Bible Commentary: Ezekiel 46

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Ezekiel 46

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Temple Offerings

As we saw earlier, the outer east gate will be permanently shut following Christ's arrival. The inner east gate is to be opened for certain religious observances, such as the Sabbaths and new moons. (During the workweek the inner east gate is closed, perhaps symbolic of the fact that mankind was shut out from God for six millennia as a result of sin.)

The prince is to bring the offerings he was instructed to provide for the people, and to go through the inner east gate to the edge of the inner court while these offerings are prepared. The gate is then to remain open for the remainder of the day, so that others may worship at the entrance of the gate (verses 1-3). If the prince brings an offering on a day when the east gate is normally shut, it will be opened for him, but closed again when he is finished with the offering (verse 12). And, as we saw earlier, if the prince was making a peace offering, he would proceed across the pavement of the outer courtyard to the outer east gate for eating his part of the sacrifice (Ezekiel 44:3).

Ezekiel 46:9 describes an interesting traffic pattern for the annual feasts. When entering the temple courts for the feasts, the people will be required to pass through the outer courtyard, and not just go in and back out again the way they came. Some have suggested this as improving the traffic flow, but others see it perhaps as more symbolic of the people not returning to their former ways. The people will not likely just pass through, of course. Part of the reason for entering the temple is to partake of the peace offerings, which is the reason for the abundance of dining chambers, which probably also double as meeting rooms as such facilities often do for us today. But neither will the people come in just to eat of the sacrifices. Rather, everyone will be required to go past the front of the east inner gate before proceeding on his way.

This area (between the inner and outer east gates) is 100 cubits wide, as we have seen (Ezekiel 40:19), and provides a place where praise and thanksgiving can be offered to God on the weekly Sabbaths and on the New Moons (46:3). But during the annual feasts, there will be too many people in attendance for all to gather together there for worship. Instead people will visit this place of prayer and singing as they are going out or coming in. And as they do so, they will also be crossing over the river of life that proceeds from God's temple (which we will read about in chapter 47). Then, in order to get back to where they came from (if they didn't circle around on their way to the temple), people will have to go around the outer perimeter of the temple complex as well (perhaps along the east side where they may wade in the river of life and, as mentioned in chapter 47, partake of the fruitful trees alongside it—elsewhere shown to parallel the tree of life—and gather of their leaves for their healing).

Inheritance laws are mentioned in verses 16-18 of Ezekiel 46, where we discover that the law of jubilees will be in effect, where land is returned to the family that originally owned it in the 50th year, the year of liberty (see Leviticus 25).

For the remainder of Ezekiel 46, the prophet is shown various cooking places. The bulk of sacrifices, especially at feasts, are peace offerings. Only the blood and fat of such sacrifices are offered to God. The remainder is eaten by the offerer, with a token portion consumed by the priest as well. Also, most sin and trespass offerings are eaten by the priests, and the grain offerings need to be baked. In chapter 42, we were shown the dining chambers for the priests—three-story buildings west of the north and south inner gates. Apparently, the "kitchens" for these chambers are to the west of the dining rooms, in the previously unaccounted-for area at the northwest and southwest corners of the inner court building complex (verses 19-20).

It does not actually say whether the cooking places for the priests will be indoors or out. There are also cooking areas (in this case, outdoor patios with built-in, presumably wood-burning, stoves) for the temple servants (Levites, 44:11) to cook the peoples' portions of the sacrifices, located in the four corners of the outer court. We are told they are each 30 x 40 cubits (more than 5,000 square feet). Since the people also need places to eat this prepared food, this is most likely the purpose of the chambers that surround the outer court.