The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Ezekiel 44

Eze 44:1

Vv 1-3: The east gate.

Vv 1,2: Ezekiel's guide next took him back to the east outer gate (cf Eze 40:6-16). The gate itself, on the east side of the gate complex, was shut and was to remain shut. The Lord told the prophet that this gate was shut because He had entered the temple complex through it (Eze 43:1-3). Its sealed condition guaranteed God's promise that He would never depart from the temple again (Eze 37:24-28).

Eze 44:3

A prince (Heb "nasi") who would rule over the Israelites would sit in this gate complex and eat sacrifices to the Lord there (cf Eze 34:24; 37:25; 46:2,8-10). The city gate was a place of civil and judicial business in the ancient world (cp Ruth 4:1-11). It was where the elders of the city assembled to discuss and transact important matters.

Therefore the prince is seen to be an administrator of the temple area. He would go in and out of the gate complex by way of the vestibule at its west end, but no one would be able to enter or exit the outer court through the gate at the east end of this structure.

This prince is not Messiah (altho he may prefigure the Messiah in some respects). Quite probably, this could have referred to Zerubbabel, the Prince of Judah during the time of the return from exile.

The prince will produce natural children, which the Messiah will not do (Eze 46:16). Neither is he a priest -- he exercises no priestly rights -- whereas Jesus Christ is of course our great High Priest. Rather, this prince functions in an intermediate status between the priests and the people (cf Eze 45:13-22; 46:2,10,18; 48:21,22).

Eze 44:4

Vv 4-14: The ordinary priests and their service.

V 4: The guide proceeded to take Ezekiel through the north inner gate into the inner court of the temple. There he saw again the glory of the Lord that filled the temple proper, and he prostrated himself before it out of fear and reverence (Eze 1:28; 43:1-5).

Eze 44:5

The LORD spoke to Ezekiel and instructed him to pay close attention to all the instructions that he would receive concerning worship in the temple (cf Eze 40:4). He needed to give special attention to the entrances leading to the temple proper because it was there that the common people came face to face with the holiness of the temple.

Eze 44:6

Vv 6-9: Ezekiel was to tell the rebellious Israelites that the Lord had had enough of all their abominations, particularly their profaning His Jerusalem temple. They had brought unbelievers into the temple, and they had misused the food brought as sacrifices to Him. They had even appointed foreigners to take care of the temple instead of taking care of it themselves.

The Mosaic Law forbade any unauthorized person from serving in the tabernacle or temple as a priest (Num 3:10). Believing foreigners could offer sacrifices there and assist the priests, but they could not serve as priests (cf Num 15:14; Isa 56:3,6; Zec 14:21). In this temple, foreigners (uncircumcised in heart and flesh, ie, unbelieving Gentiles) would not be allowed to enter the temple proper and probably not even the temple precincts (v 9; cf Ezr 4:1-3; Neh 13:1-9; Acts 21:27-31).

Eze 44:7

UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART AND FLESH: This clearly specifies "two [separate] violations. The uncircumcised in flesh -- the Gentile -- was clearly not to be included at this stage, being still under the old covenant, but what of the uncircumcised in heart? This refers to those who were purified by the circumcision of the flesh but whose attitude belied this -- a much more dangerous situation. Circumcision of the heart is not just a NT concept. Is was expected of all under the old covenant, and it is this aspect that gave them access to salvation, which they, like us, could only obtain through faith, since the law could not save: Lev 26:41; Deu 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 9:26; Acts 7:51; Rom 2:28,29; Col 2:11-13" (PC).

Eze 44:9

NO FOREIGNER... IS TO ENTER MY SANCTUARY: "I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her" (Joel 3:17). "And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty" (Zec 14:20,21).

Eze 44:10

Vv 10-31: "If this temple is for the millennium, its priests are certainly immortal saints in Christ. But this cannot be true of Ezekiel's priests. They are liable to sweat (Eze 44:18). They are to drink no wine when serving in the sanctuary (Eze 44:21); what a contrast with Mat 26: 29! They marry -- but only into the house of Israel (Eze 44:22). They die (Eze 44:22). They are permitted to defile themselves by contact with the dead, if it be a near relation (Eze 44:25). They have no inheritance (Eze 44:28). Such a catalog of facts once again rules out all reference to immortal saints in the Kingdom" (FLET).

Vv 10-14: Such less-honorable priests are to be given lower positions. But in a millennial temple, such would be excluded altogether!

The Levites who go astray "are to be degraded to less honorable duties in the Lord's House. But in the millennium such men will not be in the Lord's House at all, but will be cast out as an 'abominable branch'.

"What is the meaning of the exhortations and remonstrations addressed to 'the house of Israel' except it be that this prophecy is specially for them and not for 'saints' or 'all nations'? The words speak for themselves: 'Declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel' (there is never any doubt about the words 'these bones are the whole house of Israel')! 'And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God: O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations.' 'Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel, remove violence and spoil' (Eze 40:4; 44:6; 45:9)" (FLET).

Vv 10-12: Many of the Levitical priests, who had been responsible for profaning the temple in the past, would have to bear the punishment for their iniquity. They would be able to minister in the temple by overseeing the gates and serving in the temple precincts in other ways, perhaps as foreigners had done previously. They could also slaughter the sacrificial animals at the inner gate complexes (cf Eze 40:38-43). However, since the priests had led in the ritual worship of idols and so caused the other Israelites to stumble in their walk with God, the Lord would judge them by limiting their service in this temple.

Eze 44:13

Vv 13,14: They would not be able to approach the Lord and serve Him; they could only serve the people. They would not be able to handle what was most holy, most closely associated with the Lord, in the temple. This would be a source of shame for them because of their former sins. Yet within this limitation the Lord promised to allow them to be in charge of the temple structure, its maintenance, and certain things that transpired there. (The Levites in Solomon's day had more responsibility: 1Ch 15:16; 16:4; 23:28-31.)

Eze 44:15

Vv 15-31: The Zadokite priests.

Vv 15,16: The Levites from Zadok's branch of the priestly family, however, would have special privileges since Zadok and his sons had served the Lord faithfully in the past (cf Eze 40:46; 1Sa 2:35; 2Sa 8:17; 15:24-29; 1Ki 2:26-35; 1Ch 6:7,8). They would be able to approach the Lord Himself and minister to Him by presenting the sacrifices of the people to Him. They had permission to enter the temple proper, to place sacrifices on the "table" (the altar, Eze 40:46, and/or the table in the holy place, Eze 41:22), and to fulfill what God commanded concerning His worship.

It is argued that only these 2 vv (15,16) ref to "sons of Zadok", while the rest of the ch ref to a subsidiary order, the mortal Levites. But this idea puts everything out of balance: with 20 vv for the mortals (10-14,17-31) and only 2 vv for the immortals.

HAW comments: "An attempt to meet this fairly substantial difficulty has been made by arguing that the sacrificing priests are spoken of only in Eze 44:15,16 -- the sons of Zadok. These two verses, it is claimed, form a parenthesis (introduced by the word 'But') concerning the sons of Zadok, whilst the rest of the chapter, before and after, relates to a subsidiary order -- the Levites -- who will be given the privilege of helping in the temple administration in a subordinate capacity.

"This argument is all too plainly an expedient to get away from an awkward set of facts, and a quite inadequate expedient at that, as the following considerations will demonstrate: (i) If this suggestion be correct, the entire section is seen to be right out of balance in its emphasis, with twenty verses (10-14, 17-31) devoted to the duties and responsibilities of these subsidiary Levites, and only two to the true (immortal) priests, 'the sons of Zadok.' (ii) The argument for a parenthesis rests on thin air, for the Hebrew particle translated 'But' which is supposed to introduce and indicate it, also begins twenty other verses in the same chapter, but is differently translated. (iii) A careful use of marginal references fully demonstrates that every detail that is written in Ezekiel regarding the Levites has its exact counterpart in the Pentateuch in Moses' legislation for the priests. The only conclusion possible is that the distinction that is being made in Ezekiel is of a different kind -- between priests like Jeremiah and Ezekiel who had been faithful and others who had not" (FLET).

Eze 44:17

Vv 17,18: The Zadokite priests would need to wear linen, not wool, garments when they served the Lord in the temple sanctuary and the inner gates and court (cf Exo 28:42; Lev 16:4; Rev 19:8). This included linen turbans and underwear. Wool may have been an unacceptable material too because it is a product of animals, whereas linen comes from plants.

Generally, cp lessons in Rev 16:15; 22:14.

Eze 44:18

THEY MUST NOT WEAR ANYTHING THAT MAKES THEM PERSPIRE: No fabric that caused them to sweat would be acceptable because perspiration would make them wet, and dry skin stays cleaner than sweaty skin.

These are plainly mortal priests -- being liable to sweat!

Eze 44:19

Vv 19,20: When the priests went into the outer court they would first have to change their clothes in the rooms designated for that purpose (Eze 42:1-14) so they would not transmit what was holy to what was common (cf Lev 6:11). Contact with holy things consecrated those things and brought them under the restrictions governing holy things (cf Exo 29:37; 30:29; Lev 6:27; Hag 2:12). They were also to keep their hair trimmed, not let it grow long or shave it all off. Long hair signified mourning, and pagan, idolatrous priests used to shave all their hair off as a sign of mourning (cf Lev 10:6; 21:5,6,10).

Eze 44:21

NO PRIEST IS TO DRINK WINE WHEN HE ENTERS THE INNER COURT: For reasons, cp Lev 10:9. Ct with the immortal "priests" in the Kingdom of God: Mat 26:29: "I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on UNTIL that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

Eze 44:22

They could only marry virgin Israelite women or the widows of former priests. Under the Mosaic system these marrying restrictions bound only the high priest (Lev 21:7,14), but under the new system they will apply to all Zadokite priests.

VIRGINS OF ISRAELITE DESCENT: The "temple virgins" of 2Ch 36:17 (see refs there).

Eze 44:23

Part of the priests' job would be to teach the people the difference between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean. The people would learn this difference as they observed the distinctions prescribed here and as the priests explained them to them (cf Eze 22:26; Lev 10:10,11; 11:47; Deu 33:10). The priests were by their lives to be examples of separateness; their ritual holiness was intended to promote ethical holiness among the people they were called to serve (cp 1Pe 1:13-16).

Eze 44:24

The Zadokite priests were also to serve as judges for the people and to make decisions in harmony with the Lord's laws (cf Deu 17:9; 19:17; 21:5). They themselves would have to keep His laws and His rules concerning the appointed feasts, and they would have to observe the Sabbath Day.

Eze 44:25

Vv 25-27: The Zadokite priests would not be able to have any contact with a dead corpse except in the case of their own immediate families (cf Lev 21:1-3). After his initial cleansing from the defilement caused by contact with a corpse, the priest would have to wait seven days before resuming his priestly duties (cf Num 19:11-19). On his first day of service after his cleansing, he would have to go into the inner court and offer a sin offering for himself.

Eze 44:28

Vv 28,29: These priests would receive no other inheritance in the land but the privilege of serving the Lord in the special ways that He permitted. The Lord would designate a portion of the land in which they would live (Eze 45:4; 48:10,11), but this was not their inheritance. The perquisites of this inheritance would include the privilege of eating parts of the best grains and animals that the people brought to the Lord as sacrifices (cf Deu 25:4; cp 1Co 9:9-12; 1Ti 5:18). Everything that the people would bring as offerings to the Lord would go to them. These were "devoted" (Heb "herem") things, things given that the offerer could not buy back (Lev 27:21,28; Num 18:14).

Eze 44:30

Vv 30,31: They would also receive the best parts of the firstfruits of every kind that the people brought to the Lord. The Lord would bless the people who were careful to provide the priests with their firstfruits (cf Mal 3:8-12; 2Co 9:10,11). Priests were not to eat any animals that died a natural death or had been slain in a way other than as a sacrifice to the Lord (Lev 17:5; 22:8; Deu 14:21). These animals might be inferior and might carry communicable diseases.
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