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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Ezekiel 45

Introduction

EZEKIEL, XL.
PRELIMINARY NOTE ON CHAPTERS 40-48.

These closing chapters of Ezekiel form one continuous prophecy of a distinctly marked character. They present a vision of the Temple in minute detail, with careful measurements of its parts; various ordinances for the Temple, for the Levites, and the priests, and for the prince; a new and remarkable division of the land; and the vision of the life-giving waters issuing from the sanctuary. The whole passage differs too much from anything in the past to allow for a moment the supposition that it is historical in character; and uttered, as it was, at a time when the Temple lay in ashes, and the land desolate, it is equally clear that it cannot describe the present. It must, therefore, have been prophetic; but this fact alone will not decide whether it looked to a literal fulfilment, or was ideal in its character; although the à priori presumption must be in favour of the latter, since all was seen “in the visions of God” (Ezekiel 40:2)—an expression which Ezekiel always applies to a symbolic representation rather than to an actual image of things. Certainly the Temple was afterwards rebuilt, and the nation re-established in Palestine; but the second Temple was quite unlike the one described by Ezekiel, and no attempt was ever made to carry out his division of the land. The few interpreters who have supposed that he meant to foretell literally the sanctuary and the state of the restoration have been compelled to suppose that the returning exiles found themselves too feeble to carry out their designs, and hence that this prophecy remains as a monument of magnificent purposes which were never accomplished. If this were the correct view, it is inconceivable that there should be no allusion to the language of Ezekiel in the historical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and in the prophecies of Haggai, which all relate to this period, and describe the return and settlement in the land, and the rebuilding of the Temple, with no reference to this prophecy, nor any trace of a desire to conform their work to its directions. Other objections to this view will be mentioned presently.

At the same time, it is to be remembered that a remnant of the people were restored to their land, and their Temple was rebuilt upon Mount Zion; it is but reasonable to suppose that these events, so often foretold, were present to the prophet’s mind, and that he looked out from them upon a more distant future, in the same way that near and typical events often with the other prophets form the basis of their foreshadowing of the future.
The only other way in which this prophecy can be literally understood is by supposing that its fulfilment is still in the future. In general, it is difficult to say that any state of things may not be realised in the future; but in this case there are features of the prophecy, and those not of a secondary or incidental character, but forming a part of its main delineations, which enable us to say unhesitatingly that their literal fulfilment would be in plain contradiction to the Divine revelation. For it is impossible to conceive, in view of the whole relations between the old and the new dispensations, as set forth in Scripture, that animal sacrifices can ever again be restored by Divine command, and find acceptance with God. And it may be added that it is equally impossible to conceive that the Church of the future, progressing in the liberty wherewith Christ has made it free, should ever return again to “the weak and beggarly elements” of Jewish bondage here set forth. But besides these obvious reasons, there are several indications in the detail of the prophecy that show it was never intended to be literally understood. These cannot all be seen without a careful examination of the details, but a few points may be presented which will make the fact sufficiently clear.

In the first place, the connection between the Temple and the city of Jerusalem is so deeply laid in all the sacred literature of the subject, as well as in the thought of every pious Israelite, that a prophecy incidentally separating them, without any distinct statement of the fact, or assignment of a reason for so doing, is scarcely conceivable. Yet in this portion of Ezekiel the Temple is described as at a distance of nearly nine and a half miles from the utmost bound of the city, or about fourteen and a quarter miles from its centre. This holds true, however the tribe portions of the land and the “oblation” be located (see the map in the Notes to Ezekiel 48:0); for the priests’ portion of the “oblation” (Ezekiel 48:10), in the midst of which the sanctuary is placed, is 10,000 reeds, or about nineteen miles broad; to the south of this (Ezekiel 48:15-26.48.17) is a strip of land of half the width, in which the city with its “suburbs” is situated. occupying its whole width.

A Temple in any other locality than Mount Moriah would hardly be the Temple of Jewish hope and association; but Ezekiel’s Temple, with its precincts, is a mile square, larger than the whole ancient city of Jerusalem. It is hardly possible that the precincts of any actual Temple could be intended to embrace such a variety of hill and valley as the country presents. However this may be, the prophet describes it as situated many miles north of the city, and the city itself as several miles north of the site of Jerusalem. This would place the Temple well on the road to Samaria.

