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THE VISION OF THE RESTORED TEMPLE AND THE REINHABITED LAND (Chaps. 40–48)
This is a development of the promise contained in Ezekiel 37:27. The subject of the closing chapters of Ezekiel is the restitution of the kingdom of God. This is expressed by a vision in which are displayed not only a rebuilt Temple, but also by a reformed priesthood, reorganised services, a restored monarchy, a reapportioned territory, a renewed people, and, as a consequence, the diffusion of fertility and plenty over the whole earth. The return from Babylon was indeed the beginning of this work, but only a beginning, introductory to the future kingdom of God, first upon earth, finally in heaven. The vision must therefore be viewed as strictly symbolical, the symbols employed being the Mosaic ordinances. These ordinances had indeed in themselves a hidden meaning. The Tabernacle in the midst of the tents of the tribes, and afterwards the Temple in the capital of the land of inheritance, was intended to signify the dwelling of Jehovah among His people; the priesthood was to denote the mediation between God and man; the monarchy the sovereignty of God, the people the saints of God, the territory their inheritance. So that the symbols here employed have an essential propriety; yet they are truly symbols, and as such they are to be regarded.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
THE TEMPLE AND ITS ORNAMENTS (Chap, 41)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 41:1. “The temple”—the holy place, the Temple proper, as distinguished from the porch, described in chap. Ezekiel 40:48-49, and from the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6:17; 1 Kings 7:50). “Which was the breadth of the tabernacle.” Which was is not in the original, and should be omitted. As in the measurement of the porch the angel had pointed to Solomon’s Temple, so here in the edifice itself he points to the old Tabernacle. Worship is progressive, and expresses itself in harmony with the culture of every age.
Ezekiel 41:2. “The breadth twenty cubits.” The measurements are internal, the same as in the Temple of Solomon.
Ezekiel 41:3. “Then went he inward.” Towards the Holy of Holies. It is significant that in this case it is not said he brought me in, but he went in, because the Holy of Holies was not to be entered even by a priest like Ezekiel, but only by the high priest once a year. So the angel enters, and announces the measurements to Ezekiel whilst he stood in front of the Temple. “The door six cubits, and the breadth of the door seven cubits.” The first measurement of the door was from post to post six cubits, and the second measurement, the breadth of the door, was the breadth of the actual doors which shut off the Holy of Holies, and which may have been so hung that each of the posts projected half a cubit beyond the hinge of the door, which opened inwards.
Ezekiel 41:4. “So he measured the length thereof” The measurements of the Holy of Holies exactly correspond with those in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:20).
Ezekiel 41:5. “The wall of the house”—the outer wall of the Temple itself. Its thickness of six cubits corresponds with the colossal proportions of the architecture of the East. “Every side chamber”—the singular used collectively for the plural, to denote the whole series of side chambers.
Ezekiel 41:6. “Three, one over another, and thirty in order.” Literally, “three, thirty times.” That is, there were three stories, and each story was divided into thirty chambers. “They entered into the wall which was of the house for the side chambers.” The wall here described is not the wall of the Temple, which was six cubits (Ezekiel 41:5), but another wall, which was five cubits (Ezekiel 41:9), parallel to it, built for the side chambers, and may be said to be of the house—i.e., belonging to it.
Ezekiel 41:7. “There was an enlarging.” This wall had for the ground-story its full thickness of five cubits; then it was diminished one cubit, so as to form a ledge whereon to rest the beams of the floor of the second story, and again was further diminished one cubit for the floor of the third story. Thus there was an enlarging of the second story of the chambers by one cubit, and of the third story by two cubits beyond the breadth of the chambers on the ground-floor. “A winding about still upwards.” The upper stories were approached by winding stairs, still upward from one story to another.
Ezekiel 41:8. “Great cubits.” “Literally, to the extremity or root of the hand.”—Henderson. “To the joining or point where the foundation of one chamber ceased and another began.”—Fairbairn. “To the wing of the house.”—Buxtorf. “The Hebrew word signifies in the first instance joining, and is probably used as an architectural term to denote line of junction between two stories, which would be that of the ceiling of the lower and the floor of the upper story.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
Ezekiel 41:9. “And that which was left”—the passage between the side chambers and the Temple wall, implying that no place was to be left which was to be held, as of old, not sacred. The verb I saw governs the whole of the eighth and ninth verses.
Ezekiel 41:12-17. In these verses we have a summary of the measurements and details of buildings already mentioned. The buildings measured had been the gates of the courts, the Temple, and the building on the separate place. All the overlaying was done by careful measurement, accuracy of measure being, according to Hebrew ideas, an ingredient of perfection.
Ezekiel 41:18. “Made with cherubim and palm trees.” Cherubim a symbol of Divine life; palm-trees of life in general. “Every cherub had two faces.” Being in sculpture or carving, two faces only would be visible to the spectator. The cherubim have each four faces (chap. Ezekiel 1:10). They indicate that the house is dedicated to the God of the whole terrestrial creation; not to a national god of limited power.
Ezekiel 41:19. “The face of a man was toward the palm trees.” The faces of the cherub look to the palms, to indicate that all creation, animate and inanimate, is a whole—a harmonious work of the creative power of God.
Ezekiel 41:21. “The appearance of the one as the appearance of the other.” The appearance in this vision was the same as in other visions: the appearance of the sanctuary, or Holy of Holies, was similar to that of the Temple. They differed only in magnitude.
Ezekiel 41:22. “The altar of wood—the table that is before the Lord.” The altar of incense (chap. Ezekiel 44:16): at it, and not at the table of shew-bread, the priests daily ministered. Table and altar are convertible terms. It stood in front of the vail, and is therefore said to be before the Lord. It is called a table, as being that at which the Lord will take delight in His people, as at a feast. It is not to be confounded with the eight tables outside at the north gate, which are to be altars for sacrifice of the burnt-offering and sin-offering (chap. Ezekiel 40:49).
Ezekiel 41:25. “And there were thick planks upon the face of the porch without.” Ewald translates it leaf-work, which agrees very well with the context—“And there were leaves in wood on the face of the porch without.”
Ezekiel 41:26. “Palm trees on the one side and on the other side.” The porch and likewise the wings take the character of the subordinate from this, that only palms are figured on them, and not cherubim also.
THE TEMPLE A SYMBOL OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
I. As it is the habitation of the Divine presence. “This is the most holy place” (Ezekiel 41:4); so called because in the Tabernacle and in Solomon’s Temple it was in this place that the Shekinah dwelt—the visible manifestation of the Divine glory. It was also called the oracle (1 Kings 6:16), because from thence Jehovah declared His will. Into this sacred adytum even Ezekiel was not admitted. The angel entered alone. “Then went he inward and measured” (Ezekiel 41:3), and reported the dimensions to the seer, as he stood awe-struck at the door. The hallowed presence of God is unapproachable but to the holiest. The Christian Church to-day is the spiritual Temple of Jehovah, His home and resting-place; it is filled with His living presence, and that presence, growing more luminous and satisfying, will be the imperishable glory of the Church for evermore.
II. As it is a combination of strength and beauty (Psalms 96:6).
1. It is constructed in harmony with well-known laws (Ezekiel 41:1-17). Its walls are strong and massive, its buildings symmetrical, exact in measurement, every detail minutely developed, and the whole edifice constructed according to the laws of proportion. Everything about the building is in perfect harmony with the great end proposed—to reveal the character of the Master Builder and to foster and promote the loftiest worship. The indestructible stability of the structure is assured, as it is built on the incorruptible laws of righteousness and love. The grandest fabrics of the world-empire are gnawed and crunched by the destructive teeth of time. The colossal piles of architecture which filled the soul of Ezekiel with wonder and fear in his Assyrian captivity are now dust and ruins, monuments in their decay of the unfailing truth of God’s Word and significant studies of the pious antiquarian; but the Temple of Jehovah remains, and shall from age to age endure.
