The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Ezekiel 40

Eze 40:1

See Lesson, Ezekiel's temple not millennial.

See Lesson, Ezekiel's temple, related to the return from Babylon.

See Lesson, Animal sacrifice in the Kingdom?.

The entire section (Eze 40-48) appears to be addressing the "rebellious house of Israel" (see Eze 40:4; 44:6; 45:9). This is a house, or temple, for Israel -- not for the world!

The temple of the return from exile was built "according to the command of the God of Israel" (Ezr 6:14). This appears to be a reference to the outline of Eze 40-48.

Note 13-year gap between (1) Eze 38; 39 and (2) Eze 40. No immediate context. Eze 40-48 stands alone.

"Probably it is the assumption that the temple was for use in the millennium which led to this mistaken notion of vast proportions. But where did that assumption come from? Primarily from the sequence of chapters in Ezekiel's prophecy: (a) Eze 37 -- the "resurrection" of Israel; (b) Eze 38; 39 -- the great invasion of the Land, and the final divine intervention; (c) Eze 40-48 -- the temple of the future age, surely.

But a careful comparison of Eze 32:1 with Eze 40:1 reveals a gap of no less than thirteen years between items (b) and (c). The connection of the temple with the preceding chapters is now seen to be illusory. Eze 40-48 stand well apart from all the rest, and are to be judged entirely on their own merits and not on context, for the context is non-existent" (FLET).

"The General Truth -- That Christ will build the temple of the future age as a house of prayer for all people.

"Uncertain Detail -- What will be the size of it? What will be the shape of it? There are no grounds for absolute certainty. There are strong [?] grounds for the view presented by bro Sulley in his temple book: but we should not be justified in making the reception of this view a condition of fellowship. It is sufficient that the general truth is received. Any view that may be entertained as to details is not inconsistent with the general truth" (RR, "True Principles and Uncertain Details").

Eze 40:2

IN VISIONS OF GOD HE TOOK ME TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL: Ezekiel's transportation in a vision back to Israel amounted to a kind of homecoming for him. He had previously been in Babylon in his visions (Eze 3:14,15; 8:3; 11:24), but now the Lord took him, as He would later take all the Israelites, back to the Promised Land.

A VERY HIGH MOUNTAIN: "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Rev 21:10).

Eze 40:3

BRONZE: Bronze in Scripture often represents what is strong (cf 1Ki 4:13; Job 40:18).

A LINEN CORD AND A MEASURING ROD: The rod to measure shorter distances and the cord to measure longer ones.

A MEASURING ROD: Cp Zec 2:1; Rev 21:15.

Eze 40:4

LOOK WITH YOUR EYES AND HEAR WITH YOUR EARS AND PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYTHING I AM GOING TO SHOW YOU: In other words, 'Use all your senses, all your faculties, all your wits to understand divine truth.' When there is light before your eyes, be sure -- take careful pains -- to see; and, when there is the Word of God spoken to you, be sure to hear. Don't be one of those men who beholds his image in a mirror, and then goes his way and immediately forgets what manner of man he is (James 1:23,24). How much more might we understand of God's word if we gave our whole minds to it. We tell our children to learn their lessons "by heart". If we put the full meaning into that expression, that is the way we should learn the things of God. Learn them all over; take them into yourself by every faculty you possess; strive to get at their innermost meaning by every power that is given you -- and surely God will help you to understand.

"Look with your eyes." Examine, inspect, investigate, search! Do not let the truth flit before you and then say, "Yes, I have seen it." No. Stop it. Hold it by meditation before the mind's eye, and see with your eyes. Look into it. Remember what is said of the angels: "Even angels long to look into these things" (1Pe 1:12); not "to look at", but "to look INTO"! Look into the gospel message: let your eyes be intent and steadfastly fixed upon every truth, and God will give you understanding.

"Hear with thine ears." A man cannot use his ears for anything else, can he? Spy out the meaning with the mind's eye; but, besides that, try to catch the very tone in which the promise or precept has been uttered. Listen for the poetry, revel in the imagery, enjoy the "music" of God's Word. Let every part of the brain, the sensory part as well as the analytical part, HEAR it in its fulness.

