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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 41

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 1-2

After the porch of the house, the proper temple building, follows now the house itself. First the measurements of the entrance of the holy place; then, in the second half of ch. Ezekiel 41:2, the length and breadth of itself.

Ezekiel 41:1-2. And he brought me to the temple, and measured the pillars six cubits broad on this side, and six cubits broad on that, the breadth of the tent. 2. And the breadth of the door ten cubits, and the sides of the door five cubits on this side, and five cubits on that: and he measured the length of the temple forty cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits.

The temple denotes in Ezekiel 41:1, as in 1 Kings 6:5 and elsewhere, not, as frequently, the whole of the temple building, but the chief room, the nave of it, the holy place in contradistinction from the most holy, to which the prophet passes in Ezekiel 41:3. The corner pillars of the entrance are on each side six cubits, in contrast with the five cubits of the corner pillars of the court. The strength (and corresponding height) of the corner pillars is, according to Starck, to remind the entrants what the King is who dwells in this temple. The words “(this is) the breadth of the tent,” do not mean that the twelve cubits which the pillars occupy make the whole breadth of the temple, which would be in contradiction with what immediately follows, according to which the free space of the house alone had a breadth of twenty cubits. The words point out rather that the two pillars form the ends of the breadth of the temple, so that we have the whole breadth, if we measure from the end of the one to the end of the other, in which measurement the twenty cubits of the free space in Ezekiel 41:2 are included. The temple-house, holy and most holy together, is designated antiquely as “the tent,” because the sanctuary originally, and for a series of centuries from Moses to Solomon, had had the form of a tent. In commemoration of the very brief sojourn of the people in tents, that came to an end with the conquest of Canaan, the houses of the Israelites were several times designated as tents ( Joshua 22:8; Joshua 1 Kings 12:16). But the prophet had here a definite reason for speaking of the breadth of the tent, and not of the temple. He had before briefly put the tent in a strict sense for the holy place. But here the breadth of the whole building was to be given, inclusive of the most holy places to which the same breadth is ascribed in Ezekiel 41:4, while the length in the holy and the most holy place is different. The breadth of the door of the house is in Ezekiel 41:2 fixed at ten cubits. Adding to this the two side-walls of the door, five cubits each, of which half a cubit on each side is destined for the door-posts (comp. on Ezekiel 40:49), we have a total breadth of twenty cubits, the half of the forty cubits’ length of the holy place. As the length and breadth agree with the temple of Solomon, the statement of its height, thirty cubits ( 1 Kings 6:2), will also apply to the temple of Ezekiel. The breadth is, besides, only that of the open space. The total breadth, including the pillars on both sides, amounted to thirty-two cubits. The agreement of the temple of Ezekiel with that of Solomon, where we have materials for the comparison of the two, points out to us that essential agreement will also be found where, as in the courts, the comparison cannot be instituted, because the descriptions of the temple of Solomon are incomplete. But that the prophet in his measurements retains the number of cubits in the temple of Solomon, although his cubit was different from that employed in Solomon’s temple, being a hand-breadth greater, that he does not think of reducing the number of cubits to the former standard, proves how little the description of the new temple was meant to be realistic. If it concerned him only to give a firm hold to the future hopes of the people; if he wrote not for the architects of the future, but for the believers of the present; if it concerned him only, at a time when the stone temple was fallen, to erect an interim temple for the imagination, he must have reckoned in whole numbers, and a reduction of the proportion would have been paltry and confusing. The design to represent the temple of the future as greater than that of the past, need not be ascribed to the prophet. For this purpose the difference is too slight. A sixth part more or less is nothing in such matters.

Verses 3-4

In Ezekiel 41:3-4, the inmost part of the temple, or the most holy place. Ezekiel 41:3. And he went inward, and measured the pillar of the door, two cubits; and the door, six cubits; and the breadth of the door, seven cubits, 4. And he measured its length, twenty cubits; and the breadth, twenty cubits, before the temple: and he said unto me, This is the most holy place.

“And he went” ( Ezekiel 41:3): Ezekiel might as priest follow the measuring angel into the holy place, but not into the most holy, which was accessible only to the high priest. Here, therefore, he beholds the taking of the measure only from without. The whole breadth of the door is seven cubits, because one cubit for the posts is added to the six cubits for the door. The opinion that the six cubits are the height of the door, has been already refuted by Villalpandus. The pillars on both sides, with the door-posts and the door, include a breadth of eleven cubits. It is not said how the most holy was separated from the holy place in the remaining nine cubits. But it lies in the nature of the thing that it was separated. For otherwise, wherefore the door? Probably the separation was by a curtain. It is a question whether the pillars, each at two cubits, stood beside the door-posts, or at both sides of the enclosing wall, so that on each side the half of the nine cubits was between them and the door-posts. At all events here, as in ch. Ezekiel 40:16, pillars in the interior of the building are spoken of, such as stood within ‘‘the wall of the house” ( Ezekiel 41:5). The measurements given in Ezekiel 41:4 agree again with those of Solomon’s temple. The temple denotes here also the holy place. The most holy lay before the holy in its whole breadth. In Ezekiel 41:5-11, the sheds of the temple, or the sacristies for the sojourn of the priests before they entered upon their functions ( Luke 1:8-9), for keeping all holy things, vessels, dresses, antiquities ( 1 Kings 7:51; 1 Kings 7 : 1 Kings 8:4; 2 Kings 11:10); then the open spaces on this side and on that side of the enclosing wall.

Verses 5-11

Ezekiel 41:5-11. And he measured the wall of the house, six cubits; and the breadth of the side-chamber, four cubits round about the whole house. 6. And the side-chambers were chamber on chamber three, and thirty times; and they came to the wall, which was to the house for the side-chambers round about, that they might have hold, and they had not hold in the wall of the house. 7. And it was broader, and wound about still upward round about the house; for the winding of the house was still upward round about the house: therefore there was breadth to the house upwards, and from the lowest they went up on the highest by the middle. 8. And I saw the height of the house round about: the foundations of the side-chambers were a full reed, six cubits its story. 9. The breadth of the wall, which was for the side-chamber without, was five cubits, and the place that was left free. This is the side-building of the house. 10. And between the chambers was a breadth of twenty cubits round about the whole house. 11. And the door of the side-building was toward the free place, one door toward the north and one door to the south: and the breadth of the free place was five cubits round about.

