Scriptures

Ezekiel 44

Introduction

Regulations concerning the administration of the new community. Ezekiel 44-48

Summary

The rules of the sanctuary. A river flows from the Temple. The boundaries and division of the land. Again, we have a continued picture of restored Jewish religious activities. Circumcision, the Zadokite priesthood, the division of the land for the priests and instructions for the sacrifices which the priests were to carry out.

Position of the different classes of the people in relation to the new sanctuary. Ezekiel 44:1-14.

Privilege of prince. Ezekiel 44:1-3.

Uncircumcised excluded. Ezekiel 44:4-9.

Limitations on Levites. Ezekiel 44:10-14.

The priests, their conduct and support. Ezekiel 44:15-45:12.

Priests of Zadok’s ancestry. Ezekiel 44:15-16.

Priest’s garments. Ezekiel 44:17-19.

Restrictions on priests. Ezekiel 44:20-24-31.

Priests to be judges. Ezekiel 44:24.

No possession for priests. Ezekiel 44:28-30.

‘Then the man brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, the one facing east, and it was shut. The LORD said to me, ‘This gate is to remain shut. It must not be opened; no one may enter through it. It is to remain shut because the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered through it. The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the LORD. He is to enter by way of the portico of the gateway and go out the same way.’ Ezekiel 44:1-3

The reason the gate is shut is because the Lord entered the temple through the gate. And since it was shut, the Lord would never again leave His holy place among His people. In their former state of idolatry, their sun worship was reflected in their opening of the door in order to allow the ray of the rising sun to enter the temple. But in their restoration, this door is never to be opened. The prince, as a representative of the nation, the prince would eat alone in the sanctified gateway.

‘Then the man brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple. I looked and saw the glory of the LORD filling the temple of the LORD, and I fell facedown. The LORD said to me, ‘Son of man, look carefully, listen closely and give attention to everything I tell you concerning all the regulations and instructions regarding the temple of the LORD. Give attention to the entrance to the temple and all the exits of the sanctuary. Say to rebellious Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Enough of your detestable practices, people of Israel! In addition to all your other detestable practices, you brought foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh into my sanctuary, desecrating my temple while you offered me food, fat and blood, and you broke my covenant. Instead of carrying out your duty in regard to my holy things, you put others in charge of my sanctuary. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and flesh is to enter my sanctuary, not even the foreigners who live among the Israelites.’ Ezekiel 44:4-9

Since the temple had previously been defiled by idolatrous worship and idols, the Lord gives instructions as to who is permitted to enter the temple. From this time, no uncircumcised person was to administer at the temple.

Though non-Israelites previously administered at the temple, this would be changed, for God did not want anyone who was uncircumcised in heart to appear before Him on behalf of the people. In this way, He sought to guard Israel from the influence of idolatrous people.

Foreigners had introduced idolatrous worship into Israel, beginning with Solomon and his many foreign wives. And thus, in their future God would not allow this to happen again.

‘The Levites who went far from me when Israel went astray and who wandered from me after their idols must bear the consequences of their sin. They may serve in my sanctuary, having charge of the gates of the temple and serving in it; they may slaughter the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people and stand before the people and serve them. But because they served them in the presence of their idols and made the people of Israel fall into sin, therefore I have sworn with uplifted hand that they must bear the consequences of their sin, declares the Sovereign LORD. They are not to come near to serve me as priests or come near any of my holy things or my most holy offerings; they must bear the shame of their detestable practices. And I will appoint them to guard the temple for all the work that is to be done in it.’ Ezekiel 44:10-14

The Levities will bear their iniquity, in this case, the consequences of the sins of the fathers was passed on to the children. Because the Levites’ fathers did not assume their spiritual leadership in order to direct the people according to the law of God, they were banned from doing again that which was assigned to them under the law. Thus, the menial work that was previously assigned to foreigners before the temple, was given to the Levites.

Because the Levitical priests succumbed to idolatry, they are here assigned to be the gate keepers, butchers and servants at the table. Since they had failed in their duties to keep the people from idolatry, they were stripped of their duties that were given to them under the law and given responsibility that did not entail spiritual leadership.

When the return of the exiles eventually came after the Babylonian captivity, among the 40,000 exiles who returned, there were more than 4,000 priests.

However, among this number there were only 74 Levites who wanted to leave their comfortable homes in Babylon in order to perform menial tasks at the temple worship, Ezra 2 / Psalm 84:10. Because there were so few Levites after the return, it was necessary that the Nethinim be called to perform the new duties of the Levites, Ezra 8:15-20.

‘But the Levitical priests, who are descendants of Zadok and who guarded my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign LORD. They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and serve me as guards. ‘When they enter the gates of the inner court, they are to wear linen clothes; they must not wear any woollen garment while ministering at the gates of the inner court or inside the temple. They are to wear linen turbans on their heads and linen undergarments around their waists. They must not wear anything that makes them perspire. When they go out into the outer court where the people are, they are to take off the clothes they have been ministering in and are to leave them in the sacred rooms, and put on other clothes, so that the people are not consecrated through contact with their garments. ‘They must not shave their heads or let their hair grow long, but they are to keep the hair of their heads trimmed. No priest is to drink wine when he enters the inner court. They must not marry widows or divorced women; they may marry only virgins of Israelite descent or widows of priests. They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. ‘In any dispute, the priests are to serve as judges and decide it according to my ordinances. They are to keep my laws and my decrees for all my appointed festivals, and they are to keep my Sabbaths holy. ‘A priest must not defile himself by going near a dead person; however, if the dead person was his father or mother, son or daughter, brother or unmarried sister, then he may defile himself. After he is cleansed, he must wait seven days. On the day he goes into the inner court of the sanctuary to minister in the sanctuary, he is to offer a sin offering for himself, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ Ezekiel 44:15-27

For more on Zadok, read 2 Samuel 15:24-35 / 1 Chronicles 15:11 / 1 Chronicles 16:39. The symbolism of the garments was to manifest the ceremonial cleanliness of the people. Linen was considered more clean than wool, and thus the sanctification of the people throughout the land was to be symbolized by the best clothing that could be made by man.

This prohibition of shaving their heads, or not allowing their hair to grow long, was probably a restriction that again was in view of former idol worship.

We must understand that the changes that are given in this context were given in response to the people’s former behaviour in reference to former idolatrous practices. In order to change the thinking of the people, God wanted to prohibit every behavioural characteristic that was associated with idolatrous worship, 1 Corinthians 8.

The priest was to be a teacher among the people, Deuteronomy 33:10. He was a judge in disputed matters, Deuteronomy 17:9 / Deuteronomy 19:17.

The priest was to keep the ceremonial laws in order to manifest the people’s obedience to the moral laws of God. When the people kept the sabbaths, they were indicating their obedience to all the law of God. There was no cleansing power in the ceremonial laws, nor in keeping the sabbaths. But their obedience to the laws manifested their willingness to submit themselves to God.

‘I am to be the only inheritance the priests have. You are to give them no possession in Israel; I will be their possession. They will eat the grain offerings, the sin offerings and the guilt offerings; and everything in Israel devoted to the LORD will belong to them. The best of all the firstfruits and of all your special gifts will belong to the priests. You are to give them the first portion of your ground meal so that a blessing may rest on your household. The priests must not eat anything, whether bird or animal, found dead or torn by wild animals.’ Ezekiel 44:28-31

Read Deuteronomy 10:9. The priests were to be full-time in their service to the people. In order for them to do this, they were to be given the offerings of grain and animals, and everything that was dedicated to the Lord.

They were to be given the firstfruits of the land, and all contributions that were necessary in order that they and their families be able to give themselves totally to the administration of the temple service and teaching of the people. Exodus 22:31.

Go To Ezekiel 45

 

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