THE SHEKINAH GLORY OF THE LORD’S MAGNIFICENT PRESENCE RETURNS TO THE NEW MILLENNIAL TEMPLE TO REIGN IN HOLINESS
This is one of the most dramatic sections in the prophecy of Ezekiel. The exiles in Babylon would have been tremendously encouraged by this vision of the return of God’s Shekinah Glory to the new millennial temple in Jerusalem. God would this time take up permanent residence in His house and reign over His kingdom in a culture of holiness produced by repentance and purification.
Derek Thomas: One of the saddest moments in Israel’s history occurred when the ark of the temple was taken into Philistine hands and Israel was left bereft of God’s help. When Eli heard of the consequent death of his two sons, he fell backwards and broke his neck. His daughter-in-law, in the shock of all the events, gave premature birth, dying in the process. Before she died she gasped out that the child should be called Ichabod, meaning “The glory has departed” (1 Samuel 4).
Israel’s current condition in exile was a similar low point. The collapse of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon’s temple underlined the fact that God had departed from his holy city. Ezekiel had been taken to Jerusalem in a vision in chapter 10 to see God depart! That was in 592 B.C. Almost twenty years have passed since that awful day. Nothing could be worse than that. If the new temple in Ezekiel’s vision is to be of any significance other than for architects, the essential nature of its glory has to be underlined. This involves the return of God to dwell in his temple again. This is what these verses now describe.
Daniel Woodhead: The prophet is brought back to the east gate. This time he sees the Shekinah Glory of God returning to Israel in the same manner that He left in 586 B.C. The sound of many waters is the wings of the Cherubim moving Him with wheels of fire. The Shekinah Glory is a physical manifestation of the God of the Universe in time and space. The word Shekinah is a term used to describe the glorious divine appearance of God to man on various occasions in human history. The usual title found in the Bible is The Glory of Jehovah or the glory of the Lord. The Hebrew term used in our Bibles is Kvod Adonai which means the Glory of Jehovah. There are other Hebrew forms which describe His glory. This is what the Shekinah is, the Glorious God. In Greek the title is Doxa Kurion and is translated as the glory of the Lord. Doxa means brightness or splendor. This is how God appears. From early Genesis to the book of Revelation the Shekinah has appeared in many forms. He has been a light, a cloud, a loud trumpet blast, fire and other forms. In the Tabernacle and the first Temple He made unique appearances in order to dwell with His people. When the Tabernacle was complete and operational the Shekinah dwelt among the Israelites.
H. A. Ironside: God from the first claimed to be their King politically as well as religiously: and He had resisted their wish to have a human king, as implying a rejection of Him as the proper Head of the state. Even when He yielded to their wish, it was with a protest against their king ruling except as His vicegerent. When Messiah shall reign at Jerusalem, He shall then first realize the original idea of the theocracy, with its at once divine and human king reigning in righteousness over a people all righteous (Ezekiel 43:12; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 54:13; Isaiah 60:21).
I. (:1-5) THE GLORY OF THE LORD TAKES UP RESIDENCE IN THE TEMPLE TO DWELL WITH HIS PEOPLE
A. (:1) Staging for the Observance of the Return of God’s Glory
“Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing toward the east;”
B. (:2-3) Shekinah Glory Returns with All of Its Effects
1. (:2a) Its Approach
“and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming
from the way of the east.”
MacArthur: Here, the Lord returns to be Israel’s King. The glory departed to the E from Israel (11:23) when God judged them, so the glory returns from the E when He has regathered them, and is restoring their worship.
Daniel Block: the glory is the visible manifestation of the divine presence, a fact reinforced by Yahweh’s own interpretive comment in 44:2.
David Guzik: It is hard to define the glory of God; we could call it the radiant outshining of His character and presence. The Bible says that God’s glory radiates throughout all His creation (Psalm 19:1-4). Yet there is also the concept of the visible, tangible glory of God – the shekinah – and this is scattered about the Old Testament. In many cases it is described as a cloud.
