Ezekiel 41:1-26

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The angel led Ezekiel to the temple (or into the main section of the temple) and then measured the “pillars” (jambs or supporting walls) on either side of the entrance. Each one of these “pillars” (jambs or supporting walls) was 6 cubits (c. 10½ feet or over 3 meters) wide (or deep). According to the Masoretic Text, 6 cubits was the “width of the tent.” The word “tent” does not fit the context, and many translators have either omitted the phrase or emended it. In the Septuagint, there is no reference to a “tent,” and it says that the angel measured the ailam (the usual transliteration of the Hebrew word for “porch”) and that the ailam was 6 cubits on one side and 6 cubits on the other side. (41:1; see the Notes section.) The width of the entrance was 10 cubits (c. 17½ feet; c. 5.3 meters), with a 5-cubit (c. 8¾-foot; c. 2.7-meter) “shoulder” or projecting wall on either side. The main section of the temple was 40 cubits (c. 70 feet; over 21 meters) long and 20 cubits (c. 35 feet; c. 10.7 meters) wide. (41:2)

Ezekiel did not enter the most holy place of the temple. The angel alone went inside and measured the “pillar [jamb or supporting wall] of the entrance.” One of these pillars (jambs or supporting walls) would have been on the right side of the entrance and the other one on the left side of the entrance. Each wall was 2 cubits (c. 3½ feet; over 1 meter) wide or thick. According to a literal reading of the Hebrew text, “the entrance — 6 cubits [c. 10½ feet; over 3 meters], and the width of the entrance —7 cubits [c. 12¼ feet; c. 3.7 meters].” Modern translations commonly supply words to convey a more specific meaning. “The entrance was six cubits wide, and the projecting walls on each side of it were seven cubits wide.” (NIV) “The entrance was 10½ feet wide, and the walls on each side of the entrance were 12¼ feet long.” (NLT) “… the entrance itself, 6 cubits across; and the width of [the flanking wall on either side of] the entrance, 7 cubits.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “The entrance itself was six cubits, and the corners of the entrance were seven cubits in each direction.” (REB) (41:3; see the Notes section.)

For Ezekiel, the angel identified the square room that he measured as being the “most holy place.” It was 20 cubits (c. 35 feet; c. 10.7 meters) long and 20 cubits wide. (41:4; see the Notes section.) The angel measured the “wall of the house” or of the temple and found it to be 6 cubits (c. 10½ feet; over 3 meters). Although the Hebrew text does not specify which portion of the wall measured 6 cubits, modern translations vary in indicating this to have been either its thickness or its height. Each side chamber all around the outside of the temple was 4 cubits (c. 7 feet; over 2 meters) wide. (41:5) The side chambers appear to have been arranged one on top of another in three levels. In view of the obscurity of the extant Hebrew text, modern translations vary in their interpretive renderings. “The side rooms were on three levels, one above another, thirty on each level. There were ledges all around the wall of the temple to serve as supports for the side rooms, so that the supports were not inserted into the wall of the temple.” (NIV) “The arcades were arranged in three tiers, each tier in thirty sections. In the wall all round the temple there were rebatements for the arcades, so that they could be supported without being fastened into the wall of the temple.” (REB) “There were thirty side chambers, chamber upon chamber in three stories; terraces on the outside wall of the temple enclosing the side chambers provided support, but there were no supports for the temple wall itself.” (NAB, revised edition) “The side chambers were arranged one above the other, in 33 sections. All around, there were projections in the Temple wall to serve the side chambers as supports, so that [their] supports should not be the Temple wall itself.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) (41:6; see the Notes section.)

In the Hebrew text, the description of the arrangement of the chambers and the means of ascent is somewhat obscure. Based on what appears to be a similar arrangement for the temple that was built during the reign of King Solomon (1 Kings 6:6, 8), a structural feature made the chambers become correspondingly wider. Many modern translations are more specific in their renderings than is the original-language text and convey varying meanings. “The side rooms all around the temple were wider at each successive level. The structure surrounding the temple was built in ascending stages, so that the rooms widened as one went upward. A stairway went up from the lowest floor to the top floor through the middle floor.” (NIV) “Each level was wider than the one below it, corresponding to the narrowing of the Temple wall as it rose higher. A stairway led up from the bottom level through the middle level to the top level.” (NLT) “The winding passage of the side chambers widened from story to story; and since the structure was furnished all over with winding passages from story to story, the structure itself became wider from story to story. It was by this means that one ascended from the bottom story to the top one by way of the middle one.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “A broad passageway led up the side chambers, for the house was enclosed all the way up and all the way around. Thus the temple was widened by the ascent that went up from the lowest story through the middle one to the highest story.” (NAB, revised edition) “The higher up the arcades were, the broader they were all round by the addition of the rebatements, one above the other all round the temple; the temple itself had a ramp running upwards on a base, and in this way there was access from the lowest to the highest tier by way of the middle tier.” (REB) (41:7)

Round about the foundations of the side chambers, Ezekiel noticed that the “house” or temple had a raised platform or pavement (literally, a “height”). This pavement apparently provided the foundations for the side chambers and had either a length or a height of a “full reed” or 6 long cubits (c. 10½ feet or over 3 meters) (41:8; see the Notes section.)

The outer wall of each side chamber was 5 cubits (c. 8¾ feet; c. 2.7 meters) thick. There appears to have been an open paved area between the “house [or complex] of “side chambers of the temple” (41:9) and the chambers or rooms on the opposite side of the court. This open area was 20 cubits (c. 35 feet; c. 10.7 meters) wide “round about the house” or temple. (41:10) From the narrower open area, one could enter the rooms through a door facing north and another door facing south. The width of this narrower open area all around was 5 cubits (c. 8¾ feet; c. 2.7 meters). (41:11)

On the “corner of the west side” of the temple area, there was a structure that faced the “separation,” either a vacant section or a restricted space adjacent to this structure. The structure itself was 70 cubits (122½ feet; 37.3 meters) wide and 90 cubits (157½ feet; c. 48 meters) long, and the wall thereof was 5 cubits (c. 8¾ feet; c. 2.7 meters) thick. (41:12)

The angel measured the “house” or the temple. Its length was 100 cubits (c. 175 feet; c. 53.3 meters). Including the “separation,” either the vacant or the restricted space on the west side of the temple, the structure there with its walls also was 100 cubits long (the length of the structure being 70 cubits, plus walls of 5 cubits each [a total of 10 cubits], and a vacant or restricted space of 20 cubits). (41:13)

The front of the temple faced east. Its width, including the “separation” (either the vacant or the restricted space), was 100 cubits (c. 175 feet; c. 53.3 meters). (41:14)

The angel measured the length of the structure that faced the “separation,” either the vacant or the restricted space. This structure was located behind the temple or on the west side. Including the galleries or porches on either side of the structure, its length was 100 cubits (c. 175 feet; c. 53.3 meters). (41:15a) Next the primary focus of the narrative changes to the materials and the decoration of the temple interior. “And the temple, the inner section [the corners (LXX)], and the porches of the court [the ailam (LXX), the outer one; the inner one (P967)] …” The Septuagint rendering completes the sentence and could be understood to mean that the ailam or “porches were roofed” or paneled. (41:15b)

According to the Masoretic Text, the phrase at the end of verse 15 continues in the next verse with a listing of other architectural features, “the thresholds and the closed [or shuttered] openings [or windows] and the galleries round about to the three…” Instead of being closed or shuttered, the openings or windows may have narrowed, being larger on the outside than on the inside. The Septuagint indicates that the windows were netted or latticed and permitted limited light to enter “round about to the three” (perhaps meaning to the three levels of chambers [verse 7]) and made it possible to look through them. A literal rendering of the Hebrew words that follow could be, “in front of the threshold wood paneling round about and [from] the floor [literally, earth] up to the openings [or windows], and the openings [or windows] were covered.” There is considerable uncertainty about the meaning of Hebrew text, and translators vary in their interpretive renderings. “The thresholds — and the windows with frames and the ledges at the threshold, all over the three parts of each, were completely overlaid with wood. There was wainscoting from the floor to the windows, including the window [frame]s.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “The windows had recesses and precious wood trim around all three sides except the sill. Paneling covered the walls from the floor up to the windows and even the window sections.” (NAB, revised edition) “The sanctuary, the inner room, and the entry room of the Temple were all paneled with wood, as were the frames of the recessed windows. The inner walls of the Temple were paneled with wood above and below the windows.” (NLT) “The sanctuary, the inner shrine, and the outer vestibule were panelled; the embrasures around the three of them were framed with wood all round. From the ground up to the windows … were carved figures, cherubim and palm trees …” (REB) “The entrance room of the Temple, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place were all paneled with wood from the floor to the windows. These windows could be covered.” (TEV) “The inside walls of the temple’s porch and main room were paneled with wood all the way from the floor to the windows, while the doorways, the small windows, and the three side rooms were trimmed in wood.” (CEV) “The inside of the Hekal and the porches of the court, the thresholds, the windows, the galleries on three sides, facing the threshold, were panelled with wood all round from floor to windows, and the windows were screened with latticework.” (NJB) The concluding phrases in the Septuagint indicate that the “house [or temple] and the nearby structures were made of wood all around,” as also were the “floor and [the area] from the floor to the windows, and the windows [probably the lattices] were folded back thrice for looking through.” (41:16)

To the area above the space of the opening or entrance and the “inner house” (or the inner room of the temple) and “on the outside” (of it) “and on the entire wall round about on the inside and on the outside,” there were “measures.” Possibly the Hebrew word for “measures” here refers to the consistent spacing of the carved representations on all the walls. (41:17)

Carved cherubs and palm trees adorned the walls, with the representation of a cherub being on each side of the figure of a palm tree. Every cherub had two faces. (41:18) The “face of a man” was “toward the palm tree on one side” and the “face of a young lion” was “toward the palm tree on the other side.” This was the arrangement of the ornamentation on the entire “house” or temple “all around.” (41:19) “On the wall of the temple [more specifically, the main part of the temple or the Holy],” there were carved cherubs and palm trees “from the floor [literally, the earth or ground] to [the area] above the opening” or entrance. (41:20) Apparently each temple doorpost was squared, and in front of the “holy place” there was an object that is described as an “appearance of an appearance.” (41:21; see the Notes section.) This object was a wooden altar measuring 3 cubits (c. 5¼ feet; c. 1.6 meters) in height and 2 cubits (c. 3½ feet; over 1 meter) in length. According to the Septuagint, the altar also was 2 cubits wide. Regarding the altar, the Hebrew text continues with the words, “its corners [or corner posts] and its length and its walls [were] wood.” The Septuagint says that the altar “had horns” and that “its base and its walls” were wooden. Concerning the altar, the angel said to Ezekiel, “This [is] the table which [is] before the face of YHWH.” (41:22)

The “temple” (more specifically, the main part of the temple or the Holy) and the “holy place” (or the Most Holy) had “two doors” or double doors. (41:23) Each one of these doors or doorways appears to have had two hinged leaves for opening and closing. (41:24) Carved representations of cherubs and palm trees adorned the temple doors. These representations were like those that had been made on the walls of the temple. There was a wooden canopy “in front of the porch [ailam (LXX)] outside.” (41:25; see the Notes section.)

The reference to the openings or windows as being “shut” could either be understood to indicate that they were shuttered or that they narrowed, being larger on the outside than on the inside. Possibly the Hebrew expression “here and here” refers to either side of the openings or windows. It appears that there were carvings of palm trees on the sides of the windows and of the “porch” (ailam [LXX]), and on the walls of the “chambers of the temple.” Whether the “canopies” were decorated with the figures of palm trees is questionable. A measure of obscurity in the Hebrew text has led to a variety of interpretive renderings in modern translations. Some of these renderings either omit much of the wording of the Hebrew text or supply additional words to convey a specific meaning. “On the sidewalls of the portico were narrow windows with palm trees carved on each side. The side rooms of the temple also had overhangs.” (NIV) “On both sides of the entry room were recessed windows decorated with carved palm trees. The side rooms along the outside wall also had roofs.” (NLT) “On both sides of the vestibule were embrasures, with palm trees carved at the corners.” (REB) “There were recessed windows and palm trees on the side walls of the vestibule. The side chambers of the temple also had latticework.” (NAB, revised edition) “At the sides of this room there were windows, and the walls were decorated with palm trees.” (TEV) “The walls on each side of this porch had small windows and were also decorated with carvings of palm trees.” (CEV) “And there were windows with frames and palm trees on the flanking walls of the portico on either side [of the entrance] and [on] the Temple’s side chambers [on] the latices.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition) (41:26; see the Notes section.)


Expository comments: The specifics about the temple Ezekiel saw in vision may well have provided a basis for the Jewish exiles to entertain the hope that the time would come when YHWH’s temple would once again be in Jerusalem. Certain details about this visionary temple, however, pointed to a development that transcended the role of the temple the military force under the command of Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed and which was rebuilt after the Jews returned from Babylonian exile. According to Ezekiel chapter 47, a life-giving stream would flow from the temple Ezekiel saw in vision. This indicates that a new arrangement for worship would come into existence. Apparently concerning this new arrangement for worship that would not be associated with any material edifice or geographical location, Jesus, the promised Messiah, Christ, or Anointed One, revealed to a Samaritan woman that true worshipers would not be worshiping at a temple in Jerusalem nor one on Mount Gerizim as had the Samaritans at an earlier time but would be worshiping God in “spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)

The wording of verse 1 in the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) indicates that the angel went alone into the sanctuary.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 3 differs from the extant Hebrew text. “And he entered into the inner court and measured the ail of the doorway — 2 cubits, and the doorway — 6 cubits, and the shoulders of the doorway — 7 cubits on this side and 7 cubits on that side.”

In verse 4, the Septuagint applies the dimension of 20 cubits to the width of the “doors” (“gates” [P967]) in front of the sanctuary and indicates that the length of these doors was 40 cubits.

Ancient Greek manuscripts vary respecting the number of the “sides” (verse 6) or side chambers (33 twice; 30 thrice, twice [or 90 twice]; or 33).

In verse 8, the Septuagint has a transliteration of a Hebrew word (thrael) that is not in the extant Hebrew text. The Septuagint appears to indicate that, above the elevated thrael of the house or temple, there was a space round about between the “sides” (or side chambers). This space corresponded to a “reed” — six cubits.

In verse 21, the Septuagint does not refer to a doorpost. It indicates that the holy place and the sanctuary were opened on four sides.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 25 contains the word ailam, the usual transliteration of the Hebrew word for “porch.” Additionally, its rendering suggests that the wood was of excellent quality.

In verse 26, the Septuagint makes no reference to “canopies” and its wording differs significantly from the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that the angel measured on one side and on the other side up to the roofing (or ceiling) of the ailam (porch) and to the sides of the house (or temple) that were joined together.