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Position of the Different Classes of the People in Relation to the New Sanctuary
With the consecration of the altar of burnt-offering the way is opened for the congregation of Israel to appear in the sanctuary before the Lord, to serve Him with sacrifices. If, however, the use of the new house of God was to be in harmony with the holiness of the God who dwelt therein, it was requisite that still further directions should be given concerning the entering of the people into it, and the character of the servants of both the altar and the sanctuary. These directions follow in the chapter before us-first, as to the place which the prince was to occupy at the service in the temple (Ezekiel 44:1-3); secondly, as to the admission of foreigners and the appointment of Levites and priests for the service (Ezekiel 44:4-16); and lastly, as to the conditions requisite for the administration of the priest's office, and the duties and privileges of that office (Ezekiel 44:17-31).
The Place of the Prince in the Sanctuary. - Ezekiel 44:1. And he brought me back by the way to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which looked toward the east; and it was shut. Ezekiel 44:2. And Jehovah said to me, This gate shall be shut, shall not be opened, and no one shall enter thereby; because Jehovah, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall be shut. Ezekiel 44:3. As for the prince, as prince he shall sit therein, to eat bread before Jehovah; from the way to the porch of the gate shall he go in, and from its way shall he go out. - From the inner court where Ezekiel had received the measurements of the altar of burnt-offering and the instructions concerning its consecration (Ezekiel 43:5.), he is taken back to the east gate of the outer court, and finds this gate, which formed the principle entrance to the temple, closed. Jehovah explains this fact to him through the angel ( ויּאמר is to be understood according to Ezekiel 43:6 and Ezekiel 43:7) thus: “this gate is to be shut, because Jehovah, the God of Israel, has entered into the temple thereby,” as we have already learned from Ezekiel 43:2. Only the prince, as prince, was allowed to sit in it for the purpose of holding sacrificial meals there. So far the meaning of the words is clear and indisputable. For there can be no doubt whatever that Ezekiel 44:3 introduces a more precise statement concerning the closing of the gate; in other words, that the right of sitting in the gate to eat bread before Jehovah, which is conceded to the priest, is intended as an explanation, resp. modification and limitation, of the statement והיה (Ezekiel 44:2). On the other hand, the more precise definition of the prerogative granted to the prince in Ezekiel 44:3 is not quite clear, and therefore open to dispute. Such a prerogative is already indicated in the prominence expressly given to the prince, consisting partly in the fact that את־הנּשׂיא is written first in an absolute form, and partly in the expression נשׂיא הוּא , which is repeated in the form of a circumstantial clause, “prince is he,” equivalent to “because he is prince, he is to sit there.” נשׂיא is neither the high priest, as many of the older commentators supposed, nor a collective term for the civil authorities of the people of Israel in the Messianic times (Hävernick), but the David who will be prince in Israel at that time, according to Ezekiel 34:23-24, and Ezekiel 37:24. “To eat bread before Jehovah” signifies to hold a sacrificial meal at the place of the divine presence, i.e., in the temple court, and is not to be restricted, as Kliefoth supposes, to that sacrificial meal “which was held after and along with the bloodless sacrifices, viz., the minchoth , and the shew-breads, and the sweet loaves of the Passover.” There is no authority in the usage of the language for this literal interpretation of the expression “to eat bread,” for אכל לחם means in general to partake of a meal, compare Genesis 31:54, etc., and especially Exodus 18:12, where Jethro “eats bread before God” with Aaron and the elders of Israel, that is to say, joins in a sacrificial meal composed of זבחים or slain-offerings. According to this view, which is the only one supported by usage, the prerogative secured to the נשׂיא of the future is not “that of participating in the sacrificial meals (of the priests), which were to be held daily with the minchoth and shew-bread, in opposition to the law which prevailed before” (Kliefoth), but simply that of holding his sacrificial meals in the gate, i.e., in the porch of the gate, whereas the people were only allowed to hold them in the court, namely, in the vicinity of the sacrificial kitchens.
There is also a difference of opinion concerning the meaning of the second statement in Ezekiel 44:3: “from the way of the porch of the gate shall he enter in, and thence shall he go out.” The suffix in מדּרכּו can only refer to אוּלם , “from the way from which he came (entered), from this way shall he go out again.” Hitzig follows the Rabbins, who understand the passage thus: “as the gate is to remain shut, he must go by the way to the porch which is directed inwardly, toward the court (Ezekiel 40:9). He must have gone into the outer court through the north or the south gate, and by the way by which he came he also went back again.” But Kliefoth argues, in objection to this, that “if the prince was to eat the bread in the porch, the entrance through the south or the north gate would be of no use to him at all; as the gate which could be shut was at that door of the porch which was turned toward the outer court.” Moreover, he affirms that it is not at all the meaning of the text that he was to eat the bread in the porch, but that he was to eat it in the gate-building, and he was to come thither מדּרך אוּלם השּׁער , i.e., “from the place which served as a way to the gate porch, that is to say, the walk from the eastern entrance of the gate-building to the front of the porch, and from that was he to go out again.” The prince, therefore, was “to go into the gate-building as far as the front of the porch through the eastern entrance, there to eat his bread before Jehovah, and to come out again from thence, so that the gate at the western side of the gate porch still remained shut.” But we cannot regard either of these views as correct. There is no firm foundation in the text for Kliefoth's assertion, that he was not to eat the bread in the porch, but in the gate-building. It is true that the porch is not expressly mentioned as the place where the eating was to take place, but simply the gate ( בּו ); yet the porch belonged to the gate as an integral part of the gate-building; and if דּרך אוּלם is the way to the porch, or the way leading to the porch, the words, “by the way to the porch shall he enter in,” imply clearly enough that he was to go into the porch and to eat bread there. This is also demanded by the circumstance, as the meaning of the words cannot possibly be that the prince was to hold his sacrificial meal upon the threshold of the gate, or in one of the guard-rooms, or in the middle of the gateway; and apart from the porch, there were no other places in the gate-building than those we have named. And again, the statement that the gate on the western side of the gate porch was to be shut, and not that against the eastern wall, is also destitute of proof, as דּרך אוּלם , the way to the porch, is not equivalent to the way “up to the front of the porch.” And if the prince was to hold the sacrificial meal behind the inner gate, which was closed, how was the food when it was prepared to be carried into the gate-building? Through a door of one of the guard-rooms? Such a supposition is hardly reconcilable with the significance of a holy sacrificial meal. In fact, it is a question whether eating in the gate-building with the inner door closed, so that it was not even possible to look toward the sanctuary, in which Jehovah was enthroned, could be called eating לפני .
Hitzig's explanation of the words is not exposed to any of these difficulties, but it is beset by others. At the outset it is chargeable with improbability, as it is impossible to see any just ground why the prince, if he was to hold the sacrificial meal in the porch of the east gate, should not have been allowed to enter through this gate, but was obliged to take the circuitous route through the south or the north gate. Again, it is irreconcilable with the analogous statements in Ezekiel 46. According to Ezekiel 46:1., the east gate of the inner court was to be shut, namely, during the six working days; but on the Sabbath and on the new moon it was to be opened. Then the prince was to come by the way of the gate porch from without, and during the preparation of his sacrifice by the priests to stand upon the threshold of the gate and worship. This same thing was to take place when the prince desired to offer a freewill offering on any of the week-days. The east gate was to be opened for him to this end; but after the conclusion of the offering of sacrifice it was to be closed again, whereas on the Sabbaths and new moons it was to stand open till the evening (Ezekiel 46:12 compared with Ezekiel 44:2). It is still further enjoined, that when offering these sacrifices the prince is to enter by the way of the gate porch, and to go out again by the same way (Ezekiel 44:2 and Ezekiel 44:8); whereas on the feast days, on which the people appear before Jehovah, every one who comes, the priest along with the rest, is to go in and out through the north or the south gate (Ezekiel 44:9 and Ezekiel 44:10). If, therefore, on the feast days, when the people appeared before Jehovah, the prince was to go into the temple in the midst of the people through the north or the south gate to worship, whereas on the Sabbaths and new moons, on which the people were not required to appear before the Lord, so that the prince alone had to bring the offerings for himself and the people, he was to enter by the way of the porch of the east gate, and to go out again by the same, and during the ceremony of offering the sacrifice was to stand upon the threshold of the inner east gate, it is obvious that the going in and out by the way of the porch of the gate was to take place by a different way from that through the north or the south gate. This other way could only be through the east gate, as no fourth gate existed. - The conclusion to which this brings us, so far as the passage before us is concerned, is that the shutting of the east gate of the outer court was to be the rule, but that there were certain exceptions which are not fully explained till Ezekiel 46, though they are hinted at in the chapter before us in the directions given there, that the prince was to hold the sacrificial meal in this gate. - The outer east gate, which was probably the one chiefly used by the people when appearing before the Lord in the earlier temple, both for going in and coming out, is to be shut in the new temple, and not to be made use of by the people for either entrance or exit, because the glory of the Lord entered into the temple thereby. This reason is of course not to be understood in the way suggested by the Rabbins, namely, that the departure of the Shechinah from the temple was to be prevented by the closing of the gate; but the thought is this: because this gateway had been rendered holy through the entrance of the Shechinah into the temple thereby, it was not to remain open to the people, so as to be desecrated, but was to be kept perpetually holy. This keeping holy was not prejudiced in any way by the fact that the prince held the sacrificial meal in the gate, and also entered the court through this gateway for the purpose of offering his sacrifice, which was made ready by the priests before the inner gate, and then was present at the offering of the sacrifice upon the altar, standing upon the threshold of the inner gate-building. דּרך אוּלם is therefore the way which led from the outer flight of steps across the threshold past the guard-rooms to the gate porch at the inner end of the gate-building. By this way the priest was to go into the gate opened for him, and hold the sacrificial meal therein, namely, in the porch of this gate. That the offering of the sacrifice necessarily preceded the meal is assumed as self-evident, and the law of sacrifice in Ezekiel 46 first prescribes the manner in which the prince was to behave when offering the sacrifice, and how near to the altar he was to be allowed to go.
The Position of Foreigners, Levites, and Priests in Relation to the Temple and the Temple Service. - The further precepts concerning the approach to the sanctuary, and the worship to be presented there, are introduced with a fresh exhortation to observe with exactness all the statutes and laws, in order that the desecration of the sanctuary which had formerly taken place might not be repeated, and are delivered to the prophet at the north gate in front of the manifestation of the glory of God (Ezekiel 44:4-8). - Ezekiel 44:4. And he brought me by the way of the north gate to the front of the house; and I looked, and behold the glory of Jehovah filled the house of Jehovah, and I fell down upon my face. Ezekiel 44:5. And Jehovah said to me, Son of man, direct thy heart and see with thine eyes and hear with thine ears all that I say to thee with regard to all the statutes of the house of Jehovah and all its laws, and direct thy heart to the entering into the house through all the exits of the house, Ezekiel 44:6. And say to the rebellious one, to the family of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Let it be sufficient for you, of all your abominations, O house of Israel, Ezekiel 44:7. In that ye brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to desecrate it, my house, when ye offered my food, fat and blood, and so they broke my covenant to all your abominations, Ezekiel 44:8. And so ye did not keep the charge of my holy things, but made them keepers of my charge for you in my sanctuary. - From the outer gate to which Ezekiel had been taken, simply that he might be instructed concerning the entering thereby, he is once more conducted, after this has been done, by the way of the north gate to the front of the temple house, to receive the further directions there for the performance of the worship of God in the new sanctuary. The question, whether we are to understand by the north gate that of the outer or that of the inner court, cannot be answered with certainty. Hitzig has decided in favour of the latter, Kliefoth in favour of the former. The place to which he is conducted is אל־פּני הבּית , ad faciem domus , before the temple house, so that he had it before his eyes, i.e., was able to see it. As the gateway of the inner court was eight steps, about four cubits, higher than the outer court gate, this was hardly possible if he stood at or within the latter. הבּית , i.e., the temple house, could only be distinctly seen from the inner north gate. And the remark that it is more natural to think of the outer north gate, because the next thing said to the prophet has reference to the question who is to go into and out of the sanctuary, has not much force, as the instructions do not refer to the going in and out alone, but chiefly to the charge of Jehovah, i.e., to the maintenance of divine worship.
At the fresh standing-place the glory of the Lord, which filled the temple, met the sight of the prophet again, so that he fell down and worshipped once more (cf. Ezekiel 43:3, Ezekiel 43:5). This remark is not intended “to indicate that now, after the preliminary observations in Ezekiel 43:13-44:3, the true thorah commences” (Kliefoth), but to show the unapproachable glory and holiness of the new temple. For Ezekiel 44:5, see Ezekiel 40:4; Ezekiel 43:11-12. In Ezekiel 44:6 אל־מרי is placed at the head in a substantive form for the sake of emphasis, and בּית־ישׂראל is appended in the form of an apposition. For the fact itself, see Ezekiel 2:8. רב־לּכם followed by מן , a sufficiency of anything, as in Exodus 9:28; 1 Kings 12:28, is equivalent to “there is enough for you to desist from it.” The תּועבות , from which they are to desist, are more precisely defined in Ezekiel 44:6. They consisted in the fact that the Israelites admitted foreigners, heathen, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, into the sanctuary, to desecrate it during the offering of sacrifice. It is not expressly stated, indeed, that they admitted uncircumcised heathen to the offering of sacrifice, but this is implied in what is affirmed. The offering of sacrifice in the temple of Jehovah is not only permitted in the Mosaic law to foreigners living in Israel, but to some extent prescribed (Leviticus 17:10, Leviticus 17:12; Numbers 15:13.). It was only in the paschal meal that no ' בן was allowed to participate (Exodus 12:43). To do this, he must first of all be circumcised (v. 44). Solomon accordingly prays to the Lord in his temple-prayer that He will also hearken to the prayer of the foreigner, who may come from a distant land for the Lord's name sake to worship in His house (1 Kings 8:41.). The reproof in the verse before us is apparently at variance with this. Raschi would therefore understand by בּני־נכר , Israelites who had fallen into heathen idolatry. Rosenmüller, on the other hand, is of opinion that the Israelites were blamed because they had accepted victimas et libamina from the heathen, and offered them in the temple, which had been prohibited in Leviticus 25:22. Hävernick understands by the sons of the foreigner, Levites who had become apostates from Jehovah, and were therefore placed by Ezekiel on a par with the idolatrous sons of the foreigner. And lastly, Hitzig imagines that they were foreign traders, who had been admitted within the sacred precincts as sellers of sacrificial animals, incense, and so forth. All these are alike arbitrary and erroneous. The apparent discrepancy vanishes, if we consider the more precise definition of בּני , viz., “uncircumcised in heart and flesh.” Their being uncircumcised in heart is placed first, for the purpose of characterizing the foreigners as godless heathen, who ere destitute not only of the uncircumcision of their flesh, but also of that of the heart, i.e., of piety of heart, which Solomon mentions in his prayer as the motive for the coming of distant strangers to the temple. By the admission of such foreigners as these, who had no fear of God at all, into the temple during the sacrificial worship, Israel had defiled the sanctuary. את־בּיתי is in apposition to the suffix to חלּלו . The food of Jehovah ( לחמי ) is sacrifice, according to Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 21:6, etc., and is therefore explained by “fat and blood.” ויּפרוּ , which the lxx changed in an arbitrary manner into the second person, refers to the “foreigners,” the heathen. By their treading the temple in their ungodliness they broke the covenant of the Lord with His people, who allowed this desecration of His sanctuary. אל כּל־תּועבות , in addition to all your abominations. How grievous a sin was involved in this is stated in Ezekiel 44:8. The people of Israel, by their unrighteous admission of godless heathen into the temple, not only failed to show the proper reverence for the holy things of the Lord, but even made these heathen, so to speak, servants of God for themselves in His sanctuary. These last words are not to be understood literally, but spiritually. Allowing them to tread the temple is regarded as equivalent to appointing them to take charge of the worship in the temple. For שׁמר , see Leviticus 18:30; Leviticus 22:9, and the commentary on Leviticus 8:35.
The Lord would guard against such desecration of His sanctuary in the future. To this end the following precepts concerning the worship in the new temple are given. - Ezekiel 44:9. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, shall come into my sanctuary, of all the foreigners that are in the midst of the sons of Israel; Ezekiel 44:10. But even the Levites, who have gone away from me in the wandering of Israel, which wandered away from me after its idols, they shall bear their guilt. Ezekiel 44:11. They shall be servants in my sanctuary, as guards at the gates of the house and serving in the house; they shall slay the burnt-offering and the slain-offering for the people, and shall stand before it to serve them. Ezekiel 44:12. Because they served them before their idols, and became to the house of Israel a stumbling-block to guilt, therefore I have lifted my hand against them, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, that they should bear their guilt. Ezekiel 44:13. They shall not draw near to me to serve me as priests, and to draw near to all my holy things, to the most holy, but shall bear their disgrace and all their abominations which they have done. Ezekiel 44:14. And so will I make them guards of the charge of the house with regard to all its service, and to all that is performed therein. Ezekiel 44:15. But the priests of the tribe of Levi, the sons of Zadok, who have kept the charge of my sanctuary on the wandering of the sons of Israel from me, they shall draw near to me to serve me, and stand before me, offer to me fat and blood, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 44:16. They shall come into my sanctuary, and they draw near to my table to serve me, and shall keep my charge. - In order that all desecration may be kept at a distance from the new sanctuary, foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh are not to be admitted into it; and even of the Levites appointed for the service of the sanctuary according to the Mosaic law, all who took part in the falling away of the people into idolatry are to be excluded from investiture with the priests' office as a punishment for their departure from the Lord, and only to be allowed to perform subordinate duties in connection with the worship of God. On the other hand, the descendants of Zadok, who kept themselves free from all straying into idolatry, are to perform the specifically priestly service at the altar and in the sanctuary, and they alone. The meaning and design of the command, to shut out the foreigners uncircumcised in heart from all access to the sanctuary, are not that the intermediate position and class of foreigners living in Israel should henceforth be abolished (Kliefoth); for this would be at variance with Ezekiel 47:22 and Ezekiel 47:23, according to which the foreigners ( גּרים ) were to receive a possession of their own in the fresh distribution of the land, which not only presupposes their continuance within the congregation of Israel, but also secures it for the time to come. The meaning is rather this: No heathen uncircumcised in heart, i.e., estranged in life from God, shall have access to the altar in the new sanctuary. The emphasis of the prohibition lies here, as in Ezekiel 44:7, upon their being uncircumcised in heart; and the reason for the exclusion of foreigners consists not so much in the foreskin of the flesh as in the spiritual foreskin, so that not only the uncircumcised heathen, but also Israelites who were circumcised in flesh, were to keep at a distance from the sanctuary if they failed to possess circumcision of heart. The ל before כּל־בּן serves the purpose of comprehension, as in Genesis 9:10; Leviticus 11:42, etc. (compare Ewald, §310 a). Not only are foreigners who are estranged from God to be prevented from coming into the sanctuary, but even the Levites, who fell into idolatry at the time of the apostasy of the Israelites, are to bear their guilt, i.e., are to be punished for it by exclusion from the rights of the priesthood. This is the connection between the tenth verse and the ninth, indicated by כּי אם , which derives its meaning, truly (imo), yea even, from this connection, as in Isaiah 33:21. הלויּם are not the Levites here as distinguished from the priests (Aaronites), but all the descendants of Levi, including the Aaronites chosen for the priests' office, to whom what is to be said concerning the Levites chiefly applied. The division of the Levites into such as are excluded from the service and office of priests ( כּהן , Ezekiel 44:13) on account of their former straying into idolatry, and the sons of Zadok, who kept aloof from that wandering, and therefore are to be the only persons allowed to administer the priests' office for the future, shows very clearly that the threat “they shall bear their guilt” does not apply to the common Levites, but to the Levitical priests. They are to be degraded to the performance of the inferior duties in the temple and at divine worship. The guilt with which they are charged is that they forsook Jehovah when the people strayed into idolatry. Forsaking Jehovah involves both passive and active participation in idolatry (cf. Jeremiah 2:5). This wandering of the Israelites from Jehovah took place during the whole time that the tabernacle and Solomon's temple were in existence, though at different periods and with varying force and extent.
Bearing the guilt is more minutely defined in Ezekiel 44:11-13. The Levitical priests who have forsaken the Lord are to lose the dignity and rights of the priesthood; they are not, indeed, to be entirely deprived of the prerogative conferred upon the tribe of Levi by virtue of its election to the service of the sanctuary in the place of the first-born of the whole nation, but henceforth they are merely to be employed in the performance of the lower duties, as guards at the gates of the temple, and as servants of the people at the sacrificial worship, when they are to slaughter the animals for the people, which every one who offered sacrifice was also able to do for himself. Because they have already served the people before their idols, i.e., have helped them in their idolatry, they shall also serve the people in time to come in the worship of God, though not as priests, but simply in non-priestly occupations. The words ' המּה יעמדוּ are taken from Numbers 16:9, and the suffixes in לפּניהם and לשׁרתּם refer to עם מכשׁול עון עם ot ref , as in Ezekiel 7:19; Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 18:30. נשׂא יד , not to raise the arm to smite, but to lift up the hand to swear, as in Ezekiel 20:5-6, etc. לגשׁת על כּל־קדשׁי , to draw near to all my holy things. קדשׁים are not the rooms in the sanctuary, but those portions of the sacrifices which were sacred to the Lord. They are not to touch these, i.e., neither to sprinkle blood nor to burn the portions of fat upon the altar, or perform anything connected therewith. This explanation is required by the apposition אל־קדשׁי הקּדשׁים , which (in the plural) does not mean the most holy place at the hinder part of the temple, but the most holy sacrificial gifts (cf. Ezekiel 42:13). נשׂא , as in Ezekiel 16:52. In Ezekiel 44:14 it is once more stated in a comprehensive manner in what the bearing of the guilt and shame was to consist: God would make them keepers of the temple with regard to the inferior acts of service. The general expression שׁמר משׁמרת הבּית , which signifies the temple service universally, receives its restriction to the inferior acts of service from ' לכל עבדתו וגו , which is used in Numbers 3:26; Numbers 4:23, Numbers 4:30, Numbers 4:32, Numbers 4:39, Numbers 4:47, for the heavy duties performed by the Merarites and Gershonites, in distinction from the עבדה of the Kohathites, which consisted in שׁמר משׁמרת הקּדשׁ (Numbers 3:28) and עשׂות מלאכה (Numbers 4:3). The priestly service at the altar and in the sanctuary, on the other hand, was to be performed by the sons of Zadok alone, because when the people went astray they kept the charge of the sanctuary, i.e., performed the duties of the priestly office with fidelity. Zadok was the son of Ahitub, of the line of Eleazar (1 Chr. 5:34; 1 Chronicles 6:37-38), who remained faithful to King David at the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:24.), and also anointed Solomon as king in opposition to Adonijah the pretender (1 Kings 1:32.); whereas the high priest Abiathar, of the line of Ithamar, took part with Adonijah (1 Kings 1:7, 1 Kings 1:25), and was deposed from his office by Solomon in consequence, so that now the high-priesthood was in the sole possession of Zadok and his descendants (1 Kings 2:26-27, and 1 Kings 2:35). From this attitude of Zadok toward David, the prince given by the Lord to His people, it may be seen at once that he not only kept aloof from the wandering of the people, but offered a decided opposition thereto, and attended to his office in a manner that was well-pleasing to God. As he received the high-priesthood from Solomon in the place of Abiathar for this fidelity of his, so shall his descendants only be invested with the priestly office in the new temple. For the correct explanation of the words in these verses, however, we must pay particular regard to the clause, “who have kept the charge of my sanctuary.” This implies, for example, that lineal descent from Zadok alone was not sufficient, but that fidelity in the service of the Lord must also be added as an indispensable requisite. In Ezekiel 44:15 and Ezekiel 44:16 the priestly service is described according to its principal functions at the altar of burnt-offering, and in the holy place at the altar of incense. שׁלחני is the altar of incense (see Ezekiel 41:22).
Requisites for the Administration of the Priests' Office, and the Obligations and Privileges of that Office. - Ezekiel 44:17. And it shall come to pass, when they go to the gates of the inner court, they shall put on linen clothes, and no wool shall lie upon them, when they serve in the gates of the inner court and serve toward the house. Ezekiel 44:18. Linen turbans shall be upon their head, and linen drawers upon their hips; they shall not gird themselves in sweat. Ezekiel 44:19. And when they go out into the outer court, into the outer court to the people, they shall take off their clothes in which they have ministered, and put them in the holy cells, and put on other clothes, that they may not sanctify the people with their clothes. Ezekiel 44:20. And they shall not shave their head bald, nor let their hair grow freely; they shall cut the hair of their head. Ezekiel 44:21. And they shall not drink wine, no priest, when they go into the inner court. Ezekiel 44:22. And a window and a divorced woman they shall not take as wives, but virgins of the seed of the house of Israel, and the widow who has become the widow of a priest they may take. Ezekiel 44:23. And they shall teach my people, make known to them the difference between holy and common, and between unclean and clean. Ezekiel 44:24. And they shall stand to judge concerning disputes; and they shall observe my laws and my statutes at all my feasts, and sanctify my Sabbaths. Ezekiel 44:25. And one shall not go to any corpse of a man to defile himself; only for father and mother, for son and daughter, for brother, for sister who had no husband, may they defile themselves. Ezekiel 44:26. And after his purification shall they reckon seven days more to him; Ezekiel 44:27. And on the day when he comes to the holy place, into the inner court, to serve in the holy place, he shall offer his sin-offering, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - Ezekiel 44:28. And so shall it be with their inheritance, that I am their inheritance, ye shall not give them a possession in Israel: I am their possession. Ezekiel 44:29. The meat-offering, and the sin-offering, and the trespass-offering, these shall they eat, and everything banned in Israel shall belong to them. Ezekiel 44:30. And the firstlings of all the first-fruits of everything, and every heave-offering of everything, of all your heave-offerings, shall belong to the priests; and the firstlings of all your ground meal shall ye give to the priest, that a blessing may come down upon thy house. Ezekiel 44:31. No carrion nor anything torn in pieces of fowl and of beast shall the priests eat. - To the directions, who are to perform the service in the new temple, there are appended corresponding instructions concerning the bodily condition in which this service is to be performed, as the bodily condition shadows forth the state of the soul, or the spiritual constitution of the servants of God. The dress prescribed in Ex 28 for the priests to wear during the holy service had this signification. The same rule is here presupposed as still in force; and it is simply renewed and partially emphasized by the enumeration of some of the leading points. At the service at the altar and in the holy place the priests are to wear linen clothes, and, after the performance of the service, they are to take them off again when they go into the outer court (Ezekiel 44:17-19). In the Mosaic law, שׁשׁ , white byssus, or בּד , white linen, is mentioned as the material used for the priests' clothing (Exodus 28:39, Exodus 28:42); here the material is more distinctly designated as פּשׁתּים , flax linen; and צמר , animal wool, is expressly forbidden, the motive being assigned for this regulation, namely, that the priest is not to cause himself to sweat by wearing woollen clothing. Sweat produces uncleanness; and the priest, by keeping his body clean, is to show even outwardly that he is clean and blameless. With regard to the putting on and off of the official clothes, the new thorah accords with the Mosaic. For we cannot agree with Kliefoth, who detects a deviation in the fact that, according to Exodus 28:43, the priests were to wear the official clothes only when they entered the tabernacle and when approaching the altar, and, according to Leviticus 6:4; Leviticus 16:23, were to take them off when the service was ended; whereas, according to Ezekiel 44:17 of the chapter before us, they were to put them on as soon as they entered the inner court, and were never to come before the people in the official costume. If, according to the Mosaic law, the priests were to go before the altar of burnt-offering in the court in their holy official dress, and not otherwise, they must have put on this dress on entering the court; for they could not wait till they were in front of the altar before they changed their clothes. For the expression צאת אל העם does not imply that, according to Ezekiel, they were never to appear in the presence of the people in their official costume, as it does not mean “come before the people,” but “go out to the people,” or “walk among the people;” nor is this involved in the words ' ולא יקדּשׁוּ , they shall not sanctify the people in their clothes (by their clothes). The latter by no means affirms that they are to sanctify the people by intercourse with them, but are not to do this in official costume; the meaning is simply that they are not to move among the people in the outer court while wearing their official clothes, that they may not sanctify them by their holy clothes.
This sanctification cannot be understood in any other way than as analogous to the rule laid down in the law, that touching most holy sacrificial flesh would sanctify (Leviticus 6:11, Leviticus 6:20), which Ezekiel repeats in Ezekiel 46:20, and which does not stand in anything like an isolated position in the law, but is also affirmed in Exodus 29:37 and Exodus 30:29 of the altar of burnt-offering and the vessels of the sanctuary. The same thing which applied to these vessels - namely, that their holiness passed from them to any one who touched them - is here predicated of the holy dresses of the priests; and the moving of the priests among the people in their holy clothes is forbidden, because such holiness, acquired by contact with holy objects, imposed upon the person to whom it had passed the obligation to guard against all defilement (Leviticus 21:1-8), which the people could not avoid in the ordinary relations of life, and thus a weakening or abolition of the distinction between things holy and common would inevitably have ensued. לשׁכות הקּדשׁ are the holy cell-buildings described in Ezekiel 42:1-14. - To the clothing there is simply appended in Ezekiel 44:20 the direction concerning the hair of the head, the natural covering of the head, in relation to which excess on either side is prohibited, either shaving the head bald or wearing the hair uncut. Both of these were forbidden to the priests in the law: shaving in Leviticus 21:5, and letting the hair grow freely in Leviticus 10:6; and the latter was simply imposed upon the Nazarites for the period of their vow (Numbers 6:5). כּסם only occurs here; but its meaning, to cut the hair, is obvious from the context. - Ezekiel 44:21. The prohibition of the drinking of wine when performing service agrees with Leviticus 10:9; on the other hand, the instructions concerning the choice of wives are sharpened in Ezekiel 44:22, as that which only applied to the high priest in the law is here extended to all the priests. In fact, Ezekiel throughout makes no distinction between the high priest and the common priests. In Leviticus 21:14, marrying a widow is only forbidden to the high priest, who was to marry a virgin of his own people, whereas no such restriction is laid down for the ordinary priests. Here, on the other hand, marrying a widow is forbidden to all the priests, marriage with the widow of a priest being the only one allowed. מכּהן belongs to תּהיה , who has become the widow of a priest.
(Note: The Rabbins (Targ. Talm. and Masor. according to their accentuation) have endeavoured to obliterate this distinction, by applying the first hemistich to the high priest alone, and explaining the second thus: “The widow, who is really a widow, the priest may take,” interpreting מכּהן by quidam sacerdotum, or aliqui ex ordine sacerdotali, or ceteri sacerdotes . But this is contrary to the usage of the language, as מכּהן cannot possibly be understood in a partitive sense in this passage, where the priests generally are spoken of, and the plural יקּחוּ follows.)
In Ezekiel 44:23 and Ezekiel 44:24 the general official duties of the priests are mentioned, viz., to teach the people, and to instruct them concerning the difference between the holy and the unholy, the clean and the unclean, as in Leviticus 10:10 (cf. Deuteronomy 33:10 and Ezekiel 22:26); also to administer justice in questions in dispute according to the rights of God-a duty which had already been committed to the priests in its highest form in Deuteronomy 17:8., Deuteronomy 19:17, and Deuteronomy 21:5. על ריב , concerning, in the case of, matters in dispute. עמד , to stand to judge, i.e., to appear or act as judge (compare העמיד שׁפטים , to appoint or institute judges, in 2 Chronicles 19:5). The Keri למשׁפּט is a needless emendation after 2 Chronicles 19:8. The Chetib ושׁפטהוּ , on the other hand, is a copyist's error for ישׁפטהוּ . Lastly, at all the feasts they are to observe the laws and statutes of Jehovah, that is to say, to perform all the priestly duties binding upon them at the feasts, and to sanctify the Sabbaths, not merely by offering the Sabbath sacrifices, but also by maintaining the Sabbath rest (cf. Leviticus 23:3). - In Ezekiel 44:25-27 there follow regulations concerning defilement from the dead, and its removal. Ezekiel 44:25 is a simple repetition of Leviticus 21:1-3. But the instructions concerning the purification from defilement from the dead are sharpened, inasmuch as not only is the purification prescribed by the law (Numbers 19:1.), and which lasted seven days, required (this is meant by טהרתו ), but a further period of seven days is appointed after these, at the expiration of which the presentation of a sin-offering is demanded before the service in the sanctuary can be resumed. By this demand for a heightened purification, the approach to a corpse permitted to the priests, which was prohibited to the high priest in the Mosaic law, even in the case of father and mother (Leviticus 21:11), is tolerably equalized.
For these duties and obligations of service the priests are to receive corresponding emoluments. These are treated of in Ezekiel 44:28-31. They are not, indeed, to receive any share of the land as their property in time to come any more than in former times; but in the place of this Jehovah will be their property and possession, and give them the necessary room for their dwellings from His own property in the land (Ezekiel 45:4), and let them draw their maintenance from His altar (Ezekiel 44:29 and Ezekiel 44:30). The promise that Jehovah will be the נחלה and אחזּה of the priests is a simple repetition of the regulation in the law (Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 18:1; Deuteronomy 10:9). So far as the construction in Ezekiel 44:28 is concerned, the words אני נחלתם are really the subject to ' והיתה להם לן , which we are obliged to render obliquely, “the inheritance for them shall be, I am their inheritance.” For the proposal of Hitzig to take the words from אני נחלתם to the close of the verse as a parenthesis, and to regard ' המּנחה וגו in Ezekiel 44:29 as the subject to ' והיתה , is untenable, not only on account of the great harshness which such a parenthesis would involve, but principally because these portions of the sacrifices and heave-offerings which belonged to the priest were not a נחלה , and are never designated as נחלה , inheritance, i.e., property in land. Ezekiel 44:28 treats of the property in land, which God assigned to the Levites and priests under the Mosaic economy, by appointing them towns to dwell in, with meadows for the feeding of their cattle, within the territory of the other tribes, but would assign to them in future from the heave-offering set apart from the land for the sanctuary (Ezekiel 45:4). It is not till Ezekiel 44:29 and Ezekiel 44:30 that the means of support for the priests are spoken of. They are to be supported from the sacrifices and the tithes and first-fruits which Israel has to pay to Jehovah as the lord of the land, and which He transfers to His servants the priests. For the priests' share of the meat-offering, sin-offering, and trespass-offering, see Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 6:9, Leviticus 6:11, Leviticus 6:19; Leviticus 7:6-7; for that which is put under the ban, Leviticus 27:21; for the first-fruits, Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 18:4; Numbers 18:13; for the תּרוּמות , Numbers 15:19; Numbers 18:19; for the ראשׁית עריסות , Numbers 15:20-21. In ' להניח , “to cause a blessing to rest upon thy house,” the individual Israelite is addressed. For the fact itself, see Malachi 3:10. - To the enumeration of the means of support there is appended in Ezekiel 44:31 an emphatic repetition of the command in Leviticus 22:8, not to eat of any dead thing (i.e., anything that has died a natural death), or anything torn to pieces, either of birds or beasts, on account of its defiling (Leviticus 17:15).
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ezekiel 44". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany