Ezekielís Last *Vision
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Ezekiel chapters 40 to 48
Commentary: Keith Simons; Translation: Ian Mackervoy.
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
Terrible events happened in Jerusalem during Ezekielís life. Unlike Jeremiah, Ezekiel was not present in Jerusalem when these things happened. Instead, he was in *exile in Babylonia. But Ezekiel still saw these events. He saw them in *visions, by the power of Godís Holy Spirit. On some occasions, it seemed as if the Holy Spirit lifted him up in order to take him back to Jerusalem. Each time, Ezekiel recorded carefully the things that he saw.
So Ezekiel saw the terrible things that happened to Godís *holy *temple. He saw how people were *worshipping false gods there (chapter 8). He saw how the inhabitants of Judah had become well-known for their wicked behaviour and murders. He saw that God would not permit this evil situation to continue. And Ezekiel saw when, at last, Godís *glory left his *temple (chapter 10). Then Ezekiel knew that Jerusalem had lost Godís special protection. Enemies would destroy the city and the *temple. The inhabitants would suffer terribly.
This last *vision in the Book of Ezekiel happened 25 years after Ezekiel went into *exile. This was 14 years after the *Babylonian army had destroyed Jerusalem. So nobody was then living in Jerusalem. The walls, the houses and even the great *temple were just piles of stones. The nations called *Israel and Judah seemed to be in a hopeless situation. But God gave this *vision to Ezekiel. And this *vision was wonderful.
Ezekiel saw a *temple. And this *temple was similar to the one that the *Babylonian army destroyed. But, unlike in the old *temple, people were obeying Godís law. The whole nation was loyal to God. The rulers were fair. The priests were *holy. Godís *glory was again present in his *temple. And the people even had a new name for their capital city: ĎThe *Lord is there.í
Clearly, this was a wonderful *vision. But it is very difficult to know its meaning:
∑ Many people believe that this *temple will exist in the future. Jesus, the *Messiah, will return to rule as king. These people believe that he will then establish this *temple. Ian Mackervoy explains this further in our main EasyEnglish Commentary on Ezekiel.
∑ Other people do not think that this *temple will actually exist. They think that God was using this *vision to teach the *exiles. He wanted to show them what the word Ď*holyí really means. He wanted to teach them how priests should behave. He wanted them to know what proper *worship is. And he wanted to explain that people should obey his law willingly. Then he would live among them. They would be his people and he would be their God.
It is this second opinion that we explain in this Commentary. But whichever opinion is right, we must remember one important principle. It would be impossible to establish what Ezekiel saw by mere human effort. People in different countries have tried to establish similar things in the past. They have built great buildings but they have not managed to change the attitude of peopleís hearts. Passages like Mark 13:14 seem to show that people may try to build such a *temple in the future. But it will not please God. It is the duty of men and women humbly to confess their *sins and to *turn to God. But only God can change the attitude of peopleís hearts (John 3:1-16). And only God can establish the form of *worship that pleases him (John 4:23-24).
If God has not established a building to be his house, then the builders work in vain (Psalm 127:1). Unless God sends his *glory to fill a place, the greatest *temple or church is just an empty building. We can only *worship God in a proper manner when he sends his Holy Spirit.
God used this *vision to teach some important lessons to the *Israelites:
∑ God wanted to live with his people again. But before this could happen, they had to change their attitudes. They must not simply continue the *sins that they had carried on in the past. Instead, they must *turn from their *sins and they must be loyal to God.
∑ God wanted the *Israelites to build a new *temple. This new *temple would replace the old *temple that the *Babylonian army destroyed. The *Israelites would *worship God again in the new *temple. God had a perfect plan for the *temple. So, in the *vision, he showed Ezekiel the measurements for his perfect *temple.
∑ God would come to the *Israelites in their new *temple. His *glory would be there. And he would use the *temple to show his kindness to his people. This would be like a river that flows through a desert. Such a river makes it possible for things to live in places that used to be dead. And so Godís Spirit would make it possible for the *Israelites to have a new relationship with him.
∑ God would be good to all the *Israelites. All the 12 *tribes continued to be his people. So God mentions all of them in this *vision. And he gives them equal rights to the land in the country that he has given to their nation.
Several years after this *vision, God helped some *Israelites to return to their own country. When they returned, they built another *temple. That *temple was not like the one that Ezekiel saw. But it was a place where they *worshipped God. Later, Haggai said that God would fill that *temple with his *glory (Haggai 2:7). These *prophets lived before Jesus the *Messiah came. So people still had to offer *sacrifices for *sin. And also, people had to keep *holy things separate from everything else. That was why they needed an actual *temple building.
When Jesus came, people saw Godís *glory in him (John 1:14). Jesus said that his body was the new *temple (John 2:21). So people would not have to go to a particular place to *worship God. Instead, God wanted people to *worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:21-24).
At the end of time, God will come to live with his people. There will not be a *temple then (Revelation 21:22). John saw a *vision of what will happen. It is interesting to compare Johnís *vision with Ezekielís *vision. We shall do this at the end of our notes on Ezekiel chapter 48.
Usually people say that a *vision is Ďlike a dreamí. But what happened to Ezekiel was much more powerful than a dream. Ezekiel emphasises this. He reports that the power of the *Lord came upon him. And then he seemed to be in the city. Or perhaps he was actually there. Certainly, it seemed to be reality to him.
At first sight, Ezekiel thought that he saw a city. But actually, this was just the *temple and the *holy buildings that surrounded it. The old *temple was in a city, that is, Jerusalem. But Ezekiel saw a *temple which was not in a city. All the area round the *temple was very *holy (43:12). And the capital city was separate from it (45:1-6). This was for a reason. It was necessary to separate this land from other land. Something that belongs especially to God deserves the greatest honour. One must never confuse *holy things with things that are not *holy. God protested about the wicked behaviour of the *Israelites when their doors were next to the door of his *temple (43:8). So in Ezekielís *vision, the *temple and the city were separate.
The man was like *bronze. Clearly, this was not an ordinary man. Ezekielís guide to this *temple would be an *angel. The *angel moved and walked like a man. But his skin seemed like metal. So the *angel was very impressive. And like metal, he was very strong and powerful. Too many people imagine that *angels are like the pictures on Christmas cards. Such people are wrong. The Bible describes *angels as strong soldiers, who fight battles against evil forces. They fight a war on Godís behalf, in order to rescue his people.
This *angel carried an architectís tools. He would measure the *temple. In the Bible, Ďto measureí is often a picture in words. It does not merely mean to work out the size of something. It also means to examine the quality of something. So Ezekiel does not merely report on the size of the *temple. Also, he records how well the people were *worshipping God.
This *vision was Godís message to the *Israelites. God did not merely show Ezekiel these things for Ezekielís own pleasure. God had an important message and the people needed to know that message.
∑ Ezekiel begins here a list of the measurements of the *temple. This passage is very difficult to read and to understand. But some people have studied this passage very carefully. They have been able to draw plans of what Ezekiel saw. Their plans show that these measurements are correct. All the buildings would fit into the area that Ezekiel described. They would be in the correct positions and the spaces between the buildings would be correct.
Ezekiel saw a wall. It surrounded the entire *temple area. It was strong and well-made. It made the area like a castle. Nobody could enter the *temple except through the gates. Nobody could *worship there unless they went through the gates. Some people think that there are many ways to God. In other words, they want to *worship God in whatever manner pleases them. But people can only *worship God in the manner that pleases him.
The *angelís measuring stick was like a long ruler. Ezekiel saw that the stick used the royal measurements. These measurements were longer than normal measurements. So the standard for this *temple was not the ordinary human standards. This *temple was a royal building because it was the house of God. And God is the king of kings.
A normal *cubit was about 18 inches (0.45 metres). The measuring stick was 10Ĺ feet long (3.2 metres). In this Commentary, we will not provide a list of the modern measurements for everything that Ezekiel saw. But you can find this information in Ian Mackervoyís EasyEnglish Commentary on Ezekiel.
Ezekiel recorded the measurements as the *angel measured the east gate. It was one of three gates that led into the *temple area. (That is, the Ďouter areaí.)
For us today, this description is hard to understand, even in EasyEnglish. But the basic plan was this. Each gate was a large, impressive building. It included rooms for the *temple guards. It was their duty to keep the *temple *holy. People should only bring animals for *sacrifice if there was nothing wrong with the animals. Foreigners should not enter the *temple. And people should only use the *temple buildings for proper, sacred purposes.
For Ezekiel and for the *Israelites, this description would be very familiar. The design of the gates was something that he had often seen. People who study ancient cities have discovered similar gates in *Israel. Those gates were from the time of Solomon, who also built the first *temple. So it is very likely that this was the design of the original *temple gates. As a young man, Ezekiel would have often entered the *temple through those gates.
So in the *temple in Ezekielís *vision, the gates were the same as in the old *temple. The *Babylonians had destroyed that *temple, but Godís standards had not changed. He still wanted people to *worship him in the same manner, that is, with a humble attitude. The old *temple had not failed because of its design. There was nothing wrong with the design. It was the attitude of the people that was wrong. It was their wicked behaviour that was wrong. God had not changed. It was the people who changed. And when they opposed him, he had to declare judgement against them (18:29).
In verse 16, Ezekiel saw a familiar pattern by the doors. It was a picture of palm trees. Such patterns were in the old *temple too (1 Kings 6:29). The palm tree is a tall, strong tree. The Bible uses it as a word picture of a good person who is loyal to God (Psalm 92:12-15). It is also a tree with very plentiful fruit (Song of Solomon 7:7-8). In the Bible, fruit is often a word picture of the results when a good person works for God (Psalm 128:2-3; Galatians 5:22).
When Ezekiel had gone through the gate, he saw a large yard. We have called this yard Ďthe outer areaí. It was on three sides of the *temple. Ordinary people could enter the outer area. Here, they could *worship God. But they could not go any further towards the *temple. The inner spaces and buildings were very sacred, and only priests could enter there.
For the present, Ezekiel had to remain in the outer area. The *angel showed him the other two outer gates. They too were very familiar to Ezekiel. Their design matched the east gate, which Ezekiel had already measured.
At last, the *angel took Ezekiel to the gates that led into the *templeís inner area. This was a very special moment for Ezekiel. When Ezekiel lived in Jerusalem, he was too young to perform the duties of a priest. And only a priest could enter the inner area of the *temple. So the guards who worked at these gates would only allow priests to pass through them. (People who offered *sacrifices could also enter the inner gates. But unlike the priests, those people would not remain in the inner area. They would leave as soon as they had handed over their *sacrifice to the priests.)
The design of these gates was again, familiar to Ezekiel. Each gate was similar to the outer gates, except that the rooms were the opposite way round. Perhaps this was to make the arrangement more convenient for the guards.
There was one very important difference between the outer gates and the inner gates. Ezekiel mentions this difference three times. Perhaps he wanted to emphasise it. As the *angel measured, Ezekiel counted the steps. Each inner gate had 8 steps upwards (verse 31, 34 and 37). But the outer gates only had 7 steps.
Many Psalms have an ancient title. We cannot be sure whether these titles are original. The title of Psalms 120 to 134 is the same: Ďa step songí. People are not sure about the meaning of this title. However, the author of these Psalms begins in a foreign country (Psalm 120). And his Psalms end in the *holy place in the *temple (Psalm 134). So these Psalms are like a series of upward steps. And with each step, there is a closer relationship with God. That is a good way to describe a travellerís long journey to *worship God at the *temple. And it is especially so, as the *temple was on the top of a hill.
There are other passages that show a similar idea (for example, Genesis 28:12; Habakkuk 3:19). So perhaps the steps are a word picture that describes a close relationship with God. And the number of steps increases because Ezekiel was getting closer and closer to the most *holy place. It was as if he was climbing ever closer to God.
When Ezekiel entered the inner area, he was standing in front of the *temple building. But before Ezekiel went into the *temple, he had to see the place of *sacrifice. A person can only *worship God in the proper manner after God has forgiven that personís *sins. In the *temple in Ezekielís *vision, people had to make *sacrifices. *Sacrifices were necessary so that God would forgive the peopleís *sins (Leviticus 4:35; Hebrews 9:22). This principle is still true. People cannot achieve a right relationship with God by their own efforts. They can only humbly confess their *sins to God. However, we do not still offer animals as *sacrifices. That is because the death of Jesus the *Messiah is the perfect *sacrifice for *sin.
At the time of Ezekiel, the priests offered animals as *sacrifices. And that is what Ezekiel saw in this *temple. The Bible teaches that those *sacrifices could not take away *sins (Hebrews 10:4). But those *sacrifices were not without purpose. They showed how serious *sin is. They showed how God acts in judgement against *sin. They showed how God accepted the life of an innocent *sacrifice instead of the life of the humble *sinner. And they provided a means by which people could have a real relationship with God.
These *sacrifices did not happen in the *temple building. They happened in the yard in front of the *temple. We call this yard Ďthe inner areaí. Only priests were present there. They killed the animals. They washed the *sacrifices. They burned some parts of the animals on the *altar. They took other parts which they ate themselves. There were rules about all these activities. The rules were different for each type of *sacrifice. You can read those rules in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7.
There was a lot of work for the priests who carried out the *sacrifices. The *temple needed many priests for these tasks. But there were only a few tasks in the *temple building. Only a few priests had the honour to serve there on any particular day. It was a very special honour. On that particular day, they would prepare for their work in a separate room. All the priestsí work was very *holy. But to serve God inside his *holy place was the holiest task of all.
All the priests in the *temple in this *vision belonged to Zadokís family. This was different from the rule during Ezekielís life. We need to understand the reasons. The *Israelite priests had always been the *descendants of Aaron. Aaron lived many centuries before Ezekiel, so Aaronís family would include many thousands of people. And all the men from that family who were over 30 years old were priests. But not all these men had been *holy. In fact, many of these men were very evil. And they had allowed Godís *temple to become a wicked place (chapter 8). God could not allow this to continue.
So God made a new rule. His priests would be from the family of Zadok. Ezekiel 44:15-16 gives the reason why God chose this family. They were loyal to God when other *Israelites were not. Zadok was an important priest who lived at the same time as King David. Zadok remained loyal to King David, even when other priests did not (2 Samuel 15:24-27; 1 Kings 1:7-8). So the phrase Ďpriests from Zadokís familyí means priests who are loyal to God.
The inner area was the yard in front of the *temple building. Here the *altar stood. The fires of the *sacrifices would burn continuously here. And the smoke would rise towards God in heaven. Ezekiel describes the *altar in 43:13-27.
Ezekiel probably thought that he would never receive the honour to serve God in his *holy *temple. But the *angel led Ezekiel past the *altar and up to the door of the *temple. Again, Ezekiel counted the steps as he entered. There were 10. And as he climbed, he was closer than ever to Godís most *holy place.
The *temple building had three rooms. After the entrance hall, Ezekiel would enter the *holy place. He would be able to *worship God there while the *angel measured the most *holy place. That last room was so sacred that only the chief priest could *worship there. And even he could only enter once each year, and never without the blood of a special *sacrifice (Leviticus chapter 16). In that room was the sacred box. God was present there.
Ezekiel was in the *temple building. This building was the most *holy building in the entire *temple area. The building was not a place for *sacrifices. The priests killed the animals and burned them in the inner area, which was in front of this building. And this building was not for public use. Only priests could enter it. They could not enter whenever they chose. They entered on the special occasions when they had duties there.
The purpose of the *temple was for *worship. That is, the kind of *worship that is an expression of love. On behalf of the people, the priests showed their love for God when they carried out their duties in the *holy place. But God also showed his love for his people here. He showed his love because his *glory was present in the most *holy place.
Ezekiel entered the holiest room where a normal priest could *worship. Ezekiel describes the inside of this room in verses 15b to 26. (Verse 15b means the second part of verse 15.) It was not a very large room by modern standards. It was 35 feet (11 metres) wide and 70 feet (21 metres) long.
In this room, the priests would *worship God. The Bible describes its original furniture in Exodus 37:10-29.
This was the most sacred room in the *temple. Ezekiel did not enter this room and he did not describe its contents. Only one man, the chief priest, could enter this room.
The Ďmaní who was with Ezekiel did enter this room. That is because this Ďmaní was not human. He was an *angel. We know this fact because of his astonishing description in 40:3. *Angels are without *sin. So, unlike people, they are able to enter the place where God is present. (See Isaiah 6:1-5.)
The arrangement of rooms that Ezekiel saw was not new. The original *temple had both a *holy place and a most *holy place. So did the sacred tent that Moses built. This was the only type of building where Godís *glory would be present. People could not *worship God in whatever manner they chose. The buildings were Godís plan (1 Chronicles 28:11-12). The ceremonies were Godís plan. The *sacrifices were Godís plan. Even the furniture was Godís plan (Exodus 25:40). God arranged all these things so that people could *worship him. He knew about their *sin and human weakness. At the right time, he would send his *Messiah to rescue them from *sin (Galatians 4:4-5). But until then, God provided his law to lead people to the *Messiah (Galatians 3:24-25). And part of that law was the rules about the *temple (Hebrews 9:8-14).
The *angel took Ezekiel to see the outside of the *temple building. On three sides of the *temple building were small rooms for the priests to use. These rooms were not part of the *temple building although they leaned upon it.
The building that contained these rooms was on three floors. So it was a high building by the standards when Ezekiel was alive. And although the rooms were small, there were many of them. Ezekiel counted a total of 90 rooms.
We cannot be sure about the purpose of these rooms. But we do know that the original *temple had similar rooms. And their construction was similar too (1 Kings 6:5-6).
The unusual construction of these rooms was probably because the *temple was so *holy. Uzzah died when he touched the sacred box (1 Chronicles 13:10). The *Israelites learnt that they had to respect *holy things. So when they built the *temple, they were careful. They separated these rooms from the *temple building. They knew that the *temple building was more *holy than the priestsí rooms.
Because these rooms were on three sides of the *temple, they hid much of the *temple from view. This may be for a reason. The *temple was a very impressive building. But its purpose was not to impress people. Its purpose was to provide a proper place for the *worship of God. So people should not stare at the *temple. Instead they should look at the high *altar and the smoke that rose from it. Then people would remember why *sacrifice was necessary. They would remember their *sins. And they would be humble in Godís *holy *temple areas.
It is possible that these rooms provided accommodation for the priests. We cannot be sure about this, but compare 1 Samuel 3:3; Psalm 134:1 and Luke 2:37. It seems that some people were living in the *temple.
(Note: verse 15a means the first half of verse 15.)
This was the largest building in the entire *temple area. It was even larger than the actual *temple. But the purpose of this large building remains a mystery. It was in an area that only the priests used. And its position seems important, because it was near to the most *holy place. The priests may need a large room for various purposes. For example, a library, a college, or to copy ancient books. But we do not think that the Bible mentions such a building elsewhere. So we can add nothing more.
Verses 13-15a (Verse 15a means the first part of verse 15)
The *angel then made 4 more measurements. All these buildings probably still seemed very complex to Ezekiel. He had seen many details, but he had not yet seen the general plan.
These 4 measurements showed Ezekiel that this was not just a collection of buildings. Ezekiel saw that each measurement was exactly 100 *cubits. No more, and no less. So the design was perfect. It was simple and it was clear. Perhaps we can learn from that fact about Godís nature, that is, his perfect character. God designs the smallest details of things. He counts the hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). But he also designs the greatest things. And his plan for them is simple and perfect (Psalm 19:4-6).
(Note: verse 15b means the second half of verse 15.)
Verses 15b-20 (Verse 15b means the second part of verse 15)
The *angel entered the *temple building again, and Ezekiel described the inside of this building. The description was of a very beautiful room. The walls were stone, but Ezekiel could not see the stone. Wood covered the stone. And skilled workmen had made patterns in the wood.
The room had a very pleasant atmosphere. The outside *temple areas were much less pleasant. There was the smell of burning meat from the *sacrifices. There was the noise from the animals that the priests killed for the *sacrifices. And crowds of people and priests constantly moved about for the ceremonies.
But inside the *temple building, the stone walls made everything quieter. It would be cool, away from the hot sun. And the sounds would be softer, because wood covered the walls. People would burn substances with a sweet smell in the *temple building. That smell was unknown anywhere outside the *temple (Exodus 30:34-38). And it would mix with the smell of the wood on the walls, which was also sweet. Few priests entered the building, and their tasks would be simple. It was a beautiful place (1 Chronicles 16:29).
Ezekiel was describing the perfect *temple. So we might imagine such a building would also be the wealthiest *temple. But this seems not to be correct. There was much gold in the original *temple. It even covered the floors (1 Kings 6:30). Because gold is so pure and precious, it seemed the right material for Godís *holy *temple. But Ezekiel did not mention any gold. Perhaps he did not see any gold. Or perhaps he did not want to mention it. The wealth of the original *temple had made that building great. But Ezekielís *temple did not need any gold to make it great. Ezekielís *temple was great because God was present there. And it was great because Godís people were loyal to him there. The wealth of the building did not seem important.
The patterns on the walls were palm trees and *cherubim. We have discussed the palm trees (40:16). The palm tree is a word picture for a person who is loyal to God. And the *cherubim were *angels. Ezekiel saw the real *cherubim in 1:5-14. The patterns were pictures of them. The real *cherubim had four faces. They saw in all directions. But of course, patterns on a wall are flat. So these patterns could only show two of their faces. And those faces were looking at the palm trees, even as Godís *angels carefully watch his people.
Ezekiel continues to describe the inside of the *temple building. But he only mentions one object that stood in the *temple. This was an *altar, or perhaps it just seemed like one. The *angel said that it was a table.
In the original *temple building, there were three objects in the *holy place. There was a table where the priests placed bread in front of God. There was an *altar where the priests burned special substances to make a sweet smell. And there was a large lamp. Inside the most *holy place, there were other objects (see Hebrews 9:1-5). But Ezekiel just mentions this one object: a table that was like an *altar. Probably there were the other objects, but Ezekiel did not mention them. Ezekiel was a priest. When a priest entered the *holy place, he had a particular duty. He did not serve God at all the different objects. And he did not stay for a long time. He simply carried out his duty, and then he left (Luke 1:9; Luke 1:21).
Ezekiel was not a tourist. He did not stand and stare. This was the *holy place and he was serving God there. So perhaps Ezekiel looked only at the object which the *angel pointed out. That was the right way for a *holy man to behave.
And then, Ezekiel and the *angel left the *temple building.
