THE SERVANTS OF THE SANCTUARY.
1-3.The prophet is now conducted “to the outer gate of the sanctuary” (R.V.), facing the east, which he had formerly seen open (Ezekiel 43:1), but which was now shut because the glory of the Lord had entered into the house by this gate, which must henceforth be counted too sacred to be entered by any other. It is not impossible that the locked door signified also the abiding presence of him who should go out no more forever, but the former thought is emphasized by Ezekiel. The prince (see Ezekiel 45:7, etc.), though not allowed to pass through this gateway, could enter the outer court through any of the other entrances and eat the sacrificial meal (Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 23:6; Leviticus 24:9) in the porch or vestibule before this peculiarly sacred threshold.
It is for the prince; the prince — Either read with R.V., “As for the prince, he shall sit therein as prince,” or consider “The Prince” to be a heading which gives the content of the passage and which has accidentally slipped into the text (Peters, Journal of Biblical Literature, 12:48).
4-5.Again the prophet is permitted to see the glory of Jehovah filling the inner temple (Ezekiel 43:5), and again he is informed that every detail of the temple ritual is of symbolic importance. (Compare Ezekiel 43:10-12, and introduction to chap. 40.)
6.The rebellious — Perhaps it was the remembrance of the vision of sin which he had once before seen as he stood in this north gate (chap. viii) which led to this sharp personal reference. The old unrepentant Israel in the old Jerusalem was often called rebellious (Ezekiel 2:5; Ezekiel 3:9; Ezekiel 12:2, etc.), but the new Israel of the new Jerusalem now being described was perfectly obedient and holy. The slipping in of this term here shows that every item of this description was intended to be a lesson to the captives who surrounded Ezekiel.
7, 8.Strangers, uncircumcised in heath and uncircumcised in flesh — These “aliens” (R.V.) were not excluded from entering the temple and offering sacrifices to Jehovah in their own behalf (Leviticus 17:8; Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 17:12; Numbers 15:14; Numbers 15:29), but foreigners (probably slaves or captives in war), who had no sympathy whatever with the Israelitish religion, ought not to be permitted to take official positions in Jehovah’s house, as had sometimes been done (Joshua 9:27; 1 Samuel 2:13; Zechariah 14:21; Ezra 2:58, Hebrews). Service with the lip or the hand only is an abomination to God. Even otherwise menial services become sacred when done for Jehovah, and it is an insult to him when such services are put upon ignorant and impure foreigners who have no heart loyalty to the lord of the house. (Compare W.R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, pp. 260-266.) It was practically breaking covenant with Jehovah to set them as keepers of my charge in my sanctuary (Ezekiel 44:8).
9-16.It is not necessary to suppose, with Wellhausen, that these alien religionists (Ezekiel 44:7-8) had ever been the assistants of the higher order of priests in the inner court. It is far more probable that they had been assistants of the Levites. It is by no means proved that all the Levites up to this time had been accustomed to perform the highest duties of the priesthood, and that the whole tribe was now degraded by Ezekiel to the position which these foreigners had formerly occupied. This is an unproved hypothesis and is opposed to the explicit statements of Scripture. The Levites, as a whole, were themselves the assistants of the higher priestly order (Numbers 8:19; Numbers 18:6), and had charge of the vessels, etc., connected with the temple in general, while Aaron and his sons had exclusive charge of the altar sacrifices and vessels of the sanctuary, or inner temple (Numbers 18:2-6; Numbers 18:23). Ezekiel does call the Levites priests, but this by no means proves that up to this time all priests (kohanem) had exercised the same functions. As we have shown in the Introduction, “Ezekiel and the Levitical Law,” the surrounding nations in their temple ritual recognized several orders of the priesthood, each having different functions, and this same distinction between the kohanem who were priests in the higher sense and “keepers of the altar” and the kohanem who were priestly Levites and assistants and “keepers of the house,” is made not only in many places in other books, such as 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Deuteronomy (Ezekiel 18:1-6), but even in Ezekiel itself (Ezekiel 40:45-46). Such Levites as had, previous to this exercised the higher priestly functions — either by right or by sufferance — seem from Ezekiel’s words to have been leaders in the great apostasy toward idol worship, of which the prophetic and historical books are full, being willing to minister in “high places” and on heathen altars, which Ezekiel himself declares had even been brought into the temple of Jehovah. (See chap. 8; Ezekiel 20:27-30, etc.; compare Judges 17:12; 2 Kings 23:8-9.) For this reason they are from this time to be degraded from this higher office, which is henceforth to be filled only by one branch of the Aaronic family, the Zadokites, which had proved most faithful (1 Kings 2:27; 1 Kings 2:35). The term kohen (priest), which probably had been taking on gradually a more narrow technical meaning — as in the history of other rituals — now becomes exclusively reserved for the higher order of clergy. (See Introduction.)
17-19.Linen garments were worn by the Hebrew priests (Exodus 28:39; Exodus 28:42; Exodus 39:27-28), as by the Egyptian (Herodotus, 2:37), because of its cleanliness and because of its symbolization of purity. Sweat was regarded, both by the Egyptians and Hebrews, as unclean. These holy garments were to be left in the inner sanctuary (Ezekiel 42:14) lest they should touch the people who were working in the outer courts and therefore “sanctify” them — that is, separate them unto God, making them unfit for their ordinary duties. (Compare Ezekiel 46:20; Exodus 29:37; Exodus 30:29; Leviticus 6:18; Leviticus 6:27.)
20.The hair was regarded as the seat of life by every ancient nation (note Ezekiel 5:14), and very probably when the hair was shaved off it was offered to the deity (compare Numbers 6:18), involving, as Toy suggests, temporary uncleanness, or taboo, and therefore to be avoided by priests. (Compare Ezekiel 44:25.) Letting the hair grow without polling (cutting) was also often connected with a vow (compare Numbers 6:5; Acts 18:18), and entailed the same inconvenience. It may be added that certainly the shaved head (Leviticus 21:5; Leviticus 21:10), and probably the flowing hair (Leviticus 10:6, R.V.), was a sign of mourning among the Jews, and therefore to be prohibited in those who lived constantly in the joy of Jehovah’s presence.
21.This was according to Leviticus 10:9. On ordinary occasions the Jews might drink wine in moderation. The Palestinian wine and the Hebrew temperament differed greatly from the American. There are no drunkards now in Palestine, and even in America it is almost an unheard-of thing for a Jew to give way to alcoholism.
22.The restriction is now placed upon all priests which was formerly laid only upon the high priest (Leviticus 21:7-14). This shows once more the supreme holiness of the new temple.
23, 24.The priests shall teach the people the difference between “the holy and the common,” that they may know the inner meaning of their symbolic ritual (Ezekiel 22:26; Haggai 2:11-14), administer justice (compare Ezekiel 45:17; Deuteronomy 17:8-12; Deuteronomy 21:5), keep to Jehovah’s laws, “and hallow my sabbaths.” (Compare Ezekiel 20:12-21; Ezekiel 22:8.)
25.The priest might touch no dead person nor enter the room where the dead lay (Numbers 19:14); for by this he would be ritually defiled and rendered unfit for duty. (Compare Leviticus 21:1-3; Leviticus 21:11.) Only for blood relatives was an exception made. Some have supposed the wife was not mentioned because it was self-evident that in such a case defilement “could not be avoided and was therefore tacitly allowed.” The priests were never supposed to be celibates. These restrictions contain a deep spiritual teaching. (See Ezekiel 44:22.)
26, 27.The ordinary person was counted unclean for seven days after touching a dead body (Numbers 29:11), but the priest must wait another seven days, after which he could offer his sin offering (xliii, 19) and return to his duties.
28.By a slight change read, with Toy, “They shall have no inheritance: I am their Inheritance.” This is a great utterance. (See Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:2; Joshua 13:33.)
29-31.The priests lived from the temple offerings, having as theirs the meat offering (Leviticus 2:1-16; Leviticus 6:14-16; Leviticus 7:9-11; Numbers 28:12-13), the sin offering (Leviticus 6:18-29; Leviticus 7:6; Leviticus 7:17; Numbers 18:9-10), the trespass [guilt] offering (Leviticus 7:28-38), and every dedicated [devoted] thing in Israel (Leviticus 27:26; Leviticus 27:28; Numbers 18:14), and the first [or, best] of all the first fruits of all things (Exodus 23:19; Numbers 18:13), and every oblation, or, heave offering (Numbers 15:19; Numbers 18:19); that is, “any portion of one’s property offered to the deity in gratitude for past favors or in hope of future favors;” and the first of the dough or “coarse meal” (Numbers 15:20-21). The priest, as all the people, must be careful only to eat food properly killed (Exodus 22:31; Deuteronomy 14:21; Leviticus 16:15; Leviticus 22:8). In the light of recent medical science this, like the majority of the Levitical injunctions, is seen to be a healthful precaution. (For kitchen of the priests see L on chart, facing page 209, and Ezekiel 46:19-24.)
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 44". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany