And the gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel: three gates northward; one gate of Reuben, one gate of Judah, one gate of Levi.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ezekiel 48:31. And the gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel — It had twelve gates in all, three on each side, which was very proper, since it lay four-square; and these twelve gates were inscribed to the twelve tribes. Because the city was to be served out of all the tribes of Israel, Ezekiel 48:19, it was fit that each tribe should have its gate; and Levi being here taken in to keep to the number twelve, Ephraim and Manasseh are made one in Joseph. Conformable to this, in St. John’s vision, Revelation 21:12-13, the New Jerusalem (for so the holy city is called there, though not here) has twelve gates, three on a side, and on them are written the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. Observe, reader, into the church of Christ, whether militant or triumphant, there is a free access by faith for all that come, of every tribe, from every quarter. Christ has opened the kingdom of heaven for all believers. Whoever will may come, and take of the water of life, and of the tree of life, freely.Ezekiel 48:31. "Measures" (reeds) concern the sides. Divide the verses thus: Ezekiel 48:30. "And these are the goings out of the city. Ezekiel 48:31. On the north side 4500 measures: and the gates of the city after the names of the tribes of Israel: three gates northward etc." Revelation 21:12, this shows that all true Israelites indeed, Israel not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, have a right of entrance into, and communion with, the church of God; even the whole Israel of God, whom he has chosen for himself; Christ has redeemed by his blood, and the Spirit calls by his grace, and sanctifies; these are all, be they Jews or Gentiles, fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: these gates, though twelve, with respect to the twelve tribes that enter in at them, and the twelve apostles of the Lamb that direct unto them, and whose doctrine they embrace and profess that go in by them; yet are but one in the main, which is Christ, faith in him, and a profession of it, and a professed subjection to his Gospel and ordinances, John 10:1,
three gates northward; for those that lay on that side to enter in at:
one gate of Reuben, one gate of Judah, and one gate of Levi: these tribes, and so the rest, were not placed according to their encampment about the tabernacle in the wilderness, or as they were placed by Joshua in the land of Canaan; which shows that the tribes literally considered are not intended. Levi had a gate, though it had not a portion in the manner the other tribes had.And the gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel: three gates northward; one gate of Reuben, one gate of Judah, one gate of Levi.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)31. The measurement proceeds from W. to E. The gate Reuben was thus the westmost on the north of the city; Judah in the centre and Levi towards the east.Verses 31-34. - The gates of the city. These should be twelve in number, three on each side, and named after the twelve tribes (comp. Revelation 21:12). The gates leading northward should be those of Reuben, Judah, and Levi, all children of Leah (Genesis 29:32, 35), as Keil observes, "the firstborn in age, the firstborn by virtue of the patriarchal blessing, and the one chosen by Jehovah for his own service in the place of the firstborn." The same three occupy the first three places and in the same order in the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:6-8). Towards the east should lead the gates of Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan, the first and second sons of Rachel, and the third a son of Rachel's handmaid (Genesis 30:6, 24; Genesis 35:18). In the blessing of Moses Benjamin precedes Joseph (Deuteronomy 33:12, 13). The south gates receive the names of Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun, again all sons of Leah. The west gates are those of Gad, Asher, and Naphtali, that is, two sons of Leah's handmaid and one of Rachel's. It is observable that in the naming of the gates Levi resumes his place among the tribes, which necessitates the substitution of Joseph the original tribe-father instead of Ephraim and Manasseh his two sons. (On the phrase, one gate of Judah, literally, the gate of Judah one, see on ver. 1.) Ezekiel 44:4-8). - Ezekiel 44:4. And he brought me by the way of the north gate to the front of the house; and I looked, and behold the glory of Jehovah filled the house of Jehovah, and I fell down upon my face. Ezekiel 44:5. And Jehovah said to me, Son of man, direct thy heart and see with thine eyes and hear with thine ears all that I say to thee with regard to all the statutes of the house of Jehovah and all its laws, and direct thy heart to the entering into the house through all the exits of the house, Ezekiel 44:6. And say to the rebellious one, to the family of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Let it be sufficient for you, of all your abominations, O house of Israel, Ezekiel 44:7. In that ye brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to desecrate it, my house, when ye offered my food, fat and blood, and so they broke my covenant to all your abominations, Ezekiel 44:8. And so ye did not keep the charge of my holy things, but made them keepers of my charge for you in my sanctuary. - From the outer gate to which Ezekiel had been taken, simply that he might be instructed concerning the entering thereby, he is once more conducted, after this has been done, by the way of the north gate to the front of the temple house, to receive the further directions there for the performance of the worship of God in the new sanctuary. The question, whether we are to understand by the north gate that of the outer or that of the inner court, cannot be answered with certainty. Hitzig has decided in favour of the latter, Kliefoth in favour of the former. The place to which he is conducted is אל־פּני הבּית, ad faciem domus, before the temple house, so that he had it before his eyes, i.e., was able to see it. As the gateway of the inner court was eight steps, about four cubits, higher than the outer court gate, this was hardly possible if he stood at or within the latter. הבּית, i.e., the temple house, could only be distinctly seen from the inner north gate. And the remark that it is more natural to think of the outer north gate, because the next thing said to the prophet has reference to the question who is to go into and out of the sanctuary, has not much force, as the instructions do not refer to the going in and out alone, but chiefly to the charge of Jehovah, i.e., to the maintenance of divine worship.
At the fresh standing-place the glory of the Lord, which filled the temple, met the sight of the prophet again, so that he fell down and worshipped once more (cf. Ezekiel 43:3, Ezekiel 43:5). This remark is not intended "to indicate that now, after the preliminary observations in Ezekiel 43:13-44:3, the true thorah commences" (Kliefoth), but to show the unapproachable glory and holiness of the new temple. For Ezekiel 44:5, see Ezekiel 40:4; Ezekiel 43:11-12. In Ezekiel 44:6 אל־מרי is placed at the head in a substantive form for the sake of emphasis, and בּית־ישׂראל is appended in the form of an apposition. For the fact itself, see Ezekiel 2:8. רב־לּכם followed by מן, a sufficiency of anything, as in Exodus 9:28; 1 Kings 12:28, is equivalent to "there is enough for you to desist from it." The תּועבות, from which they are to desist, are more precisely defined in Ezekiel 44:6. They consisted in the fact that the Israelites admitted foreigners, heathen, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, into the sanctuary, to desecrate it during the offering of sacrifice. It is not expressly stated, indeed, that they admitted uncircumcised heathen to the offering of sacrifice, but this is implied in what is affirmed. The offering of sacrifice in the temple of Jehovah is not only permitted in the Mosaic law to foreigners living in Israel, but to some extent prescribed (Leviticus 17:10,Leviticus 17:12; Numbers 15:13.). It was only in the paschal meal that no 'בן was allowed to participate (Exodus 12:43). To do this, he must first of all be circumcised (v. 44). Solomon accordingly prays to the Lord in his temple-prayer that He will also hearken to the prayer of the foreigner, who may come from a distant land for the Lord's name sake to worship in His house (1 Kings 8:41.). The reproof in the verse before us is apparently at variance with this. Raschi would therefore understand by בּני־נכר, Israelites who had fallen into heathen idolatry. Rosenmller, on the other hand, is of opinion that the Israelites were blamed because they had accepted victimas et libamina from the heathen, and offered them in the temple, which had been prohibited in Leviticus 25:22. Hvernick understands by the sons of the foreigner, Levites who had become apostates from Jehovah, and were therefore placed by Ezekiel on a par with the idolatrous sons of the foreigner. And lastly, Hitzig imagines that they were foreign traders, who had been admitted within the sacred precincts as sellers of sacrificial animals, incense, and so forth. All these are alike arbitrary and erroneous. The apparent discrepancy vanishes, if we consider the more precise definition of בּני , viz., "uncircumcised in heart and flesh." Their being uncircumcised in heart is placed first, for the purpose of characterizing the foreigners as godless heathen, who ere destitute not only of the uncircumcision of their flesh, but also of that of the heart, i.e., of piety of heart, which Solomon mentions in his prayer as the motive for the coming of distant strangers to the temple. By the admission of such foreigners as these, who had no fear of God at all, into the temple during the sacrificial worship, Israel had defiled the sanctuary. את־בּיתי is in apposition to the suffix to חלּלו. The food of Jehovah (לחמי) is sacrifice, according to Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 21:6, etc., and is therefore explained by "fat and blood." ויּפרוּ, which the lxx changed in an arbitrary manner into the second person, refers to the "foreigners," the heathen. By their treading the temple in their ungodliness they broke the covenant of the Lord with His people, who allowed this desecration of His sanctuary. אל כּל־תּועבות, in addition to all your abominations. How grievous a sin was involved in this is stated in Ezekiel 44:8. The people of Israel, by their unrighteous admission of godless heathen into the temple, not only failed to show the proper reverence for the holy things of the Lord, but even made these heathen, so to speak, servants of God for themselves in His sanctuary. These last words are not to be understood literally, but spiritually. Allowing them to tread the temple is regarded as equivalent to appointing them to take charge of the worship in the temple. For שׁמר , see Leviticus 18:30; Leviticus 22:9, and the commentary on Leviticus 8:35.
The Lord would guard against such desecration of His sanctuary in the future. To this end the following precepts concerning the worship in the new temple are given. - Ezekiel 44:9. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, shall come into my sanctuary, of all the foreigners that are in the midst of the sons of Israel; Ezekiel 44:10. But even the Levites, who have gone away from me in the wandering of Israel, which wandered away from me after its idols, they shall bear their guilt. Ezekiel 44:11. They shall be servants in my sanctuary, as guards at the gates of the house and serving in the house; they shall slay the burnt-offering and the slain-offering for the people, and shall stand before it to serve them. Ezekiel 44:12. Because they served them before their idols, and became to the house of Israel a stumbling-block to guilt, therefore I have lifted my hand against them, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, that they should bear their guilt. Ezekiel 44:13. They shall not draw near to me to serve me as priests, and to draw near to all my holy things, to the most holy, but shall bear their disgrace and all their abominations which they have done. Ezekiel 44:14. And so will I make them guards of the charge of the house with regard to all its service, and to all that is performed therein. Ezekiel 44:15. But the priests of the tribe of Levi, the sons of Zadok, who have kept the charge of my sanctuary on the wandering of the sons of Israel from me, they shall draw near to me to serve me, and stand before me, offer to me fat and blood, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 44:16. They shall come into my sanctuary, and they draw near to my table to serve me, and shall keep my charge. - In order that all desecration may be kept at a distance from the new sanctuary, foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh are not to be admitted into it; and even of the Levites appointed for the service of the sanctuary according to the Mosaic law, all who took part in the falling away of the people into idolatry are to be excluded from investiture with the priests' office as a punishment for their departure from the Lord, and only to be allowed to perform subordinate duties in connection with the worship of God. On the other hand, the descendants of Zadok, who kept themselves free from all straying into idolatry, are to perform the specifically priestly service at the altar and in the sanctuary, and they alone. The meaning and design of the command, to shut out the foreigners uncircumcised in heart from all access to the sanctuary, are not that the intermediate position and class of foreigners living in Israel should henceforth be abolished (Kliefoth); for this would be at variance with Ezekiel 47:22 and Ezekiel 47:23, according to which the foreigners (גּרים) were to receive a possession of their own in the fresh distribution of the land, which not only presupposes their continuance within the congregation of Israel, but also secures it for the time to come. The meaning is rather this: No heathen uncircumcised in heart, i.e., estranged in life from God, shall have access to the altar in the new sanctuary. The emphasis of the prohibition lies here, as in Ezekiel 44:7, upon their being uncircumcised in heart; and the reason for the exclusion of foreigners consists not so much in the foreskin of the flesh as in the spiritual foreskin, so that not only the uncircumcised heathen, but also Israelites who were circumcised in flesh, were to keep at a distance from the sanctuary if they failed to possess circumcision of heart. The ל before כּל־בּן serves the purpose of comprehension, as in Genesis 9:10; Leviticus 11:42, etc. (compare Ewald, ֗310a). Not only are foreigners who are estranged from God to be prevented from coming into the sanctuary, but even the Levites, who fell into idolatry at the time of the apostasy of the Israelites, are to bear their guilt, i.e., are to be punished for it by exclusion from the rights of the priesthood. This is the connection between the tenth verse and the ninth, indicated by כּי אם, which derives its meaning, truly (imo), yea even, from this connection, as in Isaiah 33:21. הלויּם are not the Levites here as distinguished from the priests (Aaronites), but all the descendants of Levi, including the Aaronites chosen for the priests' office, to whom what is to be said concerning the Levites chiefly applied. The division of the Levites into such as are excluded from the service and office of priests (כּהן, Ezekiel 44:13) on account of their former straying into idolatry, and the sons of Zadok, who kept aloof from that wandering, and therefore are to be the only persons allowed to administer the priests' office for the future, shows very clearly that the threat "they shall bear their guilt" does not apply to the common Levites, but to the Levitical priests. They are to be degraded to the performance of the inferior duties in the temple and at divine worship. The guilt with which they are charged is that they forsook Jehovah when the people strayed into idolatry. Forsaking Jehovah involves both passive and active participation in idolatry (cf. Jeremiah 2:5). This wandering of the Israelites from Jehovah took place during the whole time that the tabernacle and Solomon's temple were in existence, though at different periods and with varying force and extent.
Bearing the guilt is more minutely defined in Ezekiel 44:11-13. The Levitical priests who have forsaken the Lord are to lose the dignity and rights of the priesthood; they are not, indeed, to be entirely deprived of the prerogative conferred upon the tribe of Levi by virtue of its election to the service of the sanctuary in the place of the first-born of the whole nation, but henceforth they are merely to be employed in the performance of the lower duties, as guards at the gates of the temple, and as servants of the people at the sacrificial worship, when they are to slaughter the animals for the people, which every one who offered sacrifice was also able to do for himself. Because they have already served the people before their idols, i.e., have helped them in their idolatry, they shall also serve the people in time to come in the worship of God, though not as priests, but simply in non-priestly occupations. The words 'המּה יעמדוּ are taken from Numbers 16:9, and the suffixes in לפּניהם and לשׁרתּם refer to עם. מכשׁול עון .עם ot ref, as in Ezekiel 7:19; Ezekiel 14:3; Ezekiel 18:30. נשׂא יד, not to raise the arm to smite, but to lift up the hand to swear, as in Ezekiel 20:5-6, etc. לגשׁת על כּל־קדשׁי, to draw near to all my holy things. קדשׁים are not the rooms in the sanctuary, but those portions of the sacrifices which were sacred to the Lord. They are not to touch these, i.e., neither to sprinkle blood nor to burn the portions of fat upon the altar, or perform anything connected therewith. This explanation is required by the apposition אל־קדשׁי הקּדשׁים, which (in the plural) does not mean the most holy place at the hinder part of the temple, but the most holy sacrificial gifts (cf. Ezekiel 42:13). נשׂא , as in Ezekiel 16:52. In Ezekiel 44:14 it is once more stated in a comprehensive manner in what the bearing of the guilt and shame was to consist: God would make them keepers of the temple with regard to the inferior acts of service. The general expression שׁמר משׁמרת הבּית, which signifies the temple service universally, receives its restriction to the inferior acts of service from 'לכל עבדתו וגו, which is used in Numbers 3:26; Numbers 4:23, Numbers 4:30,Numbers 4:32, Numbers 4:39, Numbers 4:47, for the heavy duties performed by the Merarites and Gershonites, in distinction from the עבדה of the Kohathites, which consisted in שׁמר משׁמרת הקּדשׁ (Numbers 3:28) and עשׂות מלאכה (Numbers 4:3). The priestly service at the altar and in the sanctuary, on the other hand, was to be performed by the sons of Zadok alone, because when the people went astray they kept the charge of the sanctuary, i.e., performed the duties of the priestly office with fidelity. Zadok was the son of Ahitub, of the line of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 5:34; 1 Chronicles 6:37-38), who remained faithful to King David at the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:24.), and also anointed Solomon as king in opposition to Adonijah the pretender (1 Kings 1:32.); whereas the high priest Abiathar, of the line of Ithamar, took part with Adonijah (1 Kings 1:7, 1 Kings 1:25), and was deposed from his office by Solomon in consequence, so that now the high-priesthood was in the sole possession of Zadok and his descendants (1 Kings 2:26-27, and 1 Kings 2:35). From this attitude of Zadok toward David, the prince given by the Lord to His people, it may be seen at once that he not only kept aloof from the wandering of the people, but offered a decided opposition thereto, and attended to his office in a manner that was well-pleasing to God. As he received the high-priesthood from Solomon in the place of Abiathar for this fidelity of his, so shall his descendants only be invested with the priestly office in the new temple. For the correct explanation of the words in these verses, however, we must pay particular regard to the clause, "who have kept the charge of my sanctuary." This implies, for example, that lineal descent from Zadok alone was not sufficient, but that fidelity in the service of the Lord must also be added as an indispensable requisite. In Ezekiel 44:15 and Ezekiel 44:16 the priestly service is described according to its principal functions at the altar of burnt-offering, and in the holy place at the altar of incense. שׁלחני is the altar of incense (see Ezekiel 41:22).
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