But, still further, the description of the oblation itself is physically impossible. The boundaries of the land are the Jordan on the one side and the Mediterranean on the other (Ezekiel 47:15-26.47.21). The “oblation” could not have reached so far south as the mouth of the Jordan; but even at that point the whole breadth of the country is but fifty-five miles. Now measuring forty-seven and one-third miles north (the width of the oblation) a point is reached where the distance between the river and the sea is barely forty miles. It is impossible, therefore, that the oblation itself should be included between them, and the description requires that there should also be room left for the prince’s portion at either end.

Again, while the city of the vision is nowhere expressly said to be Jerusalem, it is yet described as the great city of the restored theocracy. It cannot, as already said, be placed geographically upon the site of Jerusalem. Either, then, this city must be understood ideally, or else a multitude of other prophecies, and notably many in Ezekiel which speak of the future of Zion and of Jerusalem, must be so interpreted. There is no good reason why both should not be interpreted figuratively, but it is impossible to understand both literally; for some of these prophecies make statements in regard to the future quite as literal in form as these of Ezekiel, and yet in direct conflict with them. To select a single instance from a prophecy not much noticed: Obadiah, who was probably a contemporary of Ezekiel, foretells (Ezekiel 39:19-26.39.20) that at the restoration “Benjamin shall possess Gilead;” but, according to Ezekiel, Gilead is not in the land of the restoration at all, and Benjamin’s territory is to be immediately south of the “oblation.” Again, Obadiah says, “The captivity of Jerusalem” (which, in distinction from “the captivity of the host of the children of Israel,” must refer to the two tribes) “shall possess the cities of the south;” but, according to Ezekiel, Judah and Benjamin are to adjoin the central “oblation,” and on the south four of the other tribes are to have their portion. Such instances might be multiplied if necessary.

The division of the land among the twelve tribes; the entire change in assigning to the priests and to the Levites large landed estates, and to the former as much as to the latter; the enormous size of the Temple precincts and of the city, with the comparatively small allotment of land for its support, are all so singular, and so entirely without historical precedent, that only the clearest evidence would justify the assumption that these things were intended to be literally carried out. No regard is paid to the differing numbers of the various tribes, but an equal strip of land is assigned to each of them; and, the trans-Jordanic territory being excluded and about one-fifth of the whole land set apart as an “oblation,” the portion remaining allows to each of the tribes but about two-thirds as much territory as, on the average, they had formerly possessed. The geographical order of the tribes is extremely singular: Judah and Benjamin are, indeed, placed on the two sides of the consecrated land, and the two eldest, Reuben and Simeon, are placed next to them, and Dan is put at the extreme north, where a part of the tribe had formerly lived; but the classification extends no further, and the remaining tribes are arranged neither in order of seniority nor of maternity, nor yet of ancient position. Moreover, nearly the whole territory assigned to Zebulon and Gad is habitable only by nomads, except on the supposition of physical changes in the land.

Another consequence of this division of the land is important: the Levites, being now provided for in the “oblation,” no longer have their cities among the tribes. But it had been expressly provided that the “cities of refuge” (which must be distributed through the land in order to fulfil their purpose) should be Levitical cities (Numbers 35:9-4.35.15). With this change, therefore, the provision for cities of refuge ceases, and a profound alteration is made in the whole Mosaic law in regard to manslaughter and murder.

The ordinances for the sacrifices and feasts, as given in Ezekiel 45, 46, differ greatly from those of the Mosaic law, as will be pointed out in the commentary. For the variation in the amount of the “meat offering,” and of the number and character of the victims on various occasions, it is difficult to assign any other reason than that they were intended as indications that the prophet’s scheme was not to be taken literally; it is certain that no attempt was made at the restoration thus to modify the Mosaic ritual, although this could have been done without difficulty if it had been understood that it was intended. The ample provision for the prince, and the regulations for his conduct, were politically wise and useful additions to the Mosaic economy, if literally understood, but which no attempt was ever made to carry out in practice. But in the ordering of the great cycle of feasts and fasts, the modification of the Mosaic system is so profound as quite to change its symbolic value. The “feast of weeks” and the great day of atonement are altogether omitted; and also the “new moons,” except that of the first month, which is enhanced in value. The fact that the men who received these teachings from Ezekiel’s own lips and had charge of the ordering of the services in the restored Temple,[11] paid no attention to these changes, is strong evidence that they did not consider them as meant to be literally carried out.

[11] This prophecy was given in the twenty-fifth year of the captivity, and was, therefore, forty-five years before the restoration. The elderly men of the restoration must have been of full age to appreciate this prophecy at the time it was uttered, and in the immediately subsequent years of its perusal and discussion. There can be no reasonable doubt, also, that the prophecies of Ezekiel were carried back to Judæa by the returning exiles, and from their very nature they must have been made generally known to those who were in the captivity.

In connection with the omission of the day of atonement, all mention of the high priest is carefully left out. That this is not accidental is shown by the fact that the laws of marriage and of mourning for all the priests are made more strict than in the legislation of Moses (Ezekiel 44:22-26.44.27), evidently as a sort of compensation for the omitted legislation in regard to the high priest. But the Levitical system without a high priest becomes a different institution in itself, and is also greatly changed in its symbolism.

It may be remarked in passing that the system here set forth is not at all of the nature of an intermediate or transitional ritual between that which we know existed under the monarchy, and that which is set forth in the Levitical law, and therefore affords no basis for the theory that the Levitical system was the outgrowth of the captivity. The absence of the high priest, so prominent both in the law and in the history, is alone a sufficient proof of this; and to this may be added the full regulations for the prince in Ezekiel, of which there is no trace in either the earlier or the subsequent history.

A further difficulty with the literal interpretation may be found in the description of the waters which issued from under the eastern threshold of the Temple (Ezekiel 47:1-26.47.12). These waters run to the “east country,” and go down “to the sea,” which can only be the Dead Sea; but such a course would be physically impossible without changes in the surface of the earth, since the location of the Temple of the vision is on the west of the watershed of the country. They had, moreover, the effect of “healing” the waters of the sea, an effect which could not be produced naturally without providing an outlet from the sea; no supply of fresh water could remove the saltness while this water was all disposed of by evaporation, and Ezekiel (in Ezekiel 47:11) excludes the idea of an outlet. But, above all, the character of the waters themselves is impossible without a perpetual miracle. Setting aside the difficulty of a spring of this magnitude upon the top of “a very high mountain” (Ezekiel 40:2) in this locality, at the distance of 1,000 cubits from their source, the waters have greatly increased in volume; and so with each successive 1,000 cubits, until at the end of 4,000 cubits (about a mile and a half) they have become a river no longer fordable, or, in other words, comparable to the Jordan. Such an increase, without accessory streams, is clearly not natural. But, beyond all this, the description of the waters themselves clearly marks them as ideal. They are life-giving and healing; trees of perennial foliage and fruit grow upon their banks, the leaves being for “medicine,” and the fruit, although for food, never wasting. The reader cannot fail to be reminded of “the pure river of water of life” in Revelation 22:1-66.22.2, “on either side” of which was “the tree of life” with “its twelve manner of fruits,” and its leaves “for the healing of the nations.” The author of the Apocalypse evidently had this passage in mind; and just as he has adopted the description of Gog and Magog as an ideal description, and applied it to the events of the future, so he has treated this as an ideal prophecy, and applied it to the Church triumphant.

It is to be remembered that this whole vision is essentially one, and that it would be unreasonable to give a literal interpretation to one part of it and a figurative to another. All the objections, therefore, which lie against the supposition of the restoration of animal sacrifices hold also against the supposition of the general restoration of the Jewish Temple and polity. This was felt at an early day, and such Christian commentators as Ephrem Syrus, Theodoret, and Jerome adopted throughout a symbolic or typical explanation. The changes in the Mosaic law are indeed great, but still are only of detail, and leave it open to the Apostolic description as a “bondage” to which we cannot suppose the providence of God would ever lead back the Church Christ has redeemed at the cost of the sacrifice of Himself. Either the whole argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews is a mistake, not to speak of those to the Romans and Galatians, nor of our Lord’s own discourses (as with the woman of Samaria), or else the Holy Spirit could not have intended a literal realisation in the future of this vision of Ezekiel.

