Ezekiel 42:1-20

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The angel conducted Ezekiel into the outer court. There is a measure of obscurity about how the words that follow may be understood. Literally translated, the Hebrew text says, “the way of way, the north.” Possibly the meaning is that the angel led Ezekiel by way of a north way or through a north gateway. He then brought him “to the chamber” (probably meaning a chamber complex of dining rooms) that was “opposite the separation” (either a vacant or a restricted area) and “opposite the structure on the north” side. (42:1; see the Notes section.) The structure then appears to be described as being 100 cubits (c. 175 feet; c. 53.3 meters) long and 50 cubits (c. 87½ feet; c. 27 meters) wide. One accessed this structure through a north entrance. (42:2)

The extant Hebrew text links the number “twenty” to the “inner court.” In relation to the words that follow, it appears that the reference is to an area of 20 cubits (c. 35 feet; c. 10.7 meters) in the inner court that faced a pavement of the outer court. Seemingly, a gallery with three levels bordered this 20-cubit area and stood opposite another gallery on the other side that overlooked the outer court pavement. (42:3; see the Notes section.)

In front of the chambers that functioned as dining rooms, there was a 10-cubit (c. 17½-foot; c. 5.3-meter) wide passageway “toward the inside.” It may be that this passageway occupied the space between two chamber complexes. The reference to a “way of one cubit” (c. 21 inches; c. 53 centimeters) may be to a walkway that bordered the chambers. Entrances to the chambers were on the north side. According to the Septuagint, the passageway was 10 cubits wide and 100 cubits long. Modern translations vary in either following the Hebrew text or the Septuagint and in their interpretation of the Hebrew phrase that may be literally rendered “toward the inside” and which phrase is not included in the Septuagint. “In front of the chambers was a walkway ten cubits wide on the inside of a wall one cubit wide. The doorways faced north.” (NAB, revised edition) “There was an areaway 10 cubits wide and a road of one cubit, running along the inner-court side of the chamber complex, but its entrances were on its north side.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “In front of the rooms was an inner passageway ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long. Their doors were on the north.” (NIV) “In front of the chambers was a passage on the inner side, ten cubits wide and one hundred cubits deep, and its entrances were on the north.” (NRSV) “In front of the rooms a passage, ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long, ran towards the inner court; the entrances to the rooms faced north.” (REB) (42:4)

The upper chambers of the structure were narrower than the lowest and the middle ones. This was because the “galleries” took more space away from them than from the chambers on the other levels. (42:5; see the Notes section.)

The complex of chambers was arranged in three levels. It had no supporting pillars “like the pillars of the courts.” Therefore, the upper chambers appear to have been recessed from the floor or the level of the middle chambers and the middle chambers from the floor or the level of the lower chambers. (42:6)

A 50-cubit (c. 87½-foot; c. 27-meter) outside wall ran parallel to the chambers “in the outer court” (literally, “way of the court, the outer one”). The next phrase in the Hebrew text may be literally translated, “toward [the] face [or the front side] of the chambers.” This could mean that the wall extended to another chamber complex. Modern translations vary in their interpretive renderings. “In the outer court, a wall 50 cubits long ran parallel to the chamber complex up to the chambers [along the west wall (footnote)] in the outer court.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “An outside wall, fifty cubits long, ran parallel to the rooms and in front of them, on the side of the outer court.” (REB) “There was an outer wall parallel to the rooms and the outer court; it extended in front of the rooms for fifty cubits.” (NIV) “The outside walls ran parallel to the chambers along the outer court, a length of fifty cubits.” (NAB, revised edition) “There was an outer wall that separated the rooms from the outer courtyard; it was 87½ feet long.” (NLT) (42:7; see the Notes section.)

The “length of the chambers [or chamber complex] on the outer court” was 50 cubits (c. 87½ feet; c. 27 meters), and the length of the complex of chambers “before the face of the temple” (or opposite the temple) was 100 cubits (c. 175 feet; c. 53.3 meters). According to the Septuagint rendering, the combined length of the two chamber complexes was 100 cubits, with each one being 50 cubits. (42:8) From the outer court, the lower level of chambers or of the chamber complex could be entered on the east side. (42:9; see the Notes section.)

In front of the “separation,” the vacant or restricted area, and the “structure,” there were chambers or a complex of chambers that apparently functioned as dining rooms. This chamber complex is described as being “in the breadth of the wall of the court [by] way of the east,” possibly meaning that the complex was located alongside the wall of the court on the east side. Instead of “east,” the Septuagint says “south,” and a number of modern translations have adopted this rendering and have added words to convey a more specific meaning than is apparent from the Hebrew text. “To the south along the side of the restricted area and the building there were also chambers.” (NAB, revised edition) “In the thickness of the wall of the court, on the south side fronting the court and the building, were rooms.” (NJB) “On the south side along the length of the wall of the outer court, adjoining the temple courtyard and opposite the outer wall, were rooms.” (NIV) “On the south side of the Temple there were two blocks of rooms just south of the inner courtyard between the Temple and the outer courtyard. These rooms were arranged just like the rooms on the north.” (NLT) (42:10) A passage was in front of the “chambers” or the complex of chambers. These chambers and the passage were just like those on the north side. The length, width, all the exits, the arrangements, and the entrances were the same. In the Septuagint, there is no corresponding word for arrangements, plans, or layouts. It additionally refers to “curves” and “light” (or openings for light). (42:11)

The Hebrew text regarding the “entrances of the chambers” or complex of chambers is obscure. Literally, this text could be rendered, “And like entrances of the chambers [by] way of the south, an entrance at the head of the way, the way before the corresponding wall [by] way of the east as one enters them.” Modern translations have variously rendered the text interpretively in an effort to convey a more comprehensible meaning. “Similar to the doorways on the north were the doorways of the rooms on the south. There was a doorway at the beginning of the passageway that was parallel to the corresponding wall extending eastward, by which one enters the rooms.” (NIV) “Accordingly, the entrances to the chamber complex on the south side were approached from the east by the entrance at the head of the corresponding passage along the matching wall.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “So there was an entrance in the wall facing the doors of the inner block of rooms, and another on the east at the end of the interior walkway.” (NLT) “At the base of the chambers on the south side there was an entry at the end of a walkway in front of the protective wall by which one could enter from the east.” (NAB, revised edition) “Before the rooms on the south side there was an entrance at the end of each walk, opposite the corresponding wall on the east side, at their entries.” (NJB) (42:12; see the Notes section.)

