Ezekiel 42 – Chambers for the Priests
A. Rooms for the priests.
1. (1-9) Upper and lower chambers.
Then he brought me out into the outer court, by the way toward the north; and he brought me into the chamber which was opposite the separating courtyard, and which was opposite the building toward the north. Facing the length, which was one hundred cubits (the width was fifty cubits), was the north door. Opposite the inner court of twenty cubits, and opposite the pavement of the outer court, was gallery against gallery in three stories. In front of the chambers, toward the inside, was a walk ten cubits wide, at a distance of one cubit; and their doors faced north. Now the upper chambers were shorter, because the galleries took away space from them more than from the lower and middle stories of the building. For they were in three stories and did not have pillars like the pillars of the courts; therefore the upper level was shortened more than the lower and middle levels from the ground up. And a wall which was outside ran parallel to the chambers, at the front of the chambers, toward the outer court; its length was fifty cubits. The length of the chambers toward the outer court was fifty cubits, whereas that facing the temple was one hundred cubits. At the lower chambers was the entrance on the east side, as one goes into them from the outer court.
a. He brought me out into the outer court: Ezekiel’s radiant guide (Ezekiel 40:3) took him away from the temple building back to the outer court. There they noted gallery against gallery in three stories. These held chambers or rooms.
b. They were in three stories and did not have pillars like the pillars of the courts: Once more we see a remarkable description of detail that is appropriate of a real, material temple.
2. (10-12) Access to the chambers.
Also there were chambers in the thickness of the wall of the court toward the east, opposite the separating courtyard and opposite the building. There was a walk in front of them also, and their appearance was like the chambers which were toward the north; they were as long and as wide as the others, and all their exits and entrances were according to plan. And corresponding to the doors of the chambers that were facing south, as one enters them, there was a door in front of the walk, the way directly in front of the wall toward the east.
a. There were chambers in the thickness of the wall: Many of the walls in these structures were rather thick, and it made sense to make rooms or chambers in the walls themselves.
b. All their exits and entrances were according to plan: There was nothing about this structure that was haphazard. All of it was according to plan.
3. (13-14) Holy chambers to the north and south.
Then he said to me, “The north chambers and the south chambers, which are opposite the separating courtyard, are the holy chambers where the priests who approach the LORD shall eat the most holy offerings. There they shall lay the most holy offerings—the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering—for the place is holy. When the priests enter them, they shall not go out of the holy chamber into the outer court; but there they shall leave their garments in which they minister, for they are holy. They shall put on other garments; then they may approach that which is for the people.”
a. The holy chambers where the priests who approach the Lord shall eat the most holy offerings: Since many of the sacrifices included a sacrificial or ceremonial meal shared by the priests and sometimes those bringing the offering, provision was made for a place to eat the most holy offerings. This was a meal of fellowship between God and man.
i. The priests had the right to eat of certain offerings. “Ministers must eat as well as others; they are not of the chameleon kind – cannot live upon the air; and the Lord Christ ‘hath ordained that,’ as ‘they which waited at the altar were partakers of the altar,’ ‘so also should they that preach the gospel live of the gospel,’ [1 Corinthians 9:13-14].” (Trapp)
ii. The grain offering: “The grain offering (minha) represented a gift or tribute to deity, consisting of grain or flour. Either the offering could be burned up entirely on an altar or portions of it could be reserved for the priests.” (Block)
b. There they shall lay the most holy offerings: When grain and animals were brought for sacrifice, they could be stored in these chambers.
i. “Such storage space housed ritual equipment, votive gifts, and the revenue taken in by the temple. Since revenue was not in money but in kind, enormous space was required for sacks of grain, amphorae of oil, and the kegs of wine, not to mention other kinds of goods that found their way into the priests’ hands.” (Block)
c. There they shall leave their garments in which they minister: The storage chambers were also for the holy clothing worn by the priests as they served. When their duties were completed, they were to put on other garments to go out among the people.
i. “The priests must wear special clothes when they are functioning as priests in the temple (Ezekiel 42:14). God and man are separate, and until the time of Christ only a privileged class could serve in the temple. The clothes spoke of separation to God from the dirt and dust of ordinary life.” (Wright)
B. Outer dimensions of the new temple.
1. (15-19) The measure on each side.
Now when he had finished measuring the inner temple, he brought me out through the gateway that faces toward the east, and measured it all around. He measured the east side with the measuring rod, five hundred rods by the measuring rod all around. He measured the north side, five hundred rods by the measuring rod all around. He measured the south side, five hundred rods by the measuring rod. He came around to the west side and measured five hundred rods by the measuring rod.
a. He measured the east side with the measuring rod: After the general tour through the temple complex, the radiant guide finished with an overall perspective of the temple complex. It had the same measurements on each side.
b. Five hundred rods by the measuring rod all around: This is a large area, much larger than the present temple mount. Some believe that the measurement should be 500 cubits instead of 500 rods, but there is small support for this approach. It is better understood that this reflects the transformed geography of Jerusalem and the land of Israel in the millennial age.
i. “This wall was found to form a square of five hundred reeds which equals about 3,062,500 square yards (Ezekiel 42:15-20).” (Smith) This is a space:
· Almost 1 square mile (about 2.56 square kilometers).
· About 633 acres (about 256 hectares).
ii. “The entire area was much too large for Mount Moriah where Solomon’s and Zerubbabel’s temples stood. The scheme requires a great change in the topography of the land which will occur as indicated in Zechariah 14:9-11, the very time which Ezekiel had in view.” (Feinberg)
iii. “Some argue that an area five hundred rods square would be too large and not fit the topography well. But such an argument is not persuasive when Zechariah and other prophets demonstrate that the whole Palestinian topography will undergo geographical modifications at the beginning of the Millennium. No good reason appears to reject the term ‘rod’ in these verses.” (Alexander)
iv. “It will not have a court of the Gentiles with the all-important separating wall (Ephesians 2:14) nor will it have a separate court of the women. In the millennial temple, our Lord’s desire will be fulfilled that His house be a house of prayer for men and women of all nations (Mark 11:17; Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11).” (Wiersbe)
2. (20) The purpose of the wall.
He measured it on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide, to separate the holy areas from the common.
a. Five hundred… long and five hundred wide: The reader will observe that the word cubits in Ezekiel 42:20 is in italics, indicating that it is not in the Hebrew manuscript but that the translators added it. The reference to five hundred better connects with the five hundred rods mentioned in the previous verses.
b. To separate the holy areas from the common: The purpose of the wall around the temple compound was to communicate the principle of God’s holiness, as separated from that which is common.
i. “Ezekiel 42:20 concludes with a note explaining the function of the outside walls. They are not constructed to keep enemy forces out, if by these forces one means human foes of Israel, but to protect the sanctity of the sacred area from the pollution of common touch and to prevent the contagion of holiness from touching the people.” (Block)