A Better Temple- Ezekiel 40:1-42:20

Take a moment to pray.  Ask God to speak to you through his word—for his Spirit to convict you of sin, teach you the truth, and lead you in walking by faith.

Setting the Scene

Ezekiel’s fourth vision is the culmination of his prophetic work.  In it he sees a renewed temple and land to which the renewed people of Israel will return.  If you love tape measures or remodeling this is the passage for you—it’s full of precise measurements!

We’re going to tackle this vision in 6 pieces.  The first piece is Ezekiel’s description of the new temple.  What’s important to note here is the date of the vision.  God gave Ezekiel this vision in 573 BC, about 14 years after the temple had been destroyed and 25 years after the exile started.  So this vision was given to people who hadn’t seen the land, or the Tempe, in a long time.

Before you get started reading, here’s a tip: don’t read too slowly.  There are a lot of numbers here, but the point of the vision is to get the total picture.  You are about read a detailed description of a building and it’s surroundings.  If you’re an architect, this part of the Bible is especially for you.  I’ll give you a few highlights along the way, but for the most part just try to get the bird’s eye view.

What hope did Israel have they would return the land God had promised them?  What hope did Israel have of dwelling with God as they had in the past?  What does this have to do with us?  Let’s find out…

Ezekiel 40:1-42:20

Ezek. 40:1  In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month in the fourteenth year after Jerusalem had been captured, on that very day the LORD’s hand was on me, and he brought me there.

Note that Ezekiel references both the exile and the capture of Jerusalem.  The capture of Jerusalem is a reference to the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  As far as they knew, the temple was a pile of ash and rubble.  God gave Ezekiel a vision of a better temple.

2 In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me down on a very high mountain. On its southern slope was a structure resembling a city. 3 He brought me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze, with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. He was standing by the city gate. 4 He spoke to me: “Son of man, look with your eyes, listen with your ears, and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for you have been brought here so that I might show it to you. Report everything you see to the house of Israel.”

Ezek. 40:5 Now there was a wall surrounding the outside of the temple. The measuring rod in the man’s hand was six units of twenty-one inches; each unit was the standard length plus three inches. He measured the thickness of the wall structure; it was 10⁄2 feet, and its height was the same. 6 Then he came to the gate that faced east and climbed its steps. He measured the threshold of the gate; it was 10⁄2 feet deep—one threshold was 10⁄2 feet deep. 7 Each recess was 10⁄2 feet long and 10⁄2 feet deep, and there was a space of 8⁄4 feet between the recesses. The inner threshold of the gate on the temple side next to the gate’s portico was 10⁄2 feet. 8 Next he measured the gate’s portico; 9 it was 14 feet, and its jambs were 3⁄2 feet. The gate’s portico was on the temple side.

Ezek. 40:10 There were three recesses on each side of the east gate, each with the same measurements, and the jambs on either side also had the same measurements. 11 Then he measured the width of the gate’s entrance; it was 17⁄2 feet, while the width of the gate was 22⁄4 feet. 12 There was a barrier of 21 inches in front of the recesses on both sides, and the recesses on each side were 10⁄2 feet square. 13 Then he measured the gate from the roof of one recess to the roof of the opposite one; the distance was 43⁄4 feet. The openings of the recesses faced each other. 14 Next, he measured the porch—105 feet. 15 The distance from the front of the gate at the entrance to the front of the gate’s portico on the inside was 87⁄2 feet. 16 The recesses and their jambs had beveled windows all around the inside of the gate. The porticoes also had windows all around on the inside. Each jamb was decorated with palm trees.

Ezek. 40:17 Then he brought me into the outer court, and there were chambers and a paved surface laid out all around the court. Thirty chambers faced the pavement, 18 which flanked the courtyard’s gates and corresponded to the length of the gates; this was the lower pavement. 19 Then he measured the distance from the front of the lower gate to the exterior front of the inner court; it was 175 feet. This was the east; next the north is described.

Ezek. 40:20 He measured the gate of the outer court facing north, both its length and width. 21 Its three recesses on each side, its jambs, and its portico had the same measurements as the first gate: 87⁄2 feet long and 43⁄4 feet wide. 22 Its windows, portico, and palm trees had the same measurements as those of the gate that faced east. Seven steps led up to the gate, and its portico was ahead of them. 23 The inner court had a gate facing the north gate, like the one on the east. He measured the distance from gate to gate; it was 175 feet. 

Ezek. 40:24 He brought me to the south side, and there was also a gate on the south. He measured its jambs and portico; they had the same measurements as the others. 25 Both the gate and its portico had windows all around, like the other windows. It was 87⁄2 feet long and 43⁄4 feet wide. 26 Its stairway had seven steps, and its portico was ahead of them. It had palm trees on its jambs, one on each side. 27 The inner court had a gate on the south. He measured from gate to gate on the south; it was 175 feet.

Ezek. 40:28 Then he brought me to the inner court through the south gate. When he measured the south gate, it had the same measurements as the others. 29 Its recesses, jambs, and portico had the same measurements as the others. Both it and its portico had windows all around. It was 87⁄2 feet long and 43⁄4 feet wide. 30 (There were porticoes all around, 43⁄4 feet long and 8⁄4 feet wide.) 31 Its portico faced the outer court, and its jambs were decorated with palm trees. Its stairway had eight steps.

Ezek. 40:32 Then he brought me to the inner court on the east side. When he measured the gate, it had the same measurements as the others. 33 Its recesses, jambs, and portico had the same measurements as the others. Both it and its portico had windows all around. It was 87⁄2 feet long and 43⁄4 feet wide. 34 Its portico faced the outer court, and its jambs were decorated with palm trees on each side. Its stairway had eight steps.

Ezek. 40:35 Then he brought me to the north gate. When he measured it, it had the same measurements as the others, 36 as did its recesses, jambs, and portico. It also had windows all around. It was 87⁄2 feet long and 43⁄4 feet wide. 37 Its portico faced the outer court, and its jambs were decorated with palm trees on each side. Its stairway had eight steps.

Ezek. 40:38 There was a chamber whose door opened into the gate’s portico. The burnt offering was to be washed there. 39 Inside the gate’s portico there were two tables on each side, on which to slaughter the burnt offering, sin offering, and guilt offering. 40 Outside, as one approaches the entrance of the north gate, there were two tables on one side and two more tables on the other side of the gate’s portico. 41 So there were four tables inside the gate and four outside, eight tables in all on which the slaughtering was to be done. 42 There were also four tables of cut stone for the burnt offering, each 31⁄2 inches long, 31⁄2 inches wide, and 21 inches high. The utensils used to slaughter the burnt offerings and other sacrifices were placed on them. 43 There were three-inch hooks fastened all around the inside of the room, and the flesh of the offering was to be laid on the tables.

Ezek. 40:44 Outside the inner gate, within the inner court, there were chambers for the singers: one beside the north gate, facing south, and another beside the south gate, facing north. 45 Then the man said to me: “This chamber that faces south is for the priests who keep charge of the temple. 46 The chamber that faces north is for the priests who keep charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, the ones from the sons of Levi who may approach the LORD to serve him.” 47 Next he measured the court. It was square, 175 feet long and 175 feet wide. The altar was in front of the temple. 

Ezek. 40:48 Then he brought me to the portico of the temple and measured the jambs of the portico; they were 8⁄4 feet thick on each side. The width of the gate was 24⁄2 feet, and the side walls of the gate were 5⁄4 feet wide on each side. 49 The portico was 35 feet across and 21 feet deep, and 10 steps led up to it. There were pillars by the jambs, one on each side.

Ezek. 41:1 Next he brought me into the great hall and measured the jambs; on each side the width of the jamb was 10⁄2 feet. 2 The width of the entrance was 17⁄2 feet, and the side walls of the entrance were 8⁄4 feet wide on each side. He also measured the length of the great hall, 70 feet, and the width, 35 feet. 3 He went inside the next room and measured the jambs at the entrance; they were 3⁄2 feet wide. The entrance was 10⁄2 feet wide, and the width of the entrance’s side walls on each side was 12⁄4 feet. 4 He then measured the length of the room adjacent to the great hall, 35 feet, and the width, 35 feet. And he said to me, “This is the most holy place.”

Take a moment here to pause.  The most holy place is the throne room of God.  The ark of covenant was kept there, with the two angels (cherubim) on top pictured as covering the Lord’s feet.  Don’t forget the emotional impact of Ezekiel’s second vision where the glory and presence of the Lord departed from the temple.  This throne room is the most holy place because the Lord is there.

Ezek. 41:5 Then he measured the wall of the temple; it was 10⁄2 feet thick. The width of the side rooms all around the temple was 7 feet. 6 The side rooms were arranged one above another in three stories of thirty rooms each. There were ledges on the wall of the temple all around to serve as supports for the side rooms, so that the supports would not be in the temple wall itself. 7 The side rooms surrounding the temple widened at each successive story, for the structure surrounding the temple went up by stages. This was the reason for the temple’s broadness as it rose. And so, one would go up from the lowest story to the highest by means of the middle one.

/Ezek. 41:8 I saw that the temple had a raised platform surrounding it; this foundation for the side rooms was 10⁄2 feet high. 9 The thickness of the outer wall of the side rooms was 8⁄4 feet. The free space between the side rooms of the temple 10 and the outer chambers was 35 feet wide all around the temple. 11 The side rooms opened into the free space, one entrance toward the north and another to the south. The area of free space was 8⁄4 feet wide all around./

Ezek. 41:12 Now the building that faced the temple yard toward the west was 122⁄2 feet wide. The wall of the building was 8⁄4 feet thick on all sides, and the building’s length was 157⁄2 feet.

Ezek. 41:13 Then the man measured the temple; it was 175 feet long. In addition, the temple yard and the building, including its walls, were 175 feet long. 14 The width of the front of the temple along with the temple yard to the east was 175 feet. 15 Next he measured the length of the building facing the temple yard to the west, with its galleries on each side; it was 175 feet.  

The interior of the great hall and the porticoes of the court—

 16 the thresholds, the beveled windows, and the balconies all around with their three levels opposite the threshold—were overlaid with wood on all sides. They were paneled from the ground to the windows (but the windows were covered), 17 reaching to the top of the entrance, and as far as the inner temple and on the outside. On every wall all around, on the inside and outside, was a pattern 18 carved with cherubim and palm trees. There was a palm tree between each pair of cherubim. Each cherub had two faces: 19 a human face turned toward the palm tree on one side, and a lion’s face turned toward it on the other. They were carved throughout the temple on all sides. 20 Cherubim and palm trees were carved from the ground to the top of the entrance and on the wall of the great hall.

Ezek. 41:21 The doorposts of the great hall were square, and the front of the sanctuary had the same appearance. 22 The altar was made of wood, 5⁄4 feet high and 3⁄2 feet long. It had corners, and its length and sides were of wood. The man told me, “This is the table that stands before the LORD.”

This table was for the grain sacrifices to the Lord.  What was placed on it was dedicated to the Lord, and as such was not for common use.  Here Ezekiel sees a temple capable of functioning the way it was designed to: God’s people living in dedication to him.

Ezek. 41:23 The great hall and the sanctuary each had a double door, 24 and each of the doors had two swinging panels. There were two panels for one door and two for the other. 25 Cherubim and palm trees were carved on the doors of the great hall like those carved on the walls. There was a wooden canopy outside, in front of the portico. 26 There were beveled windows and palm trees on both sides, on the side walls of the portico, the side rooms of the temple, and the canopies.

Ezek. 42:1 Then the man led me out by way of the north gate into the outer court. He brought me to the group of chambers opposite the temple yard and opposite the building to the north. 2 Along the length of the chambers, which was 175 feet, there was an entrance on the north; the width was 87⁄2 feet. 3 Opposite the 35 foot space belonging to the inner court and opposite the paved surface belonging to the outer court, the structure rose gallery by gallery in three tiers. 4 In front of the chambers was a walkway toward the inside, 17⁄2 feet wide and 175 feet long, and their entrances were on the north. 5 The upper chambers were narrower because the galleries took away more space from them than from the lower and middle stories of the building. 6 For they were arranged in three stories and had no pillars like the pillars of the courts; therefore the upper chambers were set back from the ground more than the lower and middle stories. 7 A wall on the outside ran in front of the chambers, parallel to them, toward the outer court; it was 87⁄2 feet long. 8 For the chambers on the outer court were 87⁄2 feet long, while those facing the great hall were 175 feet long. 9 At the base of these chambers there was an entryway on the east side as one enters them from the outer court.

Ezek. 42:10 In the thickness of the wall of the court toward the south, there were chambers facing the temple yard and the western building, 11 with a passageway in front of them, just like the chambers that faced north. Their length and width, as well as all their exits, measurements, and entrances, were identical. 12 The entrance at the beginning of the passageway, the way in front of the corresponding wall as one enters on the east side, was similar to the entrances of the chambers that were on the south side.

Ezek. 42:13 Then the man said to me, “The northern and southern chambers that face the courtyard are the holy chambers where the priests who approach the LORD will eat the most holy offerings. There they will deposit the most holy offerings—the grain offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings—for the place is holy. 14 Once the priests have entered, they are not to go out from the holy area to the outer court until they have removed the clothes they minister in, for these are holy. They are to put on other clothes before they approach the public area.”

Once again note the theme of holiness—sacrifices and priests are dedicated exclusively to the Lord, facilitating the worship of the people.  The people will consciously choose to make God their first priority.  Their sin will be atoned for.  They will be able to fellowship with God because sacrifice has been made on their behalf by the priests.  Even the priests’ clothes are holy, set apart for the Lord’s purposes.

Ezek. 42:15 When he finished measuring inside the temple complex, he led me out by way of the gate that faced east and measured all around the complex.

Ezek. 42:16 He measured the east side with a measuring rod; it was 875 feet by the measuring rod.   17 He measured the north side; it was 875 feet by the measuring rod.  18 He measured the south side; it was 875 feet by the measuring rod.  19 Then he turned to the west side and measured 875 feet by the measuring rod.

Ezek. 42:20 He measured the temple complex on all four sides. It had a wall all around it, 875 feet long and 875 feet wide, to separate the holy from the common.

The Big Picture

This vision of a new temple pictures Israel’s hope of being reunited with God.  While some think Ezekiel sees a literal temple that will exist, that’s not usually how visions work.  In this case the prophet is given a vision of something that represents the future for God’s people, dwelling with him.  Note the detail with which God facilitates this relationship; he designed the temple complex, sacrificial system, and priesthood for this purpose.

During Jesus’ ministry he had some important things to say about the temple.  In the gospel of John, after he had cleansed the temple of currency exchangers and salesmen, the religious authorities questioned his authority to do so.  They asked for a sign confirming his authority.

Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days” (John 2:19).  He wasn’t talking about the building, but about his body.  His point was that he would replace the temple as the means by which God would dwell with his people.

Looking to the end of the New Testament, we read John’s vision of the New Jerusalem.  Curiously he doesn’t see Ezekiel’s temple, as might have expected.  In fact, he didn’t see any temple at all.  Note what he says in Revelation 21:22, “I did not see a temple in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

Jesus is the sacrifice.  Jesus is the great high priest.  Jesus makes it possible for us to enter the most holy place without fear.  Jesus is the better temple, and because of his work, his people will dwell with him forever.

Taking It Home

This future is made possible by God’s holiness.  His passionate dedication to his glory drive him to redeem sinners and make them holy.  In short, our hope to be at home with God is his holiness.

Ezekiel sees God making it possible for his people to dwell with him once again.  He designed the temple and sacrificial system for this purpose.  He set apart the priests for this purpose, and the whole setup—the building, the sacrifices, the priesthood—they all point to Jesus.

Consider for a moment that every aspect of God’s character is exclusively dedicated to his purposes.  If he were human, that would be selfishness to the max!  But he is not human, and in his perfections his glory is put on display by redeeming the church.

Don’t miss it.  Not only does God want you to dwell with him forever, but he has done the work to make that possible.  The temple imagery clearly points out the people are sinful.  We need sacrifices made for our wrongs.  This is exactly what God provides for us in Jesus.

In the New Jerusalem there is no temple, because the whole city is a temple, dedicated to the glory of God who made it.

Pray

  • Take a few moments to praise God for his work in saving sinners through the sacrificial death of Jesus.
  • Consider any sinful attitudes, words, or actions in your life.  Confess them to the Lord.
  • Praise Jesus for being our great high priest, and for making the once for all sacrifice that enables us to dwell with him.

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