EZEKIEL CHAPTER 44.
The Relations of Various Classes of the People to the New Sanctuary.
THE STATUS OF THE PRINCE, THE LEVITES, AND THE PRIESTS. — V. 1. Then He brought me back the way of the gate of the outward Sanctuary which looketh toward the east, so that Ezekiel could observe it closely from the court; and it was shut, locked against all those who might desire to enter. V. 2. Then said the Lord unto me, in explaining this unusual condition of affairs, This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, chap. 43, 4, therefore it shall be shut, so that the glory of the God of the Covenant would everlastingly dwell in the midst of His Church. V. 3. It is for the prince, the ruler of the Lord’s people; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate and shall go out by the way of the same. It is evident that the prophecy here has Messianic conditions in mind, that we have here “an ideal description of coming realities under the form and aspect of the old relations.” The leaders of the Church of the New Testament were to refrain from all corruptions which brought destruction upon the Old Testament Israel. V. 4. Then brought He me the way of the north gate before the house, that is, the inner north gate; and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord, as the prophet could see from his position near the Sanctuary; and I fell upon my face, once more overcome by the majesty of the divine glory. V. 5. And the Lord said unto me, Son of man, mark well, literally, “direct thy heart,” and behold with thine eyes and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord and all the laws thereof, cp. chap. 43, 11. 12; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the Sanctuary, the approach of the house of God by the priests as well as the way by which they left the place of their service. V. 6. And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God, He who has unlimited power and authority, O ye house of Israel, they who bore the name of the faithful patriarch, let it suffice you of all your abominations, of which they surely had performed their fill and might now abstain, cp. 1 Pet. 4, 3, v. 7. in that ye have brought into My Sanctuary strangers, literally, “children of a stranger,” uncircumcised in heart, knowing nothing of repentance and faith, and uncircumcised in flesh, not having even the outward badge of the covenant people, to be in My Sanctuary, for non-Israelites were not permitted to perform the functions of the priesthood, to pollute it, even My house, when ye offer My bread, the sacrificial food placed on the Temple altars, the fat and the blood; and they have broken My covenant because of all your abominations; for since the children of Israel permitted this infraction of the rules of the Lord, it was their act that brought about the desecration of the Sanctuary, and the abomination was laid to their charge. V. 8. And ye have not kept the charge of Mine holy things, in treating the appointments of the Temple without the reverence which He demands; but ye have set keepers of My charge in My Sanctuary for yourselves, literally, “but ye appoint for keepers of My charge in My Sanctuary those,” that is, such people, such men, as their representatives in performing the functions of their religious cult. Their worship, therefore, was not a service of God, but a service of their own inclination and thus altogether sinful. In condemnation of such practices the Lord now gives some definite rules concerning the service in His new Temple. V. 9. Thus saith the Lord God, No stranger, uncircumcised in heart nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into My Sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel. Only such as have, by repentance and faith, become fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God, are acceptable in his sight. Cp. Eph. 2, 19-22. V. 10. And the Levites that are gone away far from Me, when Israel went astray, joining the people in their apostasy, in spite of better knowledge, which went astray away from Me after their idols, in the idolatry which was Israel’s chief transgression; they shall even bear their Iniquity. V. 11. Yet they shall be ministers in My Sanctuary, in charge of some minor services, having charge at the gates of the house, as porters and guards, and ministering to the house, thereby demoted from the rank and functions of priests to those of ordinary Levites; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them, no longer in positions of authority and influence, but in the station of porters. V. 12. Because they ministered unto them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, instead of hindering their idolatrous endeavors; therefore have I lifted up Mine hand against them, saith the Lord God, and they shall bear their iniquity, by having their rank and position taken away from them. When men who are supposed to be leaders and guides of the people of the Lord promote idolatry and other acts of transgression, as in many recent instances, this fact aggravates their offense in a very decided manner. V. 13. And they shall not come near unto Me to do the office of a priest unto Me, nor to come near to any of My holy things, the appointments used in the service of the Sanctuary, in the Most Holy Place, but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. V. 14. But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, of a decidedly secondary rank, for all the service thereof and for all that shall be done therein. There is only one comforting thought in this section, namely, that one may be a believer, and that in a distinguished place, and yet lose some special honor, be acknowledged as pious, yet be excluded from some dignity. The sin is forgiven, but the consequences of the sin must often be borne throughout life. V. 15. But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of My Sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, remaining faithful in the midst of the general apostasy and therefore types of the true priestly character, they shall come near to Me to minister unto Me, in performing all the functions of the priesthood, and they shall stand before Me to offer unto Me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God. V. 16. They shall enter into My Sanctuary, being accorded this privilege with all those who are children of God in truth, and they shall come near to My table, namely, the altar of incense, to minister unto Me; and they shall keep My charge. The priests of the line of Ithamar were discharged from the office as priests of the Temple because of the corrupt manner in which they followed in the footsteps of the sons of Eli, against whom the same denunciation was uttered. Cp. 1 Sam. 2, 32. 35. Zadok is the son of Ahitub of the line of Eleazar, 1 Chron. 5, 34; 6, 37. 38, who at the time of Absalom’s rebellion was faithful to David, 2 Sam. 15, 24, and also anointed Solomon to be king over Israel, 1 Kings 1, 32 ff., while the high priest Abiathar of the line of Ithamar took the part of the pretender Adonijah. Cp. 1 Kings 1, 7. 25. In consequence of this defection the office of the high priest was given to Zadok and his descendants. Cp. 1 Kings 2, 26-35. When the Lord’s patience is exhausted, His punishment strikes the offenders with terrible force and lasting effect.
ORDINANCES FOR THE PRIESTS IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR DUTIES. — V. 17. And it shall come to pass that, when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, for the performance of the special functions pertaining to their office, they shall be clothed with linen garments, as were the priests of old, Ex. 28, 39; and no wool shall come upon them whiles they minister in the gates of the inner court and within, namely, in the Sanctuary proper. “Wool soon induces perspiration in the sultry East and so becomes uncleanly.” V. 18. They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, a special kind of turban, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with anything that causeth sweat, literally, in sweat,” so that their garments would carry the odor of perspiration. V. 19. And when they go forth into the utter court, even into the utter court to the people, they shall put off their garments wherein they ministered and lay them in the holy chambers, in the vestry-cells provided for that purpose, and they shall put on other garments; and they shall not sanctify the people with their garments, by having on the peculiar priestly vestments in which they performed the service of the Sanctuary. V. 20. Neither shall they shave their heads, which was a heathenish custom and therefore forbidden to priests of old, Lev. 21, 5, nor suffer their locks to grow long, Lev. 10, 6; they shall only poll their heads, keep their hair properly trimmed. V. 21. Neither shall any priest drink wine when they enter into the inner court, as being typical of the sobriety of the soul, which could be expected from one who devoted his life to the Lord. V. 22. Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, the ordinance of Lev. 21, 14. 13 thus being extended to include not only the high priest, hut all the ordinary priests as well, nor her that is put away, namely, with the stain of guilt upon her, Lev. 21, 7; but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before, this being the one exception to the prohibition in the first part of the verse. V. 23. And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. Cp. Lev. 10, 10; Deut. 33, 10. V. 24. And in controversy they shall stand in judgment, perform the office of judge in deciding controversies pertaining to the Law of God, thus extending the duties enjoined Deut. 17, 8ff.; 19, 17; 21,5; and they shall judge it according to My judgments, in all matters of difference between people of the nation; and they shall keep My laws and My statutes in all Mine assemblies, in all the festivals of the Lord, namely, by performing the duties of their office with strict regard to every detail; and they shall hallow My Sabbaths, particularly by observing the injunctions concerning the Sabbath rest. V. 25. And they shall come at no dead person to defile themselves, namely, by touching or handling a corpse; but for father, or for mother, or for son, or for daughter, for brother, or for sister that hath had no husband, they may defile themselves. Cp. Lev. 21, 1-3. V. 26. And after he is cleansed, namely, after coming into contact with the body of a dead person, they shall reckon unto him seven days, this period being demanded in addition to the time of cleansing, Num. 19. V. 27. And in the day that he goeth into the Sanctuary, to resume the functions of his office, unto the inner court, to minister in the Sanctuary, he shall offer his sin-offering, saith the Lord God. Cp. Lev. 4, 3. V. 28. And it shall be unto them for an inheritance: I am their Inheritance; and ye shall give them no possession in Israel: I am their Possession. Cp. Num. 18, 20; Deut. 18, 1; 10, 9. They were not to concern themselves with the cares of life, but be devoted entirely to the service of the Lord, as all His servants at all times will be. V. 29. They shall eat the meat-offering and the sin-offering and the trespass-offering, in agreement with the ancient provisions of the Law, Lev. 2, 3; 6, 9-19; 7, 6. 7; and every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs. Cp. Lev. 27, 21. V. 30. And the first of all the first-fruits of all things, which had to be dedicated to the Lord, Ex. 23, 19; 34, 26; Num. 18, 13; Deut. 28, 4, and every oblation of all, gifts offered to the Lord by heaving and waving, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priest’s, as part of his emoluments; ye shall also give unto the priests the first of your dough, of the grain-corn, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house, for the blessing of God rests upon him who, in simple faith, performs the duties laid upon him. V. 31. The priest shall not eat of anything that is dead of itself, as a result of disease, or torn, whether it be fowl or beast, for to do so defiled every man, all the more therefore the priests of Jehovah. “Only what Jehovah gives to them and His Sanctuary in offerings and dues, which, however, must never be unclean, shall accrue to them; and this, at the same time, forms the best transition to the awards which follow.” (Ewald.)