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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 42

Restoration—Chapters 40-48

FOURTEEN years after the conquest of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, the desolation of the land, the deportation of its inhabitants, Ezekiel describes in this section the restoration of all that was lost, and gives at the same time, in ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12, a glance into the distant future, in which from the restored Israel salvation for the whole world goes forth in fulfilment of the ancient prediction, “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

After the introduction (ch. Ezekiel 40:1-4) follows the description of the temple of the future, its enclosing walls and its gates, ch. Ezekiel 40:5-16; the outer court, Ezekiel 40:17-27; the inner, Ezekiel 40:28-47; the proper temple, chEze 40:48-4:4. In ch. Ezekiel 41:5-11, the proportion of the lateral buildings to the temple; in Ezekiel 41:12-14, that of the rear buildings; in Ezekiel 41:15-26, whatever else is to be said of these structures. In ch. Ezekiel 42:1-14, the offices for the priests. In Ezekiel 42:15-20, after the description of the several parts of the sanctuary, the proportions of the whole. In ch. Ezekiel 43:1-9, the entrance of the Lord into the finished temple. In Ezekiel 43:10-12, why the revelation of the second temple is given. In Ezekiel 43:13-17, the proportions of the altar of burnt-offering; in Ezekiel 43:18-27, its consecration. In ch. Ezekiel 44 the prophet turns from the temple to the priests of the future, to whom the description of the place leads, which formed the central point of their ministry, the altar of burnt-offering. In ch. Ezekiel 45:1-17, the environs of the temple, the glebe land for the priests, the Levites, and the princes of the future. In ch. Ezekiel 45:18 to Ezekiel 46:15, the sacred seasons and the sacred actions of the future. In ch. Ezekiel 46:16-24, supplements to the foregoing. In ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12, an entirely new subject: the waters of the Dead Sea are made wholesome, and filled with life by the stream from the sanctuary. At the close the prophet returns from the distant to the nearer future. After the temple here follow the land and the city of the future. The prophet describes, in ch. Ezekiel 47:13-23, the borders of the land; then in ch. Ezekiel 48 the distribution among the several tribes, and how they are grouped around the temple, and the city adjoining it. Thus all that was lost is restored, and a broad foundation for the hopes of the future is given to the people languishing in misery, to the worm Jacob creeping on the ground.

This great picture of the future belongs to the end of the literary activity of the prophet. The only prediction of a later date to be found in the collection, that in ch. Ezekiel 29:17 to Ezekiel 30:19, which belongs to the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin, while the present belongs to the twenty-fifth, bears no independent character, but is only the resumption of an earlier one at a time when its fulfilment was approaching. It was probably inserted in the collection of prophecies occasioned by the circumstances of those times. Our prophecy simply forms the conclusion of the second consolatory part of ch. Ezekiel 33:21. But, at the same time, it forms the counterpart to the first great description of the destruction in ch. Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 7:27, as it is introduced by the majestic vision of the cherubim in ch. Ezekiel 1. The cherubim and the new temple, the introduction and conclusion,—this is what every one thinks of when the name of Ezekiel is mentioned.

When our prophecy is usually designated as Ezekiel’s vision of the second temple, there is nothing to find fault with, if it is only understood that the designation refers to its most prominent part. Along with the temple, Ezekiel is concerned in everything else that seemed to be for ever lost in the Chaldean catastrophe.

With the exception of the Messianic section in ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12, the fulfilment of all the rest of the prophecy belongs to the times immediately after the return from the Chaldean exile. So must every one of its first hearers and readers have understood it. Jeremiah the prophet, whom Ezekiel follows throughout, with whom the very and with which he begins the collection of his prophecies connects him, had prophesied that the city and temple should be restored seventy years after the date of the Chaldean servitude, falling in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. Of these seventy years, thirty-two had already elapsed at the time when our prophecy was delivered. Ezekiel himself had announced, in ch. Ezekiel 29:13, that forty years after the desolation of Egypt, the nations visited by the Chaldeans would return to their former state. And what is more obvious, according to Ezekiel 11:16, the restoration is to follow in a brief space after the destruction of the temple. Accordingly the first hearers and readers could not but expect that, with respect to the restoration of the temple and city, the word holds good which Habakkuk once uttered (ch. Ezekiel 1:5) with regard to the destruction, “I do a deed in your days;” and we enter upon the interpretation with the presupposition that here also the word of the Lord applies, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.”

What can be maintained against this assumption rests on mere appearance. We have before us not a foreboding, which represents the future in its accidental and indifferent circumstances, but a prophecy, for which it is essential to give truth and poetry, which contains a kernel of real thoughts, but does not present them naked—how would the holy Scripture shrivel up if we should reduce it to its matter of thought!—but clothed with flesh and blood, that they may be a counterpoise to the sad reality, because they fill the fancy, that fruitful workshop of despair, with bright images, and thus by the word alleviate life at a time when all that is visible cries aloud, Where is now thy God? If we mistake this characteristic of the prophecy, that comes out more strikingly in Ezekiel than in any other prophet; if we ascribe a real import to everything without discrimination, an incongruity will certainly appear between the prophecy and the state of things after the exile. But it vanishes at once, if we can distinguish between the thought and its clothing; and this distinction will be easy, if we place before our eyes the first hearers and readers of Ezekiel, figure to ourselves the wounds for which the remedy is here proposed, and at the same time the mental world of Ezekiel the priest, the circumstances in which he grew up, and the materials within him for clothing the divine verities which he had to announce to the people of God. But we must regard this distinction as the chief problem of the expositor in the present section. Exactly in proportion to the fitness of the solution will be the value of the exegetical result. A double danger here lies before us,—to ascribe to forms what belongs to thought, and to thought that which belongs to mere form.

Let us take a glance at the views deviating from that now given. According to some, we have here “a model, according to which, on the return of the people, the temple should have been rebuilt,”—a building specification by divine authority. But this opinion forgets that we have here to do not with an architect, but with a prophet—with one whose department is not the hands, but the hearts, which he has to awaken to faith and hope, and walking in the ways of God. It cannot produce a single analogy from the prophetic region: nowhere have the prophets intruded into the department of legislation, for which under the old covenant other organs were provided. Especially all the other prophecies of Ezekiel of the time after the destruction bear not a legislative, but a hortatory character. In particular, the adjoining prophecy concerning Gog and Magog leads us to expect that here also much will belong to mere pictorial description, which is excluded if we ascribe a legislative import to the section. To this is added the obvious impossibility of erecting a building according to the specifications given. These suffice only to give play to the imagination. For a practical end, the most necessary things are wanting. We have in particular almost nothing of materials, to which so much space is devoted in the description of Solomon’s temple. As a rule, the specifications are confined to the mere measures and distances; whence those who, like Villalpandus, have undertaken to give literal plans of Ezekiel’s temple, have been obliged to draw much from their own fancy. Lastly, in the building of the second temple, it is manifest that no reference is made to Ezekiel’s temple. As the reason of this cannot be sought in any doubt of the divine mission of Ezekiel, whose prophecies were admitted into the canon, it can only be found in this, that men saw in this prophecy something else than a building specification.

In the older theology, it was customary to regard not merely ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12, but the whole section (ch. Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 48:35), as a prophecy of the Christian church. [245] There is truth at the foundation of this view. Although the restoration of the city and the temple is first predicted, as it took place on the return from the Chaldean exile, yet this special announcement rests on the general ground of the firm conviction of the living power and indestructibility of the kingdom of God, the symbol of which was the temple, according to a view pervading the whole of the Old and New Testament. And as the prophecy reaches beyond its first fulfilment, it guarantees that within the kingdom of God life shall arise out of every death,—that the old covenant cannot go down without rising again gloriously in the new. But the fault in the older exposition, as it has been lately revived by Dr. Kliefoth, with the addition that the prophecy here describes not merely the development and operation of the Christian church in this world, but its consummation in the next, was this, that it referred the prophecy directly and exclusively to the Christian church, and excluded the fulfilment in the time of Zerubbabel. It is against this opinion so stated, that it is unnatural to suppose that the prophet has left out all consideration of the nearer deliverance; that, with the exception of ch. Ezekiel 47, there is not the slightest reference to the peculiarities of the church of the New Testament, and all that is advanced as such is only imported; that the statement, “The new theocracy which he depicts is more intellectual and spiritual than the old,” is nowhere verified; and that in this way we lose the whole substance of the prophecy, and are compelled to fill up the vacuum thus occasioned with our own thoughts. It is, for ex., obviously to import and not to expound, if we are to find in the close of the prophecy, from, Ezekiel 47:13 onwards, “the introduction of the people of God, gathered by Christ from Jew and Gentile, as a new manhood, into the perpetual Canaan of the new earth at the consummation.” None of the first readers of Ezekiel could find this in it. They must have understood by the Jordan simply the Jordan, by the sea the Mediterranean, by the tribes themselves those who still bore the yoke of banishment. The return of the people to the old home, the restoration of the temple, of the priestly service to be performed by the sons of Zadok, of the sacrifices in the Old Testament form,—these are obvious realities; and nothing leads us to suppose that they are to be regarded as figures belonging to the action of the prophetic scene of the future. If so interpreted, the prophecy would be altogether vain. The people might then reject the former threatenings of the prophet also, because they referred them to a people of the future, and explained all that cried aloud, “Thou art the man,” as mere figures. Had the prophet wished all these things to be regarded as mere figures, he must have explained this in the clearest manner. The apagogical argument for this view, drawn from the fact that there is much that is not found in the times soon after the exile, so that we must be perplexed about the divine mission of the prophet if we cling to these times, loses its force as soon as it is admitted that a distinction must be made between the thought and its clothing. But we do not see how this argument can be maintained by those who themselves extend the domain of form much further, and in fact draw upon themselves the charge of arbitrary spiritualizing unjustly brought against others.

[245] But the older theologians were not without a sense of the difficulties which pressed upon the view, and awaited fuller light in the future. Starck, for ex., says, Precor Deum, ut aliis Ezechielis revelationem meditantibus majorem affandat lucem, majora dicendi et nodos solvendi.

Finally, most unfortunate is the interpretation, according to which that “national order” is here described, “in which at the end of the times converted Israel, with the church engrafted into it from the heathen, shall live in the millennial kingdom.” There is not the least ground to refer to the last time a prophecy which, rightly understood, has found its fulfilment a few decenniums after it was delivered. It is manifest on the clearest grounds, that the delineations of the prophet have something intentionally Utopian, and much belongs only to the pictorial. If we neglect this, and are led by a literal interpretation to overstep the bounds of the Old Testament, we arrive at very doubtful dogmatic results. The restoration of the temple, the Old Testament festivals, the bloody sacrifices, the priesthood of the sons of Zadok, can only be expected within the bounds of the New Testament by a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ and His church. But if we shrink from these consequences, if at this point we distinguish between the thought and its form, if we cease to cling to the literal interpretation, we do not see why the fulfilment is to be sought in so cloudy a distance. Dr. v. Hofmann says justly in the Scriptural Proof: “In the face of the fall of the Israelitish community, the desolation of the holy land, the destruction of God’s house, the people needed a promise which assured them of the restoration of all that seemed lost.” All this is actually bestowed again upon the people through God’s grace under Zerubbabel and Joshua, Ezra and Nehemiah; and with what gratitude this grace is acknowledged, Psalms 107 for ex., shows. It would be unreasonable to ignore this restoration, rather than be led by so manifest a fulfilment of the promise contradicting all natural reason, to the hope of the deliverance of the church from all the troubles and sorrows which it now suffers.

Verses 1-9

In Ezekiel 42:1-9, the description of a building destined for the priests in the outer court, that immediately adjoins the gizrah on the north, and runs parallel with its whole length. We must beforehand expect that a description of buildings destined for so numerous a priesthood will follow. For the chambers, which according to ch. Ezekiel 40:17 adjoined the enclosing wall in the outer court, were destined for the people. The chambers in the inner court, mentioned in ch. Ezekiel 40:44, belong only to the priestly singers. The cells in the wings of the temple, however, afforded, if they come here at all into account, at all events only a temporary sojourn for the officiating priests. There is as yet altogether wanting a proper dwelling-place for the priests, a great number of whom must have remained the whole day in the temple.

Ezekiel 42:1. And he brought me forth into the outer court, the way toward the north, and took me into the chamber which is over against the gizrah, and which was before the building toward the north. 2. Before the length of a hundred cubits the door toward the north, and the breadth fifty cubits. 3. Over against the twenty of the inner court, and over against the pavement of the outer court, passage was against passage, in the chambers of the third story. 4. And before the chambers a walk ten cubits broad inward, by a way of one cubit, and their doors toward the north. 5. And the upper chambers are shortened; for the passages consumed building space from them, from the lowest and the middle. 6. For they are three-storied, and have no pillars, as the pillars of the courts: therefore is (space) taken away from the lowest and from the middle, from the ground. 7. And the fence-wall which is outside, next the chambers, toward the outer court, in the face of the chambers, its length was fifty cubits. 8. For the length of the chambers which are toward the outer court was fifty cubits; and, lo, before the temple a hundred cubits. 9. And under it (the fence-wall) are these cells: the entrance on the east, in going into them from the outer court.

The prophet had to be led into the outer court ( Ezekiel 42:1), because the building lay in it. He is led the way toward the north, because the building was not on the south side of the area in which he had last been, of the inner area, consisting of the inner court, the temple, and the gizrah, but on the north side. It serves to designate the situation of the building more exactly, that it lay north over against the gizrah and the building. The building here can only be that on the gizrah, which is denoted in ch. Ezekiel 41:12-14 by the same word: any other building must have been more precisely determined. In Ezekiel 42:13 the gizrah merely is named instead of the gizrah and the building,—a proof that there was no local difference between the gizrah and the building. To understand the temple by the building is inadmissible, for this reason, that it should not be even partially obstructed by building; whereas it was quite consistent with the design of the gizrah and its building, to withdraw it from the view, by an additional structure immediately adjacent on both sides. To point directly to this, the words “and before the building” may have been added. But it was also fitting, in the mere interest of the local description, to point out that the gizrah, on which the building to be described bordered, was built upon. Nay, if this building lay on the north side of the gizrah, it must have occupied the most westerly part of the north side of the outer court. For the gizrah occupied in the inner area the last 100 cubits, and ended on the west at the enclosing wall. The after-mentioned priests’ kitchen need not be regarded as a separate building, which lay more westerly than this building, but as an integral part of it, as indeed kitchens are not generally separate buildings. The building bears the name of the chamber in the sense of a system of chambers.

In Ezekiel 42:2 the measurements of the building are given. The length is not directly stated; but it is said that the building lay in the face of or along “the length of a hundred cubits,”—the definite length, that which was before ascribed to the gizrah and its building in the direction from east to west; so that thus the building began in the east, where the gizrah began, and ended in the west, where the gizrah ended. These words are quite unambiguous. The breadth, on the contrary, which is peculiar to this building, is directly given. It amounted to fifty cubits. As, according to what follows, a building for priests of equal breadth lay on the other side of the gizrah, the 100 cubits breadth of the gizrah were enclosed, and set in the middle, by the fifty cubits breadth of the priestly court. But according to the following, this breadth applies only to the lower story. In the two upper there was a diminution, so that the building was in the form of a terrace. Between the statements regarding the length and breadth of the building, it is remarked that the doors (the door stands collectively) opened toward the north. This statement is fitly appended to that of the length, because the doors were in the long side. If there, they must be on the north side, as the gizrah lay on the south. The south opposite of the building, the gizrah, on the north of which it was placed, and likewise the west, the enclosing wall, had been already mentioned in Ezekiel 42:1-2. Thus the doubled over against in Ezekiel 42:3 can refer only to the east and the north. “Over against the twenty of the inner court:” this points to a definite space in the inner area, which in the foregoing was characterized by the number twenty. The pointing would be a mispointing, if in the foregoing there were several such spaces. But there is, in fact, only one passage, twenty cubits broad, provided, according to ch. Ezekiel 41:16, with galleries round the temple; and to this we must refer all the more, because in ch. Ezekiel 41:10 it has been intimated that it extended to the chambers here described. As this space extended on the west side of the temple by the gizrah, while the building here was of the same length with the gizrah, and the fence-wall, which, according to what follows, enclosed the priests’ court on the east, belonged to it, being about twenty cubits distant from the building proper, as well as the passage which led thence to the gate of the inner court; so the east side of the building, at its end, lay over against this space. The building proper came in contact with the end of the twenty on the west; the fence-wall with the end of the twenty on the east. That the twenty are here applied to the inner court, whereas they formed a constituent part of the temple, need not surprise or mislead. The word is properly not court, but enclosed space.

The prophet here divides the whole sanctuary into two spaces, the inner and the outer. First within the inner area there was a distinction between the temple and that which was merely inner area in general, the remaining inner area not specially characterized. For our passage this distinction does not come into account. There remains now still that which is over against on the north side. The pavement of the outer court is thus designated. This occupied on the west side of the court probably the whole breadth of fifty cubits, the half of which was taken up on the remaining sides by the chambers for the people (comp. Ezekiel 40:17-18). The words, “passage (comp. on Ezekiel 41:15) was against passage in the chambers of the third story,” imply that one looked down from the passage before the chambers of the third story, to another passage that was before the chambers of the second story. [278] Before the chambers, according to Ezekiel 42:4, was a street ten cubits wide, to afford entrance to them. It went on the long side from west to east, or north of the building. From it there was access to the interior of the chambers, which was only one cubit from the street, which was the thickness of the walls. That the doors led to the north, had been already said in Ezekiel 42:2, but is here once more repeated, that no one may be in doubt where the way is to be sought,—namely, in the 100 cubits of the long side of the building. According to Ezekiel 42:5, the upmost chambers, those of the third story, were narrowed, less in breadth than the rest. This narrowing is here applied only to the upmost chambers, because it was there most visible. But it found place, as appears more definitely in Ezekiel 42:6, also in the middle, in relation to the lowest; so that the building had three stages: in the first story, fifty cubits; in the second, perhaps forty; in the third, thirty, if we measure the breadth of the passage by that of the street, which formed the entrance to the lowest chambers. The occasion of the narrowing is given in the words, “For the passage consumed building-space from them, from the lowest and the middle.” “Consuming” stands in the sense of subtracting.

The passages or galleries correspond in the upmost story (as also in the middle) to the access or the street in the lowest. They were necessary to obtain access to the several chambers. They served the purpose also of balconies or verandahs. “From them:” this refers to the chambers in general, which are more exactly defined in the words, “from the lowest and the middle (chambers);” in the latter, the half of the space, which was deducted from the lowest by the galleries of the highest. “Building,” or building-space—space that might otherwise have been built upon—is that which is as it were consumed in the upper chambers by the galleries. The space is taken from the upper stories. But the prophet says, from the middle and the lowest, because he gives an ideal prolongation to the end-line of the breadth of these. It means, in fact, from the space which the middle and the lowest took. Ezekiel 42:6 explains why the passages or galleries, which deducted from the building-space, were necessary. Had the chambers had a colonnade before, with a threefold floor in the first, second, and third stories, no galleries diminishing the breadth of the building itself would have been necessary: the object which they served would have been answered by the front. Such a colonnade was found elsewhere in the courts, but not here. No express mention has yet been made of pillars in the courts, which are here spoken of in the plural number. But we shall have to seek them there, where they are here wanting, in “the chambers,”—those for the use of the people in the outer court, and those for the singers in the inner court: only the similarity can invite comparison. We learn from our passage, what we already found probable, that these chambers also had several stories. The words, “Therefore is space taken away from the lowest and from the middle, from the ground,” indicate that in the middle chambers a diminution of the given ground was effected with respect to the lowest, and in the upmost a still greater diminution in reference to the lowest and the middle. “From the ground:” this points out that the diminution of space refers to the normal breadth of fifty cubits which the building had in the ground floor. The earth denotes here the bottom or ground floor. Near the building, according to Ezekiel 42:7, a fence-wall, to withdraw what was within it from the curious gaze: according to ch. Ezekiel 44:17-19, these chambers, and others abutting on the outer court, served for the dressing and undressing of the priests.

The screen-wall needed to be only so high as to protect the chambers of the lowest story. It must have stood at some distance from the building, otherwise it would have interfered with its air and light. [279] On what side it is to be sought, is shown by the statement that it was in the face of the chambers: in local designations in the Old Testament, the face is always to be conceived as turned to the east. The length of the wall of fifty cubits leads also to the east side: this, according to Ezekiel 42:2, is the breadth of the building; so that, as the west side, abutting on the enclosing wall of the court, cannot come into account, the east side must needs be meant. According to Ezekiel 42:8, the chambers had on the east side, over against the fence-wall, a length of fifty cubits. These chambers are distinguished as those which belonged to the outer court. The whole building lay in the outer court. But these chambers on the east side belonged to the outer court in a special sense, inasmuch as they opened into it, received their light from it, and had their windows and galleries towards it. This was the case only with the chambers on the east side. That it was not so with the chambers on the north side, appears from this, that there was no fence-wall there, as on the east side. The chambers that had their entrance there had their look-out on the gallery of the gizrah. The gizrah is the part of the temple, in the wider sense, which comes here into account; for that the building lay only before the gizrah, and was conterminous with it, appears from Ezekiel 42:1-2. According to Ezekiel 42:9, the chambers were under the wall mentioned in Ezekiel 42:7: the wall—this was its design—rose above and covered them. [280] The entrance to the chambers was on the east side, “from the east,” where the fence-wall must have had a door; not, as it might have been, from the north, where the interval between the wall and the chambers terminates northwards.

[278] שלשים occurs quite as here in Genesis 6:16, of the chambers of the third story (of the ark). The word cannot signify three stories.

[279] If we assume that the distance of the wall from the building was twenty cubits, it lay on a line with the west end of the wing-building in the temple; and the twenty cubits, which according to ch. 41:20 were between the wing-building and the chambers, are those to be measured from the wall. If we suppose the wall nearer the building, the twenty cubits there must refer to an ideal prolongation of the building here—its building range.

[280] We must read מתחתָ הּ? . The vowels here belong to the wrong conjecture of the Masoretes, which removes the ה to the following word.

Verses 10-12

In Ezekiel 42:10-12, the two priestly courts in the east and in the south. As these are perfectly similar to the fully described priestly courts in the north, the description confines itself to the exhibition of this similarity, and is carried out quite briefly and allusively. Yet a little is given here that was passed over in the measurements of the priestly court in the north.

Ezekiel 42:10. In the breadth of the fence-wall of the court toward the east, in the face of the gizrah, and in the face of the building, were chambers. 11. And a way before them was as the look of the chambers which were toward the north, as their length so their breadth; and all their outgoings after their fashions and their doors. 12. And like the doors of the chambers which were toward the south, was a door at the head of the way: the way before the fence-wall was convenient toward the east in entering them.

The fence-wall mentioned in Ezekiel 42:10 can only correspond to that in Ezekiel 42:7 and Ezekiel 42:12. The indefinite description, the fence-wall of the court, is more exactly defined by Ezekiel 42:7 as the fence-wall of the eastern priestly court situated in the court, which corresponds to the before-mentioned wall of the northern priestly court. As that fence-wall, so this also is on the broad side of the priestly court, or set of priestly cells, the side from north to south, and indeed at the end of it toward the outer court; whereas the beginning of the priestly court lies on the enclosing wall of the inner court. The fence-wall has there an extent of fifty cubits. The priestly court lies on the breadth of this fence, that is, it extends to the same breadth with it—is, no less than the fence-wall which closes it on the east, fifty cubits broad. These fifty cubits begin at the south or north side of the gate to the inner court, but go beyond this side, as of the 100 cubits breadth of the inner court, twenty-five cubits go to the gate, so that for each of the two sides only thirty-seven and a half remain. The priestly court lay in the face of the gizrah, that is, east of it, whereas the two other priestly courts lay north and south. That the site is determined by reference to the gizrah, with which the priestly court has no inner connection, is explained by the circumstance that the two other priestly courts north and south lie close by the gizrah. Hence the gizrah was the natural bearing in regard to the site of the priestly courts. With the determination of the relation of this court to the gizrah, was determined at the same time its relation to the other two priestly courts. The expression “in the face of” was the more suitable, because the view from the gizrah to this eastern priestly court, separated from it by 200 cubits, was prevented by nothing: on the free space, 100 cubits long by twenty broad, at the south side of the temple-building, followed the 100 cubits of the inner court, unbuilt upon; so that on the south side of the gizrah this eastern priestly court was the proper point de vue on which the eye rested. The “building” is here also the erection on the gizrah. The way before the chambers ( Ezekiel 42:11) is the passage between the fence-wall and the chambers on the east end of the eastern priestly court, which is here intentionally mentioned, because this way was only presupposed in the northern priestly court. This way was “as the look of the chambers in the north,” looked as the way in these, or as these looked in regard to the way. No less had also the priestly court in the east a similar appearance with those. “As their length, so their breadth:” it was like that in the north, 100 cubits long from east to west, and fifty cubits broad from south to north. Even so were they of like appearance, of like nature: “after their fashions and their doors;” that is, their fashions in general, and especially their doors. These are specially mentioned in connection with the following, where in the south priestly court, in regard to the doors, a supplement to the former description of the priestly court is to be given; even as in the east priestly court the description receives a completeness by the express mention of the way. In Ezekiel 42:12 the south priestly court, which is separated by the gizrah 100 cubits broad from the north, and with the latter encloses the gizrah in the middle. That the doors of this south court agree with those of the east and the north, only particularizes the idea of the agreement in all arrangements. But the doors are specially brought out, in order to introduce a supplement which concerns a particular door. In Ezekiel 42:9 was wanting the distinct statement, that the fence-wall, which went along the west end of the priestly court, had a door. The way is here, as is afterwards expressly affirmed, the way on the outside of the fence-wall. At the end of this way was a door. The words, “The way before the fence-wall was convenient toward the east, in entering them,” agree in substance with the close of Ezekiel 42:9. The word convenient shows that the access in the east was serviceable, as the east side of the south priestly court lay next the temple, in which the priests had to perform their function.

Verses 13-14

In Ezekiel 42:13-14, the design of the three priestly courts is stated to the prophet. Ezekiel 42:13. And he said to me. The chambers of the north, the chambers of the south, which are in face of the gizrah, [281] these are the holy chambers, where the priests who approach 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 guilt-offering; for the place is holy. 14. When they, the priests, come in, they shall not go out of the holy place into the outer court, and shall there lay their garments wherein they minister; for they are holy: they shall put on other garments, and approach to that which belongs to the people.

[281] Luther puts two instead of the three chambers, “and the chambers toward the south, toward the temple,” misled by the want of the conjunction, which, however, occurs in the second priestly court, and so several times in Ezekiel 42:17 f. The brevity of the expression, which meets us so often in the topographical sections of Ezekiel—for ex. even in this, that in Ezekiel 42:16 f ., רוח , wind, stands simply for the quarter whence the wind comes—should the less have given rise to misunderstandings here, as the local designation is taken word for word from Ezekiel 42:10.

According to Ezekiel 42:13, the priests’ portions of the offerings are to be taken to the priestly courts, that they may there be prepared in the priests’ kitchens, to be afterwards mentioned, and then consumed. The most holy is the genus: meat-offerings, etc., are the several species. Only the meat-offerings, the sin and the guilt offerings, are mentioned, not the slain or peace offering, because only in the former were the portions falling to the priests most holy, and as such to be consumed by the priests alone, in their official function; whereas in the peace-offerings the priestly portion was consumed by the priests with their whole family, including even the females ( Leviticus 10:14). Bähr ( Symbolism of the Mosaic Worship, ii. p. 372) says of the sin-offering: “It was a proper priestly eating: rejoicing and festivity were altogether wanting. The priests appear therein as priests, that is, in their office, in their proper dignity.” Of the meat-offering, Kurtz ( The Old Testament Sacrificial Worship) says: “The remainder of the meat-offering, after removing the azkarah, fell in all its forms ( Leviticus 2:3, Leviticus 2:10), as most holy, to Aaron and his sons, who are to consume it in a holy place” ( Leviticus 6:9, Leviticus 6:10, Leviticus 6:12-13). The reference even to this passage of the law, shows that we must render “the holy chambers,” not the chambers of the sanctuary. The holy chambers here correspond to the holy place there. In Ezekiel 42:14, the second design of the chambers, as places of undressing for the priests. These, when they come from the discharge of their duty (not when they go into the sanctuary to minister), shall not at once go out of the sanctuary, the inner room, into the outer court, and there mingle among the people, but shall first in these chambers—which, though situate in the outer court, are to be regarded as an appendage to the inner—put off their official garments, and deposit them there, because they are holy: they shall then put on their usual garments, and in them enter into intercourse with the people.

Verses 15-20

In Ezekiel 42:15-20, after the description of the several parts of the sanctuary, and the statement of their measures, the measurements of the whole are given. Ezekiel 42:15. And when he had finished the measures of the inner house, he brought me forth by the gate, whose face is toward the east, and measured it (the house) round about. 16. He measured the east side with the measuring-reed, five hundred cubits in reeds, with the measuring-reed around. 17. He measured the north side, five hundred in reeds, with the measuring-reed around. 18. He measured the south side, five hundred in reeds, with the measuring-reed. 19. He turned to the west side; he measured five hundred in reeds with the measuring-reed. 20. On the four sides he measured it; it had a wall round about, the length five hundred, and the breadth five hundred, to separate between the holy and the profane.

The inner house In Ezekiel 42:15 is the whole sanctuary, including the outer court in its inner side. The work, whose completion is here announced, had in ch. Ezekiel 40:5-6, begun with this, that the angel had gone from the wall outside around the house into the east gate of the outer court. To obtain the measurements of the whole, the angel was obliged to leave the inner house, and betake himself to the outside of the wall. For this wall itself belongs to the circumference of that which was to be measured. The total measure could not be taken in the interior of the house, because the walls were not accessible throughout; on the contrary, they were interrupted by the gates and the chambers. “And measured it:” this can only refer to the house, the whole of the sacred building. That we have to abstract it from the adjective inner, lies clearly in the connection. In Ezekiel 42:20, where “he measured it “recurs, there is added in explanation the wall round about. This “he measured it,” according to which the measuring here refers to the same space with which the former was concerned, prepares a quite insurmountable hindrance to those who wish to refer the measuring to a space different from the house. The statement of the results of measurement begins with the east and ends with the west. It is thus independent of the way which the angel took. If the prophet had followed him, the order would have been east, north, west, south. But the prophet wished to set the south side opposite the corresponding north side. On the east side it is expressly said that there are five hundred cubits. [282] Then on the remaining sides the mere number suffices. It is then added, still in harmony with ch. Ezekiel 40:5, how the measure was obtained not by cubits, but by reed, with the already described reed containing six cubits. The measures here, on all sides 500 cubits, agree exactly with the earlier details. If we measure from east to west, we have 50 cubits the length of the outer east gate, 50 cubits the length of the inner, 100 cubits the length of the outer court between both ( Ezekiel 40:23), then 100 cubits the length of the inner court, 100 cubits of the temple, and 100 cubits of the gizrah. If we reckon from north to south, we have again 50 cubits of the outer north gate, and 50 of the inner; 100 cubits between, 100 cubits the breadth of the inner court, 50 cubits of the inner south gate, and 50 of the outer, and 100 between. The exact correspondence of the total here with the several measurements of the house formerly given, leaves no doubt that the measurements of the house are here given, and not of a space different from it. We must also, according to the whole procedure of Ezekiel in this topographical section, antecedently expect that he will give a general summary of the space relations of the sanctuary, and not leave the reader to arrive at them by summing up the separate statements. Such a general summary we should here miss. On the contrary, we should be surprised with the measurements of a space which wants alike all definition and all occupation, which would be nothing but a bare space; “nothing but space,” as the Hungarian said when he was introduced to a bad prospect. A bare space of five hundred reeds on each of the four sides, designed to separate between the holy and the profane, without having the character of holiness impressed upon it, would indeed be intolerable. We can the less imagine this, because in the temple of Solomon, the form of which is perpetually before the prophet’s eyes, there is nothing corresponding to this. On the other hand, the department of the holy terminates with the enclosing wall of the court, because farther the measures elsewhere confine themselves to very modest limits, but here at once they pass into the region of the enormous; because a glaring contradiction arises between the narrowness of the important space and the broadness of the unimportant; finally, because, according to the express statement of ch. Ezekiel 42:20, the region of the profane began immediately beyond the enclosing wall of the sanctuary. The words in Ezekiel 42:20, “to separate between the holy and the profane,” state the object which the wall just measured served; comp. Ezekiel 42:20.

[282] אֵ מוֹ ת is a blending of אמּ וֹ ת and מאוֹ ת . The vowels belong to the Masoretic conjecture מאות . Yet we are to conceive the word as thus originally vocalized. The א belongs to the אמה , but in the vowel the second word comes to its rights. The incorrect view of this word—the impossible assumption, supported by no tenable parallel, that it stands at once for a hundred—is the common starting-point of the different erroneous assumptions in our section. The one party wish to efface the reeds altogether, the mention of which would indeed be inadmissible, if the mention of cubits excluding all doubt had not gone before. The others rightly declare the setting aside of the cubits to be purely arbitrary, but then labour in vain to show that the space in question had actually five hundred reeds on each side. Hävernick, against evidence, wishes to force such a compass on the sanctuary itself. With Kliefoth, on the other hand, the measurement is to be applied to an empty space on all sides of the enclosing wall of the court. Besides that which we shall remark in the text against this view, it is fairly urged that all the greater measures in Ezekiel elsewhere are given in cubits, and not in reeds. Besides, the Hebrews were fond of such abbreviations; they occur especially in proper names— 1 Samuel 1:20 (Ewald, Gr. pp. 707-74). We have a quite analogous case in ch. 43:13.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 42". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-42.html.