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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 45

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


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 1-17

Chapter 45:1-17

From the sanctuary, with its ministers, the prophet turns to its immediate environs, for which the special occasion is that the Lord has declared in ch. Ezekiel 44:18 that He will be the possession of the priests. Of an investiture of the priests with lands Ezekiel 44 does not yet speak; we expect, therefore, that it will be mentioned in this, the next following section. This begins in vers. Ezekiel 45:1-4 with the ordinance, that in the approaching division of the land a portion, 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits broad, shall be set apart as a heave-offering (oblation) to the Lord. The already described sanctuary of 500 cubits square shall form the middle of this; the remainder shall fall to the household of the Lord, the priests, who, as those “who are near the Lord,” have by right their dwellings around Him. Along with the priests, the ministers of the house, the Levites, receive a portion of land of like extent ( Ezekiel 45:5). Then follows the district of the holy city, with the same length and a breadth of 5,000 cubits; so that the whole first portion for priests, Levites, and city, is in breadth as in length 25,000 cubits. The whole of this ground is enclosed on both sides by the grounds assigned to the prince ( Ezekiel 45:7). The reason why he is to be provided with such a domain is stated in Ezekiel 45:8-9; the princes will then no more be tempted, as formerly, to seize a possession for themselves at the cost of their subjects. To the requirement to abolish this ancient interference with private rights, is annexed, in Ezekiel 45:10-12, the admonition to enforce right in the new order of things, and to leave no room for lust. Then follows, in Ezekiel 45:13-17, the requirement of the willing payment of a tax to the prince, whereby he and others are enabled to defray the costs of public worship.

The practical point of view in this section is twofold. First the prophet wishes to strengthen the faith of the people; and hence, in contrast with the dreary present, in which priests and Levites, city and civil authority are fallen, he paints before their eyes a future full of hope. Next he wishes to indicate the necessity of a moral reformation, to penetrate the mind with a zeal for the removal of old evils, and to awaken the sense of righteousness and free-will in offering. Self-interest and avarice, that have hitherto wrought so perniciously, shall no longer prevail among the people of the future, but rather righteousness vers. ( Ezekiel 45:8-12), a spirit of willing sacrifice ( Ezekiel 45:13-17).

We should quite mistake the import of the section, if we sought to find in it special revelations concerning the relations of the future, and statutes which should then have the power of law. What appears to favour this is only colouring, the clothing of the thought with flesh and blood. The local determinations must be conceived in connection with those which afterwards occur in reference to the tribes. If we survey the whole, it is evident that the specifications are too mathematical, too much at variance with the relations of the ground and the number of persons to be sustained, to be intended as real. The seal of the Utopian is intentionally impressed on them, that no one may entertain the idea that the prophet wishes to forestall the historical development, to which Moses had given the freest scope. The prophet cannot have meant the placing of the Levites in barracks to be real, because he would thereby contradict the Mosaic law, which distributes the Levites through all Israel. From the local specifications, light falls on the arrangements concerning the tax in Ezekiel 45:13 f. to be paid to the prince. If we regard this as an actual prescription of law, the most surprising defects are found in it. How, for ex., could a statement of the way in which it applies to black cattle be wanting? We find not the smallest trace of these specifications of Ezekiel being adopted in the arrangement of the relations after the return from the exile. It is quite otherwise with the Mosaic law, which has been the determining power in the minutest details through all times,

