Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The prophecy or vision, which begins here, continues to the end of the Book. The Temple of Jerusalem lying in ruins when Ezekiel had this vision, (for its date as the fourteenth year after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar), the Jews needed consolation. If they were not promised a restoration of the temple, they would not feel so great an interest in returning home. It is thought by some that no model of Solomon's Temple had remained. To direct them, therefore, in the dimensions, parts, order, and rules of their new temple might be one reason why Ezekiel is so particular in the description of the old; to which the new was conformable in figure and parts, though inferior in magnificence, on account of the poverty of the nation at the time. Whatever was august or illustrious in the prophetic figures, and not literally fulfilled in or near their own times, the ancient Jews properly considered as belonging to the time of the Messiah. Accordingly, upon finding that the latter temple fell short of the model of the temple here described by Ezekiel, they supposed the prophecy to refer, at least in part, to the period now mentioned. And we, who live under the Gospel dispensation, have apostolical authority for the assertion that the temple and temple worship were emblematic of Christ's Church, frequently represented in the New Testament under the metaphor of a temple, in allusion to the symmetry, beauty, and firmness of that of Solomon; to its orderly worship; and to the manifestations it held of the Divine Presence. This chapter commences with the time, manner, and end of the vision, Eze 40:1-5. We have next a description of the east gate, Eze 40:6-19, the north gate, Eze 40:20-22, and the south gate, Eze 40:24-31. A farther description of the east gate, Eze 40:32-34, and of the north gate, Eze 40:35-38. Account of the eight tables, Eze 40:39-43; of the chambers, Eze 40:44-47; and of the porch of the temple, Eze 40:48, Eze 40:49.
A New Plan of the Temple at Jerusalem
For an explanation of this plan, and of the accompanying map of the division of the Land of Canaan, see the notes at end of Ezekiel 48.
In the five and twentieth year of our captivity - According to the date here given, this prophecy was delivered on Tuesday, April 20, A.M. 3430, in the twenty-fifth year of the captivity of Jeconiah, and fourteen years after the taking of Jerusalem.
The temple here described by Ezekiel is, in all probability, the same which he saw before his captivity, and which had been burned by the Chaldeans fourteen years before this vision. On comparing the Books of Kings and Chronicles with this prophet, we shall find the same dimensions in the parts described by both; for instance, the temple, or place which comprehended the sanctuary, the holy place, and the vestibule or porch before the temple, is found to measure equally the same both in Ezekiel and the Kings. Compare Kg1 6:3-16, with Eze 41:2, etc. The inside ornaments of the temple are entirely the same; in both we see two courts; an inner one for the priests, and an outer one for the people. Compare Kg1 6:29-36; Ch2 4:9; and Eze 41:16, Eze 41:17, and Eze 48:7-10. So that there is room to suppose that, in all the rest, the temple of Ezekiel resembled the old one; and that God's design in retracing these ideas in the prophet's memory was to preserve the remembrance of the plan, the dimensions, the ornaments, and whole structure of this Divine edifice; and that at the return from captivity the people might more easily repair it, agreeably to this model. The prophet's applying himself to describe this edifice was a motive of hope to the Jews of seeing themselves one day delivered from captivity, the temple rebuilt, and their nation restored to its ancient inheritance. Ezekiel touches very slightly upon the description of the temple or house of the Lord, which comprehended the holy place or sanctuary, and which are so exactly described in the Books of Kings. He dwells more largely upon the gates, the galleries, and apartments, of the temple, concerning which the history of the kings had not spoken, or only just taken notice of by the way.
This is the judgment of Calmet; and although every Biblical critic is of the same opinion, yet more labor is spent on rebuilding this temple of Ezekiel than was spent on that built by Solomon! The Jesuits, Prada and Villalpand, have given three folio volumes on this temple, with abundance of cuts, where the different parts are exhibited after the finest models of Grecian and Roman architecture! But still the building is incomplete. Now, of what consequence is all this to the Christian, or to any other reader? I confess I see not. While, then, we have the exact dimensions and accurate description in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, of that built by Solomon, in imitation of which this plan by Ezekiel was drawn, we need not be very solicitous about the manner of measuring and describing used by the prophet; as, when we have labored through the whole, we have only the measurements and description of that built by Solomon, and delineated by a hand not less faithful in the First Book of Kings, Eze 6:1-14, and 2 Chronicles 2, 3, 4, Ch2 5:1-14 and 6.
As the prophet knew that the Chaldeans had utterly destroyed the temple, he thought it necessary to preserve an exact description of it, that on their restoration the people might build one on the same model. As to allegorical meanings relative to this temple, I can say nothing: God has given no data by which any thing of this kind can be known or applied; and as to those who have labored in this way, perhaps "Solomon's Temple Spiritualized, by John Bunyan," is equally good with their well-intended inventions. Those who wish to enter much into the particulars of this temple must have recourse to the more voluminous expositors, who on this subject seem to have thought that they could never say enough. See also the accompanying map.
Set me upon a very high mountain - Mount Moriah, the mount on which Solomon's temple was built, Ch2 3:1.
A man, whose appearance was like - brass - Like bright polished brass, which strongly reflected the rays of light. Probably he had what we would term a nimbus or glory round his head. This was either an angel; or, as some think, a personal appearance of our blessed Lord.
Declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel - That they may know how to build the second temple, when they shall be restored from their captivity.
A measuring reed of six cubits long - The Hebrew cubit is supposed to be about twenty and a half inches; and a palm, about three inches more; the length of the rod about ten feet six inches.
The breadth - one reed; and the height, one reed - As this wall was as broad as it was high, it must have been a kind of parapet, which was carried, of the same dimensions, all round the temple. See AAAA in the plan.
Went up the stairs thereof - As the temple was built upon an eminence, there must have been steps on the outside, opposite to each door, to ascend by. And it appears there were steps to go up from one court to another, see Eze 40:22, Eze 40:26, Eze 40:34, Eze 40:37; and also from the court of the priests to the sanctuary, Eze 40:49. See MMMMM in the plan.
And every little chamber was one reed - These were the chambers of the buildings which were within the inclosure of the temple round the court, and these chambers appear to have been numerous. See the map, which has been carefully copied from that of Calmet.
The porch of the gate - See account of the gates in the plan.
Fifty cubits - The length of the building. See MMMMM in the plan.
The outward court - This was the court of the people.
And the little chambers thereof were three, etc. - See the plan.
Arches - Porch. The arch was not known at this period.
According to these measures - The same measures that had been used at the eastern court.
And the arches round about were five and twenty cubits long - That the five cubits broad should be read twenty-five is evident from Eze 40:21, Eze 40:25, Eze 40:29, Eze 40:33, and Eze 40:36, The word ועשרים veesrim, twenty, has probably been lost out of the text. Indeed the whole verse is wanting in two of Kennicott's MSS., one of De Rossi's, and one of mine, (Cod. B.) It has been added in the margin of mine by a later hand. It is reported to have been anciently wanting in many MSS.
The porch of the gate - The north gate of the court of the priests. See Q in the plan.
Two tables - Some say of marble. See dddd in the plan.
Four tables - These were in the porch of the north gate, in the court of the priests: on them they slew, flayed, and cut up the victims. See dddd in the plan.
He measured the court - This was the court of the priests. See FFF in the plan.
Breadth of the gate - It is evident that the gate was a bivalve, or had folding doors. The length of the porch was twenty cubits. Josephus says the vestibule was twenty cubits long and ten broad. Antiq. lib. 8:3, 2.
By the steps - This was a flight of steps that led to the temple; there were eight steps in each flight. See YY in the plan.