Ezekiel left the *temple building with the *angel. Then the *angel led him out of the inner area. They went through the north inner gate together. And then they were in the outer area again.
The *angel wanted to show Ezekiel the rooms that were between the *templeís outer and inner areas.
Ezekiel described two large buildings here. These buildings were wider at the ground level than they were on the higher two floors. There was a path between the buildings. The building on the side by the *temple was twice the length of the other building. And one entered these buildings from the outer area.
All these rooms were for the same purposes, which we will read about in verses 13-14.
There were also buildings on the *templeís south side, which matched the buildings in verses 2-9.
Because of the position of these buildings, there was a space of 87 feet (30 metres) between the outer area and the inner area. The ordinary people could not even come close to the walls of the inner area. These buildings acted as a limit for where the people could go. That limit was necessary because of human *sin (Exodus 19:12-13).
Because of *sin, people might imagine that they can serve God in any manner. People might behave in any way that they want in front of God. People who have done this in the past have suffered a terrible punishment (Numbers chapter 16). So in Ezekielís *temple, there were limits.
However, the priests could enter these areas and they could use these buildings. In Godís house (that is, the *temple) there were many rooms for their use. Perhaps Jesus was referring to this in John 14:2 Ė but of course, Jesus was speaking about heaven then. But the principle is the same. God provides enough rooms for all those people who serve him. That was true in Ezekielís *temple, and it will be true in heaven too.
The *angel explained the purpose of these rooms. The priests would eat some parts of the *sacrifices. These *sacrifices were *holy. So the priests ate them as part of their sacred duties (compare 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). And therefore, the priests could not take this food out of the *temple. And they could not eat it in a public area. Instead, there was this special *holy area where the priests could eat. They cooked the meat in kitchens, which were next to these buildings. You can read about those kitchens in 46:19-20. The priests did not carry the meat into the public outer area. They kept it separate from the people. It was always necessary to keep the *holy things separate. And by that means, the priests gave honour to God. Anything that belongs to God is special. People should not act as if was just like any ordinary object.
The above principle was also true about many other things, for example, the priestsí *holy clothes. Ezekiel 44:17-19 contains the rules about these clothes. The priests had to wear special clothes when they carried out their duties in the inner area. But the priest could not wear the same clothes when he was among the people in the outer area. He had to change his clothes. And he had to leave his special clothes in the *holy buildings.
Ezekiel left the *temple by the east gate. Something astonishing would soon happen at this gate. And afterwards, that gate would be for special purposes only. The priests and the public would not use it again.
The *angel had taken Ezekiel out of the *temple for a particular reason. Ezekiel needed to see that the *templeís design was perfect. So Ezekiel watched as the *angel measured each wall. There were the outer walls that surrounded the *templeís outer area. Ezekiel had described the walls in 40:5.
Ezekiel saw that each wall was the same length. The entire area was a square. The design was perfect.
And Ezekiel saw that the wall had a purpose. It was necessary to separate *holy things from everything else. The *temple belonged to God, so it was *holy. The wall separated the *templeís grounds from the ordinary land that surrounded it.
Such a *temple pleased God. Its design was the design that he wanted. Every detail gave honour to God. The design separated *holy things from things that were not *holy. There was a proper place for *sacrifices in order to deal with human *sin. There were rooms for every purpose that the *temple needed.
This was a *temple where the *Israelites could serve God in the proper manner. This was a *temple where the priests could carry out their duties loyally. This was the *temple that Godís *glory could fill. And this was the *temple where Godís *glory would remain.
This chapter describes the opening of the *temple in Ezekielís *vision. Ezekiel had seen that the *temple was complete. The *angel had measured it. The act of measurement was a word picture to mean that the *angel tested it. He had tested it, and it was complete. It was splendid. It was ready for God. But it would remain just a group of buildings until Godís *glory entered it.
Ezekiel saw Godís *glory. Ezekiel did not describe Godís *glory here. But it was the same as Ezekiel had seen on previous occasions. He described it in chapter 1. Godís *glory was impressive. It was an astonishing experience. Even the ground was shining because Godís *glory was so bright. The *glory showed that God himself was present.
And Ezekiel heard Godís voice. Sometimes Godís voice is quiet (1 Kings 19:12). But this voice was not quiet. It was like the sound of a powerful river, or like the sound of waves in a storm. God can be quiet or loud, but his word is always very powerful (Genesis 1:3; John 1:1).
This *vision caused Ezekiel to remember two previous occasions when he saw Godís *glory. The *vision by the river Chebar was in chapter 1. And the other *vision was in chapter 10. On that second occasion, Ezekiel saw Godís *glory leave the original *temple in Jerusalem. It was terrible that such a thing had to happen. But Godís *glory had to leave, because the peopleís *sins had become so great. It was impossible for them to avoid their punishment. Godís *glory would not continue to protect Jerusalem.
The Book of Ezekiel is a record of peopleís *sin, its results and their punishment. Ezekiel wrote it during the worst period in *Israelís history. And when Ezekiel had this last *vision, *Israelís situation seemed hopeless.
But Ezekielís last *vision was a promise that gave hope. Godís *glory had left the original *temple by the east gate (10:19). And Ezekiel saw it return by the same gate. God still cared about his people. They were in *exile. But God still cared. Their situation seemed hopeless. But God still cared. He still wanted to live among them. He still wanted to be their God. He would bring about the end of their punishment. He would establish them as a *holy nation.
Ezekiel fell to the ground. He became aware of how *holy God is. Perhaps the *glory was so great that Ezekiel was unable to stand. Or perhaps Ezekiel did not want to stand. He wanted to be humble in front of the *glory of God. So Ezekiel lay down with his face on the ground.
Ezekiel seems to say that he did not enter the *temple in the usual manner. He did not walk in. The Holy Spirit took him into the inner area. This was not the first time that such a thing happened to Ezekiel (8:3). But Ezekiel does not often use such a description. So clearly, this was an unusual experience, even for him.
The *angel who acted as Ezekielís guide entered the inner area with him. But the voice that Ezekiel heard was not the *angelís voice. It was the voice of God.
In 1 Kings chapter 8, King Solomon made a speech and a prayer at the opening of the original *temple. King Solomon organised the construction of that *temple. He acted as its architect, although he received the plans from his father, King David. The speech that begins in 43:7 has a similar purpose to Solomonís speech. However, the speaker here is God himself. He is the architect of the *temple that Ezekiel saw. And Godís speech is like a reply to Solomonís prayer.
In his prayer, Solomon confessed that the original *temple was not good enough for God (1 Kings 8:27). God did not live on earth, even in that great building. But Solomon asked God to watch that building constantly, in order to hear his peopleís prayers.
In Ezekiel 43:7, we read Godís reply. God would not just watch his people. He would live among them. And he would continue to do so always. His royal seat would be here, and he would rest his feet here. So God would remain among his people. A king relaxes in his palace. And in the same manner, God would be content as he lived among his loyal people.
In his prayer, Solomon also confessed the future *sins of the *Israelites (1 Kings 8:46-50). They might *sin so greatly that God would send enemies to attack them. And those enemies would take them into *exile. Those things happened during Ezekielís life. Ezekiel himself was in *exile when he saw this *vision. But Solomon had prayed that God would still hear his peopleís prayers. Solomon prayed that God would forgive his humble people, even after such terrible events.
And, in Ezekielís *vision, God replied to that prayer too. He would bring about a new relationship between himself and his people. It was true that, in the past, they had not been loyal to him. They served false gods instead of him. They behaved like a woman who has sex with men other than her husband. Their kings had led them in this evil behaviour. But God would change the attitude of his people. He would give them a new desire to love him and to obey him (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
This was the reason for the peopleís *sin in the past. They did not recognise what was *holy. In other words, they acted as if God was just a man, like themselves. So they did not respect his *holy *temple or his *holy law. It was true that they had built his house. But they also built their own houses, and those houses seemed to matter more to them. (Compare 1 Kings 6:38 and 1 Kings 7:1.) They made themselves wealthy. They became proud. And they acted as if God was not important. They chose other gods, that is false gods, to *worship. In the end, they even *worshipped those false gods in Godís *holy *temple (Ezekiel chapter 8).
This behaviour insulted Godís *holy name, that is, Godís perfect character. And this behaviour caused people in foreign nations to think that God was weak. God created everything that exists. But his own people were behaving as if he were some weak, false, local god. That was a terrible insult.
And that was why God had to act against his people. He allowed enemies to destroy Jerusalem. He allowed them to ruin his *holy *temple. But that was not the end of his relationship with his people.
The *Israelitesí situation seemed hopeless. But God still offered them hope. Their behaviour had been terrible. But God still offered them his kindness. They had refused his love and they had neglected his laws. But God still offered them his love. He would forgive. He would look after them. He would even live among them. These things were still possible. But first, they had to *turn from their evil behaviour.
They were not loyal to God. That evil behaviour had to end.
They *worshipped false gods. That evil behaviour had to end.
They did not respect the real God. That evil behaviour had to end.
And if they ended these things, God had a wonderful promise for them. He would live among them. He would be as their husband. And they would be as his loyal wife. Their love would be complete.
That is why God showed this *vision to Ezekiel. The descriptions in this *vision may seem strange to us today. But those descriptions were familiar to the people in *exile, who had lost their *temple. Because of that event, they may have thought that nothing could mend their relationship with God. But God was showing them that they could have a new kind of relationship with him.
They should study this plan. Then they would see how it described Godís perfect character. They would see that they must respect the difference between *holy things and other things. They would see that they must love God with their whole hearts. They would see that they must confess their *sins. They would see that God still wanted to have a relationship of love with his people. And they would see that they must always be loyal to God.
The peopleís proud attitudes must end. They had *sinned, so they must be humble. They must confess their *sin to God. But if they did these things, Ezekielís *vision would be like a wonderful promise to them. God was not just promising a building, however wonderful that building may be. He was promising a permanent relationship with his people. All these descriptions of the design of the *temple would teach them about that relationship.
Like the original *temple, this *temple was at the top of a mountain. That is, the mountain called Zion, which is in Jerusalem. But the original *temple was inside the city. As soon as people left it, they were in the streets. There, people carried on their normal activities. They only considered the area inside the *temple walls to be *holy. And in the end, this was a cause of their *sins (verse 8).
But the rules of Ezekielís *temple were different. This *temple was so *holy that all the surrounding land was *holy too. People did not carry on their normal activities there. They were on *holy land before they entered the *temple. And they were on *holy land after they left the *temple. They began to *worship before they entered. They continued to *worship after they left. Those were the rules for the new *temple that Ezekiel saw.
The description of the *altar begins here. And the *altar was the place where priests burned *sacrifices as a gift to God. Some *sacrifices were because of human *sin. The person who *sinned deserved to die. So that person offered an animal, for example a *bull or a sheep, as a *sacrifice. The priests killed that animal. So the animal died instead of that person. Then the priests burned it on the *altar. Its smoke rose into the sky, towards heaven. And so the people saw that God accepted that *sacrifice.
Because of *sin, people cannot *worship God in a proper manner. It was essential to deal with *sin so that the people could *worship God. That is why the *temple needed an *altar. And the *altar was in a very important place. It was in the inner area. And it was in front of the *temple building.
The first *altars were simple piles of large stones. But the *altar in the original *temple was impressive. It was *bronze, that is, brown metal. And it was 15 feet (4.5 metres) high (2 Chronicles 4:1). And the *altar that Ezekiel saw was even taller: nearly 20 feet (6 metres).
The measurements for the *altar used the special long *cubits that Ezekiel mentioned in 40:5. That is because ordinary human standards cannot deal with *sin. So even the measurements for the *altar need to use Godís standards.
The *altar was tall, but it stood firm. The description is of three levels. Each level was narrower than the one below. But the *altar was so large that its top level was 21 feet (5.6 metres) across. On this top surface, the priests would burn the *sacrifices.
The *sacrifice burned because of Godís judgement. The punishment was against the *sacrifice instead of the person who offered it. But although the *sacrifice suffered Godís punishment, its ashes were still sacred (for example, Leviticus 4:12). So the priests could not leave the ashes of *sacrifices to scatter in the wind. That is why there were lips on the edges of the *altar. The priests collected those ashes and they took them to the proper place. Jesus the *Messiah died as the perfect *sacrifice for *sin. But his body was still sacred (Isaiah 53:9-10). And some of the *Israelite rulers recognised this fact (John 19:36-40).
There were steps up the *altar. This may just be a practical detail. But perhaps we can learn a useful lesson here. God had provided the way up. Of course the priests could not reach the top of the *altar by their own efforts. But God provided steps for them. So he made it possible to offer the *sacrifices. Nobody can please God by their own efforts. But God has provided the way for people to have a relationship with him (John 14:6).
The steps were on the east side. That is, away from the *temple building. God wanted the priests who dealt with *sin to carry out their duties separately (40:45-46). Those priests would carry out the *sacrifices, but other priests would *worship in the *temple building. Some priests were dealing with *sin, which is most unholy. And other priests were dealing with *worship, which is most *holy.
The *altar was square. Each level was square. That is a word picture to show that the *altar was perfect. The entire *temple area was square (42:20). The inner court was square (40:47). The most *holy place was square (41:4). Even the surrounding district was square (48:20).
The *altar had *horns at each corner (verse 15). In the Bible *horns are often a word picture for strength. The priest would put the blood from some *sacrifices on these *horns (for example, Leviticus 4:25). Leviticus 4:25 also shows the purpose of the ditch round the *altar. The priest would pour out the blood from *sacrifices at the base of the *altar. Blood had a special meaning in these ceremonies. It meant the life of the animal (Leviticus 17:11). People could only have a relationship with God because that animal had lost its life. ĎIt is essential to pour out blood. Otherwise, God will not forgive *sinsí (Hebrews 9:22). That is why Jesus the *Messiah had to die. He offered his own blood so that God would forgive our *sin (Hebrews 9:12).
At the opening of the original *temple, Solomon offered thousands of animals as *sacrifices (2 Chronicles 7:5). And some people may have thought that such great ceremonies were necessary in order to please God (Micah 6:6-8). But God only wanted a simple ceremony to prepare the *altar for use.
On the first day, one young *bull had to die. It was a *sacrifice because of *sin. Its blood would make the *altar *clean, that is, acceptable to God. The priests must offer it. They must be men from the family of Zadok (see 40:46). And they must obey Godís rules carefully.
For the rest of that week, the priests offered three animals daily as *sacrifices. *Bulls, sheep and goats were the three kinds of animal that the *Israelites could use for *sacrifices. Before the priests could offer an animal, they had to check it. Only perfect animals were suitable for use as *sacrifices (Leviticus 22:17-24). God deserves the best things that we can give to him.
The *sacrifices during this opening week were all *sacrifices because of *sin. It was only because of human *sin that this *altar was necessary. God created people to be perfect. But *sin has ruined their relationship with God.
So there was a special week of *sacrifices. This was like the special week in Leviticus chapter 8, when the priests began to serve God at the sacred tent. The new *temple in Ezekielís *vision was a new beginning for the priests. And so another special week was necessary.
At the end of that week, the opening ceremony was complete. The *altar was ready for daily use. There were daily *sacrifices. There were monthly *sacrifices. There were *sacrifices on special occasions. Sometimes a person would decide to give an extra *sacrifice as a gift to God.
And God would accept these *sacrifices. But the *Israelites had to offer these *sacrifices regularly (Hebrews 10:1-4). Only the *sacrifice of Jesus the *Messiah had a permanent effect. He died once to take away all the *sins of everyone who trusts him (Hebrews 9:28).
The three outer gates of the *temple were alike. But the outer east gate had the most important position. It was in front of the inner east gate. The inner east gate was in front of the *altar for *sacrifices. And that *altar was in front of the *temple building.
Godís *glory had entered the *temple through the east gate. So he did not turn as he entered the *temple. We can see this in the description of Godís *glory in Ezekiel chapter 1. The *cherubim did not turn (1:9; 1:17). They were looking in all directions. So they did not need to turn, even when they moved.
To Ďturní was a word picture. It meant a change of attitudes. But God never changes (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). So Godís *glory entered his *temple by a straight route. He did not turn. He had not changed. He was still the same God.
The gate was now a closed gate. God told Ezekiel why the gate was closed. God had used that gate, so nobody else could use it. This rule shows Godís royal authority. People used to prepare the roads before the arrival of the king (compare Isaiah 40:3). But anybody could use those roads afterwards. However, God is more important than any human king. He used this gate. And nobody else may ever enter by this way.
So the outer east gate was closed. But the other two outer gates were open. God had provided a way for people to *worship him. In reality, there was no *temple when Ezekiel saw this *vision. The *Babylonian army destroyed it completely. But God still gave this *vision to Ezekiel. And this *vision showed that God still wanted a relationship with his people. God would provide the way for them to have that relationship.
When people entered the *temple in this *vision, they had to enter by the proper route. That is, they had to enter by either the outer north gate or the outer south gate. These gates were in front of the inner gates, which were in front of the *altar. But they were not in front of the *temple building. So as the people entered, they were looking towards the place of *sacrifice. They could only have a relationship with God because of *sacrifice.
The outer east gate was never open. But on *holy days, the priests opened the inner east gate. The people would not go through this gate. They would *worship at its entrance (46:3). In order to do that, they had to turn. Perhaps this showed that they had to change their attitudes in order to *worship God. On those days, they would be looking towards the *temple building as they *worshipped. But they would not see into the *temple building, because the *altar was in front of it. So they would again see the place of *sacrifice.
The prince in this *vision was the ruler of *Israelís government. He had important duties at the *temple. But he was not a priest. And he did not control what happened at the *temple.
Only the prince had the right to use the outer east gate. But he would not walk through the actual gate. He could not, because the gate was closed. Instead, he used the entrance hall of the gate. This was his royal room. The people could eat some parts of the peace *sacrifices that they brought. And so the prince would eat his peace *sacrifice in the room at the outer east gate. This was his special right. But it was not just a meal. It was a type of *worship. This act would remind the prince about his relationship with God.
As the prince ate there, he would be in front of the *temple building. But he would not be near to that building. He was not in the *templeís inner area, nor even in the outer area. His place was far from the areas that the priests used. Sometimes in the past, kings had acted as if they were priests (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). God did not want this to happen. His *Messiah would be the only king who was also priest. And he would be a different type of priest (Hebrews 7:11-28).
So this is the law for the prince: ĎThe prince will enter through the hall of the gate. And he will go out the same way.í This is the law at the outer east gate. And it is the same law as at the inner east gate (46:8). The inner and outer gates had similar but opposite designs. In other words, the halls of all the gates were on the side of the outer area. So even the prince had to enter the outer area by the same gates as everyone else. He would be in the outer area like everyone else. He could not ever enter the special areas that were for the priests. He had special rights and duties because of his royal authority. But he must remember that he is human, like everyone else. He only had his special rights because of Godís kindness. The prince too can only serve God because of *sacrifice. So the prince too must be humble in front of God.
It is easy to miss the importance of this verse. Ezekiel wrote often about the *glory of God. And Ezekiel saw so many *visions. But nothing impressed Ezekiel more than the *glory of God. With a *vision of the *glory, Ezekiel began his work as a priest and a *prophet (chapter 1). And a *vision of the *glory proved to Ezekiel that the *Babylonians would destroy Jerusalem (chapter 10). That was awful. But then Ezekiel had seen the *glory re-enter the *temple in the *vision (43:1-4). And here, Ezekiel saw the *glory for the last time. And the *glory was where it should be. That is, it filled Godís *temple. God was present with his people again. He was ruling as king; and his power and *glory would be there always.
Ezekiel did not stand to watch. He fell down to *worship God. Ezekiel placed his face on the ground. The *glory was so great and so wonderful. Nothing else mattered. Ezekiel just wanted to give all his love to God. Ezekiel just wanted to give honour to God. So Ezekiel lay flat on the ground. And he *worshipped.
God showed his *glory to Ezekiel so that Ezekiel would have the power to do Godís work. This *vision was a message from God to the *Israelites. This chapter contains Godís instructions about three groups of people:
∑ Foreigners (verses 7-9) cannot even enter the *temple gates. They do not obey God and they do not love God. Unless they receive *circumcision, they cannot *worship at the *temple.
∑ *Levites have special duties at the *temple. Many people who used to be priests could only carry out the duties of *Levites at this *temple. This happened because of their *sin.
∑ Only priests who are loyal to God could carry out the most sacred tasks in this *temple. They had to obey special rules in order to separate themselves from *sin.
A terrible thing had happened in *Israel. God had specially chosen the people in *Israel. He separated them from the other nations. He gave them his law. And he gave them his promises. But the people had not obeyed him.
God had separated them from the other nations. But they wanted to be like those nations. So they invited foreigners into their nation. And they even took those foreigners into Godís *holy *temple.
These were not foreigners who wanted to serve God. If a foreigner wanted to serve God, that foreigner could join the *Israelites. But first, he had to receive *circumcision. That act showed that he wanted to obey God. And it showed that he was joining Godís people (Genesis chapter 17). That foreigner would then benefit from the special relationship between God and his people. However, it was not just the foreignerís body that needed *circumcision. The attitude of his heart Ė today we might say Ďhis mindí Ė needed to change too (Romans 2:29). He needed to love God with his whole heart. Then that foreigner could *worship God at his *temple.
But God was speaking about foreigners who had not received *circumcision. They were not loyal to God. Both their bodies and their hearts proved that. But they were in the *temple. In fact, they even had control over the *temple.
Originally, the *Israelites probably allowed such foreigners into the *temple in order to impress them. The *temple was a splendid building. Later, the *temple became a place where people *worshipped foreign gods (chapter 8). Perhaps then the priests of these gods took control over the *temple. In the end, foreigners from Babylon entered the *temple in order to destroy it. Then they had complete control over the *temple. This happened because Godís people allowed it to happen. They had made their *sacrifices. (Compare Micah 6:6-8.) But they were not loyal to God.
The law of the *temple in the *vision was clear. The *temple belonged to God. He insisted that people should obey him with their bodies. And people should love him with their hearts (or minds). Such people were the only people who could enter this *temple.
So the only people who *worshipped at the *temple in this *vision were *Israelites. Foreigners could only *worship God there if they became *Israelites first. No other people could even enter the outer gates of the *temple. This rule might seem severe. But the New Testament (the later part of the Bible) follows a similar principle. Real Christians belong to Godís nation (2 Peter 2:9). They obey God and they love him. A person can only become a real Christian if he or she is born again (John 3:3). Other people belong to the world and they do not know God (1 John 3:1). So they cannot *worship God properly.
Among these *Levites were many priests. But God does not call them Ďpriestsí here, because they were not still acceptable as priests. Instead he refers to them by the name of their family group, that is, the *Levites. Unlike the priests in verse 15, these ones were not loyal to God. They *worshipped false gods and they were responsible for great *sin. God would forgive them and he would allow them to serve him again. But their *sin had serious effects. Now they must serve him in a humble manner.
God gives a list of their duties. These are necessary tasks in the *temple. But they are humble tasks. They are the tasks of servants.
This verse emphasises the serious nature of the *sin. God had to take strong action. He had to act against these *Levites. So God Ďlifted his handí. That means that he made a serious promise. (Compare chapter 20.)
These *Levites must never enter the *temple building. They must not offer the most sacred types of *sacrifices. They must not behave like priests. They must behave like servants who carry out their duties in a humble manner. Then God will allow them to serve him.
Please see my notes on 40:44-46. The priests in this *vision were men who were loyal to God. Because they were loyal, they were already humble. And that was the right attitude to have as they carried out the most important tasks at the *temple. Their special duties were in two places: the *altar and the *holy place.
∑ At the *altar, they would burn the most important *sacrifices as a gift to God. So these priests were dealing with the *sins of the people.
∑ The *holy place was inside the *temple building. There, they *worshipped God. The passage mentions again the table in 41:22, which was in the *holy place. Only these loyal priests could serve God there.
The *Levites carried out their tasks on behalf of the people. But only the priests could offer *sacrifices. God chose the priests especially to carry out this task. So they were closer to God.
The priests were loyal to God, but they were still human. And because of that, they were *sinners. Everyone comes from Adam, who *sinned. So all people are *sinners. Because of *sin, people cannot come near to God (Genesis 3:22-24). But these priests come near to God. That is their duty. So the rest of this chapter contains laws to deal with their *sin. The priests could come near to God because God had separated them for this purpose. But first they had to offer a *sacrifice so that God could forgive their *sin.
The first instructions here are about clothes. God said that the priests had to wear special clothes in the *temple. They wore these clothes in the *temple building and in the inner area.
Those special clothes were white. That is the proper colour for the clothes of a person who is *worshipping God in such a special place (Revelation 7:9-14). The material called linen comes from plants.
The priests wore clothes round their bodies, underneath their main clothes. It would be wrong if people saw their bodies. But even the clothes that other people did not see were linen.
Of course, a person sweats (becomes damp) when he is hot. And the priests would become hot as they worked. Unlike wool, linen is a cool material. So this material would help the priest not to sweat much.
However, these special clothes were not for permanent use. The priest had to remove them after he left the inner area. It would not be proper for the public to handle these sacred clothes.
The main purpose of these rules was that the priests must wear their special clothes in the inner area. So they had to wear these clothes when they were serving God there. But they must not continue to wear those clothes after they leave the *holy inner area of the *temple.
The priests must behave in a careful manner. It is interesting to compare the instructions for Christian leaders in 1 Timothy 3:2-7.
A priest had to marry a virgin. (In other words, a woman who has not yet had sex.) This has always been the rule for the chief priest (Leviticus 21:13-15). But these rules also allowed a priestís widow to marry another priest.
By their lives, the priests would show what was *holy. They would show what was *clean. They would teach Godís standards to the *Israelites. In particular, the priests would show people how to separate *holy things from things that are not *holy.
The priests would teach (verse 23), but they would also issue judgements. But they would not decide these things by their own standards. Godís law would be the only standard for his people. And Godís law would be their guide for their own lives.
A priest who touched a dead body was not *clean. He had to do special things before he became *clean (Numbers 19:11-13).
A priest could take proper care of his family. So he could bury his closest relatives. But he could not serve God at the *temple again until he was *clean.
The priests would not own land. But they would have something better than land. God himself would be their possession. A small farmer or gardener provides for himself by means of his land. But God would provide for the priests.
This is how God would provide for the priests. The *Israelites would give gifts to God. And God would allow the priests to have many of these gifts.
The priest could eat many parts of the *sacrifices which the *Israelites offered. And there were other gifts too.
For example, at the beginning of the harvest, the *Israelites would give special gifts to God. And those gifts would go to the priests. So God was not merely providing food for the priests. He was providing the best food for them. And the *Israelites would benefit from this arrangement too. As they gave their gifts to God, he would show his kindness to them.
This is the same rule as Leviticus 22:8.
Godís plan for the *temple was part of a much larger plan. In the end, this *vision will include the whole country called *Israel. But here, God describes the district round the *temple.
The main principle in this chapter is that everything belongs to God. And Godís people show this when they give part of everything back to God. Where possible, the first part goes back to God. He deserves whatever is best.
The complete area in verses 1 to 6 is a square. We have seen that the *temple had a square plan. Here we see that the area round the *temple also had a square plan.
The larger part of this square was *holy land. It was for the priests and *Levites. But a smaller part (verse 6) was for all the *Israelites.
We need to understand that this arrangement has never existed in the past. It is an ideal arrangement, to teach us about God. In the past, the *temple was inside a city. People carried on their business even by the walls of the *temple. But at this ideal *temple, the surrounding area is all *holy land.
The ideal *temple was in the middle of the square area. And the square area was in the middle of *Israel. This position showed its importance. God wants to be central (most important) in the lives of his people.
Round the section that contained the *temple, there was an open area. This separated the houses from the *temple. Because the *temple was so *holy, it had to be separate from the houses of the people. The houses were not *holy.
Round the open area were the houses for the priests. Their duties brought them closer to God than anyone else. So their houses should be closer to the *temple than anyone else. The purpose of their lives was to serve God. The position of their homes meant that they were always ready to serve God. This was not merely a duty for them. It was the most important thing in their lives.
The *Levites also had homes near the *temple. But they were not as near as the priests. Some *Levites had offended God in the past. So now they had to be humble. They acted as servants in the *temple. They could not live in the homes that were closest to the *temple. But there was still a place for them near the *temple. God still cared about them. They could still serve him.
In fact, any *Israelite who so desired could live close to the *temple. Nobody appointed them to live in those homes. But if they wanted to *worship regularly, they could live there. And if they loved God, they could live there. God always wants people to love him more.
The prince (ruler of *Israel) had the land next to the *holy area. Rulers have special duties. And one of those duties is to lead the people to serve God in the right manner. So the princeís land had to be close to the *temple. Like King David, the prince must love God.
On the east and west, the princeís land is the same width as the entire country. This is a word picture. It shows that his authority is over the entire country. In the past, *Israel was a divided country. It had two kings at the same time, who were often enemies. But when God rules, his people will be united. They will not oppose each other.
From the north to the south, the princeís land has the same length as the square of the *holy area. This is also a word picture. God has placed limits on the princeís authority. The prince rules, but God rules the prince.
The prince could not own any other property. In the past, evil kings stole other peopleís property (1 Kings 21:16). But this could not happen in Ezekielís *vision. Each *tribe had its own share of the land. And the princeís land was separate.
God explains the lesson that the rulers must learn from this plan. God opposes evil leaders who are cruel to poor people (Micah 2:1-2). He wants the rulers to issue fair judgements (Micah 4:2-3). Then the people in *Israel will have peace. They will have calm and quiet lives. And nobody will disturb them as they serve God.
False measurements were a frequent *sin in *Israel (Micah 6:11). The true standards come from God (Proverbs 16:11). He is angry when traders cheat their customers. But these rules were not just for traders. They were also important so that people gave the proper gifts to God (verses 13-14).
Here, God starts to explain the sacred duties of the prince. The passage about the prince continues until 46:18.
The prince was *Israelís ruler. He was not a priest. He had duties at the *temple. But he could not burn the *sacrifices or enter the inner areas. Only priests could do those things. Instead, the prince carried out his duties in the outer area, and in the inner and outer east gates. These were public duties. In other words, he acted on behalf of all the *Israelites. He brought *sacrifices to the priests on their behalf.
For example, there were *sacrifices for the *Sabbath (46:4). It was necessary to offer these *sacrifices every week. But unless people lived near the *temple, they could not go to the *temple every *Sabbath. It was too far away. But the prince would be present at the *temple. And he would bring the *sacrifices on their behalf.
Also, a person could not afford to offer his own *sacrifices very often. But there had to be regular *sacrifices at the *temple. So the prince organised these *sacrifices. He collected the gifts from everyone in *Israel. And he used these gifts for the regular *sacrifices. So the *sacrifices came from all the *Israelites. Everyone shared in the regular *sacrifices at the *temple. God would receive the *sacrifice of *worship from them all.
The amounts that each person gave were fair. They had to give a certain proportion (share) of their harvest. So a wealthy person would give more than a poor person would. And a person would give less if his harvest was poor that year. As the people measured their harvest, they separated some of it for God. Part of everything that God provided would go back to him. By this means, the people could see clearly that everything belongs to God.
This is the oil that one makes from the oily fruit called the olive. People would use it in food and as lamp fuel. Olives are still an important harvest round the Mediterranean area.
In the *temple, people would add the oil to the grain in order to make cakes. They would offer these cakes to God. This was called the grain *sacrifice.
Also, the people gave sheep for use in the regular *sacrifices.
God mentions different types of *sacrifices here. You can read more about these *sacrifices in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7.
The prince collected these gifts from the people. He used them to provide regular *sacrifices on behalf of the *Israelites.
God explains when the prince should offer these *sacrifices:
∑ the *Sabbath Ė that is, at the end of each week.
∑ the new moons Ė that is, at the start of each month in the *Jewish calendar.
∑ the special days Ė that is, the sacred holidays. There are instructions for some of these days in the rest of this chapter. But this chapter does not contain a complete list of the *Jewish sacred holidays.
The *Jewish new year holiday is actually at the beginning of the 7th month. (That is, in September or October by our calendar.) But this special day is in the first month (that is, March or April by our calendar). So these verses describe a new holiday.
The purpose of this special day was to offer the *temple to God. It was the priestsí first duty in each new year. They used blood to make everything *clean and ready for *worship (Hebrews 9:22).
This blood reminds us about the death of Jesus the *Messiah. His death was the perfect *sacrifice for *sin.
The priests repeated the ceremony 6 days later. This extra ceremony was for *sins that people did not intend to do. Ď*Siní here does not have its usual meaning, that is, evil deeds. Instead, it means matters which would cause *worship to be unacceptable to God. For example, a person might touch something that is not *clean. Then that person should not go to the *temple until he is *clean again. But that person might not know that he touched that thing. So he might go to the *temple anyway. There are several more examples in Leviticus 4:13 to 5:4.
There was no *sacrifice for the *sins that people intended to do (Numbers 15:30). But God could forgive those *sins because of his great kindness. He always wanted to forgive every kind of *sin (Exodus 34:7). So when people confessed their *sins to God in a sincere and humble manner, God forgave them (Psalm 51:17). Today we understand the reason why Jesus the *Messiah died. He died to save people from all their *sins. His work was perfect and it is complete. We should confess our *sin to God. And we should trust Jesus. If we do this in a sincere and humble manner, God forgives all our *sin.
Godís law ordered the people to gather in Jerusalem for the *Passover holiday. It was the most important holiday in *Israel and it lasted for a week. During this holiday, the people remembered how God freed their families. They were slaves in Egypt. (By Ďslavesí, we mean that they had to work very hard for other people.) But God rescued them from there.
At the *Passover, each family would kill a sheep and they would eat it. This reminded them how God saved their families from death. And, during the week, they ate only flat bread, which they baked without *yeast. This reminded them how quickly their families left Egypt. And *yeast became a word picture for *sin (Galatians 5:9). God wanted to free them from *sin, even as he freed them from their work as slaves.
On the *Passover, the prince first had to offer a *sacrifice because of *sin. The purpose of this *sacrifice was to mend peopleís relationship with God. Such *sacrifices were only acceptable for the *Israelites to offer. Foreigners could not offer *sacrifices because of *sin. It is only possible to mend a relationship that already exists. And the *Israelites already had a relationship with God.
The prince offered this *sacrifice for his own *sins, as well as the peopleís. No person, however important he may be, is without *sin (1 John 1:8). That is why we all must confess our *sins to God. God still orders this so that we can mend our relationship with him (1 John 1:9).
These 7 *bulls and 7 sheep were *sacrifices by fire. The priests burned the whole animals on the *altar. By means of such *sacrifices, people gave themselves completely to God. They were an act of *worship and love to God. (See Leviticus chapter 1).
The number 7 is often a word picture in the Bible. It means something that is perfect and complete. The passage emphasises this. There were 7 *bulls on 7 days. And there were 7 sheep on 7 days. The prince and the people were giving themselves completely to God.
But with these *sacrifices, they also gave a *sacrifice because of *sin. They realised that they must continuously *turn from *sin. And they could only do that with Godís help. Only he can mend our relationship with him.
The *Israelites did not only give animal *sacrifices. They also gave grain *sacrifices (Leviticus chapter 2). These *sacrifices showed that they were offering their work and their possessions to God. They put the oil on the grain.
This was called the Holiday of Shelters. This holiday was an opportunity to remember the time when the *Israelites lived in tents. For 40 years, God provided for them as they travelled round the desert (Leviticus 23:43).
Again, the people had to go to Jerusalem for the holiday. And again they offered the same *sacrifices. So they had this special series of *sacrifices every 6 months.
The *temple had 6 gates:
∑ The outer north and south gates led into the outer area. Everyone who *worshipped at the *temple used those gates.
∑ The inner north and south gates led into the inner area, which was only for the priests.
∑ The outer east gate was always closed, but the prince could sometimes use its rooms (44:1-3).
∑ Here, God explains the purpose of the inner east gate.
The inner east gate was between the outer area and the inner area. But the priests did not use it when they entered the inner area. And usually, this gate was closed. It was open only on certain *holy days.
The inner east gate had a royal function. It was the place where the prince handed his *sacrifices to the priests. He was offering these *sacrifices for himself. But he also offered them on behalf of all the *Israelites.
There were careful instructions about what the prince should do. He was not a priest. He could not carry out his own *sacrifices. He had to remain at the gate while the priests offered his *sacrifices to God. So God placed limits on the princeís behaviour. Like everyone else, he had to be humble in front of God.
The priests burnt the whole of the *sacrifice by fire on the *altar. But the person who gave the *sacrifice for peace ate some of it. However, the prince could not eat this by the inner east gate. He had to take it to the outer east gate (44:3).
These were *holy days. There was one day in each week. And there was another day in each month. On these days, the inner east gate remained open. This was the gate in front of the *temple building. The *altar stood between the gate and the *temple. The people would not go through the gate. They would *worship at its entrance. They would be able to see the *altar. This would remind them that God forgives *sin. They would know that the *temple was beyond the *altar. And they would know that Godís *glory was present there. Because of human *sin, they could not enter that *glory. So they remained outside.
The prince offered 7 animals. Perhaps this is one animal for each day in the week. But the number Ď7í is often a word picture for something that is perfect or complete.
Like all *sacrifices, the priests had to examine the animals first. We give the best things that we own to God. A weak or ill animal would not be an acceptable *sacrifice.
These were *sacrifices by fire. The priests would burn the whole animals on the *altar.
There must be a grain *sacrifice with the *sacrifice by fire. People gave a *sacrifice by fire to show that they gave themselves completely to God. They gave a grain *sacrifice to show that they gave their work and their possessions to God. A person who gives himself to God cannot keep anything for himself (Luke 9:57-62).
The prince could choose how much grain to give with the young sheep. God was giving the prince an opportunity to show his love for God. Someone may give only what he must give. That person shows little love. Compare Luke 7:47.
At the start of the month, the prince gave the usual *Sabbath *sacrifices. But he also gave a *bull. He made these *sacrifices. And he asked God to show kindness to *Israel during the month. It was as if the prince was offering the month to God.
This rule is similar to the one in 44:3. We have explained both these rules there.
The outer north and south gates were the only gates that people could use to enter the *temple area. Everyone had to enter and to leave by these gates. And everyone had to pass through the entire width of the *temple.
So their *worship could not be brief. They had to spend time in the *temple:
∑ They would walk past the *altar, which was the place of *sacrifice.
∑ They would walk past the inner area, which only priests could enter.
∑ They would see the smoke of the *sacrifices which rose towards heaven.
∑ They would pass the outer east gate. This gate was always closed because Godís *glory had passed through it.
∑ On a *Sabbath, they would *worship at the inner east gate.
∑ And they would walk through the stream that came from the *temple (47:1-12).
Perhaps they would *worship in other ways too. Perhaps they would bring their own *sacrifices.
They would only leave the *temple after they had done all these things.
The prince had the special right to use the outer east gate. But he could not enter or leave by that gate. There was no special entrance for him to use. When he entered the *temple, he entered through the same gates as everyone else. And he left by the same gates too. Everyone must be humble in front of God. Even *Israelís prince had to be humble. People may consider themselves great. And other people may respect them too. But God is very much greater than anyone else.
These *sacrifices were for the other sacred holidays. On those days, the prince had to give the same *sacrifices as he gave at the start of each month.
Sometimes, the prince gave a special gift to God. The prince did not have to give this gift. He gave it because of his love for God. The prince could choose the *sacrifice that he wanted to give. He could give a *sacrifice by fire. That would show that the prince gave himself completely to God. Or he could give a *sacrifice of peace to God. That would show friendship with God.
When the prince gave this special gift, the priests would receive it at the inner east gate. This showed that God was accepting the gift. And it showed that God was pleased with the prince. *Israelís ruler should be a friend of God. And the ruler should be a man who gave himself to God completely. Such a man would be a good ruler for Godís people.
There had to be a *sacrifice every day. *Worship of God was not just for the *Sabbaths. And it was not just for the sacred holidays. It had to continue every day.
This was a *sacrifice by fire. That *sacrifice usually showed that a person gave himself completely to God. People should not neglect their relationship with God. It is their daily duty to give themselves to God (Hebrews 3:13-14).
God intended that every family in *Israel should have its own land. Of course, a family might become poor. It might be necessary to sell the land. But that family would not lose its land permanently. Every 50th year would be a Ďyear of freedomí. And then the family would receive its property back (Leviticus 25:23-28).
This arrangement became impossible because of the actions of rulers and other wealthy people. They were already wealthy, but they wanted even more property. God had warned the kings about this attitude (Deuteronomy 17:16-17). But even Solomon did not obey these rules (1 Kings 4:26). And the worst kings behaved in a much more evil manner. Naboth died because King Ahab wanted Nabothís land (1 Kings 21:18-19).
So in Ezekielís *vision, there were limits on the princeís property. The prince had his own property. And he could own no other land. The families in *Israel would each have their own property. Even a gift of land would not be permanent, unless the same family still owned that land.
Some of the meat from the *sacrifices was for the priests. It was their food. This meat was *holy. So there were special *holy rooms where they had to eat it (42:13). And near these rooms, there were kitchens where they could cook the meat. The priests had to keep this meat separate from the people.
Jesus may have referred to the ceremony when the priests ate the *sacrifices in John 6:53-55. He used this as a word picture of his death. People had Ďto eat his body and to drink his bloodí, he said. He meant that people must accept him into their lives. Otherwise, they would not benefit from his *sacrifice.
So the priests ate the meat from the animals. But actually, they did not drink the blood. People in many countries do use animal blood as food, but the *Israelites have never done this. Godís law did not allow them to eat it (Leviticus 7:27). That was because the blood was a word picture for the animalís life (Leviticus 17:14). And all life belongs to God.
There were 4 more kitchens. These kitchens were in the public outer area of the *temple. The people could eat some of the *sacrifices for peace that they offered. These *sacrifices showed friendship with God. So this was a meal that the people shared with God. God is our master, but he is also our friend (1 John 1:3; John 15:15).
And these *sacrifices also showed friendship between Godís people. When we love God, we also love other people (1 John 4:19-21).
For the last time, Ezekiel returned to the *temple in his *vision. The *angel took him near to the *temple building in the inner area. There, Ezekiel saw something new. He had not seen it before in the *vision. And it did not exist in the original *temple.
There was a stream of water that ran across the inner area. Its source was the *temple building. God had said that this building would be his *throne (43:7). So its real source was God himself.
People in *Israel were very aware that every living thing needs water. They needed rain to fill their rivers so that there was water for the crops. The water was very precious to them. It was a sign of Godís kindness.
In verse 9 we shall see that the stream in this *vision is living water. In other words, it is water that gives life. In John 7:37-39, Jesus spoke about himself as the source of living water. John, the author of that passage, was familiar with Ezekielís *vision. John said that this meant the Holy Spirit. And that meaning seems right here too. It is the Spirit who gives life (John 3:5; John 6:63).
At its source, the stream was very small. Ezekiel did not even notice it before, if it was already there. When Godís work begins, it is often small (1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Kings 18:44; 1 Kings 19:12). It is small, but it is powerful. This steam was small, but it would give life to the country. It was small, but it caused the desert to live. It was small, but it would cause places without life to become alive.
The priests would have to walk across this stream. Perhaps they washed their feet in it. (There was a law that priests had to wash their hands and feet. They did this before they served God at the *altar or in the *temple building. See Exodus 30:21.) Dirt was unclean, so it was a word picture for *sin.
The stream did not flow in a straight line. It flowed round the south side of the *altar. So it flowed between the *altar and the room for the priests who worked there (40:44-45). Those priests had to walk through the stream in order to serve God at the *altar. They were dealing with the peopleís *sin. But they needed God to remove their *sin as they worked.
The stream continued through the outer area. The *worshippers had to cross this area whenever they visited the *temple (46:9). And the prince had to cross it too (46:10). So they all had to cross the stream. They all needed Godís Holy Spirit to give them new life. They all needed God to remove their *sin. (Compare John 13:8.)
Ezekiel left the *temple. But the *angel told him to follow the stream. Godís work did not end in the *temple. By his Spirit, he would reach out across the country. Godís Spirit would work in the hearts and lives of his people. Godís Spirit would bring about changes that seemed impossible.
The stream was still a little stream. But God has no limits. He would use this stream to bring about his purposes.
Ezekiel was only a little more than a mile from the *temple. (That is, about 2 kilometres.) But already the stream had become a river. It had not become a river because other streams had joined it. It became a river because God had done something wonderful. He had increased its size. And what God would achieve by means of this river would be even more wonderful.
Often, the *angel encouraged Ezekiel to go into the water. Ezekiel needed this experience. He needed to know its depth. And perhaps he also needed to feel the force of the water as it moved by him. In other words, Ezekiel needed to be aware of the power of Godís Holy Spirit.
People often depend on feelings. They want to feel something in order to know that it is true. Their attitude is wrong. We should trust God even when we do not feel confident. We cannot trust our feelings, because they change often. But we should always trust God.
However, sometimes God gives us experiences that help us. We should not refuse those experiences. Instead, like Ezekiel, we should let God work in his own way in our lives.
This river was astonishing. In the end, Ezekiel could not cross it. It was as if the power of Godís Holy Spirit was too great for Ezekiel. The *angel had to lead Ezekiel back to safety at the edge of the river. And the *angel told Ezekiel to look, and to learn, from his experience.
Much of the country called *Israel is dry. Many areas are too dry for agriculture. Only a few wild bushes grow there. Even Jerusalem city does not have many good natural supplies of water. King Hezekiah was very aware of this problem. He built an extraordinary underground system to supply water to Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:20). In recent years, people have rediscovered this system.
So it astonished Ezekiel to see all these large trees. They proved that God was bringing life to the country called *Israel. These trees were growing well because of the supply of water. Ezekiel had already felt the force of the water. But now he could see its power to give life.
The riverís purpose was to bring life to the country called *Israel. But the river in this *vision also had a second purpose. It would cure all that is bad in the country.
The Arabah is the valley of the Jordan river. The Jordan is *Israelís main river. It is on the east border. The sea is called the Dead Sea. It is a very strange sea. Its surface is 395 metres (1285 feet) below the level of the surface of the Mediterranean Sea. This means that the surface of the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the earthís surface. The Jordan river enters it, but no rivers leave it. It is much more salty than any ordinary sea. In fact, it is too salty for anything to live there. There are no fish. Tourists visit the sea and they bathe in it. The water is so salty that they float on its surface.
The Jordan river is unable to bring life to the Dead Sea. And the Jordan is unable to cure its dead state. But Ezekiel saw a river that was able to make these changes. No ordinary river could do it. But this was not an ordinary river. This river meant the power of Godís Holy Spirit. Ezekiel had already seen the effects of that power. In a previous *vision, the Holy Spirit made dead bones to live again (37:1-14). Those bones meant the people from *Israel.
Godís Spirit brings life and hope (Psalm 104:30). He brings freedom and joy (Romans 8:2). He brings love and peace (Galatians 5:22).
These places seemed dead before the river came. But everything changes when God works in the life of a person or nation.
En Gedi and En Eglaim are two towns near the shore of the Dead Sea. Nobody fishes there now, because there are no fish in the sea. But there are very many kinds of fish in the Great Sea (that is, the Mediterranean Sea). It is a good place to fish. Only God could make the Dead Sea like the Mediterranean.
The problem with the Dead Sea is not its salt. Salt is a good thing. The problem is that there is no life. In the *vision, God cured that problem. But he did not remove all the salt.
In the Bible, salt is sometimes a word picture. It seems to mean the good qualities that make some people different from other people (Mark 9:50). When God works in a personís life, God cures that personís bad state. But God does not remove the personís own qualities. Instead, God uses those qualities for his own, good purposes.
Usually trees only have fruit in certain months. But these trees in the *vision did something that would be impossible by natural means. They had fruit all the year. They had fruit because of the water that came from Godís *temple.
In the Bible, fruit is often a word picture. It means the good things that a good person achieves. Bad people are like a garden that yields no fruit (Isaiah 5:7). But good people achieve good things. They do this because Godís Spirit is in their lives (Isaiah 61:1-3; Galatians 5:22-23).
The description of the trees here is similar to Psalm 1:3. In that Psalm, the description is of a good person who loves Godís law. That person does good things constantly because his strength comes from God.
The trees yield both food and medicine. They provide for people, and they cure people. So the trees have the same qualities as the water gives to them. The water gives life and it cures. And the trees give food and they cure. In the same manner, Godís people do his work. And as they do it, they start to show some of the same qualities as God himself (Ephesians 5:1). Their aim is not that people should praise them. They do those things so that people will give honour to God (1 Peter 2:12).
Jacob had 12 sons. The families of those sons became the 12 *tribes of *Israel. So, each *tribe receives a share of the land that God promised to their nation (Genesis 15:18-21).
The *Levites would not receive a share of the land like the other *tribes. Instead they would live in a special place near the *temple. But there would still be 12 equal parts of the land. So the *descendants of Joseph became two separate *tribes to make up the number 12. It was always Jacobís intention that Josephís two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, should be separate *tribes (Genesis 48:5).
There was an ancient custom about the rights of a fatherís first son. When the father died, that son would receive a double share of his fatherís possessions (Deuteronomy 21:17). So the *tribe of Joseph receives that double share here. (Joseph was not actually Jacobís first son. 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 explains the reason why he received the double share.)
God had made a promise to the *Israelites. He promised that he would be present with them (48:35). But that could only happen after they *turned back to God. And it could only happen after he had changed their hearts, their minds and their attitudes (36:24-32).
If ever the *Israelites needed to hear Godís promise again, this was the time. When Ezekiel received the *vision, they were in *exile. Enemies had destroyed their homes and cities in *Israel. So the *Israelites had to live in foreign countries.
But God had made a promise. He would bring it about. It was impossible to achieve by human effort. But things that are impossible for men are possible with God (Luke 18:27).
In this *vision, God gave each *tribe a share that was the same size. Originally, the land that the *tribes received was very unequal. Some *tribes were not even in this country Ė they lived on the other side of the Jordan river. Many families Ė and even one *tribe Ė were unable to take their land. They had to live elsewhere. There were practical reasons for all these arrangements. But they were not Godís perfect plan. In the ideal arrangement that God told Ezekiel, all the *tribes were equally important. So all the *tribes received equal shares of the land.
This is a description of the extent of the country called *Israel in Ezekielís *vision. We can learn several useful lessons from this passage:
∑ Godís promises were for the benefit of all Godís people. All 12 *tribes would benefit. After the *exile, few people from the northern *tribes returned to *Israel. But they were still Godís people. Even in the New Testament (the later part of the Bible), James 1:1 refers to the 12 *tribes. This shows us that, even now, God still cares about the *Israelites. And Paul wrote that God will bring them back to himself (Romans 11:26).
∑ It was Godís ideal plan for the 12 *tribes all to have equal shares of the land. This shows us that God does not consider one person to be more important than another person. All people are equal in his opinion (Job 34:17-20).
∑ God also cares about people from other nations apart from *Israel. They too had rights in Godís ideal plan (verse 22). This shows that God already intended for people from every nation to benefit from his promises (Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 56:3-8). And now God has brought this about by means of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 3:6).
∑ God will be in the centre of his people. This shows us that he wants his Spirit to fill the hearts and lives of his people.
These borders are similar to the borders in Numbers 34:3-12. Today, we do not know all the places that God mentions in this passage. The Great Sea is called the Mediterranean; it is *Israelís west border. And the river Jordan is the east border in this passage. The Ďriver of Egyptí is in the south. It is between *Israel and the desert called Sinai. (It is not the famous river Nile.)
We must never suppose that Godís plans for *Israel are against the rights of people from other nations. It is Godís plan that people from every nation will serve him. We can see that in Godís original promise to Abraham. God promised that he would use Abraham to show his (Godís) kindness to people from every nation (Genesis 12:3). And that has always been Godís plan. When the *Israelites refused to obey God, God used that opportunity to save people from other nations. It is Godís plan to use those people to save the *Israelites. The *Israelites will see Godís kindness to the people who are not *Israelites. And because of this, the *Israelites will *turn back to God. God will bring this about so that the *Israelites will trust in Jesus the *Messiah. Then all who have believed in Jesus the *Messiah will, together, be united in him. That is, there will be one people of God (Romans 11:11-15).
So God told the *Israelites to give special rights to the people who joined them from other countries. Their families would also receive land in *Israel. They too received the benefit of Godís promise. So Peter could write to people who belonged to no nation. He told them that they had joined Godís people. They now belonged to Godís *holy nation. Of course, Peter did not mean that they had received rights to any land. He meant that they had received the right to have a special relationship with God. God had shown them his wonderful kindness (1 Peter 2:9-10).
In this passage, God explains what land each *tribe will receive. He begins at *Israelís northern border and continues to the *holy area. Verses 8-22 are about the *holy area and the land by it. Then verses 23-29 continue the list of the *tribes and their new land.
This has not been the actual arrangement at any time in history. It is Godís ideal plan. It is good to consider why this is the ideal plan.
The northern and southern borders in verses 1 and 28 are the same as in 47:15-20. The idea is that each *tribe would receive one share of the land.
There were 12 *tribes. Each *tribe was the family of one of Jacobís sons. Of course, those sons were brothers. The 12 brothers should have loved each other (Psalm 133:1). And the 12 *tribes should have supported each other (Psalm 122:4). But from the beginning, they argued and they fought. There were wars between the *tribes. *Israel became a divided nation. That is what happened. But that is not what God wanted.
God told Ezekiel his perfect plan for *Israel. And all the *tribes were there. None was missing. Each *tribe had an equal share of the land. No *tribe could pretend that it was greater than another *tribe. Each *tribeís land reached across the whole country, from east to west. That may be a word picture to show that each *tribe received the benefits of the whole country. In other words, no *tribe would have worse land than another *tribe.
The *tribes are all next to each other. That may be another word picture to show that they are all friends. (Even in English, we have a similar word picture today. We say that enemies are Ďagainstí each other.) The *tribes are not still enemies Ė they are not still against each other. Instead, they are next to each other. That is, they support each other.
In verses 4 and 5, we see Manasseh and Ephraim. They were the sons of Joseph. As God promised in 47:13, Josephís *tribe receives two shares of the land. And in this perfect plan, the *tribes of these two brothers are next to each other. So they are in perfect agreement. They support each other.
Only one *tribe, Leviís *tribe (called the *Levites), is not in this list. That is because the *Levites have a special relationship with God. So they receive land in the *holy area (verses 13-14).
Judahís *tribe receives the share next to the *holy area. This was the royal *tribe. *Israelís rulers came from this *tribe.
The *temple is in the middle of the *tribesí land. That is a word picture to show that God has the most important place in the *Israelitesí lives. The *Israelites surround the *temple. Once an evil king said that it was too far to go to the *temple to *worship (1 Kings 12:28). He made images which the northern *tribes could *worship. But in the *vision that Ezekiel saw, it was not too far for any *tribe to *worship at the *temple. They were all round the *temple.
The most important place in *Israel did not belong to any *tribe. It belonged to God. And the *temple was in its centre.
Godís loyal priests lived in the area that surrounded the *temple.
It would not be good if the priests lived far from other people. The priests might neglect to pray for the people. So in this ideal plan, the priests lived in the centre of the country. And all the other *Israelites surrounded them.
And it would not be good if the priests lived far from the place of *worship. The priests might neglect their duties to God. So in this plan, the *temple was in the centre of the priestsí land.
It is the *Levitesí duty to assist the priests. So the *Levitesí area is next to the priestsí area. And by the word picture, this shows that the *Levites support the priests. In the past, some *Levites have been jealous of the priests (Numbers chapter 16). But in Godís ideal plan, the *Levites are glad to carry out their duties in a humble manner (Psalm 84:10). God has been kind to them. He has allowed them the use of his best land. And they are close to the *temple. They must never sell or trade the land. So the land will always belong to the families of the *Levites. They will always have their special relationship with God.
This is the same city as in 45:6, but we have many more details here. It was the new capital city, and *Israelites from all the *tribes could live there. Verses 30-35, which continue to describe the city, emphasise that fact.
The city was near to the *temple. So people who wanted to *worship often could live there. And the city was also near to the princeís land. People who worked for him could live there too. Therefore, the city had two main purposes: religion and government. But these purposes did not oppose each other, because the prince loved God. So his loyal workers were also loyal servants of God. As they worked for the prince, they were serving God too.
The people who lived in the city would own animals. Those animals could feed (find their food) on this land. And because this land was near the city, the people could look after the animals well. That is how a good person should behave (Proverbs 12:10).
When people travelled to the *temple to *worship God, they would often bring animals to give as *sacrifices. This land would be useful for them.
Here was the land were where people from the city could grow their crops. God provides food for people as well as animals. His kindness lasts always (Psalm 136:25).
This was the princeís land, which God had already described (45:7-8). This prince was loyal to God. In the centre of his land was the *holy land. And in the centre of the *holy land was the *temple.
God mentions the *tribes that were south of the *temple in this ideal plan.
It is wonderful to see Benjaminís name in this list. Benjamin was Jacobís youngest son. And Jacob loved him. But once, after a terrible war, the *tribe of Benjamin almost did not exist. Only by a surprising scheme did the *Israelites save that *tribe (Judges chapter 21). Afterwards Saul, *Israelís first king, came from the *tribe. But Benjamin was the smallest *tribe (see Psalm 68:27).
The list continues until all *Israelís *tribes had received their land.
The *prophecy returns to the subject of the capital city (verse 16). God describes a city that is a perfect square. It has walls, so it is a safe city. But it has gates. So people can enter it and they can leave it.
The names on the gates may tell us who uses that gate. Or they may tell us who lives in that part of the city. And we can see that every *tribe is there. Each *tribe has a permanent place in the city that is near Godís *temple. God is present with his people. So all Godís people can live together peacefully.
In the north are the names of the most important *tribes. In the east are the names of the sons whom Jacob loved most. In the south are the names of the other sons of Jacobís first wife. And in the west are the names of the sons of Jacobís maids. That was their history. But the future of their *tribes is different. God loves them all. He has made a place for each *tribe. There is a gate for each of them.
This is the measurement round the 4 walls.
The cityís new name is a brief explanation of Ezekielís whole message. This is what God wants. This is his desire for his people. He wants to live with them. He wants to be their only God. He wants them to be able to declare boldly that he is present with them.
That was the last *prophecy in Ezekielís book. It is an impressive end to the record of his *prophecies. But Ezekiel continued to be a *prophet. He recorded a *prophecy with a later date in 29:17.
Several centuries after Ezekielís *vision, John saw a *vision of future events. That *vision is in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation chapters 21-22, John described the New Jerusalem. Several things that John saw then were similar to things in Ezekielís *vision. But many things were different.
Both *visions happened when Godís people were suffering great troubles. Ezekiel saw his *vision after the *Babylonian army destroyed Jerusalem. The *Israelites were in *exile and their situation seemed hopeless. John was a prisoner when he saw his *vision. The government was then opposing the first Christians in a very cruel manner.
Both *visions happened after enemies had destroyed Godís *temple. The loss of the first *temple was a terrible shock for the *Israelites when Ezekiel was alive. The loss of Herodís *temple happened at a time when many Christians were suffering greatly. And by the time when John wrote, the governmentís cruelty to them had become even worse. But the Christians were not without hope. They knew that, by Jesusí death, God had established a new relationship with people.
Both *visions were *visions of hope. God was using these *visions to encourage his people. He knew about their situation. He cared about them. And he had good plans for the future. Their troubles would not last always. Evil forces would not always rule. In the end, God would rule. And then he would live with his loyal people.
Some of the things in the two *visions were similar. But Johnís *vision shows progress from Ezekielís *vision:
∑ In both *visions, there was a city. In that city, God would live among his people. And both cities had a square plan. But the New Jerusalem, which John saw, was much larger. In fact, each wall was a thousand times longer than Ezekielís city (Revelation 21:16; Ezekiel 48:16). And the New Jerusalemís plan was not merely a square. It was the same height as its length. That was extraordinary. So although the plan in Ezekielís *vision seemed perfect, the New Jerusalem will be very much better. God does things that people cannot even imagine.
∑ The names of the 12 *tribes were on the city gates in both *visions (Revelation 21:12-13; Ezekiel 48:30-34). But in the New Jerusalem, the names of the 12 apostles were on the cityís 12 bases in addition Ė Revelation 21:14. (The Ďapostlesí were the men whom Jesus first sent with his message.) Ezekielís city was for the *Israelites only, but foreigners could live among the *Israelites. But the New Jerusalem will be for people from every nation. People must confess their *sins to God; and they must trust Christ. Everyone who does this will be in the New Jerusalem. And that will include the *Israelites who *turn back to God.
∑ There was a river in both *visions (Revelation 22:1-2; Ezekiel 47:1-12). Ezekielís river cured the nation called *Israel. But in the New Jerusalem, God will cure all the nations (Revelation 22:2).
The most important difference between the two *visions is Revelation 21:22. John saw that there was no *temple in the New Jerusalem. There had to be a *temple in Ezekielís *vision because God was still dealing with human *sin. That building separated God from the people. It separated *holy things from everything else. It needed the *altar, because there had to be *sacrifices because of human *sin. It needed the priests, because ordinary people could not come close to God. These things were necessary then. And they made it possible for people to have a relationship with God.
But Godís plan is that, in the end, these things will not be necessary. In the end, God will free his people from *sin and from death (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). That is the perfect state which God will bring about (Romans 8:18-25). Then, in the New Jerusalem, Godís people will have a perfect relationship with him. God himself will be their *temple (Revelation 21:22). And there will be no limit to their *worship. Then, at last, God will have his home among people. Their tears will end. They will not still suffer. Death and pain will not exist. God will make everything new (Revelation 21:4-5).
altar ~ the special table where people burn animals or offer other gifts to God or to false gods.
ancestors ~ people in history from whom your family has come.
angel ~ Godís special servants in heaven. God made angels to serve him and to take his messages.
Babylonian ~ a person from the nation called Babylon or anything that has a relationship with Babylon.
barley ~ a type of grain crop.
bath ~ equal to 6 gallons.
bronze ~ A brown metal. It glows when in a fire. It polishes well and it reflects the light. It is very strong.
bulls ~ the male farm animals which mate with cows.
burnt (*sacrifice) ~ a *sacrifice that the priests burned completely, as a gift to God.
cherub ~ a special *angel who was in the most *holy place in the *temple.
cherubim ~ the group of *cherubs.
circumcise ~ to cut off skin from the end of a maleís private parts. This showed that the man had joined Godís people. And so the man would benefit from Godís promises (Genesis chapter 17).
circumcision ~ the act or result when someone *circumcises a man.
clean ~ acceptable to God.
cubit ~ a length of about half a metre.
descendant ~ a later member of a family.
ephah ~ equal to 22 litres.
exile ~ When people have to live in a foreign country they are in exile. Such a person is called an exile.
gerah ~ equal to one 20th of an ounce.
glory ~ great honour and beauty.
grapes ~ fruit of a *vine (a climbing plant). You can make grapes into wine.
hin ~ equal to one gallon.
holy ~ what God is like. He is completely different from people. He never does anything wrong. The word Ďholyí also describes something that is separate, for Godís use only. People must never use a holy thing for ordinary purposes.
homer ~ equal to 220 litres.
horns ~ hard bones on an animalís head; a thing like a stick, with a point, that grows on the heads of cows and some sheep. On the corners of the *altar are things like horns, which are called the Ďhorns of the *altarí.
incense ~ something that gives a sweet smell when it burns. The priests burned it when they praised God in the *temple.
Israel ~ Israel is the nation whose *ancestors were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The country in which they live is called Israel. Israel became the name of the northern nation when it separated from Judah. However, Ezekiel sometimes uses the word ĎIsraelí to refer to Judah.
Israelites ~ the people whose *ancestors are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Jewish ~ a word that describes something that has a relationship to the *Jews.
Jews ~ another name for the *Israelites.
Levites ~ members of the *tribe whose *ancestor is Levi, son of Jacob.
Lord ~ a title for God, to show that he is over all people and things.
LORD ~ ĎLORDí is the special name that God gave to himself. It probably means, ĎHe is always Godí. This name has a relationship with the special promises that God gave to his people.
Messiah ~ The *Jews expect a king to come who will save them. That king, called the Messiah, will rule both them and all people.
mina ~ equal to one and a quarter pounds in weight.
Passover ~ the time of the year when the *Jews remember how God brought them out of Egypt.
prophecy ~ a message from God; a gift of the Holy Spirit.
prophet ~ person who speaks for God. He can sometimes say what will happen in the future. However, false prophets are people who merely pretend to speak Godís words.
prostitute ~ a woman who receives payment when she offers her body for sex. There are also male prostitutes.
prostitution ~ what a *prostitute does.
Sabbath ~ The Sabbath was the 7th day of the week. God told the *Israelites to keep it as a special day.
sacrifice ~ something that people gave to God. (or, something that people gave to a false god). It could be an animal, or grain, or oil, or wine. The priest burned all or part of the sacrifice on an *altar. Sometimes people gave sacrifices in order to thank God. And sometimes people gave sacrifices so that God could forgive *sin (Leviticus 4:35).
shekel ~ equal to 0.4 ounces (11 grams) in weight.
sin ~ Sin means the wrong things that we do. To sin is to do wrong, bad or evil deeds and not to obey God. People are called sinners because of their sins.
son of man ~ Ezekiel. ĎSon of maní was the title that God used for Ezekiel. It emphasised that Ezekiel was a mere man. Ezekiel would have to depend on Godís Spirit to make him strong. Only then could Ezekiel do what God told him to do.
spears ~ long sticks with sharp ends that soldiers used as *weapons of war.
temple ~ a special building for the *worship of God or other gods. The *Jews had one in Jerusalem for the *worship of the real God.
throne ~ the special chair for the king.
tribe ~ The *Israelites were divided into the 12 families of the sons of Jacob. These families are the 12 tribes of *Israel.
turn ~ to change your behaviour, your friends, or your God; or, to carry out actions in order to oppose someone.
unclean ~ unfit for sacred purposes. Unclean food is food that the *Jews should not eat because of their religion. When the *temple was unclean, it was not right for the *worship of God.
vine ~ a plant on which *grapes grow.
vision ~ something that God shows to a person but not with the physical sight. Visions are often in the form of dreams.
weapon ~ a tool of war. People use weapons for attack or defence when they fight. For example, swords, *spears or (today) guns.
worship ~ an act to give honour to God (or to a false god). When people praise and thank God.
yeast ~ When one bakes bread, yeast causes it to rise.
The Temple Ė its Ministry and Service by Alfred Edersheim.
Ezekiel by Charles Dyer in the Bible Knowledge Commentary (ed: Walvoord & Zuck).
They Shall Know that I am God by Ian Mackervoy (EasyEnglish Commentary on Ezekiel).
Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary.
Solomonís Temple Spiritualized by John Bunyan.
© 2008, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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