Then he brought me forth into the utter court, the way toward the north: and he brought me into the chamber that was over against the separate place, and which was before the building toward the north.
Verses 1-14. - The priests' chambers. Verse 1. - The survey of the house having been completed, the seer was conducted by his guide into the outer court (see on Ezekiel 40:17), by the way toward the north, i.e. by the inner north gate (see Ezekiel 40:23) and from the outer court into the chamber that was over against the separate place, and which was before the building toward the north. That this chamber, or these chambers (לִשְׁכָּה being a collective noun, though in vers. 4 and 5 it occurs in the plural), were not the same cells as those mentioned in Ezekiel 40:17, 44, as Havernick supposes, is apparent from their situation and use. Those in Ezekiel 40:44 were in the inner, while these were in the outer; and if the cells spoken of in Ezekiel 40:17 were in the outer court, they were also on the pavement by the outer wall, while the chambers now alluded to were "over against," or in front of, the gizrah, or separate place (see on Ezekiel 41:12), and "over against," or in front of, "the building toward the north." This building Kiel, Hengstenberg, Schroder, and Plumptre hold to have been the erection on the gizrah; Ewald, Kliefoth, Smend, and Currey believe it to have meant the temple. The question as to which view is correct is immaterial, since the row of chambers extended in front of parts of both buildings. Ewald, as usual, follows the LXX., and translates, "brought me to the fifteen (another Greek text has five) cells;" but of this the Hebrew contains nothing.
Before the length of an hundred cubits was the north door, and the breadth was fifty cubits.
Verse 2. - With this verse the Authorized and Revised Versions begin a new sentence, and are in this at one with Smend; but the majority of expositors place the second verse under the regimen of the verb, "he brought me," in ver. 1, and understand the seer to state that he was planted down before the length (or, long side) of an hundred cubits, with the door toward the north, and the breadth fifty cubits. That is to say, the building which contained the sacristies, or priests' chambers, was a hundred cubits long and fifty bread. As the building on the separate place was also a hundred cubits long (Ezekiel 41:13), it might seem as if this erection ran exactly parallel to that, and this view is taken by Hengstenberg, Schroder, and Plumptre; but Kliefoth, Keil, and Currey, on the authority of Ezekiel 46:19, locate a priests' kitchen behind the priests' chambers towards the west, and reserve for it forty cubits, on the plausible ground that it would not likely be smaller in size than the sacrificial kitchen for the people (see Ezekiel 46:22). Hence, if the building under consideration began forty cubits east of the gizrah wall, it would extend twenty cubits over the end and along the length of the temple.
Over against the twenty cubits which were for the inner court, and over against the pavement which was for the utter court, was gallery against gallery in three stories.
Verse 3. - Considerable difficulty attaches to the words of this verse. The twenty cubits which were for the inner court (better, the twenty which belonged to the inner court) have been taken by Kliefoth to signify the watchers' coils in the inner court, west of the north door (Ezekiel 40:40-46), and by Plumptre to indicate an inner area of twenty cubits square, round which the galleries in three stories ran. Both of these views, however, have this against them, that they are purely conjectural, the text in Ezekiel 40:40-46 saying nothing about twenty cubits in connection with the priests' chambers, and the text under review making no suggestion of an inner area of twenty cubits, but only of the already well-known "inner court." Hence the opinion of Ewald, Hengstenberg, Keil, Schroder, and Currey has most in its favor, that the "twenty" alongside of which the chamber now alluded to lay, meant the twenty cubits clear space which surrounded the temple on the south, west, and north sides (see Ezekiel 41:12-14), and which could properly be spoken of as "for the inner court," rather as "belonging to the inner court," since it was practically a continuation of the same. The pavement which was for (or, belonged to) the outer court, was manifestly that already described as running along the inside of the outer wall (see Ezekiel 40:17). If, as is likely, this pavement was continued along the north side of the inner court wall, then the priests' chambers must have stood upon it, and been over against it on the east side, as Currey explains; but the easier and more natural supposition is that adopted by Keil, that the second "over against" points to that which faced the chambers on the north, viz. the pavement, as the first marked their boundary on the south. Gallery against gallery (see on Ezekiel 41:15). In three stories; or, in the third story (Revised Version). Whether these galleries existed in each of three stories of the building, or only in the third, cannot be determined. If בַּשְּׁלִשִׁים, "in the thirds" occurs elsewhere only in Genesis 6:16, to denote the chambers or rooms of the third story in the ark, as Smend observes, "the expression might also quite naturally signify three stories, one above another."
And before the chambers was a walk of ten cubits breadth inward, a way of one cubit; and their doors toward the north.
Verse 4. - Before the chambers a walk. Whether this walk ran along the longer, i.e. northern, or in front of the eastern side of the chambers, and how it stood related to the way, which is likewise mentioned in connection with the chambers, are litigated questions. The LXX. identifies the two, and understands a way in front of the chambers of ten cubits broad and a hundred cubits long. Ewald and Keil so far agree with the LXX. as to change the one cubit way into a hundred-cubit way; but whereas Ewald thinks of a passage ten cubits broad and a hundred cubits long, running from west to east between two sets of chambers, Keil speaks of a walk of ten cubits broad and a hundred cubits long in front of the cells, extending into a way of equal breadth and length, leading westward into the inner court. Havernick's, Hengstenberg's, and Kliefoth's idea, favored by Schroder, and probably the best, is that of a walk of ten cubits in front of the cells, and a way of one cubit leading into them from the walk. Dr. Currey reverses this, and makes a walk of ten cubits leading inward, and a way, or kerb, of one cubit in front. Plumptre agrees that the passage leading into the chambers was ten cubits broad, but regards the one cubit as denoting the thickness of the wall separating the walk from the interior of the chambers.
Now the upper chambers were shorter: for the galleries were higher than these, than the lower, and than the middlemost of the building.
Verse 5. - The rendering of the Revised Version sufficiently explains this otherwise obscure verse, "Now the upper chambers were shorter," or narrower, "for the galleries took away from these;" literally, did eat of them, "more than from the lower and the middlemest in the building." In other words, the chambers rose in terrace form, each of the upper stories receding from that below it, as was customary in Babylonian architecture.
For they were in three stories, but had not pillars as the pillars of the courts: therefore the building was straitened more than the lowest and the middlemost from the ground.
Verse 6 supplies the reason for this shortening of the upper stories. The chambers had not pillars (see on Ezekiel 40:49) as the courts had. Though it is not otherwise stated, these appear to have had colonnades like these in the Herodian (Josephus, 'Aut.,' 15. 11. 5) and probably also the Solomonic temple (Acts 3:11); and hence the second and third stories required to recede in order to find supports for their respective galleries.
And the wall that was without over against the chambers, toward the utter court on the forepart of the chambers, the length thereof was fifty cubits.
Verse 7. - The wall; or, fence - the Hebrew term being not חֹמָה, as in Ezekiel 40:5, or קִיר, as in Ezekiel 41:5, both of which signify the wall of a city or a building, but גָדֵר (or גֶדֶר, as in ver. 10), which means a fence or hedge, as in Ezekiel 13:5 - without, over against - or, by the side of (Revised Version) - the chambers, toward the outer court, cannot have been a rampart along the north side of-the chambers, since this was a hundred cubits long, but must have been a wall upon the side of the chambers (east or west) fencing off the outer court from the passage which led down by the side of the chambers. That this fence was on the east side is rendered probable by the circumstance that the sacrificial kitchen lay upon the west (see Ezekiel 46:19, 20), and by the statements which follow in vers. 8 and 9. The fence was doubtless intended to screen the side windows of the lower chambers from public gaze, since these were to be occupied as robing and disrobing rooms for the priests who should officiate in the temple (see ver. 14; and Ezekiel 44:19).
For the length of the chambers that were in the utter court was fifty cubits: and, lo, before the temple were an hundred cubits.
Verse 8. - According to the statement contained in this verse, the chambers that were in the outer court, i.e. the chambers whose windows looked into the outer court, projected fifty cubits into the outer court; i.e. this was their breadth or depth from north to south; whereas those before the temple were an hundred cubits; i.e. the chambers whose windows fronted the temple, were a hundred cubits from east to west.
And from under these chambers was the entry on the east side, as one goeth into them from the utter court.
Verse 9. - The chambers were approached by an entry (in the text the entry, this being a well-known and recognized part of the structure) which ran along the east side of the building, and led from the outer to the temple court. As this (the outer) court was higher than that (the temple), and could only be reached by steps, "the entry" is represented as lying under the chambers. It was manifestly this "entry" that was screened by the fence mentioned in ver. 7.
The chambers were in the thickness of the wall of the court toward the east, over against the separate place, and over against the building.
Verses 10-12. - A similar suite of chambers, corresponding in every detail, is depicted as having stood upon the south side of the temple and in front of the gizrah. The only question among interpreters is whether ver. 10 relates to the north or south suite, or to an east suite. Schroder and Currey see in ver. 10 a repetition, from another point of view, of what has already been stated about the north chambers, viz. that, viewed from the outer court, they appeared in the thickness or breadth of the wall (ver. 7) and (lengthwise) over against the separate place and the buildings, i.e. the gizrah and the temple. Ewald, Smend, and Keil decide that ver. 10 forms part of the description of a south set of chambers only; but in order to make this good they alter the text by substituting הַדָּרום, "the south," for הַקָּדִים, "the east." Plumptre agrees with Kliefoth and Hengstenberg in holding that two similar sets of chambers are described, one on the east side and one on the south side of the inner court wall. The principal objection to this is the fact that only two suites, the north and the south, are referred to by the guide in vers. 13 and 14.
And the way before them was like the appearance of the chambers which were toward the north, as long as they, and as broad as they: and all their goings out were both according to their fashions, and according to their doors.
And according to the doors of the chambers that were toward the south was a door in the head of the way, even the way directly before the wall toward the east, as one entereth into them.
Then said he unto me, The north chambers and the south chambers, which are before the separate place, they be holy chambers, where the priests that approach unto the LORD shall eat the most holy things: there shall they lay the most holy things, and the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; for the place is holy.
Verses 13, 14. - These state the uses of the chambers just described, and now named holy chambers, to denote their separation and dedication to sacred purposes. Those purposes, again, are defined as two. The chambers were to serve as dining-halls and robing rooms for the priests when they officiated in the temple. The most holy things; literally, the holy of the holies (comp. Ezekiel 41:4; Ezekiel 43:12; Ezekiel 45:3; Ezekiel 48:12; Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 6:17, 25, 29; Leviticus 7:1, 6; Leviticus 10:12, 17; Leviticus 14:13; Leviticus 24:9; Leviticus 27:28; Numbers 18:9), signified those portions of the different sacrificial offerings which were to be eaten by the priests as the servants and representatives of Jehovah (see Keil's 'Biblische Archaologie,' 1. § 46) or of the people (see Kurtz's ' Sacrificial Worship of the Old Testament,' p. 240, Eng. transl.). Under the Law these were appointed to be eaten in the holy place beside the altar (Leviticus 10:12, 13; Numbers 18:10); in Ezekiel's temple, a special quarter in the near vicinity of the house should be reserved for this purpose. There those portions of the sacrifices that could be eaten were to be consumed; as e.g., the flesh of the sin and trespass offerings, and the meal of the meat offering; but as these could not be at once used, they were to be deposited there until they were prepared for eating, the flesh by being boiled and the meal by being mixed with oil. The obvious intention of this was to convey an idea of the special sanctity of the worship in which the priests were engaged; and just for this reason also they were required to array themselves in other garments (Leviticus 16:23) when they entered on their priestly functions. The putting on and off of these holy clothes took place in the chambers now referred to.
When the priests enter therein, then shall they not go out of the holy place into the utter court, but there they shall lay their garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people.
Now when he had made an end of measuring the inner house, he brought me forth toward the gate whose prospect is toward the east, and measured it round about.
Verses 15-20. - The temple precincts. The seer's guide, having completed his measurement of the house with its courts, proceeds to measure its encompassing wall, for this purpose conducting the prophet out by the east gate, and measuring, first the east, next the north, thirdly the south, and lastly the west wall, each five hundred reeds in length, or three thousand cubits, so that the entire area of the quadrangle amounted to 3000 × 3000 = 9,000,000 square cubits, equivalent to 2,250,000 square yards. Verse 15. - The inner house was not the temple as distinguished from its courts, but the temple with its courts, which lay within the wall about to be measured.
He measured the east side with the measuring reed, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed round about.
Verse 16. - Five hundred reeds. Ewald, Hitzig, and Smend, with others, following the LXX., regard this wall as that of the outer court, and change the "reeds" into "cubits;" but the majority of expositors adhere to the text, and understand the wall to be that of a great quadrangle which encompassed the whole structure, or the outer court and all within.
He measured the north side, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed round about.
He measured the south side, five hundred reeds, with the measuring reed.
He turned about to the west side, and measured five hundred reeds with the measuring reed.
He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place.
Verse 20. - To make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane. In these words the prophet indicates the purpose designed to be served by this particular wall; and although it may be said the outer court divided between the "sanctuary," or that which was holy, and the "profane," or that which was common, yet a more decided separation would assuredly be made by extending in the way described the precincts of the house. The objections usually offered to the view which regards the present measurements as those of a larger quadrangle encompassing the outer court, are not sufficient to make that view impossible.
(1) It is said that the "sanctuary" always refers to the house as contrasted with its courts, especially with the outer court, and that in this sense it should here be taken; but the rendering, "that which is holy," shows how the idea of special sanctity might easily be extended to the whole structure, including courts as well as house (see Psalm 114:2; Daniel 9:20).
(2) It is urged that there is no other instance in which the measurements are represented as having been taken by "reeds" in the plural; but a glance at Ezekiel 45:1, etc., and Ezekiel 48:16, will show that this is incorrect.
(3) It is represented that in the center of such a huge quadrangle the house, with its courts and gates, would wear an insignificant appearance; but, while this might have been so had the area been crowded with other buildings, it is rather likely that in the midst of so large a vacant space the temple and its courts stand out with increased clearness, if not with augmented size.
(4) It is added that the summit of Mount Moriah could not admit of the construction of such a vast quadrangle; and it is answered that this shows the temple was an ideal house, never meant to be built upon the literal Moriah.