Bible Commentary: Ezekiel 41

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Ezekiel 41

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The Temple Sanctuary

God's Millennial Structure of Temple Cutaway
God's Millennial Structure Cutaway View

The temple sanctuary building itself is not described in detail in Ezekiel. But it is described enough to recognize that the design is very much like that of both the tabernacle and the temple Solomon built. This makes sense when we realize that the designs of these earlier structures were given by God to reflect the pattern of the heavenly temple (see Exodus 25:8-9; 26:30; 1 Chronicles 28:11-12, 19; Hebrews 8:5). To get a full picture of Ezekiel's temple, it is often necessary to refer to details given elsewhere about the first temple, and even the tabernacle.

For example, the height of the vestibule or "porch" (the entrance hall structure) of the future temple is not given in Ezekiel. It is described in 2 Chronicles 3:4 as being 120 cubits (252 feet) in height, making it as tall as a modern 25-story building. The lobby of this entrance hall is described by Ezekiel 40:49 as having inside dimensions of 11 x 20 cubits (23 x 42 feet).

Ezekiel now enters the Holy Place from the vestibule (verses 1-2). There are only two rooms in the temple sanctuary, each 20 cubits (42 feet) in width. The first, called elsewhere the Holy Place, is 20 x 40 cubits (42 x 84 feet). The height is given in 1 Kings 6:2 as 30 cubits (63 feet). In the tabernacle and first temple, it contained the table of showbread, the seven-branched lampstand or menorah and the altar of incense. Only the incense altar is mentioned here (Ezekiel 41:22), but that could be because it is specifically mentioned as being larger. Perhaps the other furnishings, if present, were the same as Ezekiel already knew them to be from the first temple.

The inner room (verses 3-4), called the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies, is a square 20 x 20 cubits. According to 1 Kings 6:20 its height is also 20 cubits. In the tabernacle and first temple it contained the Ark of the Covenant. Ezekiel does not mention the ark. Jeremiah 3:16-17 says: "Then it shall come to pass...that they will say no more, 'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.' It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem." This could mean that there won't be an ark there at all. However, that seems somewhat odd given that there is a heavenly ark that would likely still be typified in the millennial temple (see Revelation 11:19). The point of Jeremiah's statement may simply be that the actual bodily presence of God in the person of the glorified Jesus Christ will so overshadow the ark that this representative object will not even be thought of. People will go to Jerusalem not to visit the mere resting place of the ark, but rather to see where the Almighty King sits enthroned in majesty. What is the ark itself compared to that awesome reality? (Interestingly, the statement that the ark will not be "made anymore" could even indicate that the original ark will be the one brought back and used—though the word rendered "made" can be variously translated, so the meaning is not entirely clear.)

Further details on the design and decor of the temple can be found in 1 Kings 6 (verses 2-4, 14-32). It can also be noted that most of the dimensions of the temple structure are twice that of the tabernacle (see Exodus 26:15-30). With this initial brief description of the temple sanctuary, Ezekiel moves beyond its 6-cubit-thick (12.6-foot) walls (Ezekiel 41:5), to the 90 side chambers that surround it. Combined with 1 Kings 6:5-6 and verse 10 we learn that each room is four cubits in width and five cubits tall, but five, six or seven cubits in length depending on which of the three stories the rooms were on, with the larger rooms on the top floor. (These chambers bolster the argument for a seven-palm cubit, which would make the smaller rooms 8.4 x 10.5 feet, with 10.5-foot stories. With a five-palm or 18-inch cubit, these rooms would only be 6 x 7.5 feet, with a rather short 7.5 feet between floors.) The step-like construction of these chambers is described, with the explanation that the configuration allows each floor to be supported on the temple side using one-cubit ledges, rather than requiring fasteners penetrating into the temple wall itself (Ezekiel 41:6-7; compare 1 Kings 6:6). No mention is given here as to the purpose for these chambers, but other verses (for example, 1 Chronicles 9:27) describe Levites lodging all around the house of God. These rooms do seem about the size of bedrooms, with the third floor chambers being large enough for double occupancy. (This would allow a total of 120 beds.)

We were earlier told that there were steps leading up to the temple (40:49). The number is not given. Ezekiel 41:8 describes a six-cubit elevation around the temple for the side chambers, but when all the various measurements are laid out, it appears that this foundation does not extend underneath the temple itself. There is also a five-cubit-wide terrace along the outside of the side chambers, undoubtedly with a restraining rail of some sort for the safety of those using it (verse 11; see Deuteronomy 22:8). The 20-cubit-wide walkway (verse 10) appears to be the one on the ground level between the temple and the inner court buildings.

In verse 12, Ezekiel is shown one of these buildings—the very large structure on the western side of the inner courtyard. It is 70 x 90 cubits inside (nearly 28,000 square feet). Not much is said about it here, but in 1 Chronicles 26:12-18 a storehouse is mentioned, adjacent to a highway, which could only have been on the western side of the temple complex where there were no outer courts. Several other scriptures mention such a storehouse (see 1 Kings 7:51; Nehemiah 10:38; 12:44; 13:12-13; Malachi 3:10) as a place for keeping tithes, offerings and firstfruits, as well as temple articles of gold and silver. Since most all of the other buildings are multiple stories, it is also quite likely that this building is similarly tall.

We are then given several measurements that are all 100 cubits (Ezekiel 41:13). First, the temple itself from east to west is 100 cubits. Second, from the west outer edge of the temple complex through the storehouse and walkway to the west edge of the temple itself is also 100 (5+70+5+20 cubits). We were previously told of the 100-cubit courtyard in the center, and the two 50-cubit east gates with a 100-cubit outer court between them, making the entire complex from west to east 500 cubits, as already mentioned. The north-south dimensions were already defined as two 50-cubit gates and a 100-cubit outer courtyard on each side of the 100-cubit inner courtyard at the center. We are now also told that the eastern face of the temple and two 20-cubit walkways are the exact width of the 100-cubit inner court, making the temple itself 60 cubits wide (verse 14). The western storehouse is also confirmed to be 100 cubits wide (90 plus the two five-cubit-wide walls, verse 15).

The remainder of the chapter contains details on the appearance of the temple. These include windows and wall decorations of palm trees and "cherubim," creatures that in this case had two faces, as opposed to the four faces Ezekiel had seen many years earlier (see Ezekiel 1). There is also a description of the incense altar (41:22), which was a cubit higher and wider than that of the tabernacle (see Exodus 30:2). Finally, we are given descriptions of the bi-fold doors to each of the two rooms of the temple. Further details are given in 1 Kings 6 about windows and wall decorations, although in some cases differences can be noted.