• This is the cloud that stood by Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22).
• This is the cloud of glory that God spoke to Israel from (Exodus 16:10).
• This is the cloud from which God met with Moses and others (Exodus 19:9, 24:15-18, Numbers 11:25, 12:5, 16:42).
• This is the cloud that stood by the door of the Tabernacle (Exodus 33:9-10).
• This is the cloud from which God appeared to the High Priest in the Holy Place inside the veil (Leviticus 16:2).
• This is the cloud of Ezekiel’s vision, filling the temple of God with the brightness of His glory (Ezekiel 10:4).
• This is the cloud of glory that overshadowed Mary when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
• This is the cloud present at the transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:34-35).
• This is the cloud of glory that received Jesus into heaven at His ascension (Acts 1:9).
• This is the cloud that will display the glory of Jesus Christ when He returns in triumph to this earth (Luke 21:27, Revelation 1:7).
2. (:2b) Its Audible Presence
“And His voice was like the sound of many waters;”
3. (:2c) Its Awe-Inspiring Aura
“and the earth shone with His glory.”
Constable: God’s shekinah glory did not return when Zerubbabel rebuilt it, nor when Herod the Great remodeled it (cf. Hag. 2:7). But now the Lord Himself was about to take up residence in His millennial temple. God’s voice was as the sound of a mighty waterfall (powerful and majestic; cf. 1:24; Rev. 1:15; 14:2), and His glory illuminated the land as it passed over it (cf. Exod. 34:29-30, 35; Mark 9:3; 2 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 1:16; 18:1).
An interesting foreview of the departure and return of God’s glory occurred when God’s glory departed with the ark of the covenant into the Philistine camp (1 Sam. 4:19-22) and then returned when David brought the ark into Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:17-19). Another parallel is Jesus’ departure from Jerusalem in His ascension and His return to it at His second advent, both events happening on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem.
4. (:3a) Its Appearance with Respect to Previous Visions
a. Vision When Coming to Destroy Jerusalem
“And it was like the appearance of the vision which I saw,
like the vision which I saw when He came to destroy the city.”
MacArthur: just as the vision in chaps. 8-11, which pictures His coming, by angels, to judge Jerusalem (cf. 9:3-11; 10:4-7).
b. Vision When First Capturing the Attention of Ezekiel
“And the visions were like the vision which I saw
by the river Chebar;”
MacArthur: God’s appearance is also glorious as in the vision of 1:3-28.
Lamar Cooper: But it was apparent to Ezekiel that the Lord’s coming here was not a summons to ministry or a sign of judgment. It was a sign of his covenant love bringing blessings to his people that would never be taken away. The verb translated “was radiant” is found often suggesting the Lord’s favor, as in the priestly blessing in Num 6:25—“The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you” (cf. Ezra 9:8; Job 33:30; Pss 19:8; 31:16; 67:1; Isa 60:1).
5. (:3b) Its Impact on Ezekiel
“and I fell on my face.”
David Guzik: The sense is that Ezekiel didn’t choose to do this; it was a natural response. He had done the same before (Ezekiel 1:28; 3:23; 9:8, and 11:13).
Daniel Block: The prophet’s physical response, falling down on his face, indicates that neither years of reflection nor decades of divine service have dulled his sense of awe and terror at the sight of the glory of God.
C. (:4-5) Shekinah Glory Fills the House of God with the Manifestation of His Presence
1. (:4) Intentional Entrance
“And the glory of the LORD came into the house
by the way of the gate facing toward the east.”
Daniel Block: Although Yahweh could have entered the temple area through the northern or southern gate, the choice of the east gate is deliberate, leading in a straight line along the central spine of concentrated sacrality to the holy of holies.
2. (:5a) Inspired Access and Observance
“And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court;”
3. (:5b) Indwelling Magnificence
“and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.”
