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Deeper Commentary


Ezekiel 42:1 Then he brought me forth into the outer court, the way toward the north: and he brought me into the room that was opposite the separate place, and which was opposite the building toward the north- Earlier we heard of chambers for the officiating priests on the north and south gates of the inner court (Ez. 40:44-46 ). He now as it were returns to take a closer look at them.

Ezekiel 42:2 The length of the building whose door faced north was a hundred cubits, and the breadth was fifty cubits- It was the front length of the cell building to which Ezekiel sees himself brought. The hundred cubits length agree with Ez. 41:13.

Ezekiel 42:3 Over against the twenty cubits which belonged to the inner court, and over against the pavement which belonged to the outer court, was gallery against gallery in the third story- No staircase seems mentioned; the focus of the vision is upon the existence of so many rooms; see on :5.

Ezekiel 42:4 Before the rooms was a walk of ten cubits’ breadth inward, a way of one cubit- The walkways are emphasized. Zech. 3:7-10 encouraged Joshua to be the king-priest of the restored kingdom: “If you will walk in my ways, and if you will keep my charge [as so frequently commanded in Ez. 40:46; 44:8,14-16 s.w.], then you shall also judge my house (as prophesied in Ez. 40-48), and shalt also keep my courts (so often mentioned in Ez. 40-48), and I will give you places to walk (s.w. Ez. 42:4 about the walkways in the prophesied temple)... hear now, O Joshua”. But he didn’t. He didn’t keep the courts, but allowed Tobiah the Ammonite to set up his office for subversion in the temple chambers.

And their doors were toward the north- Time and again, the new system is described in terms which allude to the bad practices in the old system- e.g. the stress of Ez. 42:4 etc. that the doors of the new chambers were "toward the north" connects with how Ezekiel had earlier seen women weeping for Tammuz "towards the north" in the temple (Ez. 8:14; Ez. 9:2). See on :20.

Ezekiel 42:5 Now the upper rooms were shorter; for the galleries took away from these, more than from the lower and the middle, in the building- The huge attention given to the chambers is surely because they would come to represent the places in the Father's house prepared for His people (Jn. 14:1-3), who would all be as it were about the work of His house. And there was a huge number of them, far more perhaps than was required in the restored temple situation. The sheer number of them and attention given to them in the plans was to highlight a symbolic meaning to them, even at the time. For the literal "sons of Zadok" were likely not enough to have lived in or used them all.

Ezekiel 42:6 For they were in three stories, and they had no pillars like the pillars of the courts. Thus the upper chambers were set back from the ground more than the lower and the middle ones- The chambers rose in terrace form, each of the upper stories receding from that below it, as was customary in Babylonian architecture. Likewise the form of the cherubim and palm tree motif was similar to what they had seen in Babylon. God in His grace and sensitive understanding was giving the exiles a plan to follow which would have been acceptable to them in accordance with the culture they had picked up in Babylon. And this thought confirms the impression that the temple was intended for the returned exiles to build, and not far any far later generation.

Ezekiel 42:7 The wall that was outside by the side of the rooms, toward the outer court before the rooms, its length was fifty cubits- This "wall" is the word used in Ez. 13:5. Judah had not previously built nor maintained such a wall or fence; and now on return from exile they were to do what they had earlier failed to. The fence was perhaps intended to screen the side windows of the lower chambers from public gaze, since these were to be occupied as robing and disrobing rooms for the priests (Ez. 44:19). This all sounds very much of a human situation, rather than that after the return of the Lord Jesus.

Ezekiel 42:8 For the length of the rooms that were in the outer court was fifty cubits: and see, before the temple were one hundred cubits- The chambers whose windows looked into the outer court, projected fifty cubits into the outer court; i.e. this was their breadth or depth from north to south. Those before the temple were an hundred cubits; i.e. the chambers whose windows fronted the temple, were a hundred cubits from east to west.

Ezekiel 42:9 From under these rooms was the entry on the east side, as one goes into them from the outer court- This entry ran along the east side of the building, and led from the outer to the temple court. Because the outer court was higher than the temple and could only be reached by steps, "the entry" is represented as lying under the rooms.

Ezekiel 42:10 In the thickness of the wall of the court toward the east, before the separate place, and before the building, there were rooms- As noted on :5, there is a huge emphasis upon the rooms, seeing they would come to represent places of personal salvation in Christ. But we reflect that these rooms are places of work and connected to work. Salvation will be about active work for the Lord and not an eternal rest.

Ezekiel 42:11 The way before them was like the appearance of the way of the rooms which were toward the north; according to their length so was their breadth: and all their exits were both according to their fashions, and according to their doors- The existence of walkways is stressed in these plans. As explained on Zech. 3:7, these are the "places to walk" which would have become real and actual had the returned exiles responded to this great plan.

Ezekiel 42:12 According to the doors of the rooms that were toward the south was a door at the head of the way, even the way directly before the wall toward the east, as one enters into them- See on :11.

