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In this chapter, the Guide takes the prophet to the temple itself. He gives the measurements of the side pillars and doors, both of the holy place and the most holy place (Ezekiel 41:1-Numbers :). He continues with the measurements of the wall of the house and a description of the side chambers (Ezekiel 41:5-1 Kings :). Then we hear about the location and measurements of the building west of the temple (Ezekiel 41:12). Then the house is measured (Ezekiel 41:13-Ezra :) and the materials and decorations of the house are mentioned (Ezekiel 41:15-Ecclesiastes :). Then the wooden altar is described (Ezekiel 41:22). The chapter ends with a description of the doors of the house and the latticed windows (Ezekiel 41:23-:).
The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place
The Man leads Ezekiel further and further into the temple complex. Ezekiel is now brought “to the nave”, i.e. the main inner hall of the building (Ezekiel 41:1). There He measures the side pillars. These are six cubits wide on both sides of the entrance. “The width of the side pillar” is literally “the width of the tent”. According to some, the fact that the side pillars have “the width of the tent” emphasizes the great glory of this temple in comparison to the tabernacle. The width of the two side pillars together is twelve cubits. That is as wide as the tabernacle as a whole, that is, the eight planks on the west side of one and a half cubits each, which is twelve cubits, which is the total “width of the tent” (Exodus 26:16; Exodus 26:25).
The entrance, which is the space between the two side pillars, is ten cubits wide. The two sides (of the side pillars) of the entrance are five cubits each (Ezekiel 41:2). After the entrance, the Man and Ezekiel enter the space before the most holy place, which in the tabernacle is called “the holy place” (Exodus 26:33). That space is forty cubits long and twenty cubits wide. Those are also the dimensions of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:2-Leviticus :).
Ezekiel, as a priest, is allowed to go with the Man into the holy place. When the Man enters the most holy place, we do not read that Ezekiel goes in with Him. Ezekiel is not a high priest and therefore may not enter the most holy place (cf. Hebrews 9:6-Ruth :). The Man therefore enters alone (Ezekiel 41:3).
For us, access to God in the holy place has been opened through the work of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-Song of Solomon :). We know God as Father and have access to Him through Christ by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:18).
The side pillar of the entrance is two cubits. This is significantly narrower than that of the entrance to the holy place. The width of the entrance is given in two measures. The opening itself is six cubits and the wall next to the opening is seven cubits on both sides, which is twenty cubits together. The width of the entrance gets smaller the further into the building one goes. At the porch, the entrance is fourteen cubits, which is twenty cubits minus twice three cubits (Ezekiel 40:47-Galatians :). The next entrance is ten cubits wide (Ezekiel 41:2). The entrance to the most holy place is seven cubits wide (Ezekiel 41:3).
Both the length and width of the most holy place is twenty cubits (Ezekiel 41:4). A height measure is not given. Here the Man breaks the silence for the second time. He tells Ezekiel that that space is “most holy [place]”. As a priest, Ezekiel will surely have known that. That the Man says it emphasizes the holiness of that place. Ezekiel will have been deeply impressed by what he sees from the holy place. Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place only once a year, not without blood (Hebrews 9:7) and enveloped as it were by the smoke of incense (Leviticus 16:12-1 Chronicles :).
The Side Chambers
Then the Man measures the thickness of the wall of the house (Ezekiel 41:5). The wall is six cubits thick. The thickness of the wall seems to be important because of the side chambers that are mentioned immediately after. These side chambers are built all the way around the house, that is, along the north, west, and south sides, against the wall (cf. 1 Kings 6:5-Joshua :).
These side chambers are built in three stories with thirty side chambers per story (Ezekiel 41:6). In all, there are ninety side chambers. To attach them to the house, there are niches in the wall. These niches serve as bearing surfaces, for the wall itself is not allowed to have bearing surfaces.
The second story, the middle row of side chambers, is wider than the side chambers at ground level and protrudes out over it. The second story, the upper row of side chambers, is again wider than the second story. The top row of side chambers protrudes further out over the middle row of side chambers (Ezekiel 41:7). A staircase leads from the bottom story to the middle story and through the middle to the top story. The staircase connects the three stories of side chambers. The text mentions that the chambers increase “the width of the temple as it went higher”, meaning that the chambers are an essential part of the house and not just an appendage to it. They help form the house.
Spiritually, it means that we can increase in spiritual understanding of heavenly things. This happens when we seek “the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” and when we set our mind “on the things above” (Colossians 3:1-Exodus :). It “expands” our thinking about the church of God so that it becomes more in line with His view of it. We go upward when we read in God’s Word and allow the Spirit to enlighten us in it. We recognize the three “stories” of spiritual growth in the three stages of growth mentioned by the apostle John in his first letter. If all is well, a believer grows up from baby (“ground story”) to youth (“middle story”) and from youth to father in Christ (“top story”) (1 John 2:12-Job :).
Ezekiel sees (“I saw”) that the house stands on an elevation, making it higher than the court around it (Ezekiel 41:8). That elevation is formed by the foundations of the side chambers. It underscores the close relationship between the chambers and the house. The height of the foundations is six cubits.
The part of the wall against which the side chambers are built is five cubits wide (Ezekiel 41:9). The gallery of thirty side chambers does not run unbroken around the house, but is interrupted somewhere by a space of twenty cubits (Ezekiel 41:10).
The side chambers have two entrances, one in the northern and one in the southern direction (Ezekiel 41:11). In front of those two entrances is a free space of five cubits. The free space runs around the entire building. It is like a sidewalk in front of a row of houses. Over this sidewalk the priests can reach their chambers. It is at the same time the connection between the chambers, expressing the unity of and connection between the single chambers. Each has a chamber, but can visit another chamber via the pedestrian path. It points to the mutual fellowship of the priests.
The Building West of the Temple House
Here we read that at the back of the temple, that is on the west side, there is another building. That building belongs to the temple complex. It lies in front of “the separate area”, a term that occurs seven times (Ezekiel 41:12; Ezekiel 41:13Ezekiel 41:14; Ezekiel 41:15Ezekiel 42:1; Ezekiel 42:10Ezekiel 42:13). What that building is for is not said. If we look at Solomon’s temple, that temple also has such a building on the west side (1 Chronicles 26:18). There is “the gate of Shallecheth”, which means “gate of casting out” (1 Chronicles 26:16). The building possibly serves to store garbage, and then to remove it from the holy temple building.
We can apply this to a local church and to the body of the individual believer as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). Therefore, we must also remove from the local church and from our personal lives and thinking anything that is not in accordance with the holiness of God the Holy Spirit.
In connection with our “temple service”, it may happen that there are thoughts about the Lord Jesus that are contrary to Scripture, for example that He could sin, although, it is then said, He did not. If we personally or communally become aware that such a thought is not according to Scripture, we must remove it through the ‘gate of casting out’, that is, judge it before God.
Sizes, Materials and Decoration
The Man also measures the actual temple, the house (Ezekiel 41:13). The length is one hundred cubits, which is measured from east to west, wall to wall. The width of the house, from north to south, is also one hundred cubits (Ezekiel 41:14). Length and width of the house are one hundred cubits, making it perfectly square. The same length of one hundred cubits also has the building on the west side (Ezekiel 41:15).
What Ezekiel passes on here are not just dead numbers. As a priest, he has the deepest interest in the temple as the place of the presence of God. Ezekiel must have felt the same kind of excitement as the apostle Paul when he writes to the Corinthians: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10-1 Kings :). And a little further on he writes: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and [that] the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
We may come under the impression with Ezekiel that God for His earthly house, the temple, gave the measure of everything (in some translations Ezekiel 41:17 ends with “everything had its measure”). For us, it means that we are impressed that in God's house now, the church, every member is in the right place and can function there as He determines. “One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). To exercise the gift in the right place, time and manner, each member grace is “given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7).
Any violation of God’s order causes disorder. We see this in church history. Many human institutions that have been introduced into the church – sometimes with the best of intentions – have pushed God’s order aside. It is not any longer God Who has the say in His house, but man who wants to regulate and govern things himself. But God never gives up His rights to His house. He still makes clear in His Word today how we are to conduct ourselves in His house, “which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:14-Ezra :).
With Ezekiel 41:15, a new section begins. It points out the material of the interior of the temple, the porches of the court, the threshold, the latticed windows, and the galleries: everything is “paneled with wood all around” (Ezekiel 41:15-Nehemiah :). It is further said that against all the wall up to a certain height, that is, “over the entrance”, are panels all around, both inside and outside (Ezekiel 41:16-Esther :). This means that the walls of the three sections of the temple building – the holy place, the most holy place, and the porch – are inside paneled with wood.
Height measurements are not given here. On the one hand, the temple is on earth, an earthly building. On the other hand, the temple is in direct connection with heaven, it is as if it reaches into heaven, to a height that cannot be expressed in numbers. Because the glory of the LORD dwells there, a height measure falls away. Because of His presence on earth, heaven and earth are connected. It is striking that silver and gold are not mentioned either. Could that be because the glory of the LORD makes the temple radiant, so that even gold pales in comparison?
The inner and outer walls are decorated with cherubim and palm trees (Ezekiel 41:18). Of the cherubim it says that they have two faces. One face is “a man’s face”, the other “a young lion’s face”. Each of the two faces looks to one side, that is, one face looks to the left and the other to the right. Since there is a palm tree between two cherubim each time, both the man’s face and the young lion’s face are looking at a palm tree (Ezekiel 41:19). These cherubim and palm trees are on “the wall of the nave”, that is in the holy of holies (Ezekiel 41:20). We also see them in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:29; 1 Kings 6:321 Kings 6:35; 1 Kings 7:36).
The cherubim recall the holiness of God (Genesis 3:24). The human face recalls the Lord Jesus as the Son of Man to Whom the Father has given “authority to execute judgment, because He is [the] Son of Man” (John 5:27). The young lion’s face brings to mind the dignity and majesty of the Lord Jesus as the Ruler in the realm of peace. He is “the Lion from the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). The palm trees are a picture of peace and victory and its fruit obtained through Christ’s work on the cross. They also speak of the coming victory in the end times and the subsequent peace with its enjoyment after the great tribulation.
The doorposts of the temple – that is, the entire doorway with its side posts, lintel, and threshold – are square (Ezekiel 41:21). When Ezekiel looks at the entrance to the holy of holies (the sanctuary), it looks the same as the front of the temple. It indicates that both access to the church on earth (the temple, the house) and access to the sanctuary in heaven (the most holy place) is based on the Lord Jesus as “the door”. Faith in Him gives access to the one and to the other.
The Altar in the Temple
Then attention is turned to the only object that seems to be in the temple, “the altar of wood”. It is a different altar than the altar of burnt offering, for that is in the court (Ezekiel 43:13-Esther :). These two altars are the only objects in the entire temple building that are explicitly mentioned: an altar in the sanctuary and an altar in the inner court.
This altar has a position where in the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple the golden altar of incense stood (Exodus 30:1-:; 1 Kings 7:48). Only this altar is larger and made only of wood. Additional emphasis is placed on the material by pointing out again in its description that its corners, length, and sides are “of wood”.
There is no mention of gold in the description of this altar, which is the case with the altar of incense in the tabernacle and in the temple, for they are both overlaid with it (Exodus 30:3; 1 Kings 6:20). This is not to say, however, that it will not be used. The prophet Haggai says that the last glory of the house – by which he refers to the temple described here – will be greater than the former glory of the house. By this he is referring to the temple of Solomon (Haggai 2:9). From this it can be concluded that it is not inconceivable that precious metals will be used in the actual construction.
The entire room is empty except for this small altar. It is the only object in the holy place. In the most holy place there is no ark, but there the glory of the LORD dwells. In the holy place of the tabernacle and the temple there are also the table of showbread and the lampstand. Those are missing here. Here there is only mention of the altar. Here the Man interrupts the silence for the third time by noting that this altar “is the table that is before the LORD”.
From what He says about the altar, it is clear that it is about fellowship with God. A table is a picture of fellowship. Of the table He says that it “is before the LORD”, emphasizing that it is about fellowship with God, fellowship in His presence. It is mainly about what the altar represents, its symbolism, and that indicates drawing near to God to have fellowship with Him.
It is noteworthy that this altar is called “table”. This is also how the altar of burnt offering is called (Ezekiel 44:16; cf. Malachi 1:7; Malachi 1:12). As mentioned, a table speaks of fellowship. It is therefore not surprising that Paul uses this picture in connection with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, speaking of “the table of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 10:21). There, in contrast to the table (wooden altar) in the temple in the realm of peace, is a people who come together and have fellowship with one another and with God and with the Lord Jesus.
What is striking about this wooden altar is that we do not read about priests serving at this altar. We may wonder why that altar, that table, is there. The general idea with an ‘altar’ is ‘sacrifice’ and with a ‘table’ it is ‘fellowship’. This ‘altar-table’ is there to offer sacrifices to God and to express fellowship with Him. But the priests do not come there. It seems as if God is indicating in this temple that no matter how privileged the priests who belong to Zadok’s family are in the realm of peace, there is something that is not given to these earthly priests.
There is an inner sanctuary with a symbolic altar that indicates that in the inner sanctuary there is a company that has fellowship with God on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ, around the Lord Jesus. It is the table that stands before His face. This is the privilege of the church. This may already be a reality when the church comes together.
The two rooms of the temple, the holy place and the most holy place, each have a door (Ezekiel 41:23). The doors are described in their form and operation (Ezekiel 41:24). At the doors, as on the walls, cherubim and palm trees are made (Ezekiel 41:25). The doors in God’s house are a picture of the Lord Jesus. He is “the door” (John 10:7; John 10:9). Only through Him is it possible to come to the Father (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18). The cherubim on the doors symbolize the holiness of God. The palm trees symbolize victory and fruit.
On the front of the porch, above the door, there is also “canopy of wood” [as “threshold” also can be translated], a kind of awning. Its purpose will be to protect priests who want to enter, but have to wait a while, from the sun or the rain. God makes sure that the entrance into His house is shielded from influences that are a hindrance to entering it.
On both sides of the porch are latticed windows and palm trees (Ezekiel 41:26). These are also on the side chambers and the canopies. God’s house is a place where there are windows that let in light, but where because of the latticework nothing can come in that doesn’t belong there. This applies to the house and the chambers connected to it.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 41". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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