Ezekiel 44 (CEV)
The East Gate Must Remain Closed
The man took me back to the outer courtyard, near the east gate of the temple area. I saw that the doors to this gate were closed. 2 The Lord said:
I, the Lord God of Israel, came through this gate, so it must remain closed forever! No one must ever use it.
“The closure of the gate then is not a menacing symbol but an encouraging one… Since Yahweh entered the temple through this gate, it is unseemly that others should use it. Since God will never leave the temple again, the gate will remain closed.”
–Bruce Vawter and Leslie J. Hoppe
3 The ruler of Israel may come here to eat a sacrificial meal that has been offered to me, but he must use only the entrance room of this gate.
The identity of this leader is a matter of much discussion among Bible commentators and teachers. A few take it to be Jesus the Messiah, and some that he is a civil leader or a high priest. The fact that he must offer a sin offering (Ezekiel 45:22) and has sons Ezekiel 46:16) means it is unlikely that he is Jesus Messiah.
People Who Are Not Allowed in the Temple
4 Then the man took me through the north gate to the front of the temple. I saw that the brightness of the Lord’s glory had filled the temple, and I immediately bowed with my face to the ground.
5 The Lord said:
Ezekiel, son of man, I am going to give you the laws for my temple. So pay attention and listen carefully to what kind of people are allowed to come in the temple, and what kind are not. 6 Tell those rebellious people of Israel:
I, the Lord God, command you to stop your evil ways! 7 My temple has been disgraced, because you have let godless, stubborn foreigners come here when sacrifices are being offered to me. You have sinned and have broken our solemn agreement. 8 Instead of following the proper ways to worship me, you have put foreigners in charge of worship at my temple.
9 And so I, the Lord God, say that no godless foreigner who disobeys me will be allowed in my temple. This includes any foreigner living in Israel.
“Under no circumstances should aliens or the uncircumcised in the heart or flesh serve in the sanctuary of Jehovah. This had been the sin of the past, and must not be repeated.”
–James Campbell Morgan
“It is clear from vs. 5-8 that in the last days of Solomon’s Temple the priests had allowed anyone, even uncovenanted pagans, to act as priests and temple servants. Either they had been lazy or busy with their own affairs, and had hired others to do their work; or they had taken bribes from pagans who wanted to serve in the Temple, perhaps for the offerings that they were able to take home and resell.”
–Christopher J. H. Wright
The Levites Are Punished
The Lord said:
10 Some of the Levites turned their backs on me and joined the other people of Israel in worshiping idols. So these Levites must be punished! 11 They will still be allowed to serve me as temple workers by guarding the gates and by killing the animals to be sacrificed and by helping the worshipers. 12 But because these Levites served the people of Israel when they worshiped idols, I, the Lord God, promise that the Levites will be punished. They did not stop the Israelites from sinning, 13 and now I will no longer let the Levites serve as my priests or come near anything sacred to me. They must suffer shame and disgrace for their disgusting sins. 14 They will be responsible for all the hard work that must be done in the temple.
The Levites would not be excluded from all service relevant to the temple, only the work of priestly sacrifice.
“Yet mercy is not lacking, for they will not be excluded from all types of priestly ministry. It is only that they will lose the dignity of the higher services of the priesthood, such as were performed in the holy place or the first compartment of the tabernacle and temple.”
–Charles L. Feinberg
“These were menial tasks. Nevertheless, they were tasks which had to be done and the ordinary people were not permitted to do them, so we must beware of denigrating the duties of the Levites in Ezekiel’s temple. They have their counterparts today in all aspects of church life and doubtless then, as now, many reckoned it a privilege to be attending on the people of God in the more mundane details of their religion. After all, they were doing their duties by divine appointment.”
–John B. Taylor
Rules for Priests
The Lord said:
15 The priests of the Levi tribe who are descendants of Zadok the priest were faithful to me, even when the rest of the Israelites turned away.
The sons of Zadok were of the tribe of Levi and were of the family of Aaron (the priests). Zadok received the right to the priesthood in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 2:35). They were not like the other Levites in general, being noted for their faithfulness.
And so, these priests will continue to serve as my priests and to offer the fat and the blood of sacrifices. 16 They will come into my temple, where they will offer sacrifices at my altar and lead others in worship.
17 When they come to the inner courtyard, they must wear their linen priestly clothes. My priests must never wear anything made of wool when they are on duty in this courtyard or in the temple. 18 Even their turbans and underwear must be made of linen to keep my priests from sweating when they work.
“The linen not only depicted purity by its whiteness, but its coolness kept the priests from perspiring and thereby becoming unclean.”
–Ralph H. Alexander
19 And before they leave to join the other people in the outer courtyard, they must take off their priestly clothes, then place them in the sacred rooms and put on their regular clothes. That way, no one will touch their sacred clothes and be harmed.
20 Priests must never shave their heads when they are mourning. But they must keep their hair properly trimmed and not let it grow too long.
“Like scarred skin, both the shaved head and long, unkempt hair were considered signs of disfigurement (cf. Leviticus 19:27). If the sacrificial animals were to be without defect or blemish, how much more those functionaries who stand before the holy God in service?”
–Daniel I. Block
21 They must not drink wine before going to the inner courtyard.
22 A priest must not marry a divorced woman; he can marry only a virgin from Israel or the widow of another priest.
23 Priests must teach my people the difference between what is sacred and what is ordinary, and between what is clean and what is unclean. 24 They will make decisions in difficult legal cases, according to my own laws. They must also observe the religious festivals my Law requires and must always respect the Sabbath.
This was one of fundamental duties of the priests of Israel. They were by both instruction and example to teach Israel the difference between the unclean and the clean. The priests of ancient Israel could also serve as judges or mediators. This was because they were supposed to be well versed in the laws and statutes of God, and able to apply them in given situations.
“Ezra provides an outstanding example of such leadership, with the added observation that he made the law a matter of personal study as well. An admirable example to all who minister God’s word, Ezra’s triple commitment to the law was to study it, to do it and to teach it. If only leaders in the Christian church had the same depth and breadth of commitment to the Scriptures! For it hardly needs to be said that these same duties belong to the task of pastoral leadership in the church and are strongly commended in the New Testament. Not only did Paul impress on Timothy and Titus the importance of teaching, careful handling of disputes, and setting an example of personal godliness and integrity; he modelled all three in his own ministry.”
–Christopher J. H. Wright
25 Touching a dead body will make a person unclean. So a priest must not go near a dead body, unless it is one of his parents or children, or his brother or unmarried sister. 26 If a priest touches a dead body, he is unclean and must go through a ceremony to make himself clean. Then seven days later, 27 he must go to the inner courtyard of the temple and offer a sacrifice for sin. After that, he may once again serve as my priest. I, the Lord God, have spoken.
28 I myself will provide for my priests, and so they won’t receive any land of their own. 29 Instead, they will receive part of the grain sacrifices, as well as part of the sacrifices for sin and sacrifices to make things right. They will also be given everything in Israel that has been completely dedicated to me. 30 The first part of every harvest will belong to the priests. They will also receive part of all special gifts and offerings the Israelites bring to me. And whenever any of my people bake bread, they will give their first loaf as an offering to the priests, and I will bless the homes of the people when they do this.
“Like the Old Testament priests, the kingdom priests will not have an inheritance of land but will have the Lord as their inheritance and be able to live from the temple offerings.”
–Warren W. Wiersbe
31 Priests must not eat any bird or animal that dies a natural death or that has been killed by a wild animal.
As we read these chapters about plans for a temple, a place to worship the Most High God and the people who lead the congregation, I want us to hear some of the hymns that have been sung for many generations in many different countries and denominations. These are some of a Christian’s most precious treasures! HERE is “Holy, Holy, Holy,” written by Reginald Heber (1783–1826), an English Anglican priest who was for the last few years of his life the Bishop of Calcutta
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
Holy, Holy, Holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man, Thy glory may not see:
Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power in love, and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise Thy name in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, Holy, Holy! merciful and mighty,
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!