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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 CHAMBERS OF THE PRIESTS. (Chap. 42)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 42:1. “Into the chamber”—to the chambers; the Hebrew is a collective noun. “The building towards the north.” The direction in which the chambers lay. Place a comma between building and toward.
Ezekiel 42:2. “Before the length of a hundred cubits was the north door”—i.e., before the separate place, which was that length. The seer had before spoken of chambers for the officiating priests on the north and south gates of the inner court (chap. Ezekiel 40:44-46). He now returns to take a more exact view of them.
Ezekiel 42:4. “And before the chambers was a walk of ten cubits breadth inward.” The word for walk may mean gangway, and there may have been in the middle of the chambers a gangway leading inward, with stairs to the upper stories, ten cubits wide, while along the north front of the building there was a kerb of one cubit, as before the guard-chambers (chap. Ezekiel 40:12), on which kerb the north doors (leading to the basement) opened. Hengstenberg calls the walk a street.
Ezekiel 42:5. “Now the upper chambers were shorter.” “To be rendered thus:—And the upper chambers were shortened, for galleries took off from them (literally, did eat of them), from the lower and from the middlemost chambers of the building. The building rose in terraces, as was usual in Babylonian architecture, and so each of the two upper stories receded from the one below it.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
Ezekiel 42:7. “The wall that was without.” The wall here must be one from north to south, fencing off from the outer court the passage along the east side of the chambers, and therefore fifty cubits long.
Ezekiel 42:8. “And, lo, before the Temple.” This describes their position in a general way; more precisely, they lay over against partly the separate place and partly the Temple court.
Ezekiel 42:9. “As one goeth into them from the outer court.” There was an entrance at the north of this passage by which the priests entered into the chambers and into the Temple court.
Ezekiel 42:10. “The chambers were in the thickness of the wall.” The verse should be rendered:—Breadthwise was the wall towards the east; in front of the separate place and of the building were the chambers.
Ezekiel 42:11-12, assert that on the south side of the separate place was a block of chambers precisely similar to that on the north.
Ezekiel 42:13. “Where the priests shall eat the most holy things.” In Leviticus 10:13 it was prescribed that the priests should eat of the sacrifices in the holy place. This was originally before the altar in the inner court—now separate chambers are assigned, and these become the holy place for this purpose. Only the meat-offerings—the sin and guilt offerings—are mentioned, not the slain or peace offering, because only in the former were the portions falling to the priests most holy, and as such to be consumed by the priests alone, in their official function; whereas in the peace-offerings the priestly portion was consumed by the priests with their whole family, including even the females (Leviticus 10:14).
Ezekiel 42:14. “When the priests enter therein.” Another purpose for which these chambers were to be used was for the unrobing of the priests. Only after they have changed their garments which they have used in the service of God are they to enter into intercourse with the people in the outer court.
Ezekiel 42:15. “Measuring the inner house.” Not the Temple, but the Temple and its courts, all that lay within the wall on the outside of the house (chap. Ezekiel 40:5).
Ezekiel 42:16. “He measured the east side—five hundred reeds.” The vast extent is another feature marking the ideal character of the Temple. It symbolises the great enlargement of the Kingdom of God in the times of the Messiah.
Ezekiel 42:20. “To make a separation.” The sanctuary proper was the Most Holy Place as distinguished from the rest of the Temple; but the term was capable of extension, first to the whole Temple, then to all the ground that was separated to holy as distinguished from profane or common uses. No longer shall the wall of partition be to separate the Jew and the Gentile, for Christ hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us (Ephesians 2:14), but to separate the sacred from the profane.
WORKERS FOR GOD: THEIR PRIVILEGES AND DISTINCTION
I. That workers for God have ample provision for all their needs. These chambers were intended for shelter, rest, and refreshment for those who waited on God in worship; every necessary comfort and convenience was provided. The priests were wholly devoted to their sacred calling; they renounced the world and all its most tempting prizes, and gave themselves up body and soul to a life-long consecration to the work of the Temple. The law of worship demanded this complete self-renunciation; and at the same time it secured to the servant of God everything that was essential to his well-being and to help him in his hallowed work. The minister of the Divine Word must be relieved from the fret and care of worldly things, that he may be free to apply himself with a whole-hearted abandon to the study and interpretation of spiritual things (1 Timothy 4:15). Let him take care of the sacred deposit committed to his trust, and God will take care of him. The faithful worker for God need have no anxiety about the future: his anxiety should be undividedly centred on the duties of the present (Luke 10:7; Philippians 4:19).
II. That workers for God should prepare by devotions in private for the profitable worship of God in public. The chambers, though near the Temple, were separate from it, were strictly private, placed in the midst of stillness and retirement favourable to meditation and prayer. The power of the worker for God in public is acquired by diligent devotion in private. God is known in the greatness and glory of His character and the wisdom and righteousness of His ways; not in the midst of noise and uproar, but in quietness and solitude. The thinker must isolate himself for the time being from all distraction, and quietly and prayerfully wait on God. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). Not in the wild commotion and brazen clangour of the battlefield, not in the whizzing hurricane of national strife and uproar, not in the rush and worry of excessive worldly care, are the holy secrets of Divine things divulged to the soul, but in the solitude of retirement, in the hush and stillness of some meditative retreat, where the tocsin of war is never heard and the peal of cannon and crash of arms never penetrate. Not that we are to indulge in a life of useless quietism and inactivity. We must ilence our meaningless clamour and pause in our demonstrative activities in order that God may speak and may work His purpose in us: then we receive our commission and are inspired to speak and work for Him. On the quiet pastoral slopes of Midian, Moses, in stillness and awe, witnessed the splendours of the Divine revelation; and then went forth to work, and his life thenceforward was a continuous scene of tireless and prodigious activity Among the rugged crags of Horeb, Elijah was favoured with a fuller revelation of the Divine character—not in the roaring tempest, the crashing earthquake, or the devouring fire, but in the subduing whisper of the still, small voice—and he rose up to do the will of God with a tenderer and a nobler spirit than he had known before. In the dreary solitudes of Patmos the beloved John beheld, in enraptured stillness, visions of the future history of the Church as they rolled before him in panoramic splendour, and then spent the rest of his life in writing and speaking about them for the benefit of the ages to come. And so the workers for God, in the quietness and secrecy of the closet, receive the blessing of the Lord that they may bear it forth to the public sanctuary and make their fellow-worshippers all the richer for sharing with them the outpoured endowments of Heaven.
III. That workers for God should be distinguished by superior sanctity.
1. The character of their work demands it. It is holy work; it has to do with holy things (Ezekiel 42:13). In connection with the Temple of God a clear and unmistakable distinction is made between things sacred and profane (Ezekiel 42:20). The law of cleansing observed in the Levitical ritual with such scrupulous minuteness was intended to set forth the absolute necessity of purity in all who took part in the ministrations of the Temple (Isaiah 52:11). Only the holy can comprehend and teach holiness. To understand philosophy we must be philosophic, to appreciate a poet we must be poetical, and to understand purity we must be ourselves pure.
2. The success of their work will be influenced by it. It will be seen in its effects both upon themselves and upon others. How often is the best work for God marred by the intrusion into it of human imperfection and sin! It is said that Michael Angelo was once seen absorbingly engaged on an important painting with a lighted lamp fastened across his forehead, so that no shadow from himself might fall upon his work. Even so ought we to lift up the light of a God-given holiness that no shadow of self may darken and disfigure the work we are doing for Him. Man is never so great, so luminous, so grand, as when he is doing holy work with the light and help of the holy God.
1. To do the best work for God needs prayerful preparation.
2. Work done for God has its own special rewards.
3. Personal holiness requisite for the highest kind of success in work for God.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 42:1-20. “By these buildings connected with the Temple and pertaining to its outward economy we should be reminded that the Lord bestows upon the pious the other necessaries of life also. In Him they find their entire satisfaction; but they use food, drink, intercourse with men and this world, as if they did not use all this. Thus to the pure all things are pure that they do with pure and upright heart. The Word of God makes us strong when it is with us, and blesses also outward things. The Lord has ordained that they who preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel.”—Œcolampadius.
Ezekiel 42:1. “As this Temple was provided with many chambers, but each had its own purpose, so believing Christians must be sanctified chambers for the glory of God—one for this use, another for that (2 Timothy 2:21).”—Starck.
Ezekiel 42:3. “The inner court. This was a figure of the Church invisible, as the outer court was of the visible and external.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 42:4. The Social Instinct—
1. Leads to the place where congenial company is to be found.
2. Delights in the fellowships associated with the House of God.
3. Finds its supreme satisfaction in spiritual communion with the highest.
—“Before the chambers was a walk of ten cubits—a way of one cubit.” “There is a broad way and a narrow way; a ten-cubit way and a one-cubit way. The Church at one time has prosperity and freedom; it is in ‘a walk of ten cubits;’ and the time will come when it shall have greater latitude, liberty, and prosperity. At another time the Church is in straits, afflictions, temptations, and persecutions: it is in ‘a way of one cubit.’ ”—Greenhill.
