THE HOLINESS OF GOD, THE SANCTITY OF WORSHIP AND THE PROTECTION OF LAND OWNERSHIP GOVERNED BY SPECIFIC REGULATIONS
Feinberg: The emphasis here is unmistakably on the Sabbath and the new moon, which alone should indicate the Jewish setting of the passage. . . the Sabbath of the Old Testament will be reinstituted for a restored and consecrated Israel. . . Notice here that legalizers and seventh-day observance advocates always fail to realize that the Sabbath consisted in more than just abstinence from labor on the seventh day of the week, important as that was for the commandment, but included also specific sacrifices to be offered by an authorized priest in a designated place of God’s choosing.
Note how the spotlight is centered on the glory and sanctity of the Sabbath, for on that day of the week alone the gate of the inner court will be opened. It is by this gate that the prince will enter into the sanctuary to preside as the priests prepare the designated offerings which the prince himself will offer before the Lord.
Ralph Alexander: It may seem incongruous that the Sabbath, the sign of the Mosaic covenant (cf. Exod 31:13, 16-17), would be observed in the millennial kingdom when it is not observed during the church age under the new covenant. Is this a retrogression in God’s purposes? Not if it is understood that all God’s covenants would be fulfilled and operating in the messianic kingdom (cf. 37:15-28). The Mosaic covenant would find its fruition in the messianic kingdom in that Israel finally would be God’s people and he would be their God in a relationship that was to exist under the Mosaic covenant. That the pictorial sacrifices had their reality in the work of Christ does not nullify the relationship of Mosaic covenant that is a holy one. The Mosaic covenant showed Israel how to live a holy life in a relationship with God, and that type of life is still valid under the new covenant (cf. Jer 31:33-34; Rom 8:4). Therefore, for the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant to be fulfilled side by side is not incongruous. Ezekiel, however, was looking at the situation only from his perspective under the Mosaic covenant.
I. (:1-15) THE TEMPLE GATE REGULATIONS AND PRESCRIBED OFFERINGS — FOR DAILY, WEEKLY, MONTHLY, ANNUAL WORSHIP OBSERVANCES
“Thus says the Lord God,”
Leslie Allen: On the sabbath and new moon day the access of the head of state (vv 1–2) and the people (v 3) is regulated before the offerings of those days are discussed (vv 4–7). Then at the public services the access of people (v 9) and head of state (v 10) is again broached before their offerings are mentioned (v 11).
A. (:1b-8) Worship During Sabbath and New Moon Observances
1. (:1b-2) For the Prince
a. (:1b) Access to Worship
1) Gate Closed
“The gate of the inner court facing east
shall be shut the six working days;”
2) Gate Opened
“but it shall be opened on the sabbath day,
and opened on the day of the new moon.”
Constable: Observance of the Sabbath day in the future, as was true in Israel’s past, will remind the Israelites of God’s creation of the cosmos, His creation of their nation, and His provision of rest (in the Messiah). The new moon (new month) celebrations may be periodic reminders of God’s providential control of nature and His faithful provision of His people’s needs, as they were in the past.
Lamar Cooper: Sabbath observance in the millennial temple allowed the fulfillment of the typology of the Mosaic covenant foreshadowing Jesus the Messiah, our Sabbath rest.
b. (:2a) Performance of Worship
1) Entrance of the Prince
“And the prince shall enter by way of the porch of the gate from outside and stand by the post of the gate.”
Lamar Cooper: The inner east gate is the place from which the prince will carry out his ministry on Sabbath and feast days (v. 2). He will not enter the inner court or take part in the sacrifices because he was not a priest. He remained inside the east gate of the inner court to perform his duties while the people were just outside the gate in the outer court (v. 3). This placed the prince in a mediatorial role between the priests of the inner court and the people of the outer court.
Daniel Block: Ezekiel prescribes four specific actions for the prince.
– First, the prince shall enter the gate structure from the outer court through the vestibule (ʾûlām).
– Second, the prince is to stand by the post of the gate, that is, the jamb between the vestibule and the series of guard recesses, since the inner gates were mirror images of the outer. This vantage point enables him, as guardian and patron of the cult, to observe the cultic activity of the priests. But the prince himself is not to move any closer, let alone step out onto this most sacred space of the inner court.
– Third, while the priests present his whole burnt offerings and peace offerings to Yahweh on the altar in the inner court, the prince shall prostrate himself on the threshold of the gate, an appropriate response of a mortal in the presence of deity.
– Fourth, the prince is to leave the gate structure. The duration of his stay in the gate is unspecified, but v. 2b suggests that his time is limited, since after he has left, the gate must remain open the rest of the day.
