Ezekiel 45 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Ezekiel 45
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Moreover, when ye shall divide by lot the land for inheritance, ye shall offer an oblation unto the LORD, an holy portion of the land: the length shall be the length of five and twenty thousand reeds, and the breadth shall be ten thousand. This shall be holy in all the borders thereof round about.

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.

Of this there shall be for the sanctuary five hundred in length, with five hundred in breadth, square round about; and fifty cubits round about for the suburbs thereof.
(2) Fifty cubits round about.—In Ezekiel 42:16-20 the space of 500 reeds square is described, which was “for,” or belonged to, the sanctuary, to guard it from any profanation; but here we have, still farther, a narrow strip of 50 cubits wide (about 83 feet) of open space outside the wall to prevent the priests’ houses being built too close to the sacred precincts. The word suburbs is better rendered in the margin, void or open place. The situation of the sanctuary and its surroundings within the priests’ portion is more definitely fixed in Ezekiel 48:10 as “in the midst thereof.”

And of this measure shalt thou measure the length of five and twenty thousand, and the breadth of ten thousand: and in it shall be the sanctuary and the most holy place.
(3) Of this measure.—If the Hebrew text of Ezekiel 45:1 be preserved unchanged, we must understand this to refer to the whole oblation of 25,000 reeds broad which was in the prophet’s mind, though he does not speak of it until afterwards; this verse will then be a repetition of the latter part of Ezekiel 45:1, for the sake of specifying that the sanctuary was to be within it. The territory here assigned to the priests, more than 47 miles long by nearly 19 broad, with only one square mile deducted for the sanctuary, is enormously larger than the 13 cities assigned for their residence in Joshua 21:19, and is also considerably larger than that given (Ezekiel 48) to any of the tribes. It has been suggested that, as Ezekiel makes no mention of the tithes, this large territory may have been given to the priests for their support instead of the tithes; but the law of tithes was a very ancient institution (see Genesis 14:20; Genesis 28:22), and was important for the good of the people as well as for the support of the priests. It is unlikely that Ezekiel would have introduced so radical a change without any allusion to it. The enlargement of the priests’ possessions is quite in proportion to the enlargement of the sanctuary, and both seem designed in this symbolical vision to set forth the prominence of the Divine worship, and its precedence over all other things.

The holy portion of the land shall be for the priests the ministers of the sanctuary, which shall come near to minister unto the LORD: and it shall be a place for their houses, and an holy place for the sanctuary.
And the five and twenty thousand of length, and the ten thousand of breadth, shall also the Levites, the ministers of the house, have for themselves, for a possession for twenty chambers.
(5) For a possession for twenty chambers.—Adjoining the priests’ portion of the oblation, another equal portion is assigned to the Levites. The last clause of the verse, as it stands, admits of no satisfactory explanation. The suggestion that it may refer to twenty out of the thirty chambers in the outer court of the sanctuary (Ezekiel 40:17) is quite out of place. Even if these were intended for the use of the Levites (which does not appear), it would be strange that they should be abruptly spoken of in the midst of this description of the oblation. A slight change in the text—the transposition of two letters in the first word, and the change of one letter in the second for another much like it—will make the clause read, “for a possession of gates to dwell in,” gates being used, as in Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 14:27; Deuteronomy 16:11 (comp. Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14), for cities. The sense would then be that this portion should be to the Levites what the former portion was to the priests, a place for their dwellings.

And ye shall appoint the possession of the city five thousand broad, and five and twenty thousand long, over against the oblation of the holy portion: it shall be for the whole house of Israel.
(6) The possession of the city.—This portion, more particularly described in Ezekiel 48:15-20, is there called “a profane place,” though still constituting a part of the oblation. It was the same length and half the width of either of the other portions, and was for the city, and for a common possession of the nation, to supply food for those who “serve the city” “out of all the tribes of Israel” (Ezekiel 48:18-19). Nothing is anywhere said to identify this city with Jerusalem, and, indeed, it is described as in a different position geographically (see map). Jerusalem, like the ark, appears to have faded from the prophet’s sight in this vision of the future Church.

And a portion shall be for the prince on the one side and on the other side of the oblation of the holy portion, and of the possession of the city, before the oblation of the holy portion, and before the possession of the city, from the west side westward, and from the east side eastward: and the length shall be over against one of the portions, from the west border unto the east border.
(7) For the prince.—The portion here assigned to the prince included all the land between the northern and southern bounding lines of the “oblation” continued to the Jordan on the east, and the Mediterranean on the west, not already included within the “oblation” itself. Two pieces of land are thus given to him, separated from each other by the whole width (47⅓ miles) of the “oblation.” (See the map under Ezekiel 48)

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.

In the land shall be his possession in Israel: and my princes shall no more oppress my people; and the rest of the land shall they give to the house of Israel according to their tribes.
(8) My princes shall no more oppress.—The use of the plural does not imply that more than one prince should reign at a time, nor is it intended to include the family of the prince; but as everything in the future is described in terms of the past, so the royal authority is conceived of as vested in a succession of rulers, although we have been already told that there shall be but one king over them for ever (Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25). The declaration that the “princes shall no more oppress my people” follows naturally on the assignment of this portion. Former kings of Israel had no domain given them, and this had tempted them to acquire private property by violence and extortion. The people had been forewarned of this (1 Samuel 8:14), had often experienced it in their history, and had heard the rebukes of their prophets on account of it (e.g., Jeremiah 22:13-19).

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD.
(9) Take away your exactions.—Ezekiel 45:9-12 are an exhortation to the princes to observe justice in all their dealings. (Comp. Jeremiah 22:3.) “Exaction” is, literally, as in the margin, expulsion, or ejection, with allusion to such cases as 1 Kings 21:1-16. In the following verses the exhortation to justice is extended to the whole people. (Comp. Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-15.)

Ye shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath.
The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, that the bath may contain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephah the tenth part of an homer: the measure thereof shall be after the homer.
(11) Shall be of one measure.—The Ephah is first mentioned in Exodus 16:36, and appears to be a word of Egyptian origin; it was used for dry measure. The Bath is not met with before 1 Kings 7:26, and was the largest of the liquid measures in use. The statement that these were of the same capacity, and each equal to the tenth part of the Homer, is important in the comparison of the Hebrew dry and liquid measures, but it is exceedingly difficult to determine their absolute value. If we calculate on the estimates of Josephus, the Homer was 86, 696 English gallons; if on those of the Rabbinists, 42, 286. Modern estimates differ nearly as much. The Homer, which was ten Ephahs, is to be carefully distinguished from the Omer, which was the tenth part of an Ephah. The two words are quite different in Hebrew.

And the shekel shall be twenty gerahs: twenty shekels, five and twenty shekels, fifteen shekels, shall be your maneh.
(12) The shekel.—The first part of this verse is merely a re-statement of the old law (Exodus 30:13; Leviticus 27:25; Numbers 3:47) that the shekel should be of the value of twenty gerahs, or of the estimated weight of 220 grains; but the latter part of the verse is extremely obscure. The maneh is mentioned elsewhere only in 1 Kings 10:17; Ezra 2:69; Neh. vii 71, and is translated in our version pound. Its actual value is unknown. If the text as it stands is correct, it is possible that in Ezekiel’s time three different manehs were in use, of the values respectively assigned to them; but of this there is no other evidence.

This is the oblation that ye shall offer; the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of wheat, and ye shall give the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of barley:
(13) The oblation.—Ezekiel 45:13-16 provide for a regular tax to be paid to the prince, in order that he may be able to furnish the required offerings at the sanctuary. This, like the oblation of land (Ezekiel 45:1), is described as a “heave offering,” and was the sixtieth part of the grain, the hundredth of the oil, and the two-hundredth of the flock, all being from the year’s increase.

Concerning the ordinance of oil, the bath of oil, ye shall offer the tenth part of a bath out of the cor, which is an homer of ten baths; for ten baths are an homer:
(14) The cor.—This measure is first met with in 1 Kings 4:22; 1 Kings 5:11; 2 Chronicles 2:10; 2 Chronicles 27:5, and is here fixed as exactly equal to the “Homer.” In the English it is always translated elsewhere measure.

And one lamb out of the flock, out of two hundred, out of the fat pastures of Israel; for a meat offering, and for a burnt offering, and for peace offerings, to make reconciliation for them, saith the Lord GOD.
All the people of the land shall give this oblation for the prince in Israel.
And it shall be the prince's part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.
(17) The prince’s part.—The prince, receiving these contributions from the people, was bound to provide the offerings on the various stated occasions of sacrifice. This is an entirely new feature, for the Mosaic law made no provision in regard to the source from which the festal sacrifices were to be obtained. What had been left to free-will offering now becomes established duty.

Shall prepare.—The word means simply provide, not prepare in a priestly sense.

Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the first month, in the first day of the month, thou shalt take a young bullock without blemish, and cleanse the sanctuary:
(18) In the first month, in the first day of the month.—The rest of this and the first fifteen verses of the following chapter are occupied with the ritual of the sacrifices on certain special occasions. In each case the deviations from the Mosaic law are remarkable, as well as the omission of any mention of the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and of the Great Day of Atonement. Ezekiel, as a priest, must have been familiar with the law in these matters, and therefore the changes he introduces must have been intentional. Like the changes in the division of the land, they seemed designed to show that this was an ideal vision. No attempt was ever made to follow the arrangements here laid down. The Mosaic law prescribed (in addition to the burnt offerings and meat offerings) a sin offering, which was to be a he-goat (Numbers 28:15) for the first of every month; also on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Great Day of Atonement, two he-goats (one for the “scape-goat”) were to be offered. Of all these Ezekiel mentions only the sin offering for the beginning of the first month, and also for the seventh day of the same, of which the Mosaic law knows nothing; but he provides for these bullocks instead of goats. In the ritual of the blood he makes a corresponding change. The law gives no special directions for the sprinkling of the blood of the sin offerings on the first of each month, because they were included in the ordinary rule (Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:30, &c.) of sprinkling upon the sides of the altar of burnt offering; only in the case of the sin offering for the high priest or for the whole congregation (when the victim was a bullock) was the blood brought within the Temple itself, and sprinkled seven times before the vail, and applied to the horns of the altar of incense. On the Day of Atonement it was carried into the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled upon and before the mercyseat. All this is here changed. Some of the blood of these sin offerings (Ezekiel 45:19) is to be put upon the “posts of the house” (see Ezekiel 41:21), upon the “corners of the settle of the altar,” and “upon the posts of the gate of the inner court.”

And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering, and put it upon the posts of the house, and upon the four corners of the settle of the altar, and upon the posts of the gate of the inner court.
And so thou shalt do the seventh day of the month for every one that erreth, and for him that is simple: so shall ye reconcile the house.
(20) so shall ye reconcile the house.—The object of “the sin offering” on the first day of the month is expressly said to be to “cleanse the sanctuary” (Ezekiel 45:18); but here the offering is for “every one that erreth, and for him that is simple,” i.e., for all who have sinned thoughtlessly rather than wilfully. Yet it is added, “so shall ye reconcile the house,” more literally, make an atonement for the house; and the question has therefore been raised whether this offering on the seventh day was still for the purification of the sanctuary or for the sins of the people. The answer to this question must be sought in the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), which these days seem intended to replace. These were very distinctly for the sins of the priests and the people, and at the same time for the tabernacle. The one involved the other, and the holy place required purification because of the sins of “the holy people” among whom it was placed.

In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.
And upon that day shall the prince prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bullock for a sin offering.
(22) A bullock for a sin offering.—In Ezekiel 45:21 the Passover is appointed quite in accordance with the Mosaic institution, although there is a peculiarity in the language of the original which has led some writers to infer, unnecessarily, that the feast was to be kept for seven weeks. But the sacrifices are in many respects quite different. Nothing is said of the Paschal lamb itself: but this may be because it was understood as a matter of course. The sin offering by the Mosaic law (Numbers 28:17; Numbers 28:22) was to be a he-goat for each day; here, a bullock for the first day, and a he-goat for the other days (Ezekiel 45:23). The burnt offering by the law was to be two bullocks, a ram, and seven yearling lambs for each day; here, seven bullocks and seven rams. The meat offering was to be three-tenths of an ephah of meal, mixed with oil, for each bullock, two-tenths for each ram, and one-tenth for each lamb, or one and a half ephahs in all daily; here, a whole ephah for each victim, making in all fourteen ephahs daily and as many hins of oil (Ezekiel 45:24). The offerings required here therefore are much richer than under the law.

And seven days of the feast he shall prepare a burnt offering to the LORD, seven bullocks and seven rams without blemish daily the seven days; and a kid of the goats daily for a sin offering.
And he shall prepare a meat offering of an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and an hin of oil for an ephah.
In the seventh month, in the fifteenth day of the month, shall he do the like in the feast of the seven days, according to the sin offering, according to the burnt offering, and according to the meat offering, and according to the oil.
(25) In the seventh month.—This corresponds to the Feast of Tabernacles, though the name is not mentioned, doubtless because the custom of living in booths is to be discontinued. The sacrifices at this feast are to be the same as at the Passover, and are to be repeated for each day of the feast. There is in this an entire change from the peculiar ordinances of the Mosaic law (Numbers 29:12-24), and on the whole a great diminution in the number of sacrifices, with a simplification of the ritual, and an omission of the eighth day, added to the feast by the Mosaic law.

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.

Courtesy of Open Bible