Notes on Ezekiel 40:5-49

Ezekiel 40:5‑49  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 12
It is commonly laid down that the four main lines of divergence among interpreters are these—1, the historico-literal, adopted by Villalpandus, Grotius, etc., who make these chapters (Ezek. 40-48), a prosaic description, intended to preserve the memory of Solomon's temple; 2, the historico-ideal of Eichhorn, Dathe, etc., which makes them a vague announcement of future good; 3, the Jewish theory of Lightfoot, etc., which assumes that the idea was actually adopted by the returned remnant; and 4, the Christian or allegorical hypothesis, which was that of Luther and other reformers, and followed elaborately by Cocceius, etc., and indeed generally by many to the present day, which essays to discover in them an immense system symbolic of the good in store for the church. But this leaves out the fifth, and, I have no doubt, the only true interpretation, which sees in these chapters the suited conclusion to the entire prophecy, and especially akin to the chapters which precede—the prediction of the complete re-establishment in the last days of Israel, then converted and in the possession of every promised blessing forever in their land, with the glory of Jehovah in their midst. This is the only proper Messianic fulfillment of the vision, which accordingly must be taken in its simple and just grammatical import, literal, symbolic, or figurative, as the context in each passage may decide.
Thus, in the vision that follows in the chapter before us, we have a measured description chiefly of the temple courts and their appendages, the ἰερόν, (as in chapter 41, of the ναός, or οἶκος), the porch of which alone had been given in the chapter before, with a sequel in chapter 42, which may be viewed as concluding the first part of the description, and is important in destroying the notion that there was, or could be, any real resemblance between the prophetic vision of Ezekiel and any temple yet realized. The “wall on the outside of the house round about” (v. 5) is not measured till we come to the end of chapter 42, where it is declared to be 500 reeds square, which, given as it is with the most express exactitude, cannot be allowed to be an “hyperbole,” without shaking the character of the prophet, and of scripture in general; that is, the precincts are to take in considerably more than the entire city did. How this can be may perhaps be shown when we come to the passage.
It is enough here to remark that, if true, the temple intended by the prophet must be looked for in the future, to which indeed, all its surroundings point. One can understand also a past tabernacle typical of present heavenly things in Christ; but here it is a prophecy of what will only be accomplished for Israel in their land, when the church is changed at Christ's coming and reigns with Him, over the earth. There is no room therefore, for the Christian or allegorical application; that to the past Jewish we have seen to be a failure, yea, impossibility; and the vague ideal we may dismiss as scarcely removed from infidelity. As regards the prophets, disciples now, as of old, are foolish, and slow of heart to believe them. The future view is not only the sole sound one, but really alone possible. At the same time, while maintaining that all the evidence is in favor of a future temple for Israel under Messiah and the new covenant, there may be also many a lesson of truth and righteousness couched under the building and ritual and general order here laid down, without endorsing all the excellent John Bunyan's fancies, still less his confusion of all the temples of scripture, Solomon's, Zerubbabel's, Herod's, and this of Ezekiel. But as to such applications, we need a vigilant watch lest we pervert the holy word of God; and I trust myself to be reticent rather than thus offend.
On the details of our chapter there seems little to remark. In the first section (vss. 6-16) the eastern gate is measured, threshold and posts, porch within and without, chambers on both sides, breadth of the entry, length of gate and pillars, the reed consisting of six cubits, and each cubit of a handbreadth above the ordinary length. In the second (vss. 17-23), where the outer court comes before us, its gate towards the north is measured, its chambers, posts, porches, and steps, with the distance between the gate of the inner court opposite to those looking east and north. In the third (vss. 24-27) we have the measure of the south gate, with its appurtenances, as before, with the distance from a southern gate of the inner court. This gate is next measured (vss. 28-31) similarly; and the eastern gate of the same court, and the northern also (vss. 35-38). Then follows a description, in verses 38 to 43, of the cells and entrances by the columns of the gates, and the eight tables of hewn stones for slaying the burnt-offerings, etc., four on each side; and (vss. 44-47) without the inner gate cells for the singers1; one, looking to the south, for the priests that had charge of the house; and one, toward the north, for those that had charge of the altar; (the court itself being 100 cubits square, with the altar before the house.) The chapter concludes with measuring the porch of the house, length and breadth, with the gate (vss. 48-49).
It will be noticed that the sons of Zadok are specified for the service of the house. They had the pledge of that everlasting priesthood which was annexed to Aaron's line. What Phinehas, son of Eleazar, had guaranteed to him forever falls in due time to Zadok, who, under Solomon's reign, set aside the line of Ithamar according to the judgment of Jehovah predicted to Eli, after Abiathar’s part in the rebellion of Absalom. We shall find the same restriction repeatedly made throughout the vision, and indeed uniformly kept up. See Ezekiel 43:19; 44:15; 48:1119And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord God, a young bullock for a sin offering. (Ezekiel 43:19)
15But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God: (Ezekiel 44:15)
11It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the sons of Zadok; which have kept my charge, which went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray. (Ezekiel 48:11)
1. Boothroyd here follows the conjecture of Houbigant, or rather the version of the LXX, alleging that the rooms could not be for singers, when they were for the priests who had the charge of the altar and of the most holy place. Hence he gives, “And he brought me to the inner gate, and lo, there were two rooms in the inner court, one on the side of the north gate, and its prospect was towards the south ... And he said unto me, This room, whose prospect,” etc.