But the Lord demands something more. "Pay attention to everything I am going to show you." This is surely the way to learn from God -- by loving all that He says -- feeling that, whatever God says, it is the thing you want to know. Set your whole heart on the word. It has been said, "The man who has read many books is not always a learned man; but he is a strong man who has read a few books over and over till he has mastered them. He knows something. He has a grasp of thoughts and expressions, and these will build up his life." And even more is this true if we think of the ONE BOOK of God's Word. Set your heart upon God's word! It is the only way to know it thoroughly: let your whole nature be plunged into it as cloth into a dye (this, as we know, is the literal meaning of the word "baptize" in the Greek -- be "immersed" in it!). Become very familiar with every part of God's Word. And, as you do so, also ask the Heavenly Father for the grace, to be willing and ready to see all that He would have you see, and to hear all that He would have you hear, and to receive into our heart all that He would have you receive. For surely -- in the broadest sense -- "that is why you have been brought here!"

Eze 40:5

WALL: Heb "chowmah", occurring about 130 times in the OT, always ref the wall of a city, not the wall of a building! Sw Eze 42:15-20. (By contrast, HSul has made the wall of the city exactly the same as the wall of the building! But the common practice, in tabernacle and temple, is a wall or partition, separating that which is inside, and holy, from that which is outside, and common. In HSul's view, the holy building is set right up against the common, or unholy, outside area.)

LONG CUBITS: A normal cubit was the distance between the tip of a person's middle finger and the end of his elbow, about 18 inches (Deu 3:11). A handbreadth was about three inches. A long cubit was about 21 inches long, the length of a normal cubit plus a handbreadth. Since each of the cubits of the man's measuring rod was a cubit and a handbreadth, it seems that the cubits in view in these dimensions were long cubits (cf Eze 43:13). Six long cubits (one rod) = about 10 feet.

Eze 40:6

Vv 6-16: See Lesson, Ezekiel's temple: gate complex.

The amount of detail devoted to the descriptions of the gate complexes, both outer and inner, emphasizes that access into the temple will be strictly controlled. "The entire gate system resembled the multiple entry gates archaeologists discovered from the Solomonic period. There were several guard rooms (cf 1Ki 24:28; 2Ch 12:11), or alcoves, on either side of the inner part of the Solomonic gate" (Alexander, cited in Const).

Ezekiel's guide next measured the gate of the city that faced east, that is, the gate complex. He probably measured the east gate first because it was in a direct line with the entrance to the temple proper. Temple gates provided access but restricted that access in relation to God's presence. The threshold, the area of the gate at the top of the stairs within the wall (vv 22, 26), was one rod (six cubits) deep (c 10 feet), the thickness of the wall around the whole temple compound (v 5).

Eze 40:7

Each guardroom in the gate complex was a square one rod long and one rod wide (or six cubits by six cubits, 10 feet by 10 feet: v 12). There were really six guardrooms, three on each side of the hallway through the gate complex (v 10). A wall five cubits thick separated the guardrooms on the same sides of the hallway from each other. Beyond these guardrooms there was another threshold that led to a large portico, or vestibule room. This threshold was the same size as the one at the other end of the passage, six cubits deep and 10 cubits wide.

Eze 40:8

Vv 8,9: The "portico" or vestibule stood at the far end of the gate complex and faced the courtyard. It was eight cubits deep and 25 cubits wide. Evidently the opening from this vestibule into the courtyard was 10 cubits wide, but the "jambs" or "side pillars" supporting the door frames around the opening were one cubit wide on each side leaving an opening of eight cubits.

Eze 40:10

There was a total of six guardrooms in the gate complex, three on each side of the main hallway, and they were all the same size.

Eze 40:11

The gateway into the gate complex from the east, the main entrance, was 10 cubits wide. The main hallway ("gateway") was 13 cubits wide.

Generally, "length" and "width", in the early part of Scripture, relate to the measurements of the Tabernacle (Exo 25:10,17,23; 26:2,8,16; 27:18; 28:16; 30:2; 36:9,15,21; 37:1,6,10,25; 38:1,18; 39:9). Later they are elements in the descriptions of Solomon's Temple (1Ki 6:2,20; 7:27; 2Ch 3:8; 4:1). And now they are found in Ezekiel's description of a temple (Eze 40:11,20,21,25,36,49; 41:2,4; 42:2).

The NT has two interesting uses. The love of Christ is described by dimensions -- as in the language of the tabernacle and temple (Eph 3:18). And the city of Rev 21:16 is similarly described, to mark its relationship to the previous houses of God's Glory.

Eze 40:12

Each guardroom was six cubits square. Evidently each one had a one-cubit-thick low wall that defined each of these rooms as separate from the hallway. This low wall or ledge ran on each side of the hallway in front of the guardrooms.

Eze 40:13

The interior width of the gate complex, measuring the ceiling above one guardroom, the hallway, and another guardroom, was 25 cubits (cf v 21). Evidently there were doors in the walls of the guardrooms that covered windows or niches in those walls (cf v 16; Eze 41:16).

Eze 40:14

Vv 14,15: The height of the door frames surrounding the main gate was 60 cubits (100 feet). The gate system's walls wrapped around from the main wall of the temple enclosure to the door jambs that framed the doorway into the courtyard (v 9). The total length of the passageway from the front gate to the doorway into the courtyard was 50 cubits.

Eze 40:16

There were shuttered windows or alcoves in the exterior walls of the guardrooms and vestibule. Representations of palm trees decorated the door frames, one on each side of each door (v 26). Palm trees were symbols of beauty, fruitfulness, salvation, glory, and the millennial age (cf Lev 23:40; 1Ki 6:29,32,35; 7:36; 2Ch 3:5; Song 7:7; Psa 92:12-14; Neh 8:15; Zech 14:16-21).

Eze 40:17

Vv 17-27: The outer courtyard.

See Lesson, Ezekiel's temple: outer court.

Vv 17-19: The passageway in the eastern gate complex led into a courtyard. This was the outer court that contained an inner court within it. Around the perimeter of this outer court were 30 rooms. It is not clear if they were on three sides of the courtyard or four, and it is not clear what function they served. Perhaps they were meeting or storage rooms. A pavement, probably mosaic (cf 2Ch 7:3; Est 1:6), known as the "lower pavement" formed a 50-cubit-wide border around the outer edge of the outer courtyard (cf v 15). Ezekiel's guide measured the outer courtyard between the outer and inner gates, and this space was 100 cubits wide (about 166 feet) on the east and north sides (and evidently on the south side too).

Eze 40:20

Vv 20-23: There was a gate complex on the north side of the wall that was identical to the one on the east (vv 6-16). It too was 50 cubits long and 25 cubits wide, excluding its stairway. Seven steps led into the gate complex from the outside up to its threshold (v 6). Looking straight through the north gate or through the east gate one could see, 100 cubits beyond (cf v 19), another inner gate complex. Ezekiel saw two of these inner gate complexes, one on the north side of the inner courtyard and one on the east side.

Eze 40:24

Vv 24-27: The measuring man took Ezekiel to the south side of the wall where he discovered the same arrangement that he had seen on the east and north sides.

Eze 40:28

Vv 28-47: The inner court. This section includes descriptions of the three inner gate complexes, the rooms and implements used for preparing sacrifices, the rooms for the singers and priests, and the inner court itself. See Lesson, Ezekiel's temple: inner gates.

Vv 28-37: The inner gate complexes.

Vv 28-31: Ezekiel discovered that the south inner gate complex was the same as the outer gate complexes. All the vestibules of the three gate complexes totaled 25 cubits across and each of them was five cubits deep (rather than eight, v 9). Also there were windows or niches on all four sides and eight steps leading up to it from the outer court (cf v 22). However the portico or vestibule of this gate complex, as well as the other inner gate complexes, was facing the outer court.

Eze 40:32

Vv 32-34: The eastern inner gate complex was exactly like the southern inner gate complex. Palm tree representations adorned its door frames too.

Eze 40:38

Vv 38-47: The rooms and implements used for preparing sacrifices.

Vv 38-41: Ezekiel also saw a room outside each of the three inner gate complexes close to its doorway. There priests would rinse animals brought as burnt offerings (see Eze 43:13--46:24). Within each inner gate complex, in the vestibules, there were four tables where priests slaughtered animals brought as burnt, sin, and guilt offerings. Two tables stood on one side of each vestibule and two on the other side. There were also four tables on the outside of the northern inner gate complex, two on each side of the entrance. The north gate then had eight tables, four in the vestibule and four just outside the gate. [Since Ezekiel was describing what he saw at the northern inner gate complex (vv 35-37), it may be safe to assume that the east and south gates also had the same number of tables.]

Eze 40:42

Vv 42,43: In addition to these four tables outside the inner gate complex, Ezekiel saw four tables of dressed stone, each one and a half cubits long, one and a half cubits high, and one cubit high. These were evidently near the other tables outside the entrance to the northern gate complex and held the utensils used in slaughtering the sacrificial animals. He also saw double hooks about three inches long hanging on the walls of the vestibule. Animal flesh was on the tables, animals that were being offered in sacrifice.

Eze 40:44

Vv 44-46: The rooms for the singers and priests. There were two rooms for singers in the inner court. One of them stood beside the north inner gate, and its door faced south. It also accommodated the needs of the priests who were responsible for the care of the temple. The other room stood beside the south inner gate, and its door faced north. It was for the use of singers and the priests in charge of the altar (cf Eze 43:13-17).

Eze 40:46

THESE ARE THE SONS OF ZADOK: The faithful high priest who served during David and Solomon's reigns (cf Eze 44:15; 1Sa 2:31-33; 2Sa 15:24-29; 1Ki 1:5-26,32-35; 2:26,27,35; 1Ch 6:3-8; 24:3).

Eze 40:47

V 47: The inner court itself. The inner court, bounded by the three inner gates and the temple itself, was a square 100 cubits (166 feet) on each side. An altar stood in this square in front of the entrance to the temple proper.

"In front of" is correct rendering of "paniym" (lit, "in the face of"). This relative position is true of all previous Temples -- where the altar of sacrifice is the means of entrance to the Most Holy, and so -- therefore -- outside the Most Holy!

This is not compatible with Henry Sulley's structure, which places the altar on top of a great mountain "in the center of" the Most Holy:

"1. Concerning the altar which is described as being "before the House" (Eze 40:47), the author [Henry Sulley, "The Temple of Ezekiel's Prophecy"], having already decided in favor of a square frame of buildings, cannot put this altar 'before the House' without putting it outside the House altogether. So he asserts (very dubiously) that the Hebrew preposition really means 'in the presence of,' and from this he infers that the altar will be at the center. But the word used is the ordinary Hebrew word for 'before.' It is so translated scores and scores of times (Young's Concordance does not attempt to list more than a few, and on this Strong's is only bewildering to the student who has no Hebrew) in such phrases as 'before the Lord', 'before the tabernacle': eg, Lev 1:5; 3:8. By contrast, the reconstruction of the temple on a pattern similar to that of Solomon's temple -- which is the kind of conclusion reached by practically all students of this prophecy except Henry Sulley -- puts the altar in the court of the temple, east of the Sanctuary and therefore literally and precisely 'before the House'.

"2. A second argument for this central siting of the altar is put thus, on p 51 [of HS's book]: 'This altar is hypostatically representative of the divine presence' -- therefore it must be at the center! but was not the altar of burnt offering in the Tabernacle and in the First Temple just as 'hypostatically representative of the divine presence'? Yet neither of those was in the center of the Sanctuary. The argument is a poor one.

"3. A third argument is adduced: 'This altar must of necessity be in the center, because those who approach to it in the performance of priestly duty enter the Most Holy for that purpose' (p 51). But does Ezekiel say so? The present writer has not been able to find any such statement. The author is surely assuming what he wants to prove.

"4. Finally on this point: 'Ezekiel gives the detailed measurements of the altar when he is in the Most Holy' -- and this is mentioned on p 151 as 'confirmation of this conclusion.' Again there is something suspiciously like carelessness. For Ezekiel does not say the altar is in the Most Holy (Eze 43:12 is about the entire temple area; cp Eze 42:2; and RV rightly begins a new paragraph at v 13). Nor is it true that Ezekiel went into the Most Holy. On the contrary, when the Most Holy is being measured, Ezekiel is careful to say: "Then went he (the angel) inward, and measured..." (Eze 41:3). As a priest who was not a High Priest, Ezekiel knew that he himself had no right to enter the Most Holy.

"These four points, none of them at all satisfactory, constitute all the reasons advanced for the highly revolutionary theory that the altar must be in the center of the temple" (FLET).

Placing the altar in the center of the Most Holy, as HSul does, is very unsatisfactory for the following reason: that the animals to be offered on the altar would presumably have to be driven through the temple itself, as well as the Most Holy Place. This defies common sense, and Bible teaching as regards other altars and other sacrifices: for these were always the means by which man might be purified, and cleansed, and prepared for entrance into the divine presence, and so the altars in all previous tabernacles and temples were OUTSIDE the house itself, and certainly not in the CENTER of the house!

Eze 40:48

Eze 40:48 -- Eze 41:26: The temple and its outbuilding. It is interesting to compare this temple with the one that Solomon built (1Ki 6; 7). There are similarities but also differences.

Vv 48,49: The temple entrance. The walls that supported the door frames leading into the vestibule of the temple were five cubits deep on each side of the opening. These walls protruded three cubits from the side walls of the temple on each side. The vestibule itself was 20 cubits wide and 11 cubits deep. Two columns (pillars) stood at the top of the stairs on either side of the entrance to the vestibule (cf 1Ki 7:16-20).

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