Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Afterward he brought me to the temple, and measured the posts, six cubits broad on the one side, and six cubits broad on the other side, which was the breadth of the tabernacle.XLI.
This chapter gives the measurements and describes the ornaments of the Temple itself and its various appurtenances.
(1) Six cubits broad.—These posts, as in other cases, are the parts of the wall at the sides of the entrance. There is an apparent discrepancy between this and the following verse, where “the sides of the door” are said to be “five cubits,” and the latter agrees with the whole width of the house (5 + 10 + 5 = 20.) It is necessary, therefore, to understand the measurement of this verse as taken the other way—as we should say, the side walls of the doors were of the same thickness with the other walls—viz., six cubits. The words which was are not in the original, and tend to give a false impression. Tabernacle or tent is the name by which the sanctuary was known before the erection of the Temple.
And the breadth of the door was ten cubits; and the sides of the door were five cubits on the one side, and five cubits on the other side: and he measured the length thereof, forty cubits: and the breadth, twenty cubits.(2) The length thereof, forty cubits.—These are exactly the dimensions of the Holy Place in Solomon’s Temple. The Holy of Holies is not included, being measured by itself in Ezekiel 41:4.
Then went he inward, and measured the post of the door, two cubits; and the door, six cubits; and the breadth of the door, seven cubits.(3) Went he inward.—There is here a noticeable change in the usual expression; in all other cases the angel had brought the prophet to the places to be measured, but as he is here entering the Holy of Holies, into which, under the law, Ezekiel might not enter, the angel goes in alone. The prophetic vision was not yet sufficiently clear to speak of the way into the true Holy of Holies as at length opened to all (Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 10:19).
The door, six cubits.—Door is here used for doorway, the clear space between the posts. The “breadth of the door” itself is immediately said to be seven cubits, the door overlapping the posts in a shoulder half a cubit on each side.
So he measured the length thereof, twenty cubits; and the breadth, twenty cubits, before the temple: and he said unto me, This is the most holy place.(4) Before the temple.—Temple is here, as in Ezekiel 41:1, used of the Holy Place, and before, or west of this, was the Holy of Holies, an exact cube, of the same size as in Solomon’s Temple. The thickness of the dividing wall between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies is nowhere mentioned, nor is it taken into account in the measurements. It was merely a division, either a vail, or perhaps a screen of wood, and occupied little room.
After he measured the wall of the house, six cubits; and the breadth of every side chamber, four cubits, round about the house on every side.(5) The wall of the house, six cubits.—The thickness of the wall is the same with that of the wall of the outer court (Ezekiel 40:5), about ten feet. Great massiveness is characteristic of Oriental architecture, but is carried to excess in this vision, to set forth the firmness and security of the things symbolised.
Every side chamber.—Every is not in the original, and is unnecessary. He measured the range of side rooms, the word being used collectively. These (J J [Ezekiel 40:44-49]) entirely surrounded the house, except on the front or east side where the porch stood.
And the side chambers were three, one over another, and thirty in order; and they entered into the wall which was of the house for the side chambers round about, that they might have hold, but they had not hold in the wall of the house.(6) Three, one over another, and thirty in order.—Literally, three (and that) thirty times—i.e., there were three storeys of chambers one above the other, and this was repeated thirty times, giving thirty chambers in each storey, or ninety in all. These chambers were exactly like those surrounding Solomon’s Temple, except that they were one cubit narrower, and the description of them is made clearer by a comparison with 1Kings 6:5-10. The Greek version says that there was a space between these chambers and the wall of the house, and several interpreters have followed this explanation; but this is quite inconsistent with the language of the original, and would involve an inner wall for the chambers, of which there is no mention, and for which no space is allowed.
Entered into the wall . . . but they had not hold.—More exactly, they came upon the wall. The “house” cannot without violence be understood of anything but the Temple itself. The construction was the same as in Solomon’s Temple (1Kings 6:6), the wall receding with each storey of the chambers, thus leaving a ledge on which the beams should rest, “that the beams should not be fastened in the walls of the house.”
Nothing is said of the distribution of these chambers, but, as will be seen by the plan, a uniform size requires that they should be placed twelve on each side, and six at the end of the Temple.
And there was an enlarging, and a winding about still upward to the side chambers: for the winding about of the house went still upward round about the house: therefore the breadth of the house was still upward, and so increased from the lowest chamber to the highest by the midst.(7) And there was an enlarging.—The description in this verse is difficult to understand, and has called out much variety of opinion. The main facts are clear: that there was an increase in the width of each storey of the side chambers by the distance which the wall receded, as is expressly said in 1Kings 6:6; but whether there was a corresponding recession in the thickness of the outer wall of the chambers is not stated. It is also plain that the side chambers surrounded the house; and that the two upper storeys were reached by a winding staircase (w [Ezekiel 40:44-49]). It is impossible to enter into more detail without a careful discussion of the words in the original, the meaning of some of which is disputed.
I saw also the height of the house round about: the foundations of the side chambers were a full reed of six great cubits.(8) I saw also the height of the house.—This does not mean the height of the house itself, which is nowhere stated. The words are, literally, I saw for the house a height (i.e., an elevation) round about, and the meaning of this is explained in what follows. The Temple, as has been already said (Ezekiel 40:49), was entered by a flight of steps leading up to the porch, and was therefore on a higher level than the court. We are now told that the side chambers had a foundation of six cubits. Whether this “foundation” of the Temple and the side chambers was built of masonry, or, as is more probable, was a sort of basement to contain cisterns and storage rooms, we are not told; but it probably extended, under the name of “the place that was left” (Ezekiel 41:9; Ezekiel 41:11), five cubits beyond the outer wall of the chambers, forming a platform from which they were entered.
Six great cubits.—Literally, six cubits to the joint, or to the armpit, for the word has both significations. It is plain that a cubit of a different length, measured to the armpit, cannot be intended, both because no such cubit is known to have been in use at any time, and because Ezekiel in Ezekiel 40:5 has already fixed the length of the cubit he uses. The sense of joint is therefore to be taken, and this applied architecturally can only mean the point at which one part of the building joins another; here, the point where the superstructure meets the foundation, or, as we should say, “six cubits to the water-table.”
The thickness of the wall, which was for the side chamber without, was five cubits: and that which was left was the place of the side chambers that were within.(9) That which was left.—After stating the thickness of the outer wall of the side chambers at five cubits, the prophet speaks of the remaining space left unoccupied by the building. The clause should be translated, “and so also (i.e., of the same width) was that which was left free against the house of side chambers which belonged to the house,” i.e., to the Temple. The same width is assigned to this space in Ezekiel 41:11.
And between the chambers was the wideness of twenty cubits round about the house on every side.(10) Between the chambers.—There was a space of twenty cubits (I) between the foundation on which the chambers and the Temple stood and the wall of the court on all three sides on which the chambers extended.
And the doors of the side chambers were toward the place that was left, one door toward the north, and another door toward the south: and the breadth of the place that was left was five cubits round about.(11) The doors of the side chambers.—These doors opened upon the platform, that for the series on the north side to the north, and for the other to the south. There was but one door on each side, so that the series of chambers must have been entered one from another.
We may now sum up the measurements of the Temple with its chambers and surrounding space. The wall, 6 cubits; the chambers, 4; their outer wall, 5; the platform beyond, 5; the space beyond this, 20 (6 + 4 + 5 + 5 + 20 = 40). This was on each side, and therefore is to be doubled, making 80 cubits; to this add the 20 cubits of the inner width of the Temple, and we have exactly the 100 cubits, the width of the inner court. In the same way the length: here the porch is considered as belonging to the court, and with it the front wall of the Temple, the thickness of which is included in the length of the porch. Beginning then at the inside of the outer walls, we have the inner length of Temple, 60 cubits; rear wall, 6; chambers, 4; outer wall, 5; platform, 5; space, 20; in all, 100 cubits. thus making an exact square.
Now the building that was before the separate place at the end toward the west was seventy cubits broad; and the wall of the building was five cubits thick round about, and the length thereof ninety cubits.(12) The separate place.—This is the space at the west end of the Temple (20 cubits broad) before coming to another building. Nothing is here said of the purposes of this other building; but it is probably “the appointed place” (Ezekiel 43:21) for the burning of the sin-offering, and also of any remains of other sacrifices which required to be consumed by fire, and of any other refuse from the Temple. Its total width of 80 cubits (70 cubits + 2 walls of 5 cubits each) leaves a passage-way of 10 cubits on each side; while its length (90 cubits + two walls of 5 cubits each—100 cubits) Just fills the space from “the separate place” to the wall of the court. (See plan II., G. [Ezekiel 40:44-49]) The sum-total of the exterior measurements is given in Ezekiel 41:13-14.
And he measured the length of the building over against the separate place which was behind it, and the galleries thereof on the one side and on the other side, an hundred cubits, with the inner temple, and the porches of the court;(15) And he measured.—The rest of the chapter consists of an enumeration of various details, for the most part not before mentioned, and this is introduced by a summary of the measurements already made. This clause is therefore to be understood as equivalent to “So he measured,” or, “And he had measured.” The dimensions of each of the principal parts is then repeated: the building to the west of the Temple, the Temple itself, and the porches of the court. The only new point introduced is “the galleries thereof.” It seems certain that this must refer to the building beyond “the separate place;” but the word for galleries occurs only here and in Ezekiel 41:16, and Ezekiel 42:3; Ezekiel 42:5, and its derivation is quite unknown. The translation, galleries, is probably correct; and as there was a space of 10 cubits on each side of the building in question, there may very well have been galleries covering and protecting its entrances, although they are not located with sufficient definiteness to be drawn on the plan.
The door posts, and the narrow windows, and the galleries round about on their three stories, over against the door, cieled with wood round about, and from the ground up to the windows, and the windows were covered;(16) The door posts.—This is the same word as in Ezekiel 40:6-7, &c., and means thresholds. The various particulars mentioned—the thresholds, the windows, and the galleries—are all to be taken in connection with the “he measured” of Ezekiel 41:15, and are details of the three buildings there spoken of, yet they did not all of them necessarily belong to each building.
Narrow windows.—Rather, closed windows. (See Note on Ezekiel 40:16.)
On their three stories.—“Stories” is not in the original, and introduces a wrong idea. He measured the three buildings (Ezekiel 41:15), and various details about their three (constructions) (Ezekiel 41:16).
Over against the door, cieled with wood round about.—This is really a parenthesis, although scarcely intelligible as it stands. Translate, Opposite the thresholds (was) a ceiling of wood round about. The part strictly opposite the threshold was the lintel; but the expression is here broad enough to include also the sides of the doorway. The doorways in the various buildings were all ceiled with wood, and it is afterwards said that this was carved.
And from the ground.—After the parenthesic, the construction dependent upon “he measured” is resumed. As everything else was measured, so also the space between the ground and the windows; then, again, it is mentioned parenthetically that the windows were covered, viz., as in Ezekiel 40:16, by lattices fastened so as not to be opened.
To that above the door, even unto the inner house, and without, and by all the wall round about within and without, by measure.(17) To that above the door.—Better, (The space) over above the door, both to the inner house and without . . . (was) by measure. The verse is an emphatic repetition of the fact that everything was by measure.
And it was made with cherubims and palm trees, so that a palm tree was between a cherub and a cherub; and every cherub had two faces;(18) With cherubims and palm trees.—Ezekiel 41:18-21 describe the interior ornamentation of the Temple, which was like that of the Temple of Solomon (1Kings 6:29-30). It may be assumed that here, as there, these figures were carved upon the woodwork. The “s” at the end of “cherubims” is quite unnecessary, “cherubim” itself being plural.
Every cherub had two faces.—In Ezekiel 1, 10 the cherubim are represented each with four faces, but being merely symbolic, not actual creatures, they may be modified at pleasure, and here, in accordance with the exigencies of the carving, they have but two faces.
From the ground unto above the door were cherubims and palm trees made, and on the wall of the temple.(20) Unto above the door.—The height of the door is nowhere mentioned, and therefore there is nothing to determine how high up the carving was carried; but as it is said that it was also “upon the wall of the Temple,” we may assume that the whole interior wall was ceiled with carved wood as in Solomon’s Temple.
The posts of the temple were squared, and the face of the sanctuary; the appearance of the one as the appearance of the other.(21) The posts of the temple.—Posts is a different word from that hitherto used, and always means the framework in which the doors were hung. Temple is, as before, the Holy Place, in distinction from the sanctuary, or Holy of Holies. The door-frames of both were square and just alike.
The altar of wood was three cubits high, and the length thereof two cubits; and the corners thereof, and the length thereof, and the walls thereof, were of wood: and he said unto me, This is the table that is before the LORD.(22) The altar of wood.—This is what was known in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:1-3) as the altar of incense, and in the Temple as the altar of gold (1Kings 7:48), although here its dimensions are enlarged.
The corners thereof.—This doubtless includes the “horns,” or projecting pieces at the corners, which were always an important part of the symbolism of the altar. The expression “length” in its repetition is generally thought to mean (by a slight change in the text) “the stand” or “base.” Table and altar are used synonymously, as in Malachi 1:7.
And the doors had two leaves apiece, two turning leaves; two leaves for the one door, and two leaves for the other door.(24) Two turning leaves.—The doors both of the Holy Place and of the Holy of Holies are more fully described in 1Kings 6:31-35. It is to be understood that each of them was made in two parts, and each part again in two leaves folding back, so that there were in all four leaves in each door.
And there were made on them, on the doors of the temple, cherubims and palm trees, like as were made upon the walls; and there were thick planks upon the face of the porch without.(25) Thick planks.—After stating that the doors just described were ornamented like the walls, the prophet speaks of something that was on the outer front of the porch. What this was, is extremely doubtful, as the word is elsewhere used only in 1Kings 7:6, of something in front of Solomon’s cloisters or “porch of pillars.” Perhaps the best suggestion is that it may have been a moulding of wood. The word in the original is in the singular.
And there were narrow windows and palm trees on the one side and on the other side, on the sides of the porch, and upon the side chambers of the house, and thick planks.(26) Windows and palm trees.—These have already been mentioned in connection with the gateways (Ezekiel 40:16), and are now further described as in the “side chambers of the temple.” The last word, translated “thick planks,” is very obscure. If it be the plural of the word used in Ezekiel 41:25, it would mean that the mouldings in front of the porches were also carved with palm trees.
It is to be observed that in these outer parts of the Temple only palm trees were used in the ornamentation, the cherubim being reserved for the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
The description of the Temple proper is now finished, and it is noticeable how very little is said of its interior furniture and arrangements. There is no mention at all of that profuse overlaying with gold so characteristic of Solomon’s Temple; nothing is said of the candlestick, or the table of show-bread; even the ark itself, that climax of Israel’s symbolic worship, is not mentioned. The prophet seems to be looking forward to the time described by his contemporary, Jeremiah, when these outward symbols should be forgotten in the higher spiritual presence of the Lord: “They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD; neither shall it come to mind. . . . At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it” (Jeremiah 3:16-17).