THE VISION OF THE RESTORED TEMPLE AND THE REINHABITED LAND (Chaps. 40-48)
This is a development of the promise contained in Eze . 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 APPORTIONMENT OF TERRITORY AROUND THE TEMPLE (Chap. 45)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Eze . "Divide by lot"—not by casting lots, but by allotment, the several portions being assigned according to rule. "Ye shall offer an oblation"—from a Hebrew root to heave or raise, because when anything was offered to God the offerer raised the hand. "Unto the Lord an holy portion." The Lord's portion is subdivided into throe parts—that for the Sanctuary (Eze 45:2-3), that for the priests (Eze 45:4), and that for the Levites (Eze 45:5). This provision for the priests and Levites, out of proportion in any actual arrangement, is no doubt intended to symbolise the reverence and honour due to God and expressed by liberality to His services and His ministers. "The length five and twenty thousand reeds, and breadth ten thousand." The English Version fills in the ellipsis with reeds, according to chap. Eze 43:16. Cubits are mentioned in Eze 45:2, but not here, implying that there cubits alone are meant. Taking each reed at twelve feet, the area of the whole would be a square of sixty miles on each side. The holy portion of the Lord comprised the whole length and only two-fifths of the breadth. The form of a square indicates the settled stability of the community and the harmony of all classes.
Eze . "A possession for twenty chambers"—meaning that the Levites, who live in twenty out of the thirty chambers mentioned in chap. Eze 40:17, shall have the portion of land for a possession.
Eze . "For the whole house of Israel." This portion is to belong to the whole people, not to be subject to the encroachments made by the later kings of Judah (Jer 22:13).
Eze . "A portion for the prince." "The prince's possession is to consist of two halves, one on the west, the other on the east, of the sacred territory. The prince as head of the holy community stands in closest connection with the Sanctuary; his possession, therefore, on both sides must adjoin that which was peculiarly the Lord's."—Fairbairn. The definition of the prince's territory was to prevent the oppressions foretold (1Sa 8:14), described (2Ki 23:35), and reproved (Jeremiah 22).
Eze . "Ye shall have just balances." This fitly introduces the strict regulation of quantities in the prescribed offerings.
Eze . "The ephah and the bath." The ephah was in use for dry measure, the bath for liquid. The homer seems to have contained about 75 gallons The homer was employed as a standard, for in calculation the ephah and bath were both after the homer, according to the standard of the homer, and were to be equal to each other.
Eze . "The shekel shall be twenty gerahs." "The standard weights were lost when the Chaldeans destroyed the Temple. The threefold enumeration of shekels, twenty, twenty-five, fifteen, probably refers to coins of different value, representing respectively so many shekels, the three collectively making up a maneh. By weighing these together against the maneh a test was afforded whether they severally had their proper weight; sixty shekels in all, containing one coin a fourth of the whole (fifteen shekels), another a third (twenty shekels), another a third and a twelfth (twenty-five shekels)."—Menochius.
Eze . "This is the oblation that ye shall offer." Here the offerings are reduced to regular order and the amounts ordained. In later days there were often shortcomings in these respects (Mal 3:8). This is obviated and regularity ensured in the new order of things.
Eze . "All the people shall give this oblation for the prince." The people's gifts were to be placed in the hands of the prince, so as to form a common stock out of which the prince was to provide what was necessary for each sacrifice.
Eze . "In the first month, in the first day of the month." It is probable that this celebration is the first in a series of generally recurring ordinances, and in this case we have an addition to the Mosaic ritual.
Eze . "In the seventh month." This is the Feast of Tabernacles (Num 29:12). Of the other great festival, the Feast of Weeks, no mention is made. Ordinances that are literal, though not slavishly bound to the letter of the law, will set forth the catholic and eternal verities of Messiah's kingdom.
RELIGION THE TRUE BASIS OF EQUITY
Humanitarianism professes to construct a morality apart from religion. It is contended that man has within himself the norm or rule of right, and by the exercise of his own will-power he can elect to do that which he ought to do and which it is best to do, and which is for him the highest good. But who is the man referred to? Is it the man formed in God's image, who fell into sin, which must necessarily fetter all moral actions, and who is redeemed by Christ: or is it the man, the pure product of nature, working with the dim light of his own unaided reason, and ignoring every other god but the one centred in his own egoism? The notions of equity in the natural man must necessarily be crude, uncertain, distorted. Man needs, in order to act up to the highest level of justice, not only a revelation of the infallible standard of right, but the aid of Divine power to rectify and strengthen his moral faculties. We have in this chapter an illustration of Religion as the only true basis of Equity.
I. Seen in the impartial distribution of land (Eze ). Here all is to be fairly and unchangeably allocated and according to the unchallengeable principles of religious equity. The form of a square for the land apportioned to the priests, the prince, and the people indicated the perfect harmony and satisfaction existing among these classes. There was no ground for envy, no temptation or disposition to invade and appropriate the territory of another. Nothing has exhibited the insatiable avarice of man more strikingly than his treatment of the land question: to gratify his greed for possession he has not hesitated to practise duplicity, fraud, and oppression. The tendency has been to accumulate the bulk of the land of a nation in the hands of the few, and scant respect has often been paid to the rights of the many. In the good time coming, when religion, and not simply utility, shall be universally acknowledged as the true basis of equity, the rights of king and people shall be readily recognised, and all occasion for lawless interference with each other's possessions will be abolished (Eze 45:8).
II. Seen in the accurate adjustment and use of weights and measures (Eze ). The moral degeneracy of the Jews was apparent in their business transactions. They tampered with weights and measures, and they were frequently charged with falsifying balances (Amo 8:5; Hos 12:7; Mic 6:11). There was ample ground for the severe reproof of the prophet that their ways were not equal (chap. Eze 33:17). Their trickery and over-reaching was an abomination in the "sight of God (Pro 11:1; Pro 20:23). The law of the land, however carefully framed and wisely administered, does not always secure perfect justice as between man and man, even when that law is interpreted in the light of equity. The morality of Christian times does not always reach the standard of Pagan honesty. When valuable presents were sent to Epaminondas, the celebrated Theban general, he used to say, "If the thing you desire be good, I will do it without any bribe, even because it is good; if it be not honest, I will not do it for all the goods in the world." It is dangerous to trifle with conscientious scruples: it is better to suffer abuse and misrepresentation than to do wrong. The tender sensitiveness of the conscience, like the delicate bloom of ripe fruit, when it is once damaged can never be restored: the heart sighs in vain for the exquisite experience of a time of former conscious innocence. It does not pay to do wrong. A merchant one day, measuring a piece of cloth and finding it short, asked his clerk to help him to stretch it to the required length. The young man refused on conscientious grounds; he lost his situation, but he afterwards rose into fame and greatness, and his praise was in all the churches. It does pay to do right. Religion is the only true basis of equitable dealing as between man and man; it teaches us to render to each other that which is just and equal.
III. Seen in regulating the ordinances of worship (Eze ). The exact directions given in these verses regarding the sacrifices indicate that everything connected with Temple-service must be regulated according to the strictest laws of equity. Of all places, the Sanctuary must not be polluted or its worship marred with mutilated offerings and half-hearted devotion. Morality alone, morality divorced from true religion, does not inspire worship—it lacks motive, lifting power. We cannot worship God till we know Him, and we never know Him till we love Him and the whole soul is swayed and thrilled with the influence of that love. The laws of ethics are but broken lights of a higher truth, and the fragments have been still more hopelessly shattered and inextricably confused by the infatuated attempts of men to construct them into a philosophy of religion that shall be independent of Divine sanctions. Vain dream! It is a repetition of the task of Sisyphus, who spent his time in rolling a stone up a hill, which as soon as it reached the summit rebounded again to the plain. The equitable demands of Divine worship can alone be met by the aid of genuine religion. The soul must be made good before it can be just to God or man.
1. The highest ideal of equity should be expressed in just and equal laws.
2. Religion, and not utilitarianism, is the true basis of equity.
3. Worship is acceptable to God only as it is in perfect harmony with justice and equity.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Eze . The Land Question—
1. Should recognise the Divine ownership (Eze ).
2. Should sanction a distribution in harmony with the rights and claims of all classes (Eze ).
3. Should not allow unjust exactions, or the oppression of the weak by the strong (Eze ).
4. By its equitable settlement removes temptations to robbery and wrong (Eze ).
Eze . "The frequent occurrence of the number five in these measurements is remarkable, and if we consider that God has fitted in the human hand five instruments by which man fashions to his will the materials of the world—that these are the measure of his power over them—we may be instructed by this passage to believe that every Christian State is bound to provide for the maintenance of pure and undefiled religion, according to the measure of its power in the earth."—M‘Farlan.
Eze . "A portion of the land was first reserved for the Lord. His Temple required an ample space of ground and His poor required support, and He ever lives their Guardian and constant Friend. If we expect the Lord's blessing we must pay Him homage down to the widow's mite. It is well, therefore, for men when they come to their inheritance to consecrate their fortune by a small offering to Heaven in this way, as it seemed the young ruler in the Gospel wished to do."—Sutcliffe.
—"Those who live from God's hand are content with His measure, even when it turns out small and modest.—It ought to be our joy to be near God, to be associated with Him."—Starck.
Eze . "The Sanctuary was situated in the centre of all; so ought religion to be the central point of life, and Christ the centre of true religion.—Religion, faith, Christianity, ought not, either in the life of nations or of individuals, to be placed in a corner merely as a tolerated piece of antiquity."
Eze . "The Lord's faithful priests shall dwell beside Him and be with Christ for refreshment and revival from the strife and disquiet of men among whom they are scattered."—Lange.
Eze . "Royalty which watches with a paternal eye for the public weal should be amply supported in return. The king is the Lord's minister, and, next to a lot of land for the Lord's house, his support is guaranteed in order and prior to the provision for ministers of religion. His portion was adjacent to the capital because he must reside contiguous to the court and the bench of justice."—Sutcliffe.
—"For princes to have their domains is not unjust, but they should not seek to draw everything into these domains."—Starke.
