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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 40


Restoration—Chapters 40-48

FOURTEEN years after the conquest of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, the desolation of the land, the deportation of its inhabitants, Ezekiel describes in this section the restoration of all that was lost, and gives at the same time, in ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12, a glance into the distant future, in which from the restored Israel salvation for the whole world goes forth in fulfilment of the ancient prediction, “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

After the introduction (ch. Ezekiel 40:1-4) follows the description of the temple of the future, its enclosing walls and its gates, ch. Ezekiel 40:5-16; the outer court, Ezekiel 40:17-27; the inner, Ezekiel 40:28-47; the proper temple, chEze 40:48-4:4. In ch. Ezekiel 41:5-11, the proportion of the lateral buildings to the temple; in Ezekiel 41:12-14, that of the rear buildings; in Ezekiel 41:15-26, whatever else is to be said of these structures. In ch. Ezekiel 42:1-14, the offices for the priests. In Ezekiel 42:15-20, after the description of the several parts of the sanctuary, the proportions of the whole. In ch. Ezekiel 43:1-9, the entrance of the Lord into the finished temple. In Ezekiel 43:10-12, why the revelation of the second temple is given. In Ezekiel 43:13-17, the proportions of the altar of burnt-offering; in Ezekiel 43:18-27, its consecration. In ch. Ezekiel 44 the prophet turns from the temple to the priests of the future, to whom the description of the place leads, which formed the central point of their ministry, the altar of burnt-offering. In ch. Ezekiel 45:1-17, the environs of the temple, the glebe land for the priests, the Levites, and the princes of the future. In ch. Ezekiel 45:18 to Ezekiel 46:15, the sacred seasons and the sacred actions of the future. In ch. Ezekiel 46:16-24, supplements to the foregoing. In ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12, an entirely new subject: the waters of the Dead Sea are made wholesome, and filled with life by the stream from the sanctuary. At the close the prophet returns from the distant to the nearer future. After the temple here follow the land and the city of the future. The prophet describes, in ch. Ezekiel 47:13-23, the borders of the land; then in ch. Ezekiel 48 the distribution among the several tribes, and how they are grouped around the temple, and the city adjoining it. Thus all that was lost is restored, and a broad foundation for the hopes of the future is given to the people languishing in misery, to the worm Jacob creeping on the ground.

This great picture of the future belongs to the end of the literary activity of the prophet. The only prediction of a later date to be found in the collection, that in ch. Ezekiel 29:17 to Ezekiel 30:19, which belongs to the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin, while the present belongs to the twenty-fifth, bears no independent character, but is only the resumption of an earlier one at a time when its fulfilment was approaching. It was probably inserted in the collection of prophecies occasioned by the circumstances of those times. Our prophecy simply forms the conclusion of the second consolatory part of ch. Ezekiel 33:21. But, at the same time, it forms the counterpart to the first great description of the destruction in ch. Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 7:27, as it is introduced by the majestic vision of the cherubim in ch. Ezekiel 1. The cherubim and the new temple, the introduction and conclusion,—this is what every one thinks of when the name of Ezekiel is mentioned.

When our prophecy is usually designated as Ezekiel’s vision of the second temple, there is nothing to find fault with, if it is only understood that the designation refers to its most prominent part. Along with the temple, Ezekiel is concerned in everything else that seemed to be for ever lost in the Chaldean catastrophe.

With the exception of the Messianic section in ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12, the fulfilment of all the rest of the prophecy belongs to the times immediately after the return from the Chaldean exile. So must every one of its first hearers and readers have understood it. Jeremiah the prophet, whom Ezekiel follows throughout, with whom the very and with which he begins the collection of his prophecies connects him, had prophesied that the city and temple should be restored seventy years after the date of the Chaldean servitude, falling in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. Of these seventy years, thirty-two had already elapsed at the time when our prophecy was delivered. Ezekiel himself had announced, in ch. Ezekiel 29:13, that forty years after the desolation of Egypt, the nations visited by the Chaldeans would return to their former state. And what is more obvious, according to Ezekiel 11:16, the restoration is to follow in a brief space after the destruction of the temple. Accordingly the first hearers and readers could not but expect that, with respect to the restoration of the temple and city, the word holds good which Habakkuk once uttered (ch. Ezekiel 1:5) with regard to the destruction, “I do a deed in your days;” and we enter upon the interpretation with the presupposition that here also the word of the Lord applies, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.”

What can be maintained against this assumption rests on mere appearance. We have before us not a foreboding, which represents the future in its accidental and indifferent circumstances, but a prophecy, for which it is essential to give truth and poetry, which contains a kernel of real thoughts, but does not present them naked—how would the holy Scripture shrivel up if we should reduce it to its matter of thought!—but clothed with flesh and blood, that they may be a counterpoise to the sad reality, because they fill the fancy, that fruitful workshop of despair, with bright images, and thus by the word alleviate life at a time when all that is visible cries aloud, Where is now thy God? If we mistake this characteristic of the prophecy, that comes out more strikingly in Ezekiel than in any other prophet; if we ascribe a real import to everything without discrimination, an incongruity will certainly appear between the prophecy and the state of things after the exile. But it vanishes at once, if we can distinguish between the thought and its clothing; and this distinction will be easy, if we place before our eyes the first hearers and readers of Ezekiel, figure to ourselves the wounds for which the remedy is here proposed, and at the same time the mental world of Ezekiel the priest, the circumstances in which he grew up, and the materials within him for clothing the divine verities which he had to announce to the people of God. But we must regard this distinction as the chief problem of the expositor in the present section. Exactly in proportion to the fitness of the solution will be the value of the exegetical result. A double danger here lies before us,—to ascribe to forms what belongs to thought, and to thought that which belongs to mere form.

Let us take a glance at the views deviating from that now given. According to some, we have here “a model, according to which, on the return of the people, the temple should have been rebuilt,”—a building specification by divine authority. But this opinion forgets that we have here to do not with an architect, but with a prophet—with one whose department is not the hands, but the hearts, which he has to awaken to faith and hope, and walking in the ways of God. It cannot produce a single analogy from the prophetic region: nowhere have the prophets intruded into the department of legislation, for which under the old covenant other organs were provided. Especially all the other prophecies of Ezekiel of the time after the destruction bear not a legislative, but a hortatory character. In particular, the adjoining prophecy concerning Gog and Magog leads us to expect that here also much will belong to mere pictorial description, which is excluded if we ascribe a legislative import to the section. To this is added the obvious impossibility of erecting a building according to the specifications given. These suffice only to give play to the imagination. For a practical end, the most necessary things are wanting. We have in particular almost nothing of materials, to which so much space is devoted in the description of Solomon’s temple. As a rule, the specifications are confined to the mere measures and distances; whence those who, like Villalpandus, have undertaken to give literal plans of Ezekiel’s temple, have been obliged to draw much from their own fancy. Lastly, in the building of the second temple, it is manifest that no reference is made to Ezekiel’s temple. As the reason of this cannot be sought in any doubt of the divine mission of Ezekiel, whose prophecies were admitted into the canon, it can only be found in this, that men saw in this prophecy something else than a building specification.

In the older theology, it was customary to regard not merely ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12, but the whole section (ch. Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 48:35), as a prophecy of the Christian church. [245] There is truth at the foundation of this view. Although the restoration of the city and the temple is first predicted, as it took place on the return from the Chaldean exile, yet this special announcement rests on the general ground of the firm conviction of the living power and indestructibility of the kingdom of God, the symbol of which was the temple, according to a view pervading the whole of the Old and New Testament. And as the prophecy reaches beyond its first fulfilment, it guarantees that within the kingdom of God life shall arise out of every death,—that the old covenant cannot go down without rising again gloriously in the new. But the fault in the older exposition, as it has been lately revived by Dr. Kliefoth, with the addition that the prophecy here describes not merely the development and operation of the Christian church in this world, but its consummation in the next, was this, that it referred the prophecy directly and exclusively to the Christian church, and excluded the fulfilment in the time of Zerubbabel. It is against this opinion so stated, that it is unnatural to suppose that the prophet has left out all consideration of the nearer deliverance; that, with the exception of ch. Ezekiel 47, there is not the slightest reference to the peculiarities of the church of the New Testament, and all that is advanced as such is only imported; that the statement, “The new theocracy which he depicts is more intellectual and spiritual than the old,” is nowhere verified; and that in this way we lose the whole substance of the prophecy, and are compelled to fill up the vacuum thus occasioned with our own thoughts. It is, for ex., obviously to import and not to expound, if we are to find in the close of the prophecy, from, Ezekiel 47:13 onwards, “the introduction of the people of God, gathered by Christ from Jew and Gentile, as a new manhood, into the perpetual Canaan of the new earth at the consummation.” None of the first readers of Ezekiel could find this in it. They must have understood by the Jordan simply the Jordan, by the sea the Mediterranean, by the tribes themselves those who still bore the yoke of banishment. The return of the people to the old home, the restoration of the temple, of the priestly service to be performed by the sons of Zadok, of the sacrifices in the Old Testament form,—these are obvious realities; and nothing leads us to suppose that they are to be regarded as figures belonging to the action of the prophetic scene of the future. If so interpreted, the prophecy would be altogether vain. The people might then reject the former threatenings of the prophet also, because they referred them to a people of the future, and explained all that cried aloud, “Thou art the man,” as mere figures. Had the prophet wished all these things to be regarded as mere figures, he must have explained this in the clearest manner. The apagogical argument for this view, drawn from the fact that there is much that is not found in the times soon after the exile, so that we must be perplexed about the divine mission of the prophet if we cling to these times, loses its force as soon as it is admitted that a distinction must be made between the thought and its clothing. But we do not see how this argument can be maintained by those who themselves extend the domain of form much further, and in fact draw upon themselves the charge of arbitrary spiritualizing unjustly brought against others.