2. It is ornamented with artistic suggestiveness (Ezekiel 41:18-20; Ezekiel 41:25). Doors, posts, pillars, and walls were chastely decorated with the figures of cherubim and palm-trees—symbols of life, life in its manifold and highest forms, life traced upwards to its grand creative source. The charm of all art is in its power to delineate life in its endless manifoldness. The painted canvas or chiselled stone is of no value unless it contains those inimitable touches of genius that are full of the suggestiveness of life, The joy of a picture is in what it suggests rather than in what it portrays; the artist may see more in a theme than he has power to represent. The dewdrop that glitters on the end of every leaf after a shower is beautiful even to a child; but to a Herschel, who knows that the lightning itself sleeps within it, and understands and feels all its mysterious connections with earth and sky and planets, it is suggestive of a far deeper beauty. The eye sees only what it brings with it the power to see. The Temple of God is a living Temple, quivering with the Divine life that pervades every part, and to the spiritually cultured senses it teems with radiant forms of divinest beauty.
III. As it makes ample provision for the highest needs of the soul (Ezekiel 41:22). The altar of incense is here significantly called “the table that is before the Lord.” The greatest need of the soul is God; but God can be approached and known only through sacrifice. God Himself provides the altar of sacrifice and the victim too (Hebrews 9:11-14; Hebrews 10:10-14). The Divine provision is a well-spread banquet, over which God Himself presides. All are invited to freely partake, and the joy of the feast is found in the presence of God at the table. The altar of the heavenly Temple is an altar of incense, but it is the incense of praise; and as the incense, daily rising, diffused itself and perfumed the earthly Temple, so the sweet odour of praise and thanksgiving shall continually ascend before the Lord in the celestial banqueting-house. There is no sacrifice too great for us to offer to Him who has done and suffered so much for us. In an Italian hospital was a soldier lying severely wounded. A lady visitor spoke to him, dressed his wound, smoothed his pillow, made him all right for the day, and before leaving placed a bouquet of flowers beside his head. The grateful soldier, with his pale face and eyes full of tears, looked up and said, “That is too much kindness.” She was a lady with a true Italian heart, and looking back to the soldier she quietly replied, “No, not too much for one drop of Italian blood!” And shall we not freely own that the consecration of all our powers of body and soul is not too much to give in return for the shedding of our Emmanuel’s blood on our behalf?
1. The Temple of God a spiritual fabric.
2. The everlasting home of the holy.
3. Resplendent with Divine glory.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 41:1-26. “Ezekiel never intended that a structure should be reared precisely according to the plan and measurements he furnishes, otherwise he would have been still more minute in his delineations. He has given enough, however, for his great object, which was chiefly to show that in the Divine purpose respecting the future there was to be a full and every way complete reconstruction of the House of God, if not in the outward and material sense, yet in the higher things, which that represented and symbolised, and with the effect of securing a far purer and more elevated condition for the covenant-people. It is this last point which throughout he seeks to render prominent by the nature of his descriptions.”—Fairbairn.
—“The spiritual lesson to be learned by us from the description here is, that the Church of God, the Temple of the Holy Ghost, as it shall hereafter be manifested on earth, shall be on a scale of grandeur such as has never yet been witnessed, and its worship shall be on a corresponding scale of glory, beauty, and blessedness. Not till then shall the Lord be worshipped visibly in the beauty of holiness by the whole congregation of earth, led on by Israel as the leader of the mighty choir. None of the defects which attend our present liturgical worship shall alloy the perfection of the public services of God which shall then be rendered to Him through Christ. There shall be no divisions. Now the catholicity of the Church is but partially seen, though it is a blessed reality, and its unity is hardly to be recognised at all, split up as it is into a hundred denominations with varying confessions of faith and different forms of worship; then all shall be one in outward worship, as well as in inward unity of the spirit, and the world will in consequence be attracted to believe the Divine misson of Messiah (John 17:21).”—Fausset.
—The Temple a Representation of Christ and His Church. “
1. It is a representation of the humanity of Christ.
(1.) The Temple was holy; so was Christ (Luke 1:35; Acts 13:35; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 7:26).
(2.) The Temple was light and beautiful within; so was Christ (Colossians 2:3; John 1:14; Song of Solomon 5:10; Psalms 45:2).
(3.) By the Temple they came to know the mind of God; so by Christ God is known (Hebrews 1:2; John 15:15).
(4.) The Temple was God’s delight: there God dwelt and manifested His glory (chap. Ezekiel 43:4-5). So Christ (John 1:14; Matthew 3:17; 1 Timothy 3:15).
2. It is a representation of the Church of Christ.
(1.) All things in this Temple were measured; so in the Church (Ephesians 2:21; Revelation 11:1).
(2.) Christ was in this Temple, did all therein and showed all to the prophet; so in the Church (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 2:1; Revelation 21:3).
(3.) In this Temple were chambers, galleries, and stories, one above another; so in the Church there are several ranks and degrees of officers and members (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 John 2:12-13).”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 41:1. “If we diligently attend to the instructions given us in the plainer parts of religion, and profit by them, we shall be led further into an acquaintance with the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. They that are willing to dwell in God’s courts shall at length be brought into His Temple. Ezekiel was himself a priest, but by the iniquity and calamity of the times was cut short of his birthright privilege of ministering in the Temple; but God makes up the loss to him by introducing him into this prophetical, evangelical, celestial Temple, and employing him to transmit a description of it to the Church, in which he was dignified above all the rest of his order.”—M. Henry.
—“We ought to go forward under God’s guidance in the ways of the Lord from glory to glory, but not to go backward or stand still except in meditation. The good spirit leads men to the Church, there to listen devoutly to the Word of God; the evil spirit keeps them back from it.”—Starke.
Ezekiel 41:3.“Then went he inward and measured.” The Highest Truths—
1. Often a lonely quest.
2. Seen only by the morally pure.
3. Fill the soul with profound awe.
4. Are to be communicated to others with the utmost exactitude.
Ezekiel 41:4. “And he said unto me, This is the most holy place.” The Most Holy Place—
1. Is where God manifests His presence.
2. Is not now confined to any one spot under heaven.
3. What a privilege to meet with one who can direct us to the holiest place! “He said unto me, This is the most holy place.”
—“The most holy place is set before us as the goal, and we understand thereby a heavenly state on earth, namely, the Church of the New Testament. Accordingly, in chap. 43 the entire circuit of the mountain is called most holy, from which it is evident that no one is truly inside this Temple, or even in its courts, who is devoid of the New Testament perfection—Heavenly glory, or eternal bliss, is no doubt the only complete Holy of Holies, yet he who has entered the kingdom of grace has come to a glory which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, to praise and glorify God for ever.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 41:5. “The chambers are not all of the same size, but they are all connected with the sanctuary; the same is the case with the progress and growth of the members of the body of which Christ is the Head—The saints of God are also measured round and round; no heavier task is laid upon them, no greater temptation befalls them, than what is their Father’s will. That the chambers are connected denotes the brotherly relation in the sanctuary (Psalms 133:0; 1 John 3:0; 1 John 3:0).—God provides for His servants covert and shelter in the world.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 41:6.“There is a threefold rank or order of the members of the Church; there are lowermost, middlemost, and uppermost. These, as they have their several offices and gifts accordingly, so they must keep to their own stations, do their own business, live in love, and wait till called into a higher room.”—Trapp.
—“Those in the Church are not all of one rank, whether officers or others; some are of the lower rank, some in the middle, and some uppermost: there are children, young men, and old men; and the higher any get, the more enlargement and greater breadth do they see in the things of God and this Temple; and notwithstanding this difference among them, there is a sweet harmony between them, and they serve one another.”—Greenhill.
—“That they might have hold, but they had not hold in the wall of the house.” Temple Workers—
1. Find much of their work lies outside the Temple itself.
2. Their work gains its significance and worth by being in connection with the Temple.
3. Their nearness to the Temple no guarantee of the permanence of their labour.
4. Their sphere of work, like these side chambers resting on a separate wall, may be removed without affecting the stability of the Temple.
5. Should be careful in all their work to maintain the inviolability of the Temple.
—“Leaning upon God, upheld by Him, but not mixed up with Him in our affairs.—Of ourselves we cannot stand a single moment.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 41:7. Still Upward. “I. Still upward and still larger is the plan of Divine procedure.
1. The work of creation was in full harmony with this method.
2. The same in Revelation 3:0. The same feature in Divine architecture in our Lord’s history.
4. Same in the history of the Church. II. The text illustrates the saint’s experience,
1. It is so in a man’s views and thoughts of God.
2. In a saint’s apprehension of the blessings of salvation.
3. In his spiritual growth
4. So too with his love.
5. So in aspiration and communion. III. The text sets forth the saint’s destiny.”—Homiletic Monthly.
—“The higher we build up ourselves in our most holy faith, the more should our hearts, those living temples, be enlarged.”—M. Henry.
—“This might remind God’s people of heavenly-mindedness whereby their hearts will be enlarged when once got above the world, as birds sing sweetly when aloft in the air.”—Trapp.
—“In God’s House we must, go upward by growth in grace, that the mind may be always the more firmly directed heavenward.—The breadth in the top part.—Christians ought not to contract but to expand as they grow older. Higher grace gives expansion in width and breadth. The narrower points of view with which we ascend gradually disappear.—The broader heart on the height of the Christian life in theory and practice.—Prayer an ascending stair.—But let us not forget that which lies in the middle. In the middle is the means, the way of mediation.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 41:8. The secret of the height depends on the foundation.
Ezekiel 41:10.“In the Church much more room is taken up by such as are void of the treasure of God’s grace than by better men, rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom of Christ”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 41:12. The history of dogmas is in many respects the off-place in Ezekiel’s Temple.
Ezekiel 41:16. “Enlightenment is from above; only thus do we obtain a conception of heavenly things.—Faith is a window, and, as compared with vision, a narrow one.—Through His wounds we see into the heart of Christ as through a window.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 41:17. “The Lord Christ will measure Christians of what height, breadth, and depth they are; their actions, affections, and graces will be measured (Revelation 11:1).”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 41:18-20; Ezekiel 41:25. The Noblest Province of Art—
1. To idealise the manifold forms of the highest life.
2. Is consecrated to the holiest ends in the service of God.
3. Finds scope for the most gifted genius in beautifying the Temple of God.
Ezekiel 41:18. “Cherubims are generally taken for the portrait of angels and framed to the beauty of young men with wings. Yet is the description of them different in different places, as in Ezekiel’s vision chap. 1, Isaiah’s vision chap. 6, John’s vision Revelation 4:0, and in Solomon’s Temple. Palm-trees—a very beautiful, upright tree from a straight, well-grown body, spreading its head with large boughs and branches, which were used on occasions of joy and were emblems of victory (John 12:13; Revelation 8:9).”—Pool.
—“This was to teach Christians who are the temples of God.
1. To live like angels for holiness.
2. To suffer, as palm-trees, any pressures or pains for His sake with invincible patience. By their piety in their lives and patience at their death the primitive Christians won much upon their persecutors.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 41:19. “These seem to represent the angels who have more than the wisdom of a man and the courage of a lion; and in both they have an eye to the palms of victory and triumph which are set before them, and which they are sure of in all their conflicts with the powers of darkness.”—M. Henry.
—“Teachers ought to be men, especially to humbled consciences, but lions against enemies.”
Ezekiel 41:22. “The table before the Lord.” The Divine Generosity—
1. Provides a rich and varied feast for His people.
2. His presence at His own table is the choicest feast.
3. His table is also an altar from which the incense of thanksgiving and praise rises acceptably before Him.
—“The altar is designated as the table or board before the Lord because that which is set on it—the incense, denoting the prayers of the saints (Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3)—is regarded as spiritual food which the people present to their heavenly King. The altar appears as the table of the Lord also in chap. Ezekiel 44:16. The offering appears as the food of God Malachi 1:7. Not without cause is the altar in 1 Kings 7:48 compared with the table of shew-bread; the bread laid on the latter denoted the spiritual nourishment which the people are to present to their heavenly King, which is good works.”—Hengstenberg.
—“This altar is at the same time a table, as Christ is to our souls in the Holy Supper.”
—“This altar of wood and foursquare was a type of Christ, in whom our prayers come before God as incense, and He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2; Exodus 30:1; Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8). The largeness of this altar above that of old shows that the saints under the Gospel would make much more improvement of the Lord Jesus in prayer, and make use of His mediation and intercession by faith in their heavenly sublimated supplications, than the saints of old were ordinarily wont to do.”—Trapp.
—This Altar a Representation of Christ. “
1. Though the altar was of wood, it was shittim wood—incorruptible; so Christ’s human nature was incorruptible; it saw no corruption (Acts 13:35).
2. It was larger than that under the Law; so the worship of God in Christ’s time should be enlarged (Malachi 1:2).
3. Sweet incense was offered to God on this altar. Where the people prayed the priest offered incense (Luke 1:9-10), and when we pray Christ offers up our prayers with the incense and perfume of His merits (Revelation 8:3-4; Ephesians 5:2).
4. On this altar was incense, morning and evening; it was a perpetual incense; so Christ, our altar, offers up prayers perpetually for us (Hebrews 8:2-5).
5. This altar is the table before the Lord. There is something in this expression worthy consideration.
(1.) That poor, sinful, weak, unworthy creatures may come to Christ not only as an altar to have their prayers presented to God, but as a table to have refreshing to their souls (John 6:35; John 6:55; Luke 22:30; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:17).
(2.) That the Lord Himself is delighted and satisfied in and with Christ, as we are with a table full of dainties, having the choicest meats and drinks (Matthew 3:17; Isaiah 42:1). Christ is the altar, the table, the sacrifice, and the meat and drink upon the same.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 41:23. “Doors let in and shut out; so also does the Church.—Ornament is here combined with solemness. We have not here the joyous worldly beauty of Greece, but neither have we the solemness dark as death as in Egypt. The world opens its doors half to frivolity and half to despondency.—The sanctuary of the heart also must be shut, and not with one door only. Our treasure is incomparable, and ought to be preserved with much watchfulness and strong exhortation.”—Lange.
—“The Gospel and its ordinances—faith, repentance, and baptism—are the means to salvation; by them we obtain entrance to the communion of saints, the favour of God, and the kingdom of heaven. Christ is the way and the door (John 14:6; John 10:7), because He has given us the means which are the way and door to the Church and unto life: these doors are to be open for the sheep and to be shut against the goats. We may also understand by these doors the ministers dispensing the Gospel and the ordinances thereof; they are to be holy, vigilant, and zealous as the cherubims, and constantly green, growing, and flourishing as the palm-trees.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 41:26. “They had palm-trees wrought or engraven on both sides, implying that the materials of Christ’s Temple must not be common, but beautifully carved work. The House of Christ and everything in it must be decorated with the engravings of God’s Spirit (Psalms 45:13; Revelation 21:18-19).”—Greenhill.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 41". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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