—“A way of one cubit.” “A narrow way, but such as led into spacious walks of ten cubits breadth inward. Strait is the gate and narrow the way that leadeth unto life eternal; but they that hit it, hold it, shall walk arm-in-arm with angels (Matthew 7:14; Zechariah 3:7). Through many tribulations we enter the Kingdom; but there God will set our feet in a large room (Acts 14:22; Psalms 31:8). Let it be remembered that this narrow way is but short; it is of but one cubit.”—Trapp.
—“We are not to spend all our time between the church and the chamber, though a great deal of time may be spent to very good purpose in both; but man is made for society and Christians for the communion of saints, and we must make conscience of the duties of that communion and take the comfort of its privileges and pleasures.”—M. Henry.
Ezekiel 42:5-6. The Law of Gradation—
1. Recognised in the various duties and offices in the Church of God.
2. Regulates the distribution of intellectual and spiritual endowments.
3. Limits responsibility to gifts and opportunities.
Ezekiel 42:5. “While in the previous chapter the breadth increased with the elevation, it here becomes narrower. The progressive growth in grace is a wider consciousness of Christ, but a constantly narrowing self-consciousness (1 Corinthians 15:9). So is the service in the gospel, when with increasing years our view into eternity expands and similarly contracts in temporal matters; the nearer the day of reckoning is, our responsibility becomes the clearer to us and the more clearly do we see our many mistakes and disloyalties.—There are three stages of life: youth, manhood, and old age, and the last is the narrowest of all.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 42:6. “Had not pillars.” “The strength of this Temple was not everywhere alike; some parts had pillars, others had none, or not equal to others. So in the Church of Christ, some parts of it have strong pillars, eminent teachers, whereas other parts are wholly destitute, or have such as are weak.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 42:7. “God is able to set walls around those who desire to keep themselves pure from the stains of the flesh and to protect them in the hour of trial and temptation. True believers are protected; no one can injure them (John 10:27).”—Starke.
—“The wall of God’s protection extends as far as the Church, or any part of it.”
Ezekiel 42:8-9. Public and Private Worship—
1. Mutually helpful in the culture of spiritual life.
2. The use of the one does not supersede the use of the other.
3. Public worship a solemn testimony and the sphere where the most memorable blessings are realised.
4. Private worship an essential preparation for successful public worship.
5. Public worship a privilege, to be preferred before and above private worship.
Ezekiel 42:13-14. The Blessing of Food and Clothing—
1. Abundantly provided for all the creatures of God.
2. Not sufficiently appreciated.
3. Eating and drinking a holy refection to be enjoyed with a thankful heart, which should be suitably expressed before and after partaking.
4. A proof of the universality of the Divine care and goodness.
—“If we have to understand by the priests those brought up from childhood in the faith of Christ and walking in this way, then in these verses is figured their fellowship with one another in particular, their united inquiry into the Word and meditation thereon, and on the mystery of Christ, for growth of knowledge and increase of joy, so that they are prepared and adorned in one and the same faith, always to return to and worship at the altar, which is Christ.—Glory and holiness in their connection; how this connection is stamped on this Temple and its arrangements and purposes, even to the most minute particulars.—Profane ministers profane the sanctuary.—We ought not to approach the holy table of the Lord with worldly, impenitent hearts.”—Lange.
—Ministerial Duties and Privileges. “
1. The priests approached unto the Lord. In all administrations of the Gospel ministers approach near to God, and in all their approaches He looks to be sanctified by them.
2. The priests in God’s service had good accommodation. Here is a Divine ordinance for ministers’ maintenance. Whatever good things people possess, they ought to communicate a part to their teachers (Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 9:13-14).
3. Holy things are to be laid in holy places. Holy hearts are fit places for God, Christ, the Spirit, the Gospel and all the ordinances of it.
4. Ministers ought to have other frames of spirit in them when they are nearer to God in the duties of His worship than at other times (Ezekiel 42:14). Then they are to put on holy garments, be clothed with zeal, fear, and all holy affections. They are to discharge their office with gravity and authority, that their ministry be not despised.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 42:13. “Ministers must eat as well as other they are not of the chameleon kind—cannot live on air; and the Lord Christ hath ordained that they which wait at the altar are partakers of the altar (1 Corinthians 9:3; 1 Corinthians 9:14).”—Trapp.
—“The chambers, though private, are to be near the Temple, which teaches us that our communion with God in our secret chambers is to prepare us for public devotions in the sanctuary, and to enable us to derive all the benefits from them which God has designed. There can be no real worship in public if there be not also worship in private. In the Temple of the Holy Ghost, the Church, there are multitudes dwelling by faith, and yet there is room for more.”—Fausset.
—“Those that have public work to do for God and the souls of men have need to be much in private to fit themselves for it. Ministers should spend much time in their chambers, in reading, meditation, and prayer, that their profiting may appear; and they ought to be provided with conveniences for this purpose.”—M. Henry.
Ezekiel 42:14. “The clerical coat does not make the clergyman, yet it is a defence and an admonition. The best clerical garment, and one which we may always put on and wear everywhere, is our sanctification in Christ. It is as great a mistake to carry about the clerical coat everywhere, like a monk, as to leave it at home from unclerical frivolity or worldly-mindedness. Paul became all things to all men, but not at the expense of his ministerial office.”—Lange.
—“Ministers may not leave their station, lay aside their holy calling, entangle themselves with worldly cares and businesses, but make their ministry their business, giving themselves wholly to it. As in doing their office they must use all becoming gravity and authority as the ambassadors of Christ, so at other times they must familiarise themselves with their people, becoming all things to all men, in Paul’s sense, that they may win some.”—Trapp.
Ezekiel 42:15. “So wide and spacious will the New Testament Church be, in distinction from the Old Testament Church. A greater than Solomon in all his pomp and glory is here, for Jesus is the Light of all nations. The true Church is the collection of the scattered believers that are in the world.—Observe, only after he had learned exactly the internal magnitude did the prophet learn the external. It is labour in vain to labour in investigating nature until we have first laid a good foundation in godliness. Without this we continue too much devoted to the contemplation of visible things and make them our idols, so that they become a stumbling-block and a snare to ourselves and other inexperienced people. But when thou hast come to know the inner meaning of spiritual things, and hast tasted the length, height, and depth of the love of God, then thou mayest busy thyself with all visible things. Thou wilt everywhere pause, and contemplating things with the spiritual eye, say, ‘O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!’ ”—Lange.
Ezekiel 42:15-20. The Messianic Church. “
1. Its extent and latitude. It is in all quarters of the world.
2. Its stability and firmness. The buildings of this Temple are four-square—stable, firm, and lasting. So the Church is strong and permanent (Ephesians 2:20; Isaiah 54:14; Matthew 16:18).
3. Its lustre and beauty. Great buildings in the form of a square are beautiful and glorious. So the Church (Song of Solomon 6:4).
4. Its safety. This Temple had a wall round about (Ezekiel 42:20). The wall of the New Jerusalem is great and high, sufficient to secure all who are within (Revelation 21:12).
5. Its sanctity. This wall was to separate between the sanctuary and the profane place (Ezekiel 42:20). The Church is a company called out of and separate from the world, who have given up themselves to God and Christ.”—Greenhill.
Ezekiel 42:16-20. The Grandeur of the Divine Temple.
1. It is of vast extent. He measured the east, north, south, and west sides, each side being 500 reeds (Ezekiel 42:16-19)—in all a square of 11/7 of a mile—exceeding the limits of all ancient Jerusalem. This signifies the great enlargement of the Church of God in future times.
2. It is immovably secure. “He measured by the four sides.” Its square form betokened the strength and solidity of the whole—an emblem of the kingdom that cannot be moved.
3. It marks off an unmistakable distinction between the holy and profane. “To make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place” (Ezekiel 42:20).
—“Thus every way it exhibits to the eye of faith the true ideal of that pure and glorious Temple which, resting on the foundation of the eternal Son and girt round with all the perfections of Godhead, shall shine forth the best and noblest workmanship of Heaven.”—Fairbairn.
Ezekiel 42:20. “In Christ all has assumed such a shape that through Him the sanctuary now always continues present in humanity; and the true altar of burnt-offering, Golgotha, is always before the eyes of the Most Holy Father, in order, for the sake of the sacrifice thereon offered, to love, sanctify, and protect us all.”—Diedrich.
—“Gold is purged in the fire, shines in the water; as, on the other side, clay is scorched in the fire, dissolved in the water.”—Trapp.
—“The Jews accounted the whole earth profane—common or unclean—compared with Canaan, and Canaan common or less holy than Jerusalem, and every part nearer the Temple the more holy; and so here the outward court was enclosed to distinguish it by its comparative holiness; it was more holy than all without it.”—Pool.
—“A difference is to be put between common and sacred things, between God’s name and other names, between His day and other days, His Book and other books, His institutions and other observances; and a distance to be put between our worldly and religious actions, so as still to go about the worship of God with a solemn pause.”—M. Henry.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 42". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17