Ezekiel 44
Pulpit Commentary
Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut.
Verses 1-3. - The relation of the prince to the sanctuary. Verse 1. - The gate of the outward sanctuary, the outer gate of the sanctuary (Revised Version) - which looketh toward the east. To this door the prophet was conducted back, by way of the inner north or south gate, from the inner court, in which he had received the measurements of the altar and the instructions for its consecration (Ezekiel 43:5). Whether Ezekiel stood upon the outside of this door as in Ezekiel 43:1, or upon its inside, cannot as yet be determined; but in either ease he observed that it was shut - again, whether on the east side towards the temple precincts, or on the west towards the outer court, is not mentioned, and cannot at this stage be decided. What led the seer to notice that the gate was closed was probably the circumstance that the last time he stood beside it it was open (Ezekiel 43:1), though proof cannot be given that he passed through it (Ezekiel 43:5), conjoined with the fact that it formed the principal entrance to the temple, and as such had been described to him and measured (Ezekiel 40:6).
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.
Verse 2. - This gate shall be shut, The prophet must have noted this as an important difference between the new sanctuary and the old (whether temple or tabernacle), in which the east gate stood always open. That the gate of the new temple was to be closed only on the six working days Ewald mistakenly infers from Ezekiel 46:1, where he reads, after the LXX., the outer instead of the inner court. But Ezekiel 46:1 refers to the east gate of the inner court. Of the east gate of the outer court it is declared emphatically that it shall not be opened, neither shall any man enter in by it, meaning that it should be closed in perpetuity; and that not, as Abar-banel and Lightfoot have supposed, to express the idea that the glory of Jehovah should no more depart from the temple, but abide in it forever, but to inspire an exalted conception of the sanctity of the "house" and all its belongings, as Jehovah explained, Because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.
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.
Verse 3. - It is for the prince conveys an erroneous impression, as if the edict, excluding all from passing through the east outer gate, did not apply to the prince; but even for him the gate was not to serve as a mode of entrance into the temple, or, if so, only on exceptional occasions (see on Ezekiel 46:2), but merely as a place to sit in. The Revised Version accurately renders the words, As for the prince, he shall sit therein as prince, etc. That the "prince" here alluded to (הַגָּשִׂיא) could not have been the Prince David, i.e. the Messiah already spoken of (Ezekiel 34:23, 24; Ezekiel 37:24), but must have denoted the civic authorities of the new community of Israel, "the civil head of the theocracy," Havernick infers from Ezekiel 45:8, 9, where the coming "prince" is contrasted with Israel's previous rulers who oppressed their subjects, from the absence of some such characteristic predicate as "shepherd" or "king," which would, he thinks, have been attached to the word "prince" had it been intended to designate Messiah, from the prince's offering for himself a sin offering (Ezekiel 45:22), from the allusion to his sons (Ezekiel 46:16), and from what is recorded about his behavior in worship (Ezekiel 46:2); but none of these statements concerning the "prince' forbids his identification with Messiah, unless on the supposition that it was already understood Messiah should be a Divine-human Personage. This, however, had not then been so distinctly revealed as to be widely and accurately known. Hence it seems enough to say that while the "prince" would have his highest antitype in the Messiah, he would also have, though in a lower and lesser degree, an antitype in every righteous ruler (if ever there should be such) who might subsequently preside over Israel (see on Ezekiel 37:25). The phrase, to eat bread before the Lord, while referring in the first instance to those sacrificial meals which, under the Law, commonly accompanied unbloody offerings, as the meat offerings (Leviticus 2:3), the showbread (Leviticus 24:9), and the unleavened leaves of the Passover (Exodus 12:18; Leviticus 23:6; Numbers 28:17; Deuteronomy 16:3), and could only be partaken of by the priests, in the second instance signified to partake of sacrificial meals in general, even of such as consisted of the portions of flesh which were eaten in connection with ordinary bloody offerings (Genesis 31:54; Exodus 18:12). If, after Kliefoth, the former be adopted as the import of the phrase here, then the thought will be that in the new cultus the prince should enjoy a privilege which under the old was not possessed even by the king; if, after Keil, the second view be preferred, the sense will amount to this, that under the regulations of the future the prince should have the favor accorded him "of holding his sacrificial meals in the gate," whereas the people should only be permitted to hold theirs "in the court," or "in the vicinity of the sacrificial kitchens." The way of the porch is mentioned as the ingress and egress for the prince; which implies that he should obtain access to the outer court by either the north or the south gate, since the outer door of the east gate was shut. This renders it probable that Ezekiel was himself standing on the outside of the east gate (see on ver. 1).
Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD: and I fell upon my face.
Verses 4-16. - The relations of the people, Levites, and priests to the sanctuary. Verse 4. - From the outside of the east gate of the outer court the prophet was brought the way of the north gate, but whether of the outer or of the inner is uncertain, and set down before the house. On the ground that the prophet at his new station was in front of the temple, Hitzig, Keil, and others decide for the north gate of the inner court; whereas Kliefoth, looking to the circumstance that the first communications made to the prophet at his new post concerned "the entering in of the house," and "the going forth of the sanctuary," prefers the north gate of the outer court. But at whichever of the gates the prophet was set down he perceived a second time (comp. Ezekiel 43:5) that the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord, and this, perhaps, should cast the balance in favor of the inner court entrance, from which the interior of the "house" could be more easily
And the LORD said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the LORD, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.
Verse 5. - Having fallen on his face before the renewed theophany, the prophet was summoned as once before (Ezekiel 40:4), but with greater emphasis than before, to mark well, or set his heart to observe, the communications about to be made to him concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and. all the laws thereof (see on Ezekiel 43:11), more especially with regard to the persons who should have a right to participate in its services.
And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations,
Verse 6. - Let it suffice you of all your abominations. It was not without sights canoe that at the north gate, which had formerly been represented as the scene of Israel's idolatries (Ezekiel 8:5), the prophet should be reminded of those past iniquities of his nation, and receive instructions as to how the new community should be preserved from lapsing into similar transgressions.
In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
Verse 7. - The special sin chargeable against Israel in the past had been the introduction into the sanctuary, while the priests were engaged in sacrifice, of strangers - aliens (Revised Version); literally, sons of a stranger - uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, in express contravention of Jehovah's covenant. Ewald, Havernick, Hengstenberg, Schroder, and Currey restrict the designation "strangers" to unfaithful and unauthorized priests, who, as in the days of Israel's apostasy, notoriously under Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:31; 2 Chronicles 11:15), may, in the confluence of idolatries that took place in Jerusalem during the reigns of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3, 4, 10-15; 2 Chronicles 28:2-4, 23-25) and Manasseh (2 Kings 21:2-7, 11, 15; 2 Chronicles 33:2-7), have been admitted to participate in the temple services; but Kliefoth, Delitzsch, Keil, Smend, and Plumptre, with better judgment, recognize in the "strangers" foreigners who had not incorporated themselves with Israel by submitting to circumcision, but, though dwelling in the midst of Israel, were still uncircumcised heathen in both heart and flesh. With regard to these foreigners, the Law of Moses (Leviticus 17:8, 10) enacted that, by accepting circumcision, they might become members of the Israelitish commonwealth, but that without this they could not be permitted to partake of the Passover, the highest symbol of national and religious unity (Exodus 12:48, 49). Nevertheless, it was open to them, on giving a certain measure of obedience to the Law (Exodus 12:19; Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 17:10, 12; Leviticus 18:26; Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 24:16, 22), to enter the sanctuary and present all sorts of offerings to Jehovah (Leviticus 17:8; Numbers 15:14, 29) Hence Israel's offence had not been the admission of such "sons of the stranger" into the sanctuary, but the admission of them without insisting on the above specified conditions, in other words, the admission of such as not only lacked the bodily mark of circumcision - which would not have excluded them - but were destitute as well of the first elements of Hebrew piety, i.e. were as uncircumcised in heart as they were in the flesh. The sanctioning of such within the temple courts, while Jehovah's bread, the fat and the blood, was being offered, i.e. while sacrificial worship was being performed, was not simply a desecration of the "house," but was an express violation of the covenant Jehovah had made with Israel with reference to these very "sons of the stranger."
And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.
