The relation of the different classes of people to the temple and its courts.
Ezekiel 44:1-3. The position of the Prince.
Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut.Outward sanctuary - The court of the priests, as distinguished from the temple itself. This gate was reserved for the prince, to whom it was opened on certain days. Only a prince of the house of David might sit down in the priests' court (compare Ezekiel 46:1-2).
Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.The Lord hath entered in - See Ezekiel 43:2.
It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same.The prince - Foretold under the name of David Ezekiel 34:24. The rabbis understood this to be the Messiah.
To eat bread - See Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 24:9; according to the old Law these feasts belonged only to the priests; none of the rest of the congregation, not even the king, might partake of them. The new system gives to the "prince" a privilege which he did not before possess; the prince, as the representative of the Messiah, standing in a higher position than the kings of old. "To eat bread" may also include participation in the animals sacrificed, portions of which were reserved for those of the people who offered them.
Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD: and I fell upon my face.Admonition to the ministering priests, grounded upon former neglect.
The north gate before the house - The north gate of the inner court. God expostulates with His people in the seat of their former idolatries Ezekiel 8:3.
And the LORD said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the LORD, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.Mark well - The careful arrangements made had all been intended to keep the temple and its surroundings from profanation. Hence, attention to these particulars is enjoined.
And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations,
In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.Strangers - This refers especially to the sin of unauthorized and unfaithful priests ministering in the services of the temple. Compare marginal references.
And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.Mine holy things - The altar, its sacrifices, the sacred utensils, and the like.
For yourselves - According to your own pleasure, not My ordinances Numbers 16:40.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.
And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity.The Levites as a body had remained true to the temple-service at Jerusalem 2 Chronicles 11:13; but individuals among them deserted to Israel probably from the first (see the marginal references), as in later years some went over to the worship of the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. These apostate Levites "shall bear their iniquities," they shall not be restored to their former rank and privileges.
Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them.Ministers - As, according to the new system, the Levites, as a body, were to receive their portion in the "oblation" Ezekiel 45:5; the only manner in which the Levites of Ezekiel 44:10 could live at all, was as part of the whole body, to which they were therefore reunited, but in the lowest grade. It is remarkable that the number of Levites who returned after the captivity was very small, not exceeding 400, of whom only 74 were priests' assistants (Ezra 2:40-42; compare Ezra 8:15-19). The gap in their number was filled up by 220 Nethinim ("given" ones), probably originally strangers and captives, who, although employed in the temple services, were held by the Jews in the lowest repute.
Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their iniquity.Lifted up mine hand - i. e., "The Lord sware" Ezekiel 20:5, that they should bear their iniquities.
And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed.
But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein.
But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD:
They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge.
And it shall come to pass, that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, whiles they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within.Regulations as to the priests' services. The garments of the priests are defined and various rules prescribed in the Law are repeated with some additions in order to denote additional care to avoid uncleanness.
They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat.The material of which the four vestments of the ordinary priest were made was "linen," or, more accurately, "byssus," the cotton stuff of Egypt. The two special qualities of the byssus - white and shining - are characteristic, and on them part of the symbolic meaning depended. Compare Revelation 19:8.
And when they go forth into the utter court, even into the utter court to the people, they shall put off their garments wherein they ministered, and lay them in the holy chambers, and they shall put on other garments; and they shall not sanctify the people with their garments.They shall not sanctify the people - They shall not touch the people with their holy garments. The word "sanctify" is used because the effect of touching was to separate as holy the persons or things so touched (Exodus 29:37; Exodus 30:29; compare Leviticus 6:18). The priests wore the distinctive dress, only while performing in the temple strictly sacrificial services.
The holy chambers; see Ezekiel 42:1 ff.
Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads.
Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court.
Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away: but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before.Restrictions and exceptions intended to mark the holiness of the office of a priest, imposing on him additional (compare the marginal reference) obligations to purity, and communicating it in some degree to his wife. In the Christian Church all the members are "priests" 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 20:6. Hence, the directions for maintaining the holiness of the "priesthood" in the new order, represent the necessity for holiness in all Christians, and the exclusion of the "uncircumcised in heart and in flesh" is equivalent to the exclusion of "all that defileth" from the New Jerusalem Revelation 21:27.
And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths.There was in Herod's Temple a council of priests, whose special duty it was to regulate every thing connected with the sanctuary. They did not ordinarily busy themselves with criminal questions, although they took a leading part in the condemnation of Jesus Mark 15:1.
And they shall come at no dead person to defile themselves: but for father, or for mother, or for son, or for daughter, for brother, or for sister that hath had no husband, they may defile themselves.
And after he is cleansed, they shall reckon unto him seven days.
And in the day that he goeth into the sanctuary, unto the inner court, to minister in the sanctuary, he shall offer his sin offering, saith the Lord GOD.
And it shall be unto them for an inheritance: I am their inheritance: and ye shall give them no possession in Israel: I am their possession.It shall be unto them - The remains of the sacrifices were a chief source of the priests' support. The burnt-offerings being entirely consumed, the priests had the skins, which yielded a considerable revenue; meat-offerings and drink-offerings belonged entirely to them. sin-offerings and trepass-offerings, except in particular cases, also belonged to the priests and were partaken of in the temple. Of the peace-offerings a portion dedicated to the Lord by waving was left for the priests, and the rest eaten by the officers and their friends, either in the courts of the temple, or at least within Jerusalem. The kitchen-courts (K, Plan II Ezek. Ezekiel 46:21-24), were provided in order to prepare these public meals.
They shall eat the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; and every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs.
And the first of all the firstfruits of all things, and every oblation of all, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priest's: ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house.Oblation - Offering, margin "heave-offering" (see Ezekiel 45:1; Exodus 25:2; Exodus 29:27; Notes and Pref. to Leviticus).
The priests shall not eat of any thing that is dead of itself, or torn, whether it be fowl or beast.