Ezekiel 43:1-27

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2018-11-19 14:47.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

The angel brought Ezekiel to the gate facing east and, according to the Septuagint, led him out. (43:1) There he saw the “glory of the God of Israel” coming from the east. That “glory” would have been a magnificent brightness. The Septuagint indicates that the glory came by way of the gate that faced east. An impressive sound or roar like that of “many waters” in motion accompanied the arrival of the glory of the God of Israel. In the Septuagint, the sound is identified as that of a “camp” or as the loud shouting of many warriors. The divine “glory” or magnificent brightness lit up the “earth” or land. (43:2)

What Ezekiel saw in vision was like the vision he had seen when he “came to destroy [anoint (LXX) the city,” Jerusalem. The appearance was also like the vision that he had seen by the river Chebar. Overwhelmed with a sense of reverential awe by the sight, Ezekiel dropped to his knees and “fell upon his face.” Ezekiel’s coming to destroy the city may be understood to refer to his making known what he had seen in vision respecting what would happen to the people of Jerusalem. (See Ezekiel 9:8-10 and 10:1-7, 18-21.) A number of Hebrew manuscripts indicate that it was God, not Ezekiel, who came to destroy the city. The glorious visionary representation of the God of Israel that Ezekiel saw by the “river” (probably a major canal) is recorded in Ezekiel 1:4-28. In the Septuagint, the reference is to the “chariot” that is portrayed in the account of Ezekiel’s vision. (43:3)

The “glory of YHWH entered the house” or temple by the gate that faced east. (43:4) Ezekiel attributed his being lifted up and brought into the inner court of the temple complex to a “spirit.” This probably means that God’s spirit became operative upon him. There he saw that the “glory [or magnificent brightness] of YHWH filled the house” or temple. (43:5) While he stood in the inner court, Ezekiel heard a voice coming from the temple and addressing him. The “man” or angel who had served as his guide was also standing beside him there. (43:6) YHWH is represented as speaking to Ezekiel as a “son of man,” a mortal in his service. With reference to the temple, he said to him, This is the “place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet, where I will reside in the midst of the people of Israel for limitless time, and the house [or people] of Israel shall no more defile my holy name.” The people and “their kings” or rulers would cease to make themselves guilty of harlotry, engaging in idolatrous practices and thus proving unfaithful to YHWH as the God to whom they should have been exclusively devoted. In the past, they had defiled his “holy name” or him (the person whom the name represented) with their unfaithfulness. Their defiling by means of the “corpses of their kings” could refer to their entombing monarchs in the proximity of the sacred site or the setting up of memorials to corrupt kings. In the Septuagint, the reference is to the defilement by the “murders of their leaders” or rulers. The concluding expression in the Hebrew text could be rendered “on their high places” (their sites used for idolatrous practices). Another way to translate the Hebrew text (based on other manuscripts) is, “at their death.” “The house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their whoring, and by the corpses of their kings at their death [on their high places (footnote)].” (NRSV) There is a possibility that “corpses of kings” refers to lifeless idols, and the words of Jeremiah 16:18 lend a measure of support for this interpretation. In the Jeremiah passage, the reference is to “corpses” of detestable things or to lifeless representations of nonexistent deities. (43:7)

Regardless of whether the reference is understood to refer to dead kings or lifeless idols, the defilement resulted from close proximity to the sacred site. The people placed “their threshold by [YHWH’s] threshold and their doorposts by [his] doorposts, with [only] a wall between [him] and them.” “By their abominations,” their idolatrous practices and other corrupt deeds, the people defiled God’s “holy name,” bringing reproach upon him. Therefore, in his anger, he consumed them or permitted them to experience conquest and exile. (43:8)

YHWH would reside among his people, the house of Israel, if they removed their harlotry or idolatry and the “corpses of their kings” far away from him, no longer letting the dead bodies or lifeless idols be anywhere in his proximity. In the Septuagint, the reference is to their thrusting away from him “their harlotry and the murders of their leaders” or rulers. (43:9)

Addressed as “son of man,” Ezekiel was again reminded that he was but a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. He was to tell the “house [or people] of Israel” about the “house” or temple that he had seen in vision and have them measure its design or form a mental image of it. Their doing so would make them ashamed of their iniquities, probably because the holiness of the temple complex would remind them of having seriously defiled themselves with abominable practices and thereby made themselves unacceptable to YHWH. According to the Septuagint, the people were to desist from their sins. (43:10)

