Ezekiel 44 - Outline of Ezekiel (Book Notes menu page)
Chapters 40-43 described the pattern of the Millennial Temple, the return of the Presence of the LORD's Glory, and the purification and purpose of the Altar of sacrifice. The next few chapters (ch. 44-46) set forth the LORD's ordinances regarding the work of the priests and the order of worship.
A. The East Gate Reserved for the Prince (v.1-3)
1. Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary
which looketh toward the east; and it [was] shut.
2 Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut,
it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it;
because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it,
therefore it shall be shut.
3 [It is] for the prince;
the prince, he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD;
he shall enter by the way of the porch of [that] gate,
and shall go out by the way of the same.
The angelic guide led Ezekiel from the inner court, where he had received instruction concerning the altar of sacrifice (in ch. 43),
into the outer court, to the inward door of the East Gate (on the outer wall). The outer door of this gate (at the outer wall) will remain shut permanently, "because the LORD, the God of Israel hath entered in by it" (as Ezekiel had observed in his vision, in Eze 43:1-5). (Having been used by the LORD, the gate is too holy for use by mortals. The promise that the gate will remain closed is also an assurance that the Glory of God will never again depart from His people.)
     This gate should not be confused with the eastern gate in the present city wall of Jerusalem. That gate was sealed by Muslims in medieval times, to prevent the Jewish Messiah from entering the city. The gate, in Ezekiel's vision, is in the wall of the Millennial Temple complex, which will not be located within the city (per the new allocation of land, as described in ch. 47-48).
...It is for the prince... he shall sit in it to eat bread before the LORD...
...he shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate... and... go out by... the same.
No man, not even the prince, will ever pass through this gate, from outside the wall into the Temple area. However, the prince will periodically sit in the porch of this gate, to partake of food from the altar (an act of worship and fellowship. eg., Ex 18:12; 24:11; Lev 7:11-17). Apparently, at all other times, the inward door of this gate will also be closed. It will be opened only when the prince comes to worship. (This is similar to the procedure, when the prince comes to offer sacrifices. At those times, he will enter the inner eastern gate, through the door of the porch {portico, vestibule} from the outer court. He will not pass through the gate, but will depart through the same door by which he entered. See Eze 46:1-8.)
Who is "the prince"?
  • Is this the Lord Jesus Christ? (Many scholars believe so.)
    • Christ is called 'the prince' in Isa 9:6,7; 55:4 (where 'leader' is 'prince'); Dan 9:25; Rev 1:5
      Also see Eze 34:23,24; 37:24,25, where Christ is not only identified as 'the prince,' but also as 'my servant David,' the 'one Shepherd,' and 'the King.' He was once the prince because He was destined to become the King.
         However, when He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords, will He still be called "the prince"?
    • Christ is also identified as the Mighty God. Isa 9:6,7
      It is He who will return in the Glory of the LORD, to enter through the east gate, and dwell within the Most Holy Place. eg., Joh 1:14; Col 2:9; Heb 1:3; Mat 16:27; 24:30; 25:31; 26:64; Isa 11:10; 60:13; Eze 43:4-7
         Would He be forbidden to pass through this gate, because He had previously done so?
  • Is it a human vice-regent to the Great King?
    • the prince is never called 'David' or 'my servant David,' in the remainder of the book of Ezekiel.
    • the prince will come to worship in the porch of the eastern gate (v.3).
      However, God the Son will dwell in Glory within the House (Eze 43:5-7). From there, He will inspire and lead the congregation in praising God (eg., Psa 22:25; Psa 116:12-19).
    • the prince will offer sacrifices, including a sin offering (Eze 45:22; 46:2).
      However, Christ offered "one sacrifice for sins for ever" (Heb 10:12).
    • the prince will have sons (Eze 46:16-18), to whom he will give an inheritance (implying a succession of rulers).
      These things do not mesh with what we understand of the glorified state of the Son of man. As King, He will have no successor (Rev 11:15). The union of the Bridegroom and the church is spiritual, not for the purpose of physical procreation (eg., Mat 22:30; Joh 14:3)
    • the prince will be subject to numerous religious and political ordinances (outlined in ch. 45-46).
      As Lord of all, Christ is the giver of these instructions, rather than one who must be regulated by them.
  • Conclusion:
         During the Millennial Kingdom, Christ, the Glory of the LORD, will be the Priest-King upon His throne in the Most Holy Place within the Temple (Eze 43:5-7; Zech 6:12,13). Apparently, while Christ reigns from the Temple, the mundane business of the Kingdom will be managed by 'the prince' (perhaps one of David's descendants) who will maintain close communion with the Lord.
         Following the Millennial Kingdom, in the new heaven and new earth, apparently, the King will reign over the earth from His dwelling place in the New Jerusalem, which will be suspended above the earth (Rev 21:1-3). While there will be communication and transportation between the Heavenly City and the earthly realm, the latter may be administered by David or one of his descendants.
         It appears that Ezekiel ch. 40-48 primarily describe the earthly Millennial Kingdom, while Revelation ch. 21-22 primarily describe the Eternal Kingdom which will follow. However, some features of both periods can be observed in both passages.
B. The LORD commits the 'Ordinances of the House' to Ezekiel (v.4,5)
     (Points 'a. - d.' below.)
4. Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house:
and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD:
and I fell upon my face.
5 And the LORD said unto me,
Son of man, mark well
{lit., set thine heart upon},
and behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears
all that I say unto thee concerning all the ordinances of the house of the LORD,
and all the laws thereof;
and mark well
{lit., set thine heart upon}
the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.
Next, Ezekiel's guide led him back to the north gate of the inner court. Upon the tables near this gate, the sacrificial animals will be slain and prepared. Therefore, this is a suitable location to address those who will be involved in the ministry of the Temple, which having been sanctified and filled by His Presence, is now called "the House of the LORD."
     Again, the prophet fell on his face before the Glory of the LORD. The LORD spoke directly to him, impressing upon him the importance of attention to detail regarding the instructions he was about to receive concerning the proper procedures for ministry in the House of the LORD. cp. Psa 119:4
a. The Holiness of the House is to be maintained (v.6-9)
6 And thou shalt say to the rebellious, [even] to the house of Israel,
Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel,
let it suffice you of all your abominations,
{cp. 1Pet 4:3}
7 In that ye have brought [into my sanctuary] strangers,
uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh,
to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, [even] my house,
when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood,
and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
8 And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things:
but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.
9 Thus saith the Lord GOD;
No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh,
shall enter into my sanctuary,
of any stranger that [is] among the children of Israel.
The LORD reminds Israel of their history of rebellion against Him.
Their breaking of His covenant was well documented in the earlier chapters of Ezekiel's prophecy. Their former abominations (including idolatry and all forms of spiritual adultery and immorality) will not be tolerated in the Millennial Temple. Furthermore, because of God's Grace, those previous failures will remain things of the past. Jer 31:31-33
     In former times, it was unacceptable to bring an uncircumcised foreigner into the inner courts of the Temple. Yet, ritually purified Jewish worshippers drew near, though their hearts harbored all kinds of corruption. From this point onward, entrance into God's sanctuary will be limited to those who are circumcised in heart, through the new birth which comes through faith in Christ (Rom 2:28,29; Col 2:11-13). By the Grace of God, this will be the condition of the regathered, regenerated and restored nation of Isael, at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom (Eze 36:25-27).
...ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things... but ye have set keepers... for yourselves.
Israel, and her leaders had not been diligent to maintain true holiness. cp. Lev 22:2,3-f
Rather, they had managed the Temple as a business for their own advantage and profit. eg., Mat 21:12,13
"No stranger" {ie., alien, foreigner}, whether Jew or Gentile, will be allowed to approach.
