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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Ezekiel 40

Verse 1

Part IV

EZEKIEL 40-48

We are treating this final section of nine chapters lying at the end of Ezekiel as a unit, as have most of the scholars we have consulted. Furthermore, no very detailed study of the line by line descriptions given herein shall be attempted. Most of the sources we have consulted devote only a few paragraphs to the whole section; and those who have devoted fifty or sixty pages have usually presented nothing of very great interest.

What we have here is a very detailed description of a magnificent physical Temple, somewhat loosely patterned after the Temple of Solomon, only much larger, complete with special living quarters for priests, and an elaborate system of animal sacrifices and other material offerings, along with the faithful observance of New Moons and Sabbaths, the whole picture rivaling the Book of Leviticus itself.

Not just a chapter or two, but all nine of chapters 40-48 are devoted to practically nothing else except that Grand New Temple in Jerusalem which God promised would be built following Israel's return to Palestine and the times of the salvation of Israel.

An important fact bearing upon our study of this is the fact that no such Temple was ever built, and there is no indication whatever that it will ever be built. If indeed God promised that it would be built, just as it seems in this section, then the sinfulness and continued hardening of Israel as mentioned by Isaiah prevented it, in keeping with the Grand Condition presented by Jeremiah 18:7-10, along with the Chosen People's rejection of Christ, which led to the formation of the New Israel and the total abandonment of any need whatever for physical temples. Speaking of the New Israel, which God most surely established, what earthly use could God have for the Old Israel in times subsequent thereunto?

The whole system of worship which Ezekiel foresaw in this passage exhibits no compatibility whatever with Christianity.

(1) The very idea of a physical temple is repugnant to Christianity. "God dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 7:48). There will not even be a Temple in heaven itself.

(2) Animal sacrifices and other material sacrifices for sins are a total contradiction of the Holy Truth that, "The Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sins" (1 John 1:7). "It is impossible that `the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin" (Hebrews 10:4).

(3) The special chambers for priests receive a great deal of attention in this section; but such physical quarters for a separate priesthood have no relevance whatever to Christianity. All Christians are "priests unto God." a royal priesthood at that; and there are simply not going to be any distinctions whatever such as those provided for in this vision of a physical temple (1 Peter 1:6; Revelation 1:6, KJV).

(4) Note that Ezekiel's Temple is the one in which God shall dwell forever (Ezekiel 43:7). God's Spirit entered the Holy Temple of his Church, the New Israel of God, on the First Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with that same tremendous sound "of the rushing mighty wind," and with the forked flames as of fire sitting upon each one of the Twelve Apostles (Acts 2). Therefore, in this particular at least, Ezekiel's Temple is nothing less than the Church of Jesus Christ. Certainly, God never entered a temple that was never built. The sound of the rushing mighty wind was the same sound heard when God left the Jewish temple because of the sins of Israel (Ezekiel 10-11).

(5) Observance of New Moons and Sabbaths appear in this section as forms of worship; but Jesus Christ himself took the sabbaths out of the way, nailing them to his cross (Colossians 2:14). In the same passage, an Apostle warned Christians against the observance either of New Moons or sabbaths.

(6) In the situation presented here in Ezekiel, all worship is centered in Jerusalem. As far as Christianity is concerned, such a proposition is absurdly ridiculous. Jesus Christ enlightened the Samaritan woman with the truth that neither in Gerizim nor in Jerusalem would men worship God, but they would worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:22ff).

In this light, it appears that little, if any, of these last nine chapters has much application to Christian students.

With regard to the interpretation of this final section, Halley stated that, "It is a prediction of the Messianic Age; but some interpret it literally, as meaning that the Twelve Tribes will one day again inherit Palestine, that they will be distributed as here indicated, and that the Temple will be rebuilt literally in all particulars as here specified, and that literal animal sacrifices will again be offered."[1] We cannot possibly accept such a literal interpretation.

The literal dimensions given here are, to say the least, quite impractical. "The square of the Temple given in Ezekiel 42:20 is six times as large as the circuit of the wall encircling the old Temple. The city of Jerusalem, here has an area between three and four thousand square miles (about ten times the square miles within the Houston city limits). This is about as large as all of Judea west of the Jordan river."[2]

There are several particulars in which the Messianic Kingdom (or Church of God) is clearly prophesied: (1) God's dwelling in the New Temple (the Church); (2) the immense size of the New Institution; (3) the presence of all the tribes of Israel (the Ten tribes especially, who must be identified with the Gentiles following their loss to Assyria) indicates the unity of all men, Jews and Gentiles alike in Christ Jesus. It appears impossible to suppose any literal resurrection of the Ten Tribes. The only restoration they ever received, or ever can receive, is in the redemption "in Christ" of individuals such as "Anna" (Luke 2:36).

As for the reason why such a material Temple was prophesied for Israel upon their return from Babylon, we can by no means be sure. It could very well be that, IF Israel had returned en masse as God intended, and IF they had truly rallied to God, believing and obeying him, that such a magnificent edifice would indeed have been built. Since no such pre-conditions ever were fulfilled, God did not build it, nor allow it to be built. In any case, such a vision of so grand a Temple would have served to encourage and motivate Israel's return; and that might have been God's sole reason for giving the vision. We cannot pretend to know.

The appearance of animal sacrifices, and other elements, in this vision make it absolutely impossible to suppose that it could ever have been conceived of as having any utility whatever after the appearance of the Son of God, the Dayspring from on High, who was destined to rescue and save his people from their sins.

THE RECORD OF WHAT THE VISION PROPHESIES

Ezekiel 40

The date. "This was fourteen years after the fall of Jerusalem."[3] "This was April 28,523 B.C."[4] There was the vision of the man measuring the east gate (Ezekiel 40:6-19). Measuring the north gate (Ezekiel 40:20-23). Measuring the south gate (Ezekiel 40:24-31). More on measuring the east gate (Ezekiel 40:32-34). More on measuring the north gate (Ezekiel 40:35-43). Description of the chambers (Ezekiel 40:44-47). Description of the porch (Ezekiel 40:48,49).

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 40". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/ezekiel-40.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.