[245] But the older theologians were not without a sense of the difficulties which pressed upon the view, and awaited fuller light in the future. Starck, for ex., says, Precor Deum, ut aliis Ezechielis revelationem meditantibus majorem affandat lucem, majora dicendi et nodos solvendi.

Finally, most unfortunate is the interpretation, according to which that “national order” is here described, “in which at the end of the times converted Israel, with the church engrafted into it from the heathen, shall live in the millennial kingdom.” There is not the least ground to refer to the last time a prophecy which, rightly understood, has found its fulfilment a few decenniums after it was delivered. It is manifest on the clearest grounds, that the delineations of the prophet have something intentionally Utopian, and much belongs only to the pictorial. If we neglect this, and are led by a literal interpretation to overstep the bounds of the Old Testament, we arrive at very doubtful dogmatic results. The restoration of the temple, the Old Testament festivals, the bloody sacrifices, the priesthood of the sons of Zadok, can only be expected within the bounds of the New Testament by a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ and His church. But if we shrink from these consequences, if at this point we distinguish between the thought and its form, if we cease to cling to the literal interpretation, we do not see why the fulfilment is to be sought in so cloudy a distance. Dr. v. Hofmann says justly in the Scriptural Proof: “In the face of the fall of the Israelitish community, the desolation of the holy land, the destruction of God’s house, the people needed a promise which assured them of the restoration of all that seemed lost.” All this is actually bestowed again upon the people through God’s grace under Zerubbabel and Joshua, Ezra and Nehemiah; and with what gratitude this grace is acknowledged, Psalms 107 for ex., shows. It would be unreasonable to ignore this restoration, rather than be led by so manifest a fulfilment of the promise contradicting all natural reason, to the hope of the deliverance of the church from all the troubles and sorrows which it now suffers.

Verses 1-4

The Introduction— Chapter 40:1-4

Ezekiel 40:1. In the five and twentieth year of our carrying away, in the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was smitten, in the self-same day the hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me thither. 2. In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me on a very high mountain, and on it was as the frame of a city in the south. 3. And he brought me thither, and behold a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, and a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring-rod; and he stood in the gate. 4. And the man spake to me, Son of man, see with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thy heart on all that I show thee; for thou art brought hither that I might show them to thee: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.

There is a far-reaching import in that which is given in Ezekiel 40:1 simply as a date. The removal into exile, and the destruction of the city, with its centre the temple, are the points around which the thoughts of Ezekiel and the people move, the difficulties which the following vision happily removes. Both had already lasted some time: the exile, which Ezekiel always reckons from the deportation of Jehoiachin, in which he himself was carried away, twenty-five years; [246] the destruction of the city, between which and Jehoiachin’s deportation the eleven years of Zedekiah’s reign lay, fourteen years; so that it was now high time that a new and strong staff should be offered to the people of God waxing faint in their hopes. “In the beginning of the year, in the tenth of the month:” the month did not need to be more exactly defined. It follows from the words “In the beginning of the year,” that the first month only can be intended. In the words, “In the beginning of the year, in the tenth of the month,” we have an abbreviation from Exodus 12:2-3, where the Lord says to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first of the months of the year to you. Speak ye to all the assembly of Israel, In the tenth of the month they shall take to them every man a lamb for a family, a lamb for the house.” That every word is taken from this original passage, is equivalent to an express quotation. That the day is significant for the thing, appears even from this reference, and is confirmed by the prominence given to the day in the words “in the self-same day.” It is not difficult to determine in what the significance consists. On the day when the passover was instituted in Egypt, and the people were brought, as it were, within the sacred precincts of the approaching redemption, the day on which after so many centuries the impending new sealing of the redeeming grace of God was solemnly proclaimed, the pain of the captivity of the people, and the destruction of the city and the temple, with which the cessation of the festivals celebrated in the temple was connected, must have been greatly enhanced; but at the same time, the hope of deliverance in the believing mind must have been more strongly awakened than ever, because the ancient God still lived, who in this deliverance of the olden time had given His people a pledge of deliverance from all future calamities. This day was therefore specially fitted for the new assurance of saving grace which Ezekiel was now to impart to the people. The day is significant in other respects. On the tenth day of the first month were the people led in a miraculous manner across the Jordan ( Joshua 4:19). Then followed on the fourteenth the solemnity of the Passover, suspended for thirty-eight years,—the renewed assurance of the saving grace, which the people so urgently needed in the approaching conflict. On the same day also took place the solemn entrance of Christ into Jerusalem—the inauguration of His kingdom, which He wished to earn, by bleeding and dying. The day was thus as significant here as the day on which John received the Apocalypse—“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (ch. Revelation 1:10); the day of the resurrection was a fitting day for the reception of the revelation, the fundamental thought of which is, that Christ will come to deliver His church from death. So also was the day of the institution of the passover a fitting day for a revelation which set forth the healing of the wounds which were inflicted on the people by the captivity, and the destruction of the city and temple. That even in later times the popular hope of deliverance from the oppression of the world was connected with the Passover, appears from the right of the release of a prisoner at the Passover, which had been obtained from the Romans. The prisoner represented in the eyes of the Jews the people enslaved by the Romans.

[246] The Chaldean servitude had begun seven years before, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, in which Daniel with his companions was carried away. Of the seventy years of the Chaldean servitude in Jeremiah, thirty-two had already elapsed.

There can be no doubt that the introduction here stands in relation to that of the first vision in ch. Ezekiel 1:1-3. Common to both are the fulness in the date, and the mention of the hand of the Lord, and of the visions of God. The internal connection of the two visions, to which the relation of the introduction points, is, that the first vision sets forth anger and judgment, the last the healing of the wounds thereby occasioned. There the prophet encounters the dreams of a God gracious to sinners, and an immediately approaching future of salvation. Here at the end, after that announcement has been made, he deals a last powerful blow against the second dangerous enemy of God’s people that now advances into the foreground,—the despair, which averts from treading the divinely appointed way of repentance as effectually as the former false security. But the germ of this last prophecy appears even in the first, in the rainbow which surrounds the appearance of the offended Deity, and presents to view the grace returning after wrath. The present prophecy is not the last in point of time. The prophecy in ch. Ezekiel 29:21 f. belongs to the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin, and is therefore two years later than it. But the prophet has subjoined it as an appendix to an older prophecy, in order to close with this great vision of the restoration, in opposition to the great introductory vision of the destruction. The God appearing above the cherubim for the work of destruction, and the description of the new temple, are obviously the two grand pieces in the prophecies of Ezekiel, which are in their place only at the opening and the close of the whole.

“In the self-same day the hand of the Lord was upon me:” herein verifies itself anew the name of the prophet, “God is strong:” he in regard to whom God is strong (p. 5). He records here that which flesh and blood have not revealed to him, which cry in him as in all others, Gone is gone, lost is lost, but the Father in heaven who alone can teach to hope where is nothing to hope. Isaiah (ch. Isaiah 8:11) was already enabled, by the strong hand of the Lord upon him, to proclaim to the people the vanity of all attempts against the kingdom of God.

“And He brought me thither:” the thither floats in the air if we do not apply it to the smitten city. In the place where this once stood is now already a new building, but the locality is essentially the same; and besides, the new building is present only for the higher view: for the lower, the smitten city still remains.

Visions of God ( Ezekiel 40:2) are visions that proceed from God, and clearly have divine things for their object; comp. on Ezekiel 1:1. The very high mountain is mount Zion, but not in its present form, the state of humiliation, but in glorious exaltation. The height is here in fact moral, though, in accordance with the nature of the vision, it presents itself in a physical form. It existed already in the times before the destruction of the temple ( Psalms 48:3, Psalms 68:17). It now returns, because the Lord is present again among His people with His help and grace. The new exaltation had its beginning in the return from the exile; it found its consummation in the coming of Christ (ch. Ezekiel 17:22-23).

“And on it was as the frame of a city:” the as points, as Ezekiel so often and so designedly does, to the distinction between the visionary sphere and the reality, and gives to expositors the so often unregarded warning not to transfer their inborn prose to the prophets. Instead of the city there is the less need to substitute anything else without warrant from the usage, because the building which the prophet here sees is evidently the substitute for the smitten city in Ezekiel 40:1. And we do not need to say that he has first seen a temple on the mountain, and then beside it a city: for there is not the slightest trace of the temple beside the city, as also in Hebrews 12:22 the city and nothing else is on the heavenly Zion; and that the temple is here included in the city (in the wider sense) we must expect from Ezekiel 40:1, where the temple obviously forms the central point of the city. But the reason which has led to these false assumptions, that the prophet gives the description of the temple immediately after the introduction, and that the gate in Ezekiel 40:3 appears to belong to the temple, is removed by the remark that the temple forms the proper essence of the city, and the city in the stricter sense is only accessory, and all the more because the temple was regarded as the spiritual residence of the whole people. The earlier temple also in ch. Ezekiel 8 held this absolutely central position.

