Ezekiel 43:13
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.
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(13) A cubit and an hand breadth.—The measurement of the altar begins with the statement that the cubit used was of the same length as before (see Ezekiel 40:5). The description that follows (Ezekiel 43:13-17) will be made clearer by a simple diagram, with references to the parts described. The size of the base of the altar, it will be seen, was 16 cubits square, and its entire height was either 11 or 12 cubits. The altar in Solomon’s Temple was of brass, 20 cubits square, and 10 cubits high (2Chronicles 4:1), while that in the Tabernacle (of shittim-wood overlaid with brass) had been 5 cubits square, and 3 cubits high (Exodus 27:1). That in Herod’s Temple is said to have been 32 cubits square, and 10 cubits high, and was of hewn stone. The dimensions of Ezekiel’s altar seem to have been selected for the symmetry of the numbers in the several parts. In height it exceeded any of the others.

(a)Base or “bottom,” 1 cubit high, and 1 broad. This was 16 cubits square.

(bb′)“The border thereof,” a span or ½ cubit. It is uncertain whether this projected, forming a moulding as at b, and in this case was under c, and so increased the height of the altar; or whether it was as at b′, a ledge around 100. In Ezekiel 43:13 “higher place” should be base. The word means, primarily, arched, then a back, and then a support.

(c)The “lower settle,” 2 cubits high, and 1 broad.

(d)The “greater (or higher) settle,” 4 cubits high.

(e)The “altar” (Harel)literally, the mountain of God—4 cubits high, and 12 cubits square.

(f)The “altar” (Ariel)literally, the lion of God—the hearth of the same size, but the height not given, but probably not more than ½ cubit.

(gg) The “horns.” The whole height was eleven cubits or more, according to whether the height of f is included in that of e, and whether b passed under c, or was merely a ledge.

Ezekiel 43:18-27 make careful provision for the consecration of the altar just described. This is to be compared with Exodus 40 and Leviticus 8, although in that case the consecration of the altar and of the priests were joined together, while here that of the altar alone is described.

Ezekiel 43:13-17. These are the measures of the altar — The Jews, after their return out of captivity, had an altar long before they had a temple, Ezra 3:3; but the altar here spoken of is an altar in the temple, the mystical temple emblematical of the gospel church; and this altar is mystical too, for Christ is our altar. The bottom shall be a cubit, &c. — To render the dimensions here specified of the altar more intelligible to an English reader, it may be best to observe, that it was about six yards square at the top, and seven at the bottom. It was four yards and a half high; it had a lower bench, or shelf, here called a settle, a yard from the ground, on which some of the priests stood to minister, and another, two yards above that, on which others of them stood; and those were each of them half a yard broad, and had ledges on either side, that they might stand firm upon them. The sacrifices were killed at the table spoken of Ezekiel 40:39; what was to be burned on the altar was given up to those on the lower bench, and handed by them to those on the higher, and they laid it on the altar. Thus in the service of God we must be assistant to one another.

43:1-27 After Ezekiel had surveyed the temple of God, he had a vision of the glory of God. When Christ crucified, and the things freely given to us of God, through Him, are shown to us by the Holy Ghost, they make us ashamed for our sins. This frame of mind prepares us for fuller discoveries of the mysteries of redeeming love; and the whole of the Scriptures should be opened and applied, that men may see their sins, and repent of them. We are not now to offer any atoning sacrifices, for by one offering Christ has perfected for ever those that are sanctified, Heb 10:14; but the sprinkling of his blood is needful in all our approaches to God the Father. Our best services can be accepted only as sprinkled with the blood which cleanses from all sin.The altar of sacrifice which stood in the inner court, not the altar of incense described Ezekiel 41:22. In the temple of the vision the dimensions differ from those of the tabernacle Exodus 27:1, and of Solomon's Temple 2 Chronicles 4:1, with a view to introduce definite propositions and symbolic numbers. See Plan L.

The bottom - The base (I) of the altar so called, because it forms with its "border" (K) a kind of socket to receive the "lower settle" (L). It was to be "a cubit" in depth.

The "breadth" is the breadth of that portion of the base which was not covered by the "lower settle."

The higher place - the base, literally back; the base is called the back because the altar rested upon it.

13-27. As to the altar of burnt offering, which was the appointed means of access to God. Of the altar of burnt-offerings; for the altar of incense was within the temple, and is called the golden altar, but this in this verse is the brazen altar, and stood in the court of the house.

The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; the great or sacred cubit, three inches longer than the common cubit.

The bottom, the ledge or settle, or as a little bench fastened to the altar on all sides at the bottom, shall be a cubit in height.

The breadth, from the edge of this settle or bench on the outside, to the edge where it joined the body of the altar, a cubit; and this breadth, twenty-one inches, broad enough for the priests to walk on round the altar, as they had occasion.

The border, a ledge going round on all the squares, on the outer edge of this settle, a span high, about nine inches, which was to prevent the priests. that they slipped not down in walking on this settle.

This shall be the higher place of the altar: this seems somewhat harshly translated; the French hath it, this shall be the back of the altar; as the back bears burdens, so this should bear the weight of the whole altar; this the basis or bottom, as called before, which was one cubit in each square broader than the next square frame or settle.

And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits,.... Of the altar of burnt offering, which though measured before, the dimensions were not given till now; see Ezekiel 40:47, this altar was a type of Christ, Hebrews 13:10 with respect to his deity, which is greater than the sacrifice of his human nature, the support of it, which sanctified it, and gave virtue and efficacy to it, and rendered it acceptable to God, Matthew 23:19 and the measures of it are said to be after the cubits used in the measuring of places and things belonging to this house, described; and what these were appears by what follows:

the cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; not the common cubit, but what was larger than that by a hand breadth, or three inches:

even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit; or, "the bosom" (t); that is, the foundation of the altar, as the Targum and Jarchi; the basis, foot, or settle of it; this was a cubit high, and a cubit broad:

and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span; the edge or "lip" (u), of this bottom or settle, was a cubit broad, for the priests to stand and go round the altar, and to this there was a border of a span, or half a cubit, to prevent their slipping; or else to keep the blood, poured at the foot of the altar, from running upon the pavement:

and this shall be the higher place of the altar; or the projection or jetting of it out beyond others, which was further than any other part; otherwise it was the lower part of the altar.

(t) "sinus", Montanus; "gremium", Munster, Cocceius, Starckius. Ben Melech interprets it the middle of the altar. (u) "labium ejus", Pagninus, Montanus.

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.

Verses 13-27. - The temple-altar described (vers. 13-17), and the ritual for its consecration explained (vers. 18-27). Verse 13. - The measures of the altar. The altar is הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, that formerly mentioned as standing in the inner court, immediately in front of the" house" (Ezekiel 40:47), the altar of burnt offering, and not the altar of incense in the holy place (Ezekiel 41:22). Its dimensions, then omitted, are now reported in connection with its consecration, which also is narrated as a pendant to that of the "house," because of the intimate connection between the two - the consecration of the altar being practically equivalent to the consecration of the house, and the consecration of the house finding approximate expression in the consecration of the altar. As in the other portions of the temple, so in this, the measurements are given after the cubits, i.e. by or in cubits, the length of each cubit being noted at "a cubit and an hand-breadth," as in Ezekiel 40:5. They are likewise taken first from the foundation upwards (vers. 13-15), and then from the top downwards (vers. 16, 17). The first portion measured is the bottom; literally, the bosom (Hebrew, חֵיק, "that which embraces," from הוּק "to embrace;" LXX., κόλπωμα: Vulgate, sinus); but what exactly that signified is debated among interpreters. Gesenius thinks of "the hollowed part for the fire;" Hitzig, of "a frame running round, a stand in which the altar stood;" Kliefoth, of "a deepening on the wooden ring in which the whole altar stands;" Keil, of" a lower hollow or base of the altar, formed by a border of a definite height;" Smend, of "the channel or gutter of the altar base, which should receive the sacrificial blood;" Havernick, Currey, and Plumptre, of "a base upon which the altar stood." If Smend's feasible notion be not adopted, then probably that of Hitzig, Kliefoth, or Keil most nearly expresses the conception of the Hebrew term. The altar was surrounded by an enclosure in which it seemed to be set, or out of which to rise; the dimensions of this "stand" or "enclosure" being a cubit in height, and a cubit in breadth, with a border on its edge round about a span or half a cubit high. This, the stand just described, should be the higher place; literally, the back; hence the support, base (Revised Version), or elevation, ὕψος (LXX.) of the altar.

Ezekiel 43:13Description and Consecration of the Altar of Burnt-Offering

Description of the Altar

Ezekiel 43:13. And these are the measures of the altar in cubits: The cubit a cubit and a handbreadth; a ground-framework of a cubit (in height), and a cubit in breadth, and its moulding on its border round about a span. This is the base of the altar. Ezekiel 43:14. And from the ground-framework of earth to the lower enclosure, two cubits (in height), and a cubit in breadth; and from the small enclosure to the greater enclosure, four cubits (in height), and one cubit in breadth. Ezekiel 43:15. And the mount of God, four cubits; and from the heart of God upwards, the four horns. Ezekiel 43:16. And the hearth of God, twelve cubits in length by twelve cubits in breadth; squared on its four sides. Ezekiel 43:17. And the enclosure, fourteen cubits in length by fourteen cubits in breadth on its four sides; and the moulding round about it, half a cubit; and the ground-framework of it, a cubit round about: and its steps faced the east. - To the heading, "these are the measures of the altar in (according to) cubits," there is once more appended, as in Ezekiel 40:5, in connection with the measuring of the temple, the length of the cubit measure. The description commences with the foundation of the altar, and, proceeding upwards, gives the height and breadth of the several gradations of the walls of the altar, up to the horns at the four corners (Ezekiel 43:13-15). It then passes from above downwards, to supply the length and breadth or the circumference of the different stages (Ezekiel 43:16 and Ezekiel 43:17). As the first, or lowest part, the חיק is mentioned, literally, the bosom or lap; then by transference, the hollow formed by the sides of a chariot (1 Kings 22:35); here the lower hollow or base of the altar (p), formed by a border of a definite height, to merely "a frame running round, a stand in which the altar stood" (Hitzig), nor merely "the hollow filled with earth" (Kliefoth), but both together. This ground-framework (p) was a cubit (sc., high) and a cubit broad. That האמּה is to be taken as referring to the height, is evident from the statement of the breadth which follows. חיק האמּה is not to be altered into חיקהּ אמּה, as Ewald proposes, nor is האמּה to be changed into באמּה (Hitzig); but Hvernick's explanation is to be adopted: "and a bosom (was there) the cubit," i.e., of the height of the cubit just described. רחב, breadth, is the extent to which the bosom projected beyond the next enclosure (q) on every side, and formed a support, the circumference of which was a cubit more than the lower cube of the altar on every side. This is shown by the measurements in Ezekiel 43:16 and Ezekiel 43:17. The חיק had a גּבוּל on its שׂפה of a span (half a cubit) in height (o). שׂפה, lip, is the rim (1 Kings 7:26; Genesis 22:17); and גּבוּל, the bordering on the rim, is a moulding. The feminine suffixes attached to גּבוּלהּ and שׂפתהּ refer to חיק, which is of the masculine gender, no doubt, when used in its literal sense of bosom or lap, but is construed as a feminine in the tropical sense of an inanimate object. The ground-framework, with its moulding, formed the גּב of the altar. גּב, the arched, then a hump or back, signifies here the support of the altar. Upon this support the altar rose in a cubical enclosure or frame, which diminished in circumference by ledges or steps. The enclosure resting upon the support, and therefore the lowest enclosure (q), is mentioned in Ezekiel 43:14; and the one which followed (r) in Ezekiel 43:14.

The word עזרה, which has probably sprung from עצר by the softening of צ into ז, signifies enclosure, surrounding, and is mostly used for the outer court of the temple; here it is applied to the altar, and signifies the enclosure or framework of the kernel of the altar, consisting of earth. As the altar rose in steps, a distinction is made between the lower or smaller, and the (upper or) greater עזרה. The identity of the lower עזרה and the smaller one (הקּטנּה) is so evident from the course of the description, that it is universally admitted by modern expositors. The lower one (q) is called the small one, in comparison with the large one which stood above it, from the fact that its height was smaller, as it was only two cubits high, whereas the upper one (r) was four. When, therefore, the measurement of the greater one is given in this way in Ezekiel 43:14: "from the small enclosure to the great enclosure, four cubits," this statement cannot be understood in any other way than as meaning, that this enclosure or frame had a height of four cubits from the lower to the upper end, - that is to say, in other words, that the lower ledge was four cubits from the upper. Consequently the statement in Ezekiel 43:14, "from the ground-framework of earth to the lower enclosure, two cubits," can also have no other meaning than that the lower enclosure, from the lower edge by the moulding to the upper edge, at which the second enclosure commenced, was two cubits high. This height is reckoned from the upper edge of the חיק, or from the first (lowest) ledge. The height of these three portions taken together, therefore, was (1 + 2 + 4) seven cubits. To this the mount of God (s), which was four cubits (Ezekiel 43:15), has to be added, making in all eleven cubits. In Ezekiel 43:14 חיק is followed by הארץ: the חיק consisting of earth, or filled with earth. But the חיק, with its moulding, is designated גּב, the back or support of the altar, and is thereby distinguished from the altar itself; so that, for the height of the altar, we have only to reckon the two enclosures, with the mount of God, which amount to ten cubits. Upon the basis of the חיק, with its moulding, and the two enclosures (עזרה), there rose the true altar, with its hearth, and the horns at the four corners, noticed in Ezekiel 43:15. A distinction is here made between הראל, i.e., mount of God, and אריאל; and they are not to be identified, as they have been by many of the commentators, down to Hitzig, after the example of the lxx. אריאל (as the word is to be written according to the Keri) does not mean "lion of God," but "heart of God" (ארי, from ארה, to burn), as in Isaiah 29:1-2. The hearth of God is the surface of the altar, its fire-hearth (t); whereas הראל, mount of God (s), was the basis or foundation of the hearth. This was four cubits high, whereas no height is mentioned in connection with the hearth of God; but it is simply stated that four horns went upward from it, namely, at the four corners. With the horns of the altar, the size and height of which are not given, and which cannot be reckoned at three cubits, the description of all the parts, from the bottom to the top, is given; and all that remains to complete the measurements, is to describe the circumference of the several parts which rose one above another in the form of steps. This follows in Ezekiel 43:16 and Ezekiel 43:17. The hearth of God is twelve cubits long and twelve cubits broad, and is therefore רבוּע, square, of the same length and breadth on its four sides. Going downwards, there follow in Ezekiel 43:17 the length and breadth of the עזרה, with fourteen cubits, as it was a cubit broader on every side according to Ezekiel 43:14. It is very strange, however, that the length and breadth of only one עזרה are given here, as there are two of different heights mentioned in Ezekiel 43:14. Many of the commentators have therefore identified the mount of God with the great עזרה, and attribute only a height of seven cubits to the altar; whereas Kliefoth regards both the עזרה of Ezekiel 43:17 and the גּבוּל and חיק of Ezekiel 43:15 as different from the parts mentioned by the same name in Ezekiel 43:13 and Ezekiel 43:14, and takes them as referring to an enclosure and a barrier of the mount of God. One is as arbitrary as the other, as the words of the text do not require either of these assumptions. The difficulty, that only one עזרה is mentioned in Ezekiel 43:17, is easily solved, if we consider that in Ezekiel 43:15 only the height of the mount of God is given, and no breadth is mentioned as in the case of the עזרה in Ezekiel 43:14. We may see from this that the mount of God had the same breadth or the same circumference as the upper עזרה (see r and s in the illustration). In that case the length and breadth of all the parts of the altar were given, when, in addition to the length and breadth of the hearth of God (t), those of one עזרה, and that the lower, were given, as this alone was longer and broader than the hearth of God and the mount of God; whereas the length and breadth of the upper עזרה were identical with those of the circumference of the mount of God.

The altar, therefore, upon the upper surface, the hearth of God, was a square, of twelve cubits in length and breath. The mount of God and the upper enclosure had the same length and breadth. The lower enclosure, on the other hand, were fourteen cubits long and broad; and the support, finally, without the moulding, was sixteen cubits in length and breadth. The height of the altar was as follows: the support, with the moulding, a cubit and a half; the lower enclosure, two cubits; the upper, four; and the mount of God, with the hearth, also four cubits in height; whereas the altar in Solomon's temple was ten cubits high, and at its lower basis twenty cubits long and broad (2 Chronicles 4:1). - The description closes in Ezekiel 43:17 with an allusion to steps, which the altar of Ezekiel had upon the eastern side; whereas, in the case of the tabernacle, steps were not allowed to be placed by the altar (Exodus 20:23). The form פּנות is taken by Kimchi as a noun. Others regard it as an infin. nominasc.; whilst Hitzig proposes to point it as a participle פּנות.

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