Bible Passage: Ezekiel 40
40:1 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city—on that very day the hand of the Lord was on me and he took me there. 2 In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. 3 He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. 4 The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see.”
5 I saw a wall completely surrounding the temple area. The length of the measuring rod in the man’s hand was six long cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth. He measured the wall; it was one measuring rod thick and one rod high.
6 Then he went to the east gate. He climbed its steps and measured the threshold of the gate; it was one rod deep. 7 The alcoves for the guards were one rod long and one rod wide, and the projecting walls between the alcoves were five cubits thick. And the threshold of the gate next to the portico facing the temple was one rod deep.
8 Then he measured the portico of the gateway; 9 it was eight cubits deep and its jambs were two cubits thick. The portico of the gateway faced the temple.
10 Inside the east gate were three alcoves on each side; the three had the same measurements, and the faces of the projecting walls on each side had the same measurements. 11 Then he measured the width of the entrance of the gateway; it was ten cubits and its length was thirteen cubits. 12 In front of each alcove was a wall one cubit high, and the alcoves were six cubits square. 13 Then he measured the gateway from the top of the rear wall of one alcove to the top of the opposite one; the distance was twenty-five cubits from one parapet opening to the opposite one. 14 He measured along the faces of the projecting walls all around the inside of the gateway—sixty cubits. The measurement was up to the portico facing the courtyard. 15 The distance from the entrance of the gateway to the far end of its portico was fifty cubits. 16 The alcoves and the projecting walls inside the gateway were surmounted by narrow parapet openings all around, as was the portico; the openings all around faced inward. The faces of the projecting walls were decorated with palm trees.
17 Then he brought me into the outer court. There I saw some rooms and a pavement that had been constructed all around the court; there were thirty rooms along the pavement. 18 It abutted the sides of the gateways and was as wide as they were long; this was the lower pavement. 19 Then he measured the distance from the inside of the lower gateway to the outside of the inner court; it was a hundred cubits on the east side as well as on the north.
20 Then he measured the length and width of the north gate, leading into the outer court. 21 Its alcoves—three on each side—its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as those of the first gateway. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 22 Its openings, its portico and its palm tree decorations had the same measurements as those of the gate facing east. Seven steps led up to it, with its portico opposite them. 23 There was a gate to the inner court facing the north gate, just as there was on the east. He measured from one gate to the opposite one; it was a hundred cubits.
24 Then he led me to the south side and I saw the south gate. He measured its jambs and its portico, and they had the same measurements as the others. 25 The gateway and its portico had narrow openings all around, like the openings of the others. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 26 Seven steps led up to it, with its portico opposite them; it had palm tree decorations on the faces of the projecting walls on each side. 27 The inner court also had a gate facing south, and he measured from this gate to the outer gate on the south side; it was a hundred cubits.
28 Then he brought me into the inner court through the south gate, and he measured the south gate; it had the same measurements as the others. 29 Its alcoves, its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as the others. The gateway and its portico had openings all around. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 30 (The porticoes of the gateways around the inner court were twenty-five cubits wide and five cubits deep.) 31 Its portico faced the outer court; palm trees decorated its jambs, and eight steps led up to it.
32 Then he brought me to the inner court on the east side, and he measured the gateway; it had the same measurements as the others. 33 Its alcoves, its projecting walls and its portico had the same measurements as the others. The gateway and its portico had openings all around. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 34 Its portico faced the outer court; palm trees decorated the jambs on either side, and eight steps led up to it.
35 Then he brought me to the north gate and measured it. It had the same measurements as the others, 36 as did its alcoves, its projecting walls and its portico, and it had openings all around. It was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. 37 Its portico faced the outer court; palm trees decorated the jambs on either side, and eight steps led up to it.
38 A room with a doorway was by the portico in each of the inner gateways, where the burnt offerings were washed. 39 In the portico of the gateway were two tables on each side, on which the burnt offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings were slaughtered. 40 By the outside wall of the portico of the gateway, near the steps at the entrance of the north gateway were two tables, and on the other side of the steps were two tables. 41 So there were four tables on one side of the gateway and four on the other—eight tables in all—on which the sacrifices were slaughtered. 42 There were also four tables of dressed stone for the burnt offerings, each a cubit and a half long, a cubit and a half wide and a cubit high. On them were placed the utensils for slaughtering the burnt offerings and the other sacrifices. 43 And double-pronged hooks, each a handbreadth long, were attached to the wall all around. The tables were for the flesh of the offerings.
44 Outside the inner gate, within the inner court, were two rooms, one at the side of the north gate and facing south, and another at the side of the south gate and facing north. 45 He said to me, “The room facing south is for the priests who guard the temple, 46 and the room facing north is for the priests who guard the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who are the only Levites who may draw near to the Lord to minister before him.”
47 Then he measured the court: It was square—a hundred cubits long and a hundred cubits wide. And the altar was in front of the temple.
48 He brought me to the portico of the temple and measured the jambs of the portico; they were five cubits wide on either side. The width of the entrance was fourteen cubits and its projecting walls were three cubits wide on either side. 49 The portico was twenty cubits wide, and twelve cubits from front to back. It was reached by a flight of stairs, and there were pillars on each side of the jambs.
Key OT/NT passages on how this passage fits within the Bible story as a whole
The garden of Eden was a place where God met with his people, Adam and Eve, but their rebellion meant that they had to leave the garden (Gen 3:24) – God could no longer live with them. Later, God gives his rescued people the tabernacle where he could once again live among them (Exodus 25:1-9). Once they had entered the promised land, this became the temple – a dwelling-place for God’s name in his people’s midst (1 Kings 8:29). But the people’s continued rejection of their God led to the abandonment and destruction of the temple. While Nehemiah’s temple was re-established back in the land (Ezra 3:10-13), God’s glory didn’t fill the temple as before. Instead, God came to tabernacle amongst his people in the person of Jesus Christ, the location of his glory (John 1:14). The new Jerusalem will have no need for a temple, for he is at the centre (Rev 21:22).
Brief note on key themes of book
Ezekiel was one of the people taken into exile in 2 Kings 24, during the first Babylonian attack on Jerusalem. As he sits with the exiles by the River Kebar, God himself appears. The book of Ezekiel is full of accusations against Israel (chapters 1-24), judgement on the nations (25-32), and a picture of new hope (34-48). It is all about their failure under the Old Covenant, and the promise of the New (36). In essence, though, it teaches us three main things:
God is present with his people in all of his majesty and holiness
His people have hard hearts which need to be transformed
Only a sin-bearing sacrifice, a new covenant and a new creation can bring about what God has promised.
Brief notes on the immediate context of the passage
In Chapters 34-37 God promised to give the exiles new-life with him. He would give them a new shepherd, re-create them by his Spirit, cleanse them and give them obedient hearts under God’s king and in God’s presence forever. What is more, Chapters 38-39 show that God needs to defeat his enemies if he’s going to rescue a people to be in his presence forever. Rescue and judgement must always go together.
Chapters 40-48 show the result of this great victory. There is a new and better temple, greater and more secure than anything God’s people have previously had. They will live with him as a new nation (44-46), in a new creation (47-48), known as “The LORD is there” (48:35).
Structure of the passage
Chapters 40-43 contain two main sections, as Ezekiel sees the fourth main vision of the book. Chapters 40-42 show the measurements of a new and better temple, and chapter 43 shows God’s glory once again entering the temple as the altar is cleansed and prepared for use. That gives two main headings.
A perfect homecoming: have you found it? (40:1-42:19)
In this section, a man with a measuring cord and rod gives Ezekiel a tour of the new temple. It’s like the old temple, but larger, and much more secure. There are provisions for the sacrifice (40:38-43), a most holy place at its centre (41:4), and provisions for the priests (42:1-20). For the exiles it will be like coming home. And so when Jesus proclaims himself as a true temple (John 2:19-21), we are meant to find our security and true homecoming in him. There will be no temple in the new creation because Jesus is at the centre (Rev 21:22).
A restored relationship: do you value it? (43:1-27)
God’s glory returns to this temple in the same direction that it left back in chapter 10 (43:2). God is now dwelling with his people for ever and this location can never again be defiled (43:7). All who consider this new temple will be horrified at their sins (43:10), and come to the restored altar (43:13-27) where they will find acceptance (43:27). Jesus is the locus of God’s glory (John 1:14), and all who come to him in horror at their sin are cleansed and accepted.
Suggestions for any tricky bits?
Why the excessive measurements?
The word ‘cubit’ is mentioned 92 times in these four chapters – there is a lot of measuring going on. There are several reasons. First, it emphasises the size of the temple – larger than anything Israel has seen. Secondly, it emphasises the permanence of the temple. And thirdly (and most importantly), it emphasises the holiness of this new temple (42:20).
What is a funeral offering?
In 43:7, God says that funeral offerings will no longer defile his holy name. He is referring to a pagan practice committed by kings such as Manasseh, in 2 Kings 21:4-5, setting up pagan temples in the temple, possibly connected with worshipping the king after their death.
Summary of author’s main point
God will provide a new and better temple, where people who hate their sin are cleansed permanently, and God dwells forever with his people.
Purpose for original audience
Be ashamed of your sin, and long for the perfect temple, where you can find cleansing through the sacrifice, and God will live with you forever.
Purpose for us today
Be ashamed of our sin, and see Jesus as the perfect temple, where we find cleansing through his perfect sacrifice, and a permanent relationship of acceptance.
Key area of application
Everyone is looking for an opportunity to find somewhere where they call home. Come to Jesus and you find a real relationship, cleansing for the horror of sin, and perfect acceptance.