The prophet sees the form of a city southward, or in the south. The mountain and the building are southward to one coming from Babylonia. He lands, as it were, in the most northern part of the mountain. Ch. Ezekiel 21:2 forms the key, where all Canaan appears to the prophet as a southern land. The north is in Jeremiah and Ezekiel the usual designation of the Chaldean land; comp. on Ezekiel 1:4.

The words, “And he brought me thither” ( Ezekiel 40:3), give no new event, but only resume that which has been already said, to attach to it a new event—the meeting with the angel of the Lord.

He who is here a man, is in ch. Ezekiel 44:2, Ezekiel 44:5 called Jehovah. In Zechariah (ch. Zechariah 2:1-13), the angel who measures the future compass of Jerusalem is the angel of the Lord, the godlike revealer of God; comp. Christol. iii. p. 265. It is quite in order that the Lord and architect of the church (with the words “and He made” here in Ezekiel 40:14, comp. Matthew 16:18) sets before the eyes of the prophet and the people the glory of His future building; and all the more suitable, because the angel of the Lord in ch. Ezekiel 9:10 had appeared to judge the city and to destroy it, and at the same time, by reserving to himself the preservation of the pious, while the work of destruction was executed by him in common with the ministering angels, had intimated that he had rather deliver than destroy, build up than pull down.

The comparison of the appearance of the angel of the Lord with brass can only refer to the property of which every one thinks in brass,—the solidity, the durability, the counterpart of all softness and weakness—the power of resisting all impressions and influences: comp. the tubes of brass, Job 40:18; the gates of brass, Isaiah 45:2; and the question of Job, Is my flesh of brass?—a question to which no man, whatever the angel of the Lord may do, can answer Yes. The passages Daniel 10:6, where it is said of Michael, under which name the angel of the Lord appears in Daniel, “His arms and his feet were like glowing brass;” Revelation 1:15, where to Christ, the angel of the Lord manifest in the flesh, are ascribed “feet like unto clear brass heated in a furnace,”—differ from our passage only so far as the brass there, because its annihilating effect on the enemy comes into view, appears as glowing, which would not suit the present purpose. “His appearance as brass:” this is quite consolatory to the church of God, and all the more because its earthly representatives have so little of this brass-nature in them, and resemble not brass, or iron, or steel, but rather soft wax. But when they grow into communion with their heavenly Leader, his brass nature comes more and more upon them.

The line of flax and the measuring-rod are emblems of the building activity, and indicate that the angel of the Lord has here to do with a building. That they appear here in this sense, and not with a view to a special practical application, is manifest from this, that the line of flax occurs no more in the sequel, while the measuring-rod is often applied. There are circumstances in which the measuring-line must be applied—for ex., when the circumference of a round pillar is to be measured—but these do not come into consideration here. It is perhaps not without significance that a line of flax is spoken of, and the measuring-rod. The angel in Revelation 21:15 has “a golden reed to measure the city, and its gates, and its wall.” The line is not mentioned, although the dimensions are very great. The opinion that the great dimensions are to be measured with the line, has here also the subsequent context against it, where all dimensions, great or small, are measured with the rod. Thus the implements only draw the prophet’s attention to the fact that the following revelation relates to a building. They form the counterpart to “the instruments of destruction,” which in ch. Ezekiel 9:1 the heavenly ministers of righteousness have in their hands. The activity which the angel of the Lord is to put forth is, besides, not properly a building one. According to Ezekiel 40:2, the frame of the city already existed. He has the function of an architect who is to introduce a person interested in the building into his finished work, and show him its bearings. “And he stood in the gate:” as the prophet comes from the north, the gate can only be the north one. There stands the angel of the Lord awaiting “the son of man,” whom he is to introduce in the building.

The threefold summons to attention in Ezekiel 40:4 intimates that a matter is here treated of which is of the greatest importance to the community of God. To this it is essential that faith in the indestructibility of the kingdom of God, and in its resurrection from every death, live in it in full power. It is this alone which is here treated of, however dense may be the veil of architectural details behind which it is concealed. The address, Son of man (comp. on ch. Ezekiel 2:1), reminds the prophet of his weakness and his low estate, that he may grasp the more eagerly that which is presented to him from above to raise him to a higher; and reminds the community that they remain not with the son of man, but ascend to Him who is mighty in their weakness.

Verses 5-16

Chapter 40:5-16

The description of the new temple begins in Ezekiel 40:5-16 with the encompassing wall and its gates. The description goes so much into detail to furnish a stay for the imagination against the visible, which drew the eye to it with so much force, and pronounced all hope to be foolish. The terrible impression of the “smitten” city was to be overcome by the animating image of the restored city, which is painted in all its details, to be able to cope with the smitten city. Further on (ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12) are intermingled traces which characterize the nature of the kingdom of God before the catastrophe, and show that the resurrection will be at the same time a glorification, or rather will end in the glorification. But in this section such traces are wanting; and the object is simply and solely that already indicated, to impress upon the mind the restoration of the kingdom of God lying on the ground in dust and ashes. That in the greater cubit a reference has been sought without ground to the surpassing glory of the kingdom of God in its new epoch, and that a cubit different from that of the earlier temple is chosen merely because it was current in the prophet’s time, will appear hereafter. If the cubit had then been smaller than the former one, the prophet would have chosen it nevertheless. Besides, the dimensions of the wall and of the gates are by no means colossal, so that there could be found in them any reference to the surpassing glory of the future state of the kingdom of God. And a compensation for that which is otherwise wanting is vainly sought in the numbers. The theological significance of the numbers is throughout the Old Testament much less than is presupposed in this attempt, and then some artifice must be applied here to obtain significant numbers. The preponderance of the insignificant number six, by which the measuring-rod is regulated, shows that nothing is to be gained in this way. The change of the six into the seven is only gained by reverting to the old cubit, which however, according to the prophet, comes into account only so far that he states the proportion of the measure used by him that was current in his time, to that former one, to which he makes no further allusion.

The commentary of Dr. Kliefoth has rendered an essential service in regard to the architectonic details in the description of Ezekiel, and has its special weight in this department. Many hitherto dark points are here cleared up for the first time. Even where we cannot agree—and this is certainly very often the case—we acknowledge in this work an essential progress and a help.

The arrangement in Ezekiel 40:5-16 is systematic. First, the wall in general; then the most notable part of it, the gates, the relation of which to the most prominent of them, the east gate, is presented to view. First the dimensions of the several parts of the gateway are laid down in order, from the out to the inside, the threshold or step, in Ezekiel 40:6; the guard-rooms with their partition-walls and the inner threshold, Ezekiel 40:7; the porch bordering on the temple court, and opening into it, which finishes the gate-buildings, Ezekiel 40:8-9. After the gateway follows (in Ezekiel 40:11) the measuring of the gate in the proper sense, the gate-door, after a supplementary remark has been made on the guard-rooms, at the end of which are the gate-doors, the situation of which is fixed by that remark: the doors open to those who have undergone the threefold inspection, and they now step on the inner threshold, then into the porch, and thence into the court. Ezekiel 40:12 refers to a contrivance which is applied for the decisive inspection, at the guard-rooms. After laying down the measurements of the several parts, comes the statement of the relations of the structure as a whole: in Ezekiel 40:13 the greatest breadth of the structure, in Ezekiel 40:14 the greatest height, in Ezekiel 40:15 the length. At the close, in Ezekiel 40:16, is a statement concerning the arrangement for light in the gate-buildings, which was so important for decisive inspection; and in the last words an allusion to Him to whom the gate, with all to which it gave admission, was consecrated—the Creator and Lord of nature.

Ezekiel 40:5. And behold a wall outside the house round about, and in the man’s hand the measuring-reed of six cubits, by the cubit and hand-breadth: [247] and he measured the breadth of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed. 6. And he came to the gate which looketh towards the east, and went up its steps, and measured the threshold of the gate, one reed in breadth, and the one threshold, one reed broad. 7. And the guard-room one reed long, and one reed broad; and between the guard-rooms, five cubits; and the threshold of the gate, by the porch of the gate within, one reed. 8. And he measured the porch of the gate within, one reed. 9. And he measured the porch of the gate, eight cubits; and its pillars, two cubits; and (this is) the porch of the gate within. 10. And the guardrooms of the gate eastward were three on this side, and three on that; they had all three one measure: and the pillars had one measure on this side and on that. 11. And he measured the breadth of the doors of the gate, ten cubits; the length of the gate, thirteen cubits. 12. And a border before the guardrooms one cubit, and one cubit the border on that side; and the guard-rooms six cubits on this side, and six cubits on that. 13. And he measured the gate from the roof of the guardroom to its roof: a breadth of twenty and five cubits, door against door. 14. And he made the pillars sixty cubits, and at the pillar the court which is around the gate. [248] 15. And from the entrance-gate to the place before the porch of the inner gate, fifty cubits. 16. And closed windows in the guardrooms, and in their pillars within the gate round about, and likewise in the parting-walls; [249] and the windows round about inwards; and at each pillar palms.

[247] Luther, “every cubit was a hand-breadth longer than a common cubit;” whereas Ezekiel’s cubit was then the common one, in contrast with one then out of use, by which the measurements in the ruined sanctuary were made.

[248] Luther, “and before every projection a court at the gate round about;” whereas here the court of the temple is spoken of, within which lay the whole structure of the gate.

[249] Luther, “in the porches;” but these received their light through the passage, and also needed less the light, which was specially required for inspection.

The object of the wall ( Ezekiel 40:5) is, according to ch. Ezekiel 42:20, to draw the boundary between the sacred and the profane. This boundary had a double meaning. To the community it was a warning not to draw near the sanctuary with unrenewed hearts; comp. Psalms 15. With respect to God, it guaranteed that He would eventually separate His people from the world. Because the people of God had neglected the warning implied in the boundary, as a just punishment the boundary was also in the latter respect destroyed. To the desecration as guilt, succeeded the desecration as punishment. In the pierced wall, the smitten city lay an image of the abandonment of the people of God to the world. That this relation will be altered again in the future, that God will again raise His reformed people to independence, this is figured by the erection of the new wall, which in this respect is an embodiment of God’s help and grace, that are to be imparted to the covenant people renewed in spirit. The description of the wall as such is very brief; while that of the gates, which present a resting-place for the eye in the uniformity of the wall, is full. “Outside the house:” this indicates that the wall is a ring, enclosing all buildings and areas which belong to the house—the temple in the widest sense. Before the statement of the first measurement the measuring-rod is defined. It is six cubits long, each containing one cubit and a hand-breadth. The length of the cubit is here defined by reference to a measure formerly current. The cubit with which the prophet measures is a hand-breadth longer than the former one. The relation to this it was the more needful to give, because it had been used in the former temple. In accordance with our passage, Chronicles ( 2 Chronicles 3:3) speaks of a cubit “after the former measure.” The dimensions of Solomon’s temple are given according to this, because it was current at the time of the building. Since the greater cubit meets us first in Ezekiel, it is probable that it was borrowed in the exile from the Chaldeans. The distinction of a sacred and a common cubit, which many expositors make here, is a mere fiction. Scripture knows nothing of a sacred cubit. Moses declares, in Deuteronomy 3:11, that he measures with the customary “cubit of a man.” On Revelation 21:17, “And he measured the wall of it, an hundred and forty and four cubits, the measure of a man, which is that of the angel,” it was remarked in my Comm.: “When an angel measures, we might expect him to do so with a measure unknown to us. The remark opposes this thought. Because angels, when they measure, only measure for men, the man’s measure is at the same time the angel’s measure, and the 144 cubits are ordinary cubits.” To the question of Bertheau, “How came the prophet to borrow a measure for the erection of so peculiarly sacred a building from the Babylonians, who stood in his time so sharply defined over against the Israelites?” it may be answered that the prophet wrote first for his contemporaries, and wished to make the measurements clear to them. For this purpose the then current, the ordinary measure, only was suitable; and it would have been a useless piece of antiquarianism if the prophet had chosen to adhere to the old one. The building is the wall itself, which deserves the name the more as the gate-structures also belong to it. The height of the wall is not important, but the thickness is, which is equal to the height.

The prophet has met the angel at the north gate, the one which he must have reached first coming from the north ( Ezekiel 40:3). The angel, that he may describe to the prophet the gates of the wall, proceeds thence to the east gate. At this, as the chief gate, the relations of all the gates were to be explained to the prophet. The east side, that of the rising sun, is always the chief side. To this one turns the face in taking the bearings. By the east gate, according to ch. Ezekiel 43:1, the Lord enters. At the gate is first presented the stair, which cannot be wanting, as the sanctuary, into the environs of which we now enter, must rise as the higher above the profane. The church is always τὰ? ἄ?νω , the things above ( Colossians 3:1). This stair lies, as it appears, within the wall, which is a rod broad. The gate-structure from the threshold on lies within the court. After the stair comes the threshold in the wider sense, or the gate-step. This has thereby no means extravagant breadth of a rod: the step is as great in many an ordinary dwelling-house. The words at the end, “one threshold (measured he), one reed broad,” do not imply that this breadth was extraordinary, but prepare us for hearing afterwards of another threshold or another step at the passage of the gate-door, before the porch into which the whole gate-structure runs, and from which we enter at once into the court.

From the threshold at the entrance of the gate-structure, the description passes to the guard-rooms, from these to the outgoing threshold, then to the porch. The guard-rooms are, according to ch. Ezekiel 44:11, Ezekiel 44:14, occupied by the Levites, who exclude all the profane. The idea here implied is expressed in Revelation 22:15: “Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and all who love and make a lie.” Then also in Psalms 24 : “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.” But in reality only a very limited consequence can be given to this idea, as the church does not judge of the heart. Here only the size of each chamber is stated, and its distance from the next. The details concerning them, their number and their barriers, come afterwards. The interval between the guard-rooms cannot have been open, otherwise the gateway would have been no gateway: every one who wished to avoid inspection might have entered the court by the side. The interval was filled by a wall, which is afterwards expressly mentioned. Such side-walls were, as is also afterwards mentioned, at the front threshold also. They went from the front threshold to the gate, where there were no guard-rooms. In the steps lying within the wall it took their place. Beyond the door that was behind the three guard-rooms at the back threshold they were no longer necessary. The inspection was there completed. “The guard-room:” the article stands generically, to indicate what belongs to the class, and is common to each. The measurement is here also very moderate, and there appears no intention to impress by colossal magnitude. Six cubits long and six broad— this goes not beyond a monk’s cell. [250]

[250] מחבית may either mean inwards, or at the side of the house, the temple structure. Both come, in fact, to the same thing. At all events, the מחבית forms the contrast to the wall outside the house m Ezekiel 40:5. According to Ezekiel 40:8, it is better to refer the מחבית to the porch than the threshold. Indirectly it leads in any case to that which immediately adjoins the porch, and places it m contrast with the entering threshold.

In Ezekiel 40:8-9, the last part of the gateway, the porch. The measurements may refer only to the length of the porch from east to west. The porch is first measured in the narrower sense, so to speak—the space in it for company; for this is the first question: How much space it afforded for those who, before they went into the open air, wished to stand for shelter against storm and rain. Then in Ezekiel 40:9 is the measurement of the porch given in the wider sense. To the six cubits are added three cubits as an area, which must have been separated in some way from the principal space; then also two cubits as the thickness of the main pillars terminating the porch and the whole gate-structure, which formed the majestic egress and ingress on both sides, so that the whole had a length of ten cubits. With the words, “And this is the porch of the gate within,” is the way prepared for returning to the parts lying farther towards the front entrance.

After the description of the gateway follows that of the gate in the strict sense, the proper door. To arrive at this, the prophet goes back once more in Ezekiel 40:10 to the guard-rooms, at the end of which the door was, and which were inseparably connected with the door: those who stayed in the guard-rooms were properly the gatekeepers. The guard-rooms are three on each side. All the guard-rooms are of the same size, already stated in Ezekiel 40:7. The pillars also on both sides of the guardrooms are equal in compass. What this compass was in each pillar, is not expressly stated. For this very reason must they be equal to the thickness of the pillars of the porch, which are fixed in Ezekiel 40:9 at a cubit. The pillars are to be regarded as standing in the inner space all round before the wall. For the gate has its significance only for those who go through; and the prophet is within the gate, and can only see what is there present. The object of the pillars appears afterwards in Ezekiel 40:16. In Ezekiel 40:11, in immediate connection with the guard-rooms, are the statements concerning the gate in the strict sense, the proper gate-door, which obviously adjoins the last guard-room, so that the back threshold and the porch were beyond the door. The work of inspection must have been ended before the entrance was possible; and when it was ended, there was no more reason to refuse entrance. The second threshold has no meaning, if it lay not at the egress of the gate-door. The gate-door can the less be placed in the porch, because the porch is elsewhere in Scripture the place before the gate; comp. Matthew 26:71, “he went out into the porch.” Besides, on that supposition, the whole arrangement of the section is incomprehensible. The breadth of the door is fixed at ten cubits, the length at thirteen. As in a door we cannot speak of length in the usual sense, by the length, as the old writers observed—for ex., Starck—must here be denoted the height. This may be explained by the supposition that the gate was lying when measured. In a door the height must be more important than the breadth. Thus, to the last number of perfection—the ten derives its name in Greek from taking in the other numbers—is added the first number of perfection, three, which often meets us as such in the Old Testament: for ex. in the Aaronic blessing, and in the thrice holy in Isaiah 6, in Ezekiel in ch. Ezekiel 21:32, and in our section itself in the guard-rooms. The number thirteen must have a definite ground, otherwise a round number would be put in its stead. Before every guard-room, according to Ezekiel 40:12, is a border or barrier, a cubit broad, so that the guards may step out of the guard-rooms and control the passengers, without these having access to the guard-rooms, by the back-doors of which they might penetrate into the court. The arrangement presumes that there are impudent people among the entrants, who are willing to force an entrance not allowed to them; comp. Luke 13:24. The statement of the dimensions of these borders forms the transition to Ezekiel 40:13, where the measures of the borders are to be included in the collective measure of the breadth.

After the statement of the dimensions of the several parts, follows now. In Ezekiel 40:13, the statement of the breadth of the whole gate-building. The measure is taken where this breadth is greatest, not at the partition-walls or side-parapets, but at the guard-rooms. It is measured “from the roof of the guardroom to its roof,” that is, from the end of the roof of the guardroom on one side, to the end of the roof on the other side. The writer does not speak of different roofs of the guard-rooms on both sides. One roof covers the guard-rooms on both sides, and at the same time the intervening gateway. That this is to be considered covered, is evident from this, that there are windows in the building. These would be unnecessary if the light fell from above. The somewhat obscure expression, “from the roof of the guard-room to its roof,” is elucidated by the addition, “door against door.” The doors of the guardrooms are where they go out into the court: towards the gateway they were open, and the barriers occupied the place of the door. The doors would have been useless, as the guards must have been at their posts. If the roof was measured from the point where the door was under it, the extreme end only of the roof on both sides can be meant. We see here also how the measurement was obtained. Beforehand it is not natural to suppose that the angel mounted on the roof, as this would be so much out of the way that it must have been mentioned. There was no occasion for this. He obtained the measure from roof to roof, when he measured beneath from door to door. For the door was on both sides under the end of the roof. That the angel takes the measure with perfect ease, appears indeed from Ezekiel 40:15, where he does not measure the pillars sixty cubits high. Of the twenty-five cubits, ten fall to the passage (comp. Ezekiel 40:11), twelve to the guard-rooms on both sides, two to the borders on both sides ( Ezekiel 40:12), so that one remains over for the outer wall on both sides. If this be thought insufficient, it is open to us to place the barriers in the gateway. Yet it appears that their measures are stated for the purpose of being included in the total measure.

After the statement of the breadth of the structure where it is broadest, follows in Ezekiel 40:14 the statement of the height where it appears highest: the usual height might have been taken from the statement of the height of the gate-door in Ezekiel 40:11. The pillars form this point of height, in which the whole structure ends towards the court, and thus at the end of the porch. They are, as it were, the head of the whole, that which the tower is in our churches, striving and pointing towards heaven. It is said, not he measured as elsewhere, but he made. The height of sixty cubits was too great to be conveniently measured. So the prophet goes back to the time when he who here explains the building to him prepared it. In fact, though not literally, “he made” is “he had made.” We are to think of the angel stating the measure to the prophet; yet this is not to be imported into the word. It is not said “he fixed,” but “he made.” This, according to all usage, can only refer to the construction. To the statement that the pillars here referred to immediately adjoin the court, in contrast with the pillars that were spoken of in Ezekiel 40:9, is attached the notice, that the gate in the wider sense, or the whole gate erection, was surrounded by the court, which could not be otherwise, because it began at the wall surrounding the court, and so was entirely built into it.

In Ezekiel 40:15, on the statement of the greatest breadth and height of the gate-buildings follows that of its length. Of the fifty cubits that begin from the end of the breadth of the wall, into which the stair is built, twelve go to the two thresholds, eighteen to the three guard-rooms on each side, ten to the intervening walls, and ten to the porch. The door-opening in the entrance is marked out as the starting-point of the measurement. [251] A gate in the usual sense, a door (comp. Ezekiel 40:11), was neither at the entrance nor at the end of the whole structure. We speak also of a rock-gate. The end is the end of the porch, and the door-opening given with it towards the court. [252]

[251] יאתון the reading attested by MSS., is an adjective formed from the future of the verb אתה , to come,—a formation from the 3d fut. which is very common. The Masoretes were puzzled by such a form, and substituted at their own hand the new form איתון .

[252] In the definitions of the egress and the end the prepositions “from” and “to” are omitted, as is often the case with the relative word when the relation is clear.

In Ezekiel 40:16 is explained how the gateway receives its light,—an important matter, as light is requisite for the sharp inspection of the passengers. The gateway obtains its light by closed windows in the guard-rooms and in the side-walls. The windows could not be quite open. This would contradict the nature of a gateway, which must have no other passable opening but the door watched by the guards. On the other hand, that the closing can only be partial, only extend so far as to prevent leaping through, lies in the design which the windows serve. Windows completely closed would not be windows at all. The admission of light must not be hindered by the closing. In Solomon’s temple, according to 1 Kings 6:4, the windows were closed by beams. How the closing is here effected, is shown by the words “and in their pillars.” These, which were already mentioned in Ezekiel 40:10, and here first receive their definition, stood before the windows, so that only a small, not passable, opening remained on both sides. [253] The windows closed by the pillars were not merely in the guard-rooms, in which we are to suppose the open windows lying beyond the cognizance of the prophet towards the court, through which light entered, but also in the side-walls between the guardrooms (and next the thresholds, Ezekiel 40:22, Ezekiel 40:25), which are, in fact, already mentioned in Ezekiel 40:7, but which are here first denoted by a terra of art, the meaning of which, after Ezekiel 40:7, Ezekiel 40:22, Ezekiel 40:25, cannot be doubtful. By these the light came direct from the court. It is further mentioned that palms stood by the pillars. That whole palms besides the pillars are meant, and not ornaments of palm-leaf work on the pillars themselves, appears from Ezekiel 40:26. What these palms signify, is manifest from the discussions in Append. Part ii. They indicate that the gate leads to a building which is consecrated to the Lord of creation. It corresponds with the merely introductory character of the gate, that the creation is here represented not by the animal world, but by the lower region of the vegetable kingdom, of which the palm is king. All other explanations of the palms sever them from connection with the other passages in the description of the temple, where the palms are inseparably connected with the cherubim.

[253] Balmer-Rinck (Vision of the Temple by the Prophet Ezekiel, Basel, 58) says, “Of the arrangement of pillars, by means of which the windows are as it were latticed, an alabaster plate from Kuyunjik (Fergusson’s Handbook of Architecture, p. 180) gives a surprising example.” It is conjectured by Fergusson that the sculpture represents a palace of Samaria, Jerusalem, or Van.

Verses 17-27

Chapter 40:17-27

Having arrived in the outer court through the east gate built into it, the prophet here states what was further to be said of it. He speaks in Ezekiel 40:17-18 of its chambers and its pavement; gives in Ezekiel 40:19 the distance from the east gate of the outer court to the east gate of the inner court, and thus indirectly the measurements of the whole court; then turns in Ezekiel 40:20-23 to the north gate, and describes its relations as corresponding to those of the east gate, and likewise in Ezekiel 40:24-27 to the south gate. The description of the outer court by its gates is thus completed. For on the west side, for reasons hereafter appearing, there was no gate.

Ezekiel 40:17. And he brought me into the outer court, and behold chambers, and a pavement made for the court round about: thirty chambers by the pavement. 18. And the pavement was by the side of the gates, over against the length of the gates, the lower pavement. 19. And he measured the breadth from the point of the gate of the lower (court) to the front of the inner court without, a hundred cubits the east and the north. 20. And the gate which was toward the north of the outer court, he measured in its length and in its breadth. 21. And its guard-rooms, three on this side and three on that; and its pillars and its side-walls were after the measure of the first gate: its length was fifty cubits, and the breadth five and twenty cubits. 22. And its windows, and its side-walls, and its palms, after the measure of the gate that is towards the east; and they went up into it by seven steps, and its sidewalls were before them. 23. And the inner court had a gate over against the gate to the north and to the east; and he measured from gate to gate a hundred cubits. 24. And he brought me toward the south, and behold a gate toward the south: and he measured its pillars and its side-walls by those measures. 25. And there were windows to it, and to its sidewalls round about, like those windows; the length fifty cubits, and the breadth five and twenty cubits. 26. And its ascent had seven steps, and its side-walls were before them; and it had palms, one on this side and one on that side, by its pillars. 27. And the inner court had a gate toward the south; and he measured from (this) gate to the gate toward the south a hundred cubits.

The prophet sees ( Ezekiel 40:17) in the court, chambers and a stone pavement. The chambers go before, and we thence conclude that they lay near the surrounding wall which forms the natural starting-point for the examination. It is to be supposed that the chambers were attached immediately to the wall behind, like the churches in many old towns; or the wall formed their back-wall, as in the house of Rahab. Of both the chambers and the stone pavement it is said that they were round about the court. [254] This is to be understood with a limitation. In the relation in which the chambers and pavement stand to the gates, the west side, which had no gate, cannot come into account. The number of the chambers is fixed at thirty, and it is to be supposed that these are to be equably distributed among the three gates, and that they, as far as they extended, occupied the whole space from one gate to another. That the chambers might be very spacious, is shown by 1 Samuel 9:22, where thirty persons sit at table in such a chamber. The court was the abode of the whole people; and as it was uncovered, there must have been considerable apartments for refuge from storm and rain ( Isaiah 4:6; Ezra 10:9; John 10:23), in which respect the pavement with the chambers come under one point of view: when it was dirty they retired to the pavement, but especially to be able to respond to the command to rejoice before the Lord (Deuteronomy 12), and to eat and drink before Him ( Luke 13:26). The chambers stand in relation with the sacrificial kitchens afterwards mentioned. In them were prepared the sacrificial feasts, to which, according to the above passage of Deuteronomy, a considerable number of persons were often invited,—sons, daughters, men-servants, maid-servants, the poor Levites, and other personae miserabiles. They were the agapae of the Old Testament, the type of the agapae in the Christian church. Jeremiah wishes, according to ch. Jeremiah 35, to entertain the whole house of the Rechabites with wine in such a chamber of the temple. We have so little reason to limit the chambers in point of space, that the question is rather whether they did not consist of several stories, which is the more probable, as it is expressly affirmed of the priests’ chambers. That every chamber was a separate building, although they joined one another, appears from this, that the prophet could not otherwise have observed their number from the outside. The chambers were beside the stone pavement; they stood not upon it, but they opened on it. This is shown by the preposition, which cannot have been put here negligently, and by the nature of the thing: we only pave under the open air ( 2 Chronicles 7:3 and Esther 1:6); and the prophet could not see what was under the chambers, but only what was before them. The pavement, according to Ezekiel 40:18, was by the side of the gates, over against the length of the gates: it filled the whole space from where the chambers terminated to the end of the gates; so that if we give a depth of twenty-five cubits to the chambers, twenty-five cubits were occupied by the stone pavement. The lower pavement is so designated in reference to the court of the priests, which was higher. The elegans et pretiosum has been ascribed to this pavement by the expositors of their own fancy. Ezekiel’s whole description is averse to such things. His whole view is to present a support to weak faith despairing of the kingdom of God, to oppose to the sorrowful “judged” a joyful “delivered.”

