Ezekiel 44:23
And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.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 21:27.21. Neither … wine—lest the holy enthusiasm of their devotion should be mistaken for inebriation, as in Peter's case (Ac 2:13, 15, 18). They shall teach; by their place they were bound to instruct the people, Leviticus 10:10,11; this was part of their work, to read the law, expound it, and resolve questions arising about it. They were to be, as ministers ought now to be, apt to teach, 1 Timothy 3:2.

Between the holy and profane; whether legally and ceremonially so, or morally and really so, that they might keep the people from pollutions.

Between the unclean and the clean; the same thing in other words, only this seems to require priests’ patient instructing, till the people have learned to difference unclean and clean.

And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the profane,.... Persons and things; not in a ceremonial, nor merely in a moral, but in an evangelical sense, between truth and error; between the doctrine which is according to godliness, and that which is corrupt and unsound, and eats as cloth a canker; between holy worship, and superstition; between holy duties, and profane and Heathen rites and ceremonies; and between persons sanctified by the Spirit and grace of God, and unconverted ones:

and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean; impure persons, doctrines, and manners, and those which are agreeable to the word of God; the sense is, that they shall take pains to instruct persons in the knowledge of divine things, and shall do it truly, faithfully, and sincerely.

And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23, 24. General duties of the priests towards the people. They shall teach the people to distinguish between the holy and the common, between the clean and the unclean, cf. Ezekiel 22:26; Leviticus 10:10; Haggai 2:11; Malachi 2:7.

Verses 23, 24. - Among the priests' official duties four things are prescribed.

(1) The education of the people in the fundamental principles of their religion, viz. that a distinction existed between the "holy" and "profane," or "common," and in the practical application of that principle, the art of discerning between the "unclean" and the "clean." This duty had been laid upon the priests of Mosaism (Leviticus 10:10; Deuteronomy 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:10), but in the last years of the monarchy had been neglected (Ezekiel 26:26; comp. Malachi 2:7-9).

(2) The administration of justice in all disputes arising out of and connected with the practices of their religion. This office had pertained to the priests under the Law (Numbers 5:14-31; Deuteronomy 17:8-13; Deuteronomy 19:17; Deuteronomy 21:5), and was exercised in pre-exilic times (Hosea 4:6; Micah 3:11; Isaiah 28:7; Jeremiah 18:18), though not always in accord-ante with Jehovah s judgments. That the juridical authority of the priests was purely of a moral kind (Wellhausen, Smend), can be maintained only by rejecting 2 Chronicles 17:7-9 and 2 Chron 19:5-11 as unhistorical

(3) The regulation of all festal assemblies in accordance with the Divine statutes. For errors in the celebration of these festivals, the priests should be answerable, as they had always been; only under the new regime there should be no errors.

4. The hallowing of Jehovah's sabbaths. This they should do both by resting on the seventh day and by offering the sabbath sacrifices, the showbread, and the burnt offering; both of which things the priests under the Law had been commanded to do (see Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 31:13-17: Leviticus 23:3; Leviticus 24:8; Numbers 28:9), but had not done (Ezekiel 20:12, 13, 20, 21; Ezekiel 22:8; Ezekiel 23:28). Ezekiel 44:23Requisites for the Administration of the Priests' Office, and the Obligations and Privileges of that Office. - Ezekiel 44:17. And it shall come to pass, when they go to the gates of the inner court, they shall put on linen clothes, and no wool shall lie upon them, when they serve in the gates of the inner court and serve toward the house. Ezekiel 44:18. Linen turbans shall be upon their head, and linen drawers upon their hips; they shall not gird themselves in sweat. Ezekiel 44:19. And when they go out into the outer court, into the outer court to the people, they shall take off their clothes in which they have ministered, and put them in the holy cells, and put on other clothes, that they may not sanctify the people with their clothes. Ezekiel 44:20. And they shall not shave their head bald, nor let their hair grow freely; they shall cut the hair of their head. Ezekiel 44:21. And they shall not drink wine, no priest, when they go into the inner court. Ezekiel 44:22. And a window and a divorced woman they shall not take as wives, but virgins of the seed of the house of Israel, and the widow who has become the widow of a priest they may take. Ezekiel 44:23. And they shall teach my people, make known to them the difference between holy and common, and between unclean and clean. Ezekiel 44:24. And they shall stand to judge concerning disputes; and they shall observe my laws and my statutes at all my feasts, and sanctify my Sabbaths. Ezekiel 44:25. And one shall not go to any corpse of a man to defile himself; only for father and mother, for son and daughter, for brother, for sister who had no husband, may they defile themselves. Ezekiel 44:26. And after his purification shall they reckon seven days more to him; Ezekiel 44:27. And on the day when he comes to the holy place, into the inner court, to serve in the holy place, he shall offer his sin-offering, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - Ezekiel 44:28. And so shall it be with their inheritance, that I am their inheritance, ye shall not give them a possession in Israel: I am their possession. Ezekiel 44:29. The meat-offering, and the sin-offering, and the trespass-offering, these shall they eat, and everything banned in Israel shall belong to them. Ezekiel 44:30. And the firstlings of all the first-fruits of everything, and every heave-offering of everything, of all your heave-offerings, shall belong to the priests; and the firstlings of all your ground meal shall ye give to the priest, that a blessing may come down upon thy house. Ezekiel 44:31. No carrion nor anything torn in pieces of fowl and of beast shall the priests eat. - To the directions, who are to perform the service in the new temple, there are appended corresponding instructions concerning the bodily condition in which this service is to be performed, as the bodily condition shadows forth the state of the soul, or the spiritual constitution of the servants of God. The dress prescribed in Exodus 28 for the priests to wear during the holy service had this signification. The same rule is here presupposed as still in force; and it is simply renewed and partially emphasized by the enumeration of some of the leading points. At the service at the altar and in the holy place the priests are to wear linen clothes, and, after the performance of the service, they are to take them off again when they go into the outer court (Ezekiel 44:17-19). In the Mosaic law, שׁשׁ, white byssus, or בּד, white linen, is mentioned as the material used for the priests' clothing (Exodus 28:39, Exodus 28:42); here the material is more distinctly designated as פּשׁתּים, flax linen; and צמר, animal wool, is expressly forbidden, the motive being assigned for this regulation, namely, that the priest is not to cause himself to sweat by wearing woollen clothing. Sweat produces uncleanness; and the priest, by keeping his body clean, is to show even outwardly that he is clean and blameless. With regard to the putting on and off of the official clothes, the new thorah accords with the Mosaic. For we cannot agree with Kliefoth, who detects a deviation in the fact that, according to Exodus 28:43, the priests were to wear the official clothes only when they entered the tabernacle and when approaching the altar, and, according to Leviticus 6:4; Leviticus 16:23, were to take them off when the service was ended; whereas, according to Ezekiel 44:17 of the chapter before us, they were to put them on as soon as they entered the inner court, and were never to come before the people in the official costume. If, according to the Mosaic law, the priests were to go before the altar of burnt-offering in the court in their holy official dress, and not otherwise, they must have put on this dress on entering the court; for they could not wait till they were in front of the altar before they changed their clothes. For the expression צאת אל העם does not imply that, according to Ezekiel, they were never to appear in the presence of the people in their official costume, as it does not mean "come before the people," but "go out to the people," or "walk among the people;" nor is this involved in the words 'ולא יקדּשׁוּ , they shall not sanctify the people in their clothes (by their clothes). The latter by no means affirms that they are to sanctify the people by intercourse with them, but are not to do this in official costume; the meaning is simply that they are not to move among the people in the outer court while wearing their official clothes, that they may not sanctify them by their holy clothes.

This sanctification cannot be understood in any other way than as analogous to the rule laid down in the law, that touching most holy sacrificial flesh would sanctify (Leviticus 6:11, Leviticus 6:20), which Ezekiel repeats in Ezekiel 46:20, and which does not stand in anything like an isolated position in the law, but is also affirmed in Exodus 29:37 and Exodus 30:29 of the altar of burnt-offering and the vessels of the sanctuary. The same thing which applied to these vessels - namely, that their holiness passed from them to any one who touched them - is here predicated of the holy dresses of the priests; and the moving of the priests among the people in their holy clothes is forbidden, because such holiness, acquired by contact with holy objects, imposed upon the person to whom it had passed the obligation to guard against all defilement (Leviticus 21:1-8), which the people could not avoid in the ordinary relations of life, and thus a weakening or abolition of the distinction between things holy and common would inevitably have ensued. לשׁכות הקּדשׁ are the holy cell-buildings described in Ezekiel 42:1-14. - To the clothing there is simply appended in Ezekiel 44:20 the direction concerning the hair of the head, the natural covering of the head, in relation to which excess on either side is prohibited, either shaving the head bald or wearing the hair uncut. Both of these were forbidden to the priests in the law: shaving in Leviticus 21:5, and letting the hair grow freely in Leviticus 10:6; and the latter was simply imposed upon the Nazarites for the period of their vow (Numbers 6:5). כּסם only occurs here; but its meaning, to cut the hair, is obvious from the context. - Ezekiel 44:21. The prohibition of the drinking of wine when performing service agrees with Leviticus 10:9; on the other hand, the instructions concerning the choice of wives are sharpened in Ezekiel 44:22, as that which only applied to the high priest in the law is here extended to all the priests. In fact, Ezekiel throughout makes no distinction between the high priest and the common priests. In Leviticus 21:14, marrying a widow is only forbidden to the high priest, who was to marry a virgin of his own people, whereas no such restriction is laid down for the ordinary priests. Here, on the other hand, marrying a widow is forbidden to all the priests, marriage with the widow of a priest being the only one allowed. מכּהן belongs to תּהיה, who has become the widow of a priest.

(Note: The Rabbins (Targ. Talm. and Masor. according to their accentuation) have endeavoured to obliterate this distinction, by applying the first hemistich to the high priest alone, and explaining the second thus: "The widow, who is really a widow, the priest may take," interpreting מכּהן by quidam sacerdotum, or aliqui ex ordine sacerdotali, or ceteri sacerdotes. But this is contrary to the usage of the language, as מכּהן cannot possibly be understood in a partitive sense in this passage, where the priests generally are spoken of, and the plural יקּחוּ follows.)

In Ezekiel 44:23 and Ezekiel 44:24 the general official duties of the priests are mentioned, viz., to teach the people, and to instruct them concerning the difference between the holy and the unholy, the clean and the unclean, as in Leviticus 10:10 (cf. Deuteronomy 33:10 and Ezekiel 22:26); also to administer justice in questions in dispute according to the rights of God-a duty which had already been committed to the priests in its highest form in Deuteronomy 17:8., Deuteronomy 19:17, and Deuteronomy 21:5. על ריב, concerning, in the case of, matters in dispute. עמד , to stand to judge, i.e., to appear or act as judge (compare העמיד שׁפטים, to appoint or institute judges, in 2 Chronicles 19:5). The Keri למשׁפּט is a needless emendation after 2 Chronicles 19:8. The Chetib ושׁפטהוּ, on the other hand, is a copyist's error for ישׁפטהוּ. Lastly, at all the feasts they are to observe the laws and statutes of Jehovah, that is to say, to perform all the priestly duties binding upon them at the feasts, and to sanctify the Sabbaths, not merely by offering the Sabbath sacrifices, but also by maintaining the Sabbath rest (cf. Leviticus 23:3). - In Ezekiel 44:25-27 there follow regulations concerning defilement from the dead, and its removal. Ezekiel 44:25 is a simple repetition of Leviticus 21:1-3. But the instructions concerning the purification from defilement from the dead are sharpened, inasmuch as not only is the purification prescribed by the law (Numbers 19:1.), and which lasted seven days, required (this is meant by טהרתו), but a further period of seven days is appointed after these, at the expiration of which the presentation of a sin-offering is demanded before the service in the sanctuary can be resumed. By this demand for a heightened purification, the approach to a corpse permitted to the priests, which was prohibited to the high priest in the Mosaic law, even in the case of father and mother (Leviticus 21:11), is tolerably equalized.

For these duties and obligations of service the priests are to receive corresponding emoluments. These are treated of in Ezekiel 44:28-31. They are not, indeed, to receive any share of the land as their property in time to come any more than in former times; but in the place of this Jehovah will be their property and possession, and give them the necessary room for their dwellings from His own property in the land (Ezekiel 45:4), and let them draw their maintenance from His altar (Ezekiel 44:29 and Ezekiel 44:30). The promise that Jehovah will be the נחלה and אחזּה of the priests is a simple repetition of the regulation in the law (Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 18:1; Deuteronomy 10:9). So far as the construction in Ezekiel 44:28 is concerned, the words אני נחלתם are really the subject to 'והיתה להם לן, which we are obliged to render obliquely, "the inheritance for them shall be, I am their inheritance." For the proposal of Hitzig to take the words from אני נחלתם to the close of the verse as a parenthesis, and to regard 'המּנחה וגו in Ezekiel 44:29 as the subject to 'והיתה, is untenable, not only on account of the great harshness which such a parenthesis would involve, but principally because these portions of the sacrifices and heave-offerings which belonged to the priest were not a נחלה, and are never designated as נחלה, inheritance, i.e., property in land. Ezekiel 44:28 treats of the property in land, which God assigned to the Levites and priests under the Mosaic economy, by appointing them towns to dwell in, with meadows for the feeding of their cattle, within the territory of the other tribes, but would assign to them in future from the heave-offering set apart from the land for the sanctuary (Ezekiel 45:4). It is not till Ezekiel 44:29 and Ezekiel 44:30 that the means of support for the priests are spoken of. They are to be supported from the sacrifices and the tithes and first-fruits which Israel has to pay to Jehovah as the lord of the land, and which He transfers to His servants the priests. For the priests' share of the meat-offering, sin-offering, and trespass-offering, see Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 6:9, Leviticus 6:11, Leviticus 6:19; Leviticus 7:6-7; for that which is put under the ban, Leviticus 27:21; for the first-fruits, Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 18:4; Numbers 18:13; for the תּרוּמות, Numbers 15:19; Numbers 18:19; for the ראשׁית עריסות, Numbers 15:20-21. In 'להניח, "to cause a blessing to rest upon thy house," the individual Israelite is addressed. For the fact itself, see Malachi 3:10. - To the enumeration of the means of support there is appended in Ezekiel 44:31 an emphatic repetition of the command in Leviticus 22:8, not to eat of any dead thing (i.e., anything that has died a natural death), or anything torn to pieces, either of birds or beasts, on account of its defiling (Leviticus 17:15).

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