43:1-5 – The glory returns. Why does the glory of the LORD approach from the east? (cf. Eze.11:23) There is no ignoring the approaching glory which radiates the land and comes with a great tumult of sound. This vision is likened to the appearing of the glory in chapters 8-11, but also to the appearing in the very beginning of the book. Note that the reference is to the vision by the Kebar River when the glory had first come to destroy Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s posture is as it was before when the glory appeared: prostrate. And just as the Spirit had previously lifted Ezekiel up for action, here the same thing occurs. Note what the glory of the LORD does. (cf. Isa.6:4)
43:6-12 – The temple torah is given. Ezekiel hears an undisclosed person’s voice that gives him the temple instructions (torah). Contrast the presence of the LORD in this temple to the one which Solomon built (1 Kings 8:48-49; Isa.66:1). It was always the LORD’s design to live with His people Israel. However, His continuing presence depends upon the holiness with which His people live. The LORD promises that Israel and her kings will no longer do what they had done before in defiling the temple and rejecting Him. In particular are the sins of the kings against the sanctity of the temple of the LORD when they set up idols for themselves (NIV’s “their high places” Heb. bāmôtām should likely read Heb. bemôtām “at their death”; see Duguid NIVAC 490fn5) and fornicated themselves. It is notable that the glory of the God of Israel no longer is enthroned upon the ark of the covenant, but upon Jerusalem itself and His temple (Jer.3:16-17; Block NICOT II:581). How might the plan of this temple cause Israel to feel shame for their sinfulness? It would appear that the whole of this temple area is designed for guarding the holiness of the LORD. The torah of Ezekiel and his function in the process of sanctifying the temple likens him to a second Moses (cf. Exo.29; Block NICOT II:606-7).
43:13-27 – The altars design and sanctifying. Why might the dimensions of the altar be of significance to Ezekiel’s audience? This altar area was approximately 1100 sq. ft. while the alter itself was nearly 600 sq. ft. and stood some 15 feet high. The trench on the outside of the altar could handle nearly 3800 gallons! (see Block NICOT II:601). This made it actually smaller than the one in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 1:50-53; 2:28-29; 8 ½H x 17W x 17L) and much smaller than the one in Herod’s temple (Josephus JW 5.5.6§§222-226; 15H x 50W x 50L). The steps (against Mosaic instruction in Exo.20:26) to the altar notably face east when traditionally all of the altars had the officiating priest facing east. The altar still needed dedication through purifying (Heb. hattā’t traditionally read as “sin offering”; see Duguid NIVAC 491fn10) sacrifices and burnt offerings that were supposed to last the course of a week for atonement and then on the eighth day the priests would begin making regular offerings upon it. The animals were to be salted (cf. Lev.2:13; the “covenant of salt” in Num.18:19; 2 Chron.13:5; and see Mark 9:49-50) and their bodies disposed of outside the sanctity of the temple. How will the LORD treat this sanctifying work and what will be His response?
44:1-4 – The eastern gate was shut permanently once the glory of the LORD had entered through it. The prince (Heb. nāsî’) was the only one permitted into the gate to eat a fellowship offering before the LORD, but not through the gate. While this would offer some special blessing to the prince, he was still excluded (as the rest of Israel) from entering the temple itself and could not enter through the gate which the LORD had entered. Again, note Ezekiel’s response to seeing the glory of the LORD as the glory fills the temple.
44:5-9 – The entrances and exits of the temple. It was not only the priests and the kings of Israel that were responsible for the defiling of the temple, but the whole of the house of Israel. They were responsible for bringing foreigners into the temple (cf. 2 Kings 11:14-19) when the Levitical priests were supposed to have guarded the sanctity of it (Num.18:7, 21-23). It was not that foreigners weren’t allowed, it was that these foreigners were not a part of the covenant people of God and had not purified themselves.
44:10-14 – The restoration of the Levites. While the Levites had sinned they were promised to receive restoration as those responsible for the gates and certain of the sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel. However, their idolatry was not without repercussions. They would not be given responsibility to actually approach the LORD, but instead would represent the people’s presence in the temple itself.
44:15-31 – The Zadokites priest’s blessings and responsibilities. It was not because the Zadokites were sinless, but they were more faithful than the Levites in general (cf. 1 Sam.3:11-14; 1 Kings 1:5-8; 2:26-27, 35). Therefore, they would be given the particular blessing and responsibility of serving directly before the LORD and making the necessary sacrifices. Their clothing was regulated in order to avoid both contaminating it with sweat (i.e. body fluids; see Deut.23:11-13) and to not “consecrate” the people when they leave the inner court before the LORD. On holiness as a dangerous contagion see Lev.10:1-3; Num.4:15; 1 Sam.6:19; 2 Sam.6:6-9. Their hair was never to be either unkempt or shaved off (cf. Lev.21:5, 10; 19:27), they were never to have alcohol when ministering (Lev.10:9), nor were they to marry any woman that might allow for the common Israelites to share in their inheritance. They were to teach the people, to serve as judges and to celebrate all that the LORD had commanded. They were to be kept from that which was dead (Lev.21:1-3) and to receive their inheritance in the LORD (Num.18:20) enjoying the sacrifices given by Israel (Exo.22:31; Lev.22:8; Num.15:20-21; 18:8-20).