When the people became ashamed of all that they had done, Ezekiel was to “make known to them” the layout of the temple and its arrangements, its exits and entrances, “all its layouts and all its statutes and all its layouts and all his laws.” To avoid redundancy, translators commonly do not render some of the Hebrew expressions and use wording that departs from a literal reading of the Hebrew text. “Make known to them the design of the temple — its arrangement, its exits and entrances — its whole design and all its regulations and laws.” (NIV) “Describe to them all the specifications of the Temple — including its entrances and exits — and everything else about it. Tell them about its decrees and laws.” (NLT) “Make known to them the plan of the Temple and its layout, its exits and entrances — its entire plan, and all the laws and instructions pertaining to its entire plan.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “Tell them about the layout and design of the temple, its exits and entrances, with all its regulations and instructions.” (NAB, revised edition) “You are to describe to them the temple and its fittings, its exits and entrances, all the details and particulars of its elevation and plan.” (REB) “Describe for them the design and shape of the temple, the gates, the measurements, and how the buildings are arranged. Explain the regulations about worshiping there.” (CEV) Additionally, Ezekiel was to write down the particulars before the “eyes” of the people or while they were watching, providing them with a record of the layout of the temple complex and “all its statutes,” probably the statutes that governed the temple arrangements and services. The written record would make it possible for the people to carry out everything that was required of them. (43:11; see the Notes section.)

The “law of the house” pertains to maintaining the sanctity of the temple, never allowing it to become defiled. The temple and the entire surrounding area “on top of the mountain” was to be “most holy [literally, holy of holies].” For emphasis, the reference to “law” is repeated and the word for “look” serves to focus attention on it. “Look, this [is] the law of the temple.” (43:12; see the Notes section.)

The unit of measurement for the dimensions of the altar was the long cubit (a “cubit and a handbreadth” [c. 21 inches; c. 53 centimeters]). It appears that the Hebrew word for “bosom” (heyq) refers to a groove, trench, or gutter at the base of the altar. This “bosom” was one cubit deep and one cubit wide, with a rim of one span (half a cubit [c. 10½ inches; c. 26.7 centimeters]) around its edge. It may have been designed to function as a channel into which the blood would be poured. (See the Notes section on 40:5 regarding the long cubit.) In relation to the altar, the Septuagint renders the Hebrew word for “back” (gav) as “height,” and numerous modern translations likewise read, “height of the altar.” (43:13)

From the “bosom” (heyq) or trench at the base of the altar to the lower surrounding altar ledge was two cubits (c. 3½ feet; c. 1 meter). This ledge was one cubit (c. 21 inches; c. 53 centimeters) wide. From the “smaller” (apparently the lower) surrounding ledge to the “larger” (apparently the upper) surrounding ledge was “four cubits” (c. 7 feet; c. 2 meters). Like the lower ledge, the upper one was one cubit (c. 21 inches; c. 53 centimeters) wide. (43:14; see the Notes section.)

The altar hearth (ariel [LXX]) measured “four cubits” (c. 7 feet; c. 2 meters). Although not specifically stated in the text, the four-cubit dimension may be understood to apply to the height. A number of modern translations are explicit in conveying this significance in their renderings. “The height of the altar hearth shall be 4 cubits.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “The altar-hearth was four cubits high.” (REB) “The top of the altar, the hearth, rises another 7 feet higher.” (NLT) Four horns projected upward from the hearth, apparently one horn from each of the four corners. (43:15; see the Notes section.) The four sides of the altar hearth were the same dimension, with a length and width of 12 cubits (c. 21 feet; c. 6.4 meters). (43:16; see the Notes section.)

The surrounding ledge of the altar (apparently the upper ledge) had equal sides, with the length and width being 14 cubits (24½ feet; c. 7.5 meters). Its surrounding rim was half a cubit (c. 10½ inches; c. 26.7 centimeters) and the surrounding ledge one cubit (c. 21 inches; c. 53 centimeters). This could mean that the rim of the surrounding ledge was half a cubit high, and the ledge itself was one cubit wide. Approach to the altar was by means of “steps” that faced east. The length and width of the surrounding ledge was two cubits (c. 3½ feet; c. 1 meter) longer than the length and width of the altar hearth. With the altar consisting of three sections, the largest section was at the bottom and the smallest section, the hearth, at the top. (43:17; see verse 15.)

YHWH (“the Lord, the God of Israel” [LXX]) is quoted as telling Ezekiel, a “son of man” or a mortal in his service, “These [are] the ordinances for the altar on the day it is erected, [directives] for offering upon it holocausts and for splashing blood upon it.” (43:18; see the Notes section.)

The Levitical priests who would be entrusted with ministering to YHWH or performing sacred duties at the temple were to be from the “seed” or offspring of Zadok. To these priests, Ezekiel was instructed to give a “young bull, a son [or male] of the herd, for a sin offering.” (43:19) Regarding the bull that would be sacrificed, Ezekiel was told, “You shall take some of its blood and put it upon the four horns [of the altar] and on the four corners of [its] ledge and upon the surrounding rim [of the ledge].” In this way, he would cleanse or purify the altar and “make atonement for it.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the Levitical priests from the offspring of Zadok were the ones directed to apply the blood on “the four horns of the altar, and on the four corners of the propitiatory, and on the base round about.” (43:20; see the Notes section.) As for the sacrificed bull that served as the sin offering, its carcass was to be burned outside the sanctuary, apparently at an appointed place of the “house.” The place appears to be associated with the house or temple because the priestly function of burning was carried out at this designated location. Although the instructions for doing so are directed to Ezekiel in the Hebrew text, the Septuagint indicates that Levitical priests of the family of Zadok would be performing the required service. (43:21)

On the “second day” or the day after the carcass of the bull was burned, Ezekiel was told to bring an unblemished male goat as a sin offering. According to the Septuagint (but not P967), “two goats” were to be brought on the second day for a sin offering. The oldest extant Greek manuscript agrees with the Hebrew text in mentioning only one goat and expressing the directive to Ezekiel about the offering for sin. Other Greek manuscripts indicate that the Levitical priests were the ones to carry out this directive. In the concluding phrase, the Hebrew text changes to the third person plural verb, and so both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint are in agreement. The Hebrew text says, “And they shall cleanse [or purify (shall make atonement for [LXX])] the altar as they cleansed [or purified] it [as they made atonement (LXX)] with the bull.” (43:22)

After the altar had been purified, an unblemished young bull (literally, “bull, son of the herd”) and an unblemished “ram from the flock” were to be presented as offerings. The Hebrew text expresses the directive to Ezekiel, as does the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967). Concerning the Levitical priests, other Greek manuscripts say, “they shall offer.” (43:23) Both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint then represent the word of YHWH as directed to Ezekiel respecting the unblemished young bull and the unblemished ram, “You shall offer them before YHWH [the Lord (LXX)].” The priests, however, were the ones to cast salt upon the sacrificed animals and to offer them up as a holocaust to YHWH. (43:24)

Ezekiel was then told, “Daily, for seven days, you shall furnish a goat for a sin offering, and a young bull [literally, young bull, son of the herd] and a ram from the flock; they shall furnish unblemished ones.” Modern translations commonly do not preserve the third person plural verb (“they shall furnish”; literally, “they shall do” or “make”) in the concluding phrase. “You are also to provide a young bull and a ram from the flock, both without defect.” (NIV) “A young bull and a ram from the flock, all unblemished, shall be offered.” (NAB, revised edition) “You shall present unblemished ones.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) (43:25)

For seven days, the Levitical priests were to make atonement for the altar and to purify it. The Hebrew text concludes with the idiomatic expression “fill its hands,” and the Septuagint says, “their hands.” When applied to the altar, the meaning of the expression “fill its hands” would signify to “dedicate” or “consecrate” the altar. The Septuagint rendering “fill their hands” could be understood to mean that, upon the completion of the seven days, the Levitical priests would be fully installed or consecrated for their service at the temple. (43:26) From the eighth day onward, the priests would offer the holocausts and the “peace offerings” (“offerings of well-being,” or “communion sacrifices”). These offerings would then be acceptable to YHWH, and he would find delight in his people or bestow his favor on them. (43:27)


The Septuagint rendering of verse 11 departs somewhat from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It indicates that the people would be punished for all that they had done and concludes with the thought that they should observe all of God’s statutes and ordinances and perform them. The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) contains the Greek word for “judgments” or “decrees” (krímata), whereas other manuscripts read nómima, meaning “statutes” or “laws.”

In verse 12 of the Septuagint rendering, the reference is to the “diagram of the house” or temple “on top of the mountain.” There is no mention of the “law,” and there is no repetition.

The word ariel in verse 14 of the Septuagint is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that refers to the altar hearth. Unlike the Hebrew text, the Septuagint refers to the measurement from the ariel to up above the horns to be one cubit (c. 21 inches; c. 53 centimeters).

Instead of a word for “ledge” in verses 14 and 17, the Septuagint has the word for “propitiatory.”

In verses 16 and 17, the Hebrew text does not include the plural designation for “cubits,” but the Septuagint does.

In verse 18, the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) does not include the words “the God of Israel.” Additionally, it indicates that Ezekiel was the one to pour or splash the blood.

The Hebrew text of verses 20 through 26 is worded in a way that represents Ezekiel as being directed to perform priestly services. As a member of a priestly family, Ezekiel would have been authorized to serve at a rebuilt temple, but no temple like the one Ezekiel saw in vision has ever been built. Therefore, Ezekiel did not carry out any functions in connection with the altar. This suggests that what is being portrayed points to realities regarding divinely approved worship that transcend the arrangement for worship that was instituted in the time of Moses.