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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 46

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 1-15

Chapter 45:18-46:15

From the holy places and the holy persons, the prophet turns to the holy times and the holy acts. He directs his view to those who were grieved “for the festival” ( Zephaniah 3:18), to the banished, who complained that “the ways of Zion lie waste, because none come to the feasts: all her gates are desolate, her priests sigh” ( Lamentations 1:4): “her adversaries look on her, and mock at her Sabbaths” ( Lamentations 1:7). “The Lord hath caused the feast and Sabbath to be forgotten in Zion” ( Lamentations 2:6). He presents before their eyes the figure of the restored worship and the restored festival. He begins with the consecration of the house (ch. Ezekiel 45:18-20); then turns to the yearly festivals, of which the first and the last are made prominent ( Ezekiel 45:21-25); passes to the Sabbath and the new moon (ch. Ezekiel 46:1-7); returns to the yearly festivals ( Ezekiel 46:9-11); states the manner of the free-will offering of the prince (ver. Ezekiel 46:12); and closes with the daily sacrifice ( Ezekiel 46:13-15). Restoration of the worship, removal of the intolerable void, which since its abolition pressed upon God-fearing minds: this is the thought which the prophet does not present naked, but paints before the eyes, to prepare a powerful counterpoise to the pain of the dreary present. We move here also quite on Old Testament ground; and the fulfilment of the rightly understood prophecy, in which the details are only means of representation, lies wholly in Ezra 3. The supposed contrast to the Mosaic law, in a series of particular determinations, does not in fact exist. The Mosaic ordinances concerning the number of victims are only to be regarded as general rules, from which under circumstances deviations are allowable; just as Solomon, in the building of the temple, was not deterred by the measurements of the sanctuary from adapting himself to the altered circumstances. The Mosaic law makes in the details concessions to poverty: instead of the paschal lamb, a kid might be taken; the poor lying-in woman might present ( Leviticus 12:8), instead of the lamb and the dove, two turtle-doves; whosoever had no sheep for a guilt-offering, was accepted (Leviticus 5) with two turtle-doves; and whosoever had not even these, with a little meal. So also, without doubt, in the public offering, were the people accepted according to that which they had, not according to that which they had not. In times of hard necessity, of deep poverty, a reduction of the victims and other services might take place. But still less was it forbidden on occasion to introduce a multiplication of the victims and other services, and thus give expression to the heart filled with thankfulness by a new and great benefit. The law says expressly and repeatedly, that it will set no limit to free and thankful love. In Numbers 6:21 it is said, “and besides what his hand affords”—what he may do of free-will. In the feast of Pentecost, according to Deuteronomy 16:10, the feast is kept “according to the free-will offering of thy hand which thou givest;” as Knobel explains, according to that which thou mayest freely do after the blessing granted by Jehovah: comp. Leviticus 23:37-38; Numbers 29:30. But the deviations from the Mosaic law consist here almost always in increase and advance. This is shown in the most striking manner in the victims of the passover and in the meat-offering. In the daily sacrifice, this, in Numbers 28:5, amounts to a tenth of an ephah of flour, a fourth of a hin of oil; here to a sixth of an ephah and a third of a hin. On the Sabbath two-tenths of an ephah, in Numbers 28:9; here a whole ephah for every victim. On the new moon, by the law, three-tenths of an ephah to one bullock, two-tenths to one ram, and one to a lamb ( Numbers 28:12); here a whole ephah to the bullock, and an ephah to the ram. In the passover by the law as in the new moon; here an ephah for the bullock, an ephah for the ram, and in the lambs the quantity is left to the free-will. The meat-offering signifies good works. Zeal in these, as the advance denotes, is to be mightily enhanced by the impending new exhibition of the grace of God. But a deviation from the law of Moses is here so much the less meant, as the prophet does not give legal prescriptions concerning that which it was the part of the prince and the people to determine; but as all details are for him only means of representation, his mission is confined to the impression which he is to make on minds assailed by despair; to which is only to be added, the aim to impress on them the thought: When salvation will have come, be ye abundantly thankful. Those who here wish to overleap the half millennium of the restored temple, and refer all to the times of the New Testament, or even to its millennial kingdom, unnaturally sever the announcement from the state of mind, the cares and anxieties of the first readers, and have ch. Ezekiel 11:16 against them, according to which a restoration of the outward temple shall follow in a brief period. No less against them also is the analogy of the other prophets, who in great afflictions of the people first place before their eyes the lower deliverance, and then further direct their attention to the Messianic salvation, as the prophet does here in ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12. Isaiah, for ex., in the Assyrian oppression, places first, in ch. Isaiah 10, deliverance from this before their eyes; then in ch. Isaiah 11 lifts the view to the great Ruler of David’s line, who makes an end of all the affliction of His people, and in whom they rule the world. But we move here quite on the ground of the Old Testament worship; and there is not the slightest indication that, by the sacrifice of bulls, lambs, and goats, other forms of worship are denoted. Though the details were only means of representation and colouring, yet such an intimation regarding the whole should not be wanting, if the announcement were to go to a time when, by the offered sacrifice of Christ, a total revolution in the worship was introduced. This is certainly correct: though the prophecy refers first to the restoration of the Old Testament worship, and in this respect has long found its fulfilment, and indeed a fulfilment that has long disappeared—the downfall was proclaimed by the word of Christ, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,”—yet at the same time it conceals in the details the kernel of a general truth, the imperishability of the worship in the community of God on earth, which is demonstrated, among other things, by this, that as the here predicted worship was overthrown by the Roman destruction, the worship of the Christian church rose again in glory.

Ezekiel 45:18. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, In the first month, on the first of the month, thou shalt take a bullock of the herd without blemish, and cleanse the sanctuary. 19. And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin-offering, and put it upon the posts of the house, and upon the four corners of the enclosure of the altar, and upon the posts of the gate of the inner court. 20. And so shalt thou do on the seventh of the month for the erring man and for the simple, and ye shall atone for the house. 21. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days: unleavened bread shall be eaten. 22. And on that day the prince shall offer for himself, and for all the people of the land, a bullock for a sin-offering. 23. And the seven days of the feast he shall offer for a burnt-offering to the LORD, seven bullocks and seven rams without blemish every day for the seven days; and for a sin-offering a kid of the goats daily. 24. And he shall offer for a meat-offering an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and a hin of oil for the ephah. 25. In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month, in the feast, he shall do the like seven days, as the sin-offering, as the burnt-offering, and as the meat-offering, and as the oil.

Ch. 46:1-15. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The gate of the inner court, that looketh toward the east, shall be shut the six days of work; and on the Sabbath-day it shall be opened, and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened. 2. And the prince shall enter the way of the porch of the gate without, and stand at the post of the gate; and the priests shall offer his burnt-offering and his peace-offering, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate, and go out; and the gate shall not be shut until the evening. 3. And the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate in the Sabbaths and in the new moons before the LORD. 4. And the burnt-offering that the prince shall offer unto the Lord on the Sabbath-day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish. 5. And the meat-offering an ephah for the ram, and for the lambs the meat-offering shall be the gift of his hand, and of oil a hin to the ephah. 6. And in the day of the new moon a bullock of the herd without blemish; and six lambs and a ram, they shall be without blemish. 7. And an ephah for the bullock, and an ephah for the ram, he shall offer for a meat-offering; and for the lambs what his hand affords, and of oil a hin to the ephah. 8. And when the prince enters, he shall enter the way of the porch of the gate, and by its way shall he go out. 9. And when the people of the land come before the LORD in the festivals, he that entereth the way of the north gate shall go out the way of the south gate, and he that entereth the way of the south gate shall go out the way of the north gate: he shall not return the way of the gate whereby he came in, but straight before him they shall go out. 10. And the prince shall go in among them when they go in; and when they go out they shall go out. 11. And in the feasts and in the solemnities the meat-offering shall be an ephah for the bullock, and an ephah for the ram; and for the lambs the gift of his hand, and of oil a hin for the ephah. 12. And when the prince shall offer a free gift, a burnt-offering or peace-offering, a free gift to the LORD, then one shall open to him the gate that looketh toward the east, and he shall offer his burnt-offering and his peace-offering as he offers on the Sabbath-day; and he shall go out, and one shall shut the gate after he goeth out. 13. And a lamb of the first year without blemish thou shalt offer for a burnt-offering in the day to the LORD: every morning thou shalt offer it. 14. And for a meat-offering thou shalt offer with it every morning the sixth of an ephah, and of oil the third part of a bin, to moisten the wheat flour, a meat-offering to the Lord, an ordinance of continual standing. 15. And they shall offer [306] the lamb, and the meat-offering, and the oil, every morning, for a continual burnt-offering.

[306] The reading of the text is the praet. with Van; the marginal reading is the future. The vowels belong to the latter; and of an imperative there is no trace.

First, in ch. Ezekiel 45:18-20, the consecration of the sanctuary. This corresponds to the consecration of the altar of burnt-offering in ch. Ezekiel 43:20; and after the analogy of this, we shall have to regard the solemnity as occurring only once, corresponding to the seven days’ solemnity on the consecration of the temple of Solomon ( 2 Chronicles 7:8), and to the new consecration of the temple under Hezekiah by the offering of burnt-offerings ( 2 Chronicles 29:18-30), but especially to the consecration of the tabernacle, which, according to Exodus 40, took place also on the first day of the first month. But even if it were treated of a yearly recurring solemnity, the institution of it would not be contrary to the law of Moses. That men did not think of seeing in the Mosaic festival ordinances an insurmountable barrier for all time, is shown, for ex., by 2 Chronicles 30:23, and also by the feast of Purim, but particularly by the feast of dedication. It would only be inadmissible if the prophet himself wished to ordain such a festival, which was not at all in his power, and lay beyond the range of his vocation. But this cannot be intended. All details serve the one object, to express the assurance with which the prophet looked forward to the restoration of the Mosaic worship. The “post” and “the door” stand collectively. All the doors of the inner court are meant. The cleansing of the house took place after Ezekiel 46:3. “For the erring man and for the simple:” he alone, the well-disposed in heart, but weak, easily tempted, is by the law ( Numbers 15:27-31) made partaker of the forgiveness of sins effected by the sacrifice. Those who sin boldly and wantonly, who daringly break the covenant of God, are to be wholly disregarded: they stand beyond forgiveness, and belong not to Israel; they are souls who are cut off from their people. But even if we disregard these, the sanctuary is ever built by poor sinners, and presented by them to God: with its erection no merit is connected, but the building is only acceptable through the atonement.

After the consecration of the building, the chief and fundamental festival, the passover. is celebrated in it ( Ezekiel 45:21-24). In this festival the enhancing of the offerings appears quite prominent, which is explained by this, that the grace of redemption sealed by this festival was to receive so rich an accession by the events of the future. The law requires for each of the seven days two bullocks and one ram for the burnt-offering. Here we have, on the whole, forty-nine bullocks and forty-nine rams for it. The passover is called “a feast of the seven of days,” because it lasted seven days every time it occurred. [307] That the prince must offer the bullock as a sin-offering, not merely for the people, but also for himself, shows quite clearly that we should understand by him neither exclusively nor immediately the Messiah. Princes in Israel between Ezekiel and Christ are presented to us among other things by the coins, which bear the superscription, “Simon the prince of Israel.” It could not come into the mind of Ezekiel, with the end he had in view, to transcribe the whole Mosaic catalogue of festivals. If one and another revived, it is evident of itself that the others also revived. Hence in Ezekiel 45:25 only the feast of tabernacles is mentioned along with the passover. That this forms the end of the Mosaic cycle of feasts, as the passover forms the beginning, shows at once that we are to understand all that lies between. Ch. Ezekiel 46:11 decides for this still more definitely. A multiplicity of feasts and solemnities to be celebrated in the future is there mentioned. The distinction between the two indicates that there are solemnities which are not seasons of joy. This leads us to the continuance of the great day of atonement, on the supposed disappearance of which so far-reaching conclusions have been founded. The brevity also with which the feast of tabernacles is mentioned points back to the Mosaic law, from which is to be taken the regulation concerning the number of victims; only that here the meat-offering receives an increase (comp. Ezekiel 46:11). The similarity to the passover here intimated refers, as is expressly said, only to the kinds of offering, not to the number of the victims. Similarity of the latter in the passover and the feast of tabernacles would mar the individual physiognomy of both. “In the feast”—the feast which, according to the law, falls on the day named. Neither here nor elsewhere in Scripture is the feast of tabernacles designated merely as the feast. This was a distinction which applied only to the Passover, as the root of all feasts.

[307] שבוע stands in the original meaning of a heptade, in which it also occurs in Daniel, where it denotes a heptade of years. Other interpretations are refuted by the fundamental passage, Numbers 28:17, “The feast of seven days, unleavened bread shall be eaten.”

On the yearly festivals follow, in ch. Ezekiel 46:1-7, the weekly and monthly festivals. First, in Ezekiel 46:1-3, the place where prince and people are to worship. The inner east gate of the temple, otherwise shut, shall be opened on the Sabbath and new moon. This rule does not interfere with ch. Ezekiel 44:1. There the outer gate is expressly named. This also here remains shut, as indeed ch. Ezekiel 47:2 presupposes that it is shut once for all; otherwise it would have been opened for the prince. That the inner east gate is shut on ordinary days, we learn first from our passage. His sacrificial feast the prince eats, according to ch. Ezekiel 44:3, in the outer east gate, which remains shut from without. On the contrary, in making the offering, he is to advance to the end of the inner gate opening in the inner court upon the altar of burnt-offering. He enters the outer court by the north or south gate, and then passes through the open door of the inner east gate, to the threshold and post of it. He does not pass the porch, but remains on this side of it, [308] beyond the open gate, but close by it, on the threshold, which lies between the open gate and the porch (comp. Ezekiel 40:7). The right here granted to the prince does not extend at all to the position of the kings before the exile. In the consecration of the temple, Solomon ( 2 Chronicles 6:13) stood on a scaffold within the inner court before the altar of burnt-offering (comp. 1 Kings 8:22). A raised stand in the inner court for the king is mentioned elsewhere also ( 2 Kings 11:14, 2 Kings 23:3; 2 Chronicles 23:13). The matter in hand is not merely about “a subordination of the prince under God:” there is in regard to the worship a sharp line drawn between prince and priest, which does not at all permit us to understand the prince of Christ exclusively, or even primarily. In harmony with the limit here drawn is ch. Ezekiel 45:22, according to which the prince must offer a sin-offering for himself. Plainly incompatible with it is the assertion, resting on quite a loose ground, “The prophet assigns to him also priestly rights and functions.” The people may not enter the inner gate; they worship at the opened door, through which they catch a glimpse of the altar of burnt-offering, which the prince—that is the only difference—sees better from a nearer point. In Ezekiel 46:4-5, the offering of the Sabbath. The increase of grace shows itself here also in the augmentation of the victims. In lambs we have here threefold ( Numbers 28:9), and the ram is a new addition. The meat-offering also, with the ram, appears enhanced above the minimum appointed by the law. In the lambs, the amount of the meat-offering is left to the free-will of the prince, only that naturally it should not fall short of the determination of the law, which is a very small quantity. “The gift of his hand “here, and “what his hand affords” in Ezekiel 46:7, show that, according to the view of the prophet, there is in the offerings a range of freedom along with the obligation, and cast light also on his apparent deviations from the Mosaic law. The number of bullocks at the new moon ( Ezekiel 46:6) is apparently left to the free judgment; only it should not fall short of the two required by the law [309] ( Numbers 28:11). In Ezekiel 46:8-11 the prophet returns to the yearly festivals. He states first how prince and people are to go in and out at the festivals. Ezekiel 46:8 is quite general: it applies not merely to the Sabbaths and new moons (comp. Ezekiel 46:2), but also to the festivals: in these also the prince takes the place of honour before the porch of the inner gate. That which is peculiar to the festivals is contained only in Ezekiel 46:10. There the prince, so far as the common ground, the outer court, extended, is not to separate himself from the people, but to come and go among them. This was formerly the manner of the pious princes in Israel, to walk in the festivals among the multitude keeping the holy day. David, in banishment, says in Psalms 42:5: “These things I remember, and pour out my soul in me: for I went in the crowd; I walked to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, in the multitude keeping the holy day.” The reason of the regulation in Ezekiel 46:9, that no one at the festival is to go out by the same gate by which he came in, cannot be sought in the endeavour to avoid a throng: in that case it must have ordained that all should go in by the same gate, and go out by the opposite one. The reason can only be a theological one, to signify that each should go out of the sanctuary another man than he came in; or what the apostle also says, Php_3:13 , “I forget that which is behind, and reach forth to that which is before.” In Ezekiel 46:11 the amount of the meat-offering and the oil, which in ch. Ezekiel 45:24 was specially required for the Passover, is fixed as the general rate for all festivals. The distinction between feasts and solemnities here (the latter are the genus, the former the species) is illustrated by Leviticus 23:27 f. The regulation concerning the mode of presenting the free-will offering of the prince ( Ezekiel 46:12) is distinguished from that regarding the Sabbath offering in Ezekiel 46:2 by this, that here the inner east gate is closed after the prince has made his offering, whereas there it remains open till the evening. The distinction is explained by this, that in the free-will offering the prince appears as an individual, in the Sabbath offering as the representative of the people. In Ezekiel 46:13-15, the ordinance concerning the daily sacrifice. This is limited to the morning sacrifice, which suffices for the object of the prophet. The evening sacrifice is unnoticed. From the circumstance that here the people are addressed, whereas in the other offerings the prince appears as the offerer, it appears all the more to follow that the prince had not to provide the material for the daily sacrifice, while in ch. Ezekiel 45:17 the providing of the offering on the Sabbaths, new moons, and solemn feasts, is assigned to the prince alone. Yet the conclusion is not certain. The transition from the prince to the people is an easy one, as in the foregoing passage the prince represents the people. The section also in ch. Ezekiel 45:18-20 had begun with the address to the people, and there is scarcely a doubt that the close here corresponds to the beginning there: the prince is enclosed on both sides by the people. But in ch. Ezekiel 45:17 the daily sacrifice may be passed over, because, according to the material side there alone coming into account, it was relatively unimportant. The whole section is for us of transcendent importance, as it teaches us to live in the word, if the grace of God does not make itself known to us in the visible. What the prophet here announces appeared to the natural reason to be mere fancy; but of those to whom he addressed his words, not a few lived to see his announcement forcing its way into reality. They took part in the solemn sacrificial worship, in which the Psalms 116 Psalm was sung after the return from the exile. This begins with the words, “It is dear to me that the Lord heareth my voice and my supplication;” and ends thus, “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord before all His people: in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah.” “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah:” so begins the whole section with all right. The prophet announces in it that which flesh and blood had not revealed unto him, but the Father in heaven, who alone can teach to hope where there is nothing to hope. The formula refers not merely to the matter, but also to the form. The means of representation are such as were best adapted to bring home the truth to the people pining in exile, and impress it deeply on their minds.

[308] מחוץ is not from without, but without, beyond.

[309] That the unity of the bullock is ideal, while the word is used collectively, is shown by the plural תמימים . It appears unsuitable to explain this plural of the return of the festival; it is used in no other way than in the second half of the verse. A minus in relation to the Mosaic law is beforehand scarcely conceivable, and contrary to analogy.

Verses 16-24

Chapter 46:16-24

Before passing to an entirely new subject, the prophet gives some additions to the foregoing. The first of these additions is connected with ch. Ezekiel 45:7-9, where the prophet had presented to view the separation of an estate for the prince. The second, in Ezekiel 46:19-20, gives, in continuation of the description of the chambers of the priests in ch. Ezekiel 42:1 f., an account of the sacrificial kitchens for the priests, forming the termination of them toward the west. To this is then annexed, in Ezekiel 46:21-24, an account of the sacrificial kitchens for the people. The practical point in the first of these additions is to warn against the recurrence of the former despotic spirit in the government. The second and third additions are intended to teach the people to rise from the visible to their God, who is so plenteous in redemption. The energy of the prophet’s faith is shown in this, that he enters into the minutest architectural details of the temple of the future. As, moreover. the section concerning the princes takes its rise from the relations of the past, so the sacrificial kitchens of the future are doubtless portrayed with reference to that which the prophet had seen with the bodily eye in the past. Such apartments could not be wanting in the temple of Solomon. Where it belongs properly to the priestly calling to eat parts of the sacrifices, where the piety of laymen is to employ itself in the preparation of sacrificial feasts “before the Lord,” there must have been cooking-places within the bounds of the sanctuary.

Ezekiel 46:16. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, When the prince gives a gift to any of his sons, this shall be his inheritance to his sons: it shall be their possession by inheritance. 17. And if he give a gift of his inheritance to one of his servants, then it shall be his to the year of freedom, and it shall return to the prince; only his inheritance to his sons shall belong to them. 18. And the prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance, to force them out of their possession: out of his own possession he shall endow his sons, that my people be not scattered every man from his possession. 19. And he brought me through the entry, which was at the side of the gate, to the holy chambers to the priests, that look toward the north: and, behold, there a place on their side westward. 20. And he said unto me. This is the place where the priests shall boil the guilt-offering and the sin-offering, where they shall bake the meat-offering, so as not to bring it forth to the outer court to sanctify the people. 21. And he brought me forth to the outer court, and led me to the four corners of the court; and, behold, a court in the corner of the court, and a court in the corner of the court. 22. In the four corners of the court were smoking courts forty long and thirty broad; one measure was to the four corner rooms. 23. And there was a range around in them around the four, and cooking-places were made under the ranges around. 24. And he said to me. These are the house of the cooks, where the ministers of the house boil the sacrifice of the people.

That we have in Ezekiel 46:16-18 not an attempt of the prophet to set up for a lawgiver, but a clear representation of the thought that the princes of the future are to be no despots, are to beware of the unjust absolutism of those of the past, is manifest from that which we have already remarked concerning the purely ideal character of the partition of the land. The prince here cannot be Christ. He is one who may have several sons of his own body, who disposes of his property in the prospect of his death, who stands not beyond the region of sin, else he should not need to be warned against it. We have here, in fact, not two commands, but one concession,—namely, that the prince may bequeath of his own proper and hereditary lands to his later born sons; and one command,—namely, that he may not give away thereof to his servants, because he who gives much is forced to take from others their own. The danger against which the prophet here provides, Samuel has pointed out in 1 Samuel 8:14. The regulation that the gifts of land to the prince’s servants shall revert to him in the jubilee, points to Leviticus 25:10, Leviticus 25:13, where the jubilee is also called the year of freedom.

The “holy chambers” mentioned in Ezekiel 46:19 are the chambers of the priests described in ch. Ezekiel 42:1 f. “To the priests:” this is added, because the chambers are regarded as a perquisite of the priests,—a usage for which many analogies are to be found in Catholic countries—“to the Carmelites,” etc. The entry is that mentioned in ch. Ezekiel 42:9. It leads to the inner court gate west of the eastern gate of the fence-wall of the priestly cells. There: thus the kitchens are in the cell-building, not by or outside it. It formed, as we have already shown, the western part of it. [310] The priests must have their separate kitchens, lest, if they carry the food through the throng of the court, the people be sanctified: this is explained by the remarks on ch. Ezekiel 44:19.

[310] The singular יַ רְ כְ תָ ם is to be read as in Genesis 49:13. The suff. refers, in fact, to the chambers, formally to the priests, including the chambers under them.

The repetition of the words, “a court in the corner of the court,” in Ezekiel 46:21, points out that the same observation is repeated several times. Ezekiel 46:22 then says more definitely, that in each of the four corners of the court was such a kitchen for the people, which we must regard as an offshoot of the chambers of the people in the sides of the court. “Smoking courts” ( Ezekiel 46:22): the rising smoke is the characteristic mark of these buildings. [311] Not without reason are the slain-offerings only mentioned in Ezekiel 46:24, as distinguished from the sin and guilt offerings to be prepared in the kitchens of the priests. Only with the slain-offerings, such as are akin to common slaughtering, was a communion connected. The greatest part fell to the offerers, and was consumed in the sacrificial meals. But the sacrifice of the people might not be prepared by the people, but only by the Levites, who were designated in ch. Ezekiel 44:1 the ministers of the people.

[311] The verb קטר , with all its derivatives, has in Hebrew only the meaning, to exhale, steam, smoke; and to abandon this in favour of another far-fetched meaning there is the less occasion, where kitchens are in question. That the proper name Keturah, written as our word, means the fragrant, is admitted. The Talmud (Middoth ii. § 8) has rendered מהקצעות here atria fumum exhalantia, with which the Masoretes were perplexed, as the points over it show; and which is probably a kind of priestly proper name for those rooms, which Ezekiel here brings forward as a fond reminiscence. It is properly the part. Hoph., and signifies not, as מקצוע , corner, but cornered, a corner room.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 46". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/ezekiel-46.html.