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PRELIMINARY REMARKS ON CHAPTERS 40-48.*
* The reader is left to form his own judgment on the temple seen in vision by Ezekiel, from the various interpretations that I have given in the Preliminary Remarks, the Critical Notes, and the Reflections.
"VITRINGA has proved, in two volumes in Dutch, and a defence of them against the son of Cocceius, that this temple agrees with Solomon's, and with that which was afterwards built by Zerobabel and Herod." Secker.
"Men. Ben. Isr. de Resurrectione, lib. iii. c. 8. p. 314, &c. produces twenty-one instances to shew that this prophesy of Ezekiel was not fulfilled under the second temple; and therefore is yet to be fulfilled." Secker.
"This is certainly not the temple of Zerobabel, nor the division of the land nor the governors that we find either from Zerobabel's time to the destruction of the Persian empire, or from Simon the Prince to the destruction of the Jewish kings of the Hasmonean race: nor the temple which Herod the Great began to build in the 18th year; much less is Herod the Prince mentioned in the 45th chapter. I am not therefore able to give an historical account of these chapters." Michaelis.
"The temple described by Ezekiel should have been built by the new colonists; the customs and usages which he orders should have been observed by them; the division of the country should have been followed by them. That the temple did not arise out of its ruins according to his model, and that his orders were in no manner obeyed, was the fault of Israel. How far were they behind the orders of their first lawgiver Moses? what wonder therefore that they as little regard their second lawgiver Ezekiel? He supposes the return of all the tribes; which was agreeable to the prophesies of the other prophets, and to the will of Cyrus: but only Judah and Benjamin preferred the habitations of their ancestors to the country of Chaldea; and thus the great plan of Ezekiel was at once destroyed." Eichhorn.
A Dissertation on Ezekiel's Vision of the Temple, Ordinances of the Priest, Division of the Land, Flowing Waters out of the Temple, &c. By Archbishop Secker. Ezek. chap. xl-xlviii.
THE Israelites mentioned in this vision are said to be the twelve tribes: Joseph is to have two shares of the land, and Levi none; but in the names of the gates Levi is mentioned, and but one named from Joseph. The country allotted them is described by geographical marks to be the land of Canaan. Indeed the shares of the several tribes are not the same, which they were in Joshua; nor is any of the country beyond Jordan divided amongst them. And chap. Eze 47:22-23 orders, that the proselytes sojourning in each tribe shall have an inheritance in land with those of the tribe in which they sojourn. This doth not seem to have been practised before the captivity. For though the Kenites, Jud 1:16 or rather part of them, 1Sa 15:6 dwelt among the Jews, yet as they had neither house, nor vineyard, nor field, but dwelt in tents, Jer 35:7-9 as did Abraham, who had not a foot of the land in possession, Act 7:5 their case was not the same with that which is appointed here. But still in this alteration it appears, that the twelve tribes are meant literally, else there would be no distinction between them and the proselytes.*
* The meaning may possibly be, that the Gentile converts to Christianity shall have the same privileges with the Jewish. But supposing this, the twelve tribes must mean real Israelites: and they are considered as the principal inhabitants in this vision: whereas the Gentile proselytes to Christianity have greatly exceeded the Jewish. There is indeed a difficulty in the execution of this order, unless the several tribes in their captivity were kept distinct: for else how could it be determined amongst which of them the proselytes sojourned? But perhaps the meaning is, that where they sojourned after the return, and before the division of the land, there they should have a share. It is foretold, Zec 2:11 that Zion should have many proselytes, at the return from Babylon; for that time appears by Eze 39:6-7 to be meant.
And surely the vision must relate to those Israelites who were to return in a short time from Babylon, not to those of a future age. It belonged to those who had been idolaters,† and practised their idolatrous worship in God's temple, so that only the wall was between him and idols: compare chap. 8 and part of whose idolatries had been honouring the carcases of their kings, chap. Eze 43:7-9 and if they repented, the pattern of the house was to be shewn them, Eze 39:11 which had been a small consolation, had it not been to be built for above two thousand years after. And as no other cause of God's anger against them is mentioned or hinted at but their idolatry, surely the vision must relate to their return from that captivity, before which they had been idolaters, not from one before which they had not.‡
† They and their kings, chap. Ezekiel 43:7.
‡ It should also be observed, that as a person, with a line of flax in his hands, measures here the city as well as the temple, so Zechariah 2:0 l, 2 a person appears with a measuring line in his hand going to measure Jerusalem, the length and breadth of it; and this was when Zion, that dwelt with the daughter of Babylon, was commanded to flee from the land of the north; Ezekiel 39:6-7.
Besides, the temple to be built, or rather represented in this vision as built, is plainly the Jewish temple. Learned men, as Villalpandus and others, apprehend it to be of the same dimensions with Solomon's; and Vitringa is said to have proved it in a Dutch work to be of the same dimensions also with Zerobabel's and Herod's. And Lowth apprehends there might be probably need of so exact a description of it, as is given in this vision, in order to enable them to build one of the same dimensions. Moses had the dimensions of the tabernacle revealed to him, Exod. xxv, &c. and David of the temple, 1Ch 11:19 and no one after the captivity could be supposed to remember these. But there is a description of Solomon's temple,
1 Kings 6:0 which we must suppose them to have had then, and which would be a great direction to them, though not so particular as Ezekiel's.|| Zerobabel's temple was indeed much inferior to Solomon's, Hag 2:3 but this might be in ornaments, not things essential. The old people wept when the foundations of it were laid, Ezr 3:12 but this might be joy or tenderness, not sorrow at its being of less dimensions, and indeed Solomon's was not very large.§
|| And it is not easy to conceive, why directions so minute as his should be given, but in order to a real literal building; for surely no certain allegorical sense can be given of each: and to make them all only as ornaments of a parable is loading it with ornaments beyond measure.
§ Some make the measures of Ezekiel's temple and other things foretold so large, that the meaning cannot be literal; but I have not yet seen sufficient authority for this. Or if the measures were much larger than Solomon's temple, or than it was possible the temple, &c. should be, it might mean, not that no literal temple was intended, but that it should he a very large and spacious one, as certain numbers are put for uncertain, and hyperbolical ones for real ones, as in the burning the weapons of Gog's army, and burying their carcases.
The glory of the Lord had been seen by Ezekiel leaving the first house, chap. Eze 10:19 and going to a mountain on the east (as it must naturally do, when it went out of the house, because the entrance of it was from the east), and standing there, chap. Ezekiel 11:23. And from the east it returned to this temple in the vision, and filled the house, chap. Eze 43:1-5 Ezekiel 44:4. Now the glory of the Lord¶ entered into Solomon's temple at the dedication of it, so that the priest could not enter into it to minister, 1 Kings 8:10-11. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14. This was before Solomon's prayer. And again after this prayer fire came down from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice, and the glory filled the house so that the priests could not enter, 2 Chronicles 7:1-2. One supposes therefore, that it was not always in the same degree. But after this I know not that we have any mention of it in the historical books, though there is a vision of it, Isaiah 6:0. Nor, I think, doth Josephus say any thing of it afterwards, though he doth say, Antiq. 3:8, 9 that the prophetic shining of the breast-plate and stone of the high-priest's right shoulder left off two hundred years before his time: του θεου δυοχεραι νοντος επι τη παραβασει των νομων . We are not surely to think, that the glory of the Lord stayed till the return from the captivity, much less stays till a future return, on any hill to the east of Jerusalem; nor indeed is it said, but only that it went to a hill in the east, and returned by the way of the east. But are we to suppose that it did, or will literally return at all to the temple there described? It is said here that it did, but it is said in a vision.** And neither Ezra, who gives the history of the building of the temple, nor Nehemiah, nor the prophets, who wrote afterwards, nor Josephus, mention it, which yet surely some of them would, though one should indeed have thought the departing of it at the Babylonish captivity should have been mentioned too. But if it did not return at the return from Babylon, it is not likely, if Christianity be true, to return at any future return of the Jews. For will God's glory now inhabit a temple built on the principles of Judaism, as this of Ezekiel's plainly is?
¶ I think it is not mentioned from the entering into Canaan till now.
** Which perhaps may mean only, that God will as certainly direct and protect his people as if he was visibly present by a symbol amongst them.
Strangers, uncircumcised in heart and in flesh, had been brought into the temple, and the prophet was directed to tell the people of this; and to charge, that into this new temple no stranger uncircumcised in heart or flesh should enter, chap. Ezekiel 44:6-9. Surely this direction and charge must relate to a time near the commission of that offence, and to the next temple that was built after it, not a time distant, we know not how much above two thousand years; especially as the last temple had no such crime allowed in it, and therefore there was no need to caution against it in a yet future one. And a literal circumcision must be meant here. For the crime under the former temple had been, admitting persons literally uncircumcised; and the repetitions of that being forbid, the same circumcision must be meant; besides that the sense is determined by adding in the flesh as well as in heart. Uncircumcised, when opposed to uncircumcised in heart, means literally, Jeremiah 9:25-26.; much more then, wherein flesh is added.
Farther; sacrifices* were to be offered in this temple, chap. Ezekiel 43:0; Ezekiel 44:0; Ezekiel 45:0; Ezekiel 46:0 of blood and fat, chap. Ezekiel 44:7; the blood to be sprinkled on the altar, chap. Ezekiel 43:18; and God promises to accept them, chap. Ezekiel 43:27. Now though Christians are said in the New Testament to offer sacrifices, and their worship is understood to be meant in the Old Testament when incense and a pure offering is mentioned, Malachi 1:11; yet the word there is מנחה minchah, which denotes particularly a bread-offering, and I believe the goats, bullocks, rams for sin, peace, burnt-offerings, with their times, and quantities of flour and oil added to them, as described in these chapters, cannot be understood of other, than real Jewish sacrifices.†
* There was to be an altar of such dimensions as are exactly specified, chap. Ezekiel 43:13.
† Which, if the Epistle to the Hebrews be true, to say nothing of the rest of the New Testament, God will not accept now, and therefore they must not be understood of future times.
Besides, they were to be offered by priests of the line of Aaron, and those of the sons of Zadoc, because the other priests had been guilty of idolatry, and those priests were to be employed only in lower offices in the temple, chap. Eze 44:10-16 Ezekiel 48:11. Now this seems to intimate a more speedy restoration of the temple, than the seventy years of Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, will allow; and Ezekiel never mentions a number of years, but only that the time of return is near. After the seventy years scarce any could be supposed capable of officiating, that had officiated in an idolatrous worship before. But the prohibition may be designed for their posterity. And for their posterity in Zerobabel's temple it might. But surely not in a time yet future, when nothing but a revelation can determine who are Zadock's posterity, and when it would seem very strange, a punishment should commence for what their forefathers did so long ago. And not only the sons of Aaron as such would not be put to officiate in a Christian temple of the Jews, but Christian ministers would scarcely be described in this manner. But supposing this temple to be that to be built after the return from Babylon, all would be easy.
Farther still; ceremonial laws of sacrifices and purification and distinction between what the priests might do, and what the people might, &c. were to be in force under this temple, chap. Ezekiel 43-44. Whether some of these may differ from the Mosaic, I have not particularly examined: if they do, Ezekiel must be considered as being in part a new legislator; and I believe David and Solomon varied in some things from the rules of Moses. But still all these things cannot be designed, either to have allegorical meanings only, or to be ornaments of a parable only.
The prince mentioned in this vision, chap. 44:—xlviii. cannot be the Messias, but the ruler for the time being of the Jewish nation. It is directed, where he should sit in the temple to eat his share of the sacrifices, when and how be should go in and out, what he shall offer is specified very minutely for the sabbath-day, for his voluntary offering, &c. Particularly, it is directed, chap. Eze 45:22 that at the passover he shall offer a bullock, a sin-offering for himself and all the people. To guard himself against the temptation of oppressing the people, he hath a provision of land allotted him, chap. Eze 45:8 where it follows. "and my princes shall not more oppress my people."‡ It is directed, chap. Ezekiel 46:16, &c. that if he give land out of his inheritance to one of his children, it shall be perpetual; but if to another, it shall be only to the Jubilee. And the prince shall not take of the people's inheritance by oppression, to thrust them out of their possession: he shall give his sons inheritance out of his own possession. These are plainly political rules for common princes, and for a succession of them. Nor is there any thing great said either of the character, or the dignity and dominion, of any particular prince in this vision: though there are considerable things said of the prosperity of the branch of the cedar, which God would plant in the mountain of Israel, but not more than would be proper concerning a flourishing king of Israel; chap. Ezekiel 17:22, &c. Nor doth he any where say|| more of the people of the Jews, than that they should return, and live happily in their own land, one people under one king, God's servant David, and should not be wicked any more or longer, but have his tabernacle amongst them for ever. See particularly chap. Eze 37:24 and Ezekiel 39:25, &c. And accordingly in this vision it is said, chap. Ezekiel 43:7.* that the temple here described was the place of God's throne, where he would dwell for ever in the midst of the children of Israel, and his holy name should neither they nor their kings defile any more by their idolatries. This must relate to their return from a captivity, into which they had been sent for idolatry. And in order to preserve the truth of the prophesy, the words for ever and no more must be explained, as they must in several other places for the same purpose. But supposing them to be understood of a long time only, they will preclude any plea, that the things here foretold were to have been fulfilled if the Jews had been pious; but were not, they being otherwise.
‡ The princes, it seems, had oppressed them, whence it follows, Ezekiel 39:9. "Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel—take away your exactions from my people."
|| Or prophesy any thing against that kingdom, in which he lived; though not only Isaiah, who lived before, but Jeremiah, who lived in a remote part of the empire, did.
* On the house being filled with the glory of the Lord.
Some object against understanding the description of the temple, &c. literally, that the waters said to flow from the temple, and the increase of them, and their sweetening the Dead Sea, and the trees upon their banks with leaves for medicine, chap. Eze 47:1-12 cannot be so understood, and direct the rest not to be so understood. But there was some liberal foundation for this also. For there was much water conveyed in pipes to the temple for washing the place and the sacrifices and the priests, as Aristeus affirms, whose book must have been written whilst the temple stood, and Lightfoot from the Rabbins, and the nature of the things shews. And if I understand Lowth right, they ran out at the east end of the temple, and these several pipes uniting their streams with one another, and with the water of Siloam, and Kidron, and others, which were formerly more plentiful about Jerusalem, than in later times, and with waters from cisterns, see Reland, p. 294. 299, 300. 303. 856-860 might in a short space grow deep and considerable, and might also have trees on their banks, though I find no mention of any, and though Reland, p. 295 mentions a place where Kidron had none. What virtues the leaves of these trees might have I know not. But I see not why Grotius should think these waters must be those of the fountain Callirhoe: for that being a medicinal water, as Josephus and Pliny say it was, see Reland, p. 302, 303 hath no connexion with the medicinal virtue of the trees on its banks. And though Solinus in Grotius says, it was Hierosolymis proxima, [near to Jerusalem] yet that proximity might be at some miles distance, and these waters were at a town which took its name of Callirhoe from them, and was near the Dead Sea: Reland, p. 302, 678. Grotius also understands the healing of the waters to mean only, that this river shall pass through the Dead Sea, without being hurt by it, as the Rhone through the Lemane Lake and others. But no river passes through the Dead Sea, but all are lost in it. And though perhaps a larger quantity running in might make fish live in it; yet neither hath this ever literally happened, nor doth it appear to what very great purpose it would serve. Can it be intended then only as an hyperbolical expression, that in some time then future, Jerusalem should have a more plentiful supply of water,† or in general, that it should have every thing they could wish?‡ Isaiah 41:17-20, promises the Jews plenty of water in the wilderness, where there was none before, and that a variety of trees should grow there; and chap. Eze 43:19-20 that they should be for his people to drink, and that the beasts, dragons, and owls, should honour him for them. And from chap. Eze 35:6-10 and Eze 48:20-21 one should think this was to be at the journey from Babylon, in which if any miracles of this kind had been literally performed, surely the book of Ezra, or Nehemiah, would have mentioned them. But Isa 44:1-5 rather directs to understand these promises of God's spirit, which should extend to the fiercest of the Gentiles, as well as be abundantly poured on the Jews; and to these waters every one that is thirsty is invited, Isa 55:1 and shall draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation, Isa 12:3 and God feeds his sheep by the waters of rest, Psalms 23:0. And this seems the most natural interpretation of what is said here, and Joe 3:18 that a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and water the valley of Shittim, which was near the Dead Sea; and Zec 14:8 that living waters should flow from Jerusalem, half to the eastern, half to the west sea.|| Indeed commentators mention some springs at Jerusalem that flowed literally some to the one, some to the other; but I know not on what authority. And were it literally true, it would still seem also a figure of what Eze 39:9 expresses, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth;" and which Isa 2:3 and Mic 4:2 express in terms nearer akin to this figure: "The Lord shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."§ And the conversion of Gentiles is foretold in the Old Testament under the figure of taming wild beasts, and may be well understood here in Ezekiel, by healing the waters of the Dead Sea, of which yet some places would not be healed.¶ But still this doth not prove, that the rest of the prophesy is not to be understood literally, any more than that the return from the captivity is not to be understood so. Nor doth any thing determine this increase of religious knowledge and practice to Christianity. Yet the mention of fishers favours it, as the apostles were some of them such, and Christ tells them, they should be fishers of men. But on the other hand this makes a confusion of figures: first, to make the waters a symbol of religious knowledge and divine grace, then instantly to represent the conversion of men, by pulling them out of these waters in which alone they can live: whereas considering it only as an ornament consequential to the waters being made wholesome, this difficulty is avoided.
† Which might be by the repairing of the aqueducts, of which as Solomon and Hezekiah took care, so did afterwards Nehemiah and Simon. See Notes on Zec 14:8 in Pool.
‡ As indeed a promise of streams of water in uncommon places seems, Isa 30:25 to mean plenty of good and happiness.
|| Conformably to which Ezekiel, chap. Eze 47:9 mentions two rivers, though before and after only one is mentioned. But see Hebr. Bib.
§ And Isai. chap. Eze 40:9 brings it nearer still, "The earth, shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." And it hath been already observed here, that Zechariah foretels, there should be many proselytes after the return from Babylon.
¶ If the waters mentioned in the above place of Zec 14:8 be the same with the fountain opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness, Zec 13:1 this would turn one's thoughts to water for washing, not drinking, that is to say, to expiation, not instruction. But the fountain, Zec 13:1 seems rather parallel to the clean water sprinkled, Eze 36:25 for the water of sprinkling was for חטאת chatath and נדה niddah, Numbers 19:9; Num 19:13 which are the very words used Zechariah 13:1.
Some indeed have understood Eze 39:8 that these waters were to flow through Galilee; and so ο translate it, and so Ch. Syr. may be understood. Whether the word may not also be an appellative in them I know not. But if it be Galilee, it must be also eastern Galilee, and no such country is named elsewhere.* Besides, no waters from Jerusalem could flow through Galilee; but they did flow through the east country, to the Dead Sea, which is called the East Sea, Eze 39:18 and these very waters are said to flow that way in Joel, and part of them to flow that way in Ezekiel. And the word must in same places of Scripture signify something different from Galilee, and probably signifies a country, or boundary. Nor doth the New Testament, or any old Christian writer, so far as I can learn, apply this text to Christ's preaching. Still, without question, Christianity had spread true religion vastly more than Judaism did; and therefore this part of the prophesy is more applicable to Christianity. And as these waters flowed out after the temple was built, and it is not said how long after, or how long they were coming to be so great a stream; the building of the temple, and the rules about worship, and about the prince, may be literal, and belong to Judaism, and this of the waters be figurative, and belong to Christianity. But then† the division of the land cannot well be both literal and true; for few of the twelve tribes returned, and we have no ground to think any such division was made to those that did; nor yet did their sins hinder these things; for, as was mentioned above, it is in this vision foretold they should not sin.‡
* Upper and lower are: but one lay just south of the other.
† The city and temple were not built according to these directions; for they were not separate from one another as chap. 45: chap. 48: require them, and accordingly Rev 21:22 says there was no temple in the city, but gives another reason; nor were there such portions assigned, so far as appears, to people, prince, or priests at Jerusalem.
[‡ And probably for some time after their return from captivity they sinned less than ever they had done in the same time before.
One should not think Ezekiel had respect to the tree of life, in what he says of the trees on the bank of this river; for though indeed in Hebrew tree may be used for such trees, yet Gen 2:9 placing the tree of life in the midst of the garden intimates there was but one, whereas in Ezekiel there are many trees, and it should seem of several sorts: yet Rev 22:2 plainly referring to this place calls the tree [for he says Ξυλον, though he must mean in the plural] Ξυλον ζωης [the tree of life].]
The east gate assigned only to the prince. The priests reproved for polluting of the sanctuary. Idolaters incapable of the priest's office. The sons of Zadok are accepted thereto. Ordinances for the priests.
Before Christ 574.
Ezekiel 44:2. Therefore it all be shut— This is very ill pointed, and improperly separated from the third verse. It should be read thus, Therefore it shall be shut for the prince. Ezekiel 44:3. The same prince shall fit in it, &c. See chap. Eze 46:1-3 and Houbigant. The kings of Judah had a distinguished place in the temple; a kind of tribunal, placed opposite the eastern gate. See ch. Eze 46:12. 2 Chronicles 6:12-13.
Ezekiel 44:5. All the ordinances, &c.— All the lineaments, and all the forms of the house of the Lord; and mark well, in the going forth of the temple, all those who depart from the sanctuary. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 44:7. When ye offer my bread, &c.— "At the same time that ye offer sacrifices upon the altar, or that ye suffer heathens to offer at that altar, expressly against the law." By bread may be understood the meat-offering made of flour: the fat and blood of every sacrifice were peculiarly appropriated to God. Instead of, and they have broken, Houbigant reads, and break.
Ezekiel 44:8. But ye have set keepers— And you make those who minister in my sanctuary, your own ministers. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 44:10. The Levites that are gone away, &c.— Many of these desisted from attending upon God's service, and fell into idolatry, first in the general apostacy of the ten tribes, afterwards under Ahaz and other wicked kings. These should be degraded from attending upon the higher offices belonging to the priesthood; God having particularly threatened to punish the sin of idolatry unto the third and fourth generation; idolatry being, according to the law of the Jews, one of the crimes which was punished with the deprivation of the priesthood. See Lowth and Calmet. Houbigant renders the verse thus, And the Levites also who departed from me, and who drew astray those of the children of Israel who went after their Gods, shall bear their iniquity.
Ezekiel 44:13. And they shall not— For they shall not.
Ezekiel 44:15. The Levites— The whole passage, from Eze 44:10 to Ezekiel 44:16., seems most naturally to refer to the period of time when the second temple was rebuilt.
Ezekiel 44:17. And within— And within the house or temple.
Ezekiel 44:18. With any thing that causeth sweat— With any thing that is torn. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 44:19. They shall not sanctify, &c.— By approaching them in these habits, by touching them when clad in their dress of ceremony; this would sanctify the people, and incapacitate them from discharging their ordinary occupations. The touching of holy things defiles those who touch them unworthily, and sanctifies those who approach them in a manner conformably to the laws. The sacred habits were only for the ministers of the Lord; the laity who touched them were obliged to purify themselves; to expiate their offence. Whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy, says Moses, Exodus 30:29. To sanctify or be holy is put here in a contrary sense, for to defile.
Ezekiel 44:20. Neither shall they shave, &c.— The Jews understand this as an expression of mourning for the dead. The words in the original contain a general prohibition, including the times of mourning, as well as other seasons. St. Jerome supposes, that the Jewish priests were forbidden to shave their heads, in order to distinguish them from several of the heathen priests; particularly the Egyptian priests of Isis and Serapis, who had their heads shaved and uncovered, see Calmet, and Leviticus 10:0.
Ezekiel 44:23. And cause them to discern— And declare to them what is the difference. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 44:28. And it shall be unto them, &c.— Houbigant very properly, after the Vulgate, reads, And they shall have no inheritance; agreeably to what follows.
Ezekiel 44:30. Ye shall also give—the first of your dough— See Leviticus 2:4.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The prophet, following his heavenly guide, returns to the east gate; which, in honour of him whose glory entered the temple thereat, was kept shut ever after, only the prince was admitted to eat his part of the peace-offerings in the porch, and to go in and out by the way of the porch of that gate; which some interpreters suppose to represent the church of Christ upon earth, shut against all profane and impenitent sinners, and only open to those who, by the faith of Jesus, become one with him, and so have boldness to enter into the holiest of all.
2nd, Once more we have the prophet prostrate, adoring the great God whose glory he beheld. Deep views of the divine majesty will ever produce the most abasing apprehensions of ourselves.
1. The prophet is charged to take notice of what he saw, and attend to what was told him; for they whom God employs must carefully observe his orders, and be first taught themselves of him, before they can be effectual teachers of others.
2. He is commanded, [1.] To deliver the message that God gave him to the house of Israel, that rebellious house, to convince them of their sins. Their abominations were great, and it was high time for them to amend: they had introduced into the sanctuary the uncircumcised and the profane, to the defilement of that holy place, and the great dishonour of God; and instead of choosing the most able, zealous, and godly ministers from among the priests and Levites, ye have set keepers in my sanctuary for yourselves; such as studied to please, not profit them, and would flatter them in their sins, instead of terrifying against them. Note; (1.) They who begin to taste anything of the bitterness of sin, will reflect with grief on every moment of the time past when they walked therein. (2.) It is a high profanation of Christ's table, when persons profane and immoral are admitted thereunto; and he will resent the provocation. (3.) They who choose flattering priests will perish in their own delusions. [2.] To point out to them the path of duty. No stranger, uncircumcised in heart or flesh, may enter the sanctuary; and happy would it be for the church of Christ, if these directions were more carefully observed, and none admitted to partake of her most sacred ordinances, much less entrusted with the ministry, who have not given some satisfactory evidence by their principles and practice, that they are partakers of the grace of God in truth.
3rdly, The Lord takes account of his servants.
1. The unfaithful are degraded: they had betrayed their trust; and as a minister's ill example has ever the most pernicious effects, their idolatry had emboldened the people in their iniquities; therefore God will suffer them no more to minister as formerly before him: yet not utterly to exclude them, and sink them in utter despair, and as if no place was left for repentance, they are still to be employed in the more servile offices, and to partake in the provision of God's house, bearing their shame, though not yet utterly cast away. Note; (1.) The church will never recover her primitive beauty, till her primitive discipline is restored. (2.) Though open offenders must be put to shame, too much severity and rigour may drive those to despair whom we should desire to lead to repentance.
2. The faithful are distinguished. The sons of Zadok, who in the general apostacy maintained their integrity, are confirmed in their office, and in the high honour of drawing near to God in his most solemn services. Fidelity shall never lose its reward; and they who know the happiness of communion with God desire no higher honour or greater reward than to be established his servants, and preserved in a constant state of nearness to his blessed self.
4thly, The faithful, who are appointed to minister before God, have here directions given them:
1. Concerning their clothes. They must wear linen garments when they are employed in their ministry, and put them off when they have finished the service, and not sanctify the people with their garments; as if the touch of them communicated any holiness, or lest any superstitious conceit might be entertained thereof by the people. The ministers of Christ, above all others, are especially called upon to keep their garments clean from every spot; for on them every eye will be fixed.
2. Concerning their hair. They must not be on the one hand shaved, as the priests of Egypt, nor on the other effeminately affect long hair, but have their heads polled. The Romish friars choose to copy after their heathen predecessors.
3. Concerning their drink. No wine must enter their lips when they went in to minister. Note; Nothing can be conceived in a christian minister more scandalously infamous than intemperance.
4. Concerning their marriages. They may not take for a wife a woman divorced, lest her suspicious character bring a dishonour upon her husband; nor a widow, unless it be a priest's widow; but a maiden of the house of Israel. Note; (1.) It is a mark of the antichristian church to forbid marriage to the clergy. (2.) Ministers, above all others, for the honour of their high office, need be especially careful whom they choose for their yoke-fellow.
5. Concerning the exercise of their ministry. [1.] They must teach the people the difference between the holy and profane, between the unclean and the clean; and this with regard to persons, principles, and practices; pointing out the evil as to be avoided, and the good to be embraced and followed. [2.] In appeals made to them, they must judge impartially according to God's word. [3.] In their assemblies they must be directed in their worship and discipline by his laws and statutes, and hallow God's sabbaths, both in private and public, and exhort others to do the same.
6. Concerning their mourning. They may not come near a dead corpse, which would make them ceremonially unclean, and prevent them from approaching the sanctuary: only for those nearest relations specified, they may defile themselves; but before they return to their sacred services again, they must be cleansed by a sin-offering. Though ministers are not forbidden to sorrow as men, they must be examples of resignation, and see that their grief do not break in upon the duties of their office.
7. Concerning their maintenance. They had no inheritance in Israel, but their provision arose from the altar which they served: God was their possession, whose favour is the richest portion; and while they exerted themselves in his service, the piety of the people would procure them plenty of all needful things; so that they should not be reduced to eat what died of itself, or was torn; and, in return, the blessing of God's ministers resting upon the people would amply compensate them for what they employed in his service and the maintenance of his ministers. Note; God's ministers have a right to live by the altars which they serve; and it is the interest, as well as duty of the people, to take care of them; for the blessing of God in answer to their prayers shall be an abundant recompence.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 44". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent