Bible Commentary: Ezekiel 44

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Ezekiel 44

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Ordinances of the Temple and Priesthood

Ezekiel is taken back to the outer east gate and discovers that now it has been shut. Following Christ's arrival, no man will be allowed to use it (verses 1-2). However, one identified as the "prince"— ruler or leader—will be permitted to enter the eastern gate complex through its porch for eating certain ceremonial meals (verse 3). This person cannot be Jesus Christ, for we later discover that he must make a sin offering for himself (Ezekiel 45:22). Indeed, Ezekiel 46:16-17 says the prince has natural children. Some have argued that the prince is the resurrected King David, as he will be prince over Israel in the Millennium (Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24). Yet that doesn't fit either because David also would not need to offer a sin offering for himself. Nor would any of the glorified saints who will then no longer sin. So the prince here must be a human being who needs to repent of sin. From all that is written of the prince in chapters 45-46, it is evident that he is a civil leader, the highest human ruler of the day, probably of the house of David.

As the porch on an outer gate is on the inner side of a gate complex, the prince is entering the east gate from inside the temple area, from the outer courtyard. The outer door of the east gate remains shut, and even Ezekiel is no longer taken through the east gate door. We will later learn the rules governing the inner east gate, but for now, Ezekiel is caused to avoid the east gate, by being taken into the inner court again via the north gate (Ezekiel 44:4), where he receives more instruction about what is expected of the Israelites in this future temple.

Circumcision will still be in effect, or reinstated, for all who enter the holy sanctuary—the requirement being both physical and spiritual circumcision (verse 9). Sacrifices will also be reestablished, as noted earlier, which is clear throughout these chapters. The Levites will again serve in the temple as non-priestly ministers. Even the priestly descendants of Aaron, except for one branch, could only serve in this non-priestly capacity. The restrictions imposed on the Levites' assigned work will serve as a reminder of their family's failure to properly exercise their duties in the past (verses 10-14). However, God said the descendants of Zadok (probably the priest who served during the reigns of David and Solomon, see 1 Kings 2:35) remained faithful during those years of apostasy. And as a reward, they will become the priestly line (Ezekiel 44:15). (This will also fulfill promises given previously to descendants of Aaron and his grandson Phinehas, from whom Zadok descended—see Numbers 18; Numbers 25:11-13.)

We are then reminded of some of the regulations regarding the priests, most of which had already been given through Moses. They are to wear special linen garments when on duty within the inner court or inner court buildings (verses 17-19; see Exodus 28:39-43; Leviticus 16:4). Their hair is to be well trimmed (verse 20; see Leviticus 21:5). They are not to drink alcoholic beverages before performing their priestly duties (verse 21; see Leviticus 10:9). There are restrictions as to whom they can marry (verse 22; see Leviticus 21:7, 13-14). They have a responsibility to teach God's laws (verse 23; see Leviticus 10:10). They are to act as judges (verse 24; see Deuteronomy 17:8-13). They are not to defile themselves by exposure to those who have died (verse 25; see Leviticus 21:1-4). The priests were not to receive an inheritance in the land (verse 28; see Numbers 18:20). They were to eat the appointed offerings and tithes of the people (verses 29-30; see Numbers 18:8-19). But they were not allowed to eat any animal that had not been explicitly killed for eating (verse 31; see Leviticus 22:8).

While we see many parallels between the past and the future, no description of a human high priest among the Zadokite priests is given—presumably because Jesus Christ alone will fulfill that role in perpetuity. It is, of course, possible that there will be a leading human figure among the priests.