The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Ezekiel 41

Eze 41:1

Eze 41:1-4: The holy place and the most holy. See Lesson, Ezekiel's temple: holy, most holy.

Vv 1,2: Beyond the vestibule was the nave, the holy place. It had a doorway 6 cubits deep and 10 cubits wide. The projecting wall on either side of this entrance, which also formed part of the wall of the vestibule and the holy place, projected inward 5 cubits from the side walls of the main temple structure. The holy place was 40 cubits deep and 20 cubits wide.

HSul says the "the leading indication of a circular form" of the Millennial Temple is Eze 41:1: "He brought me to the temple (ie, the holy place), and measured the posts, six cubits broad on the one side and six cubits broad on the other side, the breadth of the tabernacle" [AV}.

However, HAW comments: "Here the RV mg refers to Exo 26:25, where the breadth of the Tabernacle in the wilderness is made up of eight 'boards' of one and one half cubits each. By most students this would be considered satisfactory, even though it still leaves open the question why there should be in the entrance to the holy place (as it would seem) a width identical with the Tabernacle. However our author [HSul] prefers a quite different approach. He first points out that the word 'tabernacle' is really 'tent' (true!). And then this: 'Now most tents are, and all tents were originally, round or ring-shaped' (p 39). Is this really true? The present writer [HAW] has schoolboy memories of improvised tents vastly different in shape from that of a right circular cone! And is it not a fact that the vast majority of tents in lands of the Near East were and are usually constructed on anything but that pattern? However, p 49 goes on to develop the notion by quoting Isa 40:22: 'He stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.' The rather vague comment is added [by HSul]: 'The simile gives indication of the nature of the type from which it is drawn: namely, of a covered circular enclosed space.' But even if this highly figurative passage were admissible as evidence (which it surely isn't), is there any reader who gets the impression that the dome of heaven looks like a hollow cone? Yet here is all the evidence the book [by HSul] advances for the highly revolutionary idea it propounds of a conical mountain with a circle of buildings at its base! The question has to be asked in all seriousness: Is the evidence good enough?" (FLET).

The other point of evidence for a supposed "circular temple" is based on Eze 43:12 (see note there).

Eze 41:3

Vv 3,4: Ezekiel's guide then went into the most holy place and measured the doorway leading into it from the holy place. This doorway was two cubits deep and six cubits wide. The projecting wall on either side of this entrance, which also formed part of the wall of the holy place and the most holy place, projected inward seven cubits from the side walls of the main temple structure. The most holy place was 20 cubits square.

The effect of the progressively narrower doorways, from 14 cubits (Eze 40:48) to 10 cubits (v 2) to six cubits (v 3), focused the worshipper's eyes on the most holy place, the center of worship, and communicated increasing restriction, controlled access.

Ezekiel's guide seldom spoke to him, but when he did he always said something important. Here he identified the most holy place (v 4; cf v 22; Eze 40:4,45; 42:13; 43:18; 46:20,24; 47:8). Evidently Ezekiel, who was a priest, did not enter the most holy place.

Eze 41:4

Here, the measures of the Most Holy are given as: "the length, twenty cubits; and the breadth, twenty cubits."

HAW comments: "Without any hint from the text, our author [HSul] first applies this to the Holy Place instead, then he repeats the measurement three times (p 43a), but also turns the word 'breadth' into 'height', thus transforming the Most Holy twenty by twenty (exactly the same as in Solomon's temple) into a three-storied Holy Place with three avenues twenty-cubits wide in it. Also, on p 48 the statement is renewed that twenty by twenty are not the dimensions of the Most Holy Place but 'undoubtedly' they are 'the measurements that take us up to the Most Holy.' The reader can look at Eze 41:4 again and judge for himself" (FLET).

"In Ezra 6:3 the details of the decree of Cyrus include the actual dimensions as given by Ezekiel -- central sanctuary 60 cubits long and 60 cubits high. These are the identical measurements which are to be deduced from Eze 41:2,4" (FLET).

THIS IS THE MOST HOLY PLACE: There has always dwelt in the minds of men a feeling that some places are peculiarly sacred. Unfortunately, there has often been superstition connected with this feeling, which should be discouraged in others and resisted in ourselves. Certain places under the Law did have a peculiar sanctity, being chosen by God: there was, in Tabernacle and Temple, the MOST holy place, usually entered only once a year, by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, with the blood of the slain goat.

Still, it is true for us that "every place is hallowed ground" -- since we may find God everywhere and in everything; and we may worship and serve Him in every sphere of our lives. This is because, for the Christian, the "most holy place" has to do with the man who was and is the living Temple -- because in him the fullness of the glory of God dwells: God was manifested in him far more truly and importantly than He was present in the great cloud "between the cherubim". Every good and holy thing to be found in any concrete place of worship became more real, and purer, and more righteous, in the Lord Jesus Christ: he was -- and is -- true Temple, and true altar, and true sacrifice, and true priest, and true mercy seat. So we may say of him, whenever we think of his most holy character and love, "THIS is the most holy place!"

Eze 41:5

Vv 5-11: The side rooms of the temple.

Vv 5,6: The wall enclosing the vestibule, holy place, and most holy place was six cubits thick. Rooms five cubits deep surrounded this wall on all sides except the east. There were three stories of these rooms, 30 rooms on each level. There was another wall on the outside of these rooms that bore their weight so the inner wall of the temple did not carry it. The purpose of these rooms was not revealed, but they may be for worship, fellowship, or storage.

SIDE ROOM: HAW comments: "The word for 'side-chamber' (Eze 41:5,6) is replaced by 'rib' [in HSul's book], although in Solomon's Temple (which should be a fairly good guide) it clearly means 'side-chamber' (1Ki 6:5)" (FLET).

Eze 41:7

The rooms on the upper floor were the largest presumably because not as much space was required for a hallway and stairs. The rooms on the second floor were not as large because more space was needed for the hallway and stairs, and the rooms on the first floor were the smallest for the same reason.

"And there was an enlarging, and a winding about still upward to the side chambers: for the winding about of the house went still upward round about the house" (KJV). HAW comments: "On p 42 [of HSul's book] the 'winding about' which is fairly obviously a spiral staircase to connect one floor of chambers with the next above, becomes a groined vaulting which has no 'winding' -- and this many centuries before groined vaulting was invented!" (FLET).

Eze 41:8

The side rooms stood on the same foundation as the rest of the temple, which was six cubits above the level of the surrounding courtyard.

Eze 41:9

Vv 9,10: The exterior wall of the side rooms was five cubits thick, and there was 20 cubits of open space between these walls and any other structures surrounding the temple proper.

Eze 41:11

Ezekiel saw a doorway in this exterior wall on the north and south sides that allowed access into the side rooms. There was a five-cubit-wide walkway all around the exterior wall of the temple except on the west side (cf v 13). This walkway was on the same level as the top of the foundation of the temple.

Eze 41:12

The temple outbuilding: Another large building stood to the west of the temple proper 20 cubits from its west wall. It was 70 cubits deep and 90 cubits wide with walls five cubits thick. Its function is unknown.

Eze 41:13

Vv 13-15: The measurements of the buildings and open spaces 41:13-15.

Vv 13,14: Ezekiel's guide next measured the outside walls of the main temple structure. It was 100 cubits (166 feet) from front to back. The distance from the back of the main temple structure to the back of the building behind the temple, including an open space of 20 cubits that separated the two structures, was also 100 cubits. The inner court in front of the temple proper was also 100 cubits square.

The "temple courtyard" (called the "separate place" in KJV) is 100 cubits (c 166 feet long and wide). HAW comments: "The 'separate place' is a part of the Temple which has, admittedly, given rise to some uncertainty. Yet it would at least appear to be clear from Eze 41:13,14 that, wherever it might be sited, its dimensions are a hundred cubits each way. Yet in this volume [that of HSul] it is identified with the space between the outer SQUARE and the inner CIRCLE (?) of buildings. Could this, by any stretch of imagination, be described as 'an hundred cubits long. Also the breadth... of the separate place toward the east, an hundred cubits'?" (FLET).

Eze 41:15

The outside width of the building behind the temple proper measured 100 cubits, including a colonnade on each of its sides. The man also measured the temple's holy place and the vestibule and porch that faced the inner courtyard.

Eze 41:16

Vv 16-26: The interior furnishings of the temple.

Vv 16-20: The whole interior of the temple structure, including the side rooms, was paneled with wood. The wood was carved with alternating cherubs and palm trees. Each cherub had two faces, the face of a man and the face of a lion, one looking left and the other right (cf Eze 1:5-25; 10:9-17). Cherubim (the Hebrew plural of "cherub") elsewhere in Scripture guarded the holiness of God (cf Gen 3:22-24; Exo 25:18-22; 26:31).

Eze 41:18

CHERUBIM AND PALM TREES: These echo Solomon's temple: 1Ki 6:23,29,32,35; 7:36. The only other place where Cherubim and trees are found together is Gen 3:24. Both Solomon's and Ezekiel's temples are drawing on this imagery from Genesis. The Cherubim and trees are to remind the worshippers that the only way to approach God is through the method of worship which He has ordained. Thus, and only thus, will access to the tree of life be available (Eze 47:12).

Eze 41:21

Vv 21,22: The doorposts between the vestibule and the holy place were square and identical. The altar in the holy place was completely wooden and was three cubits high and two cubits square. It stood before the Lord's presence there. Its function is also obscure, but it may correspond to the altar of incense or the table of showbread in Israel's earlier tabernacle and temples. If so, it has some connection with prayer or remembrance.

Eze 41:23

Vv 23-26: The doors leading into the holy place and the most holy place were double doors, hinged with two leaves for each door. These doors were also carved with cherubs and palm trees. The floor of the vestibule of the temple was also covered with wood. The vestibule also had latticed windows and representations of palm trees on its side walls. The temple will be beautiful.

"This building was decorated in a manner befitting its role as the symbolic earthly house of the one who is 'altogether lovely' " (Stuart, cited in Const).

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