Ezekiel 40-42 It had a wall around it, 500 cubits long and broad, to make a separation between the holy and the common

From Ezekiel 40-42

26 Ezekiel Scroll fed thumb Ezekiel is shown an amazing picture of a glorious temple. He is led through this new temple by a man who measures it up. The temple has a wall that separates the holy from the common.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

The temple of the LORD has been destroyed by Babylonian invaders. Chapters 40 to 48 of Ezekiel describe a magnificent new temple of the LORD. Ezekiel is taken around the new temple and given a series of precise measurements.

Today’s passage describes the activities of the priests in the temple.

Anon, 2009. 1000 Bible Images, Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society.
Anon, 2009. 1000 Bible Images, Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society.

13 Then he said to me, “The north chambers and the south chambers opposite the yard are the holy chambers, where the priests who approach the LORD shall eat the most holy offerings.

There they shall put the most holy offerings—the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering—for the place is holy. (Eze 42.13)

The most holy offerings signified the portions of the sacrificial offerings which were eaten by the priests. Under the law of Moses these were appointed to be eaten in the holy place beside the altar (Lev 10:12,13; Num 18:10).

This temple, a special section of the house was kept for this purpose. There those portions of the sacrifices that could be eaten were to be consumed. They ate portions such as the flesh of the sin and guilt offerings. But they could not be eaten straight away. They had to be prepared appropriately.

The intention of this was to communicate the idea of the holiness of the worship in which the priests were engaged.

14 When the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court without laying there the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They shall put on other garments before they go near to that which is for the people.” (Eze 42.14)

The priests were required to clothe themselves in other garments when they conducted their priestly functions (cf. Lev 16:23). The putting on and off of these holy clothes took place in the chambers as well.

Special clothes for special places and activities.

26 Ezekiels temple15 Now when he had finished measuring the interior of the temple area, he led me out by the gate that faced east, and measured the temple area all around. 16 He measured the east side with the measuring reed, 500 cubits by the measuring reed all around. 17 He measured the north side, 500 cubits by the measuring reed all around. 18 He measured the south side, 500 cubits by the measuring reed. 19 Then he turned to the west side and measured, 500 cubits by the measuring reed. 20 He measured it on the four sides. It had a wall around it, 500 cubits long and 500 cubits broad, to make a separation between the holy and the common. (Eze 42.15-20)

Most of Ezekiel’s vision would have involved being led around the temple and watching the man measure it up. In this last measurement the man measures the outer wall of the temple area. It forms a 500 cubit square. A cubit was just over half a meter.

The wall about the temple separates the holy from the common. What is inside from what is outside.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

“As a vision, it need portray neither what God literally intends to do nor what the recipients are literally to attempt to implement, though it does suggest something which is already existent to God and is real enough to be seen in vision.

The chapters offer a concrete imaginative realization of God’s purpose for the future, to function both as a promise (Yahweh is committed to dwelling among the people) and as a spur to action such as the builders of the actual Second Temple undertook—so that their work can be seen as seeking the fulfillment of the vision even though it did not (and could not) correspond architecturally to it.

Chs. 40–48 as a whole thus combine promises regarding what will be done and regulations for what must be done, divine gift and human commitment (Zimmerli). Yahweh will see that the temple is renewed; the community must accept its responsibility for ensuring that it is ordered aright.

More immediately, they must begin to live their lives in the present in the conviction that this is truly God’s vision for the future, as really as people who could more directly feast their eyes on Zion’s beauty and strength, and then talk about this to others.” (Goldingay, J.A., 2003. Ezekiel. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson, eds. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 659.)

Story of Jesus

The Jews rebuild the temple, but it does not compare to the grandeur of the earlier or the simplicity of the future temple. In the gospel Jesus points to himself as the messiah and promises something greater than the temple. Himself.

12 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?

6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. (Mt 12.1-6)

Jesus refers to himself as the promised messiah and the new temple. He is the one who cleanses us of our sin and gives us access to the father. He is the one who separates the holy from the common.

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