Verse 8. - Instead of having exercised a holy solicitude for the purity of the temple and the regularity of its rites, by keeping strict watch over the holy things of Jehovah, the house of Israel had set keepers; literally, had set them, i.e. the uncircumcised "strangers" above referred to, as keepers of Jehovah's charge in his sanctuary for themselves, i.e. to please themselves, irrespective altogether of Jehovah's enactments. From this it has been argued, by Wellhausen, Smend, Driver, and others, that the "strangers" above mentioned had been not only allowed access to the outer court as spectators or as worshippers while the priests were offering sacrifice, but admitted to the inner court as assistants to the priests in their altar duties, that this, the employment of these heathen hierodules, had been the special wickedness of which Israel had been guilty, and that henceforward these "foreign ministers" were to be thrust out from their offices, and their places supplied by the about-to-be-degraded Levites. It is, however, doubtful if the phrase, keepers of my charge in the sanctuary, can be made to signify more than has already been expressed by the clause, "to be in my sanctuary... when ye offer my bread" (ver. 7), by which, as Kliefoth and Keil explain, Israel had practically made these strangers "keepers of Jehovah's charge," i.e. observers of the rites of worship prescribed by him, though observers in their way, not in his; if more can be extracted from the words, then the most they can be legitimately made to affirm (as there is no mention of the inner court) is that these "strangers," in addition to obtaining access to the outer court to witness the sacrifices, or perhaps offer such for themselves, had been more or less frequently employed in performing subordinate offices towards the Levites, who were the proper priests' assistants, like the Gibeonites, whom Joshua (Joshua 9:27) made "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord unto this day," and like the Nethinim, whom, according to Ezra (Ezra 8:20), David and the princes had given for the service of the Levites (see Delitzsch, Luthardt's 'Zeitschrift fur kirchliche Wissenschaft,' 1880, p. 283). (On the phrase, "to keep the charge of Jehovah," as signifying to follow his directions or comply with his prescriptions, see Numbers 9:23.) "In the sanctuary" explains that the prescriptions alluded to were those pertaining to the sanctuary or to the worship of Jehovah.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.
Verses 9-16. - Accordingly, that no such abuses might creep in to desecrate the temple of the future, a new Torah was promulgated concerning the persons who should have a right to participate in its services. If the "prince" is omitted, the reason probably was that a special section is subsequently devoted to him (Ezekiel 46:1-8). Verse 9. - The ordinance for the people. No stranger (or, alien), uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary. The publication of this edict marked a clear advance upon preceding legislation. The old Torah conceded right of access to a foreigner, though uncircumcised, on certain conditions (ver. 7); this new Torah would accord such right of access to a foreigner on no conditions. Even should he be circumcised in the flesh, unless he possessed also that which the bodily mark symbolized, viz. circumcision of heart, he must remain without. Does not this look as if Ezekiel were posterior to the priest-code, rather than vice versa, as Wellhausen contends?
And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity.
Verses 10-14. - The ordinance for the Levites. According to the so-called priest-code, the Levites were Levi's descendants, who were chosen by Jehovah for service in the tabernacle (Numbers 3:6-13; Numbers 16:9), to minister to the priests when these sacrificed in the tabernacle (Numbers 8:19; Numbers 18:6), and in particular to keep the charge of the tabernacle, i.e. of the house and all its vessels (Numbers 1:53), as distinguished from the charge of the sanctuary and of the altar, which pertained to Aaron and his sons alone as priests (Numbers 18:2-6, 23). The Deuteronomic code, says Wellhausen ('Geschichte Israels,' pp. 121, etc.), was unacquainted with any such distinction between Levites and priests, who, it is alleged, composed one homogeneous body, the tribe of Levi, whose members were equally empowered to officiate at the altar (Deuteronomy 10:8), the lower duties of the tabernacle having been performed by the aforesaid strangers, and the subordination of Levites to priests having first been suggested by Ezekiel (comp. Smend, 'Der Prophet Ezekiel,' p. 361, "Der unterschied zwischen Priestern und Leviten ist hier im Enstehn begriffen"), and first formally carried out alter the exile. This theory, however, cannot be admitted as made out in face of

