THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
Part IV: Oracles of Salvation and Promised Restoration
The Vision of the New Temple
Chapters 43-45: God's Glory Returns, the Regulations for Liturgical Worship, and the Division of the Land
Through the Sacrament of Baptism, You have transformed us into Temples of the Holy Spirit. It is because of our life-changing transformation that we must commit ourselves to lives that demonstrate the holiness of our interior condition. We must keep ourselves free from sin as we give our witness daily of the power of Christ living in us. And, it is in the liturgy of worship that we express our gratitude to You for the good You have done for us and the human family. It is living in obedience to Your commandments that, as Jesus told us, we show our love for Him. Send Your Spirit to guide us in our lesson of Ezekiel's final vision. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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I turned around to see who was
speaking to me, and when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands and, in the
middle of them, one like a Son of man, dressed in a long robe tied at the waist
with a belt of gold. His head and his hair were white with the whiteness of
wool, like snow, his eyes like a burning flame, his feet like burnished bronze
when it has been refined in a furnace, and his voice like the sound of the
ocean [many waters].
Ezekiel's final vision in 40:1-48:35 contains a detailed description of the new, spiritually restored Temple (Chapters 40-42), the return of the Glory of God to His Temple (Chapter 43:1-12), the regulations concerning the new form of liturgical worship (Chapters 43:13-46), and the division of the holy land of the new Israel (Chapters 47-48). The central focus of this part of the book is that the covenant people, their institutions of worship, and the land itself must be cleansed and renewed to establish a proper relationship with God. Everything Ezekiel describes and experiences is symbolic, but it is a visionary riddle or a visionary metaphor, or is it both?
Chapter 43: The Return of Yahweh and the Consecration of the Altar
Ezekiel 43:1-5 ~ The Return of Yahweh to the Temple
1 He took me to the gate, the one facing east. 2 I saw the glory of the God of Israel approaching from the east. A sound came with him like the sound of the ocean [many waters], and the earth shone with his glory. 3 This vision was like the one I had seen when I had come for the destruction of the city, and like the one I had seen by the River Chebar. Then I fell to the ground. 4 The glory of Yahweh arrived at the Temple by the east gate. 5 The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; I saw the glory of Yahweh fill the Temple
You may recall that Ezekiel saw the vision of
Yahweh departing from the doomed Jerusalem Temple in his earlier Temple vision
(Ez Chapter 10).
Question: How did Ezekiel see God departing the doomed Temple and what is similar about His return? See Ez 10:18-19.
Answer: In the earlier Temple vision, the Glory of God departing the Temple moving from the Holy of Holies in the west and across the Temple complex to exit the Temple from the east gate. God's Divine Present returns in the same way by entering the east gate (verse 4).
In verse 2, sound and visual imagery come together in the appearance of the Divine (e.g., Ex 19:16-19). The term "many waters" or "abundant waters" is a more literal translation of what is polus hydra in the Greek text of the Old and New Testaments. "Many waters" is a key Biblical phrase, set within God's covenant relationships and reflecting the "abundant" blessings God bestows on His people and His liturgical interaction with them, as mentioned in our first lesson where the same expression appears in Ezekiel's inaugural vision in 1:24. For example, see the same term in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament and New Testament:
However, this time Ezekiel isn't only to speak the message, he is to write it down (verse 11).
Ezekiel 43:6-12 ~ Yahweh's Message to Ezekiel
6 And I heard someone speaking to me from the Temple while the man stood beside me. 7 He said, "Son of man, this is the dais of my throne, the step on which I rest my feet. I shall live here among the Israelites forever; and the House of Israel, they and their kings, will never again defile my holy name with their whorings and the corpses of their kings, 8 by putting their threshold beside my threshold and their doorposts beside my door-posts, with a party wall shared by them and me. They used to defile my holy name by their loathsome practices, and this is why I put an end to them in my anger. 9 From now on they will banish their whorings and the corpses of their kings from my presence and I shall live among them forever. 10 Son of man, describe this Temple to the House of Israel, to shame them out of their loathsome practices. (Let them draw up the plan of it.) 11 And, if they are ashamed of their behavior, show them the design and plan of the Temple, its exits and entrances, its shape, how all of it is arranged, the entire design and all its principles [torot]. Give them all this in writing so that they can see and take note of its design and the way it is all arranged and carry it out. 12 This is the charter [tora] of the Temple: all the surrounding space on the mountain top is an especially holy area. (Such is the charter [tora] of the Temple.)" [...] = Hebrew word, IBHE, vol. III, page 2014.
For the first time in this final vision, Yahweh addressed His prophet directly. Yahweh speaks to Ezekiel from inside the Temple while the angelic guide stands beside him. God's speech to Ezekiel divides into two major parts that begin with God's familiar form of address to the prophet as "son of man" (verses 7 and 10). First, there is an explanation for Ezekiel in verses 7-9, and next, there is God's charge to the prophet in verses 10-11. The address begins with a formal announcement, "Son of man, this is the dais of my throne, the step on which I rest my feet. As the Divine King, Yahweh is declaring that the Temple is His palace and is asserting His claims to kingship over Israel. What is surprising is the claim that the Temple rather than the Ark of the Covenant is the throne of Yahweh. However, there is no longer an Arc of the Covenant. Jeremiah hid it before the Babylonians destroyed the Temple, and it was never recovered (2 Mac 2:4-6). Perhaps the absence of any mention of the Ark fulfills Jeremiah's prophecy in (3:16-17 that the time would come when no one would miss the Ark of the Covenant, and When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called: The Throne of Yahweh..." (Jer 3:17a).
7b I shall
live here among the Israelites forever; and the House of Israel, they and their
kings, will never again defile my holy name with their whorings and the corpses
of their kings...
This verse must have encouraged the 6th century BC exiles to know that the "House of Israel" and Israelite kings would continue. However, it is problematic because there was no Israelite king to rule over the exiles when they returned. With Judah's brief one-hundred years of independence in the 2nd century BC, the people experienced the rule of the Jewish Hasmonean kings until 63 BC, but these men were not the Davidic heirs of the promised eternal Davidic covenant. Nor were the "kings" who ruled during the Roman occupation, like Herod the Great, righteous men who refrained from defiling God's holy name.
The point is that the Holy God who resides in this holy Temple on this holy mountain demands a holy reputation. He will not abide an unholy people misrepresenting Him before the nations.
Question: In verses 7-10, Yahweh demands
the end of name-defiling behavior by listing what four specific offenses that
had provoked the outpouring of His wrath in the past?
Answer: He lists spiritual harlotry of nation and king in worshipping false gods, the veneration of deceased kings, the building of His Temple in association with their palaces, and their "loathsome practices," a summary term to define all their past sins.
In the second part of Yahweh's message, He tells Ezekiel
to both deliver His message to the people and to commit it to writing and in
drawing up a plan of the visionary Temple (verse 11).
Question: What does Yahweh say is the purpose of describing the vision of the Temple?
Answer: The first purpose is to shame the people concerning their past behavior. If they are truly repentant, they should feel ashamed for their past sins as a people and as individuals. The second reason is so they will demonstrate their repentance by carrying out the plan of building the Temple.
There are three theological lessons associated with God's return in 43:1-11:
Christians recognize the ultimate expression of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. He is not only the restored Temple (Jn 2:19-22), but He is the physical manifestation of divine glory because He is the fullness of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). The glorious news of the Gospel is not that Christians are worthy of access to Christ, but that He receives us in spite of our sins. However, that Christ invites us to fellowship with Him in spite of our sins does not mean that He accepts our sinful condition as satisfactory. He calls us, as Yahweh called the exiles, to put away all sinful, idolatrous ways and to sanctify His Holy Name among the nations through righteous living.
12 "This is the charter [tora] of the Temple: all the surrounding space on the mountain top is an especially holy area. (Such is the charter [tora] of the Temple.)" [...] = Hebrew word, IBHE, vol. III, page 2014.
Some Biblical scholars believe this verse announces the new torah of Ezekiel, presenting the prophet as a second Moses and the recipient of a divine revelation God commanded him to communicate to the people. The word tora/torah means "to teach, to instruct" rather than "law." This is not the first time the word tora appears in the Book of Ezekiel (see 7:26; 22:26; 43:11, 12, and will appear again in 44:5). This verse reflects the long-standing Israelite tradition in associating "instruction" of the Law with the priests, particularly instruction in cultic and ceremonial matters (Ez 7:2-6). In Ezekiel 22:26-27, Yahweh had accused the priests and the people of profaning His name among the nations by doing violence to Yahweh's Torah. They were guilty of profaning His sacred rituals and objects, failing to distinguish the holy from the profane, failing to teach the difference between what is ritually clean and unclean, and disregarding Yahweh's Sabbaths: "Her priests have violated my law [tora] and desecrated my Sanctuary; they have made no distinction between sacred and profane, they have not taught people the difference between clean and unclean; they have turned their eyes away from my Sabbaths and I have been dishonored by them" (Ez 22:26).
Most to what comes next in 43:13-46:24 falls within the categories of abuses in 22:26, and represents an intentional correction of the wrongs listed in 22:26 by recommissioning the priests concerning their responsibilities in these very areas. However, this cannot be a newly initiated Torah to which the people are bound in the future because the different sacrificial regulations are never enacted. The sacrifices that are listed in this chapter are not according to Moses' Torah, and when the exiles return they do not initiate any liturgical changes but return to the original Torah they received from Moses. Nor can these changes only reflect practices of the exiles in Babylon since no liturgical sacrifices were made there. Sacrifices in Yahweh's name cannot be offered on any other altar or in any other place other than His altar in the holy city of Jerusalem (Dt 12:11-12; 1 Kng 11:36).
The important point concerning the visionary return of Yahweh is that He has condescended to dwell among His people, not because of their worthiness but because of His grace. However, extreme measures will be necessary to prevent the contagion of impurity inside His future Temple and for holiness to spread outside His Temple.
Ezekiel 43:13-17 ~ The Altar
13 These were the dimensions of the altar, in cubits each of a cubit plus a hands breadth. The base: one cubit high and one cubit wide; the space by the runnel, all round the edge of the altar, one hands breadth. 14 From the ground level of the base up to the lower plinth, two cubits high and one cubit wide; from the lesser plinth to the greater plinth, four cubits high and one cubit wide. 15 The altar hearth: four cubits high, with four horns projecting from the hearth, 16 the hearth was four-square: twelve cubits by twelve cubits; 17 and the square plinth: fourteen cubits by fourteen cubits; and the ledge all round: half a cubit; and the base: one cubit all round. The steps were on the east side.
In 40:47, Ezekiel barely mentioned the presence of an altar in front of the Temple and without giving any details. The location of the altar in the inner court at the exact center of the 500-cubit-square Temple complex indicates its importance. Verses 13-17 give a description of the altar, while verses 18-27 give instructions for the ritual consecration of the altar.
The altar's dimensions are in verse 14a. It consists of a 14-cubit square (verse 17), rising 4 cubits above the base (verse 14). The word har'el (verse 15) or ha ariel (verse 16) identifies the site where the priests perform the sacrificial rites. The word "ariel" appears elsewhere in Scripture as the personal name of two individuals (2 Sam 23:20/1 Chr 11:22 and Ezra 8:16), and it appears as a cryptic name for Jerusalem in Isaiah 29:1-2, 7. However, the other passages do not shed any light on the use of the word in our passage.1 From the base to the top of the altar, the dimensions decrease.
The dimensions of the desert Sanctuary's altar formed a square 5 cubits long by 5 cubits high and 3 cubits high (Ex 27:1-8; 38:1-7). Like the desert Sanctuary altar and Solomon's altar, Ezekiel's altar had "horns," protrusions at each corner (Ex 29:12; Lev 4:7, 18; 1 Kng 1:50-53; 2:28-29). The officiating priest smeared the blood on the altar horns during the sacrificial rites (i.e., Lev 4:7). The hearth was approached by steps on the east side in violation to Yahweh's prohibition in Exodus 20:26. Notice that both the prophet and his guide seem to have disappeared at this point.
Desert Sanctuary Altar
Solomon's Temple Altar
2 Chronicles 4:1
Ezekiel's Temple Altar
|5 cubits square by 3 cubits tall. It is unknown if the measurements are the short or long cubit.||20 cubits square (c. 17 ft.) by 10 cubits high (c. 8.5 ft.) using the short 17.5 inch cubit.||20 cubits square at the base (c. 34 feet); altar proper was 14x14 cubits (c. 24 ft.); hearth was 12 x 12 cubits (c. 20.5 ft. or 420 square ft.). From the bottom of the gutter to the top of the altar it was 6 cubits (c. 10 ft.) using the long cubit of c. 21 inches.|
The altar for the Second Temple rebuilt by King Herod was much larger than Ezekiel's altar.2
Ezekiel 43:18-27 ~ The Consecration of the Altar
18 He said to me, "Son of man, the Lord Yahweh says this, As regards the altar, this is how things must be done when it has been built for the sacrifice of the burnt offering and for the pouring of blood. 19 To the Levitical priests, those of the race of Zadok who approach me to serve me, declares the Lord Yahweh, you must give a young bull as a sacrifice for sin. 20 You must take some of its blood and put it on the four horns, on the four corners of the plinth and on the surrounding ledge. In this way you will purify it and make expiation on it. 21 Then take the bull of the sacrifice for sin and burn it in that part of the Temple which is cut off from the sanctuary. 22 On the second day, you must offer an unblemished he-goat as the sacrifice for sin, and the altar must be purified again as was done with the bull. 23 When you have finished the purification, you must offer a young, unblemished bull and an unblemished ram from the flock. 24 You must present them before Yahweh, and the priests will sprinkle salt on them and offer them as burnt offerings to Yahweh. 25 As a sacrifice for sin, every day for seven days you must offer a he-goat, a bull and an unblemished ram from the flock. 26 In this way the altar will be expiated and will be purified and inaugurated. 27 At the end of that time, on the eighth day and afterwards, the priest will offer your burnt offerings and your communion sacrifices on the altar, and I shall look favorably on you,' declares the Lord Yahweh."
The function of the altar was to symbolize Yahweh's desire to commune with His people by providing expiation for their sins and unity in the sacred meal of the Toda (thanksgiving) communion sacrifices (Lev 7:11-15). This section is framed by the introductory formula, "the Lord Yahweh says this" (verse 18) and the concluding formula saying "declares the Lord Yahweh" (verse 27).
A summary of Ezekiel's instructions for consecrating the altar in 43:19-27:
Chapter 44: Liturgical Observances
Ezekiel 44:1-3 ~ The Use of the East Gate
1 He brought me back to the outer east gate of the sanctuary. It was shut. 2 Yahweh said to me, "This gate will be kept shut. No one may open it or go through it, since Yahweh, God of Israel, has been through it. And so it must be kept shut. 3 The prince himself, however, may sit there to take his meal in the presence of Yahweh. He must enter and leave through the porch of the gate."
This passage divides into two parts:
The "he" is probably the guide who was standing beside Ezekiel while he received God's instructions (43:6). Ezekiel has returned to the east gate, and he notices that the gate is closed. In answer to Ezekiel's observation, Yahweh's voice comes from the Temple telling him why the gate is closed and why it will remain closed.
The closed gate is significant for two reasons:
The Fathers of the Church made the comparison between the closed gate that must remain closed because God passed through it and the continuing virginity of the Virgin Mary (Jerome, Theodoret, Ambrose, and Cyril of Alexandria).3
3 The prince
himself, however, may sit there to take his meal in the presence of Yahweh. He
must enter and leave through the porch of the gate.
Verse 3 introduces the mysterious figure of "the prince." We will receive more information about him in 45:21-46:12. However, we can make several observations concerning "the prince":
The exiles would have greeted this announcement concerning "the prince" with great joy, interpreting the message as referring to a Davidic prince who would have pride of place in the new Temple. As far as they knew, the line of the Davidic heirs and the Davidic covenant ended with the murder of King Zedekiah's sons (2 Kng 25:6-7; Jer 39:6).
Ezekiel 44:4-9 ~ Rules of Admission to the Temple
4 He led me through the north gate to the front of the Temple. And then I looked; I saw the glory of Yahweh filling the Temple of Yahweh; and I fell to the ground. 5 Yahweh said to me, "Son of man, pay attention, look carefully and listen closely to everything I explain; these are all the arrangements of the Temple of Yahweh and all its laws [torot]. Be careful about who is admitted to the Temple and who is excluded from the sanctuary. 6 And say to the rebels of the House of Israel, The Lord Yahweh says this: You have gone beyond all bounds with all your loathsome practices, House of Israel, 7 by admitting aliens, uncircumcised in heart and body, to frequent my sanctuary and profane my Temple, while offering my food, the fat and the blood, and breaking my covenant with all your loathsome practices. 8 Instead of maintaining the service of my holy things, you have deputed someone else to maintain my service in my sanctuary. 9 The Lord Yahweh says this: No alien, uncircumcised in heart and body, may enter my sanctuary, none of the aliens living among the Israelites.'"
Unable to enter by the main east gate, the guide takes Ezekiel through the north gate up to the front of the Temple where he sees the glory of God filling the main Sanctuary. Once again, Ezekiel's reaction in the presence of the Divine is to fall to the ground (1:28; 43:3).
The reason Ezekiel prostrates himself is not only a demonstration of his reverence but perhaps also because of fear.
Question: What does Ezekiel have to fear when he comes in contact with the Divine? See Ex 33:20.
Answer: His fear may come from God's warning to Moses that no one can see the face of God and live.
The emphasis of this passage is on maintaining the purity of the Temple by limiting access to the inner courts. In verses 6-8, the Lord reminds the exiles of the past sins that demonstrated their rebellion against Yahweh and His covenant.
7 by admitting
aliens, uncircumcised in heart and body, to frequent my sanctuary and profane
my Temple, while offering my food, the fat and the blood, and breaking my
covenant with all your loathsome practices.
Circumcision was a physical sign that reflected the internal condition of a life dedicated to obedience to God and His covenant (Gen 17:9-14; Lev 12:3). The physical sign was meaningless without inward devotion (Dt 10:16-17; 30:6; Jer 4:4).4 In sacrifices that were not whole burnt offerings consumed completely in the altar fire (the twice-daily Tamid sacrifice and individual whole burnt offerings), the fat and the blood were God's portion offered on the altar (sin sacrifices and communion offerings).5
The listed restrictions are a repeat of prohibitions that were formerly in place. Only those who are members of the covenant with Yahweh and circumcised in heart and body (verse 9) can enter. Most foreigners/Gentiles are neither, but Gentiles who have joined the covenant through the rituals of circumcision and immersion accompanied by oath swearing in obedience to Yahweh's Laws and commands were considered full members of the covenant (see Acts 21:28-29).
Ezekiel 44:10-14 ~ The Regulations Concerning the Levitical
10 " As regards the Levites who abandoned me when Israel strayed far from me by following its idols; they must bear the weight of their own sin. 11 They must be servants in my sanctuary, responsible for guarding the Temple gates and serving the Temple. They will kill the burnt offerings and the sacrifice for the people, and hold themselves at the service of the people. 12 Since they used to be at their service in front of their idols and were an occasion of guilt for the House of Israel, very well, I stretch out my hand against them, declares the Lord Yahweh, they will bear the weight of their guilt. 13 They may never approach me again to perform the priestly office in my presence, nor touch my holy things and my most holy things; they must bear the disgrace of their loathsome practices. 14 I shall give them the responsibility of serving the Temple; I shall make them responsible for serving it and for everything to be done in it.'"
This passage reminds the Levitical lesser ministers of the past defection from Yahweh and His covenant. This condemnation for past sins may be the reason many of the Levitical lesser ministers, as opposed to the chief priests, were reluctant to return after the exile (Ezra 2:40; 8:15-19). The duties of the Levites in ministerial service appear in Numbers 3:5-10. They were never allowed to serve at the Altar of Sacrifice.
Ezekiel 44:15-31 ~ The Regulations Concerning the
15 " As regards the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who maintained the service of my sanctuary when the Israelites strayed far from me, they will approach me to serve me; they will stand in my presence to offer me the fat and blood, declares the Lord Yahweh. 16 They will enter my sanctuary and approach my table to serve me; they will maintain my service. 17 Once they enter the gates of the inner court, they must wear linen vestments; they must wear no wool when they serve inside the gates of the inner court and in the Temple. 18 They must wear linen caps on their heads and linen breeches on their loins; they may not wear anything round their waists that makes them sweat. 19 When they go out to the people in the outer court, they must remove the vestments in which they have performed the liturgy and leave them in the rooms of the Holy Place, and put on other clothes, so as not to hallow the people with their vestments. 20 They may neither shave their heads nor let their hair grow long, but must cut their hair carefully. 21 No priest may drink wine on the day he enters the inner court. 22 They may not marry widows or divorced women, but only virgins of the race of Israel; they may, however, marry a widow, if she is the widow of a priest. 23 They must teach my people the difference between what is sacred and what is profane and make them understand the difference between what is clean and what is unclean. 24 They must be judges in law-suits; they must judge in the spirit of my judgements; they must follow my laws and ordinances at all my feasts and keep my Sabbaths holy. 25 They may not go near a dead person, in case they become unclean, except in these permissible cases, that is, for father, mother, daughter, son, brother or unmarried sister. 26 After one of them has been purified, seven days must elapse; 27 then, the day he enters the Holy Place in the inner court to minister in the Holy Place, he must offer his sacrifice for sin, declares the Lord Yahweh. 28 They may have no heritage; I myself shall be their heritage. You may give them no patrimony in Israel; I myself shall be their patrimony. 29 Their food must be the oblation, the sacrifice for sin and the sacrifice of reparation. Everything dedicated by vow in Israel shall be for them. 30 The best of all your first-fruits and of all the dues and of everything you offer must go to the priests; and the best of your dough you must also give to the priests, so that a blessing may rest on your house. 31 Priests must not eat the flesh of anything that has died a natural death or been savaged, be it bird or animal.'"
These regulations repeat of the rules for priests in Exodus 28:1-43; Leviticus 6:3-4; 21:1-5; 10:9; 21:7, 14; Numbers 18:1-24; and Deuteronomy 18:1-2. The liturgical garments were limited to linen fabric, and they could not wear their liturgical garments outside of the inner courts of the Temple complex. This restriction identifies Jesus' seamless liturgical garment worn to the Last Supper as a priestly garment worn in a liturgical service (Jn 19:23 describes His tunic as a seamless garment).
The service and regulations concerning the priests in 44:15-31:
Chapter 45: The Division of the Land
The regulations in 44:28-48:20 define the patrimony of the chief priests:
Ezekiel 45:1-6 ~ Yahweh's Instructions Concerning the
Division of the Land after the Return from Exile
1 " When you draw lots to divide the country by heritage, you must set a sacred portion of the country aside for Yahweh: twenty-five thousand cubits long and twenty thousand wide. The whole of this land must be sacred, 2 and of this an area five hundred by five hundred cubits must be for the sanctuary, with a boundary fifty cubits wide right round. 3 Out of this area you must also measure a section twenty-five thousand by ten thousand cubits, in which will be the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies. 4 This will be the sacred portion of the country, belonging to the priests who officiate in the sanctuary and approach Yahweh to serve him. It will contain room for their houses and room for the sanctuary. 5 A portion twenty-five thousand by ten thousand cubits will be owned by the Levites serving the Temple, with towns for them to live in. 6 You must give the city possession of an area five thousand by twenty-five thousand cubits, near the land belonging to the sanctuary; this must be for the whole House of Israel.'"
When the conquest of Canaan was complete, Yahweh
commanded the division of the land among the tribes of Israel according to the
drawing of lots (Num 26:53-56; 33:54; 34:13; 36:2-3). Joshua fulfilled the
command (Josh 18:6-10). The use of lots reflects the conviction that God
controls events, and, as the owner of the land, He has the authority to
distribute it as He desires. Unlike the lot drawings after the conquest, God
sets aside an allotment for Himself that is reserved in advance, the location
of which will remain undisclosed until Chapter 48.
1b you must set a sacred portion of the country aside for Yahweh: twenty-five thousand cubits long and twenty thousand wide. The whole of this land must be sacred...
Assuming that the long cubit is the unit of measurement, the length computes to a little more than 8 miles and the width to almost 6 and a half miles, covering an area over 50 square miles or 33,500 acres (Block, page 652).
2 and of
this an area five hundred by five hundred cubits must be for the sanctuary,
with a boundary fifty cubits wide right round.
The dimensions in verse 2 are the same dimensions as in 42:15-20.
3 Out of
this area you must also measure a section twenty-five thousand by ten thousand
cubits, in which will be the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies. 4 This will be the sacred portion of the
country, belonging to the priests who officiate in the sanctuary and approach
Yahweh to serve him. It will contain room for their houses and room for the
The allocation of land set aside for Yahweh is cut in half lengthwise to form two strips 25.000 cubits long by 10,000 cubits wide. There was a strip of land reserved for the Sanctuary and the homes of the chief priests.
The second strip of land in verses 5-6 will be reserved for the lesser Levitical ministers. The regulation anticipates that the Levitical tract of land will have cities (Ezra 2:70).
Ezekiel 45:7-12 ~ The Portion for the Prince
7 " The prince must have a territory either side of the sacred portion and of the property of the city, adjacent to the sacred portion and the property of the city, stretching westwards from the west and eastwards from the east, its size equal to one of the portions between the west and the east frontiers 8 of the country. This will be his property in Israel. Then my princes will no longer oppress my people; they must leave the rest of the country for the House of Israel, for its tribes. 9 The Lord Yahweh says this: Enough, princes of Israel! Give up your violence and plundering, do what is upright and just, stop crushing my people with taxation, declares the Lord Yahweh. 10 Have fair scales, a fair ephah, a fair bat. 11 Let the ephah and bat be equal, let the bat hold one-tenth of a homer and the ephah one-tenth of a homer. Let the measures be based on the homer. 12 The shekel must be twenty gerah. Twenty shekels, twenty-five shekels and fifteen shekels must make one mina.'"
Verses 7-8 focus on the Davidic prince who will receive a special grant: two large tracts of land on either side (east and west) of the sacred reserved portion for Yahweh. With this gift of land, Yahweh challenges the future rulers to no longer oppress His people who will occupy the rest of the land (verses 8-9).
In verses 9-12, Yahweh commands fair treatment for His people concerning taxation and setting standard measurements associated with trade. Merchants were tempted to cheat their customers by falsifying balances and measurements by using improper weights (shekels) or adding false bottoms and other ways of altering the size of vessels. An ephah is a solid measure (1.25 bushels or 45 liters). A bat is a liquid measure (12 gallons US and 10 gallons UK or 45 liters. The homer (omer) and kor (45:14) are the same. They are the largest of dry measures, containing about 8 bushels or 10 ephah (Lev 27:16; Num 11:32).
shekel must be twenty gerah. Twenty shekels, twenty-five shekels and fifteen
shekels must make one mina.
The gerah was Israel's smallest unit of weight, equaling about 0.57 grams. In this passage, the standard shekel would weigh about 11.4 grams (0.4 oz). The minah was to be the sum of 20 + 25 + 15 = 60 shekels. Mosaic Law based the appeal for honest weights and measures on the character of Yahweh (Lev 19:36). The inspired writer of Proverbs wrote, A false balance is abhorrent to Yahweh, a just weight is pleasing to him (Prov 11:1; also see 16:11 and 20:10).
Ezekiel 45:13-17 ~ Offerings for Worship
13 " This is the offering that you must levy: the sixth of an ephah for every homer of wheat, and the sixth of an ephah for every homer of barley. 14 The dues on oil: one bat of oil out of every ten bat or out of every kor (which is equal to ten bat or one homer, since ten bat equal one homer). 15 You must levy one sheep on every flock of two hundred from the pastures of Israel for the oblation, the burnt offerings and the communion sacrifice. This must form your expiation, declares the Lord Yahweh. 16 Let all the people of the country be subject to this due for the prince of Israel. 17 The prince must make himself responsible for providing the burnt offerings, the oblation and the libations for feasts, New Moons, Sabbaths and all the solemn festivals of the House of Israel. He must provide the sacrifice for sin, the oblation, the burnt offerings and the communion sacrifices to make expiation for the House of Israel.'"
Levies on produce and animals, and a Temple tax helped to support the Levitical priests, lesser ministers, and the Temple. Rich and poor alike from the age of twenty and over made a contribution ( Ex 13:12; 30:13-16; 34:19; Lev 1:1; 2:1; 3:1; Num 18:8-32). Under Mosaic Law, everyone twenty years and above must pay half a shekel, reckoning by the Sanctuary shekel: twenty gerah to the shekel. This half-shekel will be set aside for Yahweh (Num 30:13; also see Jesus' payment of the Temple tax in Mt 17:24-27).
Verses 16 to 17 make the prince responsible for collecting and distributing the resources to support the priests and Levites and the all the communal sacrifices for the Temple like the twice daily Tamid whole burnt offering, the annual, monthly, and Sabbath feast sacrifices (Num 28-29).
Ezekiel 45:18-25 ~Expiation for the Temple and the
Feasts of the Passover and the Shelters
18 " The Lord Yahweh says this: On the first day of the first month, you must take a young bull without blemish, to purify the sanctuary. 19 The priest must take blood from the sacrifice for sin and put it on the doorposts of the Temple, on the four corners of the altar plinth and on the doorposts of the gates of the inner court. 20 You must do the same on the seventh of the month, on behalf of anyone who has sinned through inadvertence or ignorance. This is how you must make expiation for the Temple. 21 On the fourteenth day of the first month, you must celebrate the feast of the Passover. For seven days everyone must eat unleavened loaves. 22 On that day, the prince must offer a bull as a sacrifice for sin, for himself and all the people of the country. 23 For the seven days of the feast, he must offer Yahweh burnt offerings of seven bulls and seven rams without blemish, daily for a week, and one he-goat daily as a sacrifice for sin, 24 and as an oblation, one ephah for each bull and one ephah for each ram, and a hin of oil for every ephah. 25 For the feast that falls on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, he must do the same for seven days, offering the sacrifice for sin, the burnt offerings, the oblation and the oil.'"
Yahweh's reference is obviously to the Liturgical Calendar that ordains the Feast of Passover in the first month. This reference suggests that the disputed date when Ezekiel's fourth vision began was also the beginning of the year in the first month of the Liturgical Calendar (Ez 40:1).
To prepare the Temple for the celebration of the annual feasts, on the first day of the first month, the priests must offer a sacrifice of expiation to cleanse the Temple:
This new command is not in the Mosaic laws associated with the annual feasts. However, the ritual is reminiscent of when Moses erected and consecrated the desert Sanctuary on the first day of the first month in Exodus 40:1, and when he consecrated Aaron and his sons to serve at the altar with the sin sacrifice of a bull after which he took the blood and put some of it on the horns of the corners of the altar to purify the altar. He then poured the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar, which he consecrated by performing the rite of expiation over it (Lev 8:15).
Verse 14 commands the observance of the Feasts of Passover on the 14th and Unleavened Bread from the 15th to the 21st (see Lev 23:5-8; Num 28:16-25). The prescribed sacrifices for the feast commemorating the first Passover on the 14th of the first month was a single lamb or goat-kid for every group of Israelites numbering from ten to twenty people (Ex 12:3-7; Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 ). The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted for seven days with prescribed sacrifices (Num 28:18-25). It is extremely odd that it is the prince and not the high priest who offers the sacrifices for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and for other feasts:
Sacrifices for Unleavened Bread
The Prince's Sacrifices for Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Shelters
|A bull as a sin sacrifice for himself and the people|
|Two unblemished young bull as a burnt offering||Seven unblemished bulls each day for a week|
|One unblemished ram as a burnt offering||Seven unblemished rams each day for a week|
|Seven unblemished yearling lambs as a burnt offering||Seven he-goats, one each day for a week as a sin sacrifice|
|Three-tenths of an ephah of flour mixed with oil with the bull||One ephah (flour?) with a hin of oil with each bull|
|Two-tenths of flour mixed with oil for the ram||One ephah (flour?) with a hin of oil with each ram|
|One-tenth of flour mixed with oil for each of the seven lambs||
|One goat as a sin sacrifice|
Whole burnt offerings were completely consumed in the altar fire. However, for sin sacrifices, only the fat was burned and the blood poured out on the altar. The priests ate the animal's boiled flesh in a sacred meal (Lev 6:17-22). The required sin sacrifice for the community was an unblemished young bull, and for a ruler, it was an unblemished he-goat (Lev 4:22-23). The requirements listed in this passage are completely different from Mosaic Law and apparently were not initiated after the return from exile when the exiles returned to the normal pattern (Ezra 6:19-22).
Notice that verse 20 limits expiation to anyone who has sinned through inadvertence or ignorance. At that point in salvation history, there wasn't a sacrifice holy enough to offer expiation for intentional sin (also see Num 15:22-31). It is the great gift of God's grace that Jesus' unblemished sacrifice atones for intentional and unintentional sin.
For Christians, Ezekiel's Torah foreshadows a glorious Gospel of God's grace:
Interpreting Ezekiel's Torah in the light of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, all Christians should rejoice because we have a greater covenant mediator than Moses or Ezekiel in Jesus Christ (Heb Chapter 3). In Jesus, we have a permanent High Priest who has direct access to God's throne of grace and mercy. Jesus offers perpetual intercession on our behalf (Heb 4:14-7:28; Rev 5:6). And it is the precious Blood of Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, who has eliminated the need for animal sacrifices in His perfect sacrifice once and forever (Heb 9:1-10:31). In sending God the Son to humanity, God opened the way to Heaven and eternal life.
Questions for discussion or reflection:
In Hebrews 8:5, the inspired writer (believed by many to be St. Paul) says that the earthly Sanctuary/Temple and the old ritual feasts were only a shadow or reflection of the heavenly realities. And in Colossians 2:17, Paul writes Then never let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or about observances of annual festivals, New Moons or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what was coming: the reality is the body of Christ. How did Christ fulfill all the Old Covenant rituals and liturgical observances? What did Jesus say concerning the rituals of the Sinai Covenant in Matthew 5:17-18? Why was it necessary for the old rituals to come to an end? See CCC 1962-64 and 1967-70.
1. The word "ariel" translates literally "Lion of God (El)," but it is odd that the top of the altar would bear this title. Some scholars suggest it is possible that the Hebrew word from the root ara, "to burn" joined to irat, "hearth, fireplace," forms the present word (Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25-28, page 600).
2. Herod's Second Temple altar was 50 cubits square by 15 cubits high. It also had four horns on it its four top corners and a ramp leading up to the top in obedience to the Mosaic taboo on steps leading up to the altar (Josephus, Jewish Wars, 5.5.6/222-26; Ex 20:26).
3. See Jerome: Commentary on Ezekiel, 13.44.1-3; Theodoret of Cry: Commentary on Ezekiel, 16.44; Ambrose: Letter 44; Cyril of Alexandria: Commentary on Luke 1.
5. See Leviticus Chapters 1-7, including 3:17, All the fat belongs to Yahweh. This is a perpetual law for all your descendants, wherever you may live: that you will not eat either fat or blood.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2018 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.