|@October 5, 2023||ESV (2016)||ESV Prophets Plan 2023|
- The Gate for the Prince
- Rules for Levitical Priests
The chapter opens with Ezekiel being brought back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which is shut. Ezekiel is told that it is to remain shut because the God of Israel had entered through, giving it a special degree of holiness. Only “the prince may sit in it to eat bread before the LORD” (Ezek. 44:3). The precise nature of this office of “prince” is unclear. Typically, the Hebrew word “nasi” denotes a political role: the leader of the Jewish community. Elsewhere Ezekiel uses the term to refer to the Davidic Messiah (Ezek. 34:24; Ezek. 37:25). Here his role is religious, but it is not clearly cultic or priestly.
In Ezek. 44:4-9, Ezekiel is brought back to the front of the temple by way of the north gate. Ezekiel fell on his face as he saw the glory of the LORD fill the temple (Ezek. 44:4), similar to Ezek. 43:3. The LORD tells Ezekiel to be mindful of the statutes of the temple and that the people were to cease admitting foreigners into the temple during their food offerings (Ezek. 44:6-7). This description of the defilement of God’s sanctuary may refer to the practice of using foreigners as guards in the temple (2 Kings 11:14–15; see Josh. 9:23, 27). Nehemiah carried out this statute when he dismissed Tobiah (Neh. 13:8), an Ammonite (Neh. 2:10; Deut. 23:3).
In Ezek. 44:10-14, God addresses the Levites and how they “shall bear their punishment” for going astray after idols. Due to their idolatry, the Levites were to perform the menial work of maintaining the temple but were not come near to the LORD or serve Him as priest. (Ezek. 44:11-13)
In Ezek. 44:15, God appoints the “sons of Zadok” to be priests as they had kept the charge of God’s sanctuary “when the people of Israel went astray” from Him (Ezek. 44:15). The priest Zadok traced his Levitical lineage to Aaron through Aaron’s son Eleazar (1 Chron. 6:50–53). He served as priest under David, along with Abiathar (2 Sam. 8:17; 2 Sam. 15:24–29; 2 Sam. 20:25). He supported Solomon and thus secured for himself and his descendants the privilege of serving in the Jerusalem temple (1 Kings 1). Zadok was appointed chief priest during Solomon’s reign (and hence over the first temple) because he supported Solomon as king (1 Kings 1:32–35; 1 Kings 2:26–27, 1 Kings 2:35).
In Ezek. 44:16-27, God gives Ezekiel the instructions of conduct for the Zadokites. They were to minister to God, keeping His charge, and wear linen garments. They were not to wear wool because the material caused its wearer to perspire. Sweat, like other bodily excretions, was considered defiling (Deut. 23:11-13). Their holy garments were not to be worn among the people but laid “in the holy chambers” prior to going into the outer court (Ezek. 44:19). They were to keep their hair trimmed, drink no wine in the inner court, marry only virgins or widows of priests, distinguish between clean and unclean and act as judges (Ezek. 44:20-24). They were not to touch a dead body which would make them unclean. Any priest who this law was to remain unclean for seven days (Ezek. 44:26). Upon returning to duty, he would have to offer a sin offering for himself (Ezek. 44:27).
In Ezek. 44:28-31, God describes that He is the inheritance of the Levites. The “I am their inheritance” of Ezek. 44:28 is identical to the Mosaic legislation (Num. 18:20, Num. 23–24; Deut. 10:9; Josh. 13:14, Josh. 13:33; Josh. 18:7). All the firstfruits and offerings of the people belonged to the priests (Ezek. 44:30). The first of the dough of the people was to be given to the priests that a blessing may rest on the house of those giving it (Ezek. 44:30). The priests were not allowed to eat anything that was found already dead or was torn by wild beasts (see Lev. 22:8; Deut. 14:21).
The glory of the LORD filled the temple. God would dwell with His people, but His presence came with statutes and stipulations. The people were to keep all His laws and Sabbaths holy and only those whom He selected were to minister to Him. They were to put away all detestable practices and His sanctuary was not to be profaned by the entry of foreigners.
There is so much of God’s holiness in this chapter. All of these statutes serve to illustrate the great chasm between ourselves and God. That God needed to give these rules to His people means that they didn’t come naturally. Bent by their own sin, they did not contain within themselves the desire to speak and act in righteousness.
It is no different for us today. Only through the cooperative work of the Spirit and His Word do we have the ability to conduct ourselves in a way that honors our Lord. And what praise we should have for His giving us Himself, that we can live in a way that glorifies the God of all creation.
Scripture Journal Notes
Commentaries & Resources Used
- ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Guardian Press, 1976)
- The Bible: A Reader’s Guide (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
- The Infographic Bible (Zondervan, 2018)
- ESV Digital Scripture Journal (Crossway, 2019)