Eze . "To protect, but not to fleece.—Governments ought to give good heed to weights, measures, and coinage, and allow no inequalities to creep in.—Knowingly to pass spurious coin is intentional deceit, and so is the clipping of coins in order to lessen their weight.—Unjust gain does not profit the third generation. Lightly come, lightly gone."—Lange.
Eze . An Ideal Commonwealth—
1. Where God is acknowledged and obeyed.
2. Where the ruler is just and powerful.
3. Where oppression and violence are unknown.
4. Where commerce is conducted on principles of strictest equity.
1. Princes and magistrates commonly are covetous and cruel.
2. Christianity does not overthrow but establish magistracy.
3. The great thing required of them is to do justice, execute judgment and justice, do wrong to none, neither suffer wrong to be done.
4. Princes are not to rule by prerogative in an arbitrary way, but they themselves are tied to the laws of God and bound by them."—Greenhill.
Eze . "Self-interest and avarice, that have hitherto wrought so perniciously, shall no longer prevail among the people of the future, but rather righteousness, a spirit of willing sacrifice."—Hengstenberg.
—"How happy would nations be if their princes ruled in justice, not for self-aggrandisement, but for the glory of God and as holding their authority under Christ; and how happy the people so governed would be, living in tranquillity, prosperity, and true godliness!"—Fausset.
—"This is the voice of God to all the rulers of the earth—‘Take away your exactions, do not oppress the people; they are Mine. Abolish all oppressive taxes.'"—A. Clarke.
Eze . Just Balances—
1. Requisite as between man's actions and his conscience.
2. As between man and man.
3. As between man and God.
4. Will be used in the final judgment.
Eze . "Even the small gifts of the poor, when given in true love, are an acceptable offering (Heb 13:16).—It is reasonable that a man set apart a considerable portion of his income for the glory of God and the support of true worship.—The revenue for spiritual objects is most defrauded."—Lange.
Eze . A Good King—
1. Is interested in the religious welfare of his people (Eze ).
2. Sustains the ministers of the truth in their sacred work (Eze ).
3. Makes generous provision for the national worship of God (Eze ; Eze 45:22-25).
—"These offerings would be perpetual remembrancers to the prince of the sacred character he maintained as the head of such a people, and would supply him by Divine enactment with what was needed to fulfil this part of his office without resorting to arbitrary and oppressive measures. Expressed more generally, it was a symbol of the perfect harmony and mutual co-operation which should exist in such a holy communion in regard to the public service and glory of God; without constraint or any sort of jarring, the several classes would freely and faithfully do their parts. They were all symbolical of the spiritual and eternal truths of God's Kingdom, and may be variously adjusted, as is now done, in order to make them more distinctly expressive of the greater degree of holiness and purity that is in future times to distinguish the people and service of God over all that has been in the past."—Fairbairn.
Eze . When Christ on the cross consecrated the new Temple, He cancelled our sins.
Eze . "This order of solemn services does not follow exactly the order of Moses, of Solomon, or of Ezra, who, on the return from captivity, rearranged the festivals on the Mosaic pattern. Familiar as Ezekiel was with every detail of the Levitical law, this deviation can scarcely have been accidental, and we may herein recognise fresh indications that the whole vision is symbolical, representative of the times when, after the oblation of the one Sacrifice, reconciliation and sanctification were effected for man through the presence of God dwelling in the midst of the people."—Speaker's Commentary.
Eze . "At the beginning of the new year of grace, and with the newly rising light, the Temple was again raised up or opened, and the true justification and sanctification through the sacrifice of Christ recognised and proclaimed."—Lange.
—Let us begin our years, our months, our weeks, and days with self-examination, repentance, faith, prayer, and devotedness to God, and spend them in like manner.
Eze . "Sin as error and seduction, and error and seduction as sin.—We ought to attend Divine service from beginning to end."—Lange.
Eze . "Every solemnisation of the Lord's Supper a fulfilled paschal solemnity.—But our Passover is Christ.—It behoves us to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in spirit and in truth so much more than the Jews the nearer we approach eternity.—Our home is above, to which we draw nearer every moment."—Lange.
—"Hereafter there shall be a new Passover and a new Feast of Tabernacles observed in Israel, with ceremonies vastly exceeding in glory those of the same feasts under the Old Testament. The antitypical, perfect, and eternal realities of Christ's manifested Kingdom shall be set forth with observances which, though literal, are not to be slavishly bound down to the letter of the old law, but which shall bring out all the heretofore hidden glories and excellences of that law viewed in its essential spirit."—Fausset.
Eze . "The sin-offering to be sacrificed first of all, the sins of prince and people being transferred to it as the priest confessed them with his hands on the head of the victim, to show their conviction that the wrath of God must abide on them till transferred to another who should die in their stead; then came the burnt-offerings, to show that, being clear of guilt in His sight, He would accept their service and transfer it with themselves into His heavenly glory by the Spirit, as the burnt-offerings were by the fire of the altar."—M‘Farlan.
Eze . "By these feasts and sacrifices also we are reminded of the spiritual joy the saints have in their communion together under the Gospel and spiritual sacrifices they offer up to God by Christ."—Greenhill.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 45". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany