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Ezekiel 40-48. Religious Organisation of the People in the Messianic Days.
To a modern taste these chapters, crowded with architectural and ritual detail, may seem dreary and irrelevant: to Ezekiel they are the real climax of his book, the crown as well as the conclusion of all his literary and religious activity. The past had been stained with the record of innumerable sins against the holiness of Yahweh (Ezekiel 16, etc.)— His ritual no less than His ethical holiness: that must be made for ever impossible. As the God is holy, so must the people and the land be holy, and to a man of Ezekiel’ s priestly temper, that can be secured only by a definitely organised religious constitution and by a minutely prescribed ritual. Already we have seen how scrupulously the land was swept clean of whatsoever defiled it ( Ezekiel 39:11-Nehemiah :) after the terrific assault of Gog and his hordes: this is significant of the punctilious purity which must everywhere prevail, and most of all in the formal worship of the sanctuary. True, the people of the latter days will be in possession of the spirit ( Ezekiel 39:29); but spirit must express itself, and the expression must be correct. In this Ezekiel furnishes a very striking contrast to the severe spirituality of Jeremiah ( cf. Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 31:33).
Two considerations should be steadily held before the mind in pursuing one’ s way through the labyrinthine detail which seems to stand in so little real relation to pure and undefiled religion. ( a) One is supplied by the very last phrase of the book—“ Yahweh is there” ( Ezekiel 48:35). This is the name of the holy city whose Temple, worship, and ministers are described with so thorough and faithful a minuteness. He is there— there, and nowhere else with the same completeness, i.e. among the people whose whole life and worship and approach to God are regulated by the standards laid down by His inspired prophet. This broad principle explains and controls the detail, and helps us to approach it more sympathetically, when we see the faith and hope, the devotion and enthusiasm by which it is inspired. ( b) This whole section, ordaining the conditions by which the people and priests may maintain the requisite holiness and so make it possible for their holy God to return and dwell among them, is most fully appreciated when it is seen as the happy counterpart of the stern chapters 8– 11 with their vivid descriptions of the base idolatries of Israel, and the solemn departure of Yahweh which those idolatries had occasioned. The lurid past is gone, and already Ezekiel beholds the dawning light of the radiant future, when it may be said of the people, “ Yahweh dwells among them,” and of the city, “ Yahweh is there.” The uninviting detail is lit with the presence of the God who had once withdrawn because His holiness had been insulted, but who has returned to abide with His people for evermore, because they know and do His holy will, as thus revealed.
The section is of great importance in the criticism of the Pentateuch, and for the historical reconstruction of the development of OT. Without going into detail, suffice it here to say broadly that the legislation here sketched is an advance on Dt., and prepares the way for the more elaborate legislation of the so-called Priestly Code (P) embodied in the Book of Lev. and the cognate sections of Ex. and Nu. This entirely agrees with what we know of the dates of the other codes. There are excellent reasons for believing that the Deuteronomic legislation was promulgated in the seventh century B.C. (621) and the Priestly Code in the fifth. Ezekiel’ s sketch comes between— in the sixth: its date, to be precise, is 572 (401). It is his last legacy to his people, conceived in the maturity of his power, elaborated with superlative accuracy, instinct with practical wisdom, and destined to exercise an immeasurable influence over the subsequent religious development of his people. See further pp. 46f., 129, 131.
Ezekiel 47, 48. The Holy Land, its Beauty, Boundaries, and Divisions.
Now that the Temple and its worship, which are indispensable to the welfare of the land, have been described, Ezekiel directs his parting glance to the land itself, introducing his description with a beautiful and suggestive picture, particularly refreshing after the long stretch of minute ceremonial detail, of the life-giving stream that flowed from the heart of the sanctuary. The clearness and keenness with which the prophet’ s imagination is working, comes out in the frequent repetition of the word “ Behold.”
Ezekiel 43:1-1 Samuel : . The description of the Temple is fittingly followed by an account of Yahweh’ s solemn entry into it— a passage which forms the real climax of the last section of the book, and is the counterpart to His equally solemn departure described in Ezekiel 10:18 ff. and Ezekiel 11:22 ff. Girt with splendour, He re-enters by the eastern gate through which He had departed, and from the midst of the Temple His voice rings mysteriously forth, declaring that there He will dwell for ever in the midst of Israel. But whereas, in the old days of the monarchy, palace and Temple had been contiguous, separated only by a wall, and the graves of the kings had defiled the Temple by their proximity to it, such profanations and defilements— no less than every trace of idolatry— must be absolutely removed; and then Yahweh would dwell with Israel for ever. (In Ezekiel 43:3, for “ I came” read “ He came.” )
Ezekiel 43:10-2 Kings : . Ezekiel is then instructed to show his plan of the Temple to the people. The very sight of it is expected to inspire them with shame for their past; while, to preserve them from error in the days to come, further instructions are promised for the conduct of the service. Supreme sanctity is to attach to the entire summit of the Temple hill, no part of it being abandoned to any secular use whatever.
Ezekiel 43:13-Daniel : . The Altar.— In a system of worship based upon sacrifice, the altar is of special importance: its dimensions ( Ezekiel 43:13-Esther :) and consecration ( Ezekiel 43:18-Daniel :) are therefore elaborately described. Approached by steps ( Ezekiel 43:17), it consisted of four square stones, each smaller in breadth but greater in height than the one below it, ranging from a base of 27 feet square and 1½ feet high, to the “ hearth” at the top (on which the victim was laid) 18 feet square and 6 feet high— thus preserving the proportion of two to three characteristic of the rooms of the Temple proper. Above the hearth were horns ( Ezekiel 43:13-Esther :). The altar was consecrated by a seven day’ s sacrifice, offered by the Zadokite priests, who sprinkled with blood the horns and the border round about. Thereafter the regular sacrifices could be acceptably offered upon it.
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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ezekiel 43". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17