The Inner Court Buildings and Holy Area
Ezekiel now leaves the immediate temple area and proceeds through the inner north gate to the outer courtyard, and over to a 100 x 50 cubit, three-story building on the west side of the gate (verses 1-3). This building, and the corresponding one next to the inner south gate, are said to be dining chambers where the priests eat the holy offerings (verse 13). They have an interesting terraced construction, where each floor is narrower than the one below it (verses 5-6). The rooms on the ground floor are said to have a 10-cubit-wide indoor corridor in front of them (verse 4). The upper floors are each set back, to allow for rooftop patios (outdoor corridors) in front of the second- and third-floor rooms. The first- and second-floor rooms are the same size, but the third-floor rooms are smaller (verses 5-6).
At the end of this chapter, Ezekiel is taken through the outer east gate to measure the enclosed temple district. Notice these measurements are using the measuring rod of six cubits. So rather than being the 500 cubits per side of the temple complex, this is a 3,000-cubit-per-side "holy area" (verse 20). The word "cubits" in the NKJV is italicized in verse 20. The KJV translators correctly used "reeds," as specifically stated in the previous verses. This is describing a walled area 1.2 miles square, probably of carefully landscaped parkland, with the temple complex in the middle of it. This gives a "buffer zone" of almost exactly one half mile between the outside walls of the temple complex and the walls around its grounds.
If this outer wall is also the one we saw in Ezekiel 40:5, then it is about 12 feet thick and 12 feet high. What purpose might this serve? The parkland surrounding the temple "city" could be more than just open space. It could serve as an area for tents or booths during the pilgrimage feasts, especially the Feast of Tabernacles. If so, this thick wall could house much needed bathroom facilities, or supply other indoor needs for the large numbers of visitors.