[254] עשוי , the partic. masc. sing., does not agree רצפה , and is to be referred to the whole of the chambers and the stone pavement.

The starting-point for the measurement in Ezekiel 40:19 is the end of the gate of the lower or outer court, [255]—the end, the boundary, of the inner court: the “without” belongs in reality to the starting-point as well as to the end. The determination here receives a necessary supplement in Ezekiel 40:23 and Ezekiel 40:27. It is there expressly said that the end was not the court itself, but its gate, which is indeed evident of itself, as the door of the inner court, which extended fifty cubits into the outer, already formed an integral part of the inner; and the angel would not remain outside of the inner court when he had measured its gate. The distance between the two gates is a hundred cubits. To get the breadth of the whole court, the fifty cubits of the outer gate and the fifty cubits of the inner gate must be added. Thus we have two hundred cubits, still a very moderate extent. The remark, “the east and the north”—that is, such measure applies not merely to the gate in the east, but also to the gate in the north, so that there also the distance from the end of the outer court gate to the beginning of the inner court gate was a hundred cubits—leads to a description of the north gate. In this, as in the following description of the south gate, is observed the method which we usually find in the Old Testament, and particularly in the first chapters of Genesis—for ex. in ch. Genesis 2:19, Genesis 9:10—in repetitions. These are never literal and mechanical: several parts are omitted, as here the porch is wanting; in the south gate also the guard-rooms. In the arrangement there is less completeness than in the fundamental passage, which is thus not made superfluous, to which rather the reader will have occasion to refer. Some new traits are added, to give the charm of novelty to the repetition, and to prevent dulness in the reader.

[255] The fern, תחתונה cannot refer to the gate, but only to the omitted חצר . It is characteristic for the priest Ezekiel, that “the lower” is with him at once the lower court; comp. on ch. 8:3, where “the inner” likewise stands for the inner court, according to a breviloquence usual m sacerdotal speech.

That the side-walls mentioned in Ezekiel 40:21 are noticed a second time in Ezekiel 40:22, has its ground in this, that in the close of this verse side-walls are spoken of to complete the description of the east gate, which are not there expressly mentioned. That description mentioned only those side-walls which were between the guard-rooms. Here we see that the entrance threshold also was provided with side-walls, which we must expect beforehand, because it was within the court, and thus could not be open, unless the whole design of the gate-structure were to be defeated. After the remark, presenting also a new trait, that the stair had seven steps, it is said, “and its sidewalls were before them:” before the stair, which was built into the wall, was the threshold or step; there, according to this remark, the side-walls took their beginning. For it lies obviously in this remark, that the side-walls began equally with the end of the stair. “Over against the gate” ( Ezekiel 40:23): the gate is that of the outer court, with which the prophet has to do. This gate at its end was separated from the beginning of the gate to the inner court, as in the east gate, by a hundred cubits.

In Ezekiel 40:24-27 the south gate. “By those measures”—those given at the east gate and the north gate. “Windows to it and to its side-walls” ( Ezekiel 40:25): the chief place of the windows, according to the measured description of the east gate, was the guard-rooms, whose occupants needed the light for the discharge of their function. The side-walls also had windows. Ezekiel 40:26 gives a new trait. In Ezekiel 40:6 it was said with surprising brevity, pointing to a fuller explanation to be expected afterwards, “and by the pillar palms.” This explanation we now receive. We learn that by every pillar stood two artificial palms, which put it between them. Whether this applies to all the pillars, or to the two main pillars in Ezekiel 40:14, which formed the completion of the whole structure, and immediately adjoined the court, is not clear; but the latter is most probable.

Verses 28-37

Chapter 40:28-37

After the description of the outer court follows that of the inner. First, the gates. As these are built in the main like those of the outer court, all that is necessary is to bring out this likeness. Yet still even here some elements are touched upon for the first time that were passed over there; for ex., Ezekiel 40:30; and a variation from the gates of the outer court is discovered at least in the number of the steps.

Ezekiel 40:28. And he brought me to the inner court by the south gate: and he measured the south gate by those measures; 29. And its guard-rooms, and its pillars, and its side-walls, according to those measures: and there were windows to it, and to its side-walls round about: the length fifty cubits, and breadth twenty and five cubits. 30. And side-walls round about, the length five and twenty cubits, and the breadth five cubits. 31. And its side-walls were toward the outer court, and palms by its pillars; and its ascent had eight steps. 32. And he brought me to the inner court toward the east: and he measured the gate according to those measures. 33. And its guard-rooms, and its pillars, and its side-walls, according to those measures; and there were windows to it, and to its sidewalls round about: the length fifty cubits, and the breadth five and twenty cubits. 34. And its side-walls were toward the outer court, and palms by its pillars, on this side and on that: and its ascent was eight steps. 35. And he brought me to the north gate, and measured according to those measures; 36. It had its guard-rooms, its pillars, and its side-walls, and windows round about: the length fifty cubits, and the breadth five and twenty cubits. 37. And its pillars toward the outer court, and palms by its pillars, on this side and on that: and its ascent was eight steps.

In the outer court the prophet had at length inspected the south gate. This is the reason that in the inner court he makes the beginning with the south gate, which was next the south gate of the outer court, although the east gate here, as in the outer court, was the principal one.

Ezekiel 40:30 gives the length and breadth of the side-walls, and thus completes the former description. The length round about the gate, or the gateway, so far as the side-walls reached in their whole extent, is fixed at twenty-five cubits, the half of the total length of the gateway amounting to fifty cubits. This measurement is in harmony with the former statements. The side-walls are expressly mentioned at the intervals between the guard-rooms (comp. Ezekiel 40:7 and Ezekiel 40:16), the length of which was fixed at ten cubits; then at the thresholds ( Ezekiel 40:22, Ezekiel 40:26), which together make twelve cubits; then there must have been side-walls also at the porch, which, as such, must not have been open at the sides. Yet the side-walls will have belonged to the porch only in the strict sense, not to the space before the terminating pillars, which, as such, was separated from the proper porch by this, as it seems, that it was open at the sides. Thus of the porch only the six cubits in Ezekiel 40:8 come into account. From the twenty-eight cubits thus obtained is deducted the space which the walls of the guard-rooms occupied. Such walls there must have been specially for the guard-rooms, as they were broader than our side-walls, which therefore could not take the place of side-walls of the guard-rooms. These side-walls of the guard-rooms must be reckoned into the five cubits, which, according to Ezekiel 40:7, were between the guardrooms, and into the six cubits of the threshold. If we reckon these walls of the guard-rooms at three cubits on the whole, we have our twenty-five cubits. The breadth is stated at five cubits. They could not be narrower, not to contrast too much with the guard-rooms. The breadth of the guard-rooms was six and a half or seven and a half cubits, so that they projected one and a half or two and a half cubits before the side parapets; comp. on Ezekiel 40:13. As a bulwark of five cubits must have been useless, we may suppose a wall on both sides towards the gateway and the court, and a dark space within, if we wish to draw the thread further where the prophet does not decide.

Ezekiel 40:31 states further, in reference to the side-walls, that they went into the outer court, into which all the gates to the inner court were built. Then he touches on the end toward the inner court, the pillars with their palms, which in the inner gate as in the outer enclosed the porch, and between which they went forth into the inner court, and on the commencement of the gateway, which reached farthest into the outer court, the stair. To this are given eight steps, in contrast with the seven in the outer gate. As the number eight has no import elsewhere in the Old Testament, it is here to be regarded merely as an advance on the number seven,—a hint of the superior dignity of the inner court, which, with its altar of burnt-offering, rises still higher above the outer court than this does above the profane exterior.

In Ezekiel 40:32-34 the east gate. “And he brought me to the inner court towards the east.” A comparison with Ezekiel 40:28 shows that this means where the east gate was. The gates of the inner court belonged to it, although they lay without it in the outer court. Hence the meaning is, he brought me from the south gate of the inner court to its east gate. That such is the explanation appears from Ezekiel 40:35: he brought me to the north gate.

The north gate, in Ezekiel 40:35-37, forms the close. To this the prophet is brought last, because to it alone belonged the notabilities of the inner court, to be described in the following section, the arrangements for the slaughter of the victims, and the preparation of their flesh. Ezekiel 40:37, as Ezekiel 40:31, places the pillars at the one end, and the stair at the other, over against it. That the pillars in which the whole structure ended belonged to the outer court (they occupied the two last of the fifty cubits, which the gate-structure of the inner court reached into the outer), it was the more suitable to remark, because they passed immediately from these into the inner court. As the stair rose eight steps above the outer court, the whole gateway naturally must have been raised so far in regard to the outer court, so that they entered at the end on a level into the inner court, which was higher by the extent of the eight steps above the outer court. All gets into confusion, if we forget that the order of the several parts in the gates of the inner court was exactly the same as in the gates of the outer court—stair, first threshold, guard-rooms, second threshold, porch. There is not the least tenable ground to depart from this order. If there was to be a variation, the prophet must have set it forth in the clearest and most indubitable terms.

Verses 38-47

Chapter 40:38-47

In these verses we have what is noteworthy in the inner court besides the gates: the arrangements regarding the victims ( Ezekiel 40:38-43); the chambers for the singers ( Ezekiel 40:44-46); the size of the court; and lastly, its crown, the altar of burnt-offering ( Ezekiel 40:47).

Ezekiel 40:38. And a chamber, whose door was at the pillars of the gates: there they wash the burnt-offering. 39. And in the porch of the gate two tables on this side, and two tables on that, on which to slay the burnt-offering, and the sin-offering, and the guilt-offering. 40. And at the side without, for him that goeth up the way of the gate to the north, two tables; and on the other side of the porch of the gate, two tables. 41. Four tables on this side, and four tables on that, by the side of the gate; eight tables on which they slaughtered. 42. And four tables for the burnt-offering of hewn stones, [256] a cubit and a half long, and a cubit and a half broad, and one cubit high, on which they lay the instruments with which they slay the burnt-offering and the slain-offering. 43. And the ledges of a hand-breadth are fastened within [257] round about; and on the tables was the flesh of the offering. 44. And outside the inner gates the chambers of the singers in the inner court, which was at the side of the north gate, and their front towards the south: one at the side of the east gate, fronting towards the north. 45. And he spake to me, This chamber, whose front is toward the south, is for the priests, who keep the charge of the house. 46. And the chamber whose front is toward the north, is for the priests who keep the charge of the altar: these are the sons of Zadok, who of the sons of Levi come near the Lord to minister to him. 47. And he measured the court, a hundred cubits long and a hundred cubits broad, squared; and the altar was before the house.

[256] Luther, “were of hewn stones;” afterwards, “on which they laid;” mistaking the import of the ו in ויניחו , which serves to put the object of this table in contrast with that of the table in Ezekiel 40:41. Böttcher, “With ו as for a new sentence after a pause of thought, thereupon—they shall now,” etc.

[257] Luther, “bent inwards;” whereas בבית refers to “the” tables which stood within the gate-structure, in the porch itself, in opposition to the tables without, “beside” the porch.

The description of the arrangements concerning the offering, as they were placed in and by the north gate, begins in Ezekiel 38, with the chamber for washing the flesh, because this lay most in advance. The prophet had already, in Ezekiel 40:37, reached the extreme end of the north gate, the two pillars which closed. To these he had opposed the stair, which formed the beginning of the whole doorway. Here he returns to the pillars occupying the place of the tower. Hard by these lay the chamber for cleansing the flesh, the last stage which the sacrifice had to pass through before it was laid on the altar. The pillars are spoken of as a whole, although the door of the chamber could only adjoin one of them. It was not designed to determine more exactly the situation of the chamber. The pillars are characterized as gate-pillars, as distinguished from other pillars in the interior of the gateway, by which the windows were closed; comp. Ezekiel 40:16. By the gate is here designated the gate-opening, as in Ezekiel 40:15. [258] A proper gate could not be in the porch, the nature of which was to be open, to form a space before the gate. The burnt-offering, as the most excellent kind, here represents the whole class of offerings: in Ezekiel 40:39, the sin-offering and the guilt-offering are named along with it; in Ezekiel 40:42 the slain-offering; and in Ezekiel 40:43 stands the general name for all offering. According to many, arrangements are described here, and in what follows, that were found alike at all the gates. But there is no reason for this assumption, as here the north gate only is spoken of: the gate in Ezekiel 40:39 refers to the expression, “And he brought me to the north gate,” in Ezekiel 40:35; and in Ezekiel 40:40 and Ezekiel 40:44 the north gate is expressly mentioned. According to the old prescription of Moses, the offerings were to be slain “on the side of the altar northward” ( Leviticus 1:11); and there, according to the statements of the Talmud (Böttcher), the arrangements for slaughtering continued in the later temple.

[258] השערים , the gates, stands, with omission of the preposition, for “at” the gates, as they were at the gates. The pillars only of a definite gate, the north gate, are spoken of. But these are denoted in a generic way as gate-pillars, to distinguish them from those in the interior.

From the pillars at the end of the porch, beside which was the chamber for cleansing the flesh, the consideration of the arrangements for offering turns to the porch itself, in which four tables stand for slaughtering—two on each side. The slaughtering is here to be taken in a wide sense, so as to include the whole preparation of the flesh for offering. According to Ezekiel 40:43, the flesh lay on these tables, and they were provided with ledges, that in the separation nothing might fall off. It appears that the proper slaughtering was performed outside the porch; and the proper slaughtering-tables were those standing there, according to Ezekiel 40:40. The communication out and in was the easier, because the porches at their ends had no side walls. We have to suppose the tables placed at the end, close to the egress into the inner court.

Four other tables stood, according to Ezekiel 40:40, without, in regard to him who went up to the door of the north gate. He that passes the whole gateway is thus designated, because the door was, for every one that entered the way, the chief point. Thus it is meant that these tables lay outside of a position taken in the interior of the gateway. The tables stand without the porch, on both sides of it,—thus in the outer court, hard by the boundary of the inner. This is the place where the slaughtering was done.

Ezekiel 40:41 sums up the tables named, for greater clearness: there are eight of them in all—four on the one side of the gate, two of them within and two without, and four on the other. Besides these eight slaughter-tables, the prophet sees, according to Ezekiel 40:42, four other tables for the burnt-offering, so designated because they also stand in relation, though more distant, to the sacrifice, for depositing thereon the instruments used in slaughtering—knives, etc. That the burnt-offering stands here as a representative of offerings in general, is clearly shown by the close of the verse, where burnt-offerings and slain-offerings are named, which so often together denote all kinds of offering; on which it is to be remarked, that to the burnt-offering in a wide sense the sin-offering and guilt-offering are reckoned, that have this in common with the burnt-offering in a strict sense, that the offerer does not partake of them, no communion is connected with them, as is the case in the slain-offering. Those who have put in place of the burnt-offering the stair, neglect the usage, and bring all into confusion. The whole apparatus for the offering is found at the egress of the inner gateway, near its opening into the inner court, in which the offerings were made. If we take away the stair, the position of the four tables designed for the instruments is not precisely marked: but this is not necessary; it follows at once of itself from their design. They must have stood close by the proper slaughter-tables, that the instruments might be at hand, one by each pair. These tables are of stone, while the proper slaughter-tables were of wood, which was suitable for cutting up the flesh. There are twelve tables in all, according to the number of the tribes of Israel, and in harmony with the number of the victims in Ezra 6:17 and Ezra 8:35,—“twelve he-goats” and “twelve bullocks,” after the number of the tribes of Israel. In Ezekiel 40:43 we have the borders or ledges, with which the tables standing “within,” inside the porch, in contradistinction to those without ( Ezekiel 40:40), were provided; and certainly round about, so that the ledges went round the tables, to keep the pieces when cut up from falling off. It has been asked, “How was the ledge enclosure worth so many words?” But the very going into details apparently so minute showed how clearly and sharply the prophet in faith looked into the not-being as being, and was well fitted to draw away the minds of the people from the fixed look at the smitten city. We must indeed always keep in view the object of the prophet, to set up an interim temple for the imagination, in which they might expatiate as long as the real temple, and with it the kingdom of God, lay in ruins. “And on the tables was the flesh of the offering:” here, intentionally, at the end the generic name of the offering, Korban, is placed, that we may not be led into error by the designation of the whole of the offerings by their prominent kinds in the preceding passage.

That the cells ( Ezekiel 40:44) in the inner court, destined for the priests, are different from those already described in the outer court, destined for the use of the people, is understood of itself. That the singers are here so prominent, is explained by this, that in the exalted position of the community of God more ample material was given them for new songs, so that the singing in the worship of the new temple must play a chief part, as indeed the multiplication of the singers and musicians under David stood connected with the advance which the people of God had then made. According to Psalms 87, when the future of salvation is come, the singers with the dancers say, “All my springs are in Thee,” that is. We praise Thee, O Lord, as the Author of the great deliverance which we enjoy. The second part of Isaiah, and its lyric echo in Ps. Psalms 91:1 to Psalms 100:5, are full of the thought, that in the time of salvation all shall sing and play. Even in the times soon after the return from the exile, singing revived in a degree that had not been since David. In a long series of Psalms, from Psalms 107 onwards, the people thank their God for the blessing of restoration. Halleluiah—this was then the word. The chambers of the singers are generally faced toward the south. There was the entrance of the temple-house, the chief place where the singers had to perform ( 1 Chronicles 16:37). The singers had this entrance always before their eyes, to be able to observe it on the occasion of their office. But a portion of the cells of the singers [259] lay at the side of the east gate, with the front toward the north: there in the court stood the altar of burnt-offering, where the singers had to perform at the offering of the great national sacrifices ( 1 Chronicles 16:41). The chamber in Ezekiel 40:45 denotes a series of chambers. Of what kind the service was which the priests had to perform in the temple, appears from Ezekiel 40:44, according to which the singers are here singly and solely concerned. [260] “These are the sons of Zadok,” etc. ( Ezekiel 40:46): this refers not merely to the singers, who had the charge at the altar of burnt-offering, but also to those who had the charge as singers in the temple. With the entire holy service, the sons of Zadok had also the service of holy singing, whereby they are not excluded, however, from calling in the aid of such Levites as could sing. The prophet afterwards ( Ezekiel 40:42 f.) gives a fuller explanation concerning the sons of Zadok.

[259] The masc. אחד shows that we are not to think of a single cell, but a set of cells.

[260] Concerning the import of שמר משמרת , comp. Christol. iii. p. 629. To keep the keeping of any one, or of his business, is to take care of him or it. To keep the keeping of the house, is thus to take care or be studious of his service in the house, to perform it. If any one, against the usage, explains the phrase of a supervision of the temple or keeping watch in it, he is in conflict with Ezekiel 40:44, according to which we have here to do only with the holy singers. Hence the phrase refers here only to the service which the priests had as singers in the temple, and in Ezekiel 40:46 to the service at the altar of burnt-offering.

In Ezekiel 40:47, the matter of the inner court is completed by the statement of its dimensions. It was a square a hundred cubits long and a hundred broad, in contrast with the three hundred cubits of the outer court. To this is added the remark, that in the inner court before the temple stood the altar of burnt-offering, to be fully described in Ezekiel 43:13 f., which formed the radiant point of the inner court.

After the consideration of the court, the prophet turns to the description of the proper temple. This is remarkably distinguished by its brevity from that of the court. In the description of the temple of Solomon in our historical books, the reverse is the case. Bähr, in The Temple of Solomon, p. 147, says: “For the character of the court in contrast with the temple, the brevity, abruptness, and indefiniteness with which both narratives, the books of Kings as well as those of Chronicles, describe it, are very significant. While in the temple the description goes partly into the minutest detail, and states precisely even things apparently the most indifferent, as the quality of the building-stone, the proportion of the several entrances, the wood and the ornaments of the doors, in the court most things are loft undefined, the compass and size are not fixed, and that which is necessary to form an idea of this second chief part of the whole building is scarcely mentioned.” The problem has been explained in various ways. The simplest explanation is this: The annals of Judah, from which our historical books are here drawn, pass rapidly over the courts, because they were known to every Israelite from childhood by personal inspection. On the other hand, they were copious in the description of the parts of the sanctuary inaccessible to the people. Ezekiel, who wrote for the people in exile, might reckon, in regard to the proper temple, that the hints which he gave regarding the sanctuary to be restored, would find an ample supplement in the existing historical sources. On the contrary, in the courts he was obliged to go more into detail, if the hope of restoration was to make a deep impression on the minds of his readers, who had not, like himself, seen these courts with their own eyes. That the reason of his method is to be sought here, is evident from this, that in the description of the proper temple, Ezekiel coincides often verbally with the accounts derived from the annals of Judah in our historical books, and by the merely allusive nature of his accounts, which receive and are only to receive their meaning by comparison with the historical books, almost expressly refers to them. Let us compare, for ex., the close of ch. Ezekiel 41:7. The obviously intentional obscurity of the expression there can only be regarded as an indirect reference.

Verses 48-49

Ezekiel 40:48-49, The porch of the temple.— Ezekiel 40:48. And he brought me to the porch of the house, and measured the pillar of the porch, five cubits on this side, and five cubits on that; and the breadth of the gate was three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that. 49. And the length of the porch twenty cubits, and the breadth eleven cubits; and (such was the breadth) at the steps by which they go up to it; and there were columns by the pillars, one on this side, and one on that.

The corner pillars of the porch had, according to Ezekiel 40:48, on both sides a thickness of five cubits. The gate had three cubits on the one side, and three cubits on the other. It was of the nature of the porch to be open, being an open approach to a space that is or may be closed, which shelters from the inclemency of the weather those who must wait for the opening. A door is not mentioned here, as otherwise generally in the closed rooms of the temple. The words “three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that,” indicate that an open space was left in the midst. We are to conceive the matter thus: In the porches of the court, that had a large thoroughfare, the whole space within must have been open. It was otherwise in the porch of the sanctuary, which the officiating priests only had to enter. There the inaccessibility for the multitude, the odi profanum vulgus et arceo, was figured by this, that the greater space on both sides was cut off by a certain contrivance, probably a grating, and in the midst only a free passage five cubits wide, the half of that in the porches of the courts, was left. The grating probably did not take in the whole height any more than the whole breadth, so that it did not hinder the free view into the whole porch.

The length of the porch in Ezekiel 40:49 corresponds to that of the porch in Solomon’s temple ( 1 Kings 6:3), where expositors, against the clear letter of the text, have often put the breadth instead of the length, and then adopted the incongruity that the porch was as broad as the house itself. The breadth of the porch is here fixed at eleven cubits. This refers to the open space. The whole breadth, inclusive of the corner pillars, each five cubits broad, amounted to twenty-one cubits. The breadth of eleven cubits here is not in contradiction to that of ten cubits in the porch of Solomon’s temple. According to ch. Ezekiel 41:2, the door of the sanctuary, to which the porch led, was also ten cubits broad. The eleventh cubit here affords only the space for the posts of the door on both sides, so that in fact the porch is here only ten cubits broad. The eleventh cubit here is not essential, but serves another purpose,—is purely accessory, [261] as we must expect beforehand that the eleven will return to a round number. The breadth of eleven cubits applied to the stair that went up to it, no less than to the porch itself. The number of steps in this stair is not given, as it was in those of the outer and inner courts. But, according to ch. Ezekiel 41:8, the height must have come to six cubits. Accordingly we may have fourteen steps in contrast with the seven steps of porch of the outer court. As in the porch of the outer and inner court, here also the corner pillars on both sides of the porch are mentioned. This, however, is done quite in passing, and it must be surprising that here the height of these pillars is not mentioned, as is done in Ezekiel 40:4 in the case of the corner pillars of the porch of the court. We expect to find what is wanting in the historical books. For in the account of Chronicles, derived from the annals of Judah, we are presented ( 2 Chronicles 3:4) with the statement that the porch (at its highest point) was 120 cubits high, with which the statement of Josephus ( Arch. viii. 3, 2) is in harmony. This statement suits well with the height of sixty cubits of the corner pillars of the court in Ezekiel. The proportion in height agrees with the thickness of the corner pillars, which in the court amounts only to two cubits, here to five. The objections which have been raised against the statement of Chronicles must vanish when it is considered that art in the old Orient, and particularly in Solomon’s temple, is only the minister of religion. That which Bähr (p. 198) says with respect to the two pillars Jachin and Boaz, applies here also: “Their form has arisen from their meaning: they are not lank, soaring, slender, but very thick, enormously strong pillars, that measure twelve cubits in compass with only eighteen in height,—a form that can by no means be called beautiful, but yet shows that art was here wholly in the service of symbolism, and the beautiful was made subordinate to the expression of the religious idea.” In a building which was consecrated to the Lord of heaven, and was to effect a connection between heaven and earth, the most emphatic reference to heaven could not be wanting: as far as it was possible for man, the head of the building must point to heaven: humility, no less than pride, has need of a tower whose top is in heaven (Genesis 11). On both sides of the corner pillars, that are connected architecturally with the porch itself, stand, without external connection with the building, and quite free, two columns, which are mentioned in so brief and significant a manner, that we perceive an almost express reference to what is already otherwise known: if we disregard this, we can make nothing of the two columns, and the prophet might have left them altogether unmentioned. Every Israelite knew that the two columns in such a place can only be the two celebrated columns Jachin and Boaz in Solomon’s temple raised from ruin ( 1 Kings 7:15 f.), which, as Bähr (p. 36 f.) has shown, also received a free place beside the porch. These columns, which the prophet himself had seen in their place, on which his youthful fancy had no doubt dwelt with delight, were removed by the Chaldeans ( Jeremiah 52:20 f.). Again in the spirit he sees them in their old place. The import of these columns cannot be doubtful. They were, as it were, the stone program of the temple, and of the kingdom of God signified by it. They signified what the people of God have in their God. Their name shows this, in which, as usual, their nature is exhibited: Jachin, “He (God) establishes (me);” and Boaz, “In Him (am I) strong.” In harmony with their form, “cast of brass (comp. on Ezekiel 40:3), round, very thick, uniform to the top,” they are a figure of the unchangeable stability and strength of the kingdom of God, which was practically refuted only in appearance by the Chaldean catastrophe. By the restoration, seen in vision, this fact enters into its true light: it is shown that only He has taken away stability and strength who bestowed them, because the people had made themselves unworthy of His aid: it is shown that the Chaldeans were only instruments in His hand. In the porch are described only the entrance, the stair, the corner pillars, the outstanding pillars on both sides. Where the corner pillars terminate the side-walls probably came in, as in the porch of the court.

[261] So already Sturm: undecim cubitornm, vel ab initio postis decem, nam ab initio postis praecipue latitudo numeranda.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 40". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.