Ezekiel 43:26
Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) Shall consecrate themselves.—Our version has here followed the Masoretic emendation of the text; the literal translation of the text itself is, shall fill its hand, referring to the altar. To “fill the hand” is a synonym for consecration, commonly applied to the priests, who were consecrated by placing in their hands the gifts they were to offer to God. Here it is better to keep to the text as it stands, “filling the hand of the altar” being a strong figurative expression to denote that it shall always be supplied with sacrificial gifts. Nothing is said throughout the passage of the consecration of the priests, the whole family of Aaron having been consecrated once for all by the ceremonies of Leviticus 8.

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.Consecrate themselves - literally, as in the margin. Leviticus 8:27. The priests are already consecrated, but the memory of their consecration was thus kept up at the dedication of the altar. 26. Seven days—referring to the original directions of Moses for seven days' purification services of the altar (Ex 29:37).

consecrate themselves—literally, "fill their hands," namely, with offerings; referring to the mode of consecrating a priest (Ex 29:24, 35).

They, the priests in course,

shall purge the altar: the same with what is said of the priests; they and the altar were thus consecrated and dedicated unto God, to be his in peculiar manner.

Seven days shall they purge the altar, and purify it,.... Which denotes the perfect purity and sanctification of it; which how to be applied to Christ; see Gill on Ezekiel 43:20;

and they shall consecrate themselves: the priests shall consecrate themselves, or devote themselves to the service of the altar; so Gospel ministers to the ministry of a crucified Christ: or they themselves should consecrate the altar by the above rites: or rather it may be literally rendered,

and they shall fill its hands, or "their own hands" (b); that is, either they shall fill the sides of the altar with sacrifices, as much as it could hold; or the hands of the priests with parts of the sacrifice, or with gifts, as a token of their being inaugurated into, and invested with, the priestly office: so Gospel ministers should have their hands full of, or be filled with, the gifts and graces of the Spirit, and with the knowledge of Christ, his person, offices, grace, righteousness, and sacrifice, that they may minister unto others.

(b) There is a double reading of the words; the Cetib or textual reading is "its hand"; the Keri or marginal reading is "their own hands".

Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.

Verse 26. - They shall purge the altar. Smend thinks it strange that only the purification of the altar should be mentioned here, while that of the sanctuary is referred to later (Ezekiel 45:18), and finds in this an explanation (at least, perhaps) of the fact that in Exodus 29:36 only the consecration of the Mosaic altar - not of the Mosaic tabernacle - is reported. He conceives it likely that the author of Exodus 29:36 copied Ezekiel, but does not explain why Ezekiel may not have copied the author of Exodus 29:36. And they shall consecrate themselves; more correctly, they - i.e. the priests - shall consecrate it; literally, fill its hand. The phrase, מִלֵּאיָד, "to fill one's hand," sc. with gifts, occurs with reference to Jehovah (Exodus 32:29; 1 Chronicles 29:5; 2 Chronicles 29:31). It is also employed in the sense of filling the hand of another, as e.g. of a priest, with sacrificial gifts, when he is instituted into his sacred office (Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:9; Leviticus 21:10; comp, Leviticus 8:27). Here the hand to be filled is that of the altar, which is personified for the purpose (compare the use of the terms "bosom" and "lip" in connection with the altar). The meaning is that the altar, at its consecration, should have a plentiful supply of gifts, to symbolize that the offering of such gifts was the work for which it was set apart, and that it should never be without them. Ezekiel 43:26Consecration of the Altar

Ezekiel 43:18. And he said to me, Son of man, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, These are the statutes of the altar in the day when it is erected, to offer burnt-offerings upon it, and to sprinkle blood thereon. Ezekiel 43:19. Thou shalt give to the priests of the tribe of Levi who are of the seed of Zadok, who draw near to me, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, a bullock, a young ox, for a sin-offering. Ezekiel 43:20. And thou shalt take of its blood, and put it upon is four horns, and upon the four corners of the enclosure, and upon the moulding round about; and so absolve and expiate it. Ezekiel 43:21. And thou shalt take the bullock of the sin-offering, and burn it at the appointed place of the house, outside the sanctuary. Ezekiel 43:22. And on the second day thou shalt offer a faultless he-goat for a sin-offering, that they may absolve the altar, as they absolved it with the bullock. Ezekiel 43:23. When thou hast completed the absolution, thou shalt offer a bullock, a young ox, without fault, and a faultless ram of the flock; Ezekiel 43:24. And shalt bring them before Jehovah, and the priests shall throw salt upon them, and sacrifice them as burnt-offering to Jehovah. Ezekiel 43:25. Seven days shalt thou offer a sin-offering goat daily and a bullock, a young ox, and a ram of the flock without fault shall they prepare. Ezekiel 43:26. Seven days shall they expiate the altar, and cleanse it, and fill its hand. Ezekiel 43:27. And when they have completed these days, it shall come to pass on the eighth day and henceforward, that the priests place your burnt-offerings and your peace-offerings upon the altar, and I will accept you with delight, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.

As the altar of the tabernacle and that of Solomon's temple were consecrated before they were used (Leviticus 8:11, Leviticus 8:15, Leviticus 8:19, Leviticus 8:33; 1 Kings 8:62-66; 2 Chronicles 7:4-10), and God commanded and regulated this consecration of the altar of the tabernacle (Exodus 29:10.), so also is the altar of burnt-offering in the new sanctuary to be consecrated before it is used. This command is given to Ezekiel, and the consecration enjoined upon him, not as the representative of the nation, but as a prophet, upon whom, as is frequently the case in the prophetical narratives, those things are said to be enjoined, which are to be set in operation through his proclamation. This commission is given to him, however, for the day (the time) when the altar will be made or restored, from which alone we may see that the execution of the command belongs to the future, in which the temple shown him in the spirit is to be erected, and that it will take place in a manner corresponding to the realization of the temple; so that we cannot infer from this command alone that the reference is to the building of a temple and altar of stone, metal, and wood. חקּות are not the regulations prescribed for the altar service generally, but simply those relating to its consecration. If we compare these with the account of the consecration of the altars of the earlier sanctuaries, we find that no detailed description is given of the consecration of the altar of Solomon's temple, but that it is simply stated that it lasted seven days (2 Chronicles 7:9). The consecration of the altar of the tabernacle lasted just the same time (Exodus 29:37; Leviticus 8:33). And the same period is appointed here (Ezekiel 43:26). But the consecration of the altar of the tabernacle was associated with the consecration of the priests. Here, on the contrary, the existence of the priesthood is presupposed, and only the altar is consecrated. The consecration of the Mosaic altar commenced with the anointing of the altar and all its utensils, by the sprinkling of it seven times by Moses with the holy anointing oil, for the purpose of sanctifying it (Leviticus 8:11). Here, on the other hand, nothing is said about the anointing of the altar; only the absolving of it by sacrifice is mentioned, which followed the anointing in the case of the Mosaic altar. At the altar in the tabernacle Moses performed the whole act of consecration, as the mediator of the covenant, the anointing as well as the preparation of the sacrifices. Here, however, the priests already consecrated for their service are to complete the sacrificial ceremony. It is true that the expressions used in Ezekiel 43:20, "take of its blood," etc., and in Ezekiel 43:21, "take the bullock of the sin-offering," etc., apparently indicate that the prophet was to perform the sprinkling of the blood and the burning of the sin-offering. But it is obvious that this is only to be understood as signifying that he was to do it through the medium of the priests, i.e., was to enjoin the performance of it upon them, from the use of the plural הטּאוּ in Ezekiel 43:22: "they shall absolve the altar, as they have absolved it with the bullock." It is not all the priests of the tribe of Levi however, who are to perform this service, but simply those of the family of Zadok, who alone are selected in the new temple for specifically priestly service (cf. Ezekiel 40:46 and Ezekiel 44:15.).