2) Offerings by the Priests
“Then the priests shall provide his burnt offering
and his peace offerings,”
3) Completion of Worship by the Prince and His Exit
“and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate
and then go out;”
c. (:2b) Shutting of the Gate
“but the gate shall not be shut until the evening.”
Constable: On these special days, the prince would lead the people in worship. He would enter the inner east gate complex and stand in its vestibule. Evidently he will not be able to enter the inner court because he will not be a priest (cf. Num. 28:3-8), but he will be able to view the inner court and the altar from the doorway at the western end of the gate complex. The vestibule would be the site of his worship as he presented his burnt and peace offerings (symbolizing his personal dedication and his gratitude for God’s fellowship respectively). After he finished worshipping, he would depart from that gate into the outer court, but the gate would remain open until the evening.
2. (:3) For the People
“The people of the land shall also worship at the doorway of that gate before the LORD on the sabbaths and on the new moons.”
Daniel Block: On these Sabbaths and new moon festivals the citizens of the restored community of faith shall gather and pay homage to Yahweh by prostrating themselves at the entrance of the inner gate.
3. (:4-7) Sabbath Day and New Moon Offerings
a. (:4-5) Sabbath Day Offering
“And the burnt offering which the prince shall offer to the LORD on the sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish and a ram without blemish; 5 and the grain offering shall be an ephah with the ram, and the grain offering with the lambs as much as he is able to give, and a hin of oil with an ephah.”
Constable: These grain and oil offerings evidently symbolize the Lord’s rich provisions for His people.
David Thompson: This regulation is clearly different than the Mosaic regulation, which in itself proves this is a very unique and different time period. Under the Mosaic law the Sabbath day burnt offering consisted of two male unblemished lambs and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil (Numbers 28:9-10). Obviously during the millennium there is a change in the system.
b. (:6-7) New Moon Offering
“And on the day of the new moon he shall offer a young bull without blemish, also six lambs and a ram, which shall be without blemish. 7 And he shall provide a grain offering, an ephah with the bull, and an ephah with the ram, and with the lambs as much as he is able, and a hin of oil with an ephah.”
Leon King: the Hebrews used a lunar calendar in which each month had 28 days. The four main Moon phases in order are the New Moon, First Quarter Moon, Full Moon and Last Quarter Moon.
4. (:8) Access by the Prince
“And when the prince enters, he shall go in by way of the porch of the gate and go out by the same way.”
Leslie Allen: Closure and limited access to the head of state are predicated of both the outer (44:1–3) and inner east gates. Since the outer east gate could be approached via the other outer gates, it was kept permanently closed. However, in the case of the inner east gate, it had to be opened, if the head of state was to have access, since there was no other point of entry, the inner court being off limits to all but priests (cf. v 8). The closure of both gates was to commemorate Yahweh’s entry through them when he came to take up permanent residence in the new temple. The head of state had the privilege of passing through the porch at the outer end of the gatehouse (cf. 40:31, 34) and standing at the inner end, at the point to which 45:19b refers, in order to witness the priests’ sacrificing his offerings and to perform there a gesture of obeisance, kneeling with head pressed to the ground. Leaving the gate open allowed the people to look from the other side of the gateway in the outer court, as they chose to come during the holiday to perform their act of worship
B. (:9-12) Worship During the Annual Feasts
1. (:9-10) Traffic Flow
a. (:9) For the People
“But when the people of the land come before the LORD at the appointed feasts, he who enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate. And he who enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. No one shall return by way of the gate by which he entered but shall go straight out.”
Lamar Cooper: in order to insure an orderly flow of people on worship days, the north gate is designated as the gate of entry (vv. 9–10). The prince accompanied the worshipers who entered the outer court by the north gate. The south gate is designated as the gate of exit. No one could leave by the gate of entry.
Derek Thomas: It may seem strange that 46:8–10 includes what are in effect traffic directions! The explanation is not difficult. The estimated numbers in Jerusalem at feast days in the time of Christ grew from 50,000 to 200,000. In this vision, the numbers are even greater. Anyone who has been in a crowd knows the need for good crowd control.
b. (:10) For the Prince
“And when they go in, the prince shall go in among them;
and when they go out, he shall go out.”
Constable: The prince should accompany the people on those occasions entering and exiting the court with them. He would worship God as one of the people then, not as someone special.
Douglas Stuart: Verses 8–10 are in effect traffic directions. The crowds anticipated for the temple on holy days would be enormous. Ezekiel’s audience could remember the crowds in the temple at worship from their own days in Jerusalem. So a traffic pattern was needed. One stream of worshipers would enter via the northern gate and exit via the southern gate, and the other stream would go the other way. The lines would pass each other neatly in the outer courtyard. This eliminated the potential confusion of people turning around to go out the way they came in and kept lines moving in and out of worship. The king is one of the crowd (v. 10), a humble worshiper under these conditions even though he has a slightly special entering and exiting route (v. 8).
2. (:11-12) Offerings and Access for the Prince
a. (:11) Grain Offering with Oil
“And at the festivals and the appointed feasts the grain offering shall be an ephah with a bull and an ephah with a ram, and with the lambs as much as one is able to give, and a hin of oil with an ephah.”
b. (:12) Freewill Offering (Burnt or Peace Offering) by the Prince
“And when the prince provides a freewill offering, a burnt offering, or peace offerings as a freewill offering to the LORD, the gate facing east shall be opened for him. And he shall provide his burnt offering and his peace offerings as he does on the sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and the gate shall be shut after he goes out.”
Ralph Alexander: If the prince desired to make a freewill offering of a burnt offering of consecration or a fellowship offering of thanksgiving, the east gate was to be opened specially for this act of worship and then closed when he finished. This was the only exception to that gate remaining closed throughout the normal six days (v. 12). The prince was to present his freewill offerings in the same manner as he made offerings on the Sabbath.
C. (:13-15) Daily Burnt and Grain Offerings
1. (:13) Burnt Offering of a Lamb
“And you shall provide a lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering to the LORD daily; morning by morning you shall provide it.”
2. (:14) Grain Offering with Oil
“Also you shall provide a grain offering with it morning by morning, a sixth of an ephah, and a third of a hin of oil to moisten the fine flour, a grain offering to the LORD continually by a perpetual ordinance.”
3. (:15) Summary
“Thus they shall provide the lamb, the grain offering, and the oil, morning by morning, for a continual burnt offering.”
II. (:16-18) THE PRINCE’S GIFTS – MANAGEMENT OF ROYAL LANDS
“Thus says the Lord God,”
Daniel Block: This fragment represents a relatively independent unit, with its own opening citation formula in v. 16. It divides into two parts, the first (vv. 16–17) being cast in the form of a bifurcated casuistic regulation, and the second (v. 18) consisting of a prohibition, followed by a positive announcement of proper procedure.
A. (:16b-17) Two Different Land Gift Situations for the Prince
1. (:16b) Prince Gives to His Son
“If the prince gives a gift out of his inheritance to any of his sons,
it shall belong to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance.”
2. (:17) Prince Gives to His Servant
“But if he gives a gift from his inheritance to one of his servants,
it shall be his until the year of liberty; then it shall return to the prince. His inheritance shall be only his sons’; it shall belong to them.”
Constable: The prince could give a gift to any of his sons out of his own inheritance from the Lord. This gift was theirs forever. However, if he gave such a gift to one of his servants, it would revert back to the prince on the year of liberty. This year would evidently be similar to the year of jubilee (every fiftieth year) under the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Lev. 25:10; 27:24). Its purpose, in the past and in the future, is to remind God’s people that He owns everything and that they only occupy and manage what He has entrusted to them.
B. (:18) Integrity of Land Ownership
1. Don’t Dispossess the People
“And the prince shall not take from the people’s inheritance,
thrusting them out of their possession;”
2. Limit Gifts to Royal Owned Land
“he shall give his sons inheritance from his own possession
so that My people shall not be scattered, anyone from his possession.”
Constable: The prince was not to give gifts from the inheritances of the other people of the land but only from his own inheritance. Israel’s leaders and people in the past had appropriated other people’s property as their own (cf. 45:8-9; 2 Sam. 24:24; 1 Kings 21:19; Mic. 2:1-2). This ordinance would also result in the prince’s sons remaining in his allotment of land rather than being scattered among the other tribal allotments.
Lamar Cooper: The regulations concerning property and ownership were designed to discourage covetousness and encourage recognition of God’s ownership of all things (46:16–18).
Douglas Stuart: For social justice to prevail, it is not enough to distribute the land once. The land must continue to be distributed fairly in all succeeding generations. Threatening this fairness was the possibility that wealthy individuals could buy up land not belonging to their own families, or that people might will their land to persons not in their families. This could eventually result in family members being forced off their ancestral lands. Thus the Pentateuchal laws insisted that all lands stay within the families to which they were originally distributed by lot, no matter what. This practice was sometimes followed (as in Ruth 4) but was most often ignored in pre-exilic Israel, causing great social injustice (cf. Is. 5:8). In the new age, even the king would have to abide by the regulations to keep his land within his family. Gifts of land to others would revert to the royal family at each year of jubilee (“the year of liberty,” v. 17), in accordance with Leviticus 25:8–55.
The goal of these regulations is order and justice—order in worship so that things are done “decently and in order” and justice in the dispersion of land belonging to the king so that royal land never leaves the king’s family.
Feinberg: The prince will be married and have sons – a truth that makes it impossible for him to be the Messiah – and it is natural that the will give them gifts, even of land. Whatever the prince gives them will remain theirs as an inheritance. A gift by the prince to any of his servants will be in another category, for it will be liable to revert to its original owner in the year of jubilee. But there is a prohibition now stated against violent seizure by the prince of the land of any of the people, for he is not to give gifts of land by confiscating the property and patrimony of others. He will have a portion of his own which he can distribute to his sons, but his family is not to be enriched through the impoverishment of others. This is in keeping with the strict righteousness of the age of justice.
III. (:19-24) THE TEMPLE KITCHENS
Daniel Block: the present unit exhibits the common Ezekielian practice of “halving” (vv. 19–20, 21–24), each segment being introduced by its own guidance formula. These two parts belong together and must be interpreted in the light of each other. They have essentially the same shape, and both involve an area of the temple complex relating to the cooking of sacrificial meals. Both subdivide into two parts, an identification of the location of the structures described, followed by an explanation of their function.
A. (:19-20) Kitchen Area Associated with the Priests’ Chambers
1. (:19) Location Identified
“Then he brought me through the entrance, which was at the side of the gate, into the holy chambers for the priests, which faced north; and behold, there was a place at the extreme rear toward the west.”
Daniel Block: Although only the northern kitchen is reported, the symmetry of the overall structure suggests that a counterpart also existed on the south side.
2. (:20) Function Described
“And he said to me, ‘This is the place where the priests shall boil the guilt offering and the sin offering, and where they shall bake the grain offering, in order that they may not bring them out into the outer court to transmit holiness to the people.’”
Derek Thomas: Following a description of the sacrifices, Ezekiel now explains how and where they are to be offered, and in some cases, cooked. Bread was to be baked in ovens to be found at the western extremity of the north row of priests’ chambers in the inner court (46:19–20). Worship, in the Old Testament, and in Ezekiel’s visionary new kingdom, includes the fellowship of eating food with one another. After the Levites had cooked the offering, the worshippers gathered in family groups to eat.
Feinberg: The purpose of the regulations will be to inculcate a sense of the sanctity of the Lord’s service, guarding against that familiarity which so often in the past led to gross defilements of the Lord’s sanctuary. Special boiling places for the sacrifices, a practical provision indeed, will be appointed in order to avoid the ceremonial sanctification of the people, which would interrupt their ordinary course of life.
Galen Doughty: The man-angel who has been guiding Ezekiel through the new temple shows him the rooms on the western end of the temple that belong to the priests. These are the rooms where the priests prepare the sacrifices and cook the meat and bake the grain from the grain offerings. The priests cook the sacrifices here in order to avoid bringing them into the outer court and consecrating the people. Holiness is seen here as a good infection but it is to be limited to the inner courts of the temple and the priests lest the people who worship in the outer courts be made holy and accidentally desecrate the temple or the holiness of the Lord.
B. (:21-24) Kitchen Areas in the Corners of the Outer Court for the People’s Sacrifices
1. (:21-23) Location Identified
“Then he brought me out into the outer court and led me across to the four corners of the court; and behold, in every corner of the court there was a small court. 22 In the four corners of the court there were enclosed courts, forty cubits long and thirty wide; these four in the corners were the same size. 23 And there was a row of masonry round about in them, around the four of them, and boiling places were made under the rows round about.”
2. (:24) Function Described
“Then he said to me, ‘These are the boiling places where the ministers of the house shall boil the sacrifices of the people.’”
Daniel Block: the Lord’s business must be conducted in a manner respectful of his holiness. In Ezekiel’s blueprint for the future every detail is determined by Yahweh. Even seemingly inconsequential matters like the temple kitchens and the activities conducted therein are designed to reflect the gradations of holiness that govern the shape of the entire complex. The priests’ unique responsibilities in the service of Yahweh were accompanied by special privileges, like eating portions of the reparation, purification, and grain offerings. While lay participation in these meals was prohibited to prevent the contagion of holiness, the special kitchens in the outer court offered them the privilege of eating in the courts of Yahweh.
John Taylor: The prophet is first shown the kitchen at the western extremity of the north row of priests’ chambers in the inner court, and we may safely assume that there was a similar place on the south side of the court as well. There the priests were to boil the flesh of the guilt- and sin-offerings and to bake the flour of the cereal-offering, taking great care not to carry any of these into the outer court for fear that they may sanctify (av; better, communicate holiness to, rsv) the people (20). The prophet then sees the four kitchen areas in the four corners of the outer court of the temple where the Levites (the ministers of the house, 24) boil the people’s sacrifices for them. So the temple was a place for sacrificing, cooking and eating, as well as for prayer and so-called ‘spiritual’ activities.