Ezekiel 42:13 Then he said to me, The north rooms and the south rooms, which are before the separate place, they are the holy rooms, where the priests who are near to Yahweh shall eat the most holy things: there shall they lay the most holy things, and the meal offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; for the place is holy- The same words are found in Ezra 2:63 and Neh. 7:65- it wasn’t possible for the priests to eat of the holy things [signifying God’s acceptance of His people], because there was no record of their genealogy. Their names were not written in the “register” in fulfilment of Ez. 13:9: “neither shall they be written in the writing [s.w. ‘register’, Ezra 2:62] of the house of Israel”. Only if a priest stood up with urim and thummim could they eat of the holy things. These were two engraven stones carried in a pouch in the breastplate which flashed out Divine decisions (see H.A. Whittaker, Samuel, Saul And David for an excellent study of this). Zechariah 3:9 prophesies that Joshua the High Priest would have the engraven stone with seven eyes- the urim and thummim. It would thereby have been possible for a priesthood who had lost their genealogy record during the sacking of the first temple to eat the holy things, and thus fulfil Ezekiel 42:13. In a restoration context, Isaiah 66:21 had prophesied that Yahweh would regather Judah, “And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD”. This implies, surely, that He would accept some as Levites who could not otherwise prove they were. Zechariah 6:11,13 speaks of Joshua being crowned with the High Priestly mitre and ‘bearing the glory’, i.e. carrying the urim and thummim in the breastplate. But all this was conditional on Joshua’s obedience: “This shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey” (Zech. 6:15). Because Joshua failed, he didn’t have urim and thummim, therefore no decision could be given about who was an acceptable priest, and therefore the ‘Kingdom’ prophecy of Ezekiel 42:13 was left unfulfilled. So much depended upon that man. And likewise, the eternal destiny of many others depends on us. Isaiah’s prophecies of the restoration feature “the servant”- who was a symbol of both the people and a Messianic individual. His success was bound up with theirs. Thus Is. 65:9: “And I will bring forth a seed [singular] out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor [singular] of my mountains: and mine elect [plural] shall inherit it, and my servants [plural] shall dwell there”. His obedience would enable the peoples’ establishment as the Kingdom.

Ezekiel 42:14 When the priests enter in, then shall they not go out of the holy place into the outer court, but there they shall lay their garments in which they minister; for they are holy: and they shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people- The LXX gives the sense: "None shall go in thither except the priests, and they shall not go forth of the holy place into the outer court, that they that draw nigh to me may be continually holy, and may not touch their garments in which they minister, with defilement, for they are holy; and they shall put on other garments whenever they come in contact with the people". The language of defilement reads contrasts with the New Testament teaching that defilement has now been ended in Christ; and the veil to the Most Holy was torn at the Lord's death to demonstrate that now, access to the Holiest was possible for "the people". And Hebrews builds on this, showing that all in Christ are now able to enter. It is not therefore good enough to argue that this temple will be built after the Lord's return, and these things will point back to Him as the Mosaic sacrifices pointed forward to Him. The reality is that "the people" can get direct access to the Holiest, and that is now a reality for all time that will not be changed.

Ezekiel 42:15 Now when he had made an end of measuring the inner house, he brought me forth by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east, and measured it all around- He now measures the wall which was around the house and its courts. And Ezekiel was apparently led out by the east gate to observe this.

Ezekiel 42:16 He measured on the east side with the measuring reed five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed all around- For discussion of the size of the temple, see on Ez. 45:1. The LXX sees this wall as that of the outer court, and changes the "reeds" into "cubits".

Ezekiel 42:17 He measured on the north side five hundred reeds with the measuring reed all around- The temple of Ezekiel was of broadly similar dimensions to that of Solomon, 500 cubits square (see RSV). The Hebrew translated "reeds" is hard to interpret; but many expositors have concluded that "cubits" is meant, amongst them Mark Allfree, Worship In The Age To Come and Philip Hinde & Ivan Sturman, Ezekiel’s Last Vision

Ezekiel 42:18 He measured on the south side five hundred reeds with the measuring reed- The LXX reads "cubits" instead of "reeds".

Ezekiel 42:19 He turned about to the west side, and measured five hundred reeds with the measuring reed- Reading with LXX "cubits" makes more sense. Otherwise there is a huge area of space enclosed for no apparent reason.

Ezekiel 42:20 He measured it on the four sides: it had a wall around it, the length five hundred, and the breadth five hundred, to make a separation between that which was holy and that which was common- This is alluding back to Ezekiel's earlier lament that Judah had not made that very separation (Ez. 22:26). See on Ez. 44:6. This reflected the difference between God’s people, His “sanctuary” (Psalms 114:2), and the surrounding world. But Judah did not ‘separate’ themselves from the surrounding tribes but instead married them and worshipped their idols (s.w. Ezra 9:1 “The people of Israel... have not separated themselves from the people of the land, doing according to their abominations... for they have taken of their daughters for themselves”). The same word for “abominations” occurs in the same context in Mal. 2:11: “Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god”. Yet it had been emphasized that the temple system Ezekiel described was to be free of all the “abominations” [s.w.] previously committed by Israel (Ezekiel 43:8; 44:6,7,13).

In fact, the account of Judah’s separation from the surrounding peoples reads similar to that of the purges from idolatry during the reign of the kings. They separated / purged, and then, within a few years, we read of them doing so again. Initially, the exiles separated from the peoples of the land (Ezra 6:21); by Ezra 9:1 they are in need of separating again; and by Ezra 10:11 likewise; then they separate (Ezra 10:16), only to need another call to separation by the time of Neh. 9:2; 13:3. They obviously found it extremely difficult to be separated from the surrounding world unto God’s law (Neh. 10:28). There was a powerful logic- either separate from the world around, or be separated from the people of God (Ezra 10:8). It’s a separation- one way or the other. Judah chose not to make that separation, and so the spirit of the new temple was precluded from coming about in that form at that time.