The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Ezekiel 43

Eze 43:1

Vv 1-12: The return of God's glory to the temple. (Having described the temple, God next revealed that He approved of it.)

Vv 1,2: Ezekiel's guide next led him to the east gate in the outer wall. There the prophet saw the glory of God approaching the temple from the east (cf Deu 33:2; Isa 60:1-3). God's glory had departed from Solomon's temple when the Babylonians destroyed it (Eze 8; 10:4,18,19; 11:22-25). This seems to be a promise that such glory will return in the future -- apparently, it never returned to the temple built by Zerubbabel, perhaps because it was not undertaken on the proper model, or completed in the manner God commanded (cp Hag 2:7).

This, therefore, may be a promise -- as yet unfulfilled -- which will be fulfilled when Christ returns to set up God's Kingdom.

Eze 43:2

THE GLORY OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL COMING FROM THE EAST: The "glory of the LORD" had departed the temple and the city by degrees, as seen much earlier by Ezekiel (Eze 9:3; 10:4,18,19; 11:23). The departure had signified that God's favor was being removed from His people and His nation, preparatory to the destruction brought by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.

But now the same "glory" is seen returning -- which must surely mean a reversal of previous fortunes, and a time when Israel returns to God's favor! In its later fulfillment, this points to the return of Christ -- his second coming, when he comes back to Jerusalem, by way of the mount of Olives, east of the city. Apparently the prophet Zechariah saw this: "Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem" (Zec 14:3,4). And the angels who witness Christ's ascension (from the mount of Olives: Acts 1:12) seem to allude to this also, when they tell the apostles: "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

In the Last Days, there is, too, the promise of special "kings" coming from the east, and back to the city of God (Rev 16:12). This may possibly refer to the glorified saints returning to the city of their "birth" (see Psa 87!), as the embodiment of the immortalized "Body of Christ". And this will be the ultimate, and most glorious, fulfillment of this prophecy!

HIS VOICE WAS LIKE THE ROAR OF RUSHING WATERS: God's voice was as the sound of a mighty waterfall (powerful and majestic: cp Eze 1:24; Rev 1:15; 14:2).

AND THE LAND WAS RADIANT WITH HIS GLORY: His glory illuminated the land as it passed over it (cf Exo 34:29,30,35; Mark 9:3; 2Co 4:6; Rev 1:16; 18:1).

Eze 43:3

This vision reminded Ezekiel of the vision of God that he had seen by the river Chebar (Eze 1:3), when he saw God coming to judge Jerusalem (cf Eze 1:4-28; 9:1,5; 32:18). He responded by prostrating himself before the Lord again (cf Eze 1:28; 3:23).

Eze 43:4

THE GLORY OF THE LORD ENTERED THE TEMPLE THROUGH THE GATE FACING EAST: Yahweh's glory entered the temple through the east gate, the same gate through which Ezekiel had formerly seen it leave the city. The Holy Spirit transported Ezekiel in his vision to the inner court, and there he saw that God's glory had filled the temple (cf Exo 24:9-17; 34:29,30; Luke 2:8-10). Similarly the glory of God had come upon and filled the tabernacle at its dedication (Exo 40:34,35) and Solomon's temple at its dedication (1Ki 8:10,11; 2Ch 5:13,14; 7:1-3).

An interesting preview of the departure and return of God's glory occurred when God's glory departed with the ark of the covenant into the Philistine camp (1Sa 4:19-22) and then returned when David brought the ark into Jerusalem (2Sa 6:17-19). Another parallel is Jesus' departure from Jerusalem in His crucifixion, and His return to it in His second advent.

There is an ancient gate facing east in the Temple walls. It is called the Golden Gate, and many years ago it was bricked over by the Muslims -- apparently under the impression that, if the gate were sealed shut, no Jewish or Christian Messiah could ever come back to God's city and God's temple!

"The eastern gate that overlooks the Kidron Valley today is closed as it has been since the Crusades, nearly a thousand years ago. Crusaders walled up the gate because they believed that Jesus entered the temple mount by this gate on Palm Sunday and that it should be closed until he returns to reenter the temple mount. Zech 14:4,5 presents the Messiah coming to the valley on the eastern side of the temple in preparation for his entry into the temple area. This has been regarded as biblical evidence that the gate should remain closed until Jesus returns.

"Today the eastern gate, also called the Golden Gate, is a significant holy site for three major world religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jews believe that when the Messiah comes he will open the east gate and enter the temple mount first and then enter the city of Jerusalem. Moslems believe that the gate is the site of final judgment and call it the gate of heaven and hell. They believe the final judgment of humanity will take place before the eastern gate and the redeemed are those who will be allowed to enter the temple mount; all others will be outcasts... The Romans destroyed the wall around Jerusalem in 70 AD. The present Golden Gate dates back to the seventh century AD. The Crusaders walled it up in the eleventh century. The Ottoman Turks partially destroyed it and then repaired it in the early sixteenth century. The Turkish governor then walled it up again in 1530 AD, and it has remained closed ever since" (Cooper, cited in Const).

Eze 43:6

Vv 6-12: The significance of the vision.

The prophet heard someone speaking to him from the temple, and there was a man, probably Ezekiel's guide, standing beside him (cf Eze 1:16).

Eze 43:7

Cp 1Ki 8:12,13,27; 1Ch 28:2; Psa 99:5; 132:7; Isa 66:1; Jer 3:17; 17:12.


Eze 43:9

THE LIFELESS IDOLS OF THEIR KINGS: Does this refer to: (a) actual idols, (b) the bodies of the kings, or (c) symbolically, anything that men may honor and serve?

"It is not just their kings they should put away, but the carcasses of their kings -- the 'kings' had to be dead. We must not just stop using our 'kings'; we must make them inaccessible lest we regress-- as we surely will if the temptation is left open. So let us put away the carcasses of our kings today: Col 3:5-9" (PC).

Eze 43:10

Are we ashamed of our sins, when we see the glory of God in His Temple -- ie, in Christ? Cp Peter: "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" (Luk 5:8).

Eze 43:12

ALL THE SURROUNDING AREA ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN WILL BE MOST HOLY: "It is now time to consider the Holy Place which is taken to be a circle of thirty self-contained and identical 'cellae' (as the author [HSul] is fond of calling them) round the foot of the hill. What are the grounds for concluding that these buildings are circular in arrangement? One is able to discover only two points of evidence, both of which -- on examination -- are palpably wrong. The first is Eze 43:12: 'Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold this is the law of the House.' Apparently that phrase 'round about' is taken to require a circular shape (p 48). But the Hebrew word thus translated carries no suggestion whatever of circular shape. It is used (Eze 40:5; 45:2) of the square enclosure of the Sanctuary, of the rectangular enclosure of the Tabernacle court (Exo 27:17), of the circuit of the square altar (Eze 43:13). If more examples are needed: Eze 40:16,43; 41:5-8,10-12; Exo 38:16,20,31; 40:8,33. As a point of evidence this 'round about' is worthless. In any case Eze 43:12 says: 'At the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy,' whereas HSul puts his circle of buildings at the foot of the hill" (FLET).

The other point of evidence for a "circular temple" is Eze 41:1 (see note there).

Eze 43:13

Eze 43:13--46:24: The temple ordinances: Instructions (statutes) designed to maintain holiness in the new temple follow. Yahweh specified how His people were to construct the new altar to accommodate sacrifices (Eze 43:13-17) and how they were to dedicate it (Eze 43:18-27). He revealed how they were to use the temple (Eze 44:1-9), how the priests were to function (Eze 44:10-31), and how the sacred land district was to be used (Eze 45:1-8). An exhortation to Israel's leaders forms the center of this section (Eze 45:9-12). The rest of it contains instructions for the worship leader (Eze 45:13--46:18) and directions for the use of the priests' kitchens (Eze 46:19-24).

See Lesson, Ezekiel's temple: altar.

Vv 13-17: The altar was at the very center of the whole temple complex, and it was the centerpiece of the system of worship represented in the new temple complex.

V 13: The altar of sacrifice in the middle of the inner court, in front of the entrance to the temple proper, stood on a foundation (base) that was one long cubit thick (about 21 inches). The base extended beyond the first tier of the altar above it one cubit on all four sides. On the very outside edges of the base, a curb one span high (about nine inches) served to form a gutter around the altar. Evidently this gutter collected and channeled away the blood that flowed down the sides of the altar.

Eze 43:14

The square altar rose above its foundation in three tiers, the largest one below, the next largest one above it, and the smallest one on top. The first, largest stage was two cubits high and one cubit smaller than the foundation on each of its four sides. The second tier was four cubits high and one cubit smaller than the first tier on each of its four sides.

Eze 43:15

Vv 15,16: The third tier, which formed the altar hearth, the very top of the altar, was also four cubits high. Four horns stood on the top of the altar, one at each corner undoubtedly, symbolizing strength. This tier, the hearth, was 12 cubits (20 feet) wide on each side.

ALTAR HEARTH: Heb "ariel" (as also in v 16): HSul suggests meaning of "Lion of God", stating: "It (the altar) will typify the terror of Yahweh: and its existence in His House will be a warning to one and all not to perform the part of the wicked..." But HAW writes: "But since only the priest would see it or come near to it (the rest being, as already mentioned, more than half a mile away [ie, by HSul's hypothesis as to overall size and location]), this does not seem wonderfully appropriate, the more so since the priest would need the warning least of all, being a 'son of Zadok (righteousness)'. It seems to have been overlooked not only that 'Lion of God' is condemned by its obvious unfitness as a name for an altar, but that Ariel may also mean 'I will provide a ram', with evident suitability and allusion to Gen 22:13,14" (FLET).

Eze 43:17

The second tier was 14 cubits square. It too had a curb around its upper edge that formed a gutter, and that curb was half a cubit high (cf v 13). There were to be steps up to the altar from the east. The total size of this altar was about 32 feet square at the bottom, 20 feet square at the top, and 20 feet high. Solomon's brazen altar had been smaller (2Ch 4:1). This design made this altar resemble a small ziggurat.

Formerly the Lord had forbidden the use of steps leading up to His altars (Exo 20:24,26).

FOURTEEN CUBITS LONG AND FOURTEEN CUBITS WIDE: HAW comments: "The dimensions of the altar present further grievous difficulty. In height it appears to be 2 cubits (for the lower 'settle') plus 4 cubits (for the greater 'settle') plus 4 cubits (for the altar itself) = total 10 cubits [Eze 43:14-16]. The length and breadth (over all) = 14 cubits (Eze 43:14-17). But in these latter dimensions the word 'cubit' is supplied by the translators. Their common sense conclusion that all the units are cubits is curtly discarded by our author [HSul]. 'But this is not the case,' he asserts, though not without reason given. And the reason given is this. 'The measure of 14 cubits does not even attain to the dimensions of the altar made by Solomon.' Such a state of affairs is, to his mind, unthinkable. Yet, why should it be? Solomon's temple had gold and silver and brass in abundance, almost beyond weight, whereas in this temple there is no hint of any use at all being made of any of them. One looks for more solid argument before changing cubits into reeds, six times as long. 'We have far more reason for supplying the word "reed" rather than cubit.' But what that reason may be is not apparent to this reader... The result of inflating the dimensions of the altar is that it is now at least 108 feet [14 'reeds'] on each side -- big enough to take hundreds of carcasses at once. But one is left wondering how the priest would succeed in arranging these sacrifices, at a distance of more than 50 feet away. Would he walk on the altar, or would he be equipped with modern mechanical handling plant?" (FLET).

THE STEPS OF THE ALTAR FACE EAST: The AV mentions "his stairs" on the eastward side of the altar. HSul "rejects this translation in favor of another just as valid: 'ascent' (p 53b). He then proceeds: 'If we adopt "ascent" as the meaning, it would indicate that the altar would be difficult of approach, if not, humanly speaking, inaccessible from any other than the east side.' Does this really follow? The logic of this conclusion is not easy to grasp. Yet this becomes a ground for putting the altar on a mountain peak unclimbable on three sides! When, however, it is observed that the record about Israel's altar in the wilderness and also the detail about the throne of Solomon has the same word translated 'steps' (Exo 20:26; 1Ki 10:19), there seems to be little enough reason for disallowing 'stairs' here. The same word occurs translated 'steps' in Eze 40:22,26,31, and the AV reading here is accepted without demur. Then why not in Eze 43:17?... One is left wondering also how the priests would transport the hundreds of sacrifices to the altar-summit of this mountain. But perhaps the powers of immortality are to make light of this toil" (FLET).

Eze 43:18

Vv 18-27: The cleansing of the altar.

V 18: The Lord told Ezekiel what to do when the construction of the altar was complete. The purpose of this altar was to receive the burnt offerings that people would bring to the Lord, and to receive the blood of those animal sacrifices.

Eze 43:19

Vv 19-21: Ezekiel was to give to one of the priests that would serve in this sanctuary, a priest from the honored line of Zadok (cp Eze 40:46; 44:15; 1Ki 2:35), a young bull for a sin offering. He was to smear some of the bull's blood on the four horns of the altar and on the four corners of its second tier (cp Exo 29:12). This would cleanse the altar and make atonement for it (ie, purify it). Similar ceremonies had taken place to cleanse the tabernacle and Solomonic temple altars (cf Exo 29:36-37; Lev 8:14-17; 2Ch 7:9). Ezekiel was to burn the remainder of this bull outside the inner court (cf Lev 8:17).

Eze 43:22

Vv 22-24: The next day Ezekiel was to offer a ram that was free of blemishes as a sin offering. This also was part of the seven-day ritual necessary to cleanse the altar. Then he should present another bull and another ram, equally blemish free, in the inner court. The priest was to throw salt on them, slay them, and offer them as burnt offerings.

Eze 43:24

SALT: An agent of purification and preservation that was often used symbolically (Lev 2:13; Num 18:19; 2Ch 13:5; Mark 9:49).

Eze 43:25

Vv 25,26: On each of the seven days Ezekiel was to prepare a goat for a sin offering and a young bull and a ram as burnt offerings. These sacrifices also had to be without blemish, and they would make atonement and purify the altar. This seven-day ceremony would consecrate the altar for service (cp Exo 29:36.37).

Eze 43:27

After the completion of this consecration ceremony, from the eighth day onward, the priests were to offer burnt and peace offerings on this altar. The Lord promised to accept the worship of His people if they followed this procedure.

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