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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 39:11-16) 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 48. The Tribal Allotments.— The holy city, Jerusalem, with its environments is significantly regarded as the true centre, geographical no less than religious, of the country; but, as in point of fact it really lay in the southern half, the prophet, in his ideal allotment of the land, makes a concession to geographical fact by putting seven tribes to the north, arranged in parallel strips, viz. Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah ( Ezekiel 48:1-7), and five to the south, Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulon, and Gad ( Ezekiel 48:23-29).
Ezekiel 48:9-22 . The Sacred Reservation.— Between Judah and Benjamin lay the sacred reservation, a piece of land about eight miles square. The northern part— roughly eight miles by three— was reserved for the Levites; the middle part, of the same size, in the centre of which was the Temple, was reserved for the priests In the middle of the southern part— roughly eight miles by two— lay the city, about a mile and a halt square, with a strip of land (“ suburbs” ) round it, devoted to general city purposes: while east and west of the city up to the bounds of the sacred square reserve, were the communal lands devoted to agricultural purposes. The population of the city was to be made up out of all the tribes, and therefore symbolic of Israel’ s unity ( Ezekiel 48:8-20). The territory between Judah and Benjamin east and west of the sacred reserve, i.e. as far as the Mediterranean on the one side, and the Jordan and the Dead Sea on the other, was to be reserved for the prince. This position would give him a certain association with the sacred reserve, and provide him with materials for the Temple offerings. (This paragraph amplifies Ezekiel 45:1-8.)
Ezekiel 48:30-34 . The Gates of the City.— On each of the four sides of the city, which was about six miles in circumference, were three gates, named after the twelve tribes of Israel.
Ezekiel 48:35 . The Name of the City.— The name of the city, Yahweh is there, finely suggests the great protecting Presence which inspires all her activity and worship, and brings the prophet’ s intricate description to a most stately and impressive close.
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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ezekiel 48". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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