This chapter gives an account of the glory of God having returned to the temple, Ezekiel 44:14. The Jews reproved for suffering idolatrous priests to pollute it with their ministrations, Ezekiel 44:5-8. Ordinances respecting the conduct of the priests, and the maintenance due to them, vv. 9-31.
Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut.The outward sanctuary - In opposition to the temple itself, which was the inner sanctuary.
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.This gate shall be shut - It was not to be opened on ordinary occasions, nor at all on the week days: but only on the Sabbaths and the new moons. See the account of the gates (4) in the explanation of the plan.
This verse has been adduced by the Roman Catholics to prove the perpetual virginity of the mother of our Lord; and it may be allowed to be as much to the purpose as any other that has been brought to prove this very precarious point, on which no stress should ever be laid by any man. Mary was a virgin when she brought forth Jesus.
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.
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.
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, and behold - Take notice of every thing; register all so fully that thou shalt be able to give the most minute information to the children of Israel.
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.The fat and the blood - These never went into common use; they were wholly offered to God. The blood was poured out; the fat consumed.
Because of all your abominations - Several MSS. of Kennicott's and De Rossi's read their abominations, referring to the strangers mentioned before.
And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.
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.And the Levites that are gone away far from me - This refers to the schism of Jeroboam, who, when he set up a new worship, got as many of the priests and Levites to join him in his idolatry as he could. These, on the return from the captivity, should not be permitted to perform the functions of priests in the new temple; but they might be continued as keepers of all the charge of the house - be treasurers, guards of the temple, porters, etc.; see Ezekiel 44:11-15. The whole of these passages refer to the period of time when the second temple was built.
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.
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.
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.Come near to my table - To place the shew-bread there, and to burn incense on the golden altar in the holy of holies.
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.No wool shall come upon them - The reason is plain; wool is more apt than linen to contract dirt and breed insects; linen breeds none; besides, this is a vegetable, and the other an animal substance. It was an ancient maxim, that whatever was taken from a dead body was impure in matters of religion, and should not be permitted to enter into the temple. The Egyptian priests always wore linen on their bodies, and shoes of matting or rushes on their feet. The Mohammedans never write the Koran upon vellum or skin of any kind, as they would consider that as a defilement.
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.
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.
Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads.Neither shall they shave their heads - The priests of Isis shaved their heads close to the skin; the priests of Budhoo do so still, their ordinances oblige them to shave their heads every tenth day. To let the hair grow long would have been improper; therefore the Lord commands them to poll - cut the hair short, but not to shave.
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.Neither shall they take for their wives a widow - This was prohibited to the high priest only, by Moses, Leviticus 21:13, Leviticus 21:14.
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.
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 they shall come at no dead person to defile themselves - Touching the dead defiles a Hindoo now, as it formerly did a Jew; and they must bathe to become clean again.
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.I am their inheritance - Those who affect to form their ecclesiastical matters on the model of the Jewish Church have with one consent left this out of the question. They will not live on the free-will offerings of the people; but must have vast revenues, and these secured to them by law. That every minister of God should be supported by the altar I grant; but I think, instead of that method of paying the parochial clergy which I see is so much objected to, and breeds so much dissension between the pastors and their flocks, it would be better, on these accounts, to assign them a portion of land adequate to their supply, or let the state maintain them as it does its other officers. In Israel God was their inheritance and their possession; but they had the breast and shoulder of all sin-offerings and trespass-offerings, and all dedicated things were theirs; and they had a portion of all the dough that was prepared for bread. These were considered as the Lord's property, and these he gave to them; and this is always implied in the Lord's being their inheritance and their possession. They had a plentiful support.
Hitherto tithes have been thought the best mode of paying the clergy, and providing for the poor of each parish; but these matters have undergone such alterations since the time of their institution, that some emendation of the system is at present absolutely necessary.
There should be a public acknowledgment of God in every nation, and this should be provided for by the state in a way the least burdensome to the people, that all may rejoice in the benefit. Happy the nations that have a Bible so correct, and a Liturgy so pure, as those in the British empire! In such cases, a religion established by the state is an unutterable blessing to the nation; only keep it to the Bible, and to the Liturgy, and all, under God, will be well; but when the sermon is against these, all is bad.
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.
The priests shall not eat of any thing that is dead of itself, or torn, whether it be fowl or beast.