New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Ezekiel 40:1 In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity- The captivity of the Jews began in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when Daniel and his companions were carried away, thirty-two years previously. Daniel would have been seven years in captivity when Ezekiel arrived. Daniel and his three friends are presented as the only faithful ones amongst the captives, but clearly Ezekiel was there. There's no reference to their having any contact, perhaps because Ezekiel was at the exile encampment by the Chebar river.

In the beginning of the year- This phrase is used about the jubilee year, and it has been calculated that BC575 would have been a jubilee year. Perhaps the idea was that now was the time for the exiles to accept the proclamation of release, at least in their hearts.

In the tenth day of the month- The month isn't defined, which is understandable if the reference is to the proclamation of a jubilee year on the day of atonement in the tenth day of the seventh month (Lev. 25:9). The idea was that Judah had been forgiven, although they hadn't yet claimed it by repentance, and they were to now consider the glorious potential future which was thereby possible for them. Hence the emphasis upon "on that very day" in the next clause.

In the fourteenth year after that the city was struck, on that very day, the hand of Yahweh was on me and He brought me there- The city was struck towards the end of the twelfth year of Ezekiel's captivity (Ez. 33:21). The submission of this study is that the return could have led to the establishment of the Kingdom on earth, replete with a Messiah figure and a temple according to the pattern showed to Ezekiel in Ez. 40 - 48. Parts of many of the prophets looked forward to this time, as did the restoration prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah 40-66. All of these could have had their fulfilment in the return under Ezra, but this was disabled by the poor response to the call to return. Under Nehemiah and then even in Malachi’s time, these Kingdom prophecies could have had their fulfilment, but time and again Judah failed to live up to the necessary preconditions. In all this lies abundant exhortation for us; so much could happen but doesn’t, because of our failure to live out and fulfil prophecy... instead, like Judah, we tend to assume that the time for its’ fulfilment will inexorably arrive some day, regardless of our effort. 

Ezekiel 40:2 In the visions of God brought He me into the land of Israel and set me down on a very high mountain, whereon was as it were the frame of a city- Ezekiel saw the temple as if it were already there, located at Jerusalem; he wasn't transported to Heaven to view it. And it was there, potentially, that whole glorious temple. But the captives had to return and build it. turning the prophetic word into flesh, the logos into reality. But they didn't. Mount Zion is called "very high" although it isn't, relatively speaking. But it was "very high" in God's purpose and Ezekiel visually got this impression.

On the south- This refers to how Ezekiel was brought to the scene from the north, from Babylon, by the cherubim.

Ezekiel 40:3 He brought me there; and, behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed; and he stood in the gate- This man with the measuring line is the same Angel of Zech. 2:1, who was enabling the restoration of Zion at the time of the returned exiles; but they refused to make use of the potential. The "appearance of brass" recalls the vision of Ez. 1:5, confirming that the opening vision of the cherubim is connected with Angelic activity. The line of flax would have been to measure the land areas, and the reed to measure the masonry of the buildings.

Ezekiel 40:4 The man said to me, Son of man, see with your eyes and hear with your ears, and set your heart on all that I shall show you; for you are brought here with the intent that I may show these things to you: declare all that you see to the people of Israel- Ezekiel was not merely to act as a transmitter of information, but to be personally involved in the message. This is the challenge to us all in any teaching or sharing of God's word. The command to declare the vision to "the people of Israel" could mean that whilst in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was to share the message with the impoverished remnant who remained there, as well as with the captives back in Babylon. There is a clear similarity with the command to Moses in Ex. 25:9; the tabernacle was to be built by Israel according to what "I show thee", you singular, Moses. The fulfilment of the potential was therefore dependent upon the faithfulness of Ezekiel in accurately sharing the vision. And that is true for all who bring God's word to others.

Ezekiel 40:5 See, a wall on the outside of the house all around, and in the man’s hand a measuring reed six cubits long, of a cubit and a handbreadth each: so he measured the thickness of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed- The wall wasn't very high; it was not for defence, but to mark the difference between the sacred and profane. The measuring reed or rod is here defined as being 6 cubits plus 6 handbreadths. We recall the presence of a man's hand, Ezekiel's, within the cherubim visions (see on Ez. 10:8). That represented the human part of the whole wondrous vision; God requires human response, but would work powerfully with it. That may explain this otherwise strange measuring unit which mixed a human hand with the cubit measure.

Ezekiel 40:6 Then he came to the gate which looks toward the east, and went up its steps: and he measured the threshold of the gate, one reed broad; and the other threshold, one reed broad- We firstly read of the east gate because the intention was that the cherubim of glory would return through the east gate. Contra Henry Sulley, there is no evidence that the temple is circular. The temple can hardly face East, as we are told it will in Ez. 47:1, if it is circular. We note the use of steps (seven of them, :22), forbidden in the Mosaic system; human uncleanness would have been dealt with to some extent in the restored community.

Ezekiel 40:7 Every lodge was one reed long, and one reed broad; and the space between the lodges was five cubits; and the threshold of the gate by the porch of the gate toward the house was one reed- These lodges recalled the guard rooms which were commonly placed next to gates of a city. The priests were to keep the charge of these gates and not allow anything unclean to enter (Ez. 44:11). This sounds appropriate to the restored community, but not to a scenario in the Kingdom of God under the rulership of the returned Lord Jesus. See on :21. Then, this truth will be spiritually understood in the vision in which John sees no temple in the new city; "there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither works abomination, or makes a lie" (Rev. 21:27).

Ezekiel 40:8 He measured also the porch of the gate toward the house, one reed- The measurement given in :9 would be that of the porch in the wider sense, including the projecting side-walls upon it (2 cubits).

Ezekiel 40:9 Then measured he the porch of the gate, eight cubits; and its posts, two cubits; and the porch of the gate was toward the house- LXX "inward". It seems :9 is measuring the length of the porch from north to south, whereas :8 measures the depth of it from east to west.

Ezekiel 40:10 The lodges of the gate eastward were three on this side and three on that side; these three were of the same measure: and the posts had the same measure on this side and on that side- Nehemiah did his very best to bring the potential Kingdom of God about by urging the people to repentance and conformity to God’s will, such was his perception of what was going on; that the coming of God’s Kingdom was being limited by the apathy of his own people. No fewer than 24 times in Ez. 40-48 are we told that the temple was to be built by ‘measure’ (e.g. Ez. 40:3,5,10,21,22,24,28,29); and the same word occurs frequently in describing how Nehemiah gave various groups of Jews their own ‘measure’ in the work of rebuilding Jerusalem (Neh. 3:11,19,20,22,24,27).

Ezekiel 40:11 He measured the breadth of the opening of the gate, ten cubits; and the length of the gate, thirteen cubits- The opening of the gate is its entire width. "The length" appears to mean effectively "the height"; the Hebrew is not specific.

Ezekiel 40:12 And a border before the lodges of one cubit on this side, and a border of one cubit on that side; and the lodges, six cubits on this side, and six cubits on that side- "The border" is really a barrier. The ten cubits of :11 is therefore reduced by one cubit on each side, to limit the passage to eight cubits. The implication is that there may have been crowd control problems and the guards / gate keepers needed to be able to manage any possible crush. Again, this is a scenario appropriate to a temple rebuilt by the exiles, but not to the future Kingdom of the Lord Jesus. See on Ez. 46:8.

Ezekiel 40:13 He measured the gate from the roof of the one lodge to the roof of the other, a breadth of twenty-five cubits; door against door- This is the entire breadth of the gate-buildings.

Ezekiel 40:14 He made also posts, sixty cubits; and the court reached to the posts, around the gate- It was an Angel who described to Ezekiel the nature of the temple which the exiles were intended to build; and we even read here that “He made…” [e.g. the posts of the temple]. The Angels had potentially built that temple; it was for Israel to build according to the pattern of it. The measuring now becomes making; what was potentially measured up was thereby as good as made. It all depended upon God's people to actually do it. And for each of us, there are wonderful things prepared for us to achieve for the Lord, made potentially possible, with all the host of Heaven eagerly awaiting our fulfillment of them on earth. But so very often they remain only poorly replicated by us. And the temple prophecies of Ezekiel are a classic example. See on :38; Ez. 1:1,20; 10:8; 11:24.

Ezekiel 40:15 From the forefront of the gate at the entrance to the forefront of the inner porch of the gate were fifty cubits- The man on the seventh step would see it clearly: first threshold, 6 cubits; three guardrooms with two intervening spaces, 28 cubits; second threshold, 6 cubits; porch, 6 cubits; projection of the side and gate-pillars, 4 cubits = 50 cubits. This length is double the breadth.

Ezekiel 40:16 There were closed windows to the lodges, and to their posts within the gate all around, and likewise to the arches; and windows were around inward; and on each post were palm trees- There are many links between Solomon’s temple and that described by Ezekiel. The repeated stress on the cherubim / palm tree decor in both the records of Solomon’s temple and also Ezekiel’s encourages the idea that the prophesied temple was to be seen as a re-establishment of Solomon’s (1 Kings 6:29,32,35; 7:36 cp. Ez. 40:16,22,26,31,34,37; 41:18-20, 25,26).

It's easy to assume that the temple was totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The fact a new foundation stone was laid doesn't actually mean that the entire structure was razed to the ground. Jer. 41:5 refers to 80 people coming to offer offerings and perform some kind of worship there even after the Babylonian destruction. There's ample historical reference to the essential ground plan and some structure still standing even after the Babylonians had effectively destroyed it and rendered it useless (See R.S. Foster, The Restoration Of Israel (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1970) p. 28; John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981) p. 325; Martin Noth, The History of Israel (London: SCM, 1983) p. 291). This makes it more appealing to consider Ezekiel's vision as a blueprint for the exiles' reconstructing the existing temple, rather than a totally new structure. It's even been suggested that Ezekiel 40-42 was intended as an architectural record of the 'old' temple upon which a new one was to be reconstructed. Zerubbabel is pictured as bringing forth "the premier stone" for the temple (Zech. 4:7). This is a technical term, used in Mesopotamia about "a unit of building material removed from the former temple ruins and then incorporated into the new building" (C.L. & E.M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 2004) p. 270.). This demonstrates how the projected new temple was a rebuilding of Solomon's temple. The "shouts" with which it was laid (Zech. 4:7) were the "shouts" of the foundation ceremony described in Ezra 3:10-12.

Ezekiel 40:17 Then brought he me into the outer court; and behold, there were rooms and a pavement, made for the court all around: thirty rooms were on the pavement- Earlier Ezekiel had seen the wings of the cherubim over the "outer court" (Ez. 10:8). That outer court was now to be rebuilt. The cherubim, simply representing the operation of God for His people, would likewise be involved just as they had been in its destruction; if Judah wished to work with them.

Ezekiel 40:18 The pavement was by the side of the gates, answerable to the length of the gates, even the lower pavement- The length of the gates fixed the breadth of the stone pavement. Ez. 40-48 stress the “gates” dozens of times; and Nehemiah’s account likewise stresses many times the attention he paid to setting up the “gates” [s.w.], as if he saw his work as fulfilling Ezekiel’s words.

Ezekiel 40:19 Then he measured the breadth from the forefront of the lower gate to the forefront of the inner court outside, one hundred cubits- He measures the breadth of the outer court, starting from the east gate, the gate already referred to, measuring from the front of its porch.

Both on the east and on the north- "Thus with respect to the east side, and the same with respect to the north side".

Ezekiel 40:20 The gate of the outer court whose prospect is toward the north, he measured its length and its breadth- This becomes the standard measure of the other gates (:21).

Ezekiel 40:21 The lodges of it were three on this side and three on that side; and its posts and its arches were after the measure of the first gate: its length was fifty cubits, and the breadth twenty-five cubits- We have to note the emphasis upon the guard rooms in the dimensions and measuring; see on :7.

Ezekiel 40:22 The windows of it, and its arches, and the palm trees of it, were after the measure of the gate whose prospect is toward the east; and they went up to it by seven steps; and its arches were before them- If indeed Ez. 40-48 are conditional prophecies, this opens up the possibility that so too are many other prophecies- especially those which involve allusion to them. For example, Rev. 11:1 speaks of a command to measure the temple- and immediately our minds are sent back to the temple being measured in such detail in Ez. 40:10, 21,22 etc. Is this to be read as a sign that we are about to receive another conditional prophecy? Assuming that Revelation was given just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, we could read the ensuing prophecy in Rev. 11 as saying that although Jerusalem and the outer court would fall to the Romans, the zealots in the inner sanctuary would be preserved, and a command to repentance would be issued by two prophets. Now of course, this didn't happen; but perhaps it could've done, potentially? Consider the possibility- both here and in so many other Bible passages.

Ezekiel 40:23 There was a gate to the inner court over against the other gate, both on the north and on the east; and he measured from gate to gate one hundred cubits- Now we are introduced to the relation of the gate (of the inner court) to the gate (of the outer court); and we see it as it were by reference to the two gates described northward and eastward.

Ezekiel 40:24 He led me toward the south; and behold, a gate toward the south: and he measured its posts and its arches according to these measures- Ezekiel was now close to the measuring Angel, so close he could be led by Him.

Ezekiel 40:25 There were windows in it and in its arches all around, like those windows: the length was fifty cubits, and the breadth twenty-five cubits- Like the windows in the gates of :22.

Ezekiel 40:26 There were seven steps to go up to it, and its arches were before them; and it had palm trees, one on this side, and another on that side, on its posts- Perhaps by every pillar stood two artificial palms. But literal palm trees may be in view.

Ezekiel 40:27 There was a gate to the inner court toward the south: and he measured from gate to gate toward the south a hundred cubits- "Gate" is literally 'an opening'. Whether there were doors upon the gates is left for us to imagine; perhaps if not, we have the impression of a welcoming openness towards the most holy space.

Ezekiel 40:28 Then he brought me to the inner court by the south gate: and he measured the south gate according to these measures- Ezekiel was "led" in :24, but now "brought". The Hebrew terms are different but too wide in meaning to be certain of the difference, but the idea could be of some reluctance on Ezekiel's part.

Ezekiel 40:29 And its lodges, and its posts, and its arches, according to these measures: and there were windows in it and in its arches all around; it was fifty cubits long, and twenty-five cubits broad- The "lodges" or "chambers" of the temple (s.w. 1 Kings 14:28) are the basis of the Lord's statement that in the Father's house are many abiding places (Jn. 14:1-3); the rebuilding of this temple didn't work out as envisaged, but the essence of the prophecy still comes true in a spiritual sense.

Ezekiel 40:30 There were arches all around, twenty-five cubits long, and five cubits broad- The Hebrew for "arches" can also mean a colonnade or portico.

Ezekiel 40:31 The arches of it were toward the outer court; and palm trees were on its posts: and the ascent to it had eight steps- This compares with the seven steps of :22, possibly implying that this was of greater holiness, requiring more effort in human ascent.

Ezekiel 40:32 He brought me into the inner court toward the east: and he measured the gate according to these measures- This now describes the inner part of the east gate.

Ezekiel 40:33 And its lodges, and its posts, and its arches, according to these measures: and there were windows therein and in its arches all around; it was fifty cubits long, and twenty-five cubits broad- Repeating the style of :29.

Ezekiel 40:34 The arches of it were toward the outer court; and palm trees were on its posts, on this side, and on that side: and the ascent to it had eight steps- The motif of palm trees is perhaps to create the idea of direct, upward growth, characteristic of the flourishing of the righteous (Ps. 92:12). Likewise the feet of the cherubim were "straight". The idea is that we respond directly and immediately to spiritual things and possibilities, without all the meandering and distraction so typical of the flesh.

Ezekiel 40:35 He brought me to the north gate: and he measured it according to these measures- "Measure" is literally 'to stretch oneself'. It could perhaps be that the measure was the height of the Angel; which would then make sense of Rev. 21:17 where the wall of the new Jerusalem is measured "according to the measure of a man, that is an Angel".

Ezekiel 40:36 Its lodges, its posts, and its arches: and there were windows therein all around; the length was fifty cubits, and the breadth twenty-five cubits- The prevalence of "windows... all around" recalls the cherubim being full of eyes all around (Ez. 10:18). There is clearly an impression given that the cherubim were to be involved in the rebuilding and functioning of this new temple system; every human effort to engage with it would be blessed and multiplied by the huge Angelic help available.

Ezekiel 40:37 The posts of it were toward the outer court; and palm trees were on its posts, on this side, and on that side: and the ascent to it had eight steps- "The outer court" is LXX "the porch", corresponding with :31,34.

Ezekiel 40:38 A room with its door was by the posts at the gates; there they washed the burnt offering- Ezekiel saw a functioning temple- he speaks of “where they washed the burnt offering”, he saw animals being killed, things being laid on tables (:38-43). It was all- potentially- ‘happening’. It just had to be realized on earth. See on :14.

Ezekiel 40:39 In the porch of the gate were two tables on this side, and two tables on that side, to kill thereon the burnt offering and the sin offering and the trespass offering- The order of the offerings usually features the burnt offering last; after recognizing sin and obtaining forgiveness, there was [and is] to be the dedication to God represented by the burnt offering. But God was so eager to accept the returning exiles that He had forgiven them although they had not generally repented. He wanted them to respond in dedication, and then for His grace to elicit from them the recognition of their sins.

Ezekiel 40:40 On the one side outside, as one goes up to the entry of the gate toward the north, were two tables; and on the other side, which belonged to the porch of the gate, were two tables- There were twelve tables, eight were used for slaughtering and laying the carcasses, and the remaining four for the instruments employed in killing the animals. Of the eight, four stood within the porch of the gate, two on each side, and four outside—two on the side "as one goes up to the entry of the north gate". This seems to mean "at the shoulder to one going up to the gate opening towards the north", i.e. on the outside of the porch's north wall; and two on the other side or shoulder, i.e. on the outside of the porch's south wall. The gate in view is therefore not the north gate, as the AV conjectures, but the east gate, whose side walls looked towards the north and south. The third group of four tables appears to have been planted at the steps, presumably two on each side, "at the ascent", i.e. at the staircase (cp. :26).

Ezekiel 40:41 Four tables were on this side, and four tables on that side, by the side of the gate; eight tables, whereupon they killed the sacrifices- See on :40.

Ezekiel 40:42 There were four tables for the burnt offering, of cut stone, a cubit and a half long, and a cubit and a half broad, and one cubit high; whereupon they laid the instruments with which they killed the burnt offering and the sacrifice- This speaks of the vessels to be used in the temple [NEV “instruments”] with the same word used for the temple vessels which were brought up out of Babylon back to Judah, in fulfilment of several of Isaiah’s ‘Kingdom’ passages (Ezra 1:6-11; 8:25-33 cp. Is. 52:11; 66:20). The tables on which the carcasses were placed were of stone, maybe implying the tables for the instruments were of wood.

Ezekiel 40:43 The hooks, a handbreadth long, were fastened within all around: and on the tables was the flesh of the offering-  "Hooks" is LXX "ledges," or "border guards", to keep the instruments or flesh from falling off; or they could refer to  "pegs" fastened in the wall for hanging the carcasses before they were flayed.

Ezekiel 40:44 Outside of the inner gate were rooms for the singers in the inner court, which was at the side of the north gate; and their prospect was toward the south; one at the side of the east gate having the prospect toward the north- The chambers for the singers appear to have been the priestly chambers (:45,46). In Solomon's temple, the Levites managed the singing (1 Chron. 6:33-47; 15:17; 2 Chron. 20:19). Now the priests were apparently to do so. LXX: "And he led me unto the inner court, and behold two chambers in the inner court, one at the back of the gate which looks towards the north, and bearing towards the south, and one at the back of the gate which looks towards the south, and bearing towards the north". The emphasis upon the singers is appropriate seeing that so many restoration prophecies envisaged the returned exiles singing praises.

Ezekiel 40:45 He said to me, This room, whose prospect is toward the south, is for the priests, the keepers of the duty of the house- The phrase 'to keep the duty / charge / ordinance' is used multiple times as a commandment. The priests were to keep the duty, whereas previously they had not. But the same phrase is used in Mal. 3:14 of how the restored exiles complained that they had 'kept the duty' of the temple for no profit. The greatest tragedy is when potentials are thrown away, and this was and is the tragedy of God's people.

Ezekiel 40:46 And the room whose prospect is toward the north is for the priests, the keepers of the charge of the altar: these are the sons of Zadok, who from among the sons of Levi come near to Yahweh to minister to Him- It was in this kind of chamber in the restored temple that the enemies of the Jews were allowed a living place and the apostate Tobiah stored his "stuff" (Neh. 13:8). This explains Nehemiah's anger about the situation- they were precluding the fulfilment of the potential envisaged here in Ez. 40:46.

Ezekiel emphasized that the sons of Zadok were to organize priestly work in the temple (Ez. 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11); and it was surely not incidental that Ezra, the leader of the initial restoration, was one of the sons of Zadok (Ezra 7:2). He was in a position to fulfil those prophecies, although the bulk of his brethren seem to have precluded this. Ezra was enabled to “beautify” the temple (Ezra 7:27), the very same word used in Is. 60:7,9,13 about how God would “glorify” [s.w.] His temple with merchandise from throughout the Babylonian empire- all of which was willingly offered by Cyrus and Darius. But the people didn't respond to Ezra, and so this scenario didn't come about.

Ezekiel 40:47 He measured the court, one hundred cubits long, and a hundred cubits broad, foursquare; and the altar was before the house- Henry Sulley and other popular reconstructions place it, without justification, in the Most Holy Place. Ezekiel commanded that the priests were not to wear their holy garments in the outer courts; and yet if as the popular view suggests they wear them in a central area, at the altar, and then go into their chambers on the edge of the temple, they would have to wear them in the outer courts.

Ezekiel 40:48 Then he brought me to the porch of the house, and measured each post of the porch, five cubits on this side, and five cubits on that side: and the breadth of the gate was three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that side- Matching Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:3). The "porch" appears to have been entered by a folding door of two leaves, each three cubits broad, which were attached to two side pillars five cubits broad, and met in the middle, so that the whole breadth of the porch front was six cubits, or, including the posts, sixteen cubits. The measurements in :49 of the length of the porch (from east to west) twenty cubits, and the breadth (from north to south) eleven cubits, assumes that the pillars, which were five cubits bread in front, were only half that breadth in the inside, the side wall dividing it in two, so that, although to one entering the opening was only six cubits, the moment one stood in the interior it was 6 cubits + 2 x 2.5 cubits = 11 cubits.

Ezekiel 40:49 The length of the porch was twenty cubits, and the breadth eleven cubits; even by the steps by which they went up to it: and there were pillars by the posts, one on this side, and another on that side- Matching Solomon's temple (1 Kings 7:21). See on :48.