Feinberg: The cloud of the Shekinah has been described as “simply the atmospheric clothing of the theophany.” But however explained, it was only the presence of the Lord which could make the building the house of God. The mention of glory with regard to the consecration of the Mosaic tabernacle or the Solomonic temple is not a part of the imagery of stage setting. Rather it is the vital element which reveals the worthwhileness of all that is set forth. Thus Ezekiel was expressly given the privilege by the Spirit Himself of viewing the glorious return of the Lord to His abode and His people. God’s glory may always be depended upon to fill His house; it has been so in the past and will be in the millennial era.
II. (:6-9) REPENTANCE REQUIRED AS THE PURIFICATION FROM DEFILEMENT FOR GOD TO DWELL WITH HIS PEOPLE
(:6) Introduction to the Message
“Then I heard one speaking to me from the house,
while a man was standing beside me.”
A. (:7a) Establishment of God’s Throne and Dwelling Place on Earth
“And He said to me, ‘Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever.’”
B. (:7b-8) Elimination of Any Future Defilement Patterned after Past Transgressions
1. (:7b-8a) Specific Sins Called Out
“And the house of Israel will not again defile My holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their harlotry and by the corpses of their kings when they die, 8 by setting their threshold by My threshold, and their door post beside My door post, with only the wall between Me and them.”
Lamar Cooper: God promised that his return would be a permanent return (vv. 7, 9). Further, he promised that restored Israel would “never again” defile God’s name or turn to idolatry. The exile indeed was a cure of idolatry and Baal worship. After the Babylonian captivity Israel never again turned to idols.
Daniel Block: Yahweh’s general demand for the cessation41 of name-defiling behavior is concretized by citing a series of specific offenses that had provoked the furious outpouring of his wrath in an earlier era: spiritual harlotry of nation and king, and the veneration of the deceased.
The first charge is summed up in one word, zĕnûtām, “their harlotry,” which occurs twice in vv. 7b–9. While the word may denote spiritual infidelity in general (Num. 14:33), in Ezekiel this unfaithfulness is expressed in illicit affairs with other gods and political powers. By framing vv. 7–9 with general accusations of “harlotry” of “the house of Israel” and referring to the funerary offerings of “their kings,” Ezekiel maintains a primary focus on the sins of the people. The specific offenses of the kings are described parenthetically. . .
The fourth charge accuses the Israelites of abominable practices. As in 36:31, where the term also appears in a context concerned with the sanctity of the divine name, tôʿēbâ serves as a catchall for all disgusting and scandalous pagan activities. The last clause of v. 8 reaffirms that Yahweh refuses to minimize the severity with which he has treated his own people.
2. (:8b) General Abominations Cited
“And they have defiled My holy name by their abominations
which they have committed.”
3. (:8c) Justification for God’s Wrath
“So I have consumed them in My anger.”
C. (:9) Essential Requirement for Permanent Dwelling of God with His People
1. Repentance of God’s People
“Now let them put away their harlotry
and the corpses of their kings far from Me;”
Constable: If the Israelites would put away their harlotry (physical and spiritual) and would refrain from burying their dead too close to holy ground, the Lord promised to dwell among them forever. While the place of burial may seem insignificant to modern Westerners, it was important to ancient Near Easterners since it expressed respect or disrespect.
John Taylor: The defilement which had previously taken place there had been by harlotry, i.e. idolatry and sacred prostitution (2 Kgs 23:7), and (apparently) by the practice of burying kings within the sacred precincts. We know from the books of Kings that fourteen kings of Judah were buried ‘in the city of David’, i.e. where the temple and royal palace were, and it appears as if the fault lay in the lack of any clear line of demarcation between what was sacred (the temple proper) and what was profane (the palace and any tombs associated with it). This separateness was Ezekiel’s great plea, as we have already observed. Verse 8 refers either to the palace buildings, which had been within the temple complex, or to the construction of royal burial places close by. In Solomon’s temple there had been no walled-off outer court separating the temple from the unconsecrated ground outside. Ezekiel’s vision rectified this.
2. Resolve of God to Dwell Permanently with His People
“and I will dwell among them forever.”
Daniel Block: vv. 7-11 — The divine speech divides into two major parts: an explanation for Ezekiel (vv. 7–9), and a charge to the prophet (vv. 10–11). In addition to the change in subject matter, the bifurcation of Yahweh’s address is also reflected formally. On the one hand, each section opens with the familiar direct address of the prophet: ben-ʾādām, “Human.” On the other, the twofold declaration “I will dwell among the descendants of Israel/them forever,” in vv. 7 and 9, creates an effective inclusio around the first part, highlighting this section as a declaration of Yahweh’s intentions in entering the temple.
III. (:10-12) HOLINESS REQUIRED AS THE CULTURE FOR GOD DWELLING WITH HIS PEOPLE
A. (:10-11) Charge to the Prophet to Stir Up Shame for Past Sins
1. (:10) Purpose of Detailed Design of the Temple
“As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan.”
Richard Carlson: Beloved, I call us today to behold the glory of the Lord, to blush and be ashamed of our sin, and to repent. The whole purpose for revealing the pattern of the millennial temple to Israel by Ezekiel was to move them to be ashamed, and past their shame to repentance and a desire for restored fellowship that they had lost through their sins. When we see God’s pattern for our life, and how many times our waywardness has forfeited our ability to live in the light of His glory, we will fall to our knees. The way of the transgressor is hard. Only the obedient child of God finds His yoke light and His burden easy. Amazingly, the whole center of God’s will in the pattern for the millennial temple relates to His specific plans for how He is to be worshipped—down to the last detail. Never forget, God’s people are ashamed and repent in the face of God’s glory.
2. (:11) Pursuit of Present Obedience = Outcome from Shame over Past Failure
“And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes, and do them.”
Leslie Allen: If such wrong practices had resulted in exile (v 8bβ; cf. 22:31), a prerequisite for return from exile was a change of heart that took seriously their shamefulness. Proclamation of Yahweh’s new work of salvation was to stimulate a realization of how far the people stood from God and from his will (cf. 16:54, 61; 36:31–32). This end was to be served first by study of the temple plan, to be drawn by the prophet, with its massive gatehouses that warned of the awesomeness of the one who resided there, and with its gradations in holiness from periphery to center. Second, the temple procedures that promoted and protected Yahweh’s holiness, which were also revealed to the prophet (and presented in the course of what follows) would bring a challenging message. The architectural plan was itself to serve as an inducement for inaugurating and maintaining the procedures.
Daniel Block: The intended effect of the vision on the people is striking: so that they may be humiliated. There is no thought of celebrating the return of Yahweh to their midst, any more than there had been in the establishment of the everlasting covenant in 36:32. On the contrary, the purpose clause in v. 10b, involving the Niphal of klm, introduces a homiletical dimension to the vision. In challenging the people to consider their role in the desecration of the divine name through their iniquitous behavior (ʿăwônôt), the word niklam shatters assumptions of worthiness and forces the audience to accept responsibility for the failure of divine-human relations. This spiritual map of holiness puts them in their place: they are sinners visited by God, and invited to his presence by grace alone. Even in the new order, they do not earn the right to divine favor. Yahweh returns on his own initiative and for his own purposes.
B. (:12) Culture of Holiness Dominated God’s Kingdom
“This is the law of the house:
its entire area on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy.
Behold, this is the law of the house.”
MacArthur: Here is the key to the entire vision of chaps. 40-48. These glorious future plans show how much Israel forfeited by their sins. Every detail should produce repentance in Ezekiel’s hearers and readers.
Constable: The overriding lesson of the vision was that holiness was to permeate everything connected with the future of the mountain-top temple.
Ralph Alexander: There was only one basic law for the temple area: all the area on the temple mountain would be holy. The stress would be on God’s holiness and his place of rule and residency. Holiness would be the emphasis in the Millennium. All worship structures and regulations were to demonstrate God’s holiness. A continual contrast would be observed between the holy and the profane. The Messiah would judge unholiness with the rod of iron (cf. Ps 2:8-9; Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15)!