But Grace has made the way for 'aliens from God', to become His children (Col 1:21,22).
Therefore, there will be no place for the 'Canaanite in heart' in the House of the LORD. Zech 14:21b
b. The Levites, who erred, will be entrusted with limited service (v.10-14)
10. And the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray,
which went astray away from me after their idols;
they shall even bear their iniquity.
11 Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary,
[having] charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house:
they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people,
and they shall stand before them to minister unto them.
12 Because they ministered unto them before their idols,
and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity;
therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord GOD,
and they shall bear their iniquity.
13 And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me,
nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy [place]:
but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed.
14 But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house,
for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein.
In the historic past, the priests went astray and led the people into error (eg., Eze 22:26; Isa 9:16).
However, those priests are long dead and will not be participating in the Millennial Kingdom.
Therefore, these verses must apply to a new generation of Levites, which will be living at the time of Christ's return.
     When would they have opportunity to go "astray away from me after their idols" and cause "the house of Israel to fall {lit., trip over a stumblingblock} into iniquity"? These must be the Levites who will facilitate the ministry of the Tribulation Temple (Dan 9:27; Isa 66:1-4).
     Near the end of the Tribulation, many of them will recognize their error in following the counterfeit messiah, and turn in repentance to receive the true Messiah. (Just as many of the priests, who rejected Christ at His first coming, later received Him. Acts 6:7). At Christ's return, He will judge these former priests, purging out the unbelievers and purifying the believers for true service (Mal 3:1-4).
...they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest...
...but I will make them keepers of the charge... for all the service thereof.
Because of their error, they will bear their shame {ie., disgrace, dishonor}, and will not be allowed to serve as priests. Instead, they will be assigned tasks as laborers, to assist the priests. Their work will not be easy. It will include the slaying of sacrificial animals, the preparation of the flesh (ie., butchering), and disposal of wastes, in addition to other custodial and security tasks around the Temple complex (v.11). But they will not be allowed to place the sacrifices upon the altar, or to sprinkle the blood, or to enter the Most Holy Place to minister unto the LORD.
     This arrangement is similar to the division of responsibilities between the priestly line of Aaron and other Levites who served as assistants to the priests, in the time of Moses (Num 18:1-5), and during the revivals under kings Hezekiah and Josiah (2Chr 29:34; 35:11). This arrangement is dissimilar in that, due to their error, some who had previously served as priests will be demoted to lesser duties.
c. The Levites, sons of Zadok, will be privileged to come near to God (v.15,16)
15 But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok,
that kept the charge of my sanctuary
when the children of Israel went astray from me,
they shall come near to me to minister unto me,
and they shall stand before me
to offer unto me the fat and the blood,
{at the altar of sacrifice, Lev 3:16,17; 17:5,6}
saith the Lord GOD:
16 They shall enter into my sanctuary,
and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me,
and they shall keep my charge.
...But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok... they shall come near to me to minister unto me...
As we have noted previously, the sons of Zadok {meaning 'just' or 'righteous'} are mentioned several times (in Ezekiel), as being rewarded with the privilege of serving as the LORD's priests in the Millennial Temple (eg., Eze 40:46; 43:19; 48:11). These may be physical descendants of Zadok. (However, it is unlikely that lineage from Zadok can be accurately determined, due to Israel's long dispersion.) On the other hand, men of Levitical priestly heritage may be more easily identified (eg., by the surname Kohen or Cohen, meaning 'priest'). Among these, some will be found 'righteous' at the future time when other Levites will lead the people of Israel into error (as discussed in the notes, at v.10-14, above).
     Regarding the historical elevation of the sons of Zadok, we have previously cited 1Sam 2:27-36 and 1Kin 2:26,27,35. Because Eli had not guarded the holiness of the Tabernacle from his unfaithful sons, the LORD told him that He would remove the priesthood from his descendants. This was fulfilled when king Solomon deposed Abiathar (a descendant of Eli) from the role of High Priest, and elevated Zadok to that position. Thus, the priesthood was transferred from the sons of Eli to the sons of Zadok.
     But why did Solomon take these actions? This is explained in 1Kin 1:5-8. Near the end of king David's life, one of his sons, Adonijah, attempted to take the throne which David had promised to Solomon. Abiathar, the High Priest, endorsed the self-exalting usurper. Zadok (a lesser priest) remained loyal to David's appointed son, Solomon. After the matter was resolved (with the death of Adonijah), Solomon rewarded Zadok for his faithfulness.
     That historical situation illustrates the future scenario, during the Tribulation period. As noted above, the Levites who facilitate the ministry of the Tribulation Temple, will initially reject God's anointed King (Christ, the Messiah), to serve a false messiah and to offer unacceptable sacrifices. While they promote false worship and a false king, some of their brethren (who will have received true righteousness, through faith in the true Christ) will protest the empty practices of the erring priests. At Christ's return, these believing Levites will be elevated to the priesthood, for they will be the 'sons of Righteousness' (Isa 66:5, in contrast to the erring priests of Isa 66:1-4.)
...they {ie., the sons of righteousness} shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table...
The LORD's table is not the altar of sacrifice, but the 'altar of wood' corresponding to the altar of incense (Eze 41:22). It is the place of communion with the Lord (cp. Rev 3:20).
...they shall keep my charge {ie., ordinances}.
The remainder of the chapter sets forth several ordinances pertaining to the priests.
d. Regulations for the Priests, the sons of Zadok (v.17-31)
     1. Priestly garments must be worn during ministry (v.17-19)
17. And it shall come to pass,
[that] when they enter in at the gates of the inner court,
they shall be clothed with linen garments;
and no wool shall come upon them,
whiles they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within.
18 They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads,
and shall have linen breeches upon their loins;
they shall not gird [themselves] with any thing that causeth sweat.
19 And when they go forth into the utter court,
[even] into the utter court to the people,
they shall put off their garments wherein they ministered,
and lay them in the holy chambers,
and they shall put on other garments;
and they shall not sanctify the people with their garments.
These instructions regarding priestly garments are similar to those prescribed for Aaron and his sons. Ex 28:39-43
Woolen garments would be more likely to cause persperation than linen.
The holy garments are to be worn only in the holy places while performing the holy service.
Common clothing is to be worn for other tasks. eg., Eze 42:13,14; Lev 6:10,11
...and they shall not sanctify the people with their garments.
'Holiness' is not to be transmitted to the people through incidental contact with holy objects (eg., Lev 6:27). While the LORD desires a holy people, sanctification is the work of His Spirit within the heart of each believer (1The 5:23; 2The 2:13).
   True holiness {ie., separation unto the Lord} is not an external matter. Yet, by their careful separation of holy and common garments, the priests are to demonstrate the distinction been holy and common things (v.23).
     2. Priestly stipulations re: hair, wine, wives (v.20-22)
20 Neither shall they shave their heads, nor suffer their locks to grow long;
they shall only poll their heads.
21 Neither shall any priest drink wine, when they enter into the inner court.
22 Neither shall they take for their wives a widow, nor her that is put away:
but they shall take maidens of the seed of the house of Israel,
or a widow that had a priest before.
A priest must maintain personal purity and holiness, even when he is off duty.
These stipulations are like those given to the priests in the time of Moses (Lev 21:5-15).
  • Shaving the head or letting the hair grow long were both associated with mourning and false religions (eg., Deu 14:1).
  • Wine is a source of confusion.
    Under the influence of wine, a priest is prone to defile his duties, and to render unjust decisions (Lev 10:9; Isa 28:7).
  • A priest's wife must be prepared to live a separated life alongside her husband.
    Her heart, like his, should seek to bring glory to the LORD, in every matter.
    Therefore, a priest was not to marry a divorced woman, or a widow (unless her former husband was also a priest).
