Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looks toward the east; and it was shut.…
The regulation prescribed in these verses is very remarkable, and is not free from difficulties. It appears that a peculiar sanctity attached to the eastern gate of the temple, owing to the fact that it was by this gate that the glory of the Lord entered, and by this same gate that the glory of the Lord had previously forsaken, the sacred precincts. To mark this sacredness, the gate was kept shut, and no one was permitted to pass through it, except the prince. He, as the head, the representative, the ruler, of Israel, was permitted to enter and to depart by this gate. And further, it was appointed that he should in this gateway eat bread - whether by this be meant the meat offering or the showbread. This was a priestly privilege, but it seems to have been shared by the prince, who, after the return from the Captivity, was not only the representative of the consecrated people, but also the representative of the premised Messiah. This singular prerogative suggests to our minds certain principles which have a special application to a religious community and state.
I. THE UNITY OF A RELIGIOUS AND CONSECRATED NATION IS PERSONIFIED IN A RELIGIOUS SOVEREIGN. David was not only the greatest of the Hebrew monarchs; he was the representative of the Hebrew monarchy and theocracy. In the prophets and in the later national religions literature, David appears as the ideal king, personifying the people of the covenant and foreshadowing the promised Messiah. And the" prince" of the people is, in this and other passages, regarded as the successor of the cherished son of Jesse. The prince is looked upon as worthy of his station, worthy of his illustrious and beloved predecessor. The true head of a great and religious people is that people's representative, not only before man, but before God.
II. THERE IS IMPLIED IN THIS PROVISION THE DIVINE ORIGIN AND CHARACTER OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY. There are some students of Scripture who find in the Word of God much relating to the authority of the Church, but who fail to remark the many assertions of the Divine authority of the state and of its officials and rulers. But it is very instructive for those in such a position to remark how, in this and similar passages, stress is laid upon the position and power of the prince. "The powers that be are ordained of God;" the state is as much Divine in its origin and sanction as is the Church. In the theocracy the monarch no doubt occupied a very special position. But religion certainly has for one of its functions the upholding of government as a Divine institution and of authority as a Divine principle. Independently of the form of government, and of the designation of the chief ruler of the state, it is for teachers of religion to follow the example of the scriptural writers in requiring justice from the governor and loyalty from the governed.
III. THE OBLIGATION IS APPARENT THAT THOSE IN AUTHORITY SHOULD CULTIVATE AND PRACTICE TRUE RELIGION. It is taken for granted by the prophet that the prince will appreciate and will use the prerogative here described. Nevertheless, it is probable that some who occupied the highest position in the nation were far from being truly devout and pious men. In every age and country men are found who come short of the ideal of their station. This, however, does not affect the fact that the occupation of a high position, the primacy of a great people, imposes upon a man a peculiar obligation to honor God, the Fountain of all authority and the Judge of every earthly sovereign. He who leads a people should lead them in the ways of righteousness and of piety. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut.