William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east:Ezekiel Chapter 43
An incomparably more august sight now opens for the prophet. The Shechinah of Jehovah displays itself, returning to dwell in the midst of His people.
"And he brought me to the gate, the gate that faceth the east. And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east, and his voice [was] as the sound of many waters, and the earth shined with his glory. And [it was] according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city; and the visions [were] like the visions that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of Jehovah came into the house by the way of the gate whose aspect [is] toward the east. And the Spirit took me up and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of Jehovah filled the house." (Ver. 1-5)
The force of this is clear enough, if men were but simple. It is the sign of God's return to Israel whom He had left ever since the carrying of the Jews to Babylon. But the return from Babylon in no way satisfies the prophecy; nor yet even the mission of the Messiah. He Himself lets us know, as we learn from elsewhere also, that the seasons of Gentile supremacy were then, as they are still, in progress. Jerusalem is trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. The Son of man at His appearing will gather Israel again and judge all the nations. Jehovah will then govern the earth with Jerusalem as His earthly centre. Of this the return of the Shechinah is the symbol. When it left, the Jews ceased to be the recognized people of Jehovah; when they are taken up again under Messiah and the new covenant, the glory comes back. No mistake can be greater than the idea that this vision applies to the first advent of Christ in humiliation when the Jews rejected and crucified Him. The prophecy requires us to believe that the glory will be actually restored; but it was not, when the Jews returned by Cyrus' proclamation, any more than when the Lord Jesus was here; it will be, when He returns to reign. Theocracy will then be established and flourish as long as the earth endures; for it will rest on Christ, not on the first man with all his failures under law. With grace as its foundation, "glory will dwell in the land," and this henceforth immutably. Then and not before shall the creature rejoice. Meanwhile it groans, but in hope, for all of it shall be delivered; and Christ is the sole deliverer at His coming in power and glory. The Spirit now works in testimony.
"And I heard [him] speaking to me from the house, and a man was standing by me. And he said to me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever; and the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, they nor their kings, by their whoredom, and by the carcases of their kings in their sepulchres;* while they set their threshold beside my threshold, and their doorpost beside my doorpost, and the wall between me and them, they even defiled my holy name with their abominations which they committed, so that I consumed them in mine anger. Now let them remove their whoredom and the carcases of their kings far from me; and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever." (Ver. 6-9)
*Or, "on their death." "When they are dead." would seem to be the force of Soncin. edition, which is supported by more than a dozen of De Rossi's MSS.
There was a dwelling of God in the midst of Israel of old, after He had wrought redemption for them and brought them out of the land of Egypt. At once they sung His praise when delivered from the house of bondage. "Thou leadest forth thy people whom thou hast redeemed; thou guidedst it in thy strength unto the habitation of thy holiness .... Thou wilt bring them and plant them on the mountain of thine inheritance, the place, O Jehovah, which thou hast wrought for thy dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, thy hands have established." (Exodus 15:13; Exo 15:17) But there was more than anticipation; for He adds (Exodus 29:45-46) "I will dwell among the children of Israel, and I will be their God, and they shall know that I am Jehovah their God that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt that I may dwell among them." The temple was the same thing in substance; only it was suited to the established state of Israel in the land, not the tabernacle which wandered with the Israelites up and down the wilderness. But in either case, as this was but an external redemption, so His dwelling was of an outer sort and contingent on their fidelity to Him as witnesses of the one true God and placed under the responsibility of His law. The result was, as it must always be for the first man, ruin.
Afterwards in due time came the Lord Jesus, the Son of man, the true temple of God, and this in His case alone without blood, for He only was without sin, the Holy One of God. Alas! He was refused, and all the hopes of Israel and man after the flesh were buried in His grave. But the grace of God wrought redemption by Him crucified; and a new dwelling for God was formed in those who confessed His name, whether Jews or Gentiles, builded together for a habitation of God by the Spirit. It is the church and it goes on still, whatever be the ruined state of this holy temple.
That however of which Ezekiel speaks is none of these things, but the dwelling which Jehovah will make for Himself "in the land of the children of Israel for ever." Of this we hear much and often in the later Psalms, especially Psalm 132. As yet it is wholly unaccomplished. Why should it be thought an incredible thing that God should thus dwell in the midst of Israel here below? Doubtless He is now forming a body for heaven by virtue of redemption in Christ. But its worth will be unexhausted for the earth; and grace will work afresh in power for Israel and the nations, as now for the church, that all the universe may know the virtues of Christ's blood, and behold the glory of God to the blessing of the once sick and weary creation delivered from its long and otherwise hopeless thraldom. Moral evil and religious pravity shall vanish away. All will be to the praise of the only worthy One. The people who had so long wrought mischief in the earth will be ashamed of their defilements and rebellion against Jehovah, and be in that day the witness of His mercy yet more than they have been of His consuming anger.
So even then the prophet is commanded to set the house before Israel in its measured pattern, that they might feel of what their iniquity deprived them. Deeply will the vision act on them by-and-by.
"Thou, O son of man, tell the house of Israel of the house that they may be ashamed of their iniquities, and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, let them know the form of the house, and its arrangements, and the goings out of it, and the comings in of it, and all the forms of it, and all the laws of it; and write it in their sight, that they may observe all its forms and all its statutes and do them. This [is] the law of the house: on the summit of the mountain shall its whole limit round about be most holy. Behold, this [is] the law of the house." (Ver. 10-12) Far more than of old shall holiness reign in that day. Compare also Zechariah 14.
Next in order we have the measurement of the altar, and then its statutes for the offering of burnt-offerings and sprinkling of blood.
We have already seen that it is in vain to apply this description to the past return from Babylon. Much more evidence will follow in refutation of such a thought. The present chapter is evidence enough; there has been no return of the Shechinah. The Jews were then groaning under Gentile power. Since the destruction of the city by the Romans still less can it apply. Why then should men evade the only alternative? The fulfilment is future. Israel shall yet return to the land, and be converted indeed, and blessed, under Jehovah their God, but as Israel, not as Christians, which all believers do become meanwhile, whether Jews or Gentiles. They belong to Christ in heaven, where such differences are unknown, and therefore one of the great characteristics of Christianity is that such distinctions disappear while Christ is the head on high, and His body is being formed on earth by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. When Ezekiel's visions shall be accomplished, it will be the reign of Jehovah-Jesus on earth, and the distinction of Israel from the Gentiles will again be resumed, though for blessing under the new covenant, not as of old for curse under the law. Hence the total difference of what is found in the Epistle to the Hebrews as compared with this and other prophecies. There can be no doubt that that epistle applies now. There ought to be as little question that this prophecy will apply by-and-by. Those who make both converge upon the Christian destroy the force of both. The result is that one is half Jew, half Christian. And such is the prevalent aspect of Christendom, to the great dishonour of the Lord, the distress of souls, and the enfeebling of the word of God. No, we must give each scripture its own proper value, and, while cleaving as Christians to the doctrine of that epistle for ourselves, let us rejoice in the prophet's bright anticipations for Israel. The heavenly people rest upon the one sacrifice, and draw near into the holiest of all, where Christ is at the right hand of God. But the earthly people will have a sanctuary as well as land suited to them, and such are all the ordinances of their worship.
"And these [are] the measure of the altar in cubits: The cubit [is] a cubit and a handbreadth, and the bottom a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and its border on its edge round about a span: this [shall be] the outside of the altar. And from the bottom [on] the ground to the lower projection two cubits, and the breadth one cubit; and from the lesser projection to the greater projection four cubits, and the breadth a cubit, and the hearth" (literally Ariel, or lion of God) "four cubits; and from the hearth and upwards four horns; and the hearth twelve [cubits] long, twelve broad, square on its four sides; and the projection fourteen [cubits] long, and fourteen broad, on its four sides; and the border round about it half a cubit, and its bottom a cubit round about. lend its steps shall look toward the east." (Vers. 13-17)
Next follows the use to which it was to be applied. "And he said to me, Son of man, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: These [are] the ordinances of the altar on the day when it shall be finished, to offer burnt-offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon. And thou shalt give to the priests, the Levites, who are of the seed of Zadok, who approach to me, saith the Lord Jehovah, to minister unto me, a young bullock for a sin-offering. And thou shalt take of his blood, and put it on its four horns, and on the four corners of its projection, and upon the border round about. And thou shalt cleanse it, and make an atonement for it. And thou shalt take the bullock for a sin-offering, and one shall burn him at an appointed place of the house outside the sanctuary. And on the second day thou shalt offer an he-goat, without blemish, for a sin-offering. And they shall cleanse the altar as they cleansed it for the bullock. When thou hast made an end of cleansing it, thou shalt offer a young bullock without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish, and thou shalt bring them near before Jehovah, and the priest shall throw salt upon them, and they shall offer them up a burnt-offering unto Jehovah. Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin-offering. They shall also prepare a young bullock, and a ram out of the flock, without blemish. Seven days shall they atone for the altar, and purify it. And they shall consecrate it. And when these days are expired, it shall be on the eighth day and forward, the priests shall prepare upon the altar your burnt-offerings, and your peace-offerings, and I will accept you, saith the Lord Jehovah." (Vers. 18-27)
This is decisive. Not only do we hear of the priests, but of these as Levites; nor this only, but of the seed of Zadok, intrusted with the duties of the altar. Sin-offerings, burnt-offerings, thank-offerings, all follow in due order. It is the renewal of sacrifice when the earth and Israel come under the reign of Messiah, displayed in glory, and governing in righteousness and peace. It is the apostasy, the Judaizing, of ritualism, which seeks to introduce the sacrificial system now that we are called to act in faith of the one offering of Christ accepted in heaven. But we ought not to close our eyes to the revelation of this future day for the earth, when God sanctions priest and people, sacrifice and altar, for Israel. If we cannot adjust the differences, we are bound at least to submit to the scriptures, which are unanswerably plain in their import, both as to ourselves now, and as to Israel by-and-by. Simplicity of subjection to Christ and His word is the secret of all intelligence that has price in the eyes of God.
And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.
And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.
And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east.
So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.
And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.
And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.
In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.
Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.
Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern.
And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.
This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.
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.
And from the bottom upon the ground even to the lower settle shall be two cubits, and the breadth one cubit; and from the lesser settle even to the greater settle shall be four cubits, and the breadth one cubit.
So the altar shall be four cubits; and from the altar and upward shall be four horns.
And the altar shall be twelve cubits long, twelve broad, square in the four squares thereof.
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.
And he said unto me, Son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD; These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it, to offer burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon.
And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord GOD, a young bullock for a sin offering.
And thou shalt take of the blood thereof, and put it on the four horns of it, and on the four corners of the settle, and upon the border round about: thus shalt thou cleanse and purge it.
Thou shalt take the bullock also of the sin offering, and he shall burn it in the appointed place of the house, without the sanctuary.
And on the second day thou shalt offer a kid of the goats without blemish for a sin offering; and they shall cleanse the altar, as they did cleanse it with the bullock.
When thou hast made an end of cleansing it, thou shalt offer a young bullock without blemish, and a ram out of the flock without blemish.
And thou shalt offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering unto the LORD.
Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin offering: they shall also prepare a young bullock, and a ram out of the flock, without blemish.
Seven days shall they purge the altar and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.
And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.