Ezekiel 41


The Temple. House, with porch, side stories, and back buildings. Ezekiel 40:48-41:26

When reading this vision of a rebuilt temple, we should keep in mind that a permanent temple for Israel was not in the original plan of God. When Israel was still at the foot of Mount Sinai, God, through Moses, gave instructions to Israel to build a tabernacle, or tent. The instructions were given in detail in order that Israel rebuild the tabernacle throughout their years in the land of promise.

The tabernacle represented the presence of God among the people, and before it they were to assemble yearly. The tabernacle was to be moved among the people in order that no tribe be marginalized for the annual sacrifice during the day of atonement.

However, when David became king, God gave a concession to him that he builds a permanent structure to house the ark of the covenant. David was not allowed to build the temple, but Solomon, his son, did, 1 Kings 6-7. Solomon’s temple, therefore, marginalized the tribes to the north in Palestine, and thus after Solomon’s death Jeroboam built two altars, one in Bethel and the other in Dan, 1 Kings 12:29.

In 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Solomon’s temple. In the return of the remnant, God knew that the remnant would remain small in the land, and thus the rebuilding of the temple that is described in these chapters would suffice in providing a location to which the returned exiles could go for the annual sacrifices, Deuteronomy 12:21.

The outer sanctuary

‘Then the man brought me to the main hall and measured the jambs; the width of the jambs was six cubits on each side. The entrance was ten cubits wide, and the projecting walls on each side of it were five cubits wide. He also measured the main hall; it was forty cubits long and twenty cubits wide.’ Ezekiel 41:1-2

See also Ezekiel 41:15b and Ezekiel 41:21-26. A cubit is about eighteen inches, or forty-five centimetres. The rod is about ten and a half feet, or a little over three meters.

Most holy place

‘Then he went into the inner sanctuary and measured the jambs of the entrance; each was two cubits wide. The entrance was six cubits wide, and the projecting walls on each side of it were seven cubits wide. And he measured the length of the inner sanctuary; it was twenty cubits, and its width was twenty cubits across the end of the main hall. He said to me, ‘This is the Most Holy Place.’ Ezekiel 41:3-4

The wall and side rooms

‘Then he measured the wall of the temple; it was six cubits thick, and each side room around the temple was four cubits wide. The side rooms were on three levels, one above another, thirty on each level. There were ledges all around the wall of the temple to serve as supports for the side rooms, so that the supports were not inserted into the wall of the temple. The side rooms all around the temple were wider at each successive level. The structure surrounding the temple was built in ascending stages, so that the rooms widened as one went upward. A stairway went up from the lowest floor to the top floor through the middle floor. I saw that the temple had a raised base all around it, forming the foundation of the side rooms. It was the length of the rod, six long cubits. The outer wall of the side rooms was five cubits thick. The open area between the side rooms of the temple and the priests’ rooms was twenty cubits wide all around the temple. There were entrances to the side rooms from the open area, one on the north and another on the south; and the base adjoining the open area was five cubits wide all around. The building facing the temple courtyard on the west side was seventy cubits wide. The wall of the building was five cubits thick all around, and its length was ninety cubits.’ Ezekiel 41:5-12

The temple measurements

‘Then he measured the temple; it was a hundred cubits long, and the temple courtyard and the building with its walls were also a hundred cubits long. The width of the temple courtyard on the east, including the front of the temple, was a hundred cubits. Then he measured the length of the building facing the courtyard at the rear of the temple, including its galleries on each side; it was a hundred cubits.’ Ezekiel 41:13-15

The decorations

‘The main hall, the inner sanctuary and the portico facing the court, as well as the thresholds and the narrow windows and galleries around the three of them—everything beyond and including the threshold was covered with wood. The floor, the wall up to the windows, and the windows were covered. In the space above the outside of the entrance to the inner sanctuary and on the walls at regular intervals all around the inner and outer sanctuary were carved cherubim and palm trees. Palm trees alternated with cherubim. Each cherub had two faces: the face of a human being toward the palm tree on one side and the face of a lion toward the palm tree on the other. They were carved all around the whole temple. From the floor to the area above the entrance, cherubim and palm trees were carved on the wall of the main hall.’ Ezekiel 41:15-20

Table and doors

‘The main hall had a rectangular doorframe, and the one at the front of the Most Holy Place was similar. There was a wooden altar three cubits high and two cubits square; its corners, its base and its sides were of wood. The man said to me, ‘This is the table that is before the LORD.’ Both the main hall and the Most Holy Place had double doors. Each door had two leaves—two hinged leaves for each door. And on the doors of the main hall were carved cherubim and palm trees like those carved on the walls, and there was a wooden overhang on the front of the portico. On the sidewalls of the portico were narrow windows with palm trees carved on each side. The side rooms of the temple also had overhangs.’ Ezekiel 41:21-26

The dimensions of the temple were different than those of Solomon’s temple. This temple would exist until Herod the Great, who would later built what was referred to as Herod’s Temple. This temple would be destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 and would never be rebuilt again.

Because of Ezekiel’s use of the word ‘forever,’ it may be that these instructions concerning the restoration of the sacrifices and rebuilding of the temple were symbolic of the spiritual temple of God, the church, that would come a little over 400 years after the last return of the captives to Palestine.

At least we know that when Jesus came, no emphasis was placed on a continuation of the temple, for true worship would take place anywhere in the world, regardless of any physical structures, John 4:23-24. In fact, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple structure that stood at the time of His ministry, Matthew 24.

One of the great lessons that the Jews learned while in exile was that they could worship God without the presence of a temple structure. When they returned to rebuild the temple, therefore, they rebuilt it in order to unite the people around the sacrifices that were to be continued until the coming of the final sacrifice of the Son of God.

While in captivity, it is believed that the Jews developed the idea of the synagogue. It is difficult to determine the origins of the synagogue, for the structure and function of the synagogue is found nowhere in the Old Testament. The Jews in captivity possibly built the synagogues for the purpose of solidifying their religious identity and culture throughout the world where they had been scattered.

The concept of the synagogue thus came with the returnees in view of the fact that the rebuilt temple still marginalized those in Palestine who were too far from the temple, Deuteronomy 12:21.

Instead of a restoration of the mobile tabernacle, the Jews built synagogues throughout Palestine. Since they had built synagogues throughout the land of their captivity, the synagogue became a customary cultural and religious centre of Israel.

Every region, therefore, had a synagogue where sacrifices and teaching could take place. The synagogue thus became an opportunity for world evangelism in the early days of the church, Acts 17:2.

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"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."

Isaiah 53:5