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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 44

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-12

Personnel of the Temple (44:1-45:12)

Coming to the East Gate the prophet finds it closed because the Lord has sanctified it by entering the city through it. It will remain permanently closed; only the prince may enter, and that by way of the vestibule.

Ezekiel is told to listen carefully so that he may know who will be admitted to the Temple and who must be excluded from it (vss. 4-8). Much of the immediate past tragedy is explained by the willingness of Israel to allow pagan influences in the Temple. Foreigners are to be positively excluded henceforth. This exclusivist attitude came into great prominence in the age of Nehemiah and Ezra, leading finally to the ingrown quality of Jewish religion in the time of Jesus.

The Levitical priests are blamed for worshiping idols and participating in the abominations which led to the destruction of Israel (vss. 9-14). Hereafter the Levites will not share with the sons of Zadok as priests but will do the menial tasks necessary to the operation of the Temple, such as keeping the gate and preparing sacrifice. This is in all probability a natural consequence and permanent result of an earlier reform which had centralized worship in Jerusalem and which had designated the Zadokites as the only priests.

In keeping with this pattern the functions of the priesthood are forthwith assigned to "the sons of Zadok" (vs. 15). Certain behavior and requirements are laid upon those who will serve before the Lord’s altar. A priest is not to shave his head, nor marry a widow, nor drink wine before a service (vss. 20-22). The functions of the priests extend beyond narrowly sacerdotal activity before the altar. The priests are to distinguish the common from the holy, decide controversies between people, keep all the laws of God, and reverence the Sabbath (vss. 23-24) . In other words, in the restored Temple they are to combine functions of priest, prophet, and judge. A priest may not go near a human corpse, except when the deceased has been a member of his immediate family. Then he must afterward undergo seven days of ritual cleansing and upon entering the inner court make a sin offering for himself. The Zadokites are thus given the holiest responsibilities in restored Israel.

The priests will have no inheritance of their own because God is "their inheritance." They are assigned the following provisions to eat: the cereal offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering. Every devoted thing shall, in the name of the Lord, belong to the priests, as shall the first fruits of all things. In addition, the first of "coarse meal" is assigned to them, but the priests may not eat any bird or animal which has died naturally or has been killed accidentally (vss. 28-31).

As if the above apportionment were not large enough, God assigns a block of territory in the midst of the land, 25,000 x 25,000 cubits, which will belong to the sons of Zadok. In one section, 25,000 X 10,000 cubits, the Temple is to be located, surrounded by a strip of "no man’s land." The priests will have the Temple section as their dwelling place. Another section of equal size, 25,000 x 10,000 cubits, will be set aside for the Levitical Temple servants. The remaining 25,000 x 5,000 cubit area will belong to the whole house of Israel as a unit, rather than being divided among the tribes (Ezekiel 45:1-6). The prince will own property on both sides of the holy district to the east and the west, extending all the way to the eastern and western frontiers. This generous provision will keep the prince from being tempted to seek gain by oppression (vss. 7-8).

After the assignment of territory to the prince, two exhortations to future rulers are made, each touched with the prophetic fire typical of Ezekiel in his earlier oracles (vss. 9-12). Princes are urged to put away violence and oppression, and to base their policies rather on justice and righteousness. In terms similar to those used by Amos and Isaiah, the princes are urged to cease evicting people from their land. Princes and kings, having no property, had often, like Ahab, taken what they wanted, although God had sent his prophets to denounce and judge this very kind of rule. Moreover, kings and princes had been known to change weights and measures to their advantage. The prince is now told to set and make standard all weights and measures.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 44". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/ezekiel-44.html.
 
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