flood (Gen_7:4-17) and Nineveh was granted forty days to repent (Jon_3:4). Forty days become forty years in the judgment upon Israel for not entering the Promised Land when they were told (Num_14:34). Later, the Philistine servitude lasted forty years (Jdg_13:1), and the punishment on Egypt was prophesied to last forty years (Eze_29:11). And last but not least, forty jubilees were allotted for The Age of Desolation having started with Adam’s fall in year 7 from the Creation and ended with Noach’s death in year 2006.
As seen throughout the Scripture, forty years have been used either for trial and punishment, or for rest, but in Ezekiel’s prophecy they have been used for trial. The 40-year countdown for the iniquities of Yehudah began in the thirteenth year of King Yoshiyahu, 3317, when YHVH began to reveal to Yirmeyahu the 70-year exile and this revelation lasted until the fourth year of King Yehoyakim and the first year of Nevukadnetsar (Jer_25:1-12) thus passing of twenty-three years out of forty. This countdown would end in the tenth year of King Tsidqiyahu, in the Sabbatical year of 3356, when he and the people did not let the servants go free thus disobeying the words YHVH with regard to the law of the Sabbatical year. Yerushalayim was breached in the eighteenth year of Nevukadnetsar (tenth year of King Tsidqiyahu, Jer_1:1-3) adding seventeen years to the twenty-three. This provides us with the period of forty years: 23 years plus additional 17 years. The following year was the Jubilee of 3357, the eleventh of Tsidqiyahu, in which the Temple and Yerushalayim were destroyed and Yehudah exiled.
The opinion of this author is that, had King Tsidqiyahu been obedient to the command to release the servants in the Sabbatical year of 3356, the people would still have gone in exile for not giving the land its rightful rest, but the Temple would not have been destroyed and a remnant would have stayed in the land to maintain the claim of Israel on the land. The strong reason for this view is found in Jer_34:2-5 where YHVH promises King Tsidqiyahu that he would be taken in Babylon and die in peace, as it is written,
Thus said Yehovah the Elohim of Israel, ‘Go and speak to Tsidqiyahu sovereign of Yehudah and say to him, “Thus said Yehovah, ‘See, I am giving this city into the hand of the sovereign of Bavel. And he shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape out of his hand, but certainly be taken and given into his hand. And your eyes shall see the eyes of the sovereign of Baḇel, and his mouth shall speak with your mouth, and you shall go to Bavel.’ “But hear the word of Yehovah, O Tsidqiyahu sovereign of Yehudah! Thus said Yehovah concerning you, ‘You shall not die by the sword. ‘In peace you are to die, and as in the burnings of spices for your fathers, the former sovereigns who were before you, so they shall burn spices for you and lament for you, saying, “Alas, master!” ’ For I have spoken the word,” declares Yehovah.
An additional reason for holding this view is that verse 2 says that Yerushalayim would be burned with fire, but nothing had been said about any destruction of the Temple. As already commented, the king and the people disobeyed the command to release the servants in the Sabbatical year thus having caused the wrath of Elohim to burn against them. Nevukadnetsar slew the sons of the king before his eyes, and he also slew all the heads of Yehudah. And Nevukadnetsar also put out the eyes of Tsidqiyahu, took him to Babylon, and put him in prison until the day of his death (2Ki_25:5-9, Jer_52:8-11).
Moreover, we may notice that the four sevenfold curses in Lev_26:14-39 reveal the second layer of Ezekiel’s prophecy and a close examination of the prophetic warning may allude to the four periods in the history of the people of Elohim and the four invasions in the land by the four world empires in their times and the corresponding curses thereof. In support of this understanding comes the prophecy of the “four horns” and the “four craftsmen” in Zec_1:18-21 mediated by a messenger of YHVH who interpreted the four horns to the prophet as the horns which have scattered Yehudah, and the four craftsmen as the nations which have lifted up the horn against the people to scatter it. The horn is a symbol of power (see Amo_6:13). The horns therefore symbolize the powers of the world, which rise up in hostility against YHVH’s chosen people (for more on the symbolism of the horns in the prophecy see Part II of this study). The Persian Empire is not considered in this layer of prophecy, is the opinion of this author, because it was not oppressive to the Yehudim and did not scattered them (Zec_1:19); on the contrary, the Persian kings permitted them to return in the land.
Having said that, the four periods in the history of the people of Elohim and the four invasions are as follows:
1. Ashshur. The first curse (Lev_26:14-20): the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by Ashshur for the sins during the 390 years and the breaking of the covenant by Yarovam as it is written,
But if you do not obey Me, and do not do all these commands, and if you reject My laws, or if your being loathes My right-rulings, so that you do not do all My commands, but break My covenant, I also do this to you: And I shall appoint sudden alarm over you, wasting disease and inflammation, destroying the eyes, and consuming the life. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. ‘And I shall set My face against you, and you shall be smitten before your enemies. And those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you. ‘And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I shall punish you seven times more for your sins. ‘And I shall break the pride of your power, and shall make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. ‘And your strength shall be spent in vain and your land not yield its crops, nor the trees of the land yield their fruit.
2. Babylon. The second curse (Lev_26:21-22): the destruction of the Southern Kingdom by Babylon. For the warnings given by YHVH 40 years before the end of King Tsidqiyahu (the 13th year of King Yoshiyahu) that Yehudah would go in exile for seventy years for not having kept the Sabbatical years. The Israelites were decimated in numbers and the land (the highways) deserted.
And if you walk contrary to Me, and refuse to obey Me, I shall bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins, and send wild beasts among you, which shall bereave you of your children. And I shall cut off your livestock, and make you few in number, and your highways shall be deserted.
3. Greece. The third curse (Lev_26:23-26): Greece
And if you are not instructed by Me by these, but walk contrary to Me, then I also shall walk contrary to you, and I Myself shall smite you seven times for your sins. And I shall bring against you a sword executing the vengeance of My covenant, and you shall gather together in your cities, and I shall send pestilence among you, and you shall be given into the hand of the enemy. When I have cut off your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall bring back to you your bread by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.
4. Rome. The fourth curse (Lev_26:27-37) plainly explains the siege of Yerushalayim and destruction of the second Temple by Rome.
And if in spite of this, you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I shall walk contrary to you in wrath. And I Myself shall punish you seven times for your sins. And you shall eat the flesh of your sons, and eat the flesh of your daughters. And I shall destroy your high places, and cut down your sun-pillars, and put your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols. And My being shall loathe you. And I shall turn your cities into ruins and lay your set-apart places waste, and not smell your sweet fragrances. And I shall lay the land waste, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. And I shall scatter you among the gentiles and draw out a sword after you. And your land shall be desert and your cities ruins, and the land enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies waste and you are in your enemies land. Then the land would rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies waste it rests, for the time it did not rest on your Sabbaths when you dwelt in it. ‘And as for those of you who are left, I shall send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies, and the sound of a shaken leaf shall cause them to flee. And they shall flee as though retreating from a sword, and they shall fall when no one pursues. And they shall stumble over one another, as from before a sword, when no one pursues. And you shall be unable to stand before your enemies.
This is the curse that describes in details parents eating their children which is also recorded by Josephus in his work Wars of the Yehudim. It seems that this curse refers to the Roman exile since only in this exile the Jewish people were scattered among the Gentiles and the persecution they suffered among them. Unlike the Babylonian exile, when the people of Yehudah joined the people of Israel and lived for the most part in peace until the land had its seventy years of rest with no remnant left, the Roman exile is the longest and the cruelest; secondly, a small remnant was left to occupy the land while the majority of them were scattered to the four corners of the Roman empire. This remnant also suffered persecution of their own by the crusades, the Arab Khalifat, and later the Turkish empire. It is interesting that Jewish sources record that very specific signs were given to Israel in the last forty years of the existence of the Second Temple from about year 30 AM to the year 69 AM. Noticeably, that was from the year when the Messiah was crucified and Daniel’s 70 Weeks prophecy ended until the Second Temple and Yerushalayim were destroyed.
The first of these signs of the destruction of the Temple was seen in the Yom Kippur service when a goat called L’Azazel was sent in the wilderness. On Mount Azazel, goat L’Azazel was pushed off backwards over the cliff, evidently to signify the physical removal of sin from the community (Lev_16:20-22). Just before goat L’Azazel was pushed off to its death, the scarlet cloth on L’Azazel was divided in two pieces. The one piece was left tied to the goat’s horn, while the other piece was tied around a rock. In Tractate Yoma 39b of the Babylonian Talmud, the Rabbis tell how a miracle regularly happened on Yom Kippur—the scarlet cloth would turn white. By this miracle, the Almighty communicated to the people that He had forgiven the sins of Israel. The Talmud teaches that, during the last 40 years of the Temple service, this miracle never happened. Not once.
The second and the third sign (according to the Sages) were recorded in Seder Mo’ed, Tractate Yoma 39b of the Babylonian Talmud:
Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot “For YHVH” “L’YHVH,” did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured [shaniy] strap become white; nor did the westernmost light [of the seven-branched menorah] shine; and the doors of the Hekhal would open by themselves, until Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai rebuked them, saying: “Hekhal, Hekhal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself [i.e. why do you predict your own destruction]? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zekharyah ben Yiddo has already prophesied concerning thee: ‘Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.”
In other words, during the last forty years of the Temple, the flame in the branch of the Menorah closest to the Most Set-apart Place, did not stay lit, and the heavy gates, which required twenty men to open and close, opened by themselves during the night. Josephus also described this spontaneous opening of the inner gates. The spontaneous opening of the gates was seen as a sign for the enemies to enter the Temple.
In conclusion of this matter of Ezekiel’s prophecy is that 430 years (390 plus 40) are the accrued total accountability of Israel and Yehudah during which they did not conquer the entire land, counted from the year 2508 when the land was inherited and the laws of Sabbath and Jubilee was in force until 2937 when David captured Yerushalayim and Elohim’s anger with Israel for 430 years ended (see Yovelim Table). These 430 years are to be considered as a trial, not punishment. Also, it is worth noticing that Ezekiel was punished for the sin of Israel, not Israel. To understand this concept of punishment of a representative on behalf of the entire nation, we must understand first the oneness of the nation of Israel: as the entire community is considered indivisible, every individual in it shares the guilt for the sins of every one. Then, YHVH’s justice can address itself to the community of Israel as a whole when a righteous person like Ezekiel is chosen to save the nation in his merit by taking the punishment on himself. This principle we may also see in the sacrificial death of the Messiah. Sefer Chasidim recites Ezekiel’s suffering,
For this is the way before HaShem. When something is decreed and they do not repent, then punishment must come. Now. if the Tzadik [The Righteous] is made to suffer, then that punishment has been borne by him. Harsh punishment over Israel had been decreed in the sinful years of king Menasheh and king Yehoyaqim. However, the people were merely exiled–they had not suffered harsh physical punishment. The Midat ha-Din of HaShem–the attribute of strict Penal Justice–argued. “Why should they be treated so leniently?” So, HaShem said to Ezekiel: “Accept the suffering upon yourself so that the Midat ha-Din, i.e. the Attribute of Strict Penal Justice, should not have a legitimate claim, for when he sees the sufferings of the Tzadiq who does not deserve to be punished, he will not press his claim.”
Thus, according to this the justice is satisfied when the punishment for the entire nation is meted out only to a righteous representative, the prophet Ezekiel. We should also notice that the common element in the four curses in Lev_26:14-39: the land did not enjoy its due rest, as it is written,
For the land was abandoned by them, and enjoying its Sabbaths while lying waste without them, and they were paying for their crookedness, because they rejected My right-rulings and because their being loathed My laws. (Lev_26:43)
Hence, Ezekiel as a suffering tzadik took voluntarily the punishment that otherwise would be on Israel for her disobedience in order to give the land the due rest.
Therefore, the reckoning of time from the Creation to the destruction of the First Temple and the beginning of the seventy years of exile is this:
1. It was 1,948 years from Adam to Avraham.
2. It was 75 years from Avraham’s birth to the Covenant.
3. It was 430 years from the Covenant to the Exodus.
4. It was 40 years from the Exodus to the crossing of the Yarden River.
5. It was 7 years from the entry to the conquest of the land.
6. It was 7 years from the conquest of the land to the division of the land.
7. It was 850 years from the division of the land to the destruction of the Temple.
Total: 3,357 years.