James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day the hand of the LORD was upon me, and brought me thither.Ezekiel 40:1-43:27
THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE
These chapters give a picture of the restored temple at Jerusalem during the Millennium, and of the worship of the Messiah when He shall exercise sway from that center to the ends of the earth.
Beginning with Ezekiel 40:1-5, we have an introduction to the subject: (1) the location and the opening vision (the vision is of a city on the south); (2) a man with a measuring rod; (3) a building surrounded by a wall (Ezekiel 40:5).
In Ezekiel 40:6-16 the measurement of the east gate, the threshold, posts, porches, chambers, entry, pillars, etc. Following this (Ezekiel 40:7-23), the outer court, the north gate and details corresponding to the preceding. Then the south gate with its appurtenances, and so on to Ezekiel 40:38. In Ezekiel 40:38-43 we have a description of the cells and entrances, the tables of stone for slaying the offerings, the inner cells for the singers (Ezekiel 40:44-47), and finally the measuring of the porch (Ezekiel 40:48-49).
In chapter 41 the prophet views the house itself, and in chapter 42 he sees the cells or chambers for the priests (Ezekiel 41:1-12). This is followed by regulations as to eating, dressing of the priests (Ezekiel 41:13-14), the chapter closing with a general summary.
In chapter 43, a more august sight presents itself, the Shekinah, the visible glory of Jehovah is seen returning to dwell in the midst of His people (Ezekiel 43:1-5). The force of this is clear enough. It is the sign of God’s return to Israel which He had left since the time of their captivity in Babylon. When it left, Israel, or the Jews, ceased to be His recognized people, but when they are taken up again under the Messiah the glory comes back (Ezekiel 43:6-9).
Following this we have the measurement of the altar, and statutes for the offering of burnt offerings and the sprinkling of blood (Ezekiel 43:13-17). But why is this, if we are dealing with millennial conditions? While Israel is to return to the land, and be converted and blessed, it will be still as Israel, not as Christians. In the present dispensation all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, belong to Christ in heaven, where such differences are unknown, but when this prophecy is fulfilled, and Christ’s reign begins on earth, the distinction will be again resumed, though now for blessing, and not for cursing, as of old. He quotes verses 18-27 as decisive of this, since in these chapters we hear of priests and Levites and the seed of Zadok entrusted with the duties of the altar.
Speaking of the offerings, they will be memorial, looking back to the cross, as under the old covenant they were anticipatory, looking forward to the cross. In neither case have animal sacrifices power to put away sin (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 10:4).
FIVE VIEWS OF INTERPRETATION
There are five interpretations of these chapters:
1. Some think they describe the temple at Jerusalem prior to the Babylonian captivity, and are designed to preserve a memorial of it. But the objection is that such a memorial is unnecessary because of the records in Kings and Chronicles; while the description is untrue because in many particulars it does not agree with that in the books named.
2. Some think these chapters describe the temple in Jerusalem after the return from the seventy years in Babylon, but this cannot be, because there are more marks of contrast than likeness between the temple here described and that.
3. Some think they describe the ideal temple which the Jews should have built after the seventy years’ return, and which they never realized. But this lowers the character of the divine Word. Why should this prophecy in Ezekiel have been given if it was never to be fulfilled?
4. Some think this temple in Ezekiel symbolizes the spiritual blessings of the church in the present age. But this appears unlikely, because even those who hold the theory cannot explain the symbolism of which they speak. Moreover, even as symbolism it leaves out several important features of Christianity, such as the atonement and intercession of the high priest.
5. The last view is that in the preceding comments, that we have here a prediction of the temple that shall be built in the millennial age. This appears a fitting and intelligent sequel to the preceding prophecies. A strong objection to it exists in that sacrifices and feasts are referred to, which seem contradictory to Christianity. But it should be remembered that Christianity is not meant, but a new dispensation with Israel on the earth while the church is in the air with Christ. This involves changes of immense magnitude.
An Architect’s Testimony.
While lecturing in Edinburgh, the author received a communication from G.S. Aitkin, Esq., an architect of that city, who had studied this vision of the temple from a technical standpoint, and made a plan of it, finding a place for every measurement referred to.
The two points he settled were, first, as to the meaning of Ezekiel 40:14, which he found referred to a girth measurement. This fixed the position of the outer gates in relation to the enclosing walls, and so determined the position of all the other parts following. The second point, that the five hundred cubit or “reed” dimension (Ezekiel 42:15-16) was also girth and not linear dimensions, as hitherto maintained. The following is an extract of a paper prepared by him on the subject for the “Transactions” of the Royal Institute of British Architects:
In the fourteenth verse of the fortieth chapter is mentioned the measurement that fixes the projections of the gate in relation to the enclosing walls; and as will be afterwards seen, the ultimate form and dimensions of the entire enclosure. Hitherto Ezekiel had been describing linear measurements, but now the expression “Post of the court round about the gate” may be taken to imply that the prophet’s companion made a girth measurement from the post of the court on one side right round the gate to the post of the court on the other side of 60 cubits. By deducting the girth of the porch, which is 45 cubits (see author’s plan from A to B) from this 60 cubits 15 remain, or 7 1/2 cubits for each shoulder.
The measurements of the buildings within the temple courts being completed, Ezekiel is brought through the eastern gate to the outside of the enclosing north, south, east and west wall, which are measured in his presence, and found to be 500 reeds, or, as corrected by the LXX, 500 cubits each.
To meet this statement, Hastings’ Bible Dictionary represents the temple area as enclosed with a straight lined wall, which, unbroken in outline, necessarily leads to so large an internal area as to require a greater number of courts than the inspired record allows.
The author’s plan, on the other hand, measuring around the broken outline which is obtained by adding the porches and the ‘People’s Sacrificial Kitchen,’ 40 x 30 internally (46:22), or (adding thickness of wall) 52 cubits by 42 cubits externally, secures the desired dimensions of 500 cubits for each side, the Priests’ Kitchens (Ezekiel 46:19-20) being substituted on the west side for the porches of the other three sides.
If this exegesis is correct, it is a further confirmation that the vision was the result of divine inspiration. Mr. Aitken did not understand what the intrinsic meaning of the whole passage might be, but it occurred to him, after listening to an exposition of the book by the present author, that it might refer to the future rebuilding of the Jewish temple at Jerusalem.
1. What picture is given in these chapters?
2. How is Ezekiel 43:1-5 to be explained?
3. Explain Ezekiel 43:13-17 of the same chapter.
4. Name the five views of the interpretation of the whole vision.
5. What is the position taken by the architect quoted?