(1) Deuteronomy 18, which (ver. 1) recognizes "the priests" and" the Levites" as constituting "the whole tribe of Levi," and (ver. 3, 6) distinguishes between "the priest" and "the Levite;"

(2) 2 Samuel 15:24, which associates with Zadok the priest, the Levites as carriers of the ark;

(3) 1 Kings 8:4, in which the same distinction between the two bodies is recognized;

(4) 1 and 2 Chronicles, passim, which attest the existence of priests and Levites as separate temple officials in pre-exilic times; and

(5) Ezra 1:5, 62; Ezra 3:8, 10; 6:20, which show that the distinction, alleged to have been first made by Ezekiel, was well known to the first company of exiles who returned under Zerubbabel to Jerusalem, and was by them traced back to pre-exilic times (see Keil, on REFERENCE_WORK:Keil & DelitzschDeuteronomy 18:1; Curtiss's 'Levitical Priests,' pp. 22, etc.; Delitzsch, in Luthardt's 'Zeit-schrift fur kirchliche Wissensehaft,' pp. 286, etc., aud in Riehm's ' Handworterbuch des Biblischen Alterthums,' art. "Leviten;" Oehler, in Herzog's 'Real-Encyclopadie,' art. "Levi"). The question, therefore, of which Levites Ezekiel speaks in this verse, whether of those whose duties were of a menial order or of those whose functions partook of a priestly character, is not difficult to resolve. It could hardly have been the former, since in vers. 11-14 Ezekiel's Levites are represented as about to be degraded by being relegated to inferior tasks than those they had formerly performed; it must have been the latter, because in the present verse they are designated the Levites that are gone away (or, went) far from me, when Israel went astray. Now, Israel's apostasy from Jehovah and declension towards idolatry began with Solomon's unfaithfulness (1 Kings 11:4-8), and continued with greater or less intensity in every subsequent reign till the exile; it certainly cannot be restricted, as Keil and Currey propose, to Jeroboam's conduct in setting up rival sanctuaries in Dan and Bethel, with altars and priests, for the accommodation of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 12:26-33). Nor is there room for doubting, although historical notices of the fact are not abundant, that in this apostasy the priesthood largely led the way (Jeremiah 26:7, 11; 2 Kings 16:11-16; Zephaniah 1:4), becoming priests of the high places, ministering for the people at heathen altars, and so causing them to fall into iniquity (ver. 12). Hengstenberg and Plumptre suggest that the reason why these apostate priests are now called Levites was to intimate that they were no more worthy of the priesthood, and were about to be reduced to the lower ministry of the Levites so called. Consequently, under the new Torah, those among the priests (who were also Levites) who had been guilty of this flagrant wickedness (i.e., says Delitzsch, all the Aaronides who were not Zadokitos) would no more, either in themselves or their descendants, be suffered to retain the priestly office, but would be degraded to the status of ordinary Levites, and, like them, should be ministers in Jehovah's sanctuary, having charge - or, oversight (Revised Version) - at the gates of the house, and ministering, to (or, in) the house, i.e. in its courts, serving as keepers of the charge of the house (ver. 14), as watchers at the gates of the house (ver. 11), as slaughterers of the sacrificial victims (ver. 11), but should not, like their brethren who had remained faithful, be allowed to do the office of a priest, i.e. approach the altar to offer sacrifice, or to enter into the holy place (ver. 13). In this way they should bear their iniquity (vers. 10,12) - a favorite expression in the middle books of the Pentateuch (Exodus 28:38, 43; Leviticus 5:1; Leviticus 10:17; Leviticus 20:19; Numbers 5:31; Numbers 18:1), but never occurring in Deuteronomy, and meaning "to be requited" on account of, and make expiation for, sin and their shame and their abominations, i.e. the shame due to them for their abominations - a specially Ezekelian phrase (comp. Ezekiel 16:52, 54; Ezekiel 32:30; Ezekiel 36:7).
Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them.
Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their iniquity.
And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed.
But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein.
But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD:
Verses 15, 16. - The ordinance for the priests. That Ezekiel derived the phrase, the priests the Levites, from Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 17:9; 18:1; 24:8; 27:9) may be granted without admitting that the Levites were all priests, or that the phrase had other import than that the priests were, as the Deuteronomist says, "sons of Levi" (Deuteronomy 21:5; 31:9). The priesthood, at its institution, having been entrusted to Aaron and his sons (Exodus 27:20, 21; Exodus 28:1-4; Exodus 29:9, 44; Numbers 3:10; Numbers 16:40; Numbers 18:7; Numbers 25:13), on Aaron's death the high priesthood passed into the hands of Eleazar, his eldest (living) son (Numbers 20:26-28), and after Eleazar's death into those of Phinehas, his eldest son (Numbers 25:11-13). In the last days of the judges, when the ark and tabernacle stood at Shiloh, the high priesthood belonged to Eli, of the line of Ithamar (comp. 1 Samuel 14:3 and 1 Sam 22:20 with 1 Chronicles 24:3), in which line it continued till the reign of David, when it was held conjointly by Abiathar (called also Ahimelech) of the line of Ithamar, and Zadok of the line of Eleazar (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 4:4). This arrangement, however, Solomon eventually overturned, by deposing the former for espousing Adonijah's pretensions to the throne (1 Kings 1:7; 1 Kings 2:26), and from that time forward till the exile the high priesthood remained with Zadok and his sons (1 Kings 2:35; 1 Chronicles 29:22). When, therefore, it is announced to Ezekiel that his vision-sanctuary should have as priests the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of Jehovah's sanctuary, when the children of Israel went astray from him; the first question that arises is - To what does this allude? Kliefoth holds it cannot mean that, while Israel as a whole declined into idolatry, the Zadokite priests remained faithful to the worship of Jehovah, because the vision of Judah's idolatries granted to the prophet, in Ezekiel 8:16, revealed quite clearly that the priesthood was as much caught in the national apostasy as were the princes or the people. Nor is the language of the text perfectly satisfied by the view of Havernick, Keil, Delitzsch, and others, that it goes beck to Zadok's fidelity to the throne of David at the time of Absalom's rebellion (2 Samuel 15:24-29), a fidelity exhibited also by Abiathar, or to his adherence to Solomon in preference to Adonijah (1 Kings 1:8, 39), this time without Abiathar's concurrence, rather in the face of his opposition. In neither of these instances was Zadok's fidelity specially directed towards Jehovah's sanctuary, but concerned expressly and exclusively David's throne. Hence the commendation of the Zadokites' fidelity can only signify that, while the priesthood as a body were corrupt like the people, there were among them, as among the people, some who, like Ezekiel, continued steadfast to Jehovah's sanctuary; that these faithful few were Zadokites (see Ezekiel 48:11), and that to these should be entrusted the priesthood in the new sanctuary. But, at this point, a second question starts - Was it intended to declare that the new priesthood should be Zadokites in body, i.e. in respect of lineal descent, or only in soul, i.e. in respect of moral and religious excellence? The former is contended by Kuenen, Wellhausen, Smend, and others, who see in the vision-sanctuary a plan of the second, or post-exilic, temple, and in its ordinances a program for the establishment of the Levitical hierarchy; but this contention shatters itself on the fact that no proof exists either that the second temple was constructed after Ezekiel's as a model, or that those who served in it were exclusively flesh and blood Zadokites. The latter opinion, favored by Kliefoth, appears the more correct, that moral and spiritual resemblance to the sons of Zadok should form the first qualification for the priesthood in this ideal sanctuary of the future (see note at the end of Ezekiel 48.).
They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge.
And it shall come to pass, that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, whiles they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within.
Verses 17-31. - The duties and emoluments of the priests. Verse 17. - Beginning with their attire when engaged in temple service, this verse states, in a general way, that the priests should be clothed with linen garments, as the priests were under the Law (Exodus 28:40-43; Exodus 39:27-29; Leviticus 6:10), with this difference, that whereas under the Law the terms employed were שֵׁשׁ, the white byssus of Egypt, and בַּד, "fine white linen," here the word is פִּשְׁתֶּה, or "flax" - a difference which assists newer critics to perceive in the so-called priest-code a refinement on Ezekiel, and therefore an evidence that the priest-cede arose later than Ezekiel But if the so-called priest-code had already indicated that the linen for priests' garments should be of the finest quality, Ezekiel may have felt there was no occasion for him to use other than the generic term for "linen," which פִעשׁתֶּה (pishteh) seems to have been (comp. Leviticus 13:47, 48, 52, 59; Deuteronomy 22:11; Jeremiah 13:1). That this was so is suggested by the statement that no wool, צֶמֶר, "perhaps so called from its being shorn off" (Gesenius), should come upon them whiles they ministered in the gates of the inner court, or within the court itself, or the house - the contrast being between what was of vegetable and what was of animal production. The reason for the prohibition of wool is hinted at in ver. 18 - it was apt to cause sweat, and thus entail impurity; the clean white linen, on the other hand, was designed both for hygienic reasons and as an emblem of purity (comp. Revelation 19:8, 14).
They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat.
Verse 18. - In particular the priests should have linen bonnets upon their heads - literally, linen tires shall be upon their heads - and linen breeches upon their loins. To infer from the use of מִגְבָּעות in Leviticus 8:13 and of פְאֵר here for the head-dress of the priests, that Ezekiel was composed before Leviticus, is not convincing. Smend explains the latter term as the customary headdress of common people, and the former as a specially ornamental tiara or turban. Gesenius reverses this meaning, making the former the ordinary round cap, and the latter a tiara (see for the former, Exodus 28:40; Exodus 29:9; Exodus 39:28; and for the latter, Exodus 39:28; Isaiah 61:10; Ezekiel 24:17, 23). In addition, the priests should not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat; literally, should not gird themselves in, or with sweat, which was another way of forbidding them to wear woollen clothing, which might cause them to sweat and so lead to uncleanness.
And when they go forth into the utter court, even into the utter court to the people, they shall put off their garments wherein they ministered, and lay them in the holy chambers, and they shall put on other garments; and they shall not sanctify the people with their garments.
Verse 19. - When the priests retired from the inner court, and before they passed into the outer court to mingle with the people, they were enjoined to lay aside their official robes, depositing them in the holy chambers already described (Ezekiel 42:1-14), and to put on other, i.e. their ordinary, clothes (comp. Leviticus 6:11). The reason for this injunction was that they might not sanctify the people (comp. Ezekiel 46:20) through the people's coming in contact with their garments. These, being in a manner, i.e. ceremonially, holy, would impart to the people a levitical or ritualistic sanctity which would disqualify them, for a time, at least, from attending to the common duties of life, as under the Law those were who touched the sacrificial flesh (Leviticus 6:18, 27), the altar (Exodus 29:37), and the vessels of the sanctuary (Exodus 30:29).
Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long; they shall only poll their heads.
Verse 20. - The next rubric concerned the mode in which the priests should wear their hair. It should neither be shaved nor worn long, thus avoiding excess on either side (compare for the first, Leviticus 21:5; and for the second, Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10, Revised Version), but should merely be polled. The obligation to let the hair grow freely was imposed upon the Nazarite only during the period of his vow (Numbers 6:5). The verb "to poll," or "cut" (כָּסַם), occurs nowhere else. Smend thinks what is here denied to the priests collectively is in the priest-code denied solely to the high priest (Leviticus 21:10, Revised Version; compare, however, Leviticus 10:6, Revised Version), and discovers in this a sign of the later origin of Leviticus. Ezekiel's raising the priesthood as a body to the rank of the high priest, of whom in connection with this temple is no trace, rather proves Ezekiel to have been later than Leviticus.
Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court.
Verse 21. - The prohibition of wine to the priests when engaged in temple service accorded with Mosaic legislation (Leviticus 10:9). Total abstinence at other times was not enjoined.
Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away: but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel, or a widow that had a priest before.
Verse 22. - As to marriage (since the priests in Ezekiel's "house" were no more expected to be celibates than were those employed about Moses' tabernacle or Solomon's temple), they were forbidden to marry widows (which the Levitical priests were not, though the high priest was) or divorced women, and allowed to wed only virgins of the house of Israel, or (the sole exception) widows of such as had been priests (compare with the priest-code, Leviticus 21:7, 13, 14). Ezekiel's enactment discovers two variations - first, that it does not formally forbid to the priests marriage with a harlot; and, second, that it sanctions marriage with a priest's widow. But the first was implied in the prohibition of marriage with an adulteress, and the second was a sign of the higher sanctity of the priesthood belonging to Ezekiel's temple. Hence, so far from indicating the priority of Ezekiel, it rather points to the priority of Leviticus.
And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
Verses 23, 24. - Among the priests' official duties four things are prescribed.

(1) The education of the people in the fundamental principles of their religion, viz. that a distinction existed between the "holy" and "profane," or "common," and in the practical application of that principle, the art of discerning between the "unclean" and the "clean." This duty had been laid upon the priests of Mosaism (Leviticus 10:10; Deuteronomy 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:10), but in the last years of the monarchy had been neglected (Ezekiel 26:26; comp. Malachi 2:7-9).

(2) The administration of justice in all disputes arising out of and connected with the practices of their religion. This office had pertained to the priests under the Law (Numbers 5:14-31; Deuteronomy 17:8-13; Deuteronomy 19:17; Deuteronomy 21:5), and was exercised in pre-exilic times (Hosea 4:6; Micah 3:11; Isaiah 28:7; Jeremiah 18:18), though not always in accord-ante with Jehovah s judgments. That the juridical authority of the priests was purely of a moral kind (Wellhausen, Smend), can be maintained only by rejecting 2 Chronicles 17:7-9 and 2 Chron 19:5-11 as unhistorical

(3) The regulation of all festal assemblies in accordance with the Divine statutes. For errors in the celebration of these festivals, the priests should be answerable, as they had always been; only under the new regime there should be no errors.

4. The hallowing of Jehovah's sabbaths. This they should do both by resting on the seventh day and by offering the sabbath sacrifices, the showbread, and the burnt offering; both of which things the priests under the Law had been commanded to do (see Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 31:13-17: Leviticus 23:3; Leviticus 24:8; Numbers 28:9), but had not done (Ezekiel 20:12, 13, 20, 21; Ezekiel 22:8; Ezekiel 23:28).
And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths.
And they shall come at no dead person to defile themselves: but for father, or for mother, or for son, or for daughter, for brother, or for sister that hath had no husband, they may defile themselves.
Verses 25-27. - Regulations are next given for preserving the priesthood from defilement through coming in contact with the dead, and for removing such defilement in case of its having been contracted. As under the Law, so in the ideal constitution of Ezekiel, the priests should not be at liberty to contract ceremonial impurity through touching a corpse except in the case of near relations (comp. Leviticus 21:1-4). That neither in Leviticus nor in Ezekiel is the priest's wife among the excepted is surprising, and hardly to be explained, with Knobel, on the ground that a wife is not a blood-relation, since according to the Divine conception of marriage husband and wife are one (Genesis 2:24), but either by holding, with Keil, that the wife, who stands nearer her husband than any of the relatives named, was viewed as included under the phrase, "and for his kin that is near unto him" (Leviticus 21:2), or by supposing it self-evident that such defilement could not be avoided in the case of a wife and was therefore tacitly allowed. Smend, as usual, finds signs of Ezekiel's priority to the priest-code, first in the circumstance that Ezekiel regarded it as perfectly natural that a priest should sorrow for his wife (Ezekiel 24:15-18), which showed he had no acquaintance with Leviticus 21; and secondly, in the fact that Leviticus 21:11 prohibits absolutely to the high priest all contact with a corpse, which, it is argued, betrays a greater strictness than existed in the days of Ezekiel. But as the prohibition in Leviticus 21:11 applies only to the high priest, who in Ezekiel's temple has no place, an argument as to which of the books had priority of origin cannot properly be founded on so insecure a Basis. Knobel remarks on Leviticus 21:1-4 that "among the Greeks, priests and priestesses remained at a distance from funerals (Plato, 'De Legg.,' 12. p. 947); while among the Romans ought the Flamen dialis to touch no corpse (Gell., 10:15), the augur perform no funeral rites (Tacit., 'Ann.,' 1:31), and the pontifex accompany no funeral procession (Die Cass., 56:31); not at all should he behold a dead body (Serv., 'Ad AEn.,' 6:176),and in case he had occasion to pronounce a funeral oration, a curtain should hang between him and the corpse." As to the cleansing of a defiled priest, that should be conducted in accordance with the customary regulations (comp. Numbers 19.),with this difference - that on the termination of the ordinary rites, which extended over seven days, an additional seven days, according to Havernick and Keil (though Hengstenberg and Plumptre decide for only one heptade), should elapse, at the end of which, on the presentation of a sin offering, he should be restored to service in the inner sanctuary.
And after he is cleansed, they shall reckon unto him seven days.
And in the day that he goeth into the sanctuary, unto the inner court, to minister in the sanctuary, he shall offer his sin offering, saith the Lord GOD.
And it shall be unto them for an inheritance: I am their inheritance: and ye shall give them no possession in Israel: I am their possession.
Verses 28-31 state the emoluments which should Be enjoyed by the priests. Verse 28. - The Authorized Version conveys the impression that the first portion of the priests' sustenance should be derived from the sin offering, which is not mentioned till the following verse. And it shall be unto them for an inheritance ought rather to be rendered, and there shall be to them (what shall be) for an inheritance; or more simply, and they shall have an inheritance (Revised Version), which, it is next declared, as in the Law (Numbers 18:20; Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:1, 2), should be Jehovah, and not any territorial possession or tribal tract such as should be assigned to the other tribes (see Ezekiel 48.). Smend thinks Ezekiel was scarcely accurate in describing the priests as landless in the sense intended by the Deuteronomist and the priest-code, since in Ezekiel 45:4 they are, after all, furnished with a plot of ground on which to build their houses and erect their sanctuary; whilst Wellhansen ('Gesehichte Israels,' p. 165) holds the priest-code to have somewhat romanced in adopting the same language about the Aaronides and Levites, since, if they really did obtain forty-eight cities, "what were these if not a lot and a land tract, and that too a comparatively great and important one?" Neither view stands in need of refutation.
They shall eat the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering; and every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs.
Verse 29. - To the priests should be allocated, in addition, what already had been assigned them by the Law for their support, the meat (or, meal) offering, consisting of flour, corn, or bread (comp. Leviticus 2:1-16; Leviticus 6:16; Numbers 28:12, 13), and the sin offering (see Leviticus 6:25-29; Leviticus 7:6; Numbers 18:9, 10), and the trespass (or, guilt) offering (comp. Leviticus 7:28-38), and every dedicated (or, devoted) thing in Israel (see Leviticus 27:21; Numbers 18:14). The burnt offering is omitted, because it was entirely consumed upon the altar, with the exception of the hide or skin, which under the Law became a perquisite of the officiating priest (Leviticus 7:8). That Ezekiel is silent about this, while the requirement of Leviticus 7:30, that the priest should obtain the breast with the right shoulder of every fire offering, goes beyond the prescription of Deuteronomy 18:3, that the shoulder, two cheeks, and the maw should be the priest's portion, is regarded by Wellhausen and Smend as a proof that Ezekiel stands between Deuteronomy and the priest-code. But as Ezekiel does not condescend upon the particular parts which should be reserved from the fire offerings, it is impossible to say whether he held with the Deuteronomist or the writer of the priest-code, supposing them to be different; and, inasmuch as Leviticus 7:30 speaks of an offerings, by fire that was first paid to Jehovah and by him afterwards handed over to Aaron and his sons, while Deuteronomy 18:3 treats of the dues which should be paid by the people directly to the priests, it is clear that both practices may have existed together instead of the one (the former) coming in as an advance upon the other (the latter); see Keil on REFERENCE_WORK:Keil & DelitzschDeuteronomy 18:3.
And the first of all the firstfruits of all things, and every oblation of all, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priest's: ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house.
Verse 30. - A further portion of the priests' emoluments is stated as the first of all the firstfruits of all things - or, of everything (Revised Version), as e.g. of corn, oil, must, and wool - and every oblation (תְּרוּמָה) - or, heave offering - of all - or, of everything - with the first of the people's dough; or, coarse meal; which again re-echoes the provisions of the Law, the first of the firstfruits being specified in Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 18:4; the oblation, or terumah (Hebrew), in Numbers 15:19; Numbers 18:19; and the dough, or coarse meal, or groats, in Numbers 15:20, 21. Ezekiel's supposed (Wellhausen, Smend) silence as regards the firstlings of cattle, which in the book of the covenant (Exodus 22:29) and in the Deuteronomist (Deuteronomy 15:19) are to be eaten by the offerer, but in the priest-code (Numbers 18:21) belong to the priests, is imaginary. The first of all the firstfruits of everything cannot surely mean of everything except cattle. If Ezekiel does not give the tenths of the tithes to the priests, he still assigns them to the sanctuary (see Ezekiel 45:14).
The priests shall not eat of any thing that is dead of itself, or torn, whether it be fowl or beast.
Verse 31. - The commandment of the Mosaic Law is here renewed against eating the flesh of any fowl or beast that had either died a natural death or been mangled in the killing (comp. Leviticus 17:15; Leviticus 22:8) - a commandment which, while enjoined specially upon the priests (Leviticus 22:8), was equally binding upon all (Exodus 20:31; Deuteronomy 14:21).

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