Ezekiel 46 – Worship at Ezekiel’s Future Temple
A. Worship at the temple.
1. (1-8) The prince and the offerings.
‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “The gateway of the inner court that faces toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath it shall be opened, and on the day of the New Moon it shall be opened. The prince shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway from the outside, and stand by the gatepost. The priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings. He shall worship at the threshold of the gate. Then he shall go out, but the gate shall not be shut until evening. Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to this gateway before the LORD on the Sabbaths and the New Moons. The burnt offering that the prince offers to the LORD on the Sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish; and the grain offering shall be one ephah for a ram, and the grain offering for the lambs, as much as he wants to give, as well as a hin of oil with every ephah. On the day of the New Moon it shall be a young bull without blemish, six lambs, and a ram; they shall be without blemish. He shall prepare a grain offering of an ephah for a bull, an ephah for a ram, as much as he wants to give for the lambs, and a hin of oil with every ephah. When the prince enters, he shall go in by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way.
a. The gateway of the inner court that faces toward the east shall be shut six working days; but on the Sabbath it shall be opened: At Ezekiel’s future temple, the gateway to the inner court will only be opened on the Sabbath and special New Moon festivals.
i. On the Sabbath: “That the people may see Christ in the glass of the ceremonies, and call upon his name. We under the gospel have a clearer light and free access, on Lord’s days especially, and other times of holy meetings.” (Trapp)
ii. “The emphasis here is unmistakably on the Sabbath and the new moon, which alone should indicate the Jewish setting of the passage, and that we are not here on Christian or New Testament ground.” (Feinberg)
iii. And stand by the gatepost: “The prince is to stand by the post of the gate, that is, the jamb between the vestibule and the series of guard recesses, since the inner gates were mirror images of the outer. This vantage point enables him, as guardian and patron of the cult, to observe the cultic activity of the priests.” (Block)
iv. New Moon: “Since Israel’s calendar was a lunar one, the new moon had significance for them where it has not for us. Moreover, the feasts were reckoned in relation to the phases of the moon.” (Feinberg)
b. The priests shall prepare his burnt offerings and his peace offerings: Special offerings directed by the prince will be regularly offered in connection with the Sabbath.
i. “Notice here that legalizers and seventh-day observance advocates always fail to realize that the Sabbath consisted in more than just abstinence from labor on the seventh day of the week, important as that was for the commandment, but included also specific sacrifices to be offered by an authorized priest in a designated place of God’s choosing. It is folly and worse to take one part of the observance and wholly discard or disregard another.” (Feinberg)
c. Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to this gateway: Just as in previous expressions of the temple in Jerusalem, Ezekiel’s temple will be a place of worship for all the people of the land, not only the priests.
d. The burnt offering that the prince offers to the LORD: Ezekiel described some of the specific sacrifices and offerings the prince will commission the priests to perform on his behalf and on behalf of the people.
i. “It remains only to state that the burnt offering for the Sabbath will be enlarged considerably over that of the Mosaic law (cf. v. 4 with Numbers 28:9).” (Feinberg)
2. (9-11) Feast days and festivals.
“But when the people of the land come before the LORD on the appointed feast days, whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, but shall go out through the opposite gate. The prince shall then be in their midst. When they go in, he shall go in; and when they go out, he shall go out. At the festivals and the appointed feast days the grain offering shall be an ephah for a bull, an ephah for a ram, as much as he wants to give for the lambs, and a hin of oil with every ephah.
a. Whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate: There will be an established flow of traffic for the people of the land as they come to worship at Ezekiel’s future temple.
i. “Ezekiel’s vision of hundreds of thousands of people thronging the temple courts ‘before Yahweh’ on the prescribed festival days would have been a logistical nightmare, which this ordinance sought to manage.” (Block)
b. The prince shall be in their midst: God’s appointed ruler for Israel in the millennium will be a leader truly among the people. He will be in their midst. When they go in, he shall go in; and when they go out, he shall go out.
i. “The prince will not isolate himself from the people on the feast days but be a part of the crowd.” (Wiersbe)
ii. In this prince, Meyer saw an illustration of the work of Jesus for His people. “He never puts His sheep forth without going before them. He never thrusts us into the fight without preceding us. If we have to take the way of the Cross, we may always count on seeing Him go first, though we follow Him amazed.”
3. (12) The prince and the east gate.
“Now when the prince makes a voluntary burnt offering or voluntary peace offering to the LORD, the gate that faces toward the east shall then be opened for him; and he shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings as he did on the Sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and after he goes out the gate shall be shut.
a. The gate that faces toward the east shall then be opened for him: At special voluntary burnt offerings or voluntary peace offerings, God’s appointed leader for Israel in the millennium will use the east gate.
i. “If the prince desired to make a freewill offering of a burnt offering of consecration or a fellowship offering of thanksgiving, the east gate was to be opened specially for this act of worship and then closed when he finished.” (Alexander)
b. Then he shall go out, and after he goes out the gate shall be shut: Each specific detail gives more and more evidence that this is meant for some literal fulfillment. The details are meaningless in a merely spiritualized fulfillment. We may not be able to understand what each individual detail means or how it will be fulfilled, but we can trust that it will be.
i. John Trapp saw in this verse a ground for week-day Bible studies: “Here is warrant for our week day lectures, a voluntary service well accepted; provided that afterwards one shut the gate, and men return to their honest labours.”
4. (13-15) The daily burnt offerings.
“You shall daily make a burnt offering to the LORD of a lamb of the first year without blemish; you shall prepare it every morning. And you shall prepare a grain offering with it every morning, a sixth of an ephah, and a third of a hin of oil to moisten the fine flour. This grain offering is a perpetual ordinance, to be made regularly to the LORD. Thus they shall prepare the lamb, the grain offering, and the oil, as a regular burnt offering every morning.”
a. You shall daily make a burnt offering to the LORD: In Ezekiel’s future temple, there will be daily offerings to remember and memorialize the perfect work of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross.
i. “In this day of restoration, the ceremonial offerings are observed, with this difference, that until Christ came they were prophetic and anticipatory, whereas now they are memorial.” (Morgan)
b. A perpetual ordinance, to be made regularly to the LORD: The custom of the daily offering will continue through the entire period of the future millennium.
i. “This verse is a ratifying of all prescribed in Ezekiel 46:13-14. These three verses direct the daily sacrifice; and because they mention only the morning sacrifice and one lamb, some think that here less is required than in Numbers 28:3–4; but they forget that there is a parity of reason for the evening sacrifice, and that this is included. They were to do in the evening oblation as they did in the morning.” (Poole)
B. Inheritance and offerings.
1. (16-18) Inheritance given to sons and to servants.
‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “If the prince gives a gift of some of his inheritance to any of his sons, it shall belong to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance. But if he gives a gift of some of his inheritance to one of his servants, it shall be his until the year of liberty, after which it shall return to the prince. But his inheritance shall belong to his sons; it shall become theirs. Moreover the prince shall not take any of the people’s inheritance by evicting them from their property; he shall provide an inheritance for his sons from his own property, so that none of My people may be scattered from his property.”’”
a. If the prince gives a gift of some of his inheritance to any of his sons, it shall belong to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance: In the millennial period associated with Ezekiel’s temple, the appointed prince will be able to grant an inheritance to his sons. Yet if he were to give some of his inheritance to one of his servants, it would be a gift until the year of jubilee (the year of liberty).
i. To any of his sons: “The prince will be a married man and will have sons who can inherit his land (Ezekiel 46:16–18).” (Wiersbe)
ii. The year of liberty: “That is, to the year of jubilee, called the year of liberty, because there was then a general release. All servants had their liberty, and all alienated estates returned to their former owners.” (Clarke)
b. The prince shall not take any of the people’s inheritance by evicting them from their property: God’s appointed prince will not abuse or oppress the people. Israel will receive righteous leadership throughout the millennial period.
i. “The prophet did not want royal property to grow at the expense of ordinary citizens. Ezekiel specifically forbids the prince from giving the property of citizens to his family and friends. If the prince wishes to make a gift of land to anyone, that land must come from his own holdings.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
2. (19-20) The place offerings were prepared.
Now he brought me through the entrance, which was at the side of the gate, into the holy chambers of the priests which face toward the north; and there a place was situated at their extreme western end. And he said to me, “This is the place where the priests shall boil the trespass offering and the sin offering, and where they shall bake the grain offering, so that they do not bring them out into the outer court to sanctify the people.”
a. Now he brought me through the entrance: It isn’t entirely clear who brought Ezekiel to the temple entrance. Perhaps it was the radiant man of Ezekiel 40:1-3.
b. This is the place where the priests shall boil the trespass offering: Ezekiel was led to the place where the sacrifices will be prepared.
3. (21-24) The kitchens of the temple.
Then he brought me out into the outer court and caused me to pass by the four corners of the court; and in fact, in every corner of the court there was another court. In the four corners of the court were enclosed courts, forty cubits long and thirty wide; all four corners were the same size. There was a row of building stones all around in them, all around the four of them; and cooking hearths were made under the rows of stones all around. And he said to me, “These are the kitchens where the ministers of the temple shall boil the sacrifices of the people.”
a. In every corner of the court there was another court: The layout of what Ezekiel saw may be difficult to picture, but the clear sense is of generous space for all the business of the temple.
b. These are the kitchens: There were specific places for the preparation of the sacrificial meals associated with the sacrifices of the people. The sacrificial meals were an important part of the offerings made, an act of fellowship not only among men, but also symbolically between God and man.
i. “Although only the northern kitchen is reported, the symmetry of the overall structure suggests that a counterpart also existed on the south side.” (Block)
ii. “This feature of Israelite worship shows how concretely the people expressed their belief that God has made provision for the most basic of bodily needs: the need for food. It also symbolizes the union between God and Israel. The worship that went on in the temple was not confined to word and gesture. It included the eating and the experience of fellowship that comes from sharing a meal.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
iii. “So the temple was a place for sacrificing, cooking and eating, as well as for prayer and so-called ‘spiritual’ activities. The Christian church has been the poorer when it has drawn a firm dividing line between spiritual life and social activities. In Ezekiel’s temple, at any rate, there was envisaged a healthy fusion of the two elements, and this was typical of much in Old Testament worship.” (Taylor)