Ezekiel 41 – Measuring the New Temple
A. The temple in general.
1. (1-4) The dimensions of the sanctuary.
Then he brought me into the sanctuary and measured the doorposts, six cubits wide on one side and six cubits wide on the other side—the width of the tabernacle. The width of the entryway was ten cubits, and the side walls of the entrance were five cubits on this side and five cubits on the other side; and he measured its length, forty cubits, and its width, twenty cubits.
Also he went inside and measured the doorposts, two cubits; and the entrance, six cubits high; and the width of the entrance, seven cubits. He measured the length, twenty cubits; and the width, twenty cubits, beyond the sanctuary; and he said to me, “This is the Most Holy Place.”
a. Then he brought me into the sanctuary: Because Ezekiel was a priest himself, he could go into the sanctuary – the holy place – with his radiant guide. It was a real room with actual spatial dimensions.
b. He went inside: Ezekiel did not follow his radiant guide into the Most Holy Place. Ezekiel was a priest, but not the high priest, who alone had access into the holy of holies. Again, this was a real room with actual, measurable dimensions.
2. (5-11) The walls of the temple with their chambers.
Next, he measured the wall of the temple, six cubits. The width of each side chamber all around the temple was four cubits on every side. The side chambers were in three stories, one above the other, thirty chambers in each story; they rested on ledges which were for the side chambers all around, that they might be supported, but not fastened to the wall of the temple. As one went up from story to story, the side chambers became wider all around, because their supporting ledges in the wall of the temple ascended like steps; therefore the width of the structure increased as one went up from the lowest story to the highest by way of the middle one. I also saw an elevation all around the temple; it was the foundation of the side chambers, a full rod, that is, six cubits high. The thickness of the outer wall of the side chambers was five cubits, and so also the remaining terrace by the place of the side chambers of the temple. And between it and the wall chambers was a width of twenty cubits all around the temple on every side. The doors of the side chambers opened on the terrace, one door toward the north and another toward the south; and the width of the terrace was five cubits all around.
a. The side chambers were in three stories: As part of the temple building, there was an arrangement of rooms and chambers, and these were on three different levels.
i. “The description of the side rooms (Ezekiel 41:5-11) is difficult to follow. They were probably used to store gifts and tithes and various temple vessels (cf. Nehemiah 13:5, 9, 12).” (Wright)
b. The thickness of the outer wall of the side chambers was five cubits: The walls of the temple building were thick and secure. Ezekiel did not see a spiritual building, but a carefully engineered and strongly built structure.
i. “The massiveness of the walls is remarkable; both inside and outside walls are thicker than the width of the rooms.” (Block)
3. (12) The building to the west of the temple.
The building that faced the separating courtyard at its western end was seventy cubits wide; the wall of the building was five cubits thick all around, and its length ninety cubits.
a. The building that faced the separating courtyard at its western end: The western side of the temple complex had no gate, and this building stood at its western end.
b. The wall of the building was five cubits thick: This was a substantial building with real, measurable dimensions.
B. Features of the temple.
1. (13-17) The temple building as a whole.
So he measured the temple, one hundred cubits long; and the separating courtyard with the building and its walls was one hundred cubits long; also the width of the eastern face of the temple, including the separating courtyard, was one hundred cubits. He measured the length of the building behind it, facing the separating courtyard, with its galleries on the one side and on the other side, one hundred cubits, as well as the inner temple and the porches of the court, their doorposts and the beveled window frames. And the galleries all around their three stories opposite the threshold were paneled with wood from the ground to the windows—the windows were covered— from the space above the door, even to the inner room, as well as outside, and on every wall all around, inside and outside, by measure.
a. He measured the temple, one hundred cubits long: The temple building itself was 172 feet (52.5 meters) long.
b. Their doorposts and the beveled window frames: Ezekiel and his guide noticed not only the dimensions but also the design details of the temple.
2. (18-20) Designs on the temple building.
And it was made with cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Each cherub had two faces, so that the face of a man was toward a palm tree on one side, and the face of a young lion toward a palm tree on the other side; thus it was made throughout the temple all around. From the floor to the space above the door, and on the wall of the sanctuary, cherubim and palm trees were carved.
a. It was made with cherubim and palm trees: The design of palm trees has been frequently noted before in Ezekiel’s temple, and was also featured in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:29-35). The design of cherubim was prominent in both the previous tabernacle and temple (Exodus 25:18-22, 26:1; 1 Kings 6:23-35).
i. “In these figures aspirations of life and prosperity (palm) and security (cherubim) coalesce. In Israelite thought, the divine resident of this house was the source of both.” (Block)
b. Each cherub had two faces…the face of a man…and the face of a young lion: We learn from Ezekiel 10:14 (and Revelation 4:7) that cherubim have four faces. Here, two of the four faces are noted and depicted in the design.
i. “It is interesting to notice the two types of life represented by the two faces of the cherubim, one being a man and the other a young lion. Interpreted by the earlier symbolism of the prophecy, this suggested perfect realisation of created life, and its perfect exercise in kingly dominion.” (Morgan)
3. (21-22) The table before the LORD.
The doorposts of the temple were square, as was the front of the sanctuary; their appearance was similar. The altar was of wood, three cubits high, and its length two cubits. Its corners, its length, and its sides were of wood; and he said to me, “This is the table that is before the LORD.”
a. The altar was of wood: This does not seem to be the same altar mentioned previously in Ezekiel 40:47. This altar is too small for animal sacrifice with a height of just over 5 feet (about 1.5 meters) and a length of less than 3.5 feet (about 1 meter). Made of wood and normally covered with metal, this is likely the altar of incense that stood inside the temple building. It was a representation of the prayers of God’s people.
i. “The altar of Ezekiel 40:22 was not the altar of sacrifice, nor the table of shewbread, but the altar of incense before the Lord (see Exodus 30:1-3; I Kings 7:48). It has been suggested that it was an altarlike table (cf. Ezekiel 44:16).” (Feinberg)
b. This is the table that is before the LORD: Standing in the holy place, just outside of the most holy place, this altar of incense could be said to stand before the LORD. It was also true because of its use, representing prayers that come before God.
4. (23-26) The doors of the temple.
The temple and the sanctuary had two doors. The doors had two panels apiece, two folding panels: two panels for one door and two panels for the other door. Cherubim and palm trees were carved on the doors of the temple just as they were carved on the walls. A wooden canopy was on the front of the vestibule outside. There were beveled window frames and palm trees on one side and on the other, on the sides of the vestibule—also on the side chambers of the temple and on the canopies.
a. The doors had two panels: The doors were of some sort of folding construction, having two panels presumably hinged in some way.
i. John Trapp’s comment on these doors shows the subjective and speculative nature of spiritualizing Ezekiel’s temple. He thought the doors spoke of the Lord’s Supper and baptism: “Understand hereby the means of grace, and ministers dispensing the same, whereby souls are brought home to Christ.”
b. A wooden canopy was on the front: Once more, the detailed nature of this description only makes sense if Ezekiel described a literal, material temple that will one day stand in Jerusalem.