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Ezekiel 40

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
    Vision of the Restored Temple and Land
(40:1-48:35)
Vision of the Future Temple
(40:1-48:35)
 
Vision of a Man With A Measuring Rod A New City, A New Temple The Temple Area, Gates, Outer and Inner Courts Ezekiel Is Taken To Jerusalem The Future Temple
40:1-4 40:1-5 40:1-4 40:1-3 40:1-4
Measurements Relating to the Temple     40:4  
      The East Gate The Outer Wall
40:5-16   40:5-16 40:5-10 40:5
  The Eastern Gateway of the Temple     The East Gate
  40:6-16     40:6-16
      40:11-16  
  The Outer Court   The Outer Courtyard The Outer Court
40:17-19 40:17-19 40:17-19 40:17-18 40:17-19
      40:19  
  The Northern Gateway   The North Gate The North Gate
40:20-23 40:20-23 40:20-23 40:20-23 40:20-23
  The Southern Gateway   The South Gate The South Gate
40:24-27 40:24-27 40:24-27 40:24-27 40:24-27
  Gateways of the Inner Court   The Inner Courtyard: The South Gate The Inner Court. The South Gate
40:28-31 40:28-31 40:28-31 40:28-31 40:28-31
      The Inner Courtyard: The East Gate The East Gate
40:32-34 40:32-34 40:32-34 40:32-34 40:32-34
      The Inner Courtyard: The North Gate The North Gate
40:35-37 40:35-37 40:35-37 40:35-37 40:35-37
  Where Sacrifices Were Prepared   Buildings Near the North Gate Subsidiary Buildings At the Gate
40:38-43 40:38-43 40:38-43 40:38-43 40:38-43
  Chambers for Singers and Priests      
40:44-47 40:44-46 40:44-47 40:44-46 40:44-46
  Dimensions of the Inner Court and Vestibule   The Inner Courtyard and Temple Building The Inner Court
  40:47-49   40:47-41:4 40:47
        The Temple, The Ulam
40:48-49   40:48-49   40:48-49

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHT TO EZEKIEL 40-48

A. Brief outline

1. Chapters 40-43 — the Temple restored

2. Chapters 44-46 — the ritual restored

3. Chapters 47-48 — the land reallocated

 

B. There is a series of special places where the God of Israel dwelt (i.e., the location of the Ark of the Covenant) and interacted with His people.

1. the tabernacle

a. description, Exodus 25-40

b. procedures, Leviticus

2. the temple of Solomon (based on a Phoenician pattern), I Kings 5-8; I Chronicles 17;22;28;29; II Chronicles 2-7

3. the temple of Zerubbabel, Ezra; I Esdras; I Macc. 1:20-24; Josephus, Apion 1.22

4. the temple of Herod, Josephus, Antiq. 15.11-12; Wars 5.5; Middoth in Mishna

5. the temple of Ezekiel, chapters 40-48

6. Jesus is the true Temple, Hebrews (esp. chapters 9-10)

 

C. Ezekiel was a trained priest of the line of Zadok. He was greatly concerned that the temple had become idolatrous (i.e., chapters 8-11) and that YHWH had left and moved east to be with the exiles in Babylon. The temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar's army in 586 b.c. Chapters 40-48 represent YHWH's return to His special place with His people. One wonders how much the prophecy of Jer. 31:38-40 affected Ezekiel; and how much Ezekiel affected Zechariah 2 and John's book of the Revelation. The imagery of the prophets reveal that

1. they knew of each other's writing

2. the Spirit used the same imagery again and again to tie God's promises together

The details (cf. 40:5-42:20) of steps and their width along with the type of metal were symbolic of the levels of holiness as one approaches the most holy of places, the place where YHWH symbolically dwelt, the Holy of Holies and its Ark of the Covenant.

D. If taken literally, there is much disagreement between the procedures of Moses (Leviticus) and those of Ezekiel (chapters 40-48). The Rabbi Hananiah bar Hezekiah attempted to reconcile them (cf. b. Shab 13b). Some rabbis assert that it must refer to a future Messianic temple (cf. Seder Olam 26; Rashi).

 

E. Some possible interpretations

1. It was never meant to be literally fulfilled, but was a literary way to reverse chapters 8-11. It was written to encourage the exiles.

2. It was conditional prophecy to which the Jews did not respond appropriately (i.e., sin of the post-exilic period, cf. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi).

3. It was to be fulfilled in the return from the Exile under Zerubbabel (prince of Judah, seed of David) and Joshua (seed of the last high priest before the exile).

4. It was fulfilled in Herod's temple.

5. It will be fulfilled in an eschatological temple.

 

F. Personal problems interpreting this text

1. Ezekiel, in sharp contrast to Isaiah, is very Israel-focused. Isaiah's universalism (God's love and inclusion of all the nations) is totally missing. The nations will know God through His judgment on them and blessings on Israel.

2. Ezekiel focuses exclusively on national geographical Israel, which is so different from the NT (see Special Topic at 34:26).

3. Ezekiel takes seriously the curses and blessings of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-29. He does predict an end-time Davidic seed and a restored sacrificial system (cf. 34:23-24; 37:24-28).

4. The NT

a. specifically excludes an end-time sacrificial system in Hebrews 9 and 10 (see F. F. Bruce, Questions and Answers, pp. 32-33)

b. includes Gentiles, while Ezekiel 40-48 is very nationalistic

c. Jesus seems to have rejected the Jews as God's instrument of redemption in the parable of the wicked tenants (cf. Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19)

5. Although I believe that God will use national Israel in some way in the end-time setting (cf. Romans 9-11), I do believe that the Church is spiritual Israel (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6; Galatians 3-4; 6:15-16; Eph. 2:11-3:13; Phil. 3:3; I Pet. 2:8-9; Rev. 1:6). This has surely affected the way I understand Ezekiel. But before you say to yourself, "aha!" let me remind you that you, too, are presuppositional. We are all trying to understand the individual books of the Bible and then put them together into a perspective that embraces all of God's revelation. And, it is not easy!

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:1-4
 1In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, on that same day the hand of the Lord was upon me and He brought me there. 2In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city. 3So He brought me there; and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway. 4The man said to me, "Son of man, see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and give attention to all that I am going to show you; for you have been brought here in order to show it to you. Declare to the house of Israel all that you see."

40:1 "In the twenty-fifty year of our exile" This would be 573 b.c., dating from the exile of King Jehoiachin (i.e., 597 b.c., cf. II Kgs. 24:10-17).

▣ "at the beginning of the year" It is uncertain if the new year began in the autumn with the month Tishri (cf. Lev. 25:9), or with the month Nisan (cf. Exod. 12:2). No New Year feast is mentioned in the OT or NT or by Josephus or Philo. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN CALENDARS at 1:1.

▣ "after the city was taken" The verb (BDB 645, KB 697, Hophal perfect, cf. 33:21) means "to be attacked and captured" (cf. II Kgs. 25:1-7).

▣ "the hand of the Lord was upon me" See note at 33:22.

▣ "He brought me there" This verb (BDB 97, KB 112, Hiphil imperfect) speaks of a spiritual (i.e., "in visions," cf. 1:1; 8:3; 40:2) transportation (this parallels 8:3; 11:1,24) from exile in Babylon to the site of a high mountain (same verb is Hiphil perfect in 40:2). The Spirit does this to Ezekiel several times in chapter 40 (cf. vv. 2,3,4,17,28,32,35,48).

40:2 "set me on a very high mountain" Because of Ezek. 17:27 and 20:40, this seems to refer to the temple on Mt. Moriah (cf. Isa. 2:2-3; Micah 4:1).

▣ "on it to the south" The Septuagint has "opposite it" (see RSV REB), which would refer to the (1) Mount of Olives or (2) Mt. Zion. This change involves only one consonant in the Masoretic text ("south," בגנמ; "in front of," דגנמ).

"there was a structure like a city" This may relate to Ps. 48:2, but this is uncertain because of the description "in the far north" (cf. Isa. 14:13).

40:3 "a man" This turns out to be an angelic guide (cf. v. 3), so characteristic of apocalyptic literature.

▣ "line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand" The line of flax (BDB 833) was used to measure long distances, while the measuring reed (BDB 889) was used to measure short distances.

40:4 Ezekiel is given a series of commands.

1. see, BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

2. hear, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative

3. give attention (lit. "set your heart"), BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative, cf. 44:5

4. declare, BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil imperative

 

▣ "declare. . .all that you see" This is theologically similar to Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Jer. 26:2. Ezekiel must disclose everything that was communicated to him from YHWH to the people.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:5-16
 5And behold, there was a wall on the outside of the temple all around, and in the man's hand was a measuring rod of six cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth. So he measured the thickness of the wall, one rod; and the height, one rod. 6Then he went to the gate which faced east, went up its steps and measured the threshold of the gate, one rod in width; and the other threshold was one rod in width. 7The guardroom was one rod long and one rod wide; and there were five cubits between the guardrooms. And the threshold of the gate by the porch of the gate facing inward was one rod. 8Then he measured the porch of the gate facing inward, one rod. 9He measured the porch of the gate, eight cubits; and its side pillars, two cubits. And the porch of the gate was faced inward. 10The guardrooms of the gate toward the east numbered three on each side; the three of them had the same measurement. The side pillars also had the same measurement on each side. 11And he measured the width of the gateway, ten cubits, and the length of the gate, thirteen cubits. 12There was a barrier wall one cubit wide in front of the guardrooms on each side; and the guardrooms were six cubits square on each side. 13He measured the gate from the roof of the one guardroom to the roof of the other, a width of twenty-five cubits from one door to the door opposite. 14He made the side pillars sixty cubits high; the gate extended round about to the side pillar of the courtyard. 15From the front of the entrance gate to the front of the inner porch of the gate was fifty cubits. 16There were shuttered windows looking toward the guardrooms, and toward their side pillars within the gate all around, and likewise for the porches. And there were windows all around inside; and on each side pillar were palm tree ornaments.

40:5 "there was a wall on the outside of the temple all around" This begins the very detailed description of the new temple. This wall's length is measured in 42:20.

▣ "a measuring rod of six cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth" There seem to have been two cubits: (1) described in Deut. 3:11 and II Chr. 3:3 as the distance from a man's elbow to his longest finger, about 18 inches; (2) a longer cubit was used in both Babylon and Egypt, which was the regular distance plus the width of a man's hand, which made it about 21 inches (cf. Ezek. 43:13). The Mishnah says that the measuring rod/reed was about 10 feet, 5 inches long.

40:6 This is the gate from which YHWH left the temple (cf. 11:1,22-23) and the direction from which He will return to the new temple (cf. 43:1-5).

▣ "went up its steps" Throughout chapter 40 a series of steps is mentioned (vv. 6, 22, 26, 31, 34, 37, and 39). These ascending steps and shrinking doorways seem to depict the levels of holiness as one approaches the Holy of Holies (cf. chapter 41:2-3.

40:9

NASB"its side pillars"
NKJV"the gateposts"
NRSV"its pilasters"
NJB"its piers"

This rare Hebrew word (BDB 18 II, KB 40 III) means "door jamb" in I Kgs. 6:31, but here (cf. vv. 9, 10, 14 [twice], 16 [twice], 21, 24, 26, 29, 31, 34, 36, 37 [twice], 38, 48, 49; 41:1, 3) its meaning is uncertain. The NIV translates it as "projecting walls" and "jambs." The same consonants can mean

1. ram

2. leader

3. prominent tree (terebinth)

4. strength (KB)

5. deer (KB)

KB 40 III offers "pillar of an archway" as a possible meaning.

40:14 This verse is very difficult in the Masoretic text. Note the different translations available to you.

40:16 "palm tree ornaments" These (BDB 1071, cf. vv. 22,26; 41:18) were also in Solomon's temple (cf. I Kgs. 6:29,32,35; 7:36; II Chr. 3:5), but not the tabernacle. Solomon elaborates the tabernacle's design and Ezekiel elaborates Solomon's design.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:17-19
 17Then he brought me into the outer court, and behold, there were chambers and a pavement made for the court all around; thirty chambers faced the pavement. 18The pavement (that is, the lower pavement) was by the side of the gates, corresponding to the length of the gates. 19Then he measured the width from the front of the lower gate to the front of the exterior of the inner court, a hundred cubits on the east and on the north.

40:17 "pavement" This (BDB 954) refers to some type of stone or mosaic floor covering.

