Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 43 Entry of Jehovah into the house
The measurements of the whole temple buildings being completed, the prophet sees Jehovah return to it by the E. gate, by which he had seen him leave it (ch. 11). The vision of the glory of the Lord was like that seen on former occasions (ch. 1 and 10). The chapter has three divisions:—
(1) Ezekiel 43:1-12. Entry of Jehovah into his house.
(2) Ezekiel 43:13-17. Measurements of the altar of burnt-offering.
(3) Ezekiel 43:18-27. Sacrifices and ceremonies to be employed in dedicating the altar.
Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east:1–12. The glory of Jehovah enters the house by the E. gate. The sound of his chariot was as the sound of many waters, and his glory lightened the earth (Ezekiel 43:1-4). The prophet hears one speaking to him from the house and saying that the defilements to which the house had been exposed through idolatries and the burial of kings near it shall henceforth cease (Ezekiel 43:6-9). The prophet is commanded to make known the fashion and ordinances of the house to the people (Ezekiel 43:10-12).
And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.2. and his voice] and the sound of him was like the sound. Reference is to the sound made by the cherubim in their flight.
And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.3. And it was according to] And the appearance which I saw was like the appearance which I saw when I came—the word “appearance” at the beginning of the verse being omitted.
I came to destroy] Reference is to ch. 8–11. and the destruction of the city there seen in vision by the prophet. He was carried to Jerusalem to witness the destruction, and he calls this his coming to destroy it. Vulg., when he (Jehovah) came.
the visions were like the vision] like the appearance. The words “and the visions” are rather unnatural; LXX. reads: and the vision of the chariot which I saw was like &c. The “chariot,” i.e. the whole theophany of cherubim and wheels is often spoken of in later times (e.g. Ecclesus. 49:8), but is nowhere named in the Bible (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:18). The reading of LXX. is probably a gloss in explanation of the Heb., which is awkward. Possibly the word “visions” should be omitted: … the city, and like the appearance that I saw by the river Chebar. Cf. Ezekiel 3:23, where LXX. interpolates “according to the vision.”
And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.4. The glory of the Lord enters the house by the E. gate, by which he had departed from it, Ezekiel 10:19, Ezekiel 11:22-23.
So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.5. The prophet, who hitherto was at the E. gate outside (Ezekiel 43:1), is brought by the spirit into the inner court, from which he perceived the house to be filled with the glory of the Lord.
And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.6. heard him speaking] One speaking.
and the man] Possibly: and a man. No doubt the same man is meant as before. The prophet was transported into the inner court by the spirit, not led as in other instances by the man, who, however, reappears at his side. The man is merely the divine voice and word personified and interposed between the Lord and the prophet, hence though Ezekiel appears to hear one speaking from the house, the voice immediately takes the shape of a man beside him.
And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.7. the place of my throne] this is the place of my throne … for ever: and the house of Israel shall no more defile. No change of reading is implied but the emphatic position of “the place” &c. requires to be expressed by some such word as “this is,” or, “Behold.” On “soles of my feet” cf. Isaiah 60:13; Isaiah 66:1; Lamentations 2:1; Psalm 132:7; 1 Chronicles 28:2.
by their whoredom] Their idolatries, cf. ch. 8.
in their high places] Probably: in their death, i.e. when dead, Leviticus 11:31-32. So some mss., Targ., by change of one vowel. The ref. is to the burial of the kings in the vicinity of the temple. The passages Leviticus 26:30; Jeremiah 16:18, to which appeal is made, do not sustain the idea that “carcase” could be used as a mere name of opprobrium for idols (Psalm 106:28 is of doubtful meaning). In the former passage the hewn down idol is a carcase just as the slain man is; and in Jeremiah 16:18 the use of the word “dead body” is not figurative. It is true that there is no record of kings being buried close to the temple, but their sepulchres were in such vicinity that in comparison with the new ideal of holiness they could not but be held to bring defilement to the dwelling-place of Jehovah, the living God. Ezekiel 43:9 seems conclusive for this rendering.
In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.8. Ref. is to the fact that the royal palace and the first temple stood virtually within the same enclosure and were one ensemble of edifice. See the sketch in W. R. Smith’s Art. Temple, Encyc. Brit.
and the wall between] with but the wall between me and them; and they defiled.…
Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.
Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.10. ashamed of their iniquities] i.e. in disregarding the ordinances of the Lord’s house, in defiling it (Ezekiel 43:7-8), and in committing its services to the hands of uncircumcised aliens (Ezekiel 44:7), and the like.
measure the pattern] LXX. has, “and its appearance and its pattern.” Cf. Ezekiel 42:11, where “measures” and “appearance” were also interchanged.
10–12. The prophet is commanded to shew to Israel the fashion and ordinances of the house that they may observe them.
And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.11. The verse seems overgrown with amplifications or repetitions. LXX. omits: “and the comings in thereof and all the forms thereof.” The second “and all the forms thereof” seems an accidental misreading and consequent duplication of the following “and all the laws thereof.” Cf. Ezekiel 44:5, where the “ordinances” and “laws” of the house again come together.
This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.12. Upon the top … mountain] Add: shall it be; the whole &c.
And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar.13. The basement of the altar
13. bottom shall be a cubit] lit. its bottom a cubit, i.e. in depth or height, and so in breadth. The bottom, lit. bosom, appears to be the basement in which the altar proper was set; it was a cubit high and extended a cubit in breadth beyond the first block or stage of the altar proper. The idea that the “bosom” means a drain or gutter running round the foot of the altar to carry away the blood seems without any support. This basement extended a cubit all round beyond the lowest stage of the altar proper, and on the outer edge of this space of a cubit there was a border of a span, probably, in height. This border may have been a moulding, or possibly a very low parapet or close screen, running round the outer edge of the ledge of one cubit. Either would suggest the idea of a bosom in which the altar proper was placed.
higher place of the altar] the elevation. The word is that rendered “eminent place” Ezekiel 16:24; Ezekiel 16:31; Ezekiel 16:39 (see notes), and refers to the basement on which the altar proper stood. Cf. Ezekiel 41:8. LXX. divides the letters differently, reading: this is the height of the altar, and attaching the clause to the following verse. This appears to be unnecessary.
13–17. The altar of burnt-offering in the inner court
The altar was a large structure, built of stone, and rose in terraces, contracting by means of two inlets towards the top. It consisted: (1) of a basement, with a border or moulding on the top or edge of it. (2) Two cubits above this basement or socket, in which the altar proper stood, was the first inlet, a cubit broad, so that there ran a ledge of a cubit round about the altar on its four sides (Ezekiel 43:13-14). (3) Four cubits above this first inlet came the second inlet or contraction, also a cubit broad, so as to form in like manner a ledge of a cubit round about the altar (Ezekiel 43:14). (4) Then four cubits upwards from this ledge was the altar area or platform proper, the “hearth of God,” having horns rising up at the four corners (Ezekiel 43:15). The area of this altar-hearth was a square of is cubits (Ezekiel 43:16). At the higher inlet the area was 14 cubits square (Ezekiel 43:17). Probably, therefore, at the lower inlet the area was 16 cubits square and the basement 18 cubits. Thus the structure had the appearance of four square blocks, each narrower in area than the one below it, and each thus appearing set into the one under it as into a socket. Such structures built in stages were common in the architecture of the East; see examples in Rawlin. Phenicia, p. 166 seq.
And from the bottom upon the ground even to the lower settle shall be two cubits, and the breadth one cubit; and from the lesser settle even to the greater settle shall be four cubits, and the breadth one cubit.14. Two cubits up from the basement the fabric underwent the first contraction, being let in a cubit. Thus a ledge of a cubit broad was formed running all round the altar. A.V. appears to call this bench or ledge a “settle.” The altar narrowed in dimension not gradually like an obelisk, but at two places. Cf. the similar way in which the wall of the house retreated, Ezekiel 41:6.
At a height of four cubits above the first inlet came another, of the same breadth of a cubit, so that a second ledge of a cubit broad was formed round the altar on its four sides.
So the altar shall be four cubits; and from the altar and upward shall be four horns.15. So the altar] And the altar, lit. the hearth of God (Isaiah 29:1). The word here is spelled harel (mount of God?), and in the next clause ariel (hearth of God). LXX. spells both alike, and probably they do not differ. The form ariel is also Moabite (Mesha inscr. l. 12, 17). From the second ledge up to the altar-hearth or platform was a distance of four cubits, and from the altar area rose four horns, one at each corner. LXX. for “four” reads “a cubit”—as the height of the horns.
And the altar shall be twelve cubits long, twelve broad, square in the four squares thereof.16. The preceding measurements have referred to height. Those referring to breadth or area are now given. The altar-hearth or platform was 12 cubits square.
four squares thereof] four sides thereof. So Ezekiel 43:17.
And the settle shall be fourteen cubits long and fourteen broad in the four squares thereof; and the border about it shall be half a cubit; and the bottom thereof shall be a cubit about; and his stairs shall look toward the east.17. The “settle” referred to here is the higher or greater one (Ezekiel 43:14). Its area was a square of 14 cubits. The verse appears to say that this uppermost ledge had a border and an “enclosure” or setting just as the basement had. If so the “setting” or bosom was that for the Harel arising out of the block, and its size, a cubit, is simply the ledge itself. There is no ground at least to suppose that the “border” and setting refer to the altar-hearth—from which the measurer has descended and come down at any rate as far as the uppermost ledge. It may be made a question whether in the last half of Ezekiel 43:17 he has not descended to the foot of the edifice, and whether the “border” and “bosom” be not those already referred to in connection with the basement (Ezekiel 43:13). For (1) the measurements are the same—a span (Ezekiel 43:13) being equivalent to half a cubit (Ezekiel 43:17). (2) Immediately after mention of the “border” and bosom or setting the “steps” are referred to by which the altar as a whole was ascended, which seems to imply that the speaker conceived himself upon the ground (Ezekiel 43:17.) (3) Further in Ezekiel 43:20 blood is to be put upon the horns of the altar-hearth, upon the four corners of the upper ledge (settle) and upon the “border” round about; and it is certainly natural that the blood should be put on all the stages of the altar, the top, the middle and the basement.
For squares read sides; for bottom basement; and by stairs is meant steps. The whole height of the altar was probably 12 cubits and the basement a square of 18. Thus height of basement 1 (Ezekiel 43:13) + 2 (lowest block) + 4 (higher block) + 4 (block of altar-hearth) + 1 (horn) = 12. On breadth see preliminary remark to Ezekiel 43:13-17.
And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon.18. The general purpose of the altar. The burnt-offering was wholly consumed on the altar, of the other offerings only the fat.
18–27. Sacrifices and ceremonies by which the altar was consecrated and inaugurated
The general purpose of the altar is to offer burnt-offerings upon and to sprinkle blood thereon. The statement in Ezekiel 43:19-20 is somewhat elliptical, the writer’s object being to advert specially to the difference between the sin-offering on the first day and that on the following days. Hence he describes the ritual of the sin-offering on the first day fully, omitting to refer to the burnt-offering, which he mentions only in connexion with the second and following days. And when in Ezekiel 43:25 it is said that a goat for sin-offering and a young bullock and a ram were offered for seven days, the difference between the sin-offering on the first day (a bullock) and that for the following six days (a goat) is not adverted to, the burnt-offering being the same all the seven days.
And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord GOD, a young bullock for a sin offering.19. The phrase “saith the Lord” adds solemnity to the statement that only the sons of Zadok shall minister at the altar (Ezekiel 44:15 seq.).
And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it.20. Blood was to be put on the four horns of the altar hearth, on the four corners of the (upper) settle, and on the border; see on Ezekiel 43:17. To “cleanse” is to purify from sin, to “un-sin,” if such a word could be formed; and to “purge” is usually rendered “to make atonement for.”
Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering, and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary.21. The sin-offering was burnt wholly in a place outside the whole temple area, i.e. outside the space enclosed by the 500 cubits square wall (Ezekiel 42:16 seq.), possibly in the space of 50 cubits (Ezekiel 45:2) lying round the outer wall. Cf. Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:11; Leviticus 6:23; Leviticus 16:27; Hebrews 13:11.
And on the second day thou shalt offer a kid of the goats without blemish for a sin offering; and they shall cleanse the altar, as they did cleanse it with the bullock.22. The sin-offering for the second and following days was a he-goat—so read for “kid of the goats.” On “cleanse” cf. Ezekiel 43:20. The ceremonies with the blood and the burning outside were no doubt the same as those on the first day, Ezekiel 43:20-21.
When thou hast made an end of cleansing it, thou shalt offer a young bullock without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish.23. The burnt-offering, following the sin-offering, was a young bullock and a ram.
And thou shalt offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering unto the LORD.24. The burnt-offering was wholly consumed on the altar, salt being sprinkled on the flesh, Leviticus 2:13; Mark 9:49.
Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin offering: they shall also prepare a young bullock, and a ram out of the flock, without blemish.25. The statement is somewhat general; strictly the he-goat was offered only on six days (Ezekiel 43:19), but the burnt-offering was the same all the seven.
Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.26. The ceremonial of consecrating the altar lasts seven days. On to “purge” cf. Ezekiel 43:20.
consecrate themselves] consecrate it, i.e. the altar, lit. fill its hand (or, hands). The phrase is properly said of the priests, to install; here of the altar, to inaugurate it. Originally the expression had probably a literal meaning, to put the things to be offered into the hands of the priests (Leviticus 8:25 seq.), but later it came to be used generally in the sense of initiate, consecrate (Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:9; Exodus 29:29; Exodus 29:33; Exodus 29:35; Leviticus 7:37; Numbers 3:3; Jdg 17:5; Jdg 17:12), cf. Exodus 32:29. Wellh. Hist. p. 152, argues that the priest’s hand was originally “filled” with money (Judges 17). The phrase “fill the hand” of one appears also in the general meaning “to invest with office” in Assyrian; Fd. Del. Heb. Lang. p. 20, Prolegomena, p. 48.
In all the above passage it is the altar not the priests that is consecrated. The consecration of the altar appears to carry with it that of the whole sanctuary. The altar needs atonement not because it is a work of human hands, but because it belongs to the things of the world. The sin of the world has defiled all things, penetrating even to the precincts of that where Jehovah abides as he is in himself (Hebrews 9:23). The passage can scarcely be compared with Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 because there the ceremonies refer to the consecration of the priests chiefly and little to the altar. Cf. Exodus 29:36; Leviticus 8:11; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 8:33. In these passages the altar is said to have been anointed with oil, a ceremony wanting in Ezek.; the sin-offering was a young bullock each day and the burnt—offering simply a ram each day.
And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.