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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ezekiel 40

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS ON CHAPTERS 40-48.

WE are now entering upon a portion of the Holy Scriptures which is justly looked upon to be one of the most, difficult in all the book of God. The Jews will not allow any to read it till they are thirty years of age, and they tell those who do read it, that though they cannot understand every thing in it, yet when Elias comes he will explain it. Many commentators, both ancient and modern, have acknowledged themselves to be at a loss how to interpret it. But because it is hard to be understood, we must not therefore throw it aside as useless, but must humbly search into its meaning, and advance as far as we can in the knowledge thereof; and when we despair of finding satisfaction in every difficulty we meet with, we must bless God that our salvation does not depend upon it, but that things necessary are sufficiently plain; and we must wait till God shall reveal even this unto us. These chapters are the more to be regarded because the two last chapters of the Revelation seem to have a plain allusion to them, as Revelation 20:0. has to the foregoing prophecy of Gog and Magog.

The contents of this prophecy are as follows: In this and the two following chapters we have the vision of a glorious temple. In chap. 43. God is represented as taking possession of it. In chap. 44. orders are given concerning the priests that are to minister in this temple. Chap. 45. directs concerning the division of the land, what portion should be allotted for the sanctuary, what for the city, and what for the prince, both with respect to his government of the people, and his worship of God. Chap. 46. contains further instructions for him and the people. And after the vision of the holy waters, we have the borders of the holy land, the portions assigned to the tribes, and the dimensions and gates of the holy city, in chap. 47. 48.

Some suppose that the following description of the temple was intended to show how glorious Solomon’s temple had been, during the flourishing state of the Jewish Church, in order that the captives might see what they had lost by sin, and might be the more humbled. Others consider it as intended for a model according to which the new colonists were to erect a temple on their return to their own land; observing, at the same time, the customs and usages which Ezekiel here orders, and dividing the country as he directs. Perhaps the general scope of the vision might be two-fold: 1st, To assure the captives that they should not only return to their own land and be settled there, which had been often promised in the foregoing chapters, but that they should have, and therefore ought to be encouraged to build another temple which God would own, and where he would meet and bless them: that the ordinances of their worship should be revived, and the sacred priesthood should there attend; and, though they should not have a king to live in such splendour as formerly, yet they should have a prince, or ruler, (who is often spoken of in this vision,) that should countenance the worship of God among them, and should himself be an example of a diligent attendance upon it: and that prince, priests, and people should have a very comfortable settlement in their own land. 2d, To direct them to look further than all this, and to expect the coming of the Messiah, who had before been prophesied of, under the name David, (the man that projected the building of the first temple,) and who should set up a spiritual temple, even the gospel church, the glory of which should far exceed that of Solomon’s temple, and which should continue to the end of time. And the gospel temple, erected by Christ and his apostles, was so closely connected with the second material temple, and was erected so carefully just at the time when that temple fell into decay, being designed to receive its glories when it resigned them, that it was proper enough they should both be referred to in one and the same vision; which vision, under the type and figure of a temple and altar, priest and sacrifices, foreshowed the spiritual worship that should be performed in gospel times, as being more agreeable to the nature both of God and man, and that worship perfected at last in the kingdom of glory, in which, doubtless, these visions will have their full accomplishment; if not, as some think, in a glorious and happy state of the gospel church, to take place on earth in the latter days.

The grand outlines of the description here given, as Mr. Scott observes, might be taken from Solomon’s temple, with the additions made to its courts and out-buildings in after ages; and Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the other Jews, who returned from Babylon, might have respect to it in rebuilding the temple after the captivity; but “there are several circumstances which evidently show that something vastly superior to either the first or second temple was intended; and that the external description must be considered as a figure and emblem of spiritual blessings. This will appear, in many particulars, as we proceed; but especially the dimensions of the temple, city, and land; and the division of the land to the prince, priests, and tribes; and the river of water springing from the threshold of the temple, enlarging till it reached the Dead sea, and sweetening its waters; with the trees growing on the banks of the river, bearing fruit every month, cannot be literally interpreted, or made to accord with any thing which has yet taken place.”