The thickness of the wall of the temple is stated in Ezekiel 41:5 to be six cubits, the breadth of the side-building, which surrounded the temple on all three sides, [262] four cubits. Thus we obtain as the breadth of the whole building, including the side-building, which serves to give greater fulness to the building, and make it more respectable, 40 cubits: 20 cubits for the open room, 12 for the walls, and 8 for the side-buildings. Ezekiel 41:6 says that the side-chambers had three stories, one above the other. [263] It is added that the side-chambers adjoined the wall of the temple, which enclosed the side-chambers, so that the beginning of the breadth of the side-chambers coincided with the end of the wall; and further, that they were connected with this wall, and by this connection had their hold, yet so that they were not inserted in the wall of the house itself. 1 Kings 6:6 gives the requisite commentary. It is there said in reference to the temple of Solomon and its side-chambers: “He had made rebates to the house around without, that they might not be fastened in the walls of the house.” On this Keil observes: In the temple wall, when the joists of the several stories were to be applied, ledges were made, so that the ends of these joists rested on the ledges, and did not enter the proper wall of the house. 1 Kings 6:10 is also to be compared, “And it (the chamber) rested on the house with joists of cedars;” on which Keil says, “By the cedar-joists of the several stories, which rested on the ledges of the temple-wall, the side-building took hold of the house: it was firmly connected with the temple-house, without interfering injuriously with the sanctuary.” In the exposition of Ezekiel 41:7, it must be laid down as the first rule, that we do not get into contradiction with the description of the side-building in Solomon’s temple. For all clear and certain statements of Ezekiel essentially agree with those given there; and the more subordinate the side-chambers are, the more improbable it is that Ezekiel has here given a quite new construction,—the more obvious is the assumption that the side-chambers, with which were probably connected the fondest associations of his youth (we have only to think of Samuel, who, as well as Eli, had his sleeping apartment in such a chamber in the tabernacle), appeared to him in vision in their early form. Now, according to 1 Kings 6:6, the breadth of the under story was five cubits, that of the middle six, and that of the highest seven; and this difference arose from the thickness of the temple-wall, which was six cubits below, and diminished first one and then two cubits. [264] Now the words here agree quite well with this, if they were scarcely intelligible without this commentary. In ascending, a continual change took place in the stories, [265] which consisted indeed in the increasing breadth of the chambers. [266] The last words of the verse, “And from the lowest they went up on the highest by the middle,” have the key to their meaning in 1 Kings 6:8, “And by a winding stair they went up to the middle, and from the middle to the third.” [267] The winding stair here is not expressly mentioned. It must be transferred from the former description. This therefore presupposes the stair. Hence it is plain that, by the breadth increasing above, space was gained for the stair. In Ezekiel 41:8, the height of the house here spoken of, the side-building, is given. The socle has a height of a whole reed—whole, this is here added, because the elevation above the ground might easily be supposed less. If this be the elevation of the side-building, it must also be that of the proper temple, the entrance of which, it is self-evident, was not on level ground. With the statement of the size, here corresponds the mention of the stair in ch. Ezekiel 40:49. Then follow three stories (in the original it is properly joints, Ezekiel 13:18), each of six cubits. According to 1 Kings 6:10, every story in Solomon’s temple had a height of five cubits. There is no difference, as here probably the floor and the roof are included. If, in the statement of the height of the temple in 1 Kings 6:3, the socle and the upper chambers ( 1 Chronicles 28:11; 2 Chronicles 3:8) were to be included, for which 1 Kings 6:20 speaks, according to which the most holy place, in harmony with its length and breadth, had only a height of twenty cubits, the side-building reached the height of the temple; if, on the contrary, the thirty cubits in 1 Kings 6:2 be exclusive of the socle and the upper chambers, the temple exceeded the side-building by twelve cubits. We prefer the former view. Ezekiel 41:9 gives five cubits for the breadth of the outer wall of the side-building, and remarks that beyond this breadth that of the free place comes into account, which extended along the side-building, made it accessible, and gave it light. After this brief allusion to the free space, of which the prophet speaks more fully in Ezekiel 41:11, but to which reference had to be made here, lest the breadth, in which the free space should have been included, might be too hastily summed up, the description of the side-building itself is closed with the words, “(This is) the side-building of the house,” as it is the manner of Ezekiel to give such limiting conclusions (comp. for ex., Ezekiel 1:11); and he now still turns in Ezekiel 41:10-11; Ezekiel 41:11 to the free spaces which were connected with the side-buildings. [268] First in Ezekiel 41:10 the greater free space, twenty cubits broad, that lies between the outer wall of the side-stories and the chambers to be described first in ch. Ezekiel 42:1 f., and indeed on all the three sides of the temple: “between the chambers” stands for between the side-building spoken of at the end of Ezekiel 41:9, and the chambers. Then in Ezekiel 41:11 the smaller free space, five cubits broad, between the side-building and the outer wall enclosing it. If we add to the already obtained breadth of forty cubits for the temple and the side-building, the five cubits of the inner free space on both sides, and therefore ten cubits, the five cubits of wall thickness on both sides, making also ten more, and the twenty cubits of free space on both sides, making forty more, we have 100 cubits for the total breadth, in harmony with Ezekiel 41:14.

[262] That of the four sides only three come into account, and the fourth is for obvious reasons omitted, is intimated by the threefold repetition of the סביב , etc.

[263] It is literally chamber on chamber. But that they are to be not one beside, but one above another, is manifest from what follows, and could not antecedently be doubtful to any one acquainted with the former temple. The remark of Böttcher, אל for על here, where the rise of one story above another is concerned, would be more than negligent,” does not apply, because the very inexactness is an indirect reference to the existing description of Solomon’s temple, which was accessible to the reader.

[264] Starck on our passage: Murus sex cubitos habuit, sed quo altior ascendebat, tenior fiebat, et cubicula in illis spatiis spatium lucrabatur, ut haec aequali linea essent exterius, sed interius tamen latiores uno altero, quia nempe murus illis locum amplorem concedebat.

[265] סבב , to turn, Zechariah 14:10; Piel, change, alter, 2 Samuel 14:20; Hiphil, change, 2 Kings 23:22.

[266] Böttcher: רחבה refers not to Tip, Ezekiel 41:6, where this was not the subject, but, from 1 Kings 6:6, necessarily to the internal enlargement of the side-chambers, of which it is said impersonally, “and it widened.” So ונסבה . He further remarks: למעלה is pictorially reduplicated in that which is continued upwards; and so the farther up, the more enlargement and alteration.

[267] The defectiveness of the expression is intentional, and is an indirect reference to the earlier description, from which the meaning is to be learned. In the under story the preposition is quite wanting, which, according to the whole style of this local section in Ezekiel, creates not the least difficulty. In לתיכונה it is quite generally expressed, that the middle story also comes into account, instead of saying definitely, that the way from the lowest to the highest lay through it. And we only arrive at the certain understanding of the יעלה , one goes up, when we refer to the יעלו in the book of Kings.

[268] The name מנח , left free, is borne only by the relatively narrow free space between the wall of the side-building and the enclosing wall. In this narrow lane (five cubits broad) the idea of the space left open comes out more sharply by the opposition to the building on both sides. That the two free spaces, the narrow and the wide, cannot immediately border on one another, but must be separated by the enclosing wall, is understood of itself, and is also implied in the way in which the narrow free space is spoken of in Ezekiel 41:9, but still more definitely in Ezekiel 41:11, according to which the doors of the side-building open into the free space.

Verses 12-14

In Ezekiel 41:12-14 the prophet gives the measurements of a new building, which rises to the west of the temple, and connects therewith the statement of the total length and total breadth of the temple-house, which results from summing up the former statements regarding the measurements of the several parts. The outer court encloses on three sides—east, south, and north—a space 300 cubits long and 100 cubits broad, that falls into three parts, each 100 cubits long. The inner court forms the eastern part, the temple-house the middle, and the building here described, which abuts on the western enclosure of the outer court.

Ezekiel 41:12. And the building which was before the gizrah (off-space), on the side of the west, was seventy cubits broad; and the wall of the building was five cubits thick round about, and its length ninety cubits. 13. And he measured the house, a hundred cubits long; and the gizrah, and the building, and its walls, a hundred cubits long; 14. And the breadth of the front of the house, and of the gizrah toward the east, a hundred cubits.

The space on which the building to be measured in Ezekiel 41:12 stands, is designated the gizrah. In this name the design and import of the building are given. Gizrah means the cut-off, separate, the separate place, the off-place or off-room. [269] The place and the building thereon serve negatively the same purpose which the temple serves positively. If this is to retain its dignity and sanctity, a place must be assigned whither all uncleanness is removed; which was the more necessary, as in the holy areas, especially on festivals, many thousands, yea myriads of men, remained the whole day ( Psalms 84:11), held their intercourse and their meals, and rejoiced “before the Lord.” [270] Already in the books of Moses is found the order for setting apart a place for such a purpose outside the camp, which corresponded to the temple with its courts, and the injunction that this place is to be kept clean, which is laid down as a religious duty ( Deuteronomy 23:13-14). That there was a building for this purpose near the temple of Solomon, appears from 2 Kings 23:11, according to which the stabling of the horses, which the idolatrous king had consecrated to the sun, were in this building. According to 1 Chronicles 26:18, this building lay quite, as here, to the west of the temple. According to 1 Chronicles 26:16, the gate which led to this building was called the refuse-gate; and from this gate a street led to the city on the west, which probably served for carrying away. [271] Even now in the East, in the churches and mosques, are found the most extensive arrangements for this purpose, to concentrate the impurities in a place assigned to them, and separate them from the holy cities. The building is described as lying to the west side, in opposition to the temple, which lay east of the boundary line. The building formed the close westward. There it extended to the outer enclosing wall of the court, and by a gate built in this had its egress into the city. The breadth of the building is fixed at seventy cubits. The walls contain five cubits on both sides. Twenty cubits therefore remain, ten on each side for the entrances and the galleries ( Ezekiel 41:15). In length, and therefore from east to west, the building filled the whole extent of the gizrah. This amounted to 100 cubits. Of these, the building filled ninety cubits, and the walls at both ends ten cubits. The gizrah was equal in length and breadth to the temple-house. We have already shown that the latter was 100 cubits broad. The length of 100 cubits amounts thus: six cubits the thickness of the walls of the sanctuary ( Ezekiel 41:5); sixty cubits the holy place and the most holy; four cubits the side-building in the west; five cubits the free space between the side-building and the surrounding wall; five cubits this surrounding wall; twenty cubits the free space bordering this surrounding wall; and therefore 100 cubits from the end of the court to the gizrah.

[269] LXX. Τὸ? ἀ?πό?λοιπον ; Aq. and Sym. separatum. The corresponding גזרה stands in Leviticus 16, of the place to which the buck consecrated to Azazel is sent away—the wilderness, in opposition to the cultivated land. The line of cultivation forms a sharp boundary.

[270] The gizrah must have had access to the outer court, by which it was bounded on the south and north. The arrangements are too extensive for the priests alone.

[271] The name פרור , which this building bears in 2 Kings 23:11, or פרבר , as it is called with hardened form in Chronicles, is derived from פרר , to split, rend ( Psalms 74:13; Isaiah 24:19), and denotes, quite like gizrah, localities that are separated from others by a sharply defined boundary hue. In the Targums and the Talmud occurs פרורין , de suburbiis locisque urbis vicinis, of all that is separated by the boundary hue of the wall from the towns, then of islands which are severed from the mainland by the boundary line of the sea.

Verses 15-26

After stating the measurements of the buildings, the prophet in Ezekiel 41:15-26 gives a series of observations which he made upon them.

Ezekiel 41:15. And he measured the length of the building m front of the gizrah which was behind it, and its galleries, on this side and on that, a hundred cubits, and the inner temple, and the porches of the court; 16. The thresholds, and the closed windows, and the galleries round about for all three, over against the threshold a boarding of wood round about, and from the ground to the windows, and the windows were covered; 17. On that which was above the door, and to the inner house and outside, and on the whole wall round about, within and without, were measures. 18. And there were made cherubim and palms, and a palm between a cherub and a cherub; and the cherub had two faces; 19. And the face of a man was toward the palm on this side, and the face of a lion toward the palm on that side, made on the whole house round about. 20. From the ground to above the door were cherubim and palms made: and (this is) the wall of the temple. 21. The temple had a square post, and in the front of the temple the view was as the view. 22. The altar of wood was three cubits high, and its length two cubits; and it had its corners, and its length and its walls were of wood: and he said unto me. This is the table that is before the LORD. 23. And the temple and the sanctuary had two doors. 24. And the doors had two leaves, two turning leaves; the one door had two, and the other had two leaves. 25. And on them, on the doors of the temple, were made cherubim and palms, as they were made on the walls; and a step of wood was in front of the porch without. 26. And closed windows and palms were on this hand and on that, on the sides of the porch, and on the side-chambers of the house, and the steps.

Ezekiel 41:15 recapitulates. Beginning from the building which was last measured, the erection in the gizrah, and proceeding thence to the porches of the court, with which the description had commenced, he repeats that the angel has measured all the buildings, to connect therewith the supplementary notices to be given. Yet we have no mere repetition. The prophet here inserts something that serves to define more exactly what goes before. First, in elucidation of what is said in Ezekiel 41:12, he gives once more the situation of the building in the gizrah. It lay in front of the gizrah; but this front was the back front, in harmony with Ezekiel 41:12, according to which the building lay before the gizrah on the west side, which was the hinder side: in the forefront of the gizrah on the east lay the temple, between which and the western building the gizrah formed the boundary line. Then he intimates that the building in the gizrah had on both sides passages or galleries. [272] This statement fits into that which is said in Ezekiel 41:12, Ezekiel 41:14. Accordingly, of the 100 cubits in the breadth of the gizrah from south to north, only eighty cubits were occupied by the proper building, so that on both sides, south and north, ten cubits remained over. Here we learn that these ten cubits were not an open street, but were occupied with a passage or gallery. By the inner temple is designated the whole temple-building, the holy place and the most holy, in opposition to the doubled outwork of the building in the gizrah and the courts, the whole of which are called “the court.” In Ezekiel 41:16 the verb “he measured” is to be supplied from Ezekiel 41:15. All that is mentioned in this verse is new, except the closed windows ( Ezekiel 40:10), which, however, are explained at the close of the verse by a more intelligible expression: the passages were previously mentioned only in reference to the building in the gizrah. It is common to all that is mentioned in this verse, that it is viewed from without, although in the wainscoting the glance penetrates into the interior. The sills are naturally door-sills: window-sills are not known to the Old Testament. We must the rather expect the thresholds to be mentioned here, as the posts are spoken of in Ezekiel 41:21. Of the passages it is said that all three had them,—namely, the three buildings named in Ezekiel 41:15, the building in the gizrah, the temple, and the porches of the courts. We have already seen when they were applied in the gizrah. In the temple their place cannot be doubtful—the space of twenty cubits, that according to Ezekiel 41:10 went round the temple on all sides except the east, where the porch was. That this space was no bare street we must expect beforehand, as it is considered an appendage of the temple, and included in its dimensions; and this is the more natural, as the designation of the “free” or unbuilt “space” (in Ezekiel 41:11) is restricted to the street before the side-building, and not extended to this space. The passages in the porches of the courts we conceive most simply as covered galleries, that led from the porch of the outer court to the gate of the inner court, and from the porch of the inner court to the altar of burnt-offering and the temple, perhaps also from the one outer gate to the other. That there were such passages in Solomon’s temple, appears from John 10:23, and Josephus, Arch. xx. 9, 7. “Over against the threshold a boarding of wood:” this can refer only to the ground floor, which was seen when one looked over the threshold into the sanctuary. In Solomon’s temple also the ground floor was boarded, as were also the walls (Bähr, Solomon’s Temple, p. 24). To the latter refers the expression, “and (the wooden boarding was) from the ground to the windows.” [273] As the wooden boarding obviously covered the whole walls in Solomon’s temple, we must assume that the windows above were fitted in the roof, as in the ark, according to Genesis 6:16. Thus we escape the difficulty, that the wing-building was, at the sides, probably equal in height to the temple. If any one insists that the windows were in the sides, he must either suppose that the temple was higher than the wing, and the windows were quite above it, or that the windows opened into the wings, and received their light through corresponding windows in the outer wall of these. Both assumptions have something perplexing. The covering of the windows can only have been partial. How it was effected is not explained, as it was in the windows of the porch (ch. Ezekiel 40:16). But 1 Kings 6:4 gives the supplement, according to which it was effected by bars laid across. The upper chambers of Solomon’s temple are perhaps connected with the windows. Ezekiel 41:17 says that wherever one turned in the sacred edifice, from one end to the other, within and without, all was arranged according to measure, although it would lead too far to give these measures in detail: it was a house worthy of God, who has wisely arranged all things in His creation ( Psalms 104:24), and nothing is left to caprice or chance. The space over the door, not the door itself, forms the starting-point, because the measures of this were already given. The inner house, the house in the interior from end to end, forms the contrast to the space over the door of the sanctuary. To this again is opposed the outer, the outside of the building. The walls come into account on their two sides, the inner and the outer.

[272] The LXX. rendered the word אתיקים—occurring only here in Ezekiel 41:15-16, and in ch. 42:3, 4—in the latter place by περί?στυλον , colonnade; the Vulg. by porticus. The meaning passage, gallery, is demanded by ch. 42. Here also the circumstance that the object spoken of is measurable in the same way as the building itself, and also the correspondence between the statement here, and that in Ezekiel 41:12; Ezekiel 41:14, lead to the same conclusion.

[273] The omission of the preposition before הארץ has not the least difficulty, according to the general style of the prophet, and especially in these topographical sections that abbreviate as much as possible. Obviously corresponding is מהארץ in Ezekiel 41:20. If we deny the omission of the preposition, the sense is that the windows reached to the ground; which is very improbable, and does not agree with the words, as nobody wishing to express such a sense will say that the ground reached to the windows.

In Ezekiel 41:18-20 the decoration of the walls of the temple with cherubim and palms. These were found also in the temple of Solomon ( 1 Kings 6:29; Bähr, p. 24). There are carved works in the temple, the destruction of which by the Chaldeans is lamented in Psalms 74:6; and now they are here again. They indicate that the house is dedicated to the God of the whole terrestrial creation, to Him to whom the whole work belongs which is described in Genesis 1; not to a national god of limited power, but to Him who spake and it was done. The faces of the cherub look to the palms, to indicate that all creation, animate and inanimate, is a whole—a harmonious work of the creative power of God. Of the four faces of the cherub only two could appear here, as we have to do not with statues, but with figures, that can only present one side. If the whole animal world were to be denoted by one representative, the lion would be the most suitable. The wild beast denoted by the lion bears pre-eminently the name of the living thine, in distinction from the cattle, in which a lower energy of life appears. The cherubim and the palms, according to Ezekiel 41:20, extended from the ground to the space above the door; this represents the upper part of the wall of the house. If they were applied above the entrance-door, they would naturally, where no door was, fill the whole space from the ground or the floor to the roof. The words “and (this is) the wall of the temple” finish the subject of the wall of the temple and its decoration, and lead to other matters: comp. on the close of Ezekiel 41:9.