The angel told Ezekiel that the north chambers and the south chambers that faced the separation (the vacant or restricted area) were “holy chambers” where the priests (the “sons of Saddouk” [Zadok], LXX) would be eating. These priests are described as persons who “approach YHWH,” or who are men granted to act as his representatives when performing their sacred temple duties. Besides eating in the chambers, the priests would deposit the “most holy offerings” there — the “most holy offerings,” the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering, “for the place [is] holy.” The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) adds that, because the place is holy, no one other than the priests are permitted to enter it. (42:13) While inside the “holy place,” the priests had to take off the holy garments in which they customarily ministered, deposit them there, and put on other garments before they left for the area to which the people had access. (42:14)

After the angel had measured the “inner house” or inner temple area, he led Ezekiel “out [by] way of the gate” that faced east “and measured it [the area] round about.” The Septuagint rendering is more specific when referring to the measuring of the “plan of the house round about in arrangement.” Possibly this is to be understood that the measuring of the plan or layout of the temple complex proceeded in consecutive order. (42:15)

The angel measured the east side (literally, “wind”) with a measuring reed. Although the Hebrew text says “500 reeds by the measuring reed, round about,” it is commonly translated to refer to a length of 500 cubits (c. 875 feet; c. 267 meters). The Septuagint rendering contains the number 500 but does not identify the unit of measurement. Additionally, it mentions that the angel stood behind the gate that looked to the east and did the measuring. (42:16; see the Notes section.)

The angel measured the north side (literally, “wind”). It was “500 reeds [cubits (LXX)] by the measuring reed, round about.” According to the Septuagint, the angel “turned toward the north” and did the measuring. Translators commonly follow the Septuagint, referring to the dimension as being 500 cubits (c. 875 feet; c. 267 meters). The oldest extant Greek text (P967), however, does not include the wording of this verse. (42:17)

The angel measured the south side (literally, “wind”) — “500 reeds by the measuring reed.” In the Septuagint, the number 500 is included but the unit of measurement is omitted. It says, “And he turned toward the sea [the Mediterranean Sea to the west] and measured according to the face [or direction] of the sea — 500 by the measuring reed.” Modern translations commonly refer to 500 cubits (c. 875 feet; c. 267 meters), not 500 reeds. (42:18; see the Notes section.)

The angel “turned to the west side [literally, wind] and measured — 500 reeds by the measuring reed.” As in the previous verses, modern translations indicate the measurement to have been 500 cubits (c. 875 feet; c. 267 meters). (41:19; see the Notes section.)

The angel measured the four sides (literally, “winds”) of the area. A wall surrounded the area and served to separate the “holy” from the “common” or profane. Although the measurement for the length and breadth of the wall is given as 500, there is no reference to “reeds” or cubits.” The Septuagint says, “500 toward the east and 500 cubits [in] breadth.” Modern translations commonly insert “cubits” after 500 (c. 875 feet; c. 267 meters). (41:20)


In verse 1, the Septuagint indicates that the angel conducted Ezekiel “into the outer court” in an eastward direction to a location “opposite the gate toward the north.” After having been led inside, Ezekiel saw “five inner chambers” next to an open area and next to the “separation toward the north.”

Verse 3 of the Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that the “five inner chambers” (verse 1) were adorned with carvings like the “gates of the inner court” and like the “colonnades of the outer court.” Seemingly, stoas consisting of three stories were set in rows and faced each other.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 5 departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It appears to indicate that the upper passages were the same as the one previously mentioned (verse 4), for the upper peristyle projected from the one beneath it and the space between. The architectural layout consisted of a “presityle and a space between, and thus stoas.”

The wording of verse 7 in the Septuagint departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It refers to “light” outside as being like that in the chambers of the outer court. These chambers are described as being located in front of the chambers “toward the north.” Like the Hebrew text, the Septuagint refers to the length as being “fifty cubits.”

The Septuagint rendering of verse 9 does not complete the last sentence. This sentence is continued in verse 10, with the words, “according to the light at the beginning of the passage.” Possibly the obscure wording means that there was an opening for light at the eastern entrance of the chamber complex.

The Septuagint rendering of the wording in verse 12, although differing from the Hebrew text, is likewise obscure. Regarding doorways, it seems to indicate that the ones for the rooms to the south “and according to the doorways at the beginning of the passage,” were entered from the east. There is an intervening phrase after the word translated “passage.” That phrase is, “upon a light interval of a reed.” Perhaps this means that there was a distance of a reed (c. 10½ feet or over 3 meters) for light at the entrance to the rooms.

If the unit of measurement in verses 16 through 20 is considered to be the “reed,” this would mean that a length of 500 reeds would be about 5,250 feet (1.6 kilometers).

In the Septuagint, the west side is mentioned in verse 18, and the south side in verse 19. This is the opposite of the order in the Hebrew text.