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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 40

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole BibleCommentary Critical




The arrangements as to the land and the temple are, in many particulars, different from those subsisting before the captivity. There are things in it so improbable physically as to preclude a purely literal interpretation. The general truth seems to hold good that, as Israel served the nations for his rejection of Messiah, so shall they serve him in the person of Messiah, when he shall acknowledge Messiah (Isaiah 60:12; Zechariah 14:17-19; compare Zechariah 14:17-38.14.19- :). The ideal temple exhibits, under Old Testament forms (used as being those then familiar to the men whom Ezekiel, a priest himself, and one who delighted in sacrificial images, addresses), not the precise literal outline, but the essential character of the worship of Messiah as it shall be when He shall exercise sway in Jerusalem among His own people, the Jews, and thence to the ends of the earth. The very fact that the whole is a vision (Zechariah 14:17-38.14.19- :), not an oral face-to-face communication such as that granted to Moses (Numbers 12:6-8), implies that the directions are not to be understood so precisely literally as those given to the Jewish lawgiver. The description involves things which, taken literally, almost involve natural impossibilities. The square of the temple, in Numbers 12:6-4.12.8- :, is six times as large as the circuit of the wall enclosing the old temple, and larger than all the earthly Jerusalem. Ezekiel gives three and a half miles and one hundred forty yards to his temple square. The boundaries of the ancient city were about two and a half miles. Again, the city in Ezekiel has an area between three or four thousand square miles, including the holy ground set apart for the prince, priests, and Levites. This is nearly as large as the whole of Judea west of the Jordan. As Zion lay in the center of the ideal city, the one-half of the sacred portion extended to nearly thirty miles south of Jerusalem, that is, covered nearly the whole southern territory, which reached only to the Dead Sea (Numbers 12:6-4.12.8- :), and yet five tribes were to have their inheritance on that side of Jerusalem, beyond the sacred portion (Numbers 12:6-4.12.8- :). Where was land to be found for them there? A breadth of but four or five miles apiece would be left. As the boundaries of the land are given the same as under Moses, these incongruities cannot be explained away by supposing physical changes about to be effected in the land such as will meet the difficulties of the purely literal interpretation. The distribution of the land is in equal portions among the twelve tribes, without respect to their relative numbers, and the parallel sections running from east to west. There is a difficulty also in the supposed separate existence of the twelve tribes, such separate tribeships no longer existing, and it being hard to imagine how they could be restored as distinct tribes, mingled as they now are. So the stream that issued from the east threshold of the temple and flowed into the Dead Sea, in the rapidity of its increase and the quality of its waters, is unlike anything ever known in Judea or elsewhere in the world. Lastly, the catholicity of the Christian dispensation, and the spirituality of its worship, seem incompatible with a return to the local narrowness and "beggarly elements" of the Jewish ritual and carnal ordinances, disannulled "because of the unprofitableness thereof" [FAIRBAIRN], (Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:1; Hebrews 9:10; Hebrews 10:18). "A temple with sacrifices now would be a denial of the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. He who sacrificed before confessed the Messiah. He who should sacrifice now would solemnly deny Him" [DOUGLAS]. These difficulties, however, may be all seeming, not real. Faith accepts God's Word as it is, waits for the event, sure that it will clear up all such difficulties. Perhaps, as some think, the beau ideal of a sacred commonwealth is given according to the then existing pattern of temple services, which would be the imagery most familiar to the prophet and his hearers at the time. The minute particularizing of details is in accordance with Ezekiel's style, even in describing purely ideal scenes. The old temple embodied in visible forms and rites spiritual truths affecting the people even when absent from it. So this ideal temple is made in the absence of the outward temple to serve by description the same purpose of symbolical instruction as the old literal temple did by forms and acts. As in the beginning God promised to be a "sanctuary" (Ezekiel 11:16) to the captives at the Chebar, so now at the close is promised a complete restoration and realization of the theocratic worship and polity under Messiah in its noblest ideal (compare Ezekiel 11:16- :). In Revelation 21:22 "no temple" is seen, as in the perfection of the new dispensation the accidents of place and form are no longer needed to realize to Christians what Ezekiel imparts to Jewish minds by the imagery familiar to them. In Ezekiel's temple holiness stretches over the entire temple, so that in this there is no longer a distinction between the different parts, as in the old temple: parts left undeterminate in the latter obtain now a divine sanction, so that all arbitrariness is excluded. So that it is be a perfect manifestation of the love of God to His covenant-people (Revelation 21:22- :); and from it, as from a new center of religious life, there gushes forth the fulness of blessings to them, and so to all people (Ezekiel 47:1-23) [FAIRBAIRN and HAVERNICK]. The temple built at the return from Babylon can only very partially have realized the model here given. The law is seemingly opposed to the gospel (Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:27; Matthew 5:28; Matthew 5:33; Matthew 5:34). It is not really so (compare Matthew 5:17; Matthew 5:18; Romans 3:31; Galatians 3:21; Galatians 3:22). It is true Christ's sacrifice superseded the law sacrifices (Galatians 3:22- :). Israel's province may hereafter be to show the essential identity, even in the minute details of the temple sacrifices, between the law and gospel (Galatians 3:22- :). The ideal of the theocratic temple will then first be realized.