A late writer gives the following character of this part of Ezekiel’s prophecy: “From the fortieth chapter a new elevated scene commences. Before, there was nothing but oracles full of misfortunes, of punishments, of death and ruin; visions concerning the destruction of the government, and concerning the flight and state of the last king; and pictures of the universal corruption, idolatry, and superstition of Israel. From the fortieth chapter a new temple rises before the eyes of the holy seer, he walks round about it in Palestine, he measures the city and country for their new inhabitants, he orders sacrifices, feasts, and customs. In short, a Magna Charta is planned for priests, kings, and people, in future ages and latter times. Lastly, from hence prosaic expression predominates: at least, the prophet elevates himself by poetical colouring much more rarely than before.”

A.M. 3430. B.C. 574.

In this chapter we have,

(1,) A general account of this vision of the temple and city, Ezekiel 40:1-4 .

(2,) A particular account of the east gate, north gate, and south gate, Ezekiel 40:5-31 .

(3,) Of the inner court, Ezekiel 40:32-38 .

(4,) Of the tables, Ezekiel 40:39-43 .

(5,) Of the lodgings for the singers and priests, Ezekiel 40:44-47 .

(6,) Of the porch of the house, Ezekiel 40:48 , Ezekiel 40:49 .

Verses 1-2

Ezekiel 40:1-2. In the five and twentieth year of our captivity Of the captivity of those that were carried away with Jehoiachin, eleven years before Jerusalem was taken. In the beginning of the year In the month Nisan; in the tenth day of the month The day that the paschal lamb was to be taken up in order to the feast on the fourteenth day; in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten Zedekiah’s reign commenced from Jehoiachin’s captivity, in the eleventh year of whose reign the city was destroyed, Jeremiah 52:5-6. So the fourteenth year after its destruction must be coincident with the twenty-fifth of Jehoiachin’s captivity. In the selfsame day the hand of the Lord was upon me, &c. I was actuated by a divine power, which brought me, in vision, from the land of my captivity to the place where Jerusalem had stood. In the visions of God brought he me This plainly declares that the prophet was not transported to the land of Israel in body, but only that it appeared to him, in his vision, as if he were transported thither, and things were represented to his mind just the same as if he had been actually there. And set me upon a very high mountain This expression is thought to point out mount Moriah, on which the temple was built. Or, if that mountain could not properly be so characterized, the prophet’s station may be considered as merely represented in vision, without a corresponding real one. Michaelis thinks nothing more is signified by it “than that Jerusalem, and the true worship of God, should be very much exalted, and made known to all the world.” Or is it not rather so denominated, as representing the seat of the Christian Church, foretold by the prophets to be established on the top of the mountains, Isaiah 2:1; Micah 4:1: compare Revelation 21:10. By which was the frame of a city The portrait of a city. By this was signified the temple, on the south of the mountain where the prophet was set, which, with all its courts, buildings, and walls encompassing the courts, and the whole area, or holy mountain, resembled a city for largeness.

Verses 3-5

Ezekiel 40:3-5. Behold, there was a man The same no doubt that appeared to the prophet, Ezekiel 1:20, (where see the note,) whose name is the Branch, and who builds the temple of the Lord, Zechariah 6:12-13; whose appearance was like the appearance of brass Bright and sparkling, Revelation 1:15. With a line of flax in his hand The use of the line was to measure the land of Israel, and of the reed to take the dimensions of the buildings in and about the temple; as also to set out several portions of land belonging to the sanctuary and city, to the prince and people: see the margin. And he stood in the gate Probably the north gate, being the first entrance the prophet may be supposed to have arrived at, as he came from Chaldea, which lay northward of Judea. Son of man, behold, &c., and hear Take notice of what thou seest, so that thou mayest afterward tell it to thy people. And, behold, a wall on the outside A wall went round the whole compass, or square, of the holy mountain, whereon the temple was situate, to separate the holy ground from that which was common: see Ezekiel 42:20. And in the man’s hand a measuring-reed of six cubits long, &c. Here is explained what sort of a cubit is meant in the following delineation of the temple, namely, one that consisted of six hand-breadths, or one hand-breadth over the cubit used in Chaldea, where he now lived. This is the measure of a Scripture cubit, generally agreed to be equivalent to eighteen inches, or a foot and a half of our measure. See Bishop Cumberland, Of Scripture Weights and Measures, p. 36, &c. According to Michaelis, the Hebrew measures are, 1. The finger’s-breadth: 2. Four fingers, or a hand-breadth: 3. The ell; the smaller of five hand-breadths, the larger of six: 4. The rod, of six ells. He also allows the rabbinical account, that a finger is equal to the length of six barley grains. So he measured the breadth of the building That is, of the outward wall, which was three yards high, and three yards broad. This wall surrounded a part which corresponded to the court of the Gentiles, and served as a security against the precipices of the mount on which the temple stood.

Verses 6-8

Ezekiel 40:6-8. Then came he unto the gate, &c. After having passed the court of the Gentiles, he came to the eastern gate, or the court of Israel. For the temple being placed toward the west part of the holy mountain, as the holy of holies was at the west end of the temple, this was the first gate that led to it, and it opened into the court of the people: see Ezekiel 40:19. It is called the king’s gate, (1 Chronicles 9:18,) as being built by King Solomon. And went up the stairs thereof, &c. He went up the stairs that he might more easily measure the upper lintel, as well as the lower threshold. The word ס Š, translated threshold, signifies the lintel, or upper part of the door-case, as well as the threshold properly so called, or the lower part of it. Some understand the word here of the two side-posts, in which sense it is used Amos 9:1. And every little chamber, &c. Along the wall of the porch were chambers, three on each side, Ezekiel 40:10; these the angel measured, and they were of equal dimensions, each one reed square, with a passage of five cubits breadth between them. And the threshold of the gate, &c., was one reed The inward threshold at the further end of the porch, looking into the first court, was of the same size with the outward one, Ezekiel 40:6. He measured also Or, he even measured; the porch of the gate within The words seem to be a repetition of what was said in the latter part of Ezekiel 40:7.

Verses 9-12

Ezekiel 40:9-12. Then measured he the porch of the gate, eight cubits, &c. This was a portico beyond the little chambers which looked into the first court. It was eight cubits wide, and the two side-posts were two cubits thick, which made up the ten cubits mentioned Ezekiel 40:11. And the little chambers of the gate eastward were three, &c. Or the little chambers of the eastern gate, which he has hitherto been describing, and the form of which is here repeated. These rooms were for the use of the porters that took care of the several gates that led to the temple. And the posts had one measure The side-posts, or fronts of the doors, belonging to each row of chambers, were of the same size. And the length of the gate thirteen cubits By the length of the gate, Villalpandus understands the height, which he supposes to have been two reeds, or twelve cubits and a half. The space also before the little chambers was one cubit, &c. There was a border, or a rail, which enclosed a cubit’s space before each chamber.

Verses 13-14

Ezekiel 40:13-14. He measured then the gate from the roof of one little chamber, &c. Measuring the arch of the gate from north to south, it was in breadth twenty-five cubits, which is thus computed: the breadth of the gate ten cubits, the breadth of both the side walls thirteen cubits, and two cubits for the space or border on each side of the chambers, Ezekiel 40:12. Door against door The door on each chamber exactly answered the door on the opposite side. He made also posts, &c. He described, or made a delineation of the height of the columns or pillars which were to support the rooms or stories over the arch of the gate; and these were in height sixty cubits. Even unto the posts of the court round about the gate It is supposed there is an ellipsis in these words, which may be thus supplied: And there was one measure to the pillars of the court, and of the gate round about; which makes the sense run plain and easy.

Verses 15-16

Ezekiel 40:15-16. And from the face of the gate, &c. The whole length of the porch, from the outward front unto the inner side, which looked into the first court, was fifty cubits. There were narrow windows to the little chambers, &c. Every one of these little chambers ( Eze 40:7 ) had a narrow window to it, toward the inside of the gate where the passage was; and so there was over the side-posts or fronts placed at the entrance of every chamber; and likewise to the arches The word translated arches signifies also a porch, or entrance; and the word being so taken, the sense is, that there was a window over every door. And upon each post were palm-trees A palm-tree was carved upon the chapiter of each side-post, or front.

Verse 17

Ezekiel 40:17. Then brought he me into the outward court There were two courts belonging to Solomon’s temple; the outward for the people, the inward for the priests. It is probable that Solomon built only the inner court: see 1 Kings 6:36, compared with chap. 1 Kings 8:64: and that the outer court was built after his time, whereupon it is called the new court, (2 Chronicles 20:5,) after which time there is particular mention of the two courts of the house of the Lord, 2 Kings 21:5. A third court, called the court of the Gentiles, was afterward added by Herod, when he rebuilt the temple. And lo, there were chambers These chambers were over the cloister, and supported by it: see Ezekiel 40:14, and Ezekiel 42:8. They might be for the use of the priests, and likewise store-houses for tithes and offerings: see 1 Chronicles 28:12. And a pavement made for the court round about A beautiful floor made with checker-work. The whole floor of this court was thus paved. Thirty chambers were upon the pavement That is, fifteen on the south side of the gate, and fifteen on the north side, built over the pavement.

Verse 19

Ezekiel 40:19. Then he measured the breadth, &c., a hundred cubits eastward and northward He measured the whole space of ground between the west front of the lower gate, (namely, the gate at the east end of the outer court,) and the east front of the upper gate, which led into the inner court, and found it a hundred cubits; the same was the space between the south front and the north front: so the court was exactly square. The expression is elliptical; as if he had said, There were a hundred cubits from west to east, and from north to south. It must be observed, the gate at the east end of the outer court is called the lower gate, for the same reason as the pavement is called the lower pavement, Ezekiel 40:18; because there was still an ascent, as a person went from one court to the other.

Verse 23

Ezekiel 40:23. The gate of the inner court was over against the gate toward the north, &c. The words may be translated more intelligibly thus: And the gate of the inner court was proportionable, or answerable, to the gate that was toward the north and toward the east. The expression is elliptical, like that of Ezekiel 40:19, and the full import of it is, that the north gate of the inner court did exactly answer this north gate of the outer court, described Ezekiel 40:20; Ezekiel 40:22. And in like manner the east gate of the inner court answered the east gate of the outward court.

Verses 24-26

Ezekiel 40:24-26. After that he brought me to the south, &c. The prophet having shown, by way of parenthesis, in the 23d verse, the exact correspondence between the gates of both courts, proceeds in these three verses to describe the south gate of the outer court, by the same dimensions he had before given of the east and north gate.

Verses 27-31

Ezekiel 40:27-31. And there was a gate in the inner court toward the south The south gate in the inner court was exactly parallel to the south gate in the outer court: see Ezekiel 40:23. And he brought me to the inner court by the south gate Those who maintain that the outer court enclosed the inner on the east, north, and south sides, explain these words in this sense, that the prophet was conducted from the south gate of the outer court, Ezekiel 40:24, to the south gate of the inner court, which was over against it, and so into the inner court itself. And he measured the south gate, &c. After he had measured the inner court, he took the dimensions of the south gate itself, and the chambers thereto belonging, and found them of the same dimensions with the former. The arches five and twenty cubits long, &c. Length is here taken for height, as before, Ezekiel 40:11. The words express the dimensions of those arches which were between the several little chambers, between each of which there was a space of five cubits, Ezekiel 40:7. The arches were toward the outer court Or, were like [those of] the outer court.

Verse 38

Ezekiel 40:38 . And the chambers were by the gates where they washed the burnt-offerings The chambers, mentioned Ezekiel 40:36, were near the entrance of the north gate, where they washed the legs and entrails of the burnt-offerings; and marble tables were placed there for that purpose. According to this exposition, the word gates in the plural stands for gate in the singular. But Dr. Lightfoot says, they washed the sacrifices on the south side, as well as on the north side of the court of the priests, when the sacrifices were more numerous than the north side could well contain: he therefore understands the word gates as comprehending here both the north and south gate, and confirms this interpretation from the placing of the lavers which were designed for that use, and were set five on the right side of the house, and five on the left, 1 Kings 7:39.

Verses 39-40

Ezekiel 40:39-40. In the porch of the gate were two tables, &c. Those expositors who, by the word gates, in Ezekiel 40:38, understand both the north and south gates, render the sense of these two verses perspicuously thus: In the porch of one gate (namely, that on the south) were two tables on this side, and two tables on that side, &c. And at the outer side of the step of the entry of the north gate were two tables; which interpretation agrees very well with what follows, Ezekiel 40:41, Four tables were on this side, and four on that side. But they that understand these verses to be only a description of the north gate (on which side of the altar the sacrifices were commonly killed) suppose that two tables were on each side, as a person came into the porch of the gate, and two on each side of the inner part of the gate that looked toward the altar.

Verse 43

Ezekiel 40:43. Within were hooks, a hand broad, fastened round about Within the gate, or entrance, on the north side of the inner court, were iron hooks, for the hanging up the beasts that were to be sacrificed, in order to the flaying off their skins. And upon the tables was the flesh, &c. Or, they laid the flesh of the offering; upon the marble tables the priests laid the flesh of the slain beasts, which they cut in pieces, and fitted for the altar: see Leviticus 1:6.

Verses 44-47

Ezekiel 40:44-47. And without the inner gate, &c. Houbigant, following the LXX., translates this verse thus: And he brought me to the inner gate, where there were two chambers in the inner court; one at the northern side of the gate which looked to the south; the other at the southern side of the gate which looked to the north. And he said, This chamber, whose prospect is toward the south, is for the priests The word chamber may stand for chambers in the plural, (as side-chamber doth, Ezekiel 41:5-9,) and signify a row of buildings on the north side of the inner court, distinct from the chambers of the singers, Ezekiel 40:44, and designed for the use of the priests, who were in constant attendance, according to their courses, upon the service of the temple: see the margin. The keepers of the charge of the house They took care of the holy vessels, and kept constant watch and ward about the temple. The word priests may include Levites under it, as Levites elsewhere comprehends priests. And the chamber whose prospect is toward the north, &c. Another row of chambers on the south side of the inner court, is for the descendants of Aaron, whose office it is to attend upon the service of the altar, and keep the fire burning thereon perpetually. These are the sons of Zadok among the sons of Levi The family of Zadok is only taken notice of in this vision; it may be for this reason, because they kept close to the worship of God, when the priests of Ithamar’s line forsook it, and fell into idolatry. The altar that was before the house Or rather, The altar was before the house; that is, stood in the inner court, just before the porch that opened into the temple. The altar was not now measured, the measure of it being described afterward.

Verses 48-49

Ezekiel 40:48-49. And measured each post of the porch By the posts are meant the side-posts, or columns, on each side of the door of entrance: see Ezekiel 40:9; these were measured to be five cubits thick, both on the north and south sides. And the breadth of the gate was three cubits on this side, &c. “Two doors, of three cubits wide, opening each way, formed the entrance; these, with five on each side, called the posts of the porch, amount to sixteen cubits; and the other four may be supposed to have been the distance from these posts to the outside of the walls of the temple.” Scott.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 40". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/ezekiel-40.html. 1857.