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KD Old Testament Lesson 44: Ezekiel 43-44, 47

Posted by Karl D. on December 5, 2010

Gospel Doctrine
Lesson: Ezekiel (#44)
Reading: Ezekiel 43-44, 47

Still trying to catch up.

PDF Version of Notes

1 Approach

These represent the notes I made during my reading of the scriptural text for this lesson. It is not a lesson outline or a lesson plan but really notes about issues and questions that struck me as interesting during my reading. Consequently, the notes do not have a conclusion and very little mention of application. I like to let those things arise while I teach.

2 Ezekiel 40-48

The reading for lesson 44 is Ezekiel 43-44 and 47, but chapters 40-48 contain one single vision. Thus the reading swoops in and hits a few parts of the vision. The material in the vision varies in both style and substance but, “the entire unit is held together by the figure of a man, who, in tour guide fashion, escorts the prophet around the temple complex.”1

The vision in chapters 40-48 parallels the earlier temple vision in chapters 8-11. For example:

Ezekiel 8-11
1. Ezekiel led on a tour of the defiled temple
2. Ezekiel watches Jehovah depart
Ezekiel 40-48
1. Ezekiel led on a tour of a restored and pure temple.
2. Ezekiel watches Jehovah’s return and re-enthronement.
  • What do these two parallels tell you about the nature of these visions?
  • Does the existence of these and other parallels affect how you read and understand chapters 40-48?
  • Do Ezekiel’s visions in both chapters 8-11 and 40-48 remind you of any other scriptural visions?

3 A Vision of a Defiled Temple as a Backdrop

3.1 A Slaughter

The restored temple vision in chapters 40-48 is clearly connected or related to the defiled temple vision in chapters 8-11. Thus even though the lesson’s reading doesn’t cover chapters 8-11 I think we can more fully appreciate the vision in chapters 40-48 when we keep in mind or are aware of how it contrasts with the vision contained in 8-11.

In chapter 9 the Lord summons executioners/avengers to carry out the sentence he has pronounced on the city (Ezekiel 9:1-2):

1 He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. 2 And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.

The Lord gives the avengers instructions (Ezekiel 9:4-8):

4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. 5 And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. 7 And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. 8 And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?

  • What do you think of the imagery here in these verses? Is any of the imagery surprising or shocking?
  • Is the imagery in these verse shocking or surprising even given that it is symbolic imagery describing the Lord’s judgment against Israel?
  • Does Ezekiel’s reaction mirror your reaction as a reader?
  • My suggestion is to keep this imagery in the back of your mind as you read through and think about the vision in chapter 40-48. I think the contrast is important.

3.2 Coals

Let’s take a look at another passage from chapters 8-11. Read Ezekiel 10:1-6:

1 Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. 2 And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight. 3 Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court.

4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. 5 And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.

  • Note, this part of the vision opens with the reappearance of the Lord’s chariot/throne. This throne plays a prominent role in both visions.
  • This part of the vision is also very dark. However, are the messages in these verses the same as in 9:1-9 or are there some important differences?
  • One of the executioners/avengers from the previous passage (9:1-8) is commanded to scatter coals of fire from between the cherubim around the city. What might this represent? Has this image ever shown up in other Old Testament scriptures?
  • Could the role of coals signal the coming purification of Israel as in Isaiah 6:6-7 (and thus foreshadow the vision of restoration found in 40-48) or are the coals another symbol of judgment and punishment?

5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

4 The Restored Temple

4.1 Ezekiel’s Blueprint

Ezekiel presents a vision of a purified and restored temple. We could consider this as Ezekiel’s blueprint for a new temple. It is very detailed which makes a few of the chapters pretty boring.

  • Nowhere in the text of the vision are instructions given to build the temple. Why? What does that tells us? Does it change how we should read the vision?
  • I suppose one could argue that the fulfillment of this vision of a restored temple would happen too far in the future for Ezekiel to worry about enacting (hence no command to build). What do you think about this possibility? Is there any problem with understanding the vision this way?
  • Do you find it surprising that the temple described in these chapters seems very much to be a Old Testament temple (although it does differ in some respects with earlier temple descriptions) and doesn’t describe a modern LDS temple?
  • Maybe the vision is not meant as a prophecy of a literal restoration of the temple. The original audience here is certainly exilic Jews. Could a symbolic restoration and purification of the temple be meaningful to Jewish exiles?
  • Could a symbolic description of renewal and restoration provide a message of hope to the Jews in exile?
  • I keep wondering if there is no instruction to rebuild because that is not the point of this vision? Instead, maybe, the vision is meant to indicate that the covenant has been restored and it is as if the temple in Jerusalem was now the dwelling place of God despite the exile (i.e., all the promises of the covenant are in place despite the missing temple)?
  • Is this vision still meaningful for us, as modern LDS readers of the text, if the vision doesn’t describe a literal temple restoration in Jerusalem?

4.2 A Jubilee Year

The dating of events in the book of Ezekiel is very precise. Let’s take a look at when this vision of the restored temple happens. Read Ezekiel 40:1

1 In the five and twentieth year of our captivity, in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten, in the selfsame day the hand of the LORD was upon me, and brought me thither.

It is been 25 years since Ezekiel started his exile. This tells us that it is 573 BCE (actually it is probably October 573). Thus at the very least least we are talking about a half Jubilee year (at least measuring relative to the beginning of the exile), but it looks like we can go even further. Let’s read Ezekiel 1:1-2:

1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2 In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,

So the exile started 25 years after a Jubilee year and it is now 25 years later. Therefore, this vision occurs during or at the beginning of the Jubilee year.2 What happens during a Jubilee year?

Read Leviticus 24:8-10:

8 And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. 9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. 10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

  • Why is the backdrop of a Jubilee year important? Would it be important to the original audience? What can we learn from it?
  • How does a backdrop of a Jubilee year add context to the vision and how we should understand it?

5 The Return of the Lord to the Temple

5.1 The East Gate

Read Ezekiel 43:1-5:

1 Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: 2 And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. 3 And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. 4 And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. 5 So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.

  • What do you make of the imagery here?
  • Notice, there is an explicit mention of the defiled temple vision (Ezekiel 8-11). Also, there are other details that parallel the defiled temple vision. For example, “[the] last time the prophet had encountered the divine glory the latter hovered over the east gate and then disappears over the mountain east of the city (11:19, 23), symbolic of Yahweh’s abandonment of his people.”3 Why these parallels? Why does Ezekiel or the Lord want us, as readers, to remember when the Lord left or removed himself from the people of Israel while we are reading about the Lord’s return?
  • Some commentators suggest that the Lord is returning here like a triumphant warrior. Do you agree? Why or why not? Does recognizing the parallels with the earlier vision in 8-11 bolster the argument in favor of triumphant warrior imagery?

5.2 Corpses in the Temple

Read Ezekiel 43:6-9

6 And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me. 7 And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places. 8 In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger. 9 Now let them put away their whoredom, and the carcases of their kings, far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.

  • What is going on here? What do we learn about the Lord in these verses?
  • What do you think is the most important thing that the Lord tells Ezekiel?
  • How did the children of Israel and their kings defile the temple in the past?
  • Was the temple being used for royal burials? Maybe, although some scholars suggest that this is actually a reference to royal memorial stelae.4
  • Why is the Lord so upset over this? Do you think this is something that is specific to the leaders of Israel at the time or is there a more general principle involved?
  • Why will the children of Israel not defile or not be able to defile the temple any longer?

5.3 Describe The Temple

Read Ezekiel 43:10-11:

10 Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. 11 And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, shew them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the laws thereof: and write it in their sight, that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them.

  • What does the Lord want Ezekiel to do?
  • Are you surprised that the Lord seems to simply want Ezekiel to talk about and to describe the temple to the people?
  • Is the Lord suggesting that talking about and describing the temple will humble the people and help them be good?

6 A Shut Gate

Read Ezekiel 44:1-3

1 Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. 2 Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. 3 It is for the prince; the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD; he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same

  • The Lord goes out of his way to emphasize that the gate will be shut and will not be opened. Why? What is the Lord trying to tell us?
  • Is this simply emphasizing that the Lord’s work is done here? This is his entrance and he does not plan to leave ever again?
  • Is it to emphasize the difference between man and God?

Footnotes:

1 Block, Daniel I., 1997, The Book of Ezekiel 25-48, Eerdmans, 560.

2 Galambush, J., 2001, “Ezekiel” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, Oxford University Press, 560.

3 Block, Daniel I., 1997, The Book of Ezekiel 25-48, Eerdmans, 495.

4 Galambush, J., 2001, “Ezekiel” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, Oxford University Press, 560.

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