Ezekiel 42 & Psalm 94

Ezekiel 42

    Then he led me out into the outer court, toward the north, and he brought me to the chambers that were opposite the separate yard and opposite the building on the north. The length of the building whose door faced north was a hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty cubits. Facing the twenty cubits that belonged to the inner court, and facing the pavement that belonged to the outer court, was gallery against gallery in three stories. And before the chambers was a passage inward, ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long, and their doors were on the north. Now the upper chambers were narrower, for the galleries took more away from them than from the lower and middle chambers of the building. For they were in three stories, and they had no pillars like the pillars of the courts. Thus the upper chambers were set back from the ground more than the lower and the middle ones. And there was a wall outside parallel to the chambers, toward the outer court, opposite the chambers, fifty cubits long. For the chambers on the outer court were fifty cubits long, while those opposite the nave were a hundred cubits long. Below these chambers was an entrance on the east side, as one enters them from the outer court.

    In the thickness of the wall of the court, on the south also, opposite the yard and opposite the building, there were chambers with a passage in front of them. They were similar to the chambers on the north, of the same length and breadth, with the same exits and arrangements and doors, as were the entrances of the chambers on the south. There was an entrance at the beginning of the passage, the passage before the corresponding wall on the east as one enters them.

    Then he said to me, “The north chambers and the south chambers opposite the yard are the holy chambers, where the priests who approach the LORD shall eat the most holy offerings. There they shall put the most holy offerings—the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering—for the place is holy. When the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court without laying there the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They shall put on other garments before they go near to that which is for the people.”

    Now when he had finished measuring the interior of the temple area, he led me out by the gate that faced east, and measured the temple area all around. He measured the east side with the measuring reed, 500 cubits by the measuring reed all around. He measured the north side, 500 cubits by the measuring reed all around. He measured the south side, 500 cubits by the measuring reed. Then he turned to the west side and measured, 500 cubits by the measuring reed. He measured it on the four sides. It had a wall around it, 500 cubits long and 500 cubits broad, to make a separation between the holy and the common.

(Ezekiel 42 ESV)

Psalm 94

    O LORD, God of vengeance,
        O God of vengeance, shine forth!
    Rise up, O judge of the earth;
        repay to the proud what they deserve!
    O LORD, how long shall the wicked,
        how long shall the wicked exult?
    They pour out their arrogant words;
        all the evildoers boast.
    They crush your people, O LORD,
        and afflict your heritage.
    They kill the widow and the sojourner,
        and murder the fatherless;
    and they say, “The LORD does not see;
        the God of Jacob does not perceive.”
    Understand, O dullest of the people!
        Fools, when will you be wise?
    He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
    He who formed the eye, does he not see?
    He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?
    He who teaches man knowledge—
        the LORD—knows the thoughts of man,
        that they are but a breath.
    Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD,
        and whom you teach out of your law,
    to give him rest from days of trouble,
        until a pit is dug for the wicked.
    For the LORD will not forsake his people;
        he will not abandon his heritage;
    for justice will return to the righteous,
        and all the upright in heart will follow it.
    Who rises up for me against the wicked?
        Who stands up for me against evildoers?
    If the LORD had not been my help,
        my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
    When I thought, “My foot slips,”
        your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
    When the cares of my heart are many,
        your consolations cheer my soul.
    Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
        those who frame injustice by statute?
    They band together against the life of the righteous
        and condemn the innocent to death.
    But the LORD has become my stronghold,
        and my God the rock of my refuge.
    He will bring back on them their iniquity
        and wipe them out for their wickedness;
        the LORD our God will wipe them out.

(Psalm 94 ESV)

 The following is taken from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God series...


ALTHOUGH EZEKIEL 41 (or, more precisely, 40:48—41:26) is devoted to the description of the temple within the great vision of chapters 40—48, I shall focus attention here on how this chapter (and chapter 42), should be interpreted.

(1) Some hold that this is Ezekiel’s vision of what should in fact be built once the exile has ended and some of the people return to the land. In that case chapter 41 provides specifications for the building. The strength of this view is that it follows up on the many passages in this book telling that the exile will end. Nevertheless one has to say that, read as building specs, this chapter is pretty thin (much less detailed, for instance, than the specifications either for the tabernacle or for the Solomonic temple). Moreover, chapter 41 must be read within the framework of chapters 40—48, and as we shall see, there are numerous features that cannot be taken literally. Certainly there is little evidence that those who built the second temple thought they were bound to follow Ezekiel’s guidelines.

(2) The mid-twentieth-century form of dispensationalism argued for a similar literalism, but held that the construction of the temple and the return of blood sacrifices and Levitical and Zadokite priesthood will take place in the millennium. The sacrifices would look back to the sacrifice of Christ in the same way that the Old Testament sacrifices looked forward. But it is very difficult to square this view with the theology of Hebrews. Moreover, there are many hints that these chapters should not be taken literally. The division of land (chaps. 47—48) is all but impossible for anyone who has seen the terrain. The impossible source and course of the river (47:1-12) strains credulity — and in any case both the temple and the river of life are given quite different interpretations in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. With the best will in the world it is difficult to see how the prescribed tribal purity of Levitical and Zadokite lines could be restored. Intervening records have been lost, so that no one could prove his descent from Aaron.

Presumably a dispensationalist could argue that God could reveal the necessary information. But the point is that the tribes have been so mixed up across the centuries that they cannot be unscrambled. The problem is not one of information, but of mixed lines. Thus this interpretation, precisely because it deals with something at the end of time when the tribal lines are no longer differentiable, is even less credible than the previous one.
How, then, shall we interpret these chapters?

(3) Many older commentators argued that chapters 40—48 are straightforward symbols of what is fulfilled in the Christian church. There is some truth to this view. It is given impetus when one observes, for instance, that John’s vision of the holy city in Revelation is drawn in substantial part from the language of Ezekiel. But the same passages in Revelation spell the weakness of this interpre- tation. When John uses the language of Ezekiel (or of Daniel or some other Old Testament writer), he regularly transmutes it, or picks up its words and phrases without putting it to exactly the same use. Although John’s description of the holy city leans heavily on Ezekiel, John’s city has no temple, for the Lord God and the Lamb are its temple (Rev. 21:1—22:5). In that sense, Revelation is not a direct and immediate fulfillment of a string of symbols.

(4) It is better, but messier, to take these chapters as belonging to the borderlands of apocalyptic literature and typology. The symbolism includes numerical features; its future-orientation springs not from mere verbal prediction or simplistic symbolism, but from structures of patterns and events that point forward. We have already glimpsed this sort of thing in chapters 38—39, depicting the final battle, when God sovereignly moves to destroy all his foes. Read this way, chap- ters 40—48 envisage the messianic future, but in the symbolic categories of Ezekiel’s present. The temple is a kind of enactment or incarnation of the presence and blessing of God in the age for which pious Israelites yearned. On this view, the theological themes and pastoral comforts of these chapters include: (a) God’s presence remains continuously as the fount of all blessing. (b) God’s people are perfectly restored, the perfection of his plan and of their experience bound up with the perfection of symmetry in the building. (c) Because God is perfectly present, fullness of life and fruitfulness flow from God’s presence to all the barren places of the earth. This is a transformed universe. (d) The worship of God is central, and undertaken exactly as God demands. (e) Justice and righteousness are the order of the day, seen in the perfect allotment of land and responsibilities.

If this is largely right, the ultimate hope lies at the very end of history — but that end has already invaded history itself, in these last days. The consummation is not yet, but the kingdom has dawned.