We thus come to regard this prophecy as an ideal one on every ground, not looking for any literal and material fulfilment. If it should be asked, Why then is it given with such a wealth of minute material detail? the answer is obvious, that this is thoroughly characteristic of Ezekiel. The tendency, strongly marked in every part of his book, merely culminates in this closing vision. The two previous chapters, especially, have abounded in concrete and definite details of the attack of a great host upon the land of Israel, while yet these very details have given evidence upon examination that they could not have been meant to be literally understood, and that the whole prophecy was intended to shadow forth the great and final spiritual conflict, prolonged through ages, between the power of the world and the kingdom of God. So here, the prophet, wishing to set forth the glory, the purity, and the beneficent influence of the Church of the future, clothes his description in those terms of the past with which his hearers were familiar. The use of such terms was a necessity in making himself intelligible to his contemporaries, just as to the very close of the inspired volume it is still necessary to set forth the glory and joy of the Church triumphant under the figures of earthly and familiar things, while no one is misled thereby to imagine that the heavenly Jerusalem will be surrounded with a literal wall of jasper, “twelve thousand furlongs” = 1,500 miles (Revelation 21:16; Revelation 21:18), or that its twelve gates shall be each of an actual pearl. It is remarkable that in two instances, that of Gog and that of the river of life, the imagery is the same in Ezekiel and in Revelation. At the same time Ezekiel is careful to introduce among his details so many points that were impossible, or, at least, the literal fulfilment of which would have been strangely inconsistent with his main teaching, as to show that his description must be ideal, and that its realisation is to be sought for beneath the types and shadows in which it was clothed. It may be as impossible to find the symbolical meaning of each separate detail as it is to tell the typical meaning of the sockets for the boards of the tabernacle, although the tabernacle as a whole is expressly said to have been a type. This is the case with every vision, and parable, and type, and every form of setting forth truth by imagery; there must necessarily be much which has no independent signification, but is merely subsidiary to the main point. It is characteristic of Ezekiel that these subsidiary details should be elaborated with the utmost minuteness. His purpose was understood by his contemporaries, and by the generation immediately succeeding, so that they never made any attempt to carry out his descriptions in the rebuilding of the Temple and reconstitution of the State. The idea of a literal interpretation of his words was reserved for generations long distant from his time, from the forms of the Church under which he lived, and from the circumstances and habits of expression with which he was familiar, and under the influence of which he wrote.

Verse 1

XLV.

This and the first part of the following chapter form a remarkable portion of the book. They first describe the setting apart of a large part of the whole land for the sanctuary, the priests, the prince, and the city, in a way and in a geographical position entirely unknown either in the past or the subsequent history of the people (Ezekiel 45:1-26.45.8). The portion assigned to the prince is to prevent violence and exaction on his part; in this connection all unjust measurements are to cease, and standard weights and measures are prescribed (Ezekiel 45:9-26.45.12). Then follow directions for the tax or “oblation” to be paid by the people to the prince, that he may be able to furnish the required sacrifices (Ezekiel 45:13-26.45.17). The chapter closes with directions concerning the daily sacrifices and the feasts, these feasts being in part unknown to the law; while some feasts that were prominent in the law are entirely omitted, and the ritual of nearly all is greatly changed. The whole is so different from the arrangements of the Mosaic economy, and so foreign to the restoration of that economy on the return from the exile, that it can only be explained of an ideal picture which both prophet and people understood was not to receive a literal realisation.

(1) When ye shall divide by lot.—The same expression is used in Ezekiel 47:22; Ezekiel 48:29, as it had long before been used in Joshua 13:6; but that it does not imply anything of chance is plain from the fact that in Ezekiel 48 a definite portion of the land is assigned to each of the tribes by name. The idea seems to be the same as is conveyed by our word allotment.

An oblation.—Literally a heave offering. This portion of the land is thus called from its analogy to the sacrificial gifts which were lifted up or heaved before the Lord. As a small portion of these was burned upon the altar and the rest given to the priests, so here, a small part of this territory was to be occupied by the sanctuary and the rest given to the priests and Levites. A fuller description of this oblation is given in Ezekiel 48:8-26.48.22; it is here merely mentioned in connection with the support of the priests and the prince.

Five and twenty thousand.—In the original there is no mention of the measure to be used, but the English has rightly supplied reeds. This is plain both from the size of the precincts of the Temple, which are made 500 reeds square in Ezekiel 42:16-26.42.20, and from the special mention of cubits in Ezekiel 45:2 implying that the measure in other cases was different. The length is from east to west, as shown by Ezekiel 48:8. This length of 25,000 reeds or 150,000 cubits is something over forty-seven statute miles. For its location and comparative size see the map under Ezekiel 48:0.

The breadth shall be ten thousand.—The Greek here reads twenty thousand, and many would alter the text accordingly, but without any advantage. We know from Ezekiel 48:8; Ezekiel 48:20, that the whole width of the oblation was 25,000, the same as its length; and this was made up of three portions: the northernmost, 10,000 wide (Ezekiel 48:13), for the Levites; the next, of the same width (Ezekiel 48:10), for the priests, in the midst of which was the sanctuary; and the remainder, half as wide (Ezekiel 48:15), for “a profane place for the city, for dwelling, and for suburbs.” Yet while this whole territory is there called the oblation, the particular portion for the priests is also called by the same name (Ezekiel 48:9). The word may therefore be used here in the same sense as there, for that part of the oblation which was for the priests: the oblation of the oblation.

Verse 2

(2) Fifty cubits round about.—In Ezekiel 42:16-26.42.20 the space of 500 reeds square is described, which was “for,” or belonged to, the sanctuary, to guard it from any profanation; but here we have, still farther, a narrow strip of 50 cubits wide (about 83 feet) of open space outside the wall to prevent the priests’ houses being built too close to the sacred precincts. The word suburbs is better rendered in the margin, void or open place. The situation of the sanctuary and its surroundings within the priests’ portion is more definitely fixed in Ezekiel 48:10 as “in the midst thereof.”

Verse 3

(3) Of this measure.—If the Hebrew text of Ezekiel 45:1 be preserved unchanged, we must understand this to refer to the whole oblation of 25,000 reeds broad which was in the prophet’s mind, though he does not speak of it until afterwards; this verse will then be a repetition of the latter part of Ezekiel 45:1, for the sake of specifying that the sanctuary was to be within it. The territory here assigned to the priests, more than 47 miles long by nearly 19 broad, with only one square mile deducted for the sanctuary, is enormously larger than the 13 cities assigned for their residence in Joshua 21:19, and is also considerably larger than that given (Ezekiel 48:0) to any of the tribes. It has been suggested that, as Ezekiel makes no mention of the tithes, this large territory may have been given to the priests for their support instead of the tithes; but the law of tithes was a very ancient institution (see Genesis 14:20; Genesis 28:22), and was important for the good of the people as well as for the support of the priests. It is unlikely that Ezekiel would have introduced so radical a change without any allusion to it. The enlargement of the priests’ possessions is quite in proportion to the enlargement of the sanctuary, and both seem designed in this symbolical vision to set forth the prominence of the Divine worship, and its precedence over all other things.

Verse 5

(5) For a possession for twenty chambers.—Adjoining the priests’ portion of the oblation, another equal portion is assigned to the Levites. The last clause of the verse, as it stands, admits of no satisfactory explanation. The suggestion that it may refer to twenty out of the thirty chambers in the outer court of the sanctuary (Ezekiel 40:17) is quite out of place. Even if these were intended for the use of the Levites (which does not appear), it would be strange that they should be abruptly spoken of in the midst of this description of the oblation. A slight change in the text—the transposition of two letters in the first word, and the change of one letter in the second for another much like it—will make the clause read, “for a possession of gates to dwell in,” gates being used, as in Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 16:11 (comp. Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14), for cities. The sense would then be that this portion should be to the Levites what the former portion was to the priests, a place for their dwellings.

Verse 6

(6) The possession of the city.—This portion, more particularly described in Ezekiel 48:15-26.48.20, is there called “a profane place,” though still constituting a part of the oblation. It was the same length and half the width of either of the other portions, and was for the city, and for a common possession of the nation, to supply food for those who “serve the city” “out of all the tribes of Israel” (Ezekiel 48:18-26.48.19). Nothing is anywhere said to identify this city with Jerusalem, and, indeed, it is described as in a different position geographically (see map). Jerusalem, like the ark, appears to have faded from the prophet’s sight in this vision of the future Church.

Verse 7

(7) For the prince.—The portion here assigned to the prince included all the land between the northern and southern bounding lines of the “oblation” continued to the Jordan on the east, and the Mediterranean on the west, not already included within the “oblation” itself. Two pieces of land are thus given to him, separated from each other by the whole width (47⅓ miles) of the “oblation.” (See the map under Ezekiel 48:0)

From the west side westward.—The prince’s position is to adjoin the “oblation” in its entire width of 25,000 reeds, stretching westward from its western side, and eastward from its eastern side.

The length.—Throughout the measurements of the land, length is from east to west; breadth from north to south. The east and west measurement of the prince’s portion was to be “over against “—i.e., parallel to—one of the portions of the tribes.

Verse 8

(8) My princes shall no more oppress.—The use of the plural does not imply that more than one prince should reign at a time, nor is it intended to include the family of the prince; but as everything in the future is described in terms of the past, so the royal authority is conceived of as vested in a succession of rulers, although we have been already told that there shall be but one king over them for ever (Ezekiel 34:23-26.34.24; Ezekiel 37:24-26.37.25). The declaration that the “princes shall no more oppress my people” follows naturally on the assignment of this portion. Former kings of Israel had no domain given them, and this had tempted them to acquire private property by violence and extortion. The people had been forewarned of this (1 Samuel 8:14), had often experienced it in their history, and had heard the rebukes of their prophets on account of it (e.g., Jeremiah 22:13-24.22.19).

Verse 9

(9) Take away your exactions.—Ezekiel 45:9-26.45.12 are an exhortation to the princes to observe justice in all their dealings. (Comp. Jeremiah 22:3.) “Exaction” is, literally, as in the margin, expulsion, or ejection, with allusion to such cases as 1 Kings 21:1-11.21.16. In the following verses the exhortation to justice is extended to the whole people. (Comp. Leviticus 19:35-3.19.36; Deuteronomy 25:13-5.25.15.)

Verse 11

(11) Shall be of one measure.—The Ephah is first mentioned in Exodus 16:36, and appears to be a word of Egyptian origin; it was used for dry measure. The Bath is not met with before 1 Kings 7:26, and was the largest of the liquid measures in use. The statement that these were of the same capacity, and each equal to the tenth part of the Homer, is important in the comparison of the Hebrew dry and liquid measures, but it is exceedingly difficult to determine their absolute value. If we calculate on the estimates of Josephus, the Homer was 86, 696 English gallons; if on those of the Rabbinists, 42, 286. Modern estimates differ nearly as much. The Homer, which was ten Ephahs, is to be carefully distinguished from the Omer, which was the tenth part of an Ephah. The two words are quite different in Hebrew.

Verse 12

(12) The shekel.—The first part of this verse is merely a re-statement of the old law (Exodus 30:13; Leviticus 27:25; Numbers 3:47) that the shekel should be of the value of twenty gerahs, or of the estimated weight of 220 grains; but the latter part of the verse is extremely obscure. The maneh is mentioned elsewhere only in 1 Kings 10:17; Ezra 2:69; Neh. vii 71, and is translated in our version pound. Its actual value is unknown. If the text as it stands is correct, it is possible that in Ezekiel’s time three different manehs were in use, of the values respectively assigned to them; but of this there is no other evidence.

Verse 13

(13) The oblation.—Ezekiel 45:13-26.45.16 provide for a regular tax to be paid to the prince, in order that he may be able to furnish the required offerings at the sanctuary. This, like the oblation of land (Ezekiel 45:1), is described as a “heave offering,” and was the sixtieth part of the grain, the hundredth of the oil, and the two-hundredth of the flock, all being from the year’s increase.

Verse 14

(14) The cor.—This measure is first met with in 1 Kings 4:22; 1 Kings 5:11; 2 Chronicles 2:10; 2 Chronicles 27:5, and is here fixed as exactly equal to the “Homer.” In the English it is always translated elsewhere measure.

Verse 17

(17) The prince’s part.—The prince, receiving these contributions from the people, was bound to provide the offerings on the various stated occasions of sacrifice. This is an entirely new feature, for the Mosaic law made no provision in regard to the source from which the festal sacrifices were to be obtained. What had been left to free-will offering now becomes established duty.

Shall prepare.—The word means simply provide, not prepare in a priestly sense.

Verse 18

(18) In the first month, in the first day of the month.—The rest of this and the first fifteen verses of the following chapter are occupied with the ritual of the sacrifices on certain special occasions. In each case the deviations from the Mosaic law are remarkable, as well as the omission of any mention of the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and of the Great Day of Atonement. Ezekiel, as a priest, must have been familiar with the law in these matters, and therefore the changes he introduces must have been intentional. Like the changes in the division of the land, they seemed designed to show that this was an ideal vision. No attempt was ever made to follow the arrangements here laid down. The Mosaic law prescribed (in addition to the burnt offerings and meat offerings) a sin offering, which was to be a he-goat (Numbers 28:15) for the first of every month; also on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Great Day of Atonement, two he-goats (one for the “scape-goat”) were to be offered. Of all these Ezekiel mentions only the sin offering for the beginning of the first month, and also for the seventh day of the same, of which the Mosaic law knows nothing; but he provides for these bullocks instead of goats. In the ritual of the blood he makes a corresponding change. The law gives no special directions for the sprinkling of the blood of the sin offerings on the first of each month, because they were included in the ordinary rule (Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:30, &c.) of sprinkling upon the sides of the altar of burnt offering; only in the case of the sin offering for the high priest or for the whole congregation (when the victim was a bullock) was the blood brought within the Temple itself, and sprinkled seven times before the vail, and applied to the horns of the altar of incense. On the Day of Atonement it was carried into the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled upon and before the mercyseat. All this is here changed. Some of the blood of these sin offerings (Ezekiel 45:19) is to be put upon the “posts of the house” (see Ezekiel 41:21), upon the “corners of the settle of the altar,” and “upon the posts of the gate of the inner court.”

Verse 20

(20) so shall ye reconcile the house.—The object of “the sin offering” on the first day of the month is expressly said to be to “cleanse the sanctuary” (Ezekiel 45:18); but here the offering is for “every one that erreth, and for him that is simple,” i.e., for all who have sinned thoughtlessly rather than wilfully. Yet it is added, “so shall ye reconcile the house,” more literally, make an atonement for the house; and the question has therefore been raised whether this offering on the seventh day was still for the purification of the sanctuary or for the sins of the people. The answer to this question must be sought in the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:0), which these days seem intended to replace. These were very distinctly for the sins of the priests and the people, and at the same time for the tabernacle. The one involved the other, and the holy place required purification because of the sins of “the holy people” among whom it was placed.

Verse 22

(22) A bullock for a sin offering.—In Ezekiel 45:21 the Passover is appointed quite in accordance with the Mosaic institution, although there is a peculiarity in the language of the original which has led some writers to infer, unnecessarily, that the feast was to be kept for seven weeks. But the sacrifices are in many respects quite different. Nothing is said of the Paschal lamb itself: but this may be because it was understood as a matter of course. The sin offering by the Mosaic law (Numbers 28:17; Numbers 28:22) was to be a he-goat for each day; here, a bullock for the first day, and a he-goat for the other days (Ezekiel 45:23). The burnt offering by the law was to be two bullocks, a ram, and seven yearling lambs for each day; here, seven bullocks and seven rams. The meat offering was to be three-tenths of an ephah of meal, mixed with oil, for each bullock, two-tenths for each ram, and one-tenth for each lamb, or one and a half ephahs in all daily; here, a whole ephah for each victim, making in all fourteen ephahs daily and as many hins of oil (Ezekiel 45:24). The offerings required here therefore are much richer than under the law.

Verse 25

(25) In the seventh month.—This corresponds to the Feast of Tabernacles, though the name is not mentioned, doubtless because the custom of living in booths is to be discontinued. The sacrifices at this feast are to be the same as at the Passover, and are to be repeated for each day of the feast. There is in this an entire change from the peculiar ordinances of the Mosaic law (Numbers 29:12-4.29.24), and on the whole a great diminution in the number of sacrifices, with a simplification of the ritual, and an omission of the eighth day, added to the feast by the Mosaic law.

Ezekiel here omits altogether the Feast of Pentecost, the Day of Atonement, and the Day of Trumpets (the first of the seventh month); for these he substitutes a special sin offering for the first and seventh days of the first month, and for the first day of the Paschal feast; he, moreover, largely modifies the ritual of the two feasts which he retains. All this essentially transforms the ideas which form the basis of the cycle of the Mosaic feasts. No attempt was ever made by the Jews of the restoration to carry out the scheme here set forth; and it appears to have been regarded by the prophet’s contemporaries and successors as purely ideal.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ezekiel 45". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/ezekiel-45.html. 1905.