(Compare the personal requirements for church leaders. 1Tim 3:1-12)
     3. Priestly teaching, justice, observation of sabbaths (v.23,24)
23 And they shall teach my people [the difference] between the holy and profane,
and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
24 And in controversy they shall stand in judgment;
[and] they shall judge it according to my judgments:
and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies;
and they shall hallow my sabbaths.
The priests of Ezekiel's day had failed on these points (eg., Eze 22:26; Mic 3:9-11).
But in the Millennial Kingdom, the priests will fulfill their ministry according to the LORD's intended design (Lev 10:10,11).
Controversy will arise in the Millennial Kingdom, because not everyone will have the mind of the Lord.
Such cases will be decided, not through expensive lawyers and litigation (as often, today), but rather, as in OT times, the priests are to hear and decide the matter (Deu 17:8-13). Their decision will rest upon the LORD's judgments, laws and statutes. Therefore, the priests will need to know God's Word, and discern His mind (through their privileged access into His Presence).
     (Compare the responsibility of NT believer-priests, in dealing with controversies, today. 1Cor 6:1-8; 2Tim 2:24-26)
...they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies {ie., seasonal solemnities and feasts}, and they shall hallow my sabbaths.
Israel's calendar will include many of the feasts and special days, which are on their current religious calendar. These will be discussed in ch. 45-46. The priests will bear the responsibility of ensuring that these occasions satisfy the Lord's prescribed order and purpose.
     4. Priestly defilement for the dead prohibited; an exception and cleansing (v.25-27)
25 And they shall come at no dead person to defile themselves:
but for father, or for mother, or for son, or for daughter, for brother,
or for sister that hath had no husband, they may defile themselves.
26 And after he is cleansed, they shall reckon unto him seven days.
27 And in the day that he goeth into the sanctuary,
unto the inner court, to minister in the sanctuary,
he shall offer his sin offering, saith the Lord GOD.
This regulation is similar to that given to Aaron and his sons (Lev 21:1-6).
However, in the Millennial Kingdom, there may be few occasions when it will apply, because death will be comparatively rare. Yet, the Lord, knowing the grief of a broken heart, has provided this exception for near relatives (cp. Joh 11:33-36).
     Following a period of defilement (due to a death in the family) a priest cannot return immediately to his priestly service.
The prescription of a seven day waiting period followed by a sin offering for cleansing is similar to Num 6:9-11; 19:11-13.
This procedure will serve to illustrate the separation between clean and unclean. The sin offering will serve to remember Christ's all sufficient sacrifice, by which He has provided true cleansing (Heb 9:13,14).
     5. Priestly inheritance, provision and diet (v.28-31)
28 And it shall be unto them for an inheritance: I [am] their inheritance:
and ye shall give them no possession in Israel: I [am] their possession.
29 They shall eat the meat offering, and the sin offering, and the trespass offering;
and every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs.
30 And the first of all the firstfruits of all [things], and every oblation of all,
of every [sort] of your oblations, shall be the priest's:
ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough,
that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house.
31 The priests shall not eat of any thing that is dead of itself, or torn,
whether it be fowl or beast.
As the LORD told Aaron, He Himself is the 'portion' for the tribe of Levi (Num 18:20,21; Deu 18:1-5).
Therefore, the priests will be supported by the gifts which Israel and other nations offer to the LORD. The priests and their families will eat portions of the sacrificial animals and the associated offerings of meal and oil.
     Additionally, in chapters 45 and 48, part of the land is designated as the LORD's portion. Within His portion, the LORD will allocate specific areas, in proximity to the Temple, for priestly dwellings.
...I am their inheritance...
How blessed are the sons of Zadok!
For the believing heart, there is no greater wealth than to know the LORD as your portion.
(eg., Gen 15:1; Psa 16:5; 73:25,26; 119:57; 142:5; Php 1:20-23; 3:7-10)
[The diagram of the Temple Gates, above, was adapted from TBKC.]

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