Chapters 40-48 contain Ezekiel’s final vision. Here is where we are in this book.
God promised, through Ezekiel, to protect his holy name and to display his glory by destroying the city and temple of his people, who were profaning his name. He in fact destroyed it.
God promised to vindicate his holiness and display his glory by restoring Israel.
God promised to vindicate his holiness and display his glory by defeating the forces of the world represented by Gog. In this he showed his supremacy.
In 40 through 48, God promises to vindicate his holiness and display his glory among his own people, shown or symbolized in the building of a huge city with a temple. A temple is where God dwells with his people. This vision will show a renewed worship by God’s people.
The Vision Begins
Ezekiel specifically dated the time of this vision. It is 14 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, 25 years after the beginning of the exile. Remember there was a group taken into exile years before the city was destroyed and the survivors taken into exile. It is also about 12 years since the last vision.
The first vision of Ezekiel showed the heavenly king on his throne and that vision was dated from the exile of the earthly king. This vision of the heavenly city is dated from the destruction of the earthly city.
The date also seems to have a reference to the Jubilee. On the 10th day of the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement, every 50th year, the Jubilee was declared. Slaves were set free, land was returned to the original owners. (Leviticus 25) It was a restoration of land and freedom and heritage. The original audience of Ezekiel, the exiles, were landless and enslaved. The idea of looking forward to a Jubilee of sorts, that would restore them, was hopeful. At 25 years they would be halfway to restoration in the Jubilee calculation. This would be symbolic, since the captivity was to last 70 years according to Jeremiah. There are also several references to the number 25 and its multiples in the measurements of the Temple.
In this vision, Ezekiel is “taken” to Israel from Babylon. He is physically in Babylon but sees events in Israel in the future. He said the hand of Yahweh was on him and took him to the city. The city is never named.
God took Ezekiel to a very high mountain. There really are not any very high mountains in Israel. But you have a theological geography here. It is to make a point. The dry bones were lying in the valley in chapter 37, then were restored to life. The restored people are elevated from a dead valley to a mountain top where God dwells and is worshipped. It is a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Jesus described his followers this way in Matthew 5:14.
Mountains have often been the meeting place of God and man in the Bible. Moses met God and received the law on Mount Sinai. Ezekiel is now going to repeat that process, revealing the requirements for worship. Moses received the design of the tabernacle while on the mountain. Ezekiel receives the design for the new city or sanctuary on this mountain. Moses saw the promised land from Mount Nebo, but would not enter it. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52) Ezekiel would see a vision the new dwelling place of God’s people, but would not enter it during this lifetime. Satan tried to copy this by taking Jesus to a high mountain to convince Jesus to worship him. (Matthew 4:8)
There is also a reflection of Isaiah 2:2-3 here. Isaiah prophesied that the mountain of the Lord’s temple would be established as the chief among mountains. Which is similar to a vision of a very high mountain.
On this mountain, there was a structure that looked like a city on the south side. The temple appears like a city to Ezekiel or was within a city.
God also gave Ezekiel a tour guide. (3) He looked like a man, but his appearance was like bronze. He had a linen cord and a measuring reed in his hand. These are both measuring devices. The reed is usually for a short measurement and the cord for a longer one. It corresponds to a ruler we use for short measurements and a “tape” we use for long ones.
The guide gave Ezekiel 4 instructions:
set your heart upon what you see
declare it to Israel. (4)
One thing we should notice here is that this vision is a counterpart to the vision in chapters 8 through 11. In that vision, Ezekiel also got a tour of the temple. The tour guide also looked like a man and had a sash around his waist, but of fire. He also looked like gleaming metal on his upper body. (8:2) In that vision, the man showed Ezekiel the abominations Israel was committing in the temple. In contrast, the vision of 40-48 will shows the splendor or glory of God.
The Wall & East Gate
This structure is very large. It has a wall around it. The wall has gates in it, one facing each direction. It has a court or plaza inside the wall. In the middle of the plaza is a temple structure. Each area is elevated as it moves toward the holiest place. You go up steps to each area. There are 3 elevations from the front to the holiest place. It starts wide at the gate and narrows as it approaches the holiest place. The whole structure faced east.
The guide began with the outside wall. He measured it. Ezekiel explained the measurements in terms of the length of the reed and the cubit. The reed is 6 cubits long. This is 10 feet. So, the wall is 10 feet high and 10 feet thick. It is perfectly symmetrical in that sense. And it is substantial. It is the barrier between sacred and profane. It is too thick to break too high to climb. It reminds me of Revelation 21:27: “…nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written written in the Lamb’s book of life”
The east gate is the main gate, so the guide started there. He had to go up steps to enter the gate and its vestibule, so we see the first elevation. There were seven steps.
Ezekiel describes the main gate in great detail. The gate is elaborate and large. It is the gate of a fortress. It has a threshold that was 10 by 10. There were side rooms for guards. There was a barrier to protect them. (12)Gates with this design have been discovered in Hazor by archeologists. There were windows. The window jambs were carved with the images of palm trees. The overall size is about 45 feet wide and nine feet deep. (13, 15) It is very secure. It has a vestibule. The vestibule is not on the outside, but on the inside. (8)
There were gates facing north and south also. These gates are described in verses 20 through 27. They are built to the same plan as the East Gate, so they are not described in as great a detail.
There is no west gate, because the back of the temple faces west (the front to the east) and the holiest place is at the back of the temple and must be protected.
The Outer Court
The guide took Ezekiel up the steps and through the East Gate into the outer court. It was paved with stones. There were chambers inside the wall facing the court. These were probably for storage also. Ezekiel saw the north gate and south gate. Ezekiel does not spend much time describing the outer court.
The North & South Gates
These verses contain descriptions of the north and south gates. They are designed the same way as the east gate.
The Inner Court
From the south gate, the guide took Ezekiel into the inner court. (28)
Here the guide also showed Ezekiel the detail of the north gate. It had facilities for the sacrifices. There was a chamber to wash the offerings, tables on which the offerings were slaughtered, tables for the instruments of slaughter and tables on which the actual offerings were laid before being offered in sacrifice. There was one set of gates from the outside to the outer court, and one set of gates from the outer court to the inner court. There were eight steps up from the outer court to the inner court. (31)
Chambers for the Priests
One chamber was for priests that have charge of the temple. (45) These are guys who make sure that everything is where it is supposed to be and that everything is cleaned up. The other chamber is for the priests who have charge of the altar. (46) By that, he means they offer the sacrifices. All priests have to be sons of Levi descended from Aaron. But only those who came through the line of Zadok may offer sacrifices. (46)
God chose the Levites for his service because they stood with Moses and the Lord when the Israelites made the golden calf. This is recorded in Exodus 32. Moses said “Today you have been ordained for the service os the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and his brother so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.” (Exodus 32:29) Moses and Aaron were Levites. Levy was one of Jacob’s sons, and, therefore, his family or tribe was one of the 12 tribes of Israel, the Levites.
Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests in Leviticus 8. Each of the families within the Levite tribe were given specific responsibilities. These are described in Leviticus and Numbers.
Zadok was a priest descended from Aaron. He was loyal to David when Absalom executed a coup against David. He was loyal to Solomon when Adonijah tried to become king. David made Zakok and his sons the high priestly line and allowed only them to serve at the tent when he returned to power. So, Ezekiel shows them as the sole ministers at the altar as a sign of pure worship.
The Inner Court: Measurements & Altar
The inner court, the area immediately outside the temple building, was a prefect square. it was 100 cubits long and wide. In the court, in front of the temple, was the altar of sacrifice. This reflects its placement in both the Tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.
The inner court also contained the altar. It sat in front of the temple. This is a prominent place. Some believe it is in the geographic center of the inner court. Its prominence suggests the importance of sacrifice to atone for sins.
The Vestibule of the Temple
The man next shows Ezekiel the vestibule of the temple itself. He measured it also. A vestibule is like a lobby. It is the first area you come to after you pass through the door.
You had to walk up 10 steps to get to the vestibule. (49) So, the image here is a temple complex on a high mountain, separated by 7 steps from the ground and 8 steps to the outer court.
The importance of the temple itself is shown by the 10 steps from the inner court to the to the vestibule. The temple building is elevated above all else. It is elevated to show its importance. Its holiness is shown by its restricted access through gates to the proper areas and the perfectly square design of the court. Chapter 41 will give us a description of the design of the temple building.