Tag Archives | priests

Ezekiel 40:47-42:20: Holy Hill

A holy people will by their lives
transform mundane things into beautiful
and acceptable offerings to God.
— R. K. Harrison (Leviticus)

If you want to understand what Ezekiel’s temple looked like, you need to find a good reference work and see how it is physically laid out. The text of Ezekiel gets so muddy in this section it’s virtually impossible to visualize the Temple grounds without some professional help. I use Daniel I. Block’s two volume commentary in the NICOT series. He includes some very helpful floor plans.

In this entry I’m going to take a large passage of Scripture, and look at the main features of each section. Even if you cannot visualize what’s being measured, try to understand the meaning and importance of the various features. Again, I’ve used Block’s breakdown of the text and headings in everything that follows.

. . .

1. The Interior Measurements (40:47-41:1):

If you’ve paid attention to the various indicators of elevation, this passage becomes more poignant. There were seven steps to get to the outer wall, eight to get from there to the inner gates, and now ten to get from the inner gates to the temple building. The total is 25, a number that seems to command the entire plan of the Temple Complex.

It’s interesting to notice the symbolism of this. As you get closer to the qōdeš haqqŏdāšîm, “the most holy place of all”, you have to walk up steps. You’re physically getting higher as you get closer to the Most High God.

2. The Auxiliary Structures of the Temple (41:5-12):

This is a difficult text to piece together. One important thing to notice is the similarity to Solomon’s temple, which was destroyed fourteen years before this vision. If you’re interested, you can compare this paragraph with 1 Kings 6:5-6, 8 to see the similarities. The point, of course, is that God will restore what he had ordered in the first place.

3. The General Dimensions of the Temple Complex (41:13-15a):

In this passage, it’s as if the man who shone like bronze stepped back and had a look at the overall size of the Temple. A nice round number, 100 cubits, is the recurring theme here.

4. The Interior Decorations and Furnishings (41:15b-26):

This is another one of those texts that is really difficult to translate. If you read a few different English translations, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s thick and thorny reading.

One important feature here is the artwork. You see images of Palm trees and Cherubim. These images were common in the aesthetic of that era, and reflected themes of prosperity and security—something the Temple claimed to offer.

5. The Great Priestly Sacristies (42:1-14):

I’ll be honest with you. I had no idea what the word “sacristies” meant until I looked it up. It simply means a room for Priests to keep their stuff in.

This passage describes rooms that the priests use, as well as their function. These sacristies are reserved for the most holy priests—the ones who have access to Yahweh. In these rooms the most holy parts of the sacrifices were eaten. Sacred gifts like grain offerings, sin offerings, and reparation offerings were stored here. The rooms served a more mundane purpose too: they were essentially locker-rooms for the priest’s clothing.

6. The Concluding Temple Measurements (42:15-20):

This is the grand conclusion to all the measurements. It parallels the passage that kicked this tour off (40:5ff.), and lets the reader know that the Temple is completely visualized.

. . .

For all the measurements that were taken, and all the descriptions that were heard, there is one critical missing piece. Yahweh. Now that everything has been prepared, there’s nothing left to do but await the return of the presence of God.

. . .

Lord God, thank you for the detail you have included in scripture. Help us to hear your voice even in the passages that seem difficult and mundane. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 40:28-46 | In or Out

Ezekiel 43:1-5 | Welcome Back >

Ezekiel 22:23-31: The Gap

Ah, soiled, defiled,
oppressing city!
It has listened to no voice;
it has accepted no correction.
It has not trusted in the LORD;
it has not drawn near to its God.

The officials within it
are roaring lions;
its judges are evening wolves
that leave nothing until the morning.
Its prophets are reckless,
faithless persons;
its priests have profaned what is sacred,
they have done violence to the law.
— Zephaniah 3:1-4, NRSV

Now it gets personal.

It’s easy to criticize other people. We see it in politics: Liberals attack Conservatives; Conservatives attack the New Democrats. We see it in homes: children vent their angst against parents; parents blame their children.  We see it in music stores: rock fans attack country artists, folk fans mock classical junkies. At times feels like the tension between social groups is the energy that keeps this globe spinning!

Criticizing others comes easy, but challenging your own social group is much more difficult. This is what Ezekiel does here. In the first 39 chapters of Ezekiel, this is the only place where Ezekiel turns his prophetic lens inward and criticizes his own caste: the Priests.

In the first 16 verses of this chapter, God indicted Israel for her crimes. In 22:17-22, God delivered his verdict. Here God explains why he declared so serious a punishment.

. . .

Ezekiel used the pattern of  Zephaniah 3:3-4 to explain himself. Zephaniah blames four different groups of people:

  1. Officials: They acted like wolves, destroying lives for dishonest gain.
  2. Judges: They are greedy extortioners who prey on human lives.
  3. Prophets: They whitewashed themselves (Jesus would take up this call in Matthew 23), and declared God’s word when he had not spoken.
  4. Priests: They completely lost sight of God’s holiness, and treated sacred things like they were common.

. . .

To sum up God’s comprehensive criticism of Jerusalem, he said:

I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. (v. 30)

When I read verse 30, I hear a challenge. Let me point out a couple things:

  1. God searched for “anyone among them”. After criticizing those four groups of people (officials, judges, prophets, and priests), he says that he would have gladly used anyone to save Jerusalem. The application is clear—I’m “anyone”. Today, God can and will use anyone to do his work and save his people.
  2. The task (that no one would do) was to stand in the breach before God on behalf of the land. That is the clearest description of intercession that I’ve been able to find in the Bible. In that one simple line, God gives us the freedom to change the course of history! We have the ability and opportunity to stand before God and pray to him about people we care for, fully assured that God may change his plans after hearing our prayer.

. . .

Gracious God, snap us out of our lethargy and embolden us to stand before you on behalf of our friends, family, neighbours, and even enemies. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 22:17-22 | Fiery Furnace

Ezekiel 23:1-49 | Two Sisters >

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