Ezekiel 44:1
Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut.
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The altar being consecrated, the next thing is to provide for the purity of the worship of which it is the centre. The pollutions of former times had been largely introduced by the princes, and by the Levites and priests; and these classes are therefore treated of in this chapter. Only three verses are here given to the prince, since he is to be spoken of at greater length hereafter, and the rest of the chapter is occupied with directions as to the exclusion of strangers, and the duties of the Levites and priests.

(1) The gate of the outward sanctuary.—This is better rendered, the outer gate of the sanctuary. The prophet had been in the inner court, or court of the priests, where the altar stood, and is now brought back to the eastern gate of the outer court. He finds it shut, as it was ordinarily to remain; but with the exceptions mentioned in Ezekiel 44:3, and in Ezekiel 46

Ezekiel 44:1-2. Then he brought me back, &c. — From the altar to the gate belonging to the court of the priests, and leading to the outward court of the temple. All the courts were reckoned holy ground, and called sometimes by the name of the temple. And it was shut — After that the glory of the Lord had entered that way. Then saith the Lord, This gate shall be shut — Shall be generally kept shut; no man shall enter in by it — None of the common people: see chap. Ezekiel 46:1. Because the Lord hath entered in by it — Namely, that glory which was the visible sign of God’s presence. This order was given, both to perpetuate the remembrance of the solemn entrance of the glory of the Lord into the house, and also to possess the minds of the people with a deep reverence for the Divine Majesty, and with very awful thoughts of his transcendent glory; which was also designed in God’s charge to Moses at the bush, Put off thy shoe from off thy foot.

44:1-31 This chapter contains ordinances relative to the true priests. The prince evidently means Christ, and the words in ver. 2, may remind us that no other can enter heaven, the true sanctuary, as Christ did; namely, by virtue of his own excellency, and his personal holiness, righteousness, and strength. He who is the Brightness of Jehovah's glory entered by his own holiness; but that way is shut to the whole human race, and we all must enter as sinners, by faith in his blood, and by the power of his grace.Outward sanctuary - The court of the priests, as distinguished from the temple itself. This gate was reserved for the prince, to whom it was opened on certain days. Only a prince of the house of David might sit down in the priests' court (compare Ezekiel 46:1-2). CHAPTER 44

Eze 44:1-31. Ordinances for the Prince and the Priests.The east gate assigned only to the prince, Ezekiel 44:1-3. The people reproved for steering strangers to pollute the sanctuary, Ezekiel 44:4-8. Idolaters declared incapable of the priest’s office, Ezekiel 44:9-14. The sons of Zadok are accepted thereto, Ezekiel 44:15,16. Ordinances for the priests, Ezekiel 44:17-31.

Then; when the altar was measured, and directions given for consecrating it at first, and for the perpetual use of it for future.

Back; from the inner court, where be had been viewing the altar, to the outer part of the same court, and to the east gate thereof: others say it was to the templegate eastward and that the temple is called

outward sanctuary, in respect of the holy of holies.

It was shut; when, or by whom, the prophet says not, but he found it shut.

Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary,.... The prophet was brought by his divine guide, from the altar of burnt offerings, which stood before the house, where he had given him the dimensions of it, and the ordinances concerning it, to the temple or holy place, called the outward sanctuary, in distinction from the inward sanctuary, or holy of holies; and to one of the gates of it, which was a gate of the inner court:

and which looketh toward the east: the eastern gate, and was the same he had been at before, and therefore is said to be brought back the way of it; see Ezekiel 43:1,

and it was shut; when he was there before, it was open; for he saw the glory of the Lord enter into the house by the way of it; but now it was shut, and for that reason, because he had entered into it; signifying, among other things, that he would never return, or remove from thence any more. The Misnic doctors (d) interpret this of one of the little doors to the great gate of the temple, that had two little doors, one in the north, the other in the south; that which was in the south no man ever entered in by, and this they say is understood here; but it is not a little door, but a gate here spoken of, and that the eastern one; of which more in the following verses.

(d) Misna Middot, c. 4. sect. 2.

Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut.
Verses 1-3. - The relation of the prince to the sanctuary. Verse 1. - The gate of the outward sanctuary, the outer gate of the sanctuary (Revised Version) - which looketh toward the east. To this door the prophet was conducted back, by way of the inner north or south gate, from the inner court, in which he had received the measurements of the altar and the instructions for its consecration (Ezekiel 43:5). Whether Ezekiel stood upon the outside of this door as in Ezekiel 43:1, or upon its inside, cannot as yet be determined; but in either ease he observed that it was shut - again, whether on the east side towards the temple precincts, or on the west towards the outer court, is not mentioned, and cannot at this stage be decided. What led the seer to notice that the gate was closed was probably the circumstance that the last time he stood beside it it was open (Ezekiel 43:1), though proof cannot be given that he passed through it (Ezekiel 43:5), conjoined with the fact that it formed the principal entrance to the temple, and as such had been described to him and measured (Ezekiel 40:6). Ezekiel 44:1The Place of the Prince in the Sanctuary. - Ezekiel 44:1. And he brought me back by the way to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which looked toward the east; and it was shut. Ezekiel 44:2. And Jehovah said to me, This gate shall be shut, shall not be opened, and no one shall enter thereby; because Jehovah, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall be shut. Ezekiel 44:3. As for the prince, as prince he shall sit therein, to eat bread before Jehovah; from the way to the porch of the gate shall he go in, and from its way shall he go out. - From the inner court where Ezekiel had received the measurements of the altar of burnt-offering and the instructions concerning its consecration (Ezekiel 43:5.), he is taken back to the east gate of the outer court, and finds this gate, which formed the principle entrance to the temple, closed. Jehovah explains this fact to him through the angel (ויּאמר is to be understood according to Ezekiel 43:6 and Ezekiel 43:7) thus: "this gate is to be shut, because Jehovah, the God of Israel, has entered into the temple thereby," as we have already learned from Ezekiel 43:2. Only the prince, as prince, was allowed to sit in it for the purpose of holding sacrificial meals there. So far the meaning of the words is clear and indisputable. For there can be no doubt whatever that Ezekiel 44:3 introduces a more precise statement concerning the closing of the gate; in other words, that the right of sitting in the gate to eat bread before Jehovah, which is conceded to the priest, is intended as an explanation, resp. modification and limitation, of the statement והיה (Ezekiel 44:2). On the other hand, the more precise definition of the prerogative granted to the prince in Ezekiel 44:3 is not quite clear, and therefore open to dispute. Such a prerogative is already indicated in the prominence expressly given to the prince, consisting partly in the fact that את־הנּשׂיא is written first in an absolute form, and partly in the expression נשׂיא הוּא, which is repeated in the form of a circumstantial clause, "prince is he," equivalent to "because he is prince, he is to sit there." נשׂיא is neither the high priest, as many of the older commentators supposed, nor a collective term for the civil authorities of the people of Israel in the Messianic times (Hvernick), but the David who will be prince in Israel at that time, according to Ezekiel 34:23-24, and Ezekiel 37:24. "To eat bread before Jehovah" signifies to hold a sacrificial meal at the place of the divine presence, i.e., in the temple court, and is not to be restricted, as Kliefoth supposes, to that sacrificial meal "which was held after and along with the bloodless sacrifices, viz., the minchoth, and the shew-breads, and the sweet loaves of the Passover." There is no authority in the usage of the language for this literal interpretation of the expression "to eat bread," for אכל לחם means in general to partake of a meal, compare Genesis 31:54, etc., and especially Exodus 18:12, where Jethro "eats bread before God" with Aaron and the elders of Israel, that is to say, joins in a sacrificial meal composed of זבחים or slain-offerings. According to this view, which is the only one supported by usage, the prerogative secured to the נשׂיא of the future is not "that of participating in the sacrificial meals (of the priests), which were to be held daily with the minchoth and shew-bread, in opposition to the law which prevailed before" (Kliefoth), but simply that of holding his sacrificial meals in the gate, i.e., in the porch of the gate, whereas the people were only allowed to hold them in the court, namely, in the vicinity of the sacrificial kitchens.

There is also a difference of opinion concerning the meaning of the second statement in Ezekiel 44:3 : "from the way of the porch of the gate shall he enter in, and thence shall he go out." The suffix in מדּרכּו can only refer to אוּלם, "from the way from which he came (entered), from this way shall he go out again." Hitzig follows the Rabbins, who understand the passage thus: "as the gate is to remain shut, he must go by the way to the porch which is directed inwardly, toward the court (Ezekiel 40:9). He must have gone into the outer court through the north or the south gate, and by the way by which he came he also went back again." But Kliefoth argues, in objection to this, that "if the prince was to eat the bread in the porch, the entrance through the south or the north gate would be of no use to him at all; as the gate which could be shut was at that door of the porch which was turned toward the outer court." Moreover, he affirms that it is not at all the meaning of the text that he was to eat the bread in the porch, but that he was to eat it in the gate-building, and he was to come thither מדּרך אוּלם השּׁער, i.e., "from the place which served as a way to the gate porch, that is to say, the walk from the eastern entrance of the gate-building to the front of the porch, and from that was he to go out again." The prince, therefore, was "to go into the gate-building as far as the front of the porch through the eastern entrance, there to eat his bread before Jehovah, and to come out again from thence, so that the gate at the western side of the gate porch still remained shut." But we cannot regard either of these views as correct. There is no firm foundation in the text for Kliefoth's assertion, that he was not to eat the bread in the porch, but in the gate-building. It is true that the porch is not expressly mentioned as the place where the eating was to take place, but simply the gate (בּו); yet the porch belonged to the gate as an integral part of the gate-building; and if דּרך אוּלם is the way to the porch, or the way leading to the porch, the words, "by the way to the porch shall he enter in," imply clearly enough that he was to go into the porch and to eat bread there. This is also demanded by the circumstance, as the meaning of the words cannot possibly be that the prince was to hold his sacrificial meal upon the threshold of the gate, or in one of the guard-rooms, or in the middle of the gateway; and apart from the porch, there were no other places in the gate-building than those we have named. And again, the statement that the gate on the western side of the gate porch was to be shut, and not that against the eastern wall, is also destitute of proof, as דּרך אוּלם, the way to the porch, is not equivalent to the way "up to the front of the porch." And if the prince was to hold the sacrificial meal behind the inner gate, which was closed, how was the food when it was prepared to be carried into the gate-building? Through a door of one of the guard-rooms? Such a supposition is hardly reconcilable with the significance of a holy sacrificial meal. In fact, it is a question whether eating in the gate-building with the inner door closed, so that it was not even possible to look toward the sanctuary, in which Jehovah was enthroned, could be called eating לפני.

Hitzig's explanation of the words is not exposed to any of these difficulties, but it is beset by others. At the outset it is chargeable with improbability, as it is impossible to see any just ground why the prince, if he was to hold the sacrificial meal in the porch of the east gate, should not have been allowed to enter through this gate, but was obliged to take the circuitous route through the south or the north gate. Again, it is irreconcilable with the analogous statements in Ezekiel 46. According to Ezekiel 46:1., the east gate of the inner court was to be shut, namely, during the six working days; but on the Sabbath and on the new moon it was to be opened. Then the prince was to come by the way of the gate porch from without, and during the preparation of his sacrifice by the priests to stand upon the threshold of the gate and worship. This same thing was to take place when the prince desired to offer a freewill offering on any of the week-days. The east gate was to be opened for him to this end; but after the conclusion of the offering of sacrifice it was to be closed again, whereas on the Sabbaths and new moons it was to stand open till the evening (Ezekiel 46:12 compared with Ezekiel 44:2). It is still further enjoined, that when offering these sacrifices the prince is to enter by the way of the gate porch, and to go out again by the same way (Ezekiel 44:2 and Ezekiel 44:8); whereas on the feast days, on which the people appear before Jehovah, every one who comes, the priest along with the rest, is to go in and out through the north or the south gate (Ezekiel 44:9 and Ezekiel 44:10). If, therefore, on the feast days, when the people appeared before Jehovah, the prince was to go into the temple in the midst of the people through the north or the south gate to worship, whereas on the Sabbaths and new moons, on which the people were not required to appear before the Lord, so that the prince alone had to bring the offerings for himself and the people, he was to enter by the way of the porch of the east gate, and to go out again by the same, and during the ceremony of offering the sacrifice was to stand upon the threshold of the inner east gate, it is obvious that the going in and out by the way of the porch of the gate was to take place by a different way from that through the north or the south gate. This other way could only be through the east gate, as no fourth gate existed. - The conclusion to which this brings us, so far as the passage before us is concerned, is that the shutting of the east gate of the outer court was to be the rule, but that there were certain exceptions which are not fully explained till Ezekiel 46, though they are hinted at in the chapter before us in the directions given there, that the prince was to hold the sacrificial meal in this gate. - The outer east gate, which was probably the one chiefly used by the people when appearing before the Lord in the earlier temple, both for going in and coming out, is to be shut in the new temple, and not to be made use of by the people for either entrance or exit, because the glory of the Lord entered into the temple thereby. This reason is of course not to be understood in the way suggested by the Rabbins, namely, that the departure of the Shechinah from the temple was to be prevented by the closing of the gate; but the thought is this: because this gateway had been rendered holy through the entrance of the Shechinah into the temple thereby, it was not to remain open to the people, so as to be desecrated, but was to be kept perpetually holy. This keeping holy was not prejudiced in any way by the fact that the prince held the sacrificial meal in the gate, and also entered the court through this gateway for the purpose of offering his sacrifice, which was made ready by the priests before the inner gate, and then was present at the offering of the sacrifice upon the altar, standing upon the threshold of the inner gate-building. דּרך אוּלם is therefore the way which led from the outer flight of steps across the threshold past the guard-rooms to the gate porch at the inner end of the gate-building. By this way the priest was to go into the gate opened for him, and hold the sacrificial meal therein, namely, in the porch of this gate. That the offering of the sacrifice necessarily preceded the meal is assumed as self-evident, and the law of sacrifice in Ezekiel 46 first prescribes the manner in which the prince was to behave when offering the sacrifice, and how near to the altar he was to be allowed to go.

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