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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 40

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day the hand of the LORD was upon me, and brought me thither.

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 their rejection of Messiah, so shall they serve him in the person of Messiah when he shall acknowledge Messiah (Isaiah 60:12; Zechariah 14:16-19: cf. Psalms 72:11). The ideal temple exhibits-under the 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" (Ezekiel 40:2), 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 literal as those given to the Jewish law-giver. The description involves things which, taken literally, almost involve natural impossibilities. The square of the temple, in Ezekiel 42:20, 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 140 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 of 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. Since Zion lay in the center of the ideal city, the one-half of the sacred portion extended to nearly 30 miles south of Jerusalem - i:e., covered nearly the whole southern territory, which reached only to the Dead Sea (Ezekiel 47:19), and yet five tribes were to have their inheritance on that side of Jerusalem, beyond the sacred portion (Ezekiel 48:23-28). Where was land to be found for them there? A breadth of but four or five miles a-piece would be left. Since 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 run 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 eastern 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 a complete restoration and realization of the theocratic worship and polity under Messiah, in its noblest ideal (cf. Jeremiah 31:38-40). 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 magery 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 to be a perfect manifestation of the love of God to His covenant-people (Ezekiel 40:1-49; Ezekiel 41:1-26; Ezekiel 42:1-20; Ezekiel 43:1-12); and from it, as from a new center of religious life, there gushes forth the fullness 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 5:21-22; Matthew 5:27-28; Matthew 5:33-34). It is not really so (cf. Matthew 5:17-18; Romans 3:31; Galatians 3:21-22). It is true Christ's sacrifice superseded the law-sacrifices (Hebrews 10:12-18). 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 (Romans 10:4; Romans 10:8). The ideal of the theocratic temple will then first be realized.

In the beginning of the year - the ecclesiastical year, the first month of which was Nisan.

The city was smitten, in the selfsame day the hand of the Lord was upon me, and brought me there - to Jerusalem, the center to which all the prophet's thoughts tended.

Verse 2

In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain, by which was as the frame of a city on the south.

In the visions of God - divinely-sent visions.

And set me upon a very high mountain - Moriah, very high as compared with the plains of Babylon, still more so as to its moral elevation (Ezekiel 17:22, "an high mountain, and eminent;" Ezekiel 20:40, "the mountain of the height of Israel").

By which was as the frame of a city on the south. 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 40:3 'God brings him there' - i:e., close up to it, so as to inspect it minutely (cf. Revelation 21:10). 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, Yahweh having forsaken Jerusalem; now it is the mountain of God, Yahweh having returned there: there the vision was calculated to inspire terror; here, hope and assurance.

Verse 3

And he brought me thither, and, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood in the gate.

Behold, there was a man. The Old Testament manifestations of heavenly beings as men prepared men's minds for the coming incarnation.

Whose appearance was like the appearance of brass - resplendent.

With a line of flax in his hand - used for longer measurements (Zechariah 2:1, "Behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand ").

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

Verse 4

And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 5

And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man's hand a measuring reed of six cubits long by the cubit and an hand breadth: so he measured the breadth of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed.

By the cubit and an hand-breadth. 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 - i:e., twenty-one inches in all. Compare Ezekiel 43:13, "The cubit is a cubit and an hand-breadth," with Ezekiel 40:5. The palm was the full breadth of the hand, three and a half inches.

The breadth of the building - i:e., 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-e.g., 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 (Revelation 21:27). The east gate was to be especially sacred, as it was through it the glory of God had departed (Ezekiel 11:23), and through it the glory was to return (Ezekiel 43:1-2; Ezekiel 44:2-3).

Verse 6

Then came he unto the gate which looketh toward the east, and went up the stairs thereof, and measured the threshold of the gate, which was one reed broad; and the other threshold of the gate, which was one reed broad.

And went up the stairs - seven in number (Ezekiel 40:26).

And measures the threshold - the sill (Fairbairn).

And the 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

And every little chamber was one reed long, and one reed broad; and between the little chambers were five cubits; and the threshold of the gate by the porch of the gate within was one reed.

And every little chamber. These chambers were for the use of the Levites who watched at the temple-gates; guard-chambers, (2 Kings 22:4, margin, 'keepers of the threshold;' 1 Chronicles 9:26-27); also for depositing utensils and musical instruments in.

Verse 8

He measured also the porch of the gate within, one reed.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 9

Then measured he the porch of the gate, eight cubits; and the posts thereof, two cubits; and the porch of the gate was inward.

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

Verses 10-11

And the little chambers of the gate eastward were three on this side, and three on that side; they three were of one measure: and the posts had one measure on this side and on that side.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 12

The space also before the little chambers was one cubit on this side, and the space was one cubit on that side: and the little chambers were six cubits on this side, and six cubits on that side.

The space - rather, 'the boundary.'

Verses 13-15

He measured then the gate from the roof of one little chamber to the roof of another: the breadth was five and twenty cubits, door against door.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

And there were narrow windows to the little chambers, and to their posts within the gate round about, and likewise to the arches: and windows were round about inward: and upon each post were palm trees.

There were narrow windows - latticed windows (Henderson). The ancients had no glass, so they had them latticed-narrow in the interior of the walls, and widening at the exterior. Kimchi makes them to have been narrow without-literally, shut [from 'aaTam (H331), to shut.] Or else 'ªTumowt (H331) means 'made fast,' or 'firmly fixed in the chambers' (Maurer).

Likewise to the arches - rather, 'porches.'

Verse 17

Then brought he me into the outward court, and, lo, there were chambers, and a pavement made for the court round about: thirty chambers were upon the pavement.

Pavement made for the court - tesselated mosaic (Esther 1:6, "a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble").

Thirty chambers were upon the pavement - serving as lodgings for the priests on duty in the temple, and as receptacles of the tithes of salt, wine, and oil.

Verse 18

And the pavement by the side of the gates over against the length of the gates was the lower pavement.

The pavement by the side of the gates, over against the length of the gates, was the lower pavement.

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, such as those removed by Josiah (2 Kings 23:11-12; 2 Chronicles 20:5), in this there was to be no room for human corruptions. Its compass was exactly defined, 100 cubits; and the fine pavement implied it was to be trodden only by clean feet (cf. Isaiah 35:8).

Verse 19

Then he measured the breadth from the forefront of the lower gate unto the forefront of the inner court without, an hundred cubits eastward and northward.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 20-27

And the gate of the outward court that looked toward the north, he measured the length thereof, and the breadth thereof.

The different approaches corresponded in plan. In the case of these two other gates, however, no mention is made of a building with 30 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 The gate of the inner court was over against the gate toward the north and toward the east - Verse 23. The gate of the inner court was over against the gate toward the north, 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."


Verses 28-37

And he brought me to the inner court by the south gate: and he measured the south gate according to these measures;

And he measured the south gate according to these measures - namely, the measures of the outer gate. The figure and proportions of the inner answered to the outer.

Verse 30. And the arches round about were five and twenty cubits long, and five cubits broad. 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 Ezekiel 40:28 asserts that they do. Havernick, retaining the verse, understands it of another porch looking inward toward the temple.

Arches - `the porch' (Fairbairn). The columns on which the arches rest (Henderson).

Verse 31. The going up to it had eight steps - the outer porch had only seven (Ezekiel 40:26).

Verse 37. The posts thereof were toward the outer court - "the posts" [ wª'eeylaayw (H352)]. The Septuagint and the Vulgate read [wªeelamaaw] 'the porch,' which answers better to Ezekiel 40:31; Ezekiel 40:34. "The arches" or 'porch' (Maurer).

Verse 38

And the chambers and the entries thereof were by the posts of the gates, where they washed the burnt offering.

The chambers, and the entries - literally, a chamber and its door.

By the posts - i:e., 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 Ezekiel 8:5 calls the north gate "the gate of the altar." And Ezekiel 40:40 particularly mentions the north gate.

Verses 39-42

And in the porch of the gate were two tables on this side, and two tables on that side, to slay thereon the burnt offering and the sin offering and the trespass offering.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 43

And within were hooks, an hand broad, fastened round about: and upon the tables was the flesh of the offering.

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, hashªpatayim (H8240), comes from a root 'fixed' or 'placed,' shaapat (H8239). Others write the word with the Hebrew letter sin (s), which will then mean the circumferences, or edges, or borders of the tables.]

Verse 44

And without the inner gate were the chambers of the singers in the inner court, which was at the side of the north gate; and their prospect was toward the south: one at the side of the east gate having the prospect toward the north.

The chambers of the singers - two in number, as proved by what follows: "and their prospect (i:e., the prospect of one) was toward the south; (and) one ... toward the north." So Septuagint.

Verse 45

And he said unto me, This chamber, whose prospect is toward the south, is for the priests, the keepers of And he said unto me, This chamber, whose prospect is toward the south, is for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the house.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 46

And the chamber whose prospect is toward the north is for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the altar: these are the sons of Zadok among the sons of Levi, which come near to the LORD to minister unto him.

The keepers of the charge of the altar: these are the sons of 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, thereby fulfilling the word of the Lord concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh (1 Kings 1:7; 1 Kings 2:26-27).

Verse 47

So he measured the court, an hundred cubits long, and an hundred cubits broad, foursquare; and the altar that was before the house.

The court, an hundred cubits long, and ... broad four-square - not to be confounded with the inner court, or court of Israel, which was open to all who had sacrifices to bring, and which went round the three sides of the sacred territory, 100 cubits broad. This court was 100 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.

Verses 48-49

And he brought me to the porch of the house, and measured each post of the porch, five cubits on this side, and five cubits on that side: and the breadth of the gate was three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that side.

And he brought me to the porch of the house, and measured each post of the porch ... These two verses belong to Ezekiel 41:1-26, which treats of the temple itself.

The length of the porch was twenty cubits, and the breadth eleven cubits. In Solomon's temple the porch was (1 Kings 6:3) "twenty cubits ... length, ten cubits was the breadth." 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 read 'twelve.'

He brought me by the steps - they were ten in number (Septuagint).


(1) The vision, beginning here and continued to the end of this book, is one impossible as yet to understand fully, and for the clear explanation of which we must wait until the event makes the whole plain. There are difficulties about a literal interpretation; but these may all vanish when the fulfillment takes place: and there is the great difficulty about explaining the whole figuratively, that thus the minute and accurate details seem meaningless and needless; whereas faith assures us that all the most minute parts of God's Word have their purpose and aim. We are sure of this much, that the ideal temple here described sets forth in all its parts and its services the worship of Messiah, as the Israelites in their own land shall celebrate it, when He shall reign at Jerusalem, on His return in glory over not only Israel but all the earth (Jeremiah 3:16-18).

(2) Doubtless, the return to literal sacrifices would seem to be a return to the beggarly elements of legal types after we have gotten the Antitype. "By one offering Christ hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14. And God hath said of all believers in Jesus, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now, where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (Hebrews 10:17-18). The virtual ignoring of this truth in our present dispensation is one of the greatest heresies of Rome; for, by her oft-repeated sacrifice of the mass, she implies that Christ's one sacrifice is not a full and everlasting atonement, but needs her daily sacrifices to be added to it. We are sure, therefore, that the temple-sacrifices in restored Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:39; Ezekiel 43:19-27), of whatever nature they may be, will not set aside this fixed principle, though we do not yet see how the two Scripture statements are to be harmonized. Two considerations may, in the meantime, help to lessen the difficulty:

(a) The Jews, as a nation, stand to God in a special relation, distinct from that of us Christians of the present elect Church, gathered out of Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately. The same principle, therefore, of the non-existence of sacrifice in any form may not hold good in that dispensation, to be ushered in by the advent of Messiah and his reign over the restored Israelite nation as holds good in our present Gentile times. That shall be the period of public liturgy, or perfect outward worship of the great congregation on earth, as the present time is one of gathering out spiritual worshippers one by one. Besides Israel's relation to Christ as her spiritual Saviour, she will then also perform a perfect outward service of sacrifice, prayer, and praise, as a nation, to her manifested Divine King reigning in the midst of her; and all nations of the earth shall take a part in that service, as recognizing His Divine Kingship over themselves also.

(b) The Israelites shall probably also set forth, in all its harmonious parts, the outward beauty and inward sanctity of the temple service, which, in their palmiest days of old, they had never exhibited in its full perfection. Thus Christ's word shall be fulfilled, that "till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18). The full excellence and antitypical perfection of all the parts of the ancient temple service, which, from ignorance of its hidden meaning, seemed a cumbersome yoke, and unintelligible to the worshippers, shall then be fully understood, and therefore shall become a delightful service of love, instead of as formerly a burdensome task. To set forth this, and not to invalidate the principle of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that after Christ's perfect sacrifice no further propitiation is needed, is probably one object of the temple liturgy which shall be. Israel's province will be to exhibit in the minutest details of sacrifice, the essential unity of the Law and Gospel, which now seem opposed. The ideal of the theocratic temple and its service shall then first be realized.

(3) When things hard to be understood come in our way in studying Scripture let us pray, and wait patiently God's own time for revealing the meaning. It would not be a revelation if there were not some things therein which are beyond our comprehension now, and which form tests of faith whether we will bow our reason before the Word of God, and humbly confess our ignorance, and adore God's infinite wisdom in the mighty scheme of redemption. Blessed be His holy name, if there be deep waters in which an elephant may swim, there are the healing waters of salvation in which the lamb may wade. Our salvation does not depend on clearing up the abstruse parts of the Bible: all that is necessary for salvation is so plain that "the wayfaring men," however simple, "shall not err therein" (Isaiah 35:8).

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