This and the first part of the following chapter form a remarkable portion of the book. They first describe the setting apart of a large part of the whole land for the sanctuary, the priests, the prince, and the city, in a way and in a geographical position entirely unknown either in the past or the subsequent history of the people (Ezekiel 45:1-8). The portion assigned to the prince is to prevent violence and exaction on his part; in this connection all unjust measurements are to cease, and standard weights and measures are prescribed (Ezekiel 45:9-12). Then follow directions for the tax or “oblation” to be paid by the people to the prince, that he may be able to furnish the required sacrifices (Ezekiel 45:13-17). The chapter closes with directions concerning the daily sacrifices and the feasts, these feasts being in part unknown to the law; while some feasts that were prominent in the law are entirely omitted, and the ritual of nearly all is greatly changed. The whole is so different from the arrangements of the Mosaic economy, and so foreign to the restoration of that economy on the return from the exile, that it can only be explained of an ideal picture which both prophet and people understood was not to receive a literal realisation.
(1) When ye shall divide by lot.—The same expression is used in Ezekiel 47:22; Ezekiel 48:29, as it had long before been used in Joshua 13:6; but that it does not imply anything of chance is plain from the fact that in Ezekiel 48 a definite portion of the land is assigned to each of the tribes by name. The idea seems to be the same as is conveyed by our word allotment.
An oblation.—Literally a heave offering. This portion of the land is thus called from its analogy to the sacrificial gifts which were lifted up or heaved before the Lord. As a small portion of these was burned upon the altar and the rest given to the priests, so here, a small part of this territory was to be occupied by the sanctuary and the rest given to the priests and Levites. A fuller description of this oblation is given in Ezekiel 48:8-22; it is here merely mentioned in connection with the support of the priests and the prince.
Five and twenty thousand.—In the original there is no mention of the measure to be used, but the English has rightly supplied reeds. This is plain both from the size of the precincts of the Temple, which are made 500 reeds square in Ezekiel 42:16-20, and from the special mention of cubits in Ezekiel 45:2 implying that the measure in other cases was different. The length is from east to west, as shown by Ezekiel 48:8. This length of 25,000 reeds or 150,000 cubits is something over forty-seven statute miles. For its location and comparative size see the map under Ezekiel 48.
The breadth shall be ten thousand.—The Greek here reads twenty thousand, and many would alter the text accordingly, but without any advantage. We know from Ezekiel 48:8; Ezekiel 48:20, that the whole width of the oblation was 25,000, the same as its length; and this was made up of three portions: the northernmost, 10,000 wide (Ezekiel 48:13), for the Levites; the next, of the same width (Ezekiel 48:10), for the priests, in the midst of which was the sanctuary; and the remainder, half as wide (Ezekiel 48:15), for “a profane place for the city, for dwelling, and for suburbs.” Yet while this whole territory is there called the oblation, the particular portion for the priests is also called by the same name (Ezekiel 48:9). The word may therefore be used here in the same sense as there, for that part of the oblation which was for the priests: the oblation of the oblation.
From the west side westward.—The prince’s position is to adjoin the “oblation” in its entire width of 25,000 reeds, stretching westward from its western side, and eastward from its eastern side.
The length.—Throughout the measurements of the land, length is from east to west; breadth from north to south. The east and west measurement of the prince’s portion was to be “over against “—i.e., parallel to—one of the portions of the tribes.
Shall prepare.—The word means simply provide, not prepare in a priestly sense.
Ezekiel here omits altogether the Feast of Pentecost, the Day of Atonement, and the Day of Trumpets (the first of the seventh month); for these he substitutes a special sin offering for the first and seventh days of the first month, and for the first day of the Paschal feast; he, moreover, largely modifies the ritual of the two feasts which he retains. All this essentially transforms the ideas which form the basis of the cycle of the Mosaic feasts. No attempt was ever made by the Jews of the restoration to carry out the scheme here set forth; and it appears to have been regarded by the prophet’s contemporaries and successors as purely ideal.