Ezekiel 45:1. And when ye allot [304] the land for inheritance, ye shall make an oblation to the LORD, holy from the land: the length five and twenty thousand, and the breadth ten thousand. It shall be holy in all its border round. 2. Of this shall be for the sanctuary five hundred (cubits) by five hundred square around; and fifty cubits a free space for it around. 3. And from this measure thou shalt measure a length of five and twenty thousand, and a breadth of ten thousand: and in it shall be the sanctuary, the holy of holies. 4. This holy portion of the land shall be for the priests, the ministers of the sanctuary, who are near to minister unto the LORD; and it shall be a place for their houses, and a holy place for the sanctuary. 5. And five and twenty thousand in length, and ten thousand in breadth, shall be to the Levites, the ministers of the house, to them for a possession twenty chambers. 6. And as a possession for the city ye shall give five thousand in breadth, and in length five and twenty thousand, by the holy oblation: it shall be for the whole house of Israel. 7. And for the prince on both sides of the holy oblation, and of the possession of the city, over against the holy oblation, and over against the possession of the city, from the west side westward, and from the east side eastward; and the length by one of the tribe shares shall be from the west border to the east border. 8. In the land shall it be to him for a possession in Israel: and my princes shall no more oppress my people; and the land shall they give to the house of Israel according to their tribes. 9. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, It is enough for yon, O princes of Judah: remove violence and rapine, and do judgment and justice, take away your expulsions from my people, saith the Lord Jehovah. 10. Ye shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath. 11. The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, that the bath hold the tenth of the homer, and the ephah a tenth of the homer; the measure of it shall be after the homer. 12. And the shekel shall be twenty gerahs: twenty shekels, five and twenty shekels, fifteen shekels, shall be your maneh. 13. This is the oblation that ye shall make; a sixth of the ephah from a homer of wheat, and ye shall give a sixth of the ephah from a homer of barley. 14. And the statute of the oil, the bath (is for) the oil, is a tenth of the bath out of the kor, a homer of ten baths; for ten baths make a homer. 15. And one sheep out of the flock, from two hundred, out of the watered land of Israel, for the meat-offering, and for the burnt-offering, and for peace-offerings, to atone for them, saith the Lord Jehovah. 16. And all the people of the land shall give this oblation to the prince in Israel. 17. And upon the prince shall fall the burnt-offerings, and the meat-offering, and the drink-offering, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the Sabbaths, in all the solemnities of the house of Israel: he will make the sin-offering, and the meat-offering, and the burnt-offering, and the peace-offerings, to atone for the house of Israel.

[304] Luther, “divide by lot.” But casting the lot is not spoken of in what follows; indeed, it is excluded by that which the prophet says concerning the situation of the tribe-land. It is literally, when ye let fall ( Psalms 16:6).

The oblation (heave-offering) in Ezekiel 45:1 is the part of the land which is heaved up to God, who dwells on high—is consecrated to Him. The oblation is here applied only to the priests’ part, with the sanctuary in its midst. But in a wider sense it includes the portion of the Levites and the circuit of the city; even the portion of the prince might be reckoned to it, as he acts as the minister of God. The length is the extent from east to west, the breadth that from north to south. That the 25,000 and the 10,000 are cubits, and not reeds, is clear from this, that in ch. Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 48:35 throughout, all greater measures are reckoned by cubits, even in ch. Ezekiel 42:16 f.; and that in Ezekiel 42:2 cubits are expressly named; and so here reeds must needs have been named, if the prophet wished them to be understood. The cubits expressly mentioned in Ezekiel 45:2 apply also to the rest. The reason why they are only there expressly mentioned is, that the measure is there unexpectedly small, so that one might easily think of a larger scale. Besides, if we take the reed, we arrive at colossal magnitudes, which do not at all suit the otherwise very moderate statements in ch. Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 48:35, particularly the measurements of the new temple, which is only 500 cubits square. With perfect right Böttcher remarks: “If all the numbers were reeds, the holy oblation, for ex., ch. Ezekiel 45:1, must have been 150,000 cubits = 225,000 feet = 10 geographical (about 42 English) miles in length, and 60,000 cubits = 90,000 feet = 4 (17 Eng.) miles in breadth, and thus 40 (740 Eng.) square miles, almost a tenth of the whole land; the capital ( Ezekiel 48:16 f .) must have been four times 27,000 cubits = 108,000 cubits = 7 (30 Eng.) miles in circuit, more than seven times that of the later Jerusalem” (Joseph. B. J. Ezekiel 45:4; Ezekiel 45:3; c. Ap. 1:22). Such colossal proportions are the less suitable, because the limits of the land are, according to what follows, the old ones: the remark, “he finds the land of Palestine greater,” finds no verification in him. Then, too, if we here take the reed as measure throughout, the inheritance lying west and east of the district already set apart would be so confined, that the object of the grant of land mentioned by the prophet would not be attained. There would remain for him only a very small strip on both sides, whereas we expect that his portion will be nearly equal to that of one of the tribes, and will suffer no material loss by the land previously set apart. By ch. Ezekiel 46:16-18 it is presupposed that the domain of the prince is of considerable extent. The lot is also much too great for the priests and Levites, who are debarred from agriculture, if we take the reed as measure. What are the priests to do with a region of forty (740 Eng.) square miles? It is also important that, with such an extent of ground, the Levites, the ministers of the house, must have undertaken a formal journey every time they went to the house. The free space of 50 cubits round the sanctuary ( Ezekiel 45:2) shows very clearly that the 500 of the sanctuary are not reeds, but cubits. A free space of 50 cubits to a sanctuary of 500 reeds would be too small. And if we suppose that of the 500 reeds only 500 cubits were built upon, and the rest was vacant, the free space loses its meaning. It was obviously intended to be an interval between the house of God and the houses of the priests. That the measure of the whole heave-offering shall take its rise from the measures of the sanctuary ( Ezekiel 45:3), points to the central import of this, to the fact that the rest only exists on its account. The hallowed part of the land ( Ezekiel 45:4, comp. Ezekiel 45:1) falls into a twofold division: the one for the priests, whose land is holy, because they are the ministers of the sanctuary; the other, the holy space for the sanctuary itself. After the priests, in Ezekiel 45:5 follow the Levites. The salutary Mosaic ordinance, by which these are to be scattered through the whole land, the prophet cannot intend to abrogate. If he therefore here concentrates them all in one place near the sanctuary, this can only be the means of representing an idea, the exhibition of their relation to the sanctuary. The prophet nowhere speaks of the tithe to be paid to the Levites; yet it is presupposed, as without it the tribe would have no means of subsistence. Instead of the Levitical cities arranged by Moses, appear here twenty chambers or courts, corresponding to the already mentioned priestly courts, barracks for the Levites, the inhabitants of which use the twentieth part of the land assigned to them as pasturage. The chambers or courts here include the land as an appurtenance. To the part of the priests and Levites is annexed in Ezekiel 45:6 the possession of the city. This is to be distinguished from the city itself. The latter, according to ch. Ezekiel 48:16, is square, the length being equal to the breadth, so that essentially it has the circuit which Josephus in the passages already quoted, and also Hecataeus Abderita, ascribe to the later Jerusalem. In Ezekiel 45:7 the domain of the prince. This encloses on the east and west sides the holy oblation, by which the land of the priests and Levites is here designated, and the territory of the city, so that it takes into the midst and protects the two districts: it extends on both sides, east and west, as far as each of the tribe allotments. The prince obtains, as Jerome has remarked, as much as every tribe, with the exception of the square for the priests, Levites, and city. But in the portion of the princes, says Ch. B. Michaelis, lay the sanctuary, because it is the part of pious princes to make room for the church. In Ezekiel 45:8-9 it is stated why the prince in the new order of things is so richly endowed with lands. He is thus to be freed from the temptation to provide himself with land at the cost of his subjects. “My princes:” this shows clearly that under the ideal unity of the prince in Ezekiel a numerical plurality is included. Those who understand by the prince merely the Messiah, must here do violence to the text. The address in Ezekiel 45:9 shows that representatives or descendants of the princes who formerly committed injustice, were also in exile. The political parties especially gave occasion for the “expulsions” or confiscations. But the history of Ahab’s seizure of the vineyard shows that occasion was taken for these even without a cause. Already Samuel, in 1 Samuel 8:14, points out that the king will take the best field and vineyard, and give them for pay to his servants. Righteousness shall in future govern the popular life: this is the thought in Ezekiel 45:10-12. Ezekiel 45:10 only resumes Leviticus 19:35-36, and Deuteronomy 25:13-16,—regulations the frivolous violation of which had had a material part in the curse which fell upon the people. Moses had already given the motive for this command, “that thou mayest live long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. For all that do these things, all that do wrong, are an abomination to the Lord thy God.” The determinations in Ezekiel 45:11-12 are not designed to fix for ever the current weights and coins, but to show how exact men ought to be in measures and coins. Whosoever, for ex., takes one from the twenty gerahs of a shekel, either by clipping the coin or giving too little of the commodity, sins against God’s ordinance. We have here thus only a particularizing of the general principle in Ezekiel 45:10. What the ephah is for dry goods, the bath is for liquids. Both have the same content. The homer, which is common to dry goods and to liquids, affords the standard, of which both the ephah and the bath are a tenth. That the shekel contains twenty gerahs, is repeatedly stated in the Pentateuch ( Exodus 30:13, etc.). The maneh, probably of external origin, which explains its rare and late occurrence, is stated at a threefold value, which coincides with its foreign origin: it had in the different countries whence it came a different valuation. The prophet places first, as the normal mina, that which contains twenty shekels: this corresponds to the twenty gerahs of the shekel. On this follows a mina which has five shekels more than the normal mina; and lastly, a mina which has five less. The prophet allows all three kinds of mina; but whosoever reckons, for ex., by a mina of fifteen shekels, must not diminish a shekel from it, either in money or in goods. The middle mina agrees with the Attic. This contains 100 drachmae. But the shekel, according to Joseph. Arch. iii. 8, 2, contains four Attic drachmae. Not “the shekel is equal to a didrachmon, a double drachma,” but the half-shekel ( Matthew 17:24). The stater there, the double of the didrachmon, corresponds to the shekel. There is no valid proof [305] for a Hebrew mina of 100 shekels, nor for one of fifty shekels. The oblation in Ezekiel 45:13-17 is offered to God, and paid to His servant and plenipotentiary the prince, who has therewith to defray the cost of the public worship; though, as it appears, not that alone—for the amount is much too great for this purpose, and no barley was used in worship—but also the other expenses for the general good, so that here we have the Old Testament foundation for Romans 13:6-7. Willingness to pay dues belongs still to the marks of a true church member. This is also the general doctrine, that the magistrate shall take first of all from the taxes levied the means for the proper observance of divine worship. In determining the amount of the tax, the prophet does not mean to trench upon the office of statesmen: what he states is only exemplification and outline. Of grain the sixtieth part shall be paid, of oil the hundredth, of sheep the two-hundredth: the oxen are not mentioned,—a proof that the determinations here have not the character of an actual regulation of taxes. The tax of wheat and barley is the same, with a difference only in the expression. The proper sixthing here—that is, taking a sixth part—occurred already in Ezekiel 39:2. The kor in Ezekiel 45:14 is only another name for the homer. The last is without doubt the native name. The kor, occurring only in books written in or after the exile, is transferred from the Aramaic. “Out of the watered land of Israel” ( Ezekiel 45:15): this points to Genesis 13:8, the only other place where watered land occurs. It stands then of the Jordan valley before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The reference is a significant one. Whosoever makes “pride and all fulness” (ch. Ezekiel 16:49) his watchword, whosoever shuns to give God His part of the blessing bestowed by Him, he is punished by the withdrawal of this blessing.

[305] For מנים in 1 Kings 10:17 is to be read םאות , according to Ezekiel 45:16 and 2 Chronicles 9:16.

Verses 18-25

Chapter 45:18-46:15

From the holy places and the holy persons, the prophet turns to the holy times and the holy acts. He directs his view to those who were grieved “for the festival” ( Zephaniah 3:18), to the banished, who complained that “the ways of Zion lie waste, because none come to the feasts: all her gates are desolate, her priests sigh” ( Lamentations 1:4): “her adversaries look on her, and mock at her Sabbaths” ( Lamentations 1:7). “The Lord hath caused the feast and Sabbath to be forgotten in Zion” ( Lamentations 2:6). He presents before their eyes the figure of the restored worship and the restored festival. He begins with the consecration of the house (ch. Ezekiel 45:18-20); then turns to the yearly festivals, of which the first and the last are made prominent ( Ezekiel 45:21-25); passes to the Sabbath and the new moon (ch. Ezekiel 46:1-7); returns to the yearly festivals ( Ezekiel 46:9-11); states the manner of the free-will offering of the prince (ver. Ezekiel 46:12); and closes with the daily sacrifice ( Ezekiel 46:13-15). Restoration of the worship, removal of the intolerable void, which since its abolition pressed upon God-fearing minds: this is the thought which the prophet does not present naked, but paints before the eyes, to prepare a powerful counterpoise to the pain of the dreary present. We move here also quite on Old Testament ground; and the fulfilment of the rightly understood prophecy, in which the details are only means of representation, lies wholly in Ezra 3. The supposed contrast to the Mosaic law, in a series of particular determinations, does not in fact exist. The Mosaic ordinances concerning the number of victims are only to be regarded as general rules, from which under circumstances deviations are allowable; just as Solomon, in the building of the temple, was not deterred by the measurements of the sanctuary from adapting himself to the altered circumstances. The Mosaic law makes in the details concessions to poverty: instead of the paschal lamb, a kid might be taken; the poor lying-in woman might present ( Leviticus 12:8), instead of the lamb and the dove, two turtle-doves; whosoever had no sheep for a guilt-offering, was accepted (Leviticus 5) with two turtle-doves; and whosoever had not even these, with a little meal. So also, without doubt, in the public offering, were the people accepted according to that which they had, not according to that which they had not. In times of hard necessity, of deep poverty, a reduction of the victims and other services might take place. But still less was it forbidden on occasion to introduce a multiplication of the victims and other services, and thus give expression to the heart filled with thankfulness by a new and great benefit. The law says expressly and repeatedly, that it will set no limit to free and thankful love. In Numbers 6:21 it is said, “and besides what his hand affords”—what he may do of free-will. In the feast of Pentecost, according to Deuteronomy 16:10, the feast is kept “according to the free-will offering of thy hand which thou givest;” as Knobel explains, according to that which thou mayest freely do after the blessing granted by Jehovah: comp. Leviticus 23:37-38; Numbers 29:30. But the deviations from the Mosaic law consist here almost always in increase and advance. This is shown in the most striking manner in the victims of the passover and in the meat-offering. In the daily sacrifice, this, in Numbers 28:5, amounts to a tenth of an ephah of flour, a fourth of a hin of oil; here to a sixth of an ephah and a third of a hin. On the Sabbath two-tenths of an ephah, in Numbers 28:9; here a whole ephah for every victim. On the new moon, by the law, three-tenths of an ephah to one bullock, two-tenths to one ram, and one to a lamb ( Numbers 28:12); here a whole ephah to the bullock, and an ephah to the ram. In the passover by the law as in the new moon; here an ephah for the bullock, an ephah for the ram, and in the lambs the quantity is left to the free-will. The meat-offering signifies good works. Zeal in these, as the advance denotes, is to be mightily enhanced by the impending new exhibition of the grace of God. But a deviation from the law of Moses is here so much the less meant, as the prophet does not give legal prescriptions concerning that which it was the part of the prince and the people to determine; but as all details are for him only means of representation, his mission is confined to the impression which he is to make on minds assailed by despair; to which is only to be added, the aim to impress on them the thought: When salvation will have come, be ye abundantly thankful. Those who here wish to overleap the half millennium of the restored temple, and refer all to the times of the New Testament, or even to its millennial kingdom, unnaturally sever the announcement from the state of mind, the cares and anxieties of the first readers, and have ch. Ezekiel 11:16 against them, according to which a restoration of the outward temple shall follow in a brief period. No less against them also is the analogy of the other prophets, who in great afflictions of the people first place before their eyes the lower deliverance, and then further direct their attention to the Messianic salvation, as the prophet does here in ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12. Isaiah, for ex., in the Assyrian oppression, places first, in ch. Isaiah 10, deliverance from this before their eyes; then in ch. Isaiah 11 lifts the view to the great Ruler of David’s line, who makes an end of all the affliction of His people, and in whom they rule the world. But we move here quite on the ground of the Old Testament worship; and there is not the slightest indication that, by the sacrifice of bulls, lambs, and goats, other forms of worship are denoted. Though the details were only means of representation and colouring, yet such an intimation regarding the whole should not be wanting, if the announcement were to go to a time when, by the offered sacrifice of Christ, a total revolution in the worship was introduced. This is certainly correct: though the prophecy refers first to the restoration of the Old Testament worship, and in this respect has long found its fulfilment, and indeed a fulfilment that has long disappeared—the downfall was proclaimed by the word of Christ, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,”—yet at the same time it conceals in the details the kernel of a general truth, the imperishability of the worship in the community of God on earth, which is demonstrated, among other things, by this, that as the here predicted worship was overthrown by the Roman destruction, the worship of the Christian church rose again in glory.

Ezekiel 45:18. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, In the first month, on the first of the month, thou shalt take a bullock of the herd without blemish, and cleanse the sanctuary. 19. And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin-offering, and put it upon the posts of the house, and upon the four corners of the enclosure of the altar, and upon the posts of the gate of the inner court. 20. And so shalt thou do on the seventh of the month for the erring man and for the simple, and ye shall atone for the house. 21. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days: unleavened bread shall be eaten. 22. And on that day the prince shall offer for himself, and for all the people of the land, a bullock for a sin-offering. 23. And the seven days of the feast he shall offer for a burnt-offering to the LORD, seven bullocks and seven rams without blemish every day for the seven days; and for a sin-offering a kid of the goats daily. 24. And he shall offer for a meat-offering an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and a hin of oil for the ephah. 25. In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month, in the feast, he shall do the like seven days, as the sin-offering, as the burnt-offering, and as the meat-offering, and as the oil.

Ch. 46:1-15. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The gate of the inner court, that looketh toward the east, shall be shut the six days of work; and on the Sabbath-day it shall be opened, and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened. 2. And the prince shall enter the way of the porch of the gate without, and stand at the post of the gate; and the priests shall offer his burnt-offering and his peace-offering, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate, and go out; and the gate shall not be shut until the evening. 3. And the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate in the Sabbaths and in the new moons before the LORD. 4. And the burnt-offering that the prince shall offer unto the Lord on the Sabbath-day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish. 5. And the meat-offering an ephah for the ram, and for the lambs the meat-offering shall be the gift of his hand, and of oil a hin to the ephah. 6. And in the day of the new moon a bullock of the herd without blemish; and six lambs and a ram, they shall be without blemish. 7. And an ephah for the bullock, and an ephah for the ram, he shall offer for a meat-offering; and for the lambs what his hand affords, and of oil a hin to the ephah. 8. And when the prince enters, he shall enter the way of the porch of the gate, and by its way shall he go out. 9. And when the people of the land come before the LORD in the festivals, he that entereth the way of the north gate shall go out the way of the south gate, and he that entereth the way of the south gate shall go out the way of the north gate: he shall not return the way of the gate whereby he came in, but straight before him they shall go out. 10. And the prince shall go in among them when they go in; and when they go out they shall go out. 11. And in the feasts and in the solemnities the meat-offering shall be an ephah for the bullock, and an ephah for the ram; and for the lambs the gift of his hand, and of oil a hin for the ephah. 12. And when the prince shall offer a free gift, a burnt-offering or peace-offering, a free gift to the LORD, then one shall open to him the gate that looketh toward the east, and he shall offer his burnt-offering and his peace-offering as he offers on the Sabbath-day; and he shall go out, and one shall shut the gate after he goeth out. 13. And a lamb of the first year without blemish thou shalt offer for a burnt-offering in the day to the LORD: every morning thou shalt offer it. 14. And for a meat-offering thou shalt offer with it every morning the sixth of an ephah, and of oil the third part of a bin, to moisten the wheat flour, a meat-offering to the Lord, an ordinance of continual standing. 15. And they shall offer [306] the lamb, and the meat-offering, and the oil, every morning, for a continual burnt-offering.

[306] The reading of the text is the praet. with Van; the marginal reading is the future. The vowels belong to the latter; and of an imperative there is no trace.

First, in ch. Ezekiel 45:18-20, the consecration of the sanctuary. This corresponds to the consecration of the altar of burnt-offering in ch. Ezekiel 43:20; and after the analogy of this, we shall have to regard the solemnity as occurring only once, corresponding to the seven days’ solemnity on the consecration of the temple of Solomon ( 2 Chronicles 7:8), and to the new consecration of the temple under Hezekiah by the offering of burnt-offerings ( 2 Chronicles 29:18-30), but especially to the consecration of the tabernacle, which, according to Exodus 40, took place also on the first day of the first month. But even if it were treated of a yearly recurring solemnity, the institution of it would not be contrary to the law of Moses. That men did not think of seeing in the Mosaic festival ordinances an insurmountable barrier for all time, is shown, for ex., by 2 Chronicles 30:23, and also by the feast of Purim, but particularly by the feast of dedication. It would only be inadmissible if the prophet himself wished to ordain such a festival, which was not at all in his power, and lay beyond the range of his vocation. But this cannot be intended. All details serve the one object, to express the assurance with which the prophet looked forward to the restoration of the Mosaic worship. The “post” and “the door” stand collectively. All the doors of the inner court are meant. The cleansing of the house took place after Ezekiel 46:3. “For the erring man and for the simple:” he alone, the well-disposed in heart, but weak, easily tempted, is by the law ( Numbers 15:27-31) made partaker of the forgiveness of sins effected by the sacrifice. Those who sin boldly and wantonly, who daringly break the covenant of God, are to be wholly disregarded: they stand beyond forgiveness, and belong not to Israel; they are souls who are cut off from their people. But even if we disregard these, the sanctuary is ever built by poor sinners, and presented by them to God: with its erection no merit is connected, but the building is only acceptable through the atonement.

After the consecration of the building, the chief and fundamental festival, the passover. is celebrated in it ( Ezekiel 45:21-24). In this festival the enhancing of the offerings appears quite prominent, which is explained by this, that the grace of redemption sealed by this festival was to receive so rich an accession by the events of the future. The law requires for each of the seven days two bullocks and one ram for the burnt-offering. Here we have, on the whole, forty-nine bullocks and forty-nine rams for it. The passover is called “a feast of the seven of days,” because it lasted seven days every time it occurred. [307] That the prince must offer the bullock as a sin-offering, not merely for the people, but also for himself, shows quite clearly that we should understand by him neither exclusively nor immediately the Messiah. Princes in Israel between Ezekiel and Christ are presented to us among other things by the coins, which bear the superscription, “Simon the prince of Israel.” It could not come into the mind of Ezekiel, with the end he had in view, to transcribe the whole Mosaic catalogue of festivals. If one and another revived, it is evident of itself that the others also revived. Hence in Ezekiel 45:25 only the feast of tabernacles is mentioned along with the passover. That this forms the end of the Mosaic cycle of feasts, as the passover forms the beginning, shows at once that we are to understand all that lies between. Ch. Ezekiel 46:11 decides for this still more definitely. A multiplicity of feasts and solemnities to be celebrated in the future is there mentioned. The distinction between the two indicates that there are solemnities which are not seasons of joy. This leads us to the continuance of the great day of atonement, on the supposed disappearance of which so far-reaching conclusions have been founded. The brevity also with which the feast of tabernacles is mentioned points back to the Mosaic law, from which is to be taken the regulation concerning the number of victims; only that here the meat-offering receives an increase (comp. Ezekiel 46:11). The similarity to the passover here intimated refers, as is expressly said, only to the kinds of offering, not to the number of the victims. Similarity of the latter in the passover and the feast of tabernacles would mar the individual physiognomy of both. “In the feast”—the feast which, according to the law, falls on the day named. Neither here nor elsewhere in Scripture is the feast of tabernacles designated merely as the feast. This was a distinction which applied only to the Passover, as the root of all feasts.

[307] שבוע stands in the original meaning of a heptade, in which it also occurs in Daniel, where it denotes a heptade of years. Other interpretations are refuted by the fundamental passage, Numbers 28:17, “The feast of seven days, unleavened bread shall be eaten.”

On the yearly festivals follow, in ch. Ezekiel 46:1-7, the weekly and monthly festivals. First, in Ezekiel 46:1-3, the place where prince and people are to worship. The inner east gate of the temple, otherwise shut, shall be opened on the Sabbath and new moon. This rule does not interfere with ch. Ezekiel 44:1. There the outer gate is expressly named. This also here remains shut, as indeed ch. Ezekiel 47:2 presupposes that it is shut once for all; otherwise it would have been opened for the prince. That the inner east gate is shut on ordinary days, we learn first from our passage. His sacrificial feast the prince eats, according to ch. Ezekiel 44:3, in the outer east gate, which remains shut from without. On the contrary, in making the offering, he is to advance to the end of the inner gate opening in the inner court upon the altar of burnt-offering. He enters the outer court by the north or south gate, and then passes through the open door of the inner east gate, to the threshold and post of it. He does not pass the porch, but remains on this side of it, [308] beyond the open gate, but close by it, on the threshold, which lies between the open gate and the porch (comp. Ezekiel 40:7). The right here granted to the prince does not extend at all to the position of the kings before the exile. In the consecration of the temple, Solomon ( 2 Chronicles 6:13) stood on a scaffold within the inner court before the altar of burnt-offering (comp. 1 Kings 8:22). A raised stand in the inner court for the king is mentioned elsewhere also ( 2 Kings 11:14, 2 Kings 23:3; 2 Chronicles 23:13). The matter in hand is not merely about “a subordination of the prince under God:” there is in regard to the worship a sharp line drawn between prince and priest, which does not at all permit us to understand the prince of Christ exclusively, or even primarily. In harmony with the limit here drawn is ch. Ezekiel 45:22, according to which the prince must offer a sin-offering for himself. Plainly incompatible with it is the assertion, resting on quite a loose ground, “The prophet assigns to him also priestly rights and functions.” The people may not enter the inner gate; they worship at the opened door, through which they catch a glimpse of the altar of burnt-offering, which the prince—that is the only difference—sees better from a nearer point. In Ezekiel 46:4-5, the offering of the Sabbath. The increase of grace shows itself here also in the augmentation of the victims. In lambs we have here threefold ( Numbers 28:9), and the ram is a new addition. The meat-offering also, with the ram, appears enhanced above the minimum appointed by the law. In the lambs, the amount of the meat-offering is left to the free-will of the prince, only that naturally it should not fall short of the determination of the law, which is a very small quantity. “The gift of his hand “here, and “what his hand affords” in Ezekiel 46:7, show that, according to the view of the prophet, there is in the offerings a range of freedom along with the obligation, and cast light also on his apparent deviations from the Mosaic law. The number of bullocks at the new moon ( Ezekiel 46:6) is apparently left to the free judgment; only it should not fall short of the two required by the law [309] ( Numbers 28:11). In Ezekiel 46:8-11 the prophet returns to the yearly festivals. He states first how prince and people are to go in and out at the festivals. Ezekiel 46:8 is quite general: it applies not merely to the Sabbaths and new moons (comp. Ezekiel 46:2), but also to the festivals: in these also the prince takes the place of honour before the porch of the inner gate. That which is peculiar to the festivals is contained only in Ezekiel 46:10. There the prince, so far as the common ground, the outer court, extended, is not to separate himself from the people, but to come and go among them. This was formerly the manner of the pious princes in Israel, to walk in the festivals among the multitude keeping the holy day. David, in banishment, says in Psalms 42:5: “These things I remember, and pour out my soul in me: for I went in the crowd; I walked to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, in the multitude keeping the holy day.” The reason of the regulation in Ezekiel 46:9, that no one at the festival is to go out by the same gate by which he came in, cannot be sought in the endeavour to avoid a throng: in that case it must have ordained that all should go in by the same gate, and go out by the opposite one. The reason can only be a theological one, to signify that each should go out of the sanctuary another man than he came in; or what the apostle also says, Php_3:13 , “I forget that which is behind, and reach forth to that which is before.” In Ezekiel 46:11 the amount of the meat-offering and the oil, which in ch. Ezekiel 45:24 was specially required for the Passover, is fixed as the general rate for all festivals. The distinction between feasts and solemnities here (the latter are the genus, the former the species) is illustrated by Leviticus 23:27 f. The regulation concerning the mode of presenting the free-will offering of the prince ( Ezekiel 46:12) is distinguished from that regarding the Sabbath offering in Ezekiel 46:2 by this, that here the inner east gate is closed after the prince has made his offering, whereas there it remains open till the evening. The distinction is explained by this, that in the free-will offering the prince appears as an individual, in the Sabbath offering as the representative of the people. In Ezekiel 46:13-15, the ordinance concerning the daily sacrifice. This is limited to the morning sacrifice, which suffices for the object of the prophet. The evening sacrifice is unnoticed. From the circumstance that here the people are addressed, whereas in the other offerings the prince appears as the offerer, it appears all the more to follow that the prince had not to provide the material for the daily sacrifice, while in ch. Ezekiel 45:17 the providing of the offering on the Sabbaths, new moons, and solemn feasts, is assigned to the prince alone. Yet the conclusion is not certain. The transition from the prince to the people is an easy one, as in the foregoing passage the prince represents the people. The section also in ch. Ezekiel 45:18-20 had begun with the address to the people, and there is scarcely a doubt that the close here corresponds to the beginning there: the prince is enclosed on both sides by the people. But in ch. Ezekiel 45:17 the daily sacrifice may be passed over, because, according to the material side there alone coming into account, it was relatively unimportant. The whole section is for us of transcendent importance, as it teaches us to live in the word, if the grace of God does not make itself known to us in the visible. What the prophet here announces appeared to the natural reason to be mere fancy; but of those to whom he addressed his words, not a few lived to see his announcement forcing its way into reality. They took part in the solemn sacrificial worship, in which the Psalms 116 Psalm was sung after the return from the exile. This begins with the words, “It is dear to me that the Lord heareth my voice and my supplication;” and ends thus, “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord before all His people: in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah.” “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah:” so begins the whole section with all right. The prophet announces in it that which flesh and blood had not revealed unto him, but the Father in heaven, who alone can teach to hope where there is nothing to hope. The formula refers not merely to the matter, but also to the form. The means of representation are such as were best adapted to bring home the truth to the people pining in exile, and impress it deeply on their minds.

[308] מחוץ is not from without, but without, beyond.

[309] That the unity of the bullock is ideal, while the word is used collectively, is shown by the plural תמימים . It appears unsuitable to explain this plural of the return of the festival; it is used in no other way than in the second half of the verse. A minus in relation to the Mosaic law is beforehand scarcely conceivable, and contrary to analogy.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 45". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-45.html.
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