Verse 1

1. beginning of the year—the ecclesiastical year, the first month of which was Nisan.

the city . . . thither—Jerusalem, the center to which all the prophet's thoughts tended.

Verse 2

2. visions of God—divinely sent visions.

very high mountain—Moriah, very high, as compared with the plains of Babylon, still more so as to its moral elevation (Ezekiel 17:22; Ezekiel 20:40).

by which—Ezekiel coming from the north is set down at (as the Hebrew for "upon" may be translated) Mount Moriah, and sees the city-like frame of the temple stretching southward. In Ezekiel 20:40- :, "God brings him thither," that is, close up to it, so as to inspect it minutely (compare Ezekiel 20:40- :). In this closing vision, as in the opening one of the book, the divine hand is laid on the prophet, and he is borne away in the visions of God. But the scene there was by the Chebar, Jehovah having forsaken Jerusalem; now it is the mountain of God, Jehovah having returned thither; there, the vision was calculated to inspire terror; here, hope and assurance.

Verse 3

3. man—The Old Testament manifestations of heavenly beings as men prepared men's minds for the coming incarnation.


line—used for longer measurements (Zechariah 2:1).

reed—used in measuring houses (Revelation 21:15). It marked the straightness of the walls.

Verse 5

5. Measures were mostly taken from the human body. The greater cubit, the length from the elbow to the end of the middle finger, a little more than two feet: exceeding the ordinary cubit (from the elbow to the wrist) by an hand-breadth, that is, twenty-one inches in all. Compare Ezekiel 43:13; Ezekiel 40:5. The palm was the full breadth of the hand, three and a half inches.

breadth of the building—that is, the boundary wall. The imperfections in the old temple's boundary wall were to have no place here. The buildings attached to it had been sometimes turned to common uses; for example, Jeremiah was imprisoned in one (Jeremiah 20:2; Jeremiah 29:26). But now all these were to be holy to the Lord. The gates and doorways to the city of God were to be imprinted in their architecture with the idea of the exclusion of everything defiled (Jeremiah 29:26- :). The east gate was to be especially sacred, as it was through it the glory of God had departed (Jeremiah 29:26- :), and through it the glory was to return (Ezekiel 43:1; Ezekiel 43:2; Ezekiel 44:2; Ezekiel 44:3).

Verse 6

6. the stairs—seven in number (Ezekiel 40:26).

threshold—the sill [FAIRBAIRN].

other threshold—FAIRBAIRN considers there is but one threshold, and translates, "even the one threshold, one rod broad." But there is another threshold mentioned in Ezekiel 40:7. The two thresholds here seem to be the upper and the lower.

Verse 7

7. chamber—These chambers were for the use of the Levites who watched at the temple gates; guard-chambers (2 Kings 22:4; 1 Chronicles 9:26; 1 Chronicles 9:27); also used for storing utensils and musical instruments.

Verse 9

9. posts—projecting column-faced fronts of the sides of the doorway, opposite to one another.

Verse 12

12. space—rather, "the boundary."

Verse 16

16. narrow—latticed [HENDERSON]. The ancients had no glass, so they had them latticed, narrow in the interior of the walls, and widening at the exterior. "Made fast," or "firmly fixed in the chambers" [MAURER].

arches—rather, "porches."

Verse 17

17. pavement—tesselated mosaic (Esther 1:6).

chambers—serving as lodgings for the priests on duty in the temple, and as receptacles of the tithes of salt, wine, and oil.

Verse 18

18. The higher pavement was level with the entrance of the gates, the lower was on either side of the raised pavement thus formed. Whereas Solomon's temple had an outer court open to alterations and even idolatrous innovations (2 Kings 23:11; 2 Kings 23:12; 1 Chronicles 20:5), in this there was to be no room for human corruptions. Its compass was exactly defined, one hundred cubits; and the fine pavement implied it was to be trodden only by clean feet (compare 1 Chronicles 20:5- :).

Verse 20

20-27. The different approaches corresponded in plan. In the case of these two other gates, however, no mention is made of a building with thirty chambers such as was found on the east side. Only one was needed, and it was assigned to the east as being the sacred quarter, and that most conveniently situated for the officiating priests.

Verse 23

23. and toward the east—an elliptical expression for "The gate of the inner court was over against the (outer) gate toward the north (just as the inner gate was over against the outer gate) toward the east."

Verse 24

20-27. The different approaches corresponded in plan. In the case of these two other gates, however, no mention is made of a building with thirty chambers such as was found on the east side. Only one was needed, and it was assigned to the east as being the sacred quarter, and that most conveniently situated for the officiating priests.

Verse 28

28-37. The inner court and its gates.

according to these measures—namely, the measures of the outer gate. The figure and proportions of the inner answered to the outer.

Verse 30

30. This verse is omitted in the Septuagint, the Vatican manuscript, and others. The dimensions here of the inner gate do not correspond to the outer, though :- asserts that they do. HAVERNICK, retaining the verse, understands it of another porch looking inwards toward the temple.

arches—the porch [FAIRBAIRN]; the columns on which the arches rest [HENDERSON].

Verse 31

31. eight steps—The outer porch had only seven ( :-).

Verse 32

28-37. The inner court and its gates.

according to these measures—namely, the measures of the outer gate. The figure and proportions of the inner answered to the outer.

Verse 37

37. posts—the Septuagint and Vulgate read, "the porch," which answers better to Ezekiel 40:31-34. "The arches" or "porch" [MAURER].

Verse 38

38. chambers . . . entries—literally, "a chamber and its door."

by the posts—that is, at or close by the posts or columns.

where they washed the burnt offering—This does not apply to all the gates but only to the north gate. For Leviticus 1:11 directs the sacrifices to be killed north of the altar; and Leviticus 1:11- : calls the north gate, "the gate of the altar." And Ezekiel 40:40 particularly mentions the north gate.

Verse 43

43. hooks—cooking apparatus for cooking the flesh of the sacrifices that fell to the priests. The hooks were "fastened" in the walls within the apartment, to hang the meat from, so as to roast it. The Hebrew comes from a root "fixed" or "placed."

Verse 44

44. the chambers of the singers—two in number, as proved by what follows: "and their prospect (that is, the prospect of one) was toward the south, (and) one toward the north." So the Septuagint.

Verse 46

46. Zadok—lineally descended from Aaron. He had the high priesthood conferred on him by Solomon, who had set aside the family of Ithamar because of the part which Abiathar had taken in the rebellion of Adonijah (1 Kings 1:7; 1 Kings 2:26; 1 Kings 2:27).

Verse 47

47. court, an hundred cubits . . . foursquare—not to be confounded with the inner court, or court of Israel, which was open to all who had sacrifices to bring, and went round the three sides of the sacred territory, one hundred cubits broad. This court was one hundred cubits square, and had the altar in it, in front of the temple. It was the court of the priests, and hence is connected with those who had charge of the altar and the music. The description here is brief, as the things connected with this portion were from the first divinely regulated.

Verse 48

48, 49. These two verses belong to the forty-first chapter, which treats of the temple itself.

Verse 49

49. twenty . . . eleven cubits—in Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:3) "twenty . . . ten cubits." The breadth perhaps was ten and a half; 1 Kings 6:3 designates the number by the lesser next round number, "ten"; Ezekiel here, by the larger number, "eleven" [MENOCHIUS]. The Septuagint reads "twelve."

he brought me by the steps—They were ten in number [Septuagint].

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 40". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfb/ezekiel-40.html. 1871-8.
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