Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east:XLIII.
The new Temple had now been shown to the prophet with all its arrangements and measurements; it remained that the structure should be divinely accepted by the manifestation of the glory of the Lord, as in the case of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35), and of the former Temple (1Kings 8:10-11; 2Chronicles 5:13-14; 2Chronicles 7:1-3). The description of this and the accompanying message occupy Ezekiel 43:1-12. With Ezekiel 43:13 the account of the ordinances of Divine worship to be celebrated in the Temple begins, and is continued to the close of Ezekiel 46.
(2) From the way of the east.—The prophet had been brought (Ezekiel 43:1) to the east gate, from which he had formerly seen the glory of the Lord depart (Ezekiel 10:18-19; Ezekiel 11:1; Ezekiel 11:23) on account of the pollution of His house. By the same way the glory of the Lord was now to return to the sanctuary prepared for it.
And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.(3) When I came to destroy the city.—That is, to announce its destruction. (Comp. Ezekiel 32:18; Genesis 49:7; Isaiah 6:10; Jeremiah 1:10.)
So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.(5) Brought me into the inner court.—Having seen the Divine glory enter by the eastern gate, the prophet, himself a priest, is brought into the court of the priests, and there sees the glory of the Lord fill the house as of old.
And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.(6) I heard him speaking.—Although the pronoun is not expressed in the original, there can be no question that God Himself spoke directly to the prophet, as in Ezekiel 44:2; Ezekiel 44:5; Ezekiel 44:9, &c. “The man” is without the article in the Hebrew, which leaves it uncertain whether the same being is meant who had hitherto guided the prophet; but as measurements were also made by this guide (Ezekiel 47:3-5), he was probably the same.
And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.(7) The place of the soles of my feet.—Comp. 1Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 132:7.
I will dwell . . . for ever.—This should be the peculiar distinction of the Temple seen in the vision. The Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple had both been accepted as the peculiar dwelling-place of God, but both had passed away. So also it would be with the material Temple of the restoration. But in this Temple of the vision God promises that He would dwell for ever.
By the carcases of their kings.—The “shall defile” with which the later clauses of this verse are connected is not an imperative, but a simple future, and is in accordance with the generally ideal character of the vision. The word “carcases” is here a difficult one. Some commentators understand it literally of the burial of some of the kings in the Temple area; but there is no historical proof that any were so buried, the gardens of the royal palace being quite too distant for the language here used, nor is there anywhere any allusion to such defilement. The simplest explanation is that the language is founded upon Leviticus 26:30, and means idols. Manasseh and others had introduced their idols into the very courts of the Temple (2Kings 21:4-7; sec also 2Kings 16:11).
In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.(8) And the wall between.—The sense is given in the margin: there was only a wall between me and them.
Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.(9) Now let them.—This is not an imperative, but a simple future, as in Ezekiel 43:7. The house of Israel will now put away their abominations, and God will dwell in their midst for ever. Carcases = idols, as in Ezekiel 43:7.
Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.(10) Shew the house.—This is still in vision; “make known to the people the new Temple and its appointments,” that, seeing God’s gracious purposes, they may repent of their evil doings.
Let them measure the pattern.—That is, let them carefully consider and follow out the provisions God had made for their worship. (Comp. Hebrews 8:5.) Exactness in the observance of all positive enactments is a necessary result of a desire to serve God.
And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.(11) If they be ashamed.—The same thing which had already been declared positively is now expressed contingently, showing that the sanctification of the people and God’s dwelling among them were correlative facts; the one could not be without the other. Many expressions of nearly the same meaning are heaped up, as it were, in the latter part of this verse, to emphasise the significance of the arrangements of the new Temple, and to secure for them the thought and consideration of the people.
This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.(12) Upon the top of the mountain.—Comp. Ezekiel 40:2. The command to keep and observe everything is closed, as often in similar cases, by a summary statement of the reason: for the whole surroundings of the dwelling-place of the Most High are holy.
With Ezekiel 43:13 a new part of the vision begins, extending to the close of Ezekiel 46, describing the new ordinances of the sanctuary. This is fitly opened with a description of the altar for the sacrifices, the central act of the ancient worship.
And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar.(13) A cubit and an hand breadth.—The measurement of the altar begins with the statement that the cubit used was of the same length as before (see Ezekiel 40:5). The description that follows (Ezekiel 43:13-17) will be made clearer by a simple diagram, with references to the parts described. The size of the base of the altar, it will be seen, was 16 cubits square, and its entire height was either 11 or 12 cubits. The altar in Solomon’s Temple was of brass, 20 cubits square, and 10 cubits high (2Chronicles 4:1), while that in the Tabernacle (of shittim-wood overlaid with brass) had been 5 cubits square, and 3 cubits high (Exodus 27:1). That in Herod’s Temple is said to have been 32 cubits square, and 10 cubits high, and was of hewn stone. The dimensions of Ezekiel’s altar seem to have been selected for the symmetry of the numbers in the several parts. In height it exceeded any of the others.
(a)Base or “bottom,” 1 cubit high, and 1 broad. This was 16 cubits square.
(bb′)“The border thereof,” a span or ½ cubit. It is uncertain whether this projected, forming a moulding as at b, and in this case was under c, and so increased the height of the altar; or whether it was as at b′, a ledge around 100. In Ezekiel 43:13 “higher place” should be base. The word means, primarily, arched, then a back, and then a support.
(c)The “lower settle,” 2 cubits high, and 1 broad.
(d)The “greater (or higher) settle,” 4 cubits high.
(e)The “altar” (Harel)—literally, the mountain of God—4 cubits high, and 12 cubits square.
(f)The “altar” (Ariel)—literally, the lion of God—the hearth of the same size, but the height not given, but probably not more than ½ cubit.
(gg) The “horns.” The whole height was eleven cubits or more, according to whether the height of f is included in that of e, and whether b passed under c, or was merely a ledge.
Ezekiel 43:18-27 make careful provision for the consecration of the altar just described. This is to be compared with Exodus 40 and Leviticus 8, although in that case the consecration of the altar and of the priests were joined together, while here that of the altar alone is described.
And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon.(18) In the day when they shall make it.—This looks to the future, and implies that the whole structure of the Temple, and its acceptance by the manifestation of the Divine glory, though necessarily represented in the vision as already done, were yet in the future. The phrase, “in the day when they shall make it,” is intended only to require the consecration of the altar before it is used. The actual time occupied by the consecration (Ezekiel 43:25-26) was to be seven days, as in Exodus 29:37.
And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord GOD, a young bullock for a sin offering.(19) Thou shalt give.—Ezekiel is not actually to do this, like Moses, as the appointed consecrator; but, as frequently in prophecy, he is told to do that which he foretells is to be done.
A young bullock.—In the case of the altar of the Tabernacle, the consecration began with anointing with oil (Leviticus 8:11), and this was a prominent feature of the service; but is here wholly omitted. The service began with the offering of a sin offering, which was always, according to the law, to be first offered when several kinds of sacrifice were to occur together. The propriety of this is manifest, since the first act of man’s approach to God must always consist of the confession of his sin.
And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it.(20) Take of the blood thereof.—Comp. Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 8:15; Hebrews 9:18; Hebrews 9:22. Nothing is here said of the pouring the rest of the blood at the foot of the altar, as required in the law, and nothing of the burning of the fat upon the altar, because the prophet throughout supposes the ritual of the sacrifices to be well known, and only mentions a few particulars to indicate the whole, and also a few others now introduced, peculiar to the new ceremonial.
Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering, and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary.(21) Burn it in the appointed place.—The flesh of the ordinary sin offerings was to be eaten by the priests; but when the victim was a bullock, as in case of a sin offering for the high priest (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:11-12), or for the whole congregation (Leviticus 4:13, Lev_4:20), it was to be burned without the camp. Here it is to be burned “in the appointed place of the house,” and yet “without the sanctuary,” or Temple building itself; it must, therefore, have been in the building described in 41:12
And on the second day thou shalt offer a kid of the goats without blemish for a sin offering; and they shall cleanse the altar, as they did cleanse it with the bullock.(22) A kid of the goats.—More exactly, a buck of the goats. This was the sin offering prescribed for a ruler (Leviticus 4:22-23). The expression “as they did with the bullock,” implies that the ritual was the same, and the flesh burned in the same way. At the consecration of the altar in Exodus 29:36, a bullock was required for the sin offering on each of the seven days for the consecration of both the altar and the priests.
When thou hast made an end of cleansing it, thou shalt offer a young bullock without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish.(23) Hast made an end of cleansing it.—Not an end of the entire service of consecration, but of the sin offering for the day, for Ezekiel 43:25 says distinctly that both a sin offering and a burnt offering were to be offered on each day of the seven. The reason that the burnt offering is not mentioned on the first day is, that the sin offering being changed on the second day, the prophet first describes that for both days, and then goes to the other, which remained the same throughout. Here the burnt offering is a bullock and a ram; in Exodus 29 two rams.
And thou shalt offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering unto the LORD.(24) Cast salt.—The word means throw or pour, indicating a more copious use of salt than the seasoning ordained by the law (Leviticus 2:13).
Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.(26) Shall consecrate themselves.—Our version has here followed the Masoretic emendation of the text; the literal translation of the text itself is, shall fill its hand, referring to the altar. To “fill the hand” is a synonym for consecration, commonly applied to the priests, who were consecrated by placing in their hands the gifts they were to offer to God. Here it is better to keep to the text as it stands, “filling the hand of the altar” being a strong figurative expression to denote that it shall always be supplied with sacrificial gifts. Nothing is said throughout the passage of the consecration of the priests, the whole family of Aaron having been consecrated once for all by the ceremonies of Leviticus 8.