THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
Lesson 15
Part IV: Oracles of Salvation and Promised Restoration
The Vision of the New Temple
Chapters 40-42: Ezekiel's Guided Tour of an Idealized Temple Complex

Eternal Heavenly Father,
You have made an eternal home for Your children in Heaven, and the entrance to our eternal bliss is only through Your Son, Jesus Christ. It is because of His sacrifice on our behalf that we have the hope of Heaven and an intimate relationship with the Most Holy Trinity that is greater than Adam and Eve's intimacy with the Divine in the Edenic Sanctuary. Lord, make the spiritual temples of our souls a fortress against the forces of evil. Give us the strength of faith to persevere in our earthly struggles and temptations to achieve an eternal victory through the merits of our Lord and Savior. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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It is God who gives us, with you, a sure place in Christ and has both anointed us and marked us with his seal, giving us as pledge the Spirit in our hearts.
2 Corinthians 1:22

The seventh and last of Ezekiel's oracles relating to Israel's restoration in Chapters 38-39 in the previous lesson presents several theological lessons for Christians on this side of salvation history:

  1. The oracle presents Yahweh as the unrivaled, sovereign Lord of human history. He allows powerful nations to rise up, and He puts them down according to His Divine Plan.
  2. The sanctity of Yahweh's Divine Name is bound to the status and welfare of His covenant people. When they suffer under the dominion of foreign powers, it causes the questioning of His holiness and glory. The restoration of His covenant people is the ultimate vindication of His Name and reputation.
  3. Yahweh is a God of grace and mercy. He does not withhold His forgiveness from those who have rebelled against Him when they repent and turn back to Him. He restores them to the full benefits of a covenant relationship and the intimacy of fellowship with Him.
  4. When experiencing God's grace and mercy, instead of feeling it is something deserved, the recipient of God's mercy should be overwhelmed with a feeling of humility and unworthiness.
  5. Yahweh keeps His covenants. He is faithful to the promises He has made, and He will not abandon His people in their time of need. As a seal of His covenant promises, He pours out His Spirit on them (Ez 39:29). The seal of the Holy Spirit is divine confirmation of the covenant union.

The seal of anointing by the Holy Spirit is especially true for the New Covenant people of God in the Acts of Apostles and the New Testament letters. Every stage of the advance of the Gospel of salvation and the incorporation of new groups of people into the New Covenant Church is through the outpouring of the Spirit:

  1. The Spirit's action on Jesus' disciples and the Jews of Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:4, 33, 38).
  2. The Spirit's action on the newly converted Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17).
  3. The Spirit's action on the Gentile proselytes of Judea (Acts 10:44-48).
  4. The Spirit's action on the Gentiles of Asia Minor (Acts 19:-6).
  5. The Spirit's action on the emissaries of Christ who carry the Gospel message. For example, St. Paul writes of the possession of the Holy Spirit as the divine confirmation of the covenant and the basis of the believer's confidence and security (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30).

Chapter 40: Ezekiel's Vision of the Future Temple

It will happen in the final days that the mountain of Yahweh's house will rise higher than the mountains and tower above the heights. Then all the nations will stream to it, many peoples will come to it and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths."
Isaiah 2:2-3ab

Then, raising my eyes, I had a vision. There was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked him, "Where are you going?" He said, "To measure Jerusalem, to calculate her width and length." And the, while the angel who was talking to me walked away, another angel came out to meet him. He said to him, "Run, and tell that young man this, Jerusalem is to remain unwalled, because of the great number of men and cattle inside. For I, Yahweh declares, shall be a wall of fire all round her and I shall be the Glory within her.'"
Zechariah 2:5-9/2:1-5

The formula statement "the hand of Yahweh..." introduces each of Ezekiel's four visions in 1:3, 8:1 (10:1 in NAB), 37:1, and 40:1:

  1. The inaugural vision of God's chariot of fire and the scroll (Ez Chapters 1-3) in July, 593.
  2. The vision of the Temple abuses and God's glory leaving the Temple (Ez Chapters 8-11) in September, 592 BC.
  3. The vision of the bones in the Valley of Death (Ez Chapter 37); no date.
  4. The vision of the future Temple (Ez Chapters 40-48) in March/April 573 BC.

Ezekiel 40:1-48:35 presents a lengthy narrative of Ezekiel's vision of the new Temple, the new Israel, and the new Jerusalem.

Chapter 40: The Future Temple

 

The focus of the final vision in Chapters 40-48 was presented previously in the book: the need for the cleansing and renewal of the people, the land, and the liturgy of worship. Purification and renewal are the only ways that a right relationship with God can be established and maintained for His covenant people. The description of the new Temple in Ezekiel's final vision is very detailed and difficult to follow. However, the description does convey the idea of a perfect dwelling place for Yahweh the Most High. Ezekiel's final vision is in four parts:

  1. Ezekiel receives a guided tour of an idealized Temple complex (Chapters 40-42).
  2. He witnesses the glory of Yahweh returning to the rebuilt Temple, whose departure he saw in the first Temple vision in 10:18-22 (Chapter 43:1-12).
  3. Then, his angelic guide gives him instruction in the Torah relevant to the new structure and the community gathered around it (Chapter 43:13-46:24).
  4. Finally, the guide defines and describes the land beyond the Temple (Chapters 47-48).

Ezekiel 40:1-4 ~ Announcement of the Vision and the Man with a Measuring Rod
1 In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, fourteen years to the day from the capture of the city, the hand of Yahweh was on me. He carried me away: 2 in divine visions, he carried me away to the land of Israel and put me down on a very high mountain, on the south of which there seemed to be built a city. 3 He took me to it, and there I saw a man, whose appearance was like brass. He had a flax cord and a measuring rod in his hand and was standing in the gateway. 4 The man said to me, "Son of man, look carefully, listen closely and pay attention to everything I show you, since you have been brought here only for me to show it to you. Tell the House of Israel everything that you see."

The date for the vision in verse 1 is the tenth day of Abib (March/April), the first month in the Liturgical Calendar (Ex 12:1-1; 13:4) in 573 BC, fourteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians. Returning exiles will later use the Babylonian name "Nisan" for this month.

Some scholars suggest the date for the last vision is from the civil rather than the liturgical calendar unlike the other dates in the book that most scholars agree are from the Liturgical Calendar. However, it seems unlikely that the date of Ezekiel's last vision is from the Civil Calendar. A priest like Ezekiel would likely base his dates on the priestly Liturgical Calendar, and, if this is the case for the earlier dates, it is unlikely that he changed to the Civil Calendar for a vision that relates more to Temple worship with its Liturgical Calendar and its sacred feasts.1 Their goal, apparently, is to find some significance for the date of his last vision, and they are looking to the Feast of Yom Kippur (Feast of Atonement) on the 10th of the Tishri in September/October. Tishri is the first month in the Civil Calendar and the seventh month in the Liturgical Calendar, but all the feasts are regulated by the Liturgical Calendar and not the Civil Calendar. There, however, is another date related to the 10th day and associated with a feast that is significant (see the chart of the Civil and Liturgical Calendars).

Question: What is significant about the tenth day of the first month in the covenant people's Liturgical Calendar concerning Israel's history and the Passion of the Christ? See Ex 12:1-6 and Jn 12:1, 12-15. Hint: remember that the ancients did not count with the concept of a zero place-value; therefore, six days before the Passover (celebrated on the 14th) in John 12:1 makes Jesus' visit to Bethany the 9th day of the first month.
Answer: The 10th of the first month was the day the Israelites in Egypt selected the victim for the Passover sacrifice, according to God's command. The 10th day of the first month is also the day Jesus of Nazareth rode into Jerusalem as the true Lamb of sacrifice on Palm/Passion Sunday.

The significance of the date may be a key to understanding the vision. For more information on
the significance of the date Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm/Passion Sunday, see the e-book

"Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice," Chapter VIII.

Question: What three expressions in 40:1b-3 locate the site of Ezekiel's visionary experience?
Answer:

  1. The land of Israel
  2. A very high mountain
  3. A city on the south side of the mountain

The Hebrew word eres yisra'el means "land of Israel" (the expression is also in 27:17 and 47:18). Har gaboah me'od means "a very high mountain," and ir means "city" (Interlineal Bible Hebrew-English, vol. III, page 2003; The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon). Visionary experiences on a "very high mountain" recalls Moses' visionary experience on Mt. Sinai when, in the company of God, he viewed the heavenly Sanctuary (Ez 24:18-31:18), and the Transfiguration of the Christ experienced by Peter, James, and John on what Matthew's Gospel calls "a high mountain" (Mt 17:1-2). See the chart on the holy mountains of God in Scripture.

Verse 2 identifies "the city" as south of the mountain. The earthly city of Jerusalem was below the Temple on Mt. Moriah (also called Mt. Zion) on the south side. Mt. Moriah was 2,500 feet above sea level, but it was not very high above the city of Jerusalem. It is not the physical height that is significant but its theological significance. The prophet Isaiah wrote: It will happen in the final days that the mountain of Yahweh's house will rise higher than the mountains and tower above the heights. Then all the nations will stream to it, many peoples will come to it and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths" (Is 2:2-3ab).

Arriving at the Temple, Ezekiel sees the mysterious figure of a man. The man has a form that glows like bronze. His bronze figure is reminiscent of the bronze figures that Ezekiel saw supporting Yahweh's chariot throne in Ezekiel 1:7. The description is also similar to the angelic interpreter with the measuring rod to determine the width and length of Jerusalem in Zechariah 2:5 and St. John's vision of the glorified Christ in Revelation 1:15 whose feet looked like polished bronze. The man held two measuring devices: a flax cord and a measuring rod. The cord made of flax fibers was used like a modern carpenter's tape to measure longer distances while the measuring rod was used like a modern ruler or yardstick to measure shorter distances. The formula saying "he took me"/"then he took me," announces most of the sections of the Temple vision that the angelic figure describes to Ezekiel.

Question: What two functions does the angelic figure fulfill?
Answer: He is Ezekiel's guide, and he is a surveyor.

The figure serves as a guide like the angelic guide in Ezekiel's first Temple vision in Chapter 8. The opening words of the guide suggest that he was expecting Ezekiel.
Question: In verse 4, what four instructions does the angelic guide give Ezekiel?
Answer:

  1. look carefully
  2. listen closely
  3. pay attention to everything I show you
  4. tell the House of Israel everything you see

Angelic guides or interpreters are present in Daniel 8:16; 9:21ff; 10:5ff; Zechariah 1:8ff; 2:2-4; and the Book of Revelation. In some cases, it is possible that the angelic guide is the pre-Incarnate Jesus Christ, and in Revelation, He is the Glorified Christ.

Question: What do Ezekiel's two Temple visions have in common?
Answer: The Temple visions are both associated with dates and angelic guides.

Ezekiel 40:5-16 ~ The Exterior Features of the Temple Compound
5 Now, the Temple was surrounded on all sides by an outer wall. The man was holding a measuring rod six cubits long, each cubit a forearm and a hands breadth. He measured the thickness of this construction-one rod; and its height-one rod. 6 He went to the east gate, climbed the steps and measured its threshold: one rod deep. 7 Each guardroom one rod by one rod; and the piers between the guardrooms five cubits thick, and the threshold of the gate inwards from the porch of the gate: one rod. 8* 9 He measured the porch of the gate: eight cubits; its piers: two cubits; the porch of the gate was at the inner end. 10 There were three guardrooms on each side of the east gate, all three of the same size; the piers between them all of the same thickness each side. 11 He measured the width of the entrance: ten cubits; and the width all down the gateway: thirteen cubits. 12 There was a rail in front of the guardrooms; each rail on either side was one cubit. And the guardrooms on either side were six cubits square. 13 He measured the width of the gate from the back wall of one guardroom to the back wall of the other; it was twenty-five cubits across, the openings being opposite each other. 14 He measured the porch: twenty cubits; the court surrounded the gate on all sides. 15 From the front of the entrance gate, to the far end of the porch of the inner gate: fifty cubits. 16 All round inside the gate there were trellised windows in the guardrooms and in their piers; similarly, in the porch there were windows all round and palm trees on the piers.
*The NJB omits verse 8: He measured the porch of the gate, on the inside: one rod because most ancient MSS do not have this verse.

otices its height. It is the only time a passage in these chapters will describe the vertical dimensions of the Temple. Concerning the wall:

  1. The wall defines the sacred area.
  2. The cubit defines the standard of measurement.

The man was holding a measuring rod six cubits long, each cubit a forearm and a hands breadth.

There were two different cubit measurements used in the ancient Near East: the common cubit of six palms/handbreadths (18 inches/45cm) and the older "great" or "royal" cubit of seven palms/handbreadths (21 inches/53cm). Both were used for linear measurements. In verse 5, the angelic guide uses the great or royal cubit which measures six cubits long (common cubit) and a palm, the same measurement used in building Solomon's Temple (2 Chr 3:3; also see Ez 43:13). The "rod" in verses 3 and 5 was a little longer than 10 feet 3 inches/315 cm.2

However, the structure Ezekiel sees is not Solomon's Temple, destroyed fourteen years earlier, nor is the modest Temple rebuilt by Zerubbabel after the return from exile. Instead, Chapters 40-48 appear to describe the ideal Temple that reflects the perfection of the heavenly Sanctuary. Or, perhaps it symbolizes the perfect place for God's people, redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, to offer worship and sacrifice within the temples of their lives. As St. Paul writes: Do you not realize that you are a temple of God with the Spirit of God living in you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy that person, because God's temple is holy; and you are that temple (1 Cor 3:16-17; also see Acts 7:48; 17:24).

The angelic figure measures an idealized Temple that Ezekiel describes as a huge, rectangular walled space (verses 1-17). The Temple's orientation is from east to west like the desert Sanctuary and Solomon's Temple. At its center is another walled space that covers about a tenth of the total space (verses 28-47). The western area of the smaller space of the main Temple is also a rectangle (40:48-41:26). Inside the Temple's Sanctuary, there is a vestibule (porch), the nave (Holy Place), and the holiest place (Holy of Holies) in the westernmost part of the Temple.

The dimensions of each area and every room appear in great detail, but it is all symbolic. Evidence that points to the symbolic nature of the vision is the repetition of the symbolic numbers seven, eight, and ten. Seven is the number symbolizing perfection, especially spiritual perfection, eight is the number of rebirth/regeneration, and ten is the number symbolizing the perfection of divine order.3 Other repeated numbers are twenty-five and fifty.

The mysterious guide engaged in measuring the dimensions of the Temple suggests the action of both setting boundaries and judging. These are two actions associated with the people's covenant relationship with Yahweh. They must live within the boundaries of the Law, separating the sacred from the profane (42:20) so God will judge them as worthy.

Question: When did Jesus set boundaries and make a judgement holding a reed in His hands? See Jn 2:15.

Answer: Jesus set the boundaries for activities taking place in the Temple, and He judged the activities taking place there when He took a reed and used it to drive the sellers of animals and money lenders out of the Temple's outer court.

In verses 6-7, the tour continues at the east gate. There were three sets of stairs leading to the Temple. The guide approaches the gate from the outside by the first series of seven steps. There were also seven steps in verses 22, 26, eight steps in the inner court in verse 31, and ten in verse 49. At the top of the steps, the guide measures the threshold which is the same width as the wall (verse 5). Entering the gateway, the passage describes six square recesses, three on each side of the entry hall (verse 10), referred to as "guardrooms" in the NJB but as "rooms" in the Greek. They make up a total of six rooms inside the east gate. In the Hebrew text, the word "rooms/chambers" (translated "guardrooms" in the NJB for clarification) appears thirteen times (40:7, 10, 12 twice, 16, 17 twice, 21, 29, 33, 36, 38, and 44).

Archaeologists discovered that the description of the gates and the guardrooms match the fortified gates built at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer during the reign of King Solomon who also built the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kng 9:15). The fortified gates make Ezekiel's Temple more like a religious citadel. There is no explanation for the multiple Temple guardrooms. There were certainly guardrooms at the gates of Solomon's Jerusalem Temple, but the design of gateways such as these was normally built to protect cities against invasion. If this is a vision of the heavenly Temple, why would guardrooms be necessary?

In verses 8-10, the guide leads Ezekiel to another threshold that separates the guardroom area from the vestibule and into a larger room just inside the gate. The size of this threshold matches the other threshold. Trellised windows in verse 16 are window openings covered with lattice work that lets in light and the continuous circulation of air. The "piers" are pilasters, projecting columns or perhaps door jams, decorated with the images of palm trees. Such carvings also decorated Solomon's Temple (1 Kng 6:18, 29, 32, 35).

Ezekiel 40:17-23 ~ Visions of the Outer Court and the North Gate
17 He then took me to the outer court, which had rooms and a paved terrace going all the way round; there were thirty rooms on this terrace. 18 This terrace, which came up to the sides of the gates and matched their depth, was the Lower Terrace. He measured the width of the court, 19 from the front of the lower gate to the facade of the inner court, outside: a hundred cubits (on the east and on the north). 20 He measured the length and breadth of the north gate of the outer court. 21 It had three guardrooms on each side; its piers and porch were of the same size as those of the first gate: fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 22 Its windows, its porch and its palm trees were of the same size as those of the east gate. There were seven steps up to it, and its porch was at the inner end. 23 In the inner court there was, opposite the north gate, a gate like the one opposite the east gate. He measured the distance from one gate to the other: a hundred cubits.

19 from the front of the lower gate to the facade of the inner court, outside: a hundred cubits (on the east and on the north). Over 170 feet (52 m.) separated the outer wall from the inner wall and was the width of the outer court.

The three gates to the outer court are apparently alike, but the passage only describes the east gate in detail. Before moving to the north gate, the guide leads Ezekiel through the east gate for a look at the outer court. What he sees isn't clear because Biblical scholars dispute the meaning of the technical architectural terms. There were evidently chambers facing the paved courtyard. Ezekiel 42:6 appears to suggest that these rooms were pillared porticoes like those in Solomon's Temple and also in the Second (Herod's) Temple where Jesus, Peter, and the Apostles taught and healed (Jn 10:23; Acts 3:11; 5:12). Ezekiel counts thirty chambers (cf. Jer 35:2-4; Neh 13:4-14) probably used for meetings or storage.

Verse 20 moves to the northern gate of the outer wall that contains all the features of the former three: three recesses on either side of the walkway, jambs, a vestibule, niches, and palm decorations as well as identical measurements. An additional detail is the seven steps leading up to the gate, indicating the elevation of the entire temple complex above the surrounding landscape. One can assume the other gates also had seven steps.

Ezekiel 40:24-27 ~ Visions of the South Gate and the Inner Court
24 He took me to the south side where there was a south gate; he measured its guardrooms, piers and porch; they were of the same size as the others. 25 The gateway, as well as its porch, had windows all round, like the windows of the others; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide, 26 and it had seven steps up to it; its porch was at the inner end and had palm trees on its piers, one on either side. 27 The inner court had a south gate; he measured the distance southwards from one gate to the other: a hundred cubits.

The guidance formula saying that was missing in the last section reappears in verse 24, opening the description of the southern gate that is a duplicate of the eastern and northern outer gates.

Ezekiel 40:28-31 ~ The Gates of the Inner Wall
28 He then took me into the inner court by the south gate; he measured the south gate which was of the same size as the others. 29 Its guardrooms, piers and porch were of the same size as the others. 30 The gateway, as well as its porch, had windows all round; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 31 The porch gave on to the outer court. It had palm trees on its piers and eight steps leading up to it.

Leaving the outer gates, the guide brings Ezekiel through a series of gateways that provide passage to an inner court. An inner wall apparently separates the inner court from the outer.

Ezekiel 40:32-37 ~ Visions of the Inner Court
32 He took me to the eastern part of the inner court and measured the gate. It was of the same size as the others. 33 Its guardrooms, piers and porch were of the same size as the others. The gateway, as well as its porch, had windows all round; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 34 Its porch gave on to the outer court. There were palm trees on its piers on either side and eight steps leading up to it. 35 He then took me to the north gate and measured it. 36 Its guardrooms, piers and porch were of the same size as the others. The gateway had windows all round; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 37 Its porch gave on to the outer court. There were palm trees on its piers on either side and eight steps leading up to it.

The south, east, and north gates leading from the outer to the inner courtyards involves an elevation of eight stairs and pilasters decorated with palm trees.

Ezekiel 40:38-46 ~ The Courtyard of Sacrifice
38 There was a room, the entrance to which was in the porch of the gateway, where they washed the burnt offerings. 39 And inside the porch of the gateway were slabs, two on either side, for slaughtering the burnt offerings, the sacrifice for sin and the sacrifice of reparation. 40 Outside, at the approach to the entrance of the north gate, were two slabs, and on the other side, at the porch end of the gate were two slabs. 41 There were four slabs on one side and four slabs on the other side of the gateway, eight slabs in all, on which the slaughtering was done. 42 There were also four slabs of dressed stone for the burnt offerings, a cubit and a half long, a cubit and a half wide and a cubit high, on which the instruments for slaughtering the burnt offerings and sacrifice were placed; 43 runnels a hands breadth wide went all round the top, and on these slabs was put the sacrificial flesh. 44 Then he took me into the inner court; there were two rooms in the inner court, one on the side of the north gate, facing south, the other on the side of the south gate, facing north. 45 He told me, "The room looking south is for the priests responsible for the service of the Temple, 46 and the room looking north is for the priests responsible for the service of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, those of the sons of Levi who approach Yahweh to serve him."

Chambers were located in one of the inside gates, probably the north one since it had just been described. These rooms were probably for the preparation of animal sacrifices in the activities of washing and slaughtering before offering the sacrifice on the altar. Instructions for whole burnt offerings and sin offerings are in Leviticus Chapters 1 and 4-7. Why would it be necessary for the heavenly Temple to have accommodations for animals offered in sacrifice as a holocaust or for whole burnt offerings?

Question: What is the only sacrifice St. John views in the heavenly Temple in Revelation 5:6-10?
Answer: John sees Jesus, the Lamb of God, whose blood redeemed the people of God from every nation under Heaven.

Verses 44-46 describe rooms for priests:

  1. The north chamber was for the priestly descendants of Aaron through the line of Zadok who the passage says could perform the altar sacrifices.
  2. The south chamber was for the ministers of lesser status: the Levites who served as assistants to the chief priests (Lev 3:5, 9-10), Temple guards, and in the choir (1 Chr 16).

Zadok was a priestly descendant of Aaron through his third son, Eleazar (1 Chr 6:50-53). Zadok served as the High Priest under David and his son Solomon. Zadok and his descendants were responsible for the high priesthood in Jerusalem from the time of Solomon until the destruction of the Temple in 587/6 BC (2 Chr 31:10). Verse 46 suggests that the high priesthood be restricted to Zadokites because they had never committed apostasy during the time of the monarchy (cf. 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11).4

Ezekiel 40:47-49 ~ Visions of the Inner Court and the Sanctuary's Portico
47 He measured the court; it was a hundred cubits long and a hundred cubits wide, a square with the altar standing in front of the Temple. 48 He took me to the Ulam of the Temple and measured the piers of the Ulam: five cubits either side; and the width of the entrance was three cubits either side. 49 The length of the Ulam was twenty cubits and its width twelve cubits. There were ten steps leading up to it, and there were columns by the piers, one on either side.

The guide leads Ezekiel into the Temple proper. The inner court formed a perfect square, considered the shape of perfection or holiness. It is odd that there is no mention of an Altar of Sacrifice in the inner courtyard as in Solomon's Temple. Ten steps led up to the Temple's entrance. There are three essential elements to the Sanctuary:

  1. The Ulam that is the vestibule or porch (40:48-49)
  2. The Hekal that is the Nave or Holy Place (41:1-2)
  3. The Debir that is the Holy of Holies (41:3-4)

The Ulam is the vestibule or porch that is the entryway to the Sanctuary containing the Holy Place (Hekal) and the Holy of Holies (Debir). The vestibule, Holy Place (or Nave), and the Holy of Holies are the three divisions of the Sanctuary building in progressing order of sanctity, moving from east to west. The Holy of Holies or Debir is the inner sanctuary and the dwelling place of God among His covenant people (see 1 Kng 6). The three rooms, arranged on a linear axis, had the following dimensions:

  1. Ulam/Vestibule: 35 feet long by 21 feet wide.
  2. Hekal/Holy Place: 71 feet long by 25 feet wide.
  3. Debir/Holy of Holies: 35 feet by 35 feet by 35 feet.

Like the Holy of Holies in the desert Sanctuary and Solomon's Temple, the Holy of Holies is a cube whose length, breadth, and height suggest the three-in-one of the Most Holy Trinity (1 Kng 6:20) as does the three-part plan of the main Temple building.

Question: How do Catholic churches reflect this same three-part plan?
Answer: Most Catholic churches have a Narthex or vestibule, a Nave that is a rectangular room, and a raised altar that is the most sacred space reserved for the Altar and the Presence of the Lord (like the Holy of Holies).

Chapter 41-42: The Description of the Sanctuary

Ezekiel 41:1-4 ~ The Hekal (Holy Place) and the Debir (Holy of Holies)
1 He took me to the Hekal and measured its piers: six cubits wide on the one side, six cubits wide on the other. 2 The width of the entrance was ten cubits, and the returns of the entrance were five cubits on the one side and five cubits on the other. He measured its length: forty cubits; and its width: twenty cubits. 3 He then went inside and measured the pier at the entrance: two cubits; then the entrance; six cubits; and the returns of the entrance: seven cubits. 4 He measured its length; twenty cubits; and its width against the Hekal: twenty cubits. He then said to me, "This is the Holy of Holies."

The Debir, like the Holy of Holies in the desert Sanctuary and Solomon's Temple, is a cube. The angelic guide breaks the silence that has prevailed throughout Ezekiel's tour when he announces: "This is the Holy of Holies" in verse 4. The inner sanctuary was accessed by passing through three openings of increasing degrees of narrowness which probably indicates increasing degrees of sacredness (40:48-41:3).

Ezekiel 41:5-11 ~ The Side Cells
5 He then measured the wall of the Temple: six cubits. The width of the lateral structure was four cubits, all round the Temple. 6 The cells were one above the other in three tiers of thirty cells each. The cells were recessed into the wall, the wall of the structure comprising the cells, all round, forming offsets; but there were no offsets in the wall of the Temple itself. 7 The width of the cells increased, story by story, corresponding to the amount taken in from the wall from one story to the next, all round the Temple. 8 Then I saw that there was a paved terrace all round the Temple. The height of this, which formed the base of the side cells, was one complete rod of six cubits. 9 The outer wall of the side cells was five cubits thick. There was a passage between the cells of the Temple 10 and the rooms, twenty cubits wide, all round the Temple. 11 As a way in to the lateral cells on the passage there was one entrance on the north side and one entrance on the south side. The width of the passage was five cubits right round.

Three stories of thirty rooms (for a total of 90 rooms) each abutted the exterior walls (see 1 Kng 6:5-10) and could represent storerooms for priests or for tithes (Mal 3:10). Verse 8 mentions a raised platform that is probably the final elevation upon which the Temple stood.

Ezekiel 41:6-15 ~ The Building on the West Side
12 The building on the west side of the court was seventy cubits wide, the wall of the building was five cubits thick all round and its length was ninety cubits. 13 He measured the length of the Temple: a hundred cubits. 14 The length of the court plus the building and its walls: a hundred cubits. 15 He measured the length of the building, along the court, at the back, and its galleries on either side: a hundred cubits.

Verses 12-15 give the concluding exterior measurements.

Ezekiel 41:16-21 ~ Particulars of the Temple Itself
16 The inside of the Hekal and the porches of the court, the thresholds, the windows, the galleries on three sides, facing the threshold, were paneled with wood all round from floor to windows, and the windows were screened with latticework. 17 From the door to the inner part of the Temple, as well as outside, and on the wall all round, both inside and out, 18 were carved great winged creatures and palm trees, one palm tree between two winged creatures; each winged creature had two faces: 19 a human face turned towards the palm tree on one side and the face of a lion towards the palm tree on the other side, throughout the Temple, all round. 20 Winged creatures and palm trees were carved on the wall from the floor to above the entrance. 21 The doorposts of the Temple were square.

Verses 16-26 describe the interior decoration. The passage only explicitly mentions the vestibule and Hekal (Holy Place). They are wood paneled (cf. 1 Kng 6:9; 7:3, 7). The patterns of cherubim and palm trees appear on one register of the walls like the same motifs in Solomon's Temple (cf. 1 Kng 6:29) and are probably reliefs carved in wood.

Ezekiel 41:21-26 ~ The Wooden Altar and Doors of the Holy Place
21 In front of the sanctuary there was something like 22 a wooden altar, three cubits high and two cubits square. Its corners, base and sides were of wood. He said to me, "This is the table in the presence of Yahweh." 23 The Hekal had double doors and the sanctuary 24 double doors. These doors had two hinged leaves, two leaves for the one door, two leaves for the other. 25 On them (on the doors of the Hekal), were carved great winged creatures and palm trees like those carved on the walls. There was a wooden porch roof on the front of the Ulam on the outside, 26 and windows with flanking palm trees on the sides of the Ulam, the cells to the side of the Temple and the porch-roofs.

In the desert Sanctuary and Jerusalem Temple, the courtyard in front of the main Temple Sanctuary held the great Bronze Altar of Sacrifice (Ex 27:1-8; 1 Kng 8:6). The Temple's main function was sacrifice. The people needed regular atonement for their sins to enable them to stand in God's presence. It was at the sacrificial altar where the twice daily liturgical sacrifice of the whole burnt offering of the Tamid lambs took place for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people as a whole, where the festival offerings were presented, and where the people brought their whole burnt offerings, sin and communion sacrifices (Ex 29:38-43; Num 28-29; Lev Chapters 1-7). Ezekiel has not seen an altar to receive the sacrifices in the courtyard in front of the Sanctuary, but now as he enters the Hekal/Holy Place, he sees an object he identifies as an altar.

The wooden altar described in verse 22 is extremely unusual. It is c. 3 feet 5 inches/106 m. square by c. 5 feet/1.52 m. high. Its corners, base, and sides are made of wood. The desert Sanctuary and Jerusalem Temple's altars of sacrifice had a frame made of wood, but it was completely covered in bronze. Both altars had "horns" on all four corners, and neither was shaped like a table (Ex 27:1-8; 38:1-7; 1 Kng 8:64; 2 Chr 4:1). We are not told what it was about this object that reminded Ezekiel of an altar. It cannot have been its wooden construction, since altars of wood would themselves be consumed with the offerings burnt upon them. Sensing Ezekiel's confusion, the guide identifies the object, saying, "This is the table in the presence of Yahweh."

Inside the Holy Place of the desert Sanctuary and the Jerusalem Temple there was a golden table, not a plain wooden table, that held the "Bread of the Presence" of God (Ex 25:23-30; Lev 24:7-9; 1 Kng 6:20-22). It was never described as having the function of an "altar."

Question: What is the function of an altar
Answer: An altar has a very specific function as a place for offering sacrifice and making atonement to receive God's forgiveness and restoring fellowship.

There is another description of an altar is in Ezekiel 43:13-17 that is c. 20 feet tall and made up of three slabs of decreasing size with steps leading up to the top. It is much larger than the altar in the desert Sanctuary (c. 7.5 feet long and wide by 4.5 feet high; Ex 27:1) and Solomon's Temple (c. 30 feet long and wide and 15 feet tall; 2 Chr 4:1). The function of the altar "table in the presence of Yahweh" may be the key to solving the meaning of the fourth vision since the final and most holy of sacrifices will be offered for the first time at a wooden table.

Verses 23-26 describe two swinging doors covering the entrance to each room, carved with cherubim and palm trees and also window jams carved with palm trees. The roof of the Ulam was also made of wood.

Ezekiel 42:1-14 ~ Subsidiary Buildings of the Temple
1 He then took me out into the outer court on the north side and led me to the room facing the court, that is to say, to the front of the building on the north side. 2 Along the front, it was a hundred cubits long on the north side and fifty cubits wide. 3 Facing the gateways of the inner court and facing the paving of the outer court was a gallery in front of the triple gallery, 4 and in front of the rooms was a walk, ten cubits measured inwards and a hundred cubits long; their doors looked north. 5 The top-floor rooms were narrow because the galleries took up part of the width, being narrower than those on the ground floor or those on the middle floor of the building; 6 these were divided into three stories and had no columns such as the court had. Hence they were narrower than the ground floor ones or the middle-floor ones (below them). 7 The outer wall parallel to the rooms, facing them and giving onto the outer court, was fifty cubits long, 8 the length of the rooms facing the outer court being fifty cubits, while for those facing the hall of the Temple it was a hundred cubits. 9 Beneath the rooms there was an entrance from the east, leading in from the outer court. 10 In the thickness of the wall of the court, on the south side fronting the court and the building, were rooms. 11 A walk ran in front of them, as with the rooms built on the north side; they were of the same length and breadth, and were of similar design with similar doors in and out. 12 Before the rooms on the south side there was an entrance at the end of each walk, opposite the corresponding wall on the east side, at their entries. 13 He said to me, "The northern and southern rooms giving onto the court are the rooms of the sanctuary, in which the priests who approach Yahweh will eat the most holy things. In them will be placed the most holy things: the oblation, the sacrifice for sin and the sacrifice of reparation, since this is a holy place. 14 Once the priests have entered, they will not go out of the holy place into the outer court without leaving their liturgical vestments there, since these vestments are holy; they will put on other clothes before going near places assigned to the people."

The angelic guide leads Ezekiel to a building west of and behind the main Sanctuary. Verse 13 mentions the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering that are reserved for priestly consumption (see Lev Chapters 2-7). Verse 14 mentions the requirements and prohibitions for wearing liturgical garments. Priestly vestments worn in Temple service are not to be worn in the Temple's outer courtyard or in public places but must be left behind in a special room in the inner court. This regulation is especially significant when you consider that Jesus wore a priestly garment woven from of one piece of cloth to the Last Supper, identifying the Last Supper as a liturgical service conducted by the Supreme High Priest, Jesus Christ (Jn 19:23-24).

Ezekiel 42:15-20 ~Measurements of the Court
15 When he had finished measuring the inside of the Temple, he took me out to the east gate and measured it right round the sides. 16 He measured the east side with his measuring rod: a total of five hundred cubits by the measuring rod. 17 He then measured the north side: a total of five hundred cubits by the measuring rod. 18 He then measured the south side: five hundred cubits by the measuring rod 19 was the total. On the west side he measured five hundred cubits by the measuring rod. 20 He measured the entire enclosing wall on all four sides: length five hundred, breadth five hundred, separating the sacred from the profane.

The dimensions of the Temple complex form a square with each side 500 cubits long. The process of measuring parallels the description in 40:6-37. The movement is from east to north, to south, and then west.

20 He measured the entire enclosing wall on all four sides: length five hundred, breadth five hundred, separating the sacred from the profane.
The total area was a perfect square; see 40:47 where the inner court was also a square measuring 100 cubits long by 100 cubits wide. 100 cubits was over 170 feet. The enclosing wall was five times greater than the inner court.
Question: How is the purpose of the wall defined in verse 20?
Answer: The wall is not a defensive barrier. It is a boundary between the holy and the unholy/common and expressed as the boundary between what is sacred and what is profane.

The Book of Ezekiel mentioned this same distinction in 22:26 when God told His prophet to warn the people: "...through your own fault, you will be profaned in the eyes of the nations, and you will know that I am Yahweh!" The difference between the sacred and the profane will come up again in 44:23. This distinction between what is holy and unholy takes us back to what Yahweh told the Israelites in Leviticus 11:44-45, "For it is I, Yahweh, who am your God. You have been sanctified and have become holy because I am holy: do not defile yourselves... you must therefore be holy because I am holy." If we want to belong to God, we must strive to be holy by confessing our sins and returning to fellowship with our holy God. A holy God deserves a holy people!

When Moses went up the mountain to spend forty days and nights in the presence of God (Ex 24:18), Yahweh told him, Make me a Sanctuary so that I can reside among them. You will make it all according to the design for the Dwelling and the design for its furnishings which I shall now show you," and again in 25:40 God warned Moses ...see that you work to the design which was shown you on the mountain." The desert Sanctuary and Jerusalem Temple were copies of the heavenly Temple in it plan and in its furnishings. The desert Sanctuary had seven classes of sacred furniture and the Temple had eight.
Question: List the kinds of furnishings in the desert Sanctuary and in the Jerusalem Temple. See Ex Chapters 25-40 and 1 Kng 6:15-8:7; 1 Chr 28:11-19; 2 Chr Chapters 4-5.
Answer:
The furnishings in the desert Sanctuary:

  1. The gold-covered Ark of the Covenant and its solid gold Mercy Seat that resided in the Debir/Holy of Holies (Ex 25:10-22; 26:33-34; 37:1-9).
  2. The golden table for the permanent offering of the Bread of the Presence in the Hekal/Holy Place (Ex 25:23-30; 26:35; 37:10-16).
  3. The solid gold lampstand in the Hekal/Holy Place (Ex 25:31-40; 26:35; 37:17-24).
  4. The bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard in from of the Sanctuary entrance (Ex 27:1-8; 38:1-7).
  5. The golden Altar of Incense in the Hekal/Holy Place in front of the curtain that covered the entrance to the Debir/Holy of Holies (Ex 30:1-10; 37:25-28).
  6. The Bronze Basin for the priests to ritually wash their hands and feet before entering the Hekal/Holy Place (Ex 30:17-21; 38:8).

The furnishings in Solomon's Jerusalem Temple:

  1. The Ark of the Covenant and Mercy Seat in the Debir/Holy of Holies (1 Kng 8:1-7).
  2. The two golden statues of cherubim that stood above the Ark in the Debir/Holy of Holies (1 Kng 6:23-28a; 8:6-7).
  3. The golden table(s) for the permanent offering of the Bread of the Presence in the Hekal/Holy Place (1 Kng 7:48; 2 Chr Chapters 4-5; 28:14-17).
  4. The solid gold seven-branched lampstands (menorahs) in the Hekal/Holy Place (1 Kng 7:49; 2 Chr 4:7).
  5. The Bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard in front of the Sanctuary entrance (1 Kng 8:22; 2 Chr 4:1).
  6. The Golden Altar of Incense in the Hekal/Holy Place in front of the curtain that covered the entrance to the Debir/Holy of Holies (1 Kng 6:20-21).
  7. The Bronze Basin/Sea in the courtyard of the Altar of Sacrifice for the priests to ritually wash their hands and feet before entering the Hekal/Holy Place (1 Kng 7:23-26; 2 Chr 4:2-5, 10).
  8. Ten bronze wheeled water stands (2 Kng 7:27-39; 2 Chr 4:6).

Question: How many furnishings in the desert Sanctuary, copied from the furnishing in the heavenly Temple, were in Ezekiel's Temple vision? How many of the furnishings in Solomon's Temple were in Ezekiel's Temple vision?
Answer: None of the furnishings in the desert Sanctuary or the Jerusalem Temple was in Ezekiel's vision.

Question: What furnishings did Ezekiel see in his Temple vision? See Ez 41:21.
Answer: There was only a single wooden table in the courtyard of the Sanctuary where the Bronze Altar of Sacrifice stood in the desert Sanctuary and the Jerusalem Temple. The angelic guide called it "the table in the presence of Yahweh:" 21 In front of the sanctuary there was something like 22 a wooden altar, three cubits high and two cubits square. Its corners, base and sides were of wood. He said to me, "This is the table in the presence of Yahweh."

What does it mean that Ezekiel's Temple was not furnished like the desert Sanctuary, the Jerusalem Temple, or the heavenly Temple? We hope to answer that question as we continue to study Ezekiel's tour of the idealized Temple and as he receives instructions from the angelic guide.

Questions for discussion or reflection:
Question: Compare the dimensions of Ezekiel's visionary Temple with Solomon's Temple in 1 Kings Chapters 6-7 and 2 Chronicles 3-5. How do the dimensions differ? In addition to Scripture, also consider the information recorded by Flavius Josephus the 1st century AD Jewish priest and historian in his book, Antiquities of the Jews concerning the dimensions and description of Solomon's Temple/the First Temple and Herod's Temple/the Second Temple. What are the differences between Ezekiel's visionary Temple and the Second Temple renovated by King Herod? All modern measurements are approximate.

Solomon's Temple/the First Temple:

King Herod's Temple/the Second Temple (during the time of Jesus) was a renovation of the modest Temple rebuilt by the returned exiles and, according to Josephus, was considered one of the most beautiful buildings in antiquity:

Question: From what you have read concerning the heavenly Temple that provided the plan for the desert Sanctuary's furnishings (Ex 25:8-9, 40; 26:30; 27:8; Num 8:4), Solomon's Temple, and Herod's renovated Temple, was Ezekiel's Temple a vision of any of these?

Question: The angelic guide measured the visionary Temple, setting boundaries to judge the difference between the sacred and the profane. What boundaries has our Lord given us in the New Covenant Kingdom of His Church to help us find the difference between the sacred and the profane so we can lead holy lives pleasing to Him? What part do the Sacraments Jesus gave us contribute to maintaining a life of holiness?

Endnotes:
1. If Ezekiel used the civil calendar, the first month would be September/October instead of March/April. Some scholars have suggested Ezekiel was referring to the Feast of Yom Kippur (the Feast of Atonement) that took place in the first month of the civil calendar (our September) on the tenth day of the month. However, the intent could not be to associate the date with the Feast of Atonement because God commanded that they celebrate the Feast of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month in the Liturgical Calendar (Lev 23:26-27). See the chart that compares the civil and liturgical calendars.

2. A long or great cubit was about 518 millimeters long; the ratio of a short to long cubit was 6 to 7, and the distinction between a short and long cubit was common knowledge throughout the ancient Near East. All modern equivalents in the lesson are from the Tables of Measures from the NJB.

3. Repeats of the number seven: Ez 40:22, 26; 41:3; 43:25, 26; 44:26; 45:20, 21, 23 four times, 25 twice. Repeats of the number eight: 40:9, 31, 34, 37, 41; 43:27. Repeats of the number ten: 40:1, 11; 41:2; 42:4; 45:1, 3, 5, 11, 14 twice; 48:9, 10 twice, 13 twice, 18 twice.

4. The Zadokites remained in charge of the position of high priest in the Second Temple until 171 BC when the Greek Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, gave it to Menelaus (high priest from 172-162 BC; see 2 Mac 4:7-9; 13:1-8).

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