Author: