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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Ezekiel 42

Verses 5-20

2. The millennial temple 40:5-42:20

Earlier Ezekiel hinted that there would be a future temple in the restored Promised Land (Ezekiel 20:40; Ezekiel 37:24-28). Now he described it in considerable detail. [Note: See also the drawings in Allen, Ezekiel 20-48, pp. 231, 233, 234, 258, 282, and 283; and in Block, The Book . . . 48, pp. 508, 509, 520, 541, 550, 565, 572, 573, 598, 603, 711, and 733.] Some of the detail is here to help the reader understand what the writer recorded later about what would happen in this complex (chs. 43-46): stage setting. This is also true of the descriptions of the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple described earlier in the Old Testament. Some of the detail is here to help the reader realize that the temple being described is not one that has stood in the past; it is a future temple. This section has a basic chiastic structure centering on the description of the inner court and the things associated with it. Ezekiel’s guide led him from outside the temple enclosure, into its inner court, and then back out of the complex.

The ancient Israelites always worshipped God outdoors, in the courtyards that surrounded the temple itself. Only the priests entered the temple building. In this temple too the people had access to the outer courtyard only; the priests alone used the inner courtyard.

"The restored temple represents God’s desire to be in the midst of his people and suggests his accessibility to them and desire to bless them (see, e.g., Ezekiel 48:35; Revelation 21:3-4; Revelation 22:1-4)." [Note: L. Cooper, p. 357.]

Verses 1-2

Ezekiel’s guide next took him out the north inner gate into the outer court and showed him another building. It stood between the "separate area," the 20-cubit (33 feet 4 inches) space that bordered the temple proper, and "the building toward the north," evidently the complex of rooms in the outer court that stood against the north wall of the temple complex. The length of this building, east to west, was 100 cubits (166 feet 8 inches), and its width, north to south, was 50 cubits (83 feet 4 inches). This structure had a door on its north side.

Verses 1-14

The priests’ eating and dressing rooms 42:1-14

This is a very difficult section to interpret because the description of these structures is obscure in the Hebrew text.

Verses 3-4

There were colonnades (galleries, covered porches) outside this building facing the inner and outer courts (north and south). These matching colonnades were three stories high, as was the building itself. A 10-cubit-wide (16 feet 8 inches) interior hallway ran the length of this building east to west and provided access to the rooms.

Verses 5-6

The rooms on the third story were smaller than the ones on the first and second stories because the colonnade on the third story took more room than the colonnades on the first and second stories. The third story colonnade did not rest on the exterior walls that reached down to the ground but on top of second-story rooms. Thus the third story colonnade was set back from the exterior walls rather than flush with the ones below it.

Verses 7-9

The north facade of this building, facing the outer court, was only 50 cubits (83 feet 4 inches) wide. Perhaps the roofline was 100 cubits (166 feet 8 inches) long, and there was an open space 50 cubits (83 feet 4 inches) wide under the roof to the east of this facade. The south facade was 100 cubits (166 feet 8 inches) long, the west facade was 50 cubits (83 feet 4 inches) long, and the north facade was 50 cubits (83 feet 4 inches) long.

Verses 10-12

There was a corresponding structure on the south side of the temple proper, the mirror image of the one on the north. The Hebrew text describes this building as on the east, but it must have been on the south, as the Septuagint translators concluded, in view of the complete symmetry of the whole temple complex. It too stood between the outer court and the "separate area" and faced the temple building.

Verses 13-14

Ezekiel’s guide informed him that the rooms to the north and south of the "separate area" were for the priests to use when they ate the sacrifices that people brought to the temple. Under the Mosaic Law, the priests obtained parts of the burnt, grain, peace, sin, and trespass (guilt) offerings (Leviticus 6-7). In the future, priests will receive parts of the grain, sin, and trespass offerings at least. The priests would deposit the offerings in these rooms. They were also dressing rooms for the priests since they could not go from the "separate area" or the inner court into the outer court without changing their clothes. In view of this statement, there must be access into each of these two buildings from the "separate area" as well as from the outer court.

"The burden of the present account is to show that the holiness of sacred space extends beyond the concentric design of the temple complex to the form of the auxiliary structures and the conduct of humans within those structures. Again the proportions of sacred space are more important than the appearance of the buildings." [Note: Block, The Book . . . 48, p. 568.]

Verses 15-20

The dimensions of the temple enclosure 42:15-20

When the man had finished measuring the temple and the structures immediately associated with it, he led Ezekiel out the east outer gate. He measured the exterior of the temple wall, and it was 500 cubits (about 833 feet 4 inches) on each of its four sides (cf. Revelation 21:13). The Hebrew text has "rods" rather than "reeds." This would result in the walls being 3,000 cubits (5,000 feet) on each side and the temple enclosure being almost one mile square. This seems much larger than what the dimensions of courts and structures inside the wall picture (cf. Ezekiel 45:2). This enclosed area is about 18 acres, larger than 13 American football fields. [Note: Stuart, p. 384; Dyer, "Ezekiel," p. 1308.] The man measured the wall with his measuring reed. The wall around the temple area separated what was holy inside from what was common outside.

"The entire area was much too large for Mount Moriah where Solomon’s and Zerubbabel’s temples stood. The scheme requires a great change in the topography of the land which will occur as indicated in Zechariah 14:9-11, the very time which Ezekiel had in view." [Note: Feinberg, p. 249.]

How do less literal interpreters understand chapters 40-42? One answer follows.

"He [Ezekiel] views it [this temple] as a metaphor for God’s new work of liberation and restoration for his people." [Note: Allen, Ezekiel 20-48, p. 235.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 42". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/ezekiel-42.html. 2012.