Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
1And he led me back the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary that 2looks to the east; and it was shut. And Jehovah said to me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall go in through it; 3because Jehovah, the God of Israel, went in through it; thus it is shut. As to the prince, he [is] prince, he shall sit in it, to eat bread [food] before Jehovah; from the way of the [to the] porch of the gate shall he go in, and 4from its way shall he go out. And he brought me the way of the north gate before the house, and I looked, and behold, the glory of Jehovah filled 5the house of Jehovah; and I fell upon my face. And Jehovah said to me: Son of man, set thy heart, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of Jehovah, and all its laws [or: its whole law]; and thou settest [shalt set] thy heart to the approach of the house in [conjunction with] all the out-goings of the 6sanctuary. And thou sayest to the contumacy, to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Cease at last from all your abominations, O house 7of Israel, When ye brought sons of the outland, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary, to desecrate it, even My house; when ye offered My bread [My food] (through them), fat and blood, and they 8broke My covenant in addition to all your abominations. And [yea] ye have not kept the charge of My holy things, and [but] ye set [such, those] to keep My charge for you in My sanctuary. 9Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: A son of the outland, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, shall not come to My sanctuary; in respect of every son of the outland [shall it be said] that is 10in the midst of the children of Israel. Nay, but the Levites who went far from Me when Israel went astray, who went astray from Me after their 11detestable idols, they bear their guilt; And they are servants in My sanctuary, sentinels at the gates of the house and servants of the house; they shall slay the burnt-offering and the slain-offering for the people, and they 12shall stand before them to serve them. Because they used to serve them before their detestable idols, and were to the house of Israel a stumbling-block of guilt, therefore have I lifted My hand over them,—sentence of the Lord Jehovah,—and they bear their guilt. 13And they shall not draw near to Me, to minister as priests to Me, and to draw near over all My holy things to the most holy place, and [but] they bear their reproach and their abominations 14which they did. And I have given them to be keepers of the charge 15of the house, for all its service and for all that is to be done in it. And [but] the priests the [these] Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near to Me to minister unto Me, and stand before Me to offer unto Me fat 16and blood,—sentence of the Lord Jehovah. They shall come to My sanctuary, and they shall draw near to My table to minister unto Me, and to 17keep My charge. And it comes to pass, when they go to the gates of the inner court; they shall put on linen garments, and wool shall not come upon them when they minister in the gates of the inner court and at the house. 18Linen turbans shall be upon their heads, and linen breeches upon their loins; 19they shall not gird themselves in sweat. And on their going out to the outer court, to the outer court to the people, they shall put off their garments in which they minister [ministered], and lay them away [down] in the cells of holiness, and put on other garments; and they shall not sanctify the people in 20[with] their garments. And their head they shall not shave, nor suffer their 21locks to grow long; polling they shall poll their heads. And no priest shall 22drink wine when they go to the inner court. And a widow and a divorced woman shall they not take to themselves for wives; but maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, and the widow who was widow of a priest they may take. 23And they shall teach My people; what [the difference is] between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, they shall make them 24know. And over [matters of] strife shall they stand to judge in My judgments, and judge them [so]; and My laws and Mine ordinances on all My festivals 25shall they keep; and My Sabbaths shall they hallow. And to a dead body of a man shall he not go to be defiled; but for father, and for mother, and for son, and for daughter, for brother, and for sister who had no husband, 26they may defile themselves. And after his cleansing they shall count to him 27seven days. And on the day of his coming to the sanctuary to the inner court, to minister in the sanctuary, he shall offer his sin-offering,—sentence of 28the Lord Jehovah. And it is to them for an inheritance [namely], I am their inheritance; and a possession shall ye not give them in Israel, I am their 29possession. The meat-offering, and the sin-offering, and the guilt-offering, they shall eat it; and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. 30And the first of all the firstlings of everything, and every oblation of all, out of all your oblations, shall be to the priests, and the first of your [ground] corn shall ye give to the priest, to bring down a blessing upon thy house. Whatever is carrion, or torn, whether of fowl or of beast, 31the priests shall not eat.
Ezekiel 44:2. Sept.: ... ὁτι κυριος … εἰσελευσεται … κ. ἐσται κεκλεισμενη. Vulg.:—eritque clausa (3) principi. Princeps ipse—per viam portæ vestibuli ingredietur et per viam ejus—
Ezekiel 44:3. Διοτι ὁ ἡγουμενος οὑτος … κατα τ. ὁδον αἰλαμ—
Ezekiel 44:4. Κ. εἰσηγαγεν με … πληρης δοξης ὁ οἰκος—(Another reading: ואפל על־פני.)
Ezekiel 44:5. ... ταξον εἰς τ. καρδιαν … κατα παντα … ἐν πασιν τοις ἁγιοις. Vulg.: … de universis ceremoniis in viis templi per omnes exitus—
Ezekiel 44:7. ... κ παρεβαινετε τ. διαθηκην μου ἐν πασαις—(Another reading: את כל and תועבתיהם.)
Ezekiel 44:8. ... κ. διεταξατε του φυλασσειν φυλακας—Vulg.: et non servastis præcepta … et posuistis custodes observationum mearum in—vobismet ipsis.
Ezekiel 44:10. ἁλλ̓ ἠ οἱ—Vulg.: Sed et … qui longe recesserunt—
Ezekiel 44:11. Vulg.: … æditui et janitores portarum—
Ezekiel 44:12. ... και ἐγενετο τω οἰκω—
Ezekiel 44:13. ... οὐδε του προσαγαγειν προς τα ἁγια υἱων Ἰσρ οὐδε προς τ. ἁγια τ. ἁγιων μου … τ. ἀτιμιαν αὐτων ἐν τη πλανησει ἡ ἐπλανηθησαν. Vulg.: … juxta sancta sanctorum (Another reading: אל כל.)
Ezekiel 44:14. Κ. ταξουσιν αὐτους … ὁσα ἀν ποιησωσιν. (Another reading: לו.)
Ezekiel 44:15. ... του προσφερειν μοι θυσιαν, στεαρ—
Ezekiel 44:17. Sept.: ... ἀπο της πυλης … κ. ἐσω.
Ezekiel 44:18. βια.
Ezekiel 44:19. The words repeated are wanting in several manuscripts, and in the Sept., Syr., Vulg., Arab., and Chaldee.
Ezekiel 44:20.—κ. τας κομας αὐτων οὐ μη ψιλωσουσιν, καλυπτοντες καλυψωσιν τας κεφαλας αὐτων. Vulg.:—neque comam nutrient, sed tondentes attondent capita sua.
Ezekiel 44:23. ... κ. ἀνα μεσον καθαρου κ. ἀνα μεσον ἀκαθαρτου—
Ezekiel 44:24. Κ. ἐπι κρισιν αἱματος . … τα δικαιωματα μου δικαιωσουσιν, κ. τα κριματα μου κρινουσιν, κ. τα νομιμα—Vulg.: … controversia, stabunt in judiciis meis et judicabunt;—(Another reading: למשפט.)
Ezekiel 44:25. Κ. ἐπι ψυχην ἀνθρωπου οὐκ εἰσελευσονται—Vulg.: … ad mortuum hominem … quæalterum virum non habuerit,—
Ezekiel 44:26. Another reading: יספר.
Ezekiel 44:27. ... εἰσπορευωνται εἰς τ. αὐλην … προσοισουσιν ἱλασμον—Vulg.:—ut ministret mihi—
Ezekiel 44:28. κ. ἐσται αὐτοις … Ἐγω … και—Vulg.: Non erit autem eis—
Ezekiel 44:29. Κ. τας θυσιας—
Ezekiel 44:30. Κ. ἀπαρχαι παντων κ. τα πρωτοτοκα παντων κ. τα ἀφαιρεματα παντα ὑμων ἐκ παντων τ. ἀπαρχων … κ. τα πρωτογεννηματα ὑμων—Vulg.: Et primitiva omnium primogenitorum et omnia libamenta ex omnibus quæ offeruntur … et primitiva ciborum vestrorum … ut reponat—
Ezekiel 44:31. ... θνησιμαιον κ. θηριαλωτον—
Ezekiel 44:1–3. The Prince in the East Gate
[As the preceding chapter had disclosed the purpose of God to re-occupy, and that for ever, this new temple, and had described the necessary means and rites of consecration in order to its being a source of blessing to His people, so the present chapter lays down regulations for preventing any new desecration of the house, such as might again compel God to withdraw His gracious presence. These regulations refer successively to the prince and the priesthood—the two classes through whom directly the former pollutions had been introduced into the house of God.—FAIRBAIRN.—W. F.]
The prophet observed in the priests’ court (Ezekiel 43:5) all that relates to the altar of burnt-offering. He is thence brought back, as we shall have to suppose, through the inner north or south gate the way to the outer east gate. It is not without significance that the east gate of the outer court (comp. Ezekiel 43:12) is designated as “gate of the sanctuary, the outer one which,” etc. Looking into it from the court (not as Hitzig and Hengstenberg: from before the outer east gate, as Ezekiel 43:1), Ezekiel perceived that it was shut (comp. Ezekiel 40:11); and this, must the more astonish him, as this entrance to the sanctuary had been described to him in Ezekiel 40. as forming the rule for all the other gates of the temple. The fact, then, of its being closed demands an explanation, which also Jehovah (comp. on Ezekiel 43:6, 7) gives him in Ezekiel 44:2. Since the whole vision points to the future, it is said first of all in reference thereto: This gate shall be shut (יִהְיֶה). Hence the closing shall continue for all futurity, as is again expressly confirmed by the statement: It shall not be opened, and strengthened by this other declaration: And no man (whoever he may be) shall go in through it,—in other words, by the exclusion of every one. When it is thereafter said: Because Jehovah, etc., the בִּי explains certainly the immediate present (וְהָיָה), the present closing of the gate, which, as we see in Ezekiel 44:1, is the first thing treated of; but we shall have to draw upon it for the explanation for the future likewise, for this future has been announced as the continuance of the closing in the present. The way which the glory of Jehovah went (Ezekiel 43:4) is thus a unique way, and will remain such, no man shall tread it henceforth; and this, when we look upon the fulfilment in Christ of all that had been written aforetime, reads like a Messianic prophecy, without its being necessary for us to suppose with the Church Fathers a direct reference to the virginity of Mary (fit porta Christi pervia, referta, plena gratia, transitque rex et permanet clausa ut fuit per sæcula). [The Rabbins have interpreted the closing of the gate to this effect: that the Shechinah shall no longer be able to come out, an idea which Lightfoot has transformed into the ever-during dwelling of the glory of God in the Christian Church; while Hengst. expresses it thus: that the glory of the impending revelation of the Lord “embodies” itself in the door’s remaining shut.]—When, after this quite universal explanation in respect to future and present of the shut east gate, Ezekiel 44:3, by its very commencing with the absolute construction אֶת־הַנָּשִׂיא, directs attention to the prince, and, besides, gives as reason for what is to be said of him in reference to the east gate, ישֶׁב־בּוֹ, that is as much as to say: qua prince it belongs to him; then an exception from the rule just laid down, that is, an exceptional entering of the prince through this gate at certain times and for certain contingencies, is not to be supposed, especially as what is announced regarding him is not: יָבאֹ בוֹ, but simply: יֵשֶׁב־בּוֹ, that he shall sit in this gate, namely (comp. for the expression: to eat bread before God, Ex. 18:12; Luke 13:26), to enjoy the sacrificial banquets. Of this place of the prince in the east gate, Hengst. exclaims: “How glorious must the entering Lord be, when the prince cannot be more highly honoured than by a place in the gate by which He entered!” Now, since according to Ezekiel 44:1, 2 the entrance through the east gate was closed to him, the way by which the prince arrived at his place of honour will necessarily have to be given, as is accordingly done; and this account is not to be interpreted, with Keil, of the outside stair over the threshold at the guardroom, and onward to the gate-porch at the inner end of the gate-structure. For such a way surely מִדֶּרֶךְ אוּלָם׳ would be a strange mode of expression! On the contrary, this mode of expression is quite conceivable when we consider the way of the prophet (Ezekiel 44:1), who had been brought from the north or south to the east gate, and finds himself there on the side of the court west of the gate; and hence has the porch right before him, so that he will the more readily define from it the way of the prince into the gate (from its way he shall also go out), as the entering from the way of the porch of the gate forms self-evidently the contrast to an entering from the way of the gate without. Consequently, the prince has (as Hitzig rightly understands) to come through the outer north or south gate into the outer court, and to cross the same, in order to arrive at the place where he will sit, etc. Whether the gate-porch which thus lay on this side (toward the court) of the gate-barrier is meant to be given as the place for the banquets of the prince may be questioned; Hengstenberg recommends, as “specially” adapted for them, “the inner threshold immediately adjacent to the porch.” According to all this, the exception of the prince symbolizes merely, in its own way, the holiness of the sanctuary, the solemnity of drawing near to Jehovah and appearing before Him. It will no longer be as in the former temple, that any one (אִישׁ) will march straight to the sanctuary through the east gate; but the saints of God, His people sanctified for ever, will know how to honour the holiness of Him who sanctified them. ( “In the case of the tabernacle and its court there was only one entrance, from the east, through which all had to go,” KLIEF.) But it is significant that the civil head of the people (comp. on Ezekiel 43:22), the prince, sits and eats in the east gate closed for every one, on the way which the glory of Jehovah went to fill the house (Ezekiel 44:4), and there enjoys the fruit of that which has been provided. For the significance of the banquets has regard to the communion and friendly relation in which the participants stand to one another, and with the provider of the feast, who in the last resort is Jehovah—at least He participates therein in the sense of Rev. 3:20; just as also the gladness and joy before the Lord, and even the joys of the kingdom of heaven, appear under the figure of a feast (Ps. 23:5, 36:9 ; Matt. 8:11; Luke 14:15; Rev. 19:9). We have in this the genuine gospel feature, which excels in glory the face of the law. So much the more, however, as regards the prince—who, as has been said, is rather a reflex of the people (comp. Ezekiel 46:10), just as to them also the entrance to the temple has been opened by the setting in operation of the altar of burnt-offering (Ezekiel 43:26)—must we avoid the interpretation which accentuates in him the David of Messianic times (Ezekiel 34:23 sq., 37:24). On this comp. also Ezekiel 45:22, 46:2, 16. It would be better to insist with Hengst. on his “cheering” form, as opposed to the ceasing of the magisterial office in the exile, especially when his presence is so incidentally “presupposed.” But this prince ship, which makes orderly civil relations again obtain in Israel, had its post-exile appearance in Zerubbabel, for instance (Zech. 4), and has at all events been perfected in the Messianic kingdom, even as to the side applicable here, which Isa. 53:10 expresses thus: “The pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper through his hand;” while in Ezekiel 44:11 he is said: “to see,” “to be refreshed;” and similarly Ezekiel 44:12.
[ “In regard to the prince, it is impossible for us to think of any one but the royal head, as he is throughout spoken of as an individual, and in the next chapter is directed ‘to prepare for himself, and for all the people of the land,’ a sin-offering (Ezekiel 45:22). So that the idea of Hävernick, that the word is used collectively for the rulers and presidents generally of the people, is quite untenable. And not less so is the opinion, that by the expression is simply to be understood the Messiah; for this is utterly irreconcilable with all the prescriptions given, and in particular with those requiring the presentation of sacrifices and sin-offerings for the prince. It is to be explained precisely as the whole delineation here, and in the preceding visions (Ezekiel 34–39), by viewing it as part of an ideal description of coming realities under the form and aspect of the old relations. And no more than we expect other parts of the vision to find their accomplishment under the gospel by a restoration of the carnal sacrifices and institutions of Judaism, should we look here for an actual prince to follow the regulations prescribed. Standing on the position he did, the prophet must speak of the future under the image of the past; and as it was by means of the earthly head of the Jewish state that many of the former corruptions had been introduced, he now shows how a repetition of such evils is to be guarded against in the future. Whether the kingly power should ever again be concentrated in one person, or should be shared by many, is of no moment as regards the substance of the truth here unfolded.” As for the connection between the prince and the east gate (Ezekiel 44:1–3), “what could this import, but that the prince should feel he now occupied a place of peculiar nearness to God? As God’s vicegerent and deputy among the people, it became him to be the most distinguished representative in public life of God’s holiness, to tread the higher walks of spiritual communion and fellowship with Heaven, and stand pre-eminent in his zeal for the interests of truth and righteousness. Far now from usurping the authority that belonged to God, and abusing to selfish ends and purposes the power which was given by Him for higher ends, all authority and power in Israel should be exercised—if this divine ideal were reduced to practice—in a solemn feeling of subordination to God’s majesty, and with an unfeigned desire for His glory.”—FAIRBAIRN’S Ezekiel, pp. 477, 478.—W. F.]
Ezekiel 44:4–16 The Priests.
Ezekiel 44:4. The outer north gate cannot be the one spoken of, for the prophet stands in the outer court before the porch of the east gate. He is brought אֶל־פְּנֵי הַבַּיִת, and so דֶּרֶךְ־שַׁעַר־הַצָּפוֹן, must be the way to the inner north gate, as this was also the way by which to get near to the temple-house.—Comp. for the rest on Ezekiel 43:5 and 3. As there the filling of the house with the glory of Jehovah introduced the Thorah of the temple, especially the consecration of the altar of burnt-offering, which certainly forms also the transition to the temple - service, so here by a similar introduction, in which Ezekiel 44:5 refers so far back as to Ezekiel 40:4, the service before Jehovah is now introduced, and that with attentive regard to the personelle. Thus the two parts of the section, Ezekiel 40–46, are even formally-separated.—Jehovah, as in Ezekiel 44:2.—The threefold demand upon the prophet, of which the first, which as the most inward strikes the key for the seeing and hearing, has its ground not exactly in the glory just now seen (HENGST.), but rather in what Jehovah will say to him, and in the abominations committed by Israel, to which it has reference.—What concerns the ordinances and laws of the house (comp. Ezekiel 43:11, 12) is certainly limited here by הַמִּקְדָּשׁ to the temple building proper, as is also indicated by the designation: house of Jehovah, repeated from Ezekiel 44:4, so that the approach of the house with all the out-goings is to be understood in reference to the priests.
Ezekiel 44:6. That the house of Israel is to be addressed (Ezekiel 2:7) shows the more plainly how it had been represented by the priesthood of the past.—רַב־לָכֶם מִכָּל׳, literally: there is much to you from all your abominations, sufficient, enough for you, so that you may at last abstain (1 Pet. 4:3). Like priest, like people; but also, like people, like priest (Hos. 4:9).
Ezekiel 44:7, in this connection, in which the temple-house accessible to the priests alone is treated of, and priestly ministration is had regard to, can hardly refer to heathens or foreigners living amongst Israel (comp. for this Lev. 17:10, 12; Num. 15:13 sq.; Ex. 12:43, 44; 1 Kings 8:41 sq.), foreign merchants as sellers of sacrificial victims, etc., nor heathenized Israelites in general, but must be understood as referring to the introduction of priests, who, as the children of Israel were called “heathens” (גּוֹיִם) in Ezekiel 2:3, were בְּנֵי־נֵכָר, instead of being sons of Jehovah’s house. In what sense the term employed is to be taken is shown by the next clause: uncircumcised in heart, which, if said of genuine born heathens, would be nonsense; whereas, said of Israelites, of the priests here, and conjoined with the following clause: and uncircumcised in flesh, it expresses exactly the same as Rom. 2:25, when the περιτομη ἀκροβυστια γεγονεν,—when the direct opposite of the idea of the symbol realizes itself (comp. besides, Deut. 30:6), the distinction also which the symbol denotes will disappear, the Jew has become heathen. Comp. also Ezekiel 16:3; Zech. 14:21 (Phil. 3:3). The expression: to be in My sanctuary, which more closely defines the בַּהֲבִיאֲכֶם as the bringing in to the priestly ministration, is still farther illustrated by the clause: to desecrate it, My house. When it is farther said: when ye offered לַחְמִי (in a manner, the daily bread of Jehovah, which is immediately explained to mean the sacrificial food as to its elements: fat and blood, for which comp. Num. 28:2; Lev. 3:11, 21:6, 8, etc.), this parallel phrase to: when ye brought to be in My sanctuary, etc., confirms the view that priests are meant who formed the pure contrast to the Israelitish priesthood according to its idea, and this the more plainly as וַיָּפֵרוּ (Ezekiel 16:59, 17:18, 19) can scarcely be said of heathens as such, who were outside of the covenant; but when understood of such priests, it looks straight into the inmost relation, from which are derived the sanctuary, the service in it, and the sanctification of Israel. The interchange of ye and they is farther shown to be intentional by the next clause: in addition to all your abominations, inasmuch as not even the priests were correct, with whose holiness the people so frequently think they may venture to dispense with their own. Ezekiel 44:8 accordingly goes on to reprimand such shameful priestly representation of the people in respect to the holy things (Ezekiel 22:8) of Jehovah (comp. Ezekiel 40:45, 46). Of this Keil gives a superficial view, when he says that “the people, by unlawfully admitting ungodly heathen into the temple, had not only forgotten the reverence due to the holy things of God (!), but had also made for themselves these heathen, so to say (?), ministers of God in His sanctuary.” How can “permission to tread the temple” be “put on the same level,” even only “spiritually,” with “placing in the temple for superintending the worship”? What is meant flows, moreover, from the general statement, impossible to be understood except in its constant sense: And ye set (namely, such parties) … for you in My sanctuary. לָכֶם implies also the representation of the people by such keepers of the charge, which the sanctuary and the covenant of Jehovah with them bound Israel to keep. (Comp. 1 Kings 12:31) HÄV.: “Not to serve God, but to serve your own sinful inclination.”
[FAIRBAIRN: “The children of Israel are spoken of as doing all this, because the corrupt priesthood was inseparably connected with the sins of the people—the one continually acting and reacting on the other. And the corruption in the priesthood, it will be observed, is expressed as if persons had been put into the office who were not of the tribe of Levi, or even of the seed of Israel, but uncircumcised heathen. Not that literally persons of this description had been admitted into the priestly office; that did not take place, not even in the kingdom of Israel, where still the Israelites were employed, though not of the family of Aaron. But the prophet is viewing all in a spiritual light; he is reading forth the import of the outward transactions, as they appeared to the eye of God; and as in that respect the officiating priesthood had been no better than uncircumcised strangers, so he speaks of them as having actually been such.”—W. F.]
Ezekiel 44:9. We have now, in condemnation of such profanation, Jehovah’s solemn declaration regarding the personelle of His service in future. In the first place, a simple negativing of what has been, that shall no longer be; hence כָּל־בֶּן־נֵכָר, to be understood in the same sense as in Ezekiel 44:7; also the phrase: shall not come to, etc., corresponding to what has been previously said, is to be understood of priests, as: My sanctuary, proves beyond a doubt. But the summary winding up (לְכָל׳, EWALD, Gram. § 310a): that is in the midst of, etc., precludes, by the explanation it gives, every thought of genuine foreigners, or even of the גֵּרִים, strangers, Ezekiel 47:22 sq. “Jewish heathen,” as Hengstenberg designates them, are most expressly excluded by this canon of church discipline, which begins at the house of God. To be a “son of Israel” is the first qualification which Jehovah demands for His priesthood, and this taken strictly explains likewise as antithesis thereto the Song of Solomon of the outland. Ezekiel 44:10. כי אם׳ (a strong “but,” EWALD, Gram. p. 856), after the ample negativing Ezekiel 44:9), introduces the position which makes everything perfectly clear that the discourse is to be concerning the tribe of Levi. This designation is given in the outset, because there will still take place a choix sur choix, a narrower election in respect of the Aaronites, the peculiarly priestly family, and a degradation of priests to be servants and assistants, like the Levites given as such to Aaron and his lineage (Num. 3).—רָהַק (Ezekiel 11:6, 8:15), “to be away,” to depart from, Jer. 2:5, 8.—תָּעָה is: “to stagger” (Isa. 28:7), in the wider signification: to go astray (Isa. 53:6).—אֲשֶׁר׳ can explain “Israel’s going astray” (Ezekiel 6:4), and then it is still people and priest taken together as formerly; and this is especially clear when אֲשֶׁר תָּעוּ׳, corresponding to the רָחֲקוּ אֲשֶׁר, makes it conformable to “Israel’s going astray.”—וְנָשְׂאוּ׳, Ezekiel 14:10, 16:52, 58 (HENGST.: “they shall take their iniquity upon them”), the guilt to be borne will be made clear by the immediately following punishment. This idolatrous staggering had at different times seized hold of priest and people, sometimes more, sometimes less. Instead of allowing themselves to be dragged along by the people to active or even passive participation in the service of idols, they ought, from their office, to have restrained the people, Jer. 2:8. Comp. moreover, Ps. 16:4. [Hävernick thinks here of “even the old misdeeds of Levi, which will make themselves observable.”]
Ezekiel 44:11. They shall not be excluded from all service in the sanctuary, but degraded from the functions of priests to those of simple Levites; as Rashi expresses it; “to do what strangers and servants and women can perform.” שָׁרַת is used also of priestly service; it is only פְּקֻּדָּה (the function for those discharging it) that with the words expressly added points to the gates of the house, although the word in itself is equivalent to מִשְׁמֶרֶת, מִששְׁמָר. It is still in respectful terms that these degraded priests are spoken of (it is not said: לַעֲבֹד אֶת־עֲבֹדַת, as is said of the Levites specifically, Num. 16:9). They are porters and house-servants, yet in this at least they still represent the people, that they relieve them of the slaying of the victims; it is only with their “standing before them to serve them” that their being degraded to Levites becomes more marked (comp. Num. 16:9), because now the punishment corresponding to the guilt is
Ezekiel 44:12—to be mentioned; the guilt which they shall bear is characterized by the punishment for it in this way: what they were accustomed to do in the apostasy at the will of the people—and thus as a stumbling-block which caused to fall into guilt—is now officially imposed upon them.—Comp. on Ezekiel 20:5, 6, 15, 23, 36:7.
Ezekiel 44:13 hereupon expressly cuts them off from being priests as hitherto כָּהַן, the fuller stem of כּוּן, signifies: those who establish anything as it should be according to the divine ordinance, the people continuing always in their functions; according to others: those bending themselves, namely, doing homage to the Eternal; Num. 16:10 of the priesthood, as distinguished from mere Levite service. ל is therefore antithesis to לְשָׁרְתָם, Ezekiel 44:11. Farther details are given in what follows. By the appositional הַקָּדָשִׁים אֶל־קָדְשֵׁי, the expression: to draw near over all My holy things, is—as itself suggests, and the plural קָדְשֵׁי׳ (comp. Num. 4:19) confirms—interpreted as referring to the eating of the most holy things (comp. on Ezekiel 42:13), appertaining to the priests alone. For the rest, comp. Ezekiel 16:52.
Ezekiel 44:14 recapitulates and sums up the reproach and guilt to be borne, with respectful reference to their former priestly calling; hence שֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁ׳, which mode of expression, however, receives its levitical limitation through לְכֹל עֲבֹדַתוֹ(comp. Num. 16:9, Ezekiel 3).
Ezekiel 44:15. Those likewise are called Levites who in contrast to the punishment of the former priests are all the more exalted as priests.—צָדוֹק, the son of Ahitub (1 Chron. 5:34 [6:8]), of the line of Eleazar (1 Chron: 24:1 sq.), was co-high priest with Abiathar of the line of Ithamar, in consequence of the twofold service of worship in David’s time, that at Jerusalem and that at Gibeon (1 Chron. 16.  39). After Abiathar had like Joab repeatedly attached himself to Adonijah, the pretender to the crown, and had brought about his own fall and banishment to Anathoth (1 Kings 2), Zadok was appointed by Solomon sole high priest, and with him the line of Eleazar again became the alone high-priestly one. We are not to go along with Hengstenberg when he, in order to interpret the sons of Zadok, goes back even to the relation of fatherhood in the Decalogue, and drags in the pope too as a holy father, simply to get a father-priest, after whom all priests (since 1 Kings 2) are to be designated as his sons, “even the unfaithful,” says Hengstenberg, “who were excluded in the foregoing passage” (!!). He hazards this contradiction to the connection in order to get the faithful priests first in Ezekiel 48:11, and because he finds in Ezekiel 43:19, instead of “sons of Zadok” (as in Ezekiel 40:46), “that are of the seed of Zadok,” “the heads (!) of the high-priesthood, those who are of the high priest’s kindred (Acts 4:6), officiating at the consecration of the altar of burnt-offering” (that is, it is incorrect to say that in the whole vision the high priest never meets us!). In Zadok we might indeed be reminded of Melchizedek, had not the very name Zadok ( “righteous”), and still more what is historically known of him, symbolized him as a type of the true priestly character. The faithful position which he had taken towards David he did not forsake towards Solomon, as Abiathar did (1 Kings 1:7, 8, 25, 26, 2:22); he even anointed Solomon king over Israel. Consequently, in the theocratic (Messianic) signification of the kingdom of David and Solomon, Zadok kept himself precisely in the relation which is so significant for our vision (see Doct. Reflec.). Comp. also 1 Sam. 2:35.—[FAIRBAIRN: “The promise of a priesthood of the house of Zadok entirely corresponded to the promise of a shepherd with the name of David. It simply indicated a race of faithful and devoted servants, in whom the outward and the inward, the name and the idea, should properly coincide,—a priesthood serving God in newness of spirit, not in the oldness of the letter, as the people whom they represented should also have become true Israelites, themselves a royal priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. In truth, it is the raising up of a people who should be such a priesthood that is meant by the description, and the sons of Zadok came into notice only because in connection with them there was an historical ground for taking them as representatives of a right-hearted spiritual community.”—W. F.]—But as not all the children of Abraham are of his faith, so here the sons of Zadok are only those who kept, etc., who have kept and will keep themselves faithful to Me. Not until after this essential personal qualification for priest, is the formal and official service described: in general, the “drawing near,” etc. (Ezekiel 40:46, 43:19), in particular, the “standing before Me (in contrast to ‘before them,’ Ezekiel 44:11) to offer unto Me (comp. Ezekiel 44:7) fat,” etc., part of the service at the altar of burnt-offering.—Then in Ezekiel 44:16 comes the treading of the dwelling in the holy place, especially the drawing near to the altar of incense (Ezekiel 41:22), for which the name table is significantly retained. Finally, וְשָׁמְרוּ אֶת־מִשְׁמַרְתִי reverts to the starting-point in Ezekiel 44:15, אֲשֶׁר שָׁמְרוּ׳.
Ezekiel 44:17–31. Priestly Duties and Privileges
Ezekiel 44:17 begins with the most external, the clothing; the duty in this respect will make the symbolized inward obligation the more apparent. The coming to the inner gates implies the intention of service at or in the sanctuary, and thereby involves the duty of putting on (פֵּשֶׁת, “flax”) linen garments, and this makes שֵׁשׁ, as already ordained by Moses, perfectly clear (comp. Ex. 39:28, 28:39 sq.; Lev. 6:3 , 16:4, 23). The express prohibition of wool (צֶמֶר, what is “drawn together,” hanging together like vellus, ἐρος, εἰρος) gives additional emphasis to the linen, and makes the ministering in the gates of the inner court, that is, within them, and at the house, said of functions discharged within the house, the former in relation to the altar of burnt-offering, and the latter in relation to the altar of incense, still more distinctly prominent.
Ezekiel 44:18, like Ezekiel 44:17, refers to the priest’s garments; פְּאֵר is properly: “adornment,” diadem, which might suggest the special high-priestly מִצְנֶפֶת; the word, however, occurs rather in connection with מִגְבָּעֹת, Ex. 39:28 ( “goodly bonnets”), and we have no warrant for supposing it is a special head-covering for priests in general. It is rather meant to be remarked that they are adorned (פְּאֵר is suggestive of floral ornaments), although with linen.—The covering for the loins (מִכְנְםֵי, plural or dual), reaching from high above the loins down to about the thigh (comp. Ex. 28:42), forms the third of the four articles, as Bähr says, designed for the official dress of the priests (in accordance with “the symbolical place of Jehovah’s testimony and revelation”); while the injunction about “girding,” which, moreover, explains the sense and spirit of the whole linen dress, subjoins the אַבְנֵט, that is, girdle of the priests, as the fourth article. This was worn higher up toward the breast, as would then be confirmed by the added defining clause: not in sweat; which certainly will not bear the meaning: while they sweat, but according to Bähr is meant to imply: where they sweat. But בַּיָּןַע (יֶעַן), found only here, elsewhere זֵעָה, from זוּעַ: what is forced out by pressure or anguish) certainly means nothing but what has been said already: that no wool shall come upon them; for as the white linen makes the cleanness apparent, so sweat, so readily produced by woollen stuff, especially when forming a girdle and thus confining the body, is meant to be guarded against as uncleanness, and on the whole accordingly the holiness of the priests for the sanctification of the people to be signified. [Did the Septuagint mean too tight girding, or girding in violent haste?]
Ezekiel 44:19. The repetition: to the outer court, is meant to strengthen the prohibition, which is particularly strong in our verse; to call attention to the distinction between the outer court and the inner, while both, however, are still only courts; and to the altar in the inner court, where the sanctification of the people willed by Jehovah has to take place. After this (comp. Ezekiel 42:14) comes the laying aside of the priest’s official dress, and the laying of it down at the place suitable to the “holiness of Jehovah” (Ezekiel 42:13), and the putting on of other garments, for the purpose of guarding against the thought of another sanctification than the God-ordained one by the way of sacrifice. Not in their garments, that is, it is not they, although they are priests, who are to sanctify the people (comp. John 17:19!). Consequently, the going out to the people is to be understood in reference to sanctification, and shows moreover that this outer court was for the people. Expositors generally refer here to Lev. 6:11, 20 (יקְדָּשׁ); Ex. 29:37, 30:29; comp. besides, Ex. 28:43; Lev. 6:4 , 16:23. [That contact with the people defiles the priests when in their official dress, as Keil referring to Lev. 21 supposes, is not said here.]
Ezekiel 44:20 forbids, as already Lev. 19:27, 21:5, the shaving of the head smooth, as heathenish; censuring the Creator (!?), says Hengst.; according to Bähr, as mourning, a sign of fellowship with the dead, inasmuch as the hair is a proof of life and vigour of body. The Egyptian priests kept the head always close shaved. On the contrary, the priests of Israel are to bear their head high, as the mediators of an eternal life in holiness through grace.—פֶּרַע implies: “breaking forth,” “being on the top;” hence, the hair on the head. The covering for the head is treated of next to the garments for the body. Keil cites for שָׁלַח ( “to let loose”), as “to let grow freely,” Lev. 10:6 and Num. 6:5. But the first passage must not be so understood, and we need not suppose here, in accordance with the second, a prohibition of Nazaritism, but, as the markedly positive clause shows, the hair is simply to be kept short, to be polled. Comp. 1 Cor. 11:14 sq. (Rev. 9:8). (כָּסֹם is found only here.). On this Hengstenberg observes: “That which is the sign of a wild, disorderly man, who lets nature take its free course, might indeed be permitted to the Nazarite, in consequence of a vow undertaken for a time, in order thereby to typify his separation from the world; but not to the priest, whose duty it was to hold converse with the world, and adapt himself to society, to enter which with shorn hair was the custom even in Joseph’s time. The priest should be no separated person.” If flowing locks and the growth of hair generally is the sign of vigorous natural life, as the forbidden shaving also on its part symbolizes, then by forbidding the priest as representative of a holy people to let his locks grow long, the false positive, in addition to the false negative, is forbidden; the maxim that: every one is his own law (as every one his own devil), unbounded naturalism is forbidden. Neither annihilation nor yet glorification of nature, neither askesis unto death nor honouring of the flesh, but simply law, divine order, is the watchword for the servant of Jehovah. The sanctification treated of is neither heathenishly self-chosen, one’s own fabrication, self-sanctification, nor is it a natural holiness of one’s own, which needs not a sanctification in Jehovah’s way.
Ezekiel 44:21. Although abstinence from wine is demanded, yet our passage has nothing to do with the Nazarite proper. His was a vow regulated by law; but always a free-will dedication Proverbs tempore, where the man thus devoted himself to God with all his naturalism, just as he had grown up. That the priests are not to drink wine (Lev. 10:9) is grounded on no temporary, formal separation from the world, is no drastic consecration, as in the case of the Nazarite, but is simply an emblem of what is seemly, of sobriety of soul, of the true spirit of a servant of God, who goes into the inner court,—the reason assigned for the prohibition.
Ezekiel 44:22. From their manner of life in respect to drinking, and no doubt generally (Rom. 13:14), the obligation of the priests turns to their married life. The injunction not to marry a widow (Lev. 21:14, 13) is extended here from the high priest to the whole body of priests, who in this respect then appear high-priestly, just as in Ezekiel 43:12 everything upon the mountain round about was most holy. The ordinary priest also is not allowed to marry (Lev. 21:7) אִשָּׁה גְּרוּשָׁה, a woman put away by her husband, of course with reason, because of guilt; one of this kind is classified as a factitious widow with those who are really widows. The permission to take a priest’s widow forms a pendant to the judgment pronounced on the daughter of a priest in Lev. 21:9. For the rest, the verse relates to the priests’ being holy with reference to the holiness of Jehovah. [The Jewish Talmudic view limits the first part to the high priest, understanding מכּהֵן of the other priests: “Yet the widow who is (really) a widow, those who occupy the position of ordinary priests may take.”]
Ezekiel 44:23 defines the official duties of the priests. יָרָה (Hiph.), “to spread out,” the hand, for example, to point to something, to teach, here the people, of whom Jehovah says: My people (Deut. 17:10 sq., 33:10; Lev. 10:10); and above all to teach them the difference between, etc., for which comp. Ezekiel 22:26. The priestly service, then, is to comprehend worship and doctrine, representation of the people before God, and representation of God before the people. (Comp. Mal. 2:7) But above all, everything with an eye to sanctification.
Ezekiel 44:24 gives in addition to this the court of judicature which they form in disputed cases (Deut. 17:8 sq., 19:17): עַל־רִיב, they are to stand over the confused and complicated points raised by the parties, and because they have the power to stand over them as judges, since they have to judge in My judgments, they will always find in the law of Jehovah what is right in every case. Qeri: לְמִשְׁפָּט, and Qeri: יִשׁפְּטֻהוּ, are both equally unnecessary. What this administration of justice is in civil life—it too being a sanctification of the people through the judgment of God—has its counterpart in church life, in the observance of all the laws and ordinances, on all the festivals of Jehovah, the key-note for which is given with the hallowing of the Sabbaths (comp. for the reverse, Ezekiel 22:26), while at the same time we are told what is always the main matter in priestly ministration.
Ezekiel 44:25 therefore shows how the priests have to keep themselves from defilement.—לֹא יָבוֹא individualizes, to speak exactly.—The exception (כִּי אִם) affects the same blood-relations as Lev. 21. The exception of the high priest (Lev. 21:10 sq.) is not noticed, just as there is no notice of the high priest in the whole book. Ezekiel 44:26 is, according to Keil, the command to purify from uncleanness by the dead sharpened, inasmuch as he believes the seven days are appointed over and above the space of seven days prescribed by the law (Num. 19:11 sq.), and finds this indicated in טָהֳרָתוֹ, in which he thinks he sees a compensation for the previously permitted coming of the priests to the dead, which in the law had been forbidden to the high priest even in the case of father or mother. Rather perhaps the number seven simply points the more strongly to holiness and sanctification. Hengstenberg, on the other hand, insists on the distinction between: having been cleansed, and: “cleansing,” which, he says, began with the beginning of the seven days (Num. 19), seven days being the longest period which any uncleanness lasts. At all events it cannot be denied that Ezekiel 44:27 still demands the offering of a sin-offering when the priest enters again on his ministry.
After the duties come now the privileges of the priests, what is to accrue to them for their service.—In Ezekiel 44:28 we have, first of all, the fundamental condition known from the law (comp. Num. 18:20; Deut. 10:9, 18:1), expressed first positively, then negatively, and finally once more positively; which the Israelite priestly consciousness received and retained in living and in dying. For, since the priests of Israel are no foreigners, no dominant race, but of Israel, like all their brethren, it would be natural, when Canaan was promised by God as נַחֲלָה to the people to whom they belonged, that to them also there should be a definite tribal territory for inheritance and possession (אֲחֻזָּה, something which one grasps and retains). But they represent Israel not as to the flesh but as to the spirit, as to the idea which from the outset makes of this people God’s peculiar possession, and thereby God their peculiar possession: “My” people, and I am Jehovah, “thy God.” Now, as the Lord already (Gen. 15:1) says to Abraham, the father of all believers: I am thy very great reward, so this is to the priests for an inheritance, that I am their inheritance (נַחֲלָה), as Jehovah says. They are thereby in such a position that nothing more is to be given to them (לֹא־תִתְּנוּ לָהֶם), at least by their fellow-countrymen, to whom on the contrary they give an earnest of the ideality of their nationality, of the eternal inheritance, of the possession of Canaan in truth, in that they as matter of fact teach Israel its better self, its true aspiration, its eternal future. [Ezekiel 44:28 does not, as Keil supposes, treat of cities to dwell in, with the houses and pasture-grounds belonging thereto, which in the Mosaic economy Jehovah assigns to the Levites and priests from His own peculiar possession in land; comp. Ezekiel 45]
Ezekiel 44:29. On the contrary, they have their livelihood from the offerings, and in so far live from Jehovah’s hand. On the meat, sin, and guilt-offerings here mentioned, comp. in the law Lev. 2:1–10; 1 Cor. 9:13.—חֵרֶם ( “separating”) is what is devoted to Jehovah without possibility of redemption; for this comp. Lev. 27:21, 28.
Ezekiel 44:30. בִּכּוּרִים are the first-fruits of tree-fruit and of corn (from בָּכַר, “to break forth”). Comp. Ex. 23:19, 34:26; Num. 18:13; Deut. 18:4.—תְּרוּמָה is said of parts of the offerings with reference to the ceremonial of heaving and waving, which likewise signified consecration to Jehovah. The Rabbins explain the word of the gift “separated” for the Lord; for thus it took place with all the first-fruits, sheaves as well as loaves. At all events, the heave-offering is in general whatever is according to precept or of free will lifted up for Jehovah as a consecrated gift to the sanctuary, indirectly to its ministers (Ex. 25:2 sq., 30:13 sq.; Num. 15:19 sq., 18:27 sq.). Comp. Ezekiel 20:40.—עֲרִיסָה, used only in the plural, is supposed to be “groats,” or “peeled grain” (GESENIUS), with which רֵאשִׁית does not well harmonize; hence Meier supposes grain-corn. Comp. Num. 15:20 sq.—Everything mentioned in Ezekiel 44:29 tends to sanctification; the heaving and waving in particular involved the thought, that in consequence of such gifts to the priest the blessing of God is brought down on the individual house. Hengstenberg translates: “and that thou mayest make blessing rest in thy house,” and cites Matt. 15:4, 5. Comp. Mal. 3:10.
Ezekiel 44:31 brings to a close what refers to the sustenance of the priests, mentioning the things to be excluded therefrom. נְבֵלָה, a dead body, what lies stretched out of men and beasts, cadaver. טְרֵפָה, “something torn off,” torn by wild beasts. Comp. Ezekiel 4:14; Ex. 22:30 ; Lev. 22:8. Lev. 17:15 marks this as defiling for any man, how much more so for the priests of Jehovah; so that by this the idea of holiness is exemplified. “Only what Jehovah gives to them and His sanctuary in offerings and dues, which, however, must never be unclean, shall accrue to them; and this at the same time forms the best transition to the awards which follow” (EWALD).
On Ch. 44
Ezekiel 44:1 sq. “Blessed are they who walk under God’s guidance, whom He brings back as here to the principal gate toward the east” (STARCK).—“God’s connection with mankind remains a secret” (DIEDRICH).—“The shut gate is the book sealed with seven seals, which only the victorious Lion of the tribe of Judah opens, and no one shuts (Rev. 5:5). When we draw near to Him who is the Door of the sheepfold, He, because He is the only-begotten of the Father, will open unto us and show us the Father” (ŒCOL.).—“Christ needs no successor to figure as His vicar in the Church” (BERL. BIB.).—“But certainly in what follows a prerogative is indicated which pious princes, magistrates, and lords may have” (COCC.).—“Our heart, too, should be shut to the world and the devil, when once the Holy God has entered into it, and His glory has swallowed up sin and misery in us” (STARKE).—“Alas, if the door of heaven should be shut!” (STARCK.)
Ezekiel 44:3. The position of the prince in the sanctuary of the Lord.—Even the highest civil power has nothing to complete here, but only enjoys the fruits of the completed, perfect sacrifice of Christ.—Princedom and power in the light of the glory of Christ.—The Christian ruler and the rule of Christ.—Privileges and the corresponding responsibility.—“The nearer we are to the sanctuary, the more holy and godly ought we to be” (STARCK).—The Christian ruler ought to be the Christian pattern to his people.—He is not to preach, just as it is not his office to offer sacrifice; but he is to nourish and protect the Church and avow its faith.—“Christ is the gate, the only gate; through Him the glory of God has entered into the Church. It also belongs to Him alone to speak the word of God. Hence even the prince is not allowed to enter the Church for the purpose of making his own discourses be heard there. For in the Church is the throne of Christ alone, and of no one else. What is said of the prince is rather this, that he ought to have a good conscience and joy before the Lord because of his princely office, which does not merely consist in this, that we live in peace and quiet under his sceptre, but also that the people may hear the word of God, and without fear offer to Him the sacrifices of their worship” (COCC.). (Interpreting the prince as the Messiah: “No one knoweth the Father but the Son, who is from God, because He says: My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me” (John 4:34), (ŒCOL.)
Ezekiel 44:4. “If the prophet here again falls to the ground before the glory of the Lord, have we not humbly to acknowledge and confess our frailty and weakness in presence of the divine mysteries? No plummet of the understanding sounds the abyss of the mysteries of God. Let us be content with what revelation presents to us” (after JEROME).—“God reveals His glory to His servants, especially when He calls on them to make known His will to the people, Acts 18:9, 23:11” (TÜB. BIB.).—“Consider, O Christian, whether thou art what thou art called; whether thou hast God or some one else dwelling in thy heart; whether thou art full of glory or of worldliness, sensuality, and carnality!” (STARKE.
Ezekiel 44:5 sq. Divine things are not to be drowsily listened to, or drowsily engaged in.—In everything there must be heart—in seeing, in hearing, in doing.—Pectus theologum facit, not pathos.—The goings in and out of the sanctuary, a solemn consideration for every one, but especially for those who keep the charge of the sanctuary, whatever their rank in the service.—“The sin which still adheres to believers makes them often inattentive in the most necessary things; hence they need many a stirring up and putting in remembrance, 2 Pet. 1:13” (STARKE).
Ezekiel 44:6. Sinners make light of their doings; but God suddenly says: Enough.—“He who seeks to be saved out of this lost world must once for all have enough of it” (STARCK).—The feeling of final surfeit of the world must, however, include aversion; for repentance is conversion, not so weariness of the world, disgust with the world, or such like.—There is a difference between the Israel after the flesh and the Israel after the Spirit.
Ezekiel 44:7. “The false Israel gives the sacraments to the heathen, and elects heretics to office” (DIEDRICH).—I know thy works, saith the Lord, but of thy faithfulness I know nothing. Quite enough to remove the candlestick, although baptizing, marrying, and dispensing the Lord’s Supper still go on.—The so-called liberal clergy.—The voice of the people, the choice of the people, is not God’s voice, God’s choice, but frequently God’s judgment to the full.—Strange doctrine indicates an uncircumcised heart; and where that is, in spite of ordination and consistorial confirmation, and whatever else pertains to circumcision, there is nothing but the foreskin of a hireling, a thief, and a murderer of the sheep.—“Self-chosen divine service is an abomination to the Lord” (STARKE).—The responsibility in the election of a pastor.—The outward discharge of the ministerial office, however exact, does not make a minister such as he should be according to God’s word,—A person baptized in due form may yet be no Christian alter the Spirit.
Ezekiel 44:8. The false teachers, who please the spirit of the age and have the applause of the world.—What general can employ a soldier who is everything else, but no soldier? And the general superintendents [bishops, presbyteries] ordain year by year men who have got through their examinations and are of canonical age, but who are fitter for anything else than for being pastors.
Ezekiel 44:9. “It is accordingly a token of the greatest decline of the Church when the wicked and manifest hypocrites are not only not expelled, but go freely in and out, and even have the ruling power” (BERL. BIB.).—The Church of the future of Jesus Christ, a pure church.
Ezekiel 44:10 sq. The judgment on the priests of the sanctuary, already begun inwardly, is their evil conscience, that cripples all energy in presence of the world, and degrades them to the position of paid domestics; and outwardly too, for even men of the world have no respect for them, although they do not revile them as fanatics.—The false righteousness, which is not God’s righteousness, is also a detestable idol, behind which so many preachers commit adultery.—“Where there are ungodly teachers there is no want of ungodly hearers, Jer. 5:31” (STARKE).—The lower service in the sanctuary a question of conscience reaching into many a pastor’s life.—Degraded priests a mirror for pastors.
Ezekiel 44:11. But even in the performance of subordinate service, where one originally stood higher, the grace of God may be with us, provided we let God’s humbling of us issue in conversion of heart, and look upon the punishment as a righteous recompense. It is not at all necessary that we should, as the world calls it, make a successful career in the clerical profession.—It is not natural gifts, but heartfelt piety, which decides as to the testimonials which the Lord grants, and as to capacity for office in His eyes.
Ezekiel 44:12. Least of all should a preacher be a stumbling-block and cause of destruction to others. Yet the grace of God will still raise up from their fall even those who caused others to fall. Grace and always grace. Let us not despise the offer, let us not neglect the day of grace.—But there is no grace without self-judgment and self-condemnation.—The sins of the preacher in their consequences as regards the life of the community.—“A minister of the Church ought to be a pattern to the flock in doctrine and life, 1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 1:13; Tit. 2:7” (STARCK).The servant who knows his lord’s will and does it not shall receive a double amount of stripes.
Ezekiel 44:13, 14. The ignominy of failure in ministerial life: personal access to God is hindered, and the office becomes a torment.—“Wherein can they who have cause to be ashamed before others of their former doings, and have given much offence to others, complain of God that the first have become last, when God still finally receives and takes hold of them, although they do not attain to such a high position as otherwise they might have attained to, and which others have attained to? Should they not rather extol God’s exceeding great and undeserved mercy to them?” (BERL. BIB:)
Ezekiel 44:15, 16. The sons of Zadok are those who have neither received the mark of the beast in their hand nor in their forehead (Rev. 13).—“Faithful servants of God are highly esteemed in His sight, Ps. 105:15” (CR.).
Ezekiel 44:16 sq. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5).—“Sheep they ought to be, but neither to keep the sheep for the sake of the fleece, nor to enter in in sheep’s clothing” (BERL. BIB.).—“Let him who desires to be found at last among them that are clothed in white robes, be diligent to have a conscience void of offence, Acts 24:15 sq.” (STARKE).—The precepts according to the law should remind us that preachers particularly run within lists, as Paul writes of the Christians. What is fitting for any one else may yet be far from seemly in a preacher.—But it is just those who take things easy that speak most of their severe toil and the heavy labour they have to undergo.
Ezekiel 44:19 sq. “Let them manifest their intimate fellowship with God and the glorious privileges over which their soul rejoices in a becoming walk and conversation. They are not to conform to the world, but to shine as lights among men (Phil. 2:15); while at the same time they are not to make a show of their inward life, lest the people from hypocrisy should imitate that to which their mind is a stranger” (HEIM-HOFF.).—“They certainly should go among the people, but not seek to exalt themselves over the people because of their prerogatives, but to hold converse with them as brethren with brethren” (COCC.). (Comp. on Ezekiel 42:14.)—He who ministers at the sanctuary must never seem profane, nor a fop in his attire, nor comic in his speech, nor a man of the world in his transactions. He may seem ridiculous to the world, only never conformed to the world.—But the pretended sanctification through holy priests is also of the devil, for of God Christ is made to us sanctification, etc., and there is no other mediator than He the only Mediator between God and men.
Ezekiel 44:20 sq. Seemly, but not remarkable either in defect or excess.—Men of extremes are unfit for the holy ministry.—“The spirit of believers is a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, 2 Tim. 1:7” (BERL. BIB.).
Ezekiel 44:22. Ministers’ widows an exception among widows.—But this neither bids ministers marry, nor forbids their remaining unmarried, only the marriage ought to be a priestly one.—The spiritual side of the married state.
Ezekiel 44:23. As their life, so above all their teaching ought to preserve the people from defilement, and train them to purity.
Ezekiel 44:24. God’s word is God’s judgment, the righteous Judge, right law and upright judgment.—The servant of God as umpire in disputes. He must not be a party man, but stands over the parties.—The Sabbath in the pastor’s house also a subject for reflection.
Ezekiel 44:25 sq. They who are the messengers, heralds, and representatives of an eternal life shall neither have their serenity disturbed by the death of believers, which is no death, nor their pure walk defiled by the life of the spiritually dead, which is no life.—“Have no fellowship with those who love dead works but hate the life of God” (BERL. BIB.).—We too are allowed to wipe our eyes, as God wipes away every tear from the eyes of His saints.—At Jehovah’s altar is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Ps. 132:9, 16).
Ezekiel 44:28. “Why dost thou, O teacher, strive for a larger stipend and greater income? Knowest thou not that the Lord Himself will be thine inheritance and thy exceeding great reward, or wishest thou not that He should be so?” (TÜB. BIB.)—“All who have first the kingdom of God for their possession, are also truly priests. God feeds them wholly on what is hallowed, and he who will have a blessing in his house must evince love to them” (DIEDRICH).—What greater inheritance can there be than God, the Lord of all; and what greater possession than He who made, who sustains, and rules heaven and earth?—“So Christians ought not to endeavour after filthy lucre; they are not to have their portion in this world, but to have their home in heaven” (ŒCOL.).
Ezekiel 44:31. “In God’s service there is no filthy lucre. The Lord purifies everything for them who eat with Him” (DIEDRICH).
Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut.