Ezekiel 44:10
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) And the Levites that are gone away.—The connection between this and the preceding verse is made clearer by translating the first words, “Yea, even;” not only the uncircumcised in heart among the heathen are to be excluded from the sanctuary, but even the Levites who had apostatised are to bear their guilt. Levites is here used (see Ezekiel 44:13), as often, emphatically of the Levitical priests. At the great schism of the northern kingdom these had remained true to the worship of Jehovah (2Chronicles 11:13); but in the subsequent general religious declension many of them, as has appeared from Ezekiel 8, had fallen into idolatry. Such priests are to be allowed, like the priests under the law who had any physical blemish (Leviticus 21:17-23), to minister in the more menial offices of the priesthood, but not to approach the altar (Ezekiel 44:11-14).

44:1-31 This chapter contains ordinances relative to the true priests. The prince evidently means Christ, and the words in ver. 2, may remind us that no other can enter heaven, the true sanctuary, as Christ did; namely, by virtue of his own excellency, and his personal holiness, righteousness, and strength. He who is the Brightness of Jehovah's glory entered by his own holiness; but that way is shut to the whole human race, and we all must enter as sinners, by faith in his blood, and by the power of his grace.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.10, 11. Levites … shall … bear—namely, the punishment of

their iniquity … Yet they shall be ministers—So Mark, a Levite, nephew of Barnabas (Ac 4:36), was punished by Paul for losing an opportunity of bearing the cross of Christ, and yet was afterwards admitted into his friendship again, and showed his zeal (Ac 13:13; 15:37; Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11). One may be a believer, and that too in a distinguished place, and yet lose some special honor—be acknowledged as pious, yet be excluded from some dignity [Bengel].

charge at the gates—Better to be "a doorkeeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Ps 84:10). Though standing as a mere doorkeeper, it is in the house of God, which hath foundations: whereas he who dwells with the wicked, dwells in but shifting tents.

The Levites; priests intended here, and indeed the sons or posterity of them are here intended; for this apostacy among them was elder than the eldest of them all.

Far from me: idolaters go far from God, for they depart as an adulterous wife from her husband; their hearts and affections are far from God, they fall to heathenish idolatry.

When Israel went astray: it may be worth our while to inquire what time, or near what time, this was. I doubt Baal-peor, Numbers 25, or from Solomon’s time, when there was somewhat of this sin among the priests. But of Rehoboam’s time it is said, 2 Chronicles 12:1, all Israel forsook the law of the Lord. And in Ahaz’s time, when the altar at Damascus so pleased him and the high priest Uriah, that presently an altar like that is made and set up between God’s house and altar; and orders, or, in our language, injunctions, from the king to the high priest, and from him to the inferior priests and Levites, who obey, 2 Kings 16:16: and Manasseh carried the apostacy higher. Now account from any of these; from the last of them to the first return out of captivity is one hundred and fourteen years, to which we must add the twenty-five years which each priest must be ere they enter the priest’s office, it will amount to one hundred and thirty-nine years, and to these add forty-four ere this temple was repaired, it will be one hundred and eighty-three years too great an age for any of the priests to be of; therefore, as I said, the priests that are now degraded are the children of those apostate priests who were {as Zechariah 1:5,6, said of the fathers} dead.

They shall bear their iniquity; shall bear the punishment of this their apostacy, be debased to meanest services, subjected to others, and be deprived for ever ministering at the altar. So 2 Kings 23:8,9; and so God executed his threat against Eli’s house, 1 Samuel 2:13. And the Levites that are gone away far from me,.... These Levites were priests, as appears from Ezekiel 44:13, who professed themselves Gospel preachers, ministers of the reformed churches; but departed from the reformation principles; erred from the faith; and either mixed it with the doctrines of men, or wholly dropped, concealed, or dissembled it; departed from the word of God, as the rule of faith and practice; and set up their own reason as their guide in matters of religion; were gone off from the pure worship of God and his ordinances, and entirely neglected the discipline of his house:

when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; though there may be an allusion to some apostasy of literal Israel, under the Old Testament, and from whence language may be borrowed to express this; either to the Israelites joining themselves to Baalpeor in the fields of Moab, in the time of Phinehas, who was zealous and faithful to the Lord, from whom Zadok descended after mentioned: or to the defection in the times of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, when all Israel forsook the word of the Lord: or to the times of Ahaz, when Uriah the priest made an altar like to that at Damascus by the king's order; and which idolatrous practices increased in the times of Manasseh; when, no doubt, many of the priests and Levites, either through fear of kings, or on account of gain, and for the sake of their livelihood, departed from the Lord and his worship: but the reference is to a defection in the times of the New Testament, and in the latter days of those times; not to the falling away of the church of Rome, and its departure from the faith and order of the Gospel, predicted 2 Thessalonians 2:3, though, no doubt, some truly godly ministers have been carried away with the errors of that church, and afterwards restored, as these Levites: but the case here referred to is the declension in the reformed churches; their formality; their great imperfection in the service of God; their departure from the doctrine of faith they once heard and received, which they are called upon to repent of; their defiling themselves with superstition and will worship, and going after the idols of their own hearts, corrupt reason, the doctrines and inventions of men, and carnal rites and ceremonies; see Revelation 3:1,

they shall even bear their iniquity; that is, the Levites, priests, or ministers; they shall bear the shame and disgrace, when they come to see their errors, and the punishment and chastisement of their sin, of which hereafter.

And the {d} Levites that have gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, who went astray from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity.

(d) The Levites who had committed idolatry were put from their dignity and could not be received into the priests office although they had been of the house of Aaron, but must serve in the inferior offices as to watch and to keep the doors, read 2Ki 23:9.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. And the Levites] But the Levites which went away far from me … after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity, 11 and shall be ministers &c. The clause “they shall be ministers” explains how these Levites shall bear their iniquity—they shall be degraded from the priestly office and reduced to the place of subordinate servants. To “bear iniquity” is to bear the penalty of it, ch. Ezekiel 4:4. On “idols,” ch. Ezekiel 6:4.

which went astray] Most naturally refers to Israel, cf. Ezekiel 44:15; though it might refer to the Levites, cf. Ezekiel 48:11.Verses 10-14. - The ordinance for the Levites. According to the so-called priest-code, the Levites were Levi's descendants, who were chosen by Jehovah for service in the tabernacle (Numbers 3:6-13; Numbers 16:9), to minister to the priests when these sacrificed in the tabernacle (Numbers 8:19; Numbers 18:6), and in particular to keep the charge of the tabernacle, i.e. of the house and all its vessels (Numbers 1:53), as distinguished from the charge of the sanctuary and of the altar, which pertained to Aaron and his sons alone as priests (Numbers 18:2-6, 23). The Deuteronomic code, says Wellhausen ('Geschichte Israels,' pp. 121, etc.), was unacquainted with any such distinction between Levites and priests, who, it is alleged, composed one homogeneous body, the tribe of Levi, whose members were equally empowered to officiate at the altar (Deuteronomy 10:8), the lower duties of the tabernacle having been performed by the aforesaid strangers, and the subordination of Levites to priests having first been suggested by Ezekiel (comp. Smend, 'Der Prophet Ezekiel,' p. 361, "Der unterschied zwischen Priestern und Leviten ist hier im Enstehn begriffen"), and first formally carried out alter the exile. This theory, however, cannot be admitted as made out in face of

(1) Deuteronomy 18, which (ver. 1) recognizes "the priests" and" the Levites" as constituting "the whole tribe of Levi," and (ver. 3, 6) distinguishes between "the priest" and "the Levite;"

(2) 2 Samuel 15:24, which associates with Zadok the priest, the Levites as carriers of the ark;

(3) 1 Kings 8:4, in which the same distinction between the two bodies is recognized;

(4) 1 and 2 Chronicles, passim, which attest the existence of priests and Levites as separate temple officials in pre-exilic times; and

(5) Ezra 1:5, 62; Ezra 3:8, 10; 6:20, which show that the distinction, alleged to have been first made by Ezekiel, was well known to the first company of exiles who returned under Zerubbabel to Jerusalem, and was by them traced back to pre-exilic times (see Keil, on REFERENCE_WORK:Keil & DelitzschDeuteronomy 18:1; Curtiss's 'Levitical Priests,' pp. 22, etc.; Delitzsch, in Luthardt's 'Zeit-schrift fur kirchliche Wissensehaft,' pp. 286, etc., aud in Riehm's ' Handworterbuch des Biblischen Alterthums,' art. "Leviten;" Oehler, in Herzog's 'Real-Encyclopadie,' art. "Levi"). The question, therefore, of which Levites Ezekiel speaks in this verse, whether of those whose duties were of a menial order or of those whose functions partook of a priestly character, is not difficult to resolve. It could hardly have been the former, since in vers. 11-14 Ezekiel's Levites are represented as about to be degraded by being relegated to inferior tasks than those they had formerly performed; it must have been the latter, because in the present verse they are designated the Levites that are gone away (or, went) far from me, when Israel went astray. Now, Israel's apostasy from Jehovah and declension towards idolatry began with Solomon's unfaithfulness (1 Kings 11:4-8), and continued with greater or less intensity in every subsequent reign till the exile; it certainly cannot be restricted, as Keil and Currey propose, to Jeroboam's conduct in setting up rival sanctuaries in Dan and Bethel, with altars and priests, for the accommodation of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 12:26-33). Nor is there room for doubting, although historical notices of the fact are not abundant, that in this apostasy the priesthood largely led the way (Jeremiah 26:7, 11; 2 Kings 16:11-16; Zephaniah 1:4), becoming priests of the high places, ministering for the people at heathen altars, and so causing them to fall into iniquity (ver. 12). Hengstenberg and Plumptre suggest that the reason why these apostate priests are now called Levites was to intimate that they were no more worthy of the priesthood, and were about to be reduced to the lower ministry of the Levites so called. Consequently, under the new Torah, those among the priests (who were also Levites) who had been guilty of this flagrant wickedness (i.e., says Delitzsch, all the Aaronides who were not Zadokitos) would no more, either in themselves or their descendants, be suffered to retain the priestly office, but would be degraded to the status of ordinary Levites, and, like them, should be ministers in Jehovah's sanctuary, having charge - or, oversight (Revised Version) - at the gates of the house, and ministering, to (or, in) the house, i.e. in its courts, serving as keepers of the charge of the house (ver. 14), as watchers at the gates of the house (ver. 11), as slaughterers of the sacrificial victims (ver. 11), but should not, like their brethren who had remained faithful, be allowed to do the office of a priest, i.e. approach the altar to offer sacrifice, or to enter into the holy place (ver. 13). In this way they should bear their iniquity (vers. 10,12) - a favorite expression in the middle books of the Pentateuch (Exodus 28:38, 43; Leviticus 5:1; Leviticus 10:17; Leviticus 20:19; Numbers 5:31; Numbers 18:1), but never occurring in Deuteronomy, and meaning "to be requited" on account of, and make expiation for, sin and their shame and their abominations, i.e. the shame due to them for their abominations - a specially Ezekelian phrase (comp. Ezekiel 16:52, 54; Ezekiel 32:30; Ezekiel 36:7). The North Gate and the South Gate of the Outer Court (1 Plate IA)

The description of these two gate-buildings is very brief, only the principal portions being mentioned, coupled with the remark that they resembled those of the east gate. The following is the description of the north gate. - Ezekiel 40:20. And the gate, whose direction was toward the north, touching the outer court, he measured its length and its breadth, Ezekiel 40:21. And its guard-rooms, three on this side and three on that, and its pillars and its wall-projections. It was according to the measure of the first gate, fifty cubits its length, and the breadth five and twenty cubits. Ezekiel 40:22. And its windows and its wall-projections and its palms were according to the measure of the gate, whose direction was toward the east; and by seven steps they went up, and its wall-projections were in front of it. Ezekiel 40:23. And a gate to the inner court was opposite the gate to the north and to the east; and he measured from gate to gate a hundred cubits. - With the measuring of the breadth of the court the measuring man had reached the north gate, which he also proceeded to measure now. In Ezekiel 40:20 the words והשּׁער to החיצונה are written absolutely; and in Ezekiel 40:21 the verb היה does not belong to the objects previously enumerated, viz., guard-rooms, pillars, etc., but these objects are governed by ויּמד yb denrevog e, and היה points back to the principal subject of the two verses, השּׁער: it (the gate) was according to the measure... (cf. Ezekiel 40:15 and Ezekiel 40:13). For the use of ב in definitions of measurement, "25 בּאמּה" (by the cubit, sc. measured), as in Exodus 27:18, etc., see Gesenius, 120. 4, Anm. 2. The "first gate" is the east gate, the one first measured and described. In Ezekiel 40:23 the number of steps is given which the flight leading into the gateway had; and this of course applies to the flight of steps of the east gate also (Ezekiel 40:6). In Ezekiel 40:22, כּמדּת is not to be regarded as doubtful, as Hitzig supposes, or changed into כּ; for even if the windows of the east gate were not measured, they had at all events a definite measurement, so that it might be affirmed with regard to the windows of the north gate that their dimensions were the same. This also applies to the palm-decorations. With regard to the אלמּים (Ezekiel 40:21), however, it is simply stated that they were measured; but the measurement is not given. לפּניהם (Ezekiel 40:22, end) is not to be altered in an arbitrary and ungrammatical way into לפנימה, as Bttcher proposes. The suffix הם refers to the steps. Before the steps there were the אילמּים of the gate-building. This "before," however, is not equivalent to "outside the flight of steps," as Bttcher imagines; for the measuring man did not go out of the inside of the gate, or go down the steps into the court, but came from the court and ascended the steps, and as he was going up he saw in front (vis--vis) of the steps the אילמּים of the gate, i.e., the wall-projections on both sides of the threshold of the gate. In Ezekiel 40:23 it is observed for the first time that there was a gate to the inner court opposite to the northern and the eastern gate of the outer court already described, so that the gates of the outer and inner court stood vis--vis. The distance between these outer and inner gates is then measured, viz., 100 cubits, in harmony with Ezekiel 40:19.

In Ezekiel 40:24-27 the south gate is described with the same brevity. Ezekiel 40:24. And he led me toward the south, and behold there was a gate toward the south, and he measured its pillars and its wall-projections according to the same measures. Ezekiel 40:25. And there were windows in it and its wall-projections round about like those windows; fifty cubits was the length, and the breadth five and twenty cubits. Ezekiel 40:26. And seven steps were its ascent and its wall-projections in the front of them, and it had palm-work, one upon this side and one upon that on its pillars. Ezekiel 40:27. And there was a gate to the inner court toward the south, and he measured from gate to gate toward the south a hundred cubits. - This gate also was built exactly like the two others. The description simply differs in form, and not in substance, from the description of the gate immediately preceding. כּמּדּות האלּ, "like those measures," is a concise expression for "like the measures of the pillars already described at the north and east gates." For Ezekiel 40:25, compare Ezekiel 40:16 and Ezekiel 40:21; and for Ezekiel 40:26, vid., Ezekiel 40:22. Ezekiel 40:26 is clearly explained from Ezekiel 40:16, as compared with Ezekiel 40:9. And lastly, Ezekiel 40:27 answers to the 23rd verse, and completes the measuring of the breadth of the court, which was also a hundred cubits upon the south side, from the outer gate to the inner gate standing opposite, as was the case according to Ezekiel 40:19 upon the eastern side. Hvernick has given a different explanation of Ezekiel 40:27, and would take the measurement of a hundred cubits as referring to the distance between the gates of the inner court which stood opposite to each other, because in Ezekiel 40:27 we have משּׁער in the text, and not מן השּׁער; so that we should have to render the passage thus, "he measured from a gate to the gate toward the south a hundred cubits," and not "from the gate (already described) of the outer court," but from another gate, which according to the context of the verse must also be a gate of the inner court. But it is precisely the context which speaks decidedly against this explanation. For since, according to Ezekiel 40:18, the measuring man did not take the prophet into the inner court, for the purpose of measuring it before his eyes, till after he had measured from (a) gate to the south gate of the inner court, the distance which he had previously measured and found to be a hundred cubits is not to be sought for within the inner court, and therefore cannot give the distance between the gates of the inner court, which stood opposite to one another, but must be that from the south gate of the outer court to the south gate of the inner. This is the case not only here, but also in Ezekiel 40:23, where the north gate is mentioned. We may see how little importance is to be attached to the omission of the article in משּׁער from the expression משּׁער אל שׁער in Ezekiel 40:23, where neither the one gate nor the other is defined, because the context showed which gates were meant. Hvernick's explanation is therefore untenable, notwithstanding the fact that, according to Ezekiel 40:47, the size of the inner court was a hundred cubits both in breadth and length. - From the distance between the gates of the outer court and the corresponding gates of the inner, as given in Ezekiel 40:27, Ezekiel 40:23, and Ezekiel 40:19, we find that the outer court covered a space of two hundred cubits on every side, - namely, fifty cubits the distance which the outer court building projected into the court, and fifty cubits for the projection of the gate-building of the inner court into the outer court, and a hundred cubits from one gate-porch to the opposite one (50 + 50 + 100 equals 200).

Consequently the full size of the building enclosed by the wall (Ezekiel 40:5), i.e., of the temple with its two courts, may also be calculated, as it has been by many of the expositors. If we proceed, for example, from the outer north gate to the outer south gate upon the ground plan (Plate I), we have, to quote the words of Kliefoth, "first the northern breadth of the outer court (D) with its two hundred cubits; then the inner court, which measured a hundred cubits square according to Ezekiel 40:47 (E), with its hundred cubits; and lastly, the south side of the outer court with two hundred cubits more (D); so that the sanctuary was five hundred cubits broad from north to south. And if we start from the entrance of the east gate of the court (A), we have first of all the eastern breadth of the outer court, viz., two hundred cubits; then the inner court (e) with its hundred cubits; after that the temple-buildings, which also covered a space of a hundred cubits square according to Ezekiel 41:13-14, including the open space around them (G), with another hundred cubits; and lastly, the גּזרה (J), which was situated to the west of the temple-buildings, and also covered a space of a hundred cubits square according to Ezekiel 41:13-14, with another hundred cubits; so that the sanctuary was also five hundred cubits long from east to west, or, in other words, formed a square of five hundred cubits."

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