This chapter gives the measurements and describes the ornaments of the Temple itself and its various appurtenances.
(1) Six cubits broad.—These posts, as in other cases, are the parts of the wall at the sides of the entrance. There is an apparent discrepancy between this and the following verse, where “the sides of the door” are said to be “five cubits,” and the latter agrees with the whole width of the house (5 + 10 + 5 = 20.) It is necessary, therefore, to understand the measurement of this verse as taken the other way—as we should say, the side walls of the doors were of the same thickness with the other walls—viz., six cubits. The words which was are not in the original, and tend to give a false impression. Tabernacle or tent is the name by which the sanctuary was known before the erection of the Temple.
The door, six cubits.—Door is here used for doorway, the clear space between the posts. The “breadth of the door” itself is immediately said to be seven cubits, the door overlapping the posts in a shoulder half a cubit on each side.
Every side chamber.—Every is not in the original, and is unnecessary. He measured the range of side rooms, the word being used collectively. These (J J [Ezekiel 40:44-49]) entirely surrounded the house, except on the front or east side where the porch stood.
Entered into the wall . . . but they had not hold.—More exactly, they came upon the wall. The “house” cannot without violence be understood of anything but the Temple itself. The construction was the same as in Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:6), the wall receding with each storey of the chambers, thus leaving a ledge on which the beams should rest, “that the beams should not be fastened in the walls of the house.”
Nothing is said of the distribution of these chambers, but, as will be seen by the plan, a uniform size requires that they should be placed twelve on each side, and six at the end of the Temple.
Six great cubits.—Literally, six cubits to the joint, or to the armpit, for the word has both significations. It is plain that a cubit of a different length, measured to the armpit, cannot be intended, both because no such cubit is known to have been in use at any time, and because Ezekiel in Ezekiel 40:5 has already fixed the length of the cubit he uses. The sense of joint is therefore to be taken, and this applied architecturally can only mean the point at which one part of the building joins another; here, the point where the superstructure meets the foundation, or, as we should say, “six cubits to the water-table.”
We may now sum up the measurements of the Temple with its chambers and surrounding space. The wall, 6 cubits; the chambers, 4; their outer wall, 5; the platform beyond, 5; the space beyond this, 20 (6 + 4 + 5 + 5 + 20 = 40). This was on each side, and therefore is to be doubled, making 80 cubits; to this add the 20 cubits of the inner width of the Temple, and we have exactly the 100 cubits, the width of the inner court. In the same way the length: here the porch is considered as belonging to the court, and with it the front wall of the Temple, the thickness of which is included in the length of the porch. Beginning then at the inside of the outer walls, we have the inner length of Temple, 60 cubits; rear wall, 6; chambers, 4; outer wall, 5; platform, 5; space, 20; in all, 100 cubits. thus making an exact square.
Narrow windows.—Rather, closed windows. (See Note on Ezekiel 40:16.)
On their three stories.—“Stories” is not in the original, and introduces a wrong idea. He measured the three buildings (Ezekiel 41:15), and various details about their three (constructions) (Ezekiel 41:16).
Over against the door, cieled with wood round about.—This is really a parenthesis, although scarcely intelligible as it stands. Translate, Opposite the thresholds (was) a ceiling of wood round about. The part strictly opposite the threshold was the lintel; but the expression is here broad enough to include also the sides of the doorway. The doorways in the various buildings were all ceiled with wood, and it is afterwards said that this was carved.
And from the ground.—After the parenthesic, the construction dependent upon “he measured” is resumed. As everything else was measured, so also the space between the ground and the windows; then, again, it is mentioned parenthetically that the windows were covered, viz., as in Ezekiel 40:16, by lattices fastened so as not to be opened.
Every cherub had two faces.—In Ezekiel 1, 10 the cherubim are represented each with four faces, but being merely symbolic, not actual creatures, they may be modified at pleasure, and here, in accordance with the exigencies of the carving, they have but two faces.
The corners thereof.—This doubtless includes the “horns,” or projecting pieces at the corners, which were always an important part of the symbolism of the altar. The expression “length” in its repetition is generally thought to mean (by a slight change in the text) “the stand” or “base.” Table and altar are used synonymously, as in Malachi 1:7.
It is to be observed that in these outer parts of the Temple only palm trees were used in the ornamentation, the cherubim being reserved for the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
The description of the Temple proper is now finished, and it is noticeable how very little is said of its interior furniture and arrangements. There is no mention at all of that profuse overlaying with gold so characteristic of Solomon’s Temple; nothing is said of the candlestick, or the table of show-bread; even the ark itself, that climax of Israel’s symbolic worship, is not mentioned. The prophet seems to be looking forward to the time described by his contemporary, Jeremiah, when these outward symbols should be forgotten in the higher spiritual presence of the Lord: “They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD; neither shall it come to mind. . . . At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it” (Jeremiah 3:16-17).