Of the front of the temple, the prophet in Ezekiel 41:21 describes only the door-posts,—an ideal unity which includes under it a material duality. This is described as squared, [274] the chief form, which meets us everywhere in the temple of Ezekiel, as in that of Solomon (Bähr, p. 97). All the rest—the door itself, the threshold ( Ezekiel 41:16), the wall, the porch at the entrance—was already mentioned, so that the prophet only saw on review what he had seen before. That the words “and the front of the house” (omitting the preposition for “ in the front”) (was) “the view as the view,” compare a new view with a former one, which the prophet had had, is the simplest sense, and is put beyond a doubt by the corresponding parallel in ch. Ezekiel 43:3.

[274] “A post of the square” is a square post. The square is, like many adjectives, made independent.

In Ezekiel 41:22 the altar of incense. It is described as the altar (of) wood, in opposition to the brazen altar of burnt-offering, which is to be described later still. The gold plating is not mentioned here, as in Solomon’s temple ( 1 Kings 6:20), as a deep silence is generally observed by Ezekiel concerning gold, which plays so great a part in the description of Solomon’s temple. In the floor also, and the walls, mention is only made of the wooden boarding, not of the gold with which it was overlaid in Solomon’s temple. Temple and city should be built again in “troublous times” ( Daniel 9:25),—a remarkable parallel between the two prophets. Zechariah, who prophesied after the return, joins these as a third, in whom the Lord in ch. Zechariah 4:10 admonishes not to despise the day of small things. The dimensions of the altar of Solomon are not given. Those here given are without doubt borrowed from it. They suit the enlargement of the measurements, as they are found in the temple of Solomon, compared with the tabernacle. There the altar of incense was two cubits high and one cubit broad. “Its length and its walls of wood:” the length can only be that of the top of the altar. The corners of the altar are the elsewhere so-called horns of it, into which it ran at the corners, and which formed as it were its head. The altar is designated as the table or board before the Lord, because that which is set on it—the incense, denoting the prayers of the saints ( Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8, Revelation 8:3)—is regarded as a spiritual food, which the people present to their heavenly King. [275] The altar appears as the table of the Lord also in ch. Ezekiel 44:16. The offering appears as the food of God, Malachi 1:7. Not without cause is the altar in 1 Kings 7:48 compared with the table of shew-bread: the bread laid on the latter denoted the spiritual nourishment which the people are to present to their heavenly King, which is good works. In Matthew 21:18-19, Jesus hungers after the fruit of the fig-tree, which signifies the Jewish people. From the altar of incense the supplementary description, which is bound to no systematic order, turns to the doors. It is first said in Ezekiel 41:23, that the holy place and the most holy had each a door of two doors, that is, a door with two leaves. The most holy cannot in itself be denoted by the holy place; but it may, after the temple in the strict sense, the great room of the temple, has gone before. Of the entire holy space, only the most holy then remains; and this might be the rather designated the holy, as it is in respect of the great room pre-eminently the holy. Ezekiel 41:24 says that the two door-leaves of the two entrances were again divided into two parts, that the whole, or some part, might be opened as occasion required: in a door ten cubits wide, such a division was very suitable to facilitate the opening. The two parts of the door-leaves are described as turning or revolving, [276] because they could be folded or unfolded. According to Ezekiel 41:25, there were cherubim and palms in the great room of the temple, on the doors no less than on the walls. It is also said that the porch had a wooden step. [277] Ezekiel 41:26 dwells still further on the porch. It had closed windows, like the guard-rooms of the gate at the outer court ( Ezekiel 40:16), and like the temple itself ( Ezekiel 41:26). The porch, and likewise the wings, take the character of the subordinate from this, that only palms are figured on them, and not cherubim also (comp. on ch. Ezekiel 40:16). In the creation, proceeding from the lower to the higher, the vegetable kingdom, represented by the palm, was in existence before the animal kingdom, represented by the cherubim. The words at the close, “and the steps,” as much as to say, “and besides, the steps also are to be noticed in the porch” (comp. Ezekiel 41:25), place the extreme end to the east, over against the extreme end to the west, the gizrah, with which the section in Ezekiel 41:15 began.

[275] Comp. on John 21:5; John 21:10, and my treatise on The Day of the Lord, p. 52.

[276] Comp. מוסב in Ezekiel 41:7.

[277] עב is in 1 Kings 7:6, “a threshold-like piece, a step or perron;” comp. Thenius and Keil. Ezekiel here first uses the older form. Then for explanation he puts the form current in his time at the end of Ezekiel 41:26.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 41". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-41.html.