1. Xerxes' palace ("in the court of the garden of the king," 1:5) in Susa, Esther 1:6

2. Solomon's temple, II Chr. 7:3

3. Ezekiel's temple (i.e., outer court), Ezek. 40:17,18; 42:3

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:20-23
 20As for the gate of the outer court which faced the north, he measured its length and its width. 21It had three guardrooms on each side; and its side pillars and its porches had the same measurement as the first gate. Its length was fifty cubits and the width twenty-five cubits. 22Its windows and its porches and its palm tree ornaments had the same measurements as the gate which faced toward the east; and it was reached by seven steps, and its porch was in front of them. 23The inner court had a gate opposite the gate on the north as well as the gate on the east; and he measured a hundred cubits from gate to gate.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:24-27
 24Then he led me toward the south, and behold, there was a gate toward the south; and he measured its side pillars and its porches according to those same measurements. 25The gate and its porches had windows all around like those other windows; the length was fifty cubits and the width twenty-five cubits. 26There were seven steps going up to it, and its porches were in front of them; and it had palm tree ornaments on its side pillars, one on each side. 27The inner court had a gate toward the south; and he measured from gate to gate toward the south, a hundred cubits.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:28-31
 28Then he brought me to the inner court by the south gate; and he measured the south gate according to those same measurements. 29Its guardrooms also, its side pillars and its porches were according to those same measurements. And the gate and its porches had windows all around; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 30There were porches all around, twenty-five cubits long and five cubits wide. 31Its porches were toward the outer court; and palm tree ornaments were on its side pillars, and its stairway had eight steps.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:32-34
 32He brought me into the inner court toward the east. And he measured the gate according to those same measurements. 33Its guardrooms also, its side pillars and its porches were according to those same measurements. And the gate and its porches had windows all around; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 34Its porches were toward the outer court; and palm tree ornaments were on its side pillars, on each side, and its stairway had eight steps.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:35-37
 35Then he brought me to the north gate; and he measured it according to those same measurements, 36with its guardrooms, its side pillars and its porches. And the gate had windows all around; the length was fifty cubits and the width twenty-five cubits. 37Its side pillars were toward the outer court; and palm tree ornaments were on its side pillars on each side, and its stairway had eight steps.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:38-43
 38A chamber with its doorway was by the side pillars at the gates; there they rinse the burnt offering. 39In the porch of the gate were two tables on each side, on which to slaughter the burnt offering, the sin offering and the guilt offering. 40On the outer side, as one went up to the gateway toward the north, were two tables; and on the other side of the porch of the gate were two tables. 41Four tables were on each side next to the gate; or, eight tables on which they slaughter sacrifices. 42For the burnt offering there were four tables of hewn stone, a cubit and a half long, a cubit and a half wide and one cubit high, on which they lay the instruments with which they slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice. 43The double hooks, one handbreadth in length, were installed in the house all around; and on the tables was the flesh of the offering.

40:43

NASB"double hooks"
NKJV"hooks"
NRSV"pegs"
TEV"ledges"
NJB"runnels"

The Hebrew consonants in the words "hooks" (BDB 1052) and "ledges" are the same. Hooks fits v. 42 (i.e., sacrifice) and the last phrase of v. 43 ("and on the tables was the flesh of the offering"). However, "ledges" are mentioned in the "Temple Scroll" of the Dead Sea Scrolls (30:13, see IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 725).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:44-47
 44From the outside to the inner gate were chambers for the singers in the inner court, one of which was at the side of the north gate, with its front toward the south, and one at the side of the south gate facing toward the north. 45He said to me, "This is the chamber which faces toward the south, intended for the priests who keep charge of the temple; 46but the chamber which faces toward the north is for the priests who keep charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who from the sons of Levi come near to the Lord to minister to Him." 47He measured the court, a perfect square, a hundred cubits long and a hundred cubits wide; and the altar was in front of the temple.

40:44 NASB, NKJV, NRSV, JPSOA "chambers for the singers in the inner court" The MT has "chambers for the singers." The Septuagint has "two chambers" (RSV, TEV, NJB, REB) and says these rooms were "for the sacrificing priests" in v. 46. We can see the different functions of the Levite priests in vv. 45-46, therefore, "chambers" fits the immediate context better.

40:46 "These are the sons of Zadok" This was the lineage of Ezekiel. Zadok served Solomon in his temple. Jeremiah was from the line of Abiathar, who rebelled against David and was exiled from the temple service. Verses 45-46 may reflect the forgiveness of the line of Abiathar. As Israel and Judah are reunited, so too, the two families of priests. However, the sons of Zadok still exclusively attend the altar (cf. 43:19; 44:15-16).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:40:48-49
 48Then he brought me to the porch of the temple and measured each side pillar of the porch, five cubits on each side; and the width of the gate was three cubits on each side. 49The length of the porch was twenty cubits and the width eleven cubits; and at the stairway by which it was ascended were columns belonging to the side pillars, one on each side.

40:49 "and the width eleven cubits" The Septuagint has "twelve cubits," which seems to fit the overall structure better.

▣ "at the stairway by which it was ascended" The Septuagint adds "ten steps."

▣ "the sacred pillars" This seems to refer to the two free-standing pillars in the front of Solomon's temple, which were called Jachin and Boaz (cf. II Kgs. 7:15-22; II Chr. 3:17).