The sacred ceremony commences with the offering of a young ox as a sin-offering; Ezekiel 43:19, Ezekiel 43:20, as in Leviticus 8:14, compared with Exodus 29:1, Exodus 29:10. The blood of the ox is to be put upon the four horns and the four corners of the enclosure, and upon the moulding below it round about; and the flesh is to be burned at an appointed place outside the sanctuary. For the article in הפּר החטּאת (Ezekiel 43:21), see Ewald, 290b. The pouring out of the blood - that was not used for smearing the places indicated - at the foot of the altar is not mentioned, nor the burning of the fat portions of the sacrifice upon the altar. We cannot infer, from the omission of the latter circumstance, that the fat was not consumed upon the altar, but was burned, with the flesh, skin, and bones of the animal, outside the sanctuary, as Kliefoth supposes. Without the burning of certain definite portions of the victim upon the altar, the slaughtering of the animal would not have been a complete sacrifice at all; the smearing of the blood upon the altar would not have sufficed for this. And the fact that in Ezekiel 43:21 the command is given, "take the bullock and burn it," does not prove that the animal was to be burned along with those fat portions which were to be consumed upon the altar in the case of every sin-offering. In Leviticus 8:17 also, את־הפּר stands in the place of את־בּשׂר הפּר, Exodus 29:14. Ezekiel generally presupposes that the sacrificial ritual is well known, and therefore mentions only those points in which deviations from the ordinary ritual took place in connection with this sacrifice, such as the sprinkling of the blood, because the blood was to be smeared on particular parts of the altar, and the burning of the flesh, on account of the place where this was to be done. In the case of the burnt-offering in Ezekiel 43:23, no directions are given concerning the ceremonial; because this was to be in conformity with the standing ritual, with the exception of the sprinkling with salt, which was not to be performed in the same manner as in the ordinary sacrifices. The burning is to take place בּמפקד , outside the sanctuary. מפקד is a place commanded or appointed; and מפקד is a place in the temple set apart for that purpose. It follows from this that the place in question, since it belonged to the house, i.e., to the temple, is to be sought for within the square of five hundred cubits in extent, which was covered by the temple and its courts; and at the same time that it was outside the מקדּשׁ, i.e., upon a spot which did not form part of the sanctuary in the stricter sense of the word. Kliefoth therefore thinks of a spot within the gizrah (Ezekiel 41:12), the name of which implies that the space which it covered did not belong to the true מקדּשׁ. This view is the most probable one; whereas Ewald's conjecture, that the place intended is the locality of the sacrificial kitchens of the priests described in Ezekiel 46:19, is decidedly erroneous, as these kitchens, which were set apart for the cooking of the holy sacrificial flesh to be eaten by the priests alone, were certainly reckoned as forming part of the מקדּשׁ. - Ezekiel 43:22. On the second day, a he-goat was to be brought for a sin-offering, and the altar was to be cleansed from sin with this just as with the bullock on the first day; which implies that the same ceremonial was to be observed with this sacrifice as with that of the sin-offering.

After the completion of the expiation a burnt-offering was to be presented to the Lord of a bullock and a ram (Ezekiel 43:23 and Ezekiel 43:24). There is a difference of opinion as to the meaning of בּכלותך in these verses. Hitzig and Kliefoth suppose that the expiation was only completed on the second day, with the offering of the he-goat as a sin-offering. They both of them lay stress upon the fact that, on the one hand, in Ezekiel 43:23 and Ezekiel 43:24 the offering of the burnt-offering is mentioned on the second day, and not on the first day also; and on the other hand, in Ezekiel 43:25, for the seven days of consecration, only the preparation of a he-goat for the sin-offering and the preparation of the two animals appointed for the burnt-offering are mentioned. Hitzig also adduces the fact that in Ezekiel 43:26 there is no further reference to חטּא, but simply to כפּר and טהר, and draws the conclusion from this, that the sin attaching to the altar was removed with two sin-offerings on two days, and then through seven days further by means of burnt-offerings the anger of God which followed the sin was appeased (כפּר), and the uncleanness or profane character of the altar was expunged (טהר), so that the seven days of Ezekiel 43:25 are not to be dated from Ezekiel 43:19 onwards. According to this view, the consecration of the altar lasted nine days, and not seven, and the eighth day mentioned in Ezekiel 43:27 would really be the tenth day, reckoning from the commencement of the consecration. To carry out this view, Hitzig is obliged to erase not only the וכפּרתּהוּ of Ezekiel 43:20, but also the first half of Ezekiel 43:25 as glosses; a fact which carries its condemnation with it, as even the Septuagint furnishes no warrant for the erasure of Ezekiel 43:25. Moreover, the distinction which Hitzig draws between חטּא on the one hand, and כּפּר and טהר on the other, is quite erroneous. Purification (טהר) is never mentioned in the law as the effect produced by a burnt-offering. A sin-offering followed by a burnt-offering is invariably prescribed for the removal of uncleanness; for "reconciliation and purification take place through the absolution effected by the sin-offering; and to such a sin-offering and its purifying operation the burnt-offering is then added to secure the good pleasure of God for that which has been already cleansed" (Kliefoth).

But we cannot regard even Kliefoth's view as well founded, namely, that on the first day a sin-offering alone was presented, and it was only from the second day onwards that a sin-offering and burnt-offering were presented, and this lasted for seven days, so that the consecration of the altar continued fully eight days, and on the ninth day (not the eighth, as stated in Ezekiel 43:27) the regular use of the altar commenced. Kliefoth bases this conclusion principally upon the fact that Ezekiel 43:19-21 attribute only the sin-offering of a bullock to the first day; and that, on the other hand, Ezekiel 43:25 and Ezekiel 43:26 extend in all its details to seven days the very same ceremony as Ezekiel 43:22-24 assign to the second day, whereas they do not contain a syllable to the effect that the sin-offering of the bullock was to be repeated every day, or that the sacrifices described in Ezekiel 43:22-24 were also to be offered on the first day. The sinew of this demonstration consists in silentio, therefore; and this precarious basis of argument crumbles here, as in most other cases, as is evident from the words of Ezekiel 43:26 : "seven days shall ye reconcile the altar, and purify it." This perfectly general statement, which is not connected with Ezekiel 43:25 by any Vav copul., or placed in subordination to it, affirms in the clearest manner that the consecration of the altar was to last seven days, neither more nor less; so that if these seven days are to be reckoned from the second day, the sin-offering of the bullock upon the first day must be deprived of its reconciling and purifying worth, in direct contradiction not only to Ezekiel 43:20, according to which the altar was to be absolved and reconciled through the sin-offering of the bullock to be offered on the first day, but also to Ezekiel 43:22, according to which they were to absolve the altar by the sin-offering of the he-goat, in just the same manner as they had absolved it by the sin-offering of the bullock (on the first day). To take the כּפּר and מהר in Ezekiel 43:26 merely as the effect produced by the sacrifices mentioned in Ezekiel 43:25, renders the שׁבעת standing at the head of Ezekiel 43:26 an impossibility. Unless, therefore, we would impose upon the words of the prophet a gross contradiction, we must lay no stress either upon the fact that in Ezekiel 43:23 the offering of the burnt-offering is not mentioned till after the direction concerning he sin-offering to be presented on the second day, or upon the circumstance that in Ezekiel 43:25 the he-goat is mentioned as a sin-offering for all the seven days, and no allusion is made to the fact that the sin-offering of the first day was a bullock. The former (the reference to the burnt-offering after the sin-offering of the second day) may be explained very simply, on the ground that the sin-offerings of the first two days are mentioned one after the other, because different animals were prescribed for the purpose, and then, first, the burnt-offerings, which were the same for every day. And it is obvious that the explanation is to be sought for in this formal arrangement, and not in the fact that only a sin-offering without a burnt-offering was to be presented on the first day, and consequently that the expression "on the second day" refers solely to the sin-offering of that day, from the words בּכלותך מחטּא in Ezekiel 43:23; since מחטּא cannot be understood in a different sense from that which it bears in Ezekiel 43:22, the clause immediately preceding, i.e., must not be restricted to the sin-offering of the second day, but must be taken as referring to the sin-offerings of both the first and second days. The meaning of the words is therefore this: when the absolution by means of the sin-offering on the first and on the second day is ended, then shalt thou bring a burnt-offering. But if this is the meaning of the words, the offering of the burnt-offering prescribed in Ezekiel 43:23 does not fall so exclusively under the definition of time contained in the words "on the second day," as to warrant our assigning it to the second day alone, and concluding that no such offering was presented on the first day. There was no necessity for Ezekiel to express himself more clearly on this point, as there was no fear of any misunderstanding on the part of those who were acquainted with the law; since every Israelites who had been instructed in the law knew full well that no sin-offering could ever be presented without being followed by a burnt-offering, that in fact the burnt-offering was indispensable to the accomplishment of the כּפּרה, for which the sin-offering was presented. And in Ezekiel 43:25 also, Ezekiel had no occasion to fear that the somewhat loose expression, "seven days shalt thou prepare a he-goat sin-offering for the day," would be misunderstood; as he had already stated that a bullock was to be taken for the sin-offering of the first day, and the period of seven days was so universally prescribed in the law for every act of consecration which lasted more than one day, that he would have indicated in a clearer manner any deviation from this rule. We therefore regard the change of the seven days devoted to the consecration of the altar into eight as being just as groundless as that into nine, and adhere to the traditional explanation of these verses, namely, that the consecration of the altar lasted only seven days, and that on every one of these days a sin-offering and a burnt-offering were to be presented, the sin-offering on the first day being a bullock, and on the other days a he-goat, whilst the burnt-offerings were to consist on all seven days of a young ox and a ram.

With regard to the burnt-offering, the direction given, that the priests are to throw or pour (השׁליך), and not merely to strew or sprinkle, salt upon it, is to be regarded as significant. According to Leviticus 2:13, salt was to be added to every קרבּן (bloody or bloodless) sacrifice. The express allusion to the salting of these consecrating burnt-offerings, and also the choice of the verb השׁליך, point to a copious strewing with salt for the purpose of giving greater intensity to the force of these sacrifices. On the significance of salt in relation to the sacrifices, see the comm. on Leviticus 2:13. The ו attached to the Chetib וכפּרוּ in Ezekiel 43:26 is to be explained from the fact that the definition of the time שׁבעת is placed at the head absolutely. There is something bold in the application of the expression מלּא יד to the altar; since this expression arose from the ceremony peculiar to the consecrating sacrifice of the priests, namely, that the fat and fleshy portions of this sacrifice, which were intended partly for consumption upon the altar, and partly as a heave-offering for Jehovah, were to be given into the hands of the priests to be consecrated for the purpose of investing them symbolically with the gifts, which they were to offer in part to the Lord in the altar fire in the fulfilment of their official duties, and to receive in part for their service (see the comm. on Leviticus 8:25-29). Filling the hand of the altar, therefore, is equivalent to providing it with sacrificial gifts, so that it should never be without them. In this sense the symbolical act was connected with the completion of its consecration as a place of sacrifice. The Keri ידו is incorrect, and ידו the proper reading; inasmuch as even at the consecration of the priests, when the sacrificial portions were placed in the hands of the priests, מלּא only is used, and not ידים (cf. Exodus 29:9; Leviticus 21:10, etc.).

If we compare the directions given in the section before us concerning the consecration of the altar, with the consecration which was prescribed in Exodus 29 for the altar of burnt-offering in the tabernacle, and was fully carried out according to Leviticus 8, we find the following points of difference: - (1) the anointing of the altar is wanting here; (2) at the consecration of the Mosaic altar a bullock (young ox) was prescribed as the sin-offering for all the seven days (Exodus 29:36), in Ezekiel for the first day only, and a he-goat for the rest; (3) the blood of this sin-offering is smeared upon the horns of the altar in the former consecration (Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 8:15), in the latter upon the horns and the corners of the walls, and upon the lower moulding round about; (4) the burnt-offering there consists in a ram every day, here in a bullock and a ram daily; (5) on the other hand, the ram offered as a sacrifice of consecration in the Mosaic ceremony, which was specially connected with the institution of the priests in their office, is omitted here, as the priests were already holding their office; so that the sacrifice of consecration might be said to be here absorbed into the burnt-offering. All essential differences therefore reduce themselves to the fact that in Ezekiel the anointing of the altar is wanting, and the sin-offering of the last six days is diminished by the selection of an inferior animal, in place of which the burnt-offering is considerably intensified by the demand of a bullock and a ram for this, the same thing being also indicated by the copious pouring of salt thereon. - For the symbolical meaning of these sacrifices, compare the commentary on Leviticus 8. - The consecration of the altar was completed in seven days; and from the eighth day onwards the priests were to offer the regular sacrifices upon it (Ezekiel 43:27); whereas at the Mosaic consecration of the altar and priests, the constant altar service of the priests was still further inaugurated by a solemn sacrifice on the eighth day (Leviticus 9). Burnt-offerings and peace-offerings are mentioned in Ezekiel 43:27 instar omnium as being the principal and most frequent sacrifices, whilst sin-offerings and meat-offerings are implied therein.

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