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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 40

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Introduction

THE TEMPLE AND THE CITY OF GOD

Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 48:35

This last large section of the book has caused more controversy than any other, except perhaps chapters 38-39. Many interpreters deny that the section in its entirety belongs to the prophet of the Chaldean Captivity. That, it would seem, is going much too far, although there is possibly more editorial material combined with Ezekiel’s thought here than elsewhere. It is to be doubted that 43:13-27, a detailed description of the altar of burnt offering and its ritual, is original; however, it is a necessary consequence, albeit later, of the prophet’s thought. The detailed rules for priests (Ezekiel 44:25-27; Ezekiel 44:31) and a portion of Ezekiel 45:1 to Ezekiel 46:18 can hardly be considered parts of the prophet’s original masterpiece. Whether or not Ezekiel 47:13 to Ezekiel 48:35 belongs to Ezekiel is a problem; we believe it came from his hand either directly or through his disciples.

Verses 1-20

Measurement of the Temple (40:1-42:20)

Central to any restoration was the Temple, but the Temple apart from the presence of God would be useless. The prophet sees the Temple in some detail and then meets the Lord himself in the midst thereof. The date for this vision of the Temple fits into the same system as all the other dates in the book, this one being specifically the twenty-fifth anniversary of destruction and exile. Ezekiel is transported to the Holy Land in a visionary visit as he had been on previous occasions (chs. 8 and 11) and is perched atop a high mountain near the city, possibly the Mount of Olives. The heavenly figure who appears at that spot is probably the same figure as the one described in chapters 8 and 9, but now his task is construction, not destruction. His linen clothes identify him with the Temple, whose priests wore linen clothes. The prophet is told to listen and watch carefully because what he is about to witness is of immense importance.

Details of the Temple begin with measurement and description of the East Gate of the outer wall according to a typical gate plan. The form dates from the tenth century B.C. The outside walls form an over-all structure of 500 x 500 cubits. Then within that area stand the inner walls of the Temple area itself; these walls, like the outer walls, have three separate gates. Thus there are two gates on each of the three sides — north, south, and east — one in the outer wall and one in the inner wall nearest the Temple. The pavement and the outer court are between the two sets of walls. This description is a reflection of the dimensions of the East Gate in Solomon’s Temple. After the prophet has seen the measurement of the outer East Gate, he sees the outer court and pavement with thirty chambers built next to the outer wall, and with the pavement running around inside the wall. From the inner to the outer gate is 100 cubits (vss. 17-19).

The outer North Gate, like the East Gate, is described as separated by 100 cubits from the matching inner North Gate. Like the other, this gate has an over-all measurement of 50 x 25 cubits, and it has seven steps leading up to the vestibule (vss. 20-23). A description of an identical set of South Gates follows, being 100 cubits distant from each other. It should be understood that there was no West Gate; the Temple faced toward the east and had no rear entrance (vss. 24-31).

Having described in some detail the structure of the gates on the outer wall, the prophet now describes the corresponding gates on the inner wall which is within the outer wall. The South, East, and North Gates are all measured and found to be identical with the outer gates in measurement (that is, 50 x 25 cubits) but have eight steps instead of seven leading to the vestibule (vss. 32-37).

A chamber on one side of the vestibule of the inner North Gate is used for washing the offerings, and two tables on either side are provided for the actual slaughter of sacrificial animals. There are four tables in the vestibule, and apparently four are provided outside the wall at the bottom of the steps leading from the outer court to the vestibule. In addition, four stone tables are provided as a storage surface for the sacrificial slaughter instruments (vss. 38-43).

Within the inner court, beside the North and South Gates respectively, there were matching rooms provided as dressing rooms for Temple personnel. The room near the North Gate is for the priests who have charge of the altar, that is to say, "the sons of Zadok." They alone among the sons of Levi have the right to come near to the Lord in service at the altar. The inner court which leads immediately to the Temple door measures 100 x 100 cubits and is the location for the altar of the Temple (Ezekiel 40:44-47). Moving in good order the prophet and his guide now reach the Temple entrance itself which is, of course, smaller than the other gateways, measuring fourteen cubits, with ten steps leading into the vestibule. The vestibule itself measures 20 x 12 cubits, with ten steps leading into it from the outer court. On either side of the entrance are free-standing pillars (Ezekiel 40:48-49). As the prophet comes into the nave of the Temple, its inner dimensions of 40 x 20 cubits are measured. The entrance to the nave is said to be ten cubits wide, with jambs on each side of six cubits in breadth (Ezekiel 41:1-2). Finally, the prophet enters "the most holy place," which measures 20 x 20 cubits (vss. 3-4).

The Temple wall is six cubits thick, and side chambers along the wall are four cubits wide. Thus the sanctuary had double walls with four cubits between them where the service rooms were built on three stories. Room for these chambers was larger the higher the wall went, because as the wall grew thinner, space for rooms was increased. The outer wall of these side chambers was five cubits thick, one cubit less than the Temple wall itself. The paving or platform on which the Temple rested was twenty cubits broad all around the Temple. Doors into these rooms between the walls were located on the north and south walls of the Temple and were five cubits wide (vss. 5-11).

The building behind the Temple facing west where there is no inner gate measures 70 x 90 cubits (vs. 12). The Temple and its immediate area made a perfect square, including open yard on three sides, and including the vestibule, nave, and Most Holy Place in the over-all length (vss. 13-15a).

Having finished a general description of the Temple, the prophet, drawing on his visionary visit, gives details of the interior decorations of the nave. The walls are paneled, and upon them are carvings of cherubim and palm trees alternately (vss. 15b-20). Just in front of "the holy place" an altar or table of wood is seen which is described by the guide in these words: "This is the table which is before the Lord." Both the nave and the Holy Place are entered by double swinging doors. On the doors, as on the walls, the decor consists of carved cherubim and palm trees.

Chapter 42, though not completely clear, deals with two buildings which flank the Temple on either side (north and south); these measure 100 x 50 cubits and like the walls are three stories in height. Details of the structures are somewhat confusing, as is the use to which these large buildings are to be put. Rooms facing out toward the outer wall are one hundred cubits long while rooms facing the inner court are but fifty cubits. Apparently the rooms are to be twenty cubits wide, with a passageway ten cubits wide running between them. However, the author explains that the upper rooms are not as wide as the lower, since part of the breadth is used for balconies or galleries (Ezekiel 42:1-10).

In addition to these two service buildings, two more rooms on the south against the inner wall are described. In these four rooms the priests consume the holy offerings (the cereal offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering) . Since the Temple and the priestly garments are dedicated, the garments will be stored here lest they be contaminated when the priests go into the outer court (vss. 10-14).

Finally, the entire structure (the dimensions of the outer wall) is measured and is found to be 500 x 500 cubits. In these terms Ezekiel foresaw the rebuilt Temple of the future, God’s sanctuary established and operative for the honor of God in the midst of a restored and renewed people.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 40". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-40.html.
 
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