The Man with the Writer’s Inkhorn

Ezekiel 8‑11

The centrepiece of this study concerns the "man...with the writer’s inkhorn," of Ezekiel 9:2 and onward.

This vision of Ezekiel is quite lengthy, and so we must look at Chapters 8 through 11 to try to get the full context of the primary point of interest—the man "clothed in linen," with the "writer’s inkhorn." ("Inkhorn"—a small case containing pens, ink, and knife, commonly worn by an Oriental scribe. There were usually two ink containers, one black and one red.)

Literal Meaning

This prophecy has to do with the impending destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Although writing in Babylon, Ezekiel’s words were most certainly carried to Jerusalem (to Jeremiah, Baruch and others).

The "six men" with the "destroying weapons" (vv.1‑2) would seem to represent the Babylonian army, which literally killed (or carried away) the inhabitants of Jerusalem. "Six" may here be a symbol of Gentile power.

The incident of Exodus 32:27 might come to mind, wherein the Levites (who would be considered "good ones") took swords to execute judgment against the people. However, there were no Levites executing judgment at the time of the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar.

The "man clothed in linen" (Ezek.9:2) could literally represent Jeremiah, who was in Jerusalem (pointing out the sins of the nation and preaching repentance at this very time. Jer.1:16‑18; 4:14,22‑26; Ezek.8) He was of a priestly family hence the "linen" attire and his location at the altar would be appropriate. His message, even to the very end, was for the people (from the king and downwards) to give themselves up to the Babylonians—obeying His (i.e. God’s) advice would be receiving the "mark" on the forehead. The individuals thus marked would save their own lives. If the leaders and the multitude followed this advice, they would also save Jerusalem and the Temple from destruction. But this good advice, from a true patriot, was deemed as traitorous and ignored by nearly all.

The Babylonians, after killing many and removing the remaining inhabitants, also burned the city and the Temple as represented by the "coals of fire" scattered over the city. (Ezek.10:2)

The promise of future restoration of the Jews back to the land of Israel is the message of the latter part of chapter 11.

The "glory of the LORD" departing from the Temple and Jerusalem is another story line occurring at the same time as the above. It was thought by many at that time that God’s location was "fixed" in the Most Holy. Here it is seen that God has freedom of movement and action. God is very patient, but once the breaking point has been reached, God leaves amidst judgments on the nation. The promise given in Ezek.43:2‑4 is that God will return in the future and make Jerusalem his permanent "abode."

The 25 men (8:16) were in the "inner court," the court of the priests. They probably represent the 24 courses of the ordinary priests plus the High Priest. It would seem these were all destroyed by the "six men," thus leaving Ezekiel alone in the inner court (9:8), to make his impassioned plea to the Lord God.

The "25 men" of 11:1 are a different group probably representing the princes and the king, giving bad counsel to the people, saying "it is not near" (v.3) and "let us build houses" (compare the prophet’s contrary statements in Ezek.7:2; 12:22,23; Jer.29:5,10). They thought they were completely safe in Jerusalem, but God said that was not the case at all.

The "seventy men" (8:11) seem to be representatives of the people.

Still, there are numerous details in the prophecy that are not explained (either in whole or in part) by this literal interpretation.

Symbolic Meaning

Among Bible Students, this "man" is quite often considered to be a well‑known Christian leader of more than a century past. Along this line of thought, the six men with "destroying weapons" are interpreted as his writings, especially the six expository volumes. The writings continue the "marking" workF even though the man is now deceased. How he casts the "coals of fire" over the city is not clear; his writings (now hardly known), do not seem to have that effect.

Another view, still accepting the same individual as the one man in "linen," has the six other men with weapons as being adversaries (see footnote 1) to true faith.

These views leave much to be desired, and do not satisfy. Therefore, let us look further.

Let us first look at some points of interest in chapter 9.

  1. Verse 11, "I have done as You commanded me." (NKJV) Right away this statement raises eyebrows, as no imperfect human being could ever say he carried out God’s commands fully, perfectly, and completely. This inclines one to immediately think of the one great "servant" who did perform God’s will perfectly—Jesus.
  2. This "man" in verse 2 wears the clothing of a priest (white "linen"). He, along with the other six, comes through the north gate and the "altar gate" (8:5), where the sacrificial animals entered, and then stands at the sacrificial altar. Once again, this brings Jesus to mind.
  3. Verse 1 says that these seven "have charge over the city"; this seems to indicate they have a form of official position. Most likely then, they are all "good ones" and not "bad ones." This is also indicated by the one in linen putting a "mark" (see footnote 2) on the righteous to save them, and the six others destroying the wicked ones, those not having the "mark."
  4. The same "man in linen" who offers salvation and safety by means of his "mark," is also later (10:2) the instrument of judgment in distributing the coals of fire over the city.

Basic Concepts

In a very general way, we can consider these four chapters as relating to:

Chapter 8 Jewish Age Sins and punishments
Chapter 9 Gospel Age Christians on trial
Chapter 10 Day of God’s Wrath End of "this present evil world"
Chapter 11 Kingdom Age End of Promise of restoration

Chapter 8

Does this prophecy refer to the entire Jewish Age, or only to the climactic ending around 70 AD? It is not sure. In any case, their backsliding and rebellion finally reached a point of no return, the nation including Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed, and the people dispersed into the surrounding countries.

Since the Jewish experiences are often a picture or illustration of the Christian experiences, similar denouncements and judgments can also befall so‑called Christendom. Thus chapters 8‑10 could be symbolically applied to Christianity (or Christendom), showing their sins and coming punishments. However, the promise of Restoration in the latter part of chapter 11, would not apply to Christendom, as it will disappear forever.

Chapter 9

During the entire Gospel Age, Jesus is putting the "mark" of God’s acceptance on the foreheads of those who abhor the doings of this "present evil world" and follow God’s ways only; this would be Christians, especially those who are dedicated (or consecrated(see footnote 3) ). Developing the Bride is the primary work of God at this time. The "mark" in the forehead represents God’s care for His own.

The "mark" is symbolic, not literal and physical; it represents the "mind of Christ." The "mark" of God, His inner quality; His character, in the forehead insures one against receiving the "mark" of the Beast [his character, actions, or outlook] in either forehead or hand. (Rev.13:16,17).

Is this mark the same as the "seal" of Rev.7:2‑4, applied by the angel from the east, who is also Jesus? Not exactly the same, but similar. The "seal," a permanent ‘brand’ is only applied to the 144,000 who are overcomers. The mark, in ink, but not necessarily permanent, seems to apply to all those traveling in the "narrow way" (Matt.7:14); as long as they are faithful, they are safe from the destroying influences around them. All others are "killed" symbolically, but not literally, somewhat reminiscent of Hosea 6:5 (NKJV) "Therefore have I hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and your judgments are like light that goes forth."

This process of "marking" and "killing" continues with each generation during this Gospel Age. In the early part of the Gospel Age, true Christians with the "mark" were told to flee from Jerusalem. In the ensuing battles many Jews were literally killed by the Romans and untold others sold into slavery.

The symbolic "killing" seems to me somewhat similar to the burning of the tares in Matt.13:40, in which the "tares" cease to think of themselves as being Christians. We also have the illustration of Israel entering the Promised Land, during which they were instructed to thoroughly destroy the inhabitants lest they become a "snare" to the people. (Deut.20:16‑18). This represents God’s hatred of sin and His determination to root it out of the universe forever. The individuals who died will still have their opportunity in the Kingdom.

The mark is singular (like an "X" or "T"); the seal is triplicate (Rev.3:12):

  1. Name of God
  2. Name of New Jerusalem
  3. New name of Jesus

At the end of the Gospel Age, Jesus can tell the Father "I have done as you have commanded me."

Who or what are the "six men" (v.2) with destroying weapons, who do their work during the Gospel Age? The "six" seem a symbolic number, representing God’s various agencies which could be people, but also such things as events, circumstances, movements, teachings, etc.

Perhaps, they are also comparable to the six days Israel was circling Jericho, (which are the same as the six trumpets of Revelation 8 and 9.) These "trumpets" are messages of truth, delivered by true Christians, but the nominal, apostate Christians view them with alarm and terror and reject them. Thus, they and the worldly in general remain un‑marked, and never enter the narrow way (in effect, being "dead" to that opportunity).

Chapter 10

When the Gospel Age ends, and the 144,000 are complete, then it is time for the "Day of God’s Wrath" to sweep away the "refuge of lies." (Isaiah 28:17). This is pictured in the "coals of fire"(see footnote 4) retrieved (by Jesus) from the Almighty’s wheeled vehicle and scattered over the city. This is the time of the "seven bowls of wrath" (a.k.a. the "7 last plagues") of Revelation.

The seventh day the Israelites circled Jericho seven times. This is the "wrath" period, and is the same as the seven bowls of wrath. This is also the seventh trumpet period.

The wrath of God will be poured out by Jesus and his glorified Bride, acting as the right‑hand man (or "arm") of the Almighty.

Chapter 11

Actually verses 1‑15 continue with "trouble"; whether this is referring back to the Gospel Age, or to the "Day of God’s Wrath" is uncertain. Here the six men are not engaged in the action, but the death of Pelatiah is caused directly by God.

The promise of the future Kingdom seems to begin with verse 16 through the end of the chapter.


  1. Six men with destroying weapons. Some interpret the one in linen as being a human (including his teachings and writings) setting the "mark," so they feel the other six may also represent humans and their teachings. But these teachings of the six humans had a "slaying" effect. (It was faith in God that was destroyed by the work of the six). This is a list of possible candidates (there may also be others):
    a. Charles Darwin Evolution
    b. Robert G. Ingersoll Agnostic; Skepticism
    c. Sigmund Freud Psychoanalysis
    d. Karl Marx Communism
    e. Mary Baker Eddy Christian Science
    f. Helena Blavatsky Spiritism; Occultism
    g. Religious scholars Higher Criticism
    h. Joseph Smith Mormonism
  2. "The Hebrew word for the mark is also the name for the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (tau), and early Christian writers have taken pleasure in pointing out that one of the archaic forms of this letter is exactly like a cross, the emblem of salvation..." The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Henry Adeney Redpath)

    "Those who are marked for exemption are not merely the innocent or those who desist from evil, but those who are actively righteous—they moan and groan over the sins of the city." The Book of Ezekiel, Vol.2 (Daniel Isaac Block)

  3. Of the various seeds, or soils, of Matt.13:1‑9, those who do not make a dedication or consecration to follow in Jesus’ footsteps are represented by the seeds that are eaten by birds, new‑growth plants scorched by the sun or choked by weeds. Those who do make a dedication are those seeds in good ground that produce fruitage—30 60 or 100‑fold.
  4. The leading angel is now bidden to set fire to the city, the fire to be taken from the Divine presence, thus signifying that the destruction of the city was sanctioned by God." The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Henry Adeney Redpath)

    "The wheeled vehicle transporting the throne of God has become the bearer of judgment." The Book of Ezekiel, Vol.2 (Daniel Isaac Block)

    Note that a "cherub" (singular; one of the "cherubim") reached into the fire and supplied the "coals of fire" to the man clothed with linen. These four cherubim with their "wheels" most likely pictured the four attributes of God: power, love, justice and wisdom. It is apparently the cherub of justice that initiates this activity, although the other three are certainly in harmony with this action.