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.
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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 settle - The "lower settle" (L), projecting beyond the "upper settle" (M) one cubit on every side.

His stairs - Jewish tradition says that the approach to the altar was by an inclined plane, because to go up "by steps" was forbidden Exodus 20:26.

The number "twelve" was symbolic of the twelve tribes, "four," of the earth; "sixteen" is the square of "four," and "fourteen" the double of "seven," the number of the covenant, as being composed of "three," the number of God, and of "four," the number of the world. Thus we have in the altar a special instance of Hebrew symbolism.

17. settle—ledge [Fairbairn].

stairs—rather, "the ascent," as "steps" up to God's altar were forbidden in Ex 20:26.

The settle; so called now, since the uppermost carrieth the name of altar, proper to itself.

Fourteen cubits, as said in the former verse: nor can it be otherwise, since it is one cubit on each side broader than the altar, which was twelve cubits square.

The border; or a border, or ledge, fastened to the edge of the outside of this bench, that goes round about the settle.

Half a cubit; about eleven inches, being the half of this great cubit: now this border was for security to the priests in their going round the altar, that if a foot slipped, this border might stay it.

The bottom, the superficies, on which the priest treads when he is doing any thing on the altar, or the breadth of this bench within the border,

a cubit.

Stairs, or steps, for such they needed; and probably each stair about one fourth of a cubit, to carry them up to the first and second settles. These stairs were placed eastward, that he who went up should have his face to the west, his back to the east; his face toward God, not toward the rising sun, as they who made the sun their idol.

And the settle shall be fourteen cubits long and fourteen broad in the four squares thereof,.... Here Kimchi confesses his ignorance. Jarchi interprets it, the top of the altar, with the place of the horns, and of the feet of the priests, and was twenty eight cubits by twenty eight, the fourteen mentioned being to be measured from the middle (z); and he seems to be right in making it to be the upper part of the altar, and not the lower settle, as some; the focus or hearth where the wood was laid, and the sacrifice burnt; and which had a projection of a cubit on each side, and so made the twelve cubits, the length and breadth of the altar, fourteen:

and the border about it shall be half a cubit; or the enclosure, as the Targum; the ledge about it, which went round the altar, to keep the fire or sacrifice from falling, or that the feet of the priests might not slip: the Jews expound it of the horns:

and the bottom thereof shall be a cubit about; or the foundation, as the Targum; which was between the altar, and the border on which the priests walked, when they went round it, to do the business of it: here Kimchi owns his ignorance again;

and his stairs shall look towards the east; steps to the altar were forbidden by the law of Moses, Exodus 20:26 wherefore, as the height of the altar of Solomon, and so of the second temple, required some way and method of ascent to the top of it, to do the business upon it; the Jews had what they call "kibbesh", a way made of earth thrown up, which rose gradually, and led to the top of it, and was about two and thirty cubits long, and sixteen broad (a); but here steps or stairs are expressly mentioned, which show that this refers to times when the Mosaic and ceremonial laws should be abolished. These stairs were placed eastward, so that those that went up them looked toward the west, toward the temple and house of God, where he dwelt; and turned their backs to the east, or rising sun, in direct opposition to the worshippers of the sun, whose faces were to the east. How many steps or stairs there were to the altar is not said; Starckius conjectures there might be twelve or fourteen of them, and allows for each step half a cubit; but as the altar was ten, or, as others, eleven cubits high, there should be twenty steps or more, of such a measure. These may signify the several ways and means of coming to, and increasing in, the knowledge of the doctrine of the altar, or of Christ's satisfaction for sin; as hearing, reading, prayer, meditation, &c.

(z) So Lipman. Tzurath Beth Hamikdash, sect. 40. Vid. Misn. Middot, c. 3. sect. 1.((a) So Lipman. Tzurath Beth Hamikdash, sect. 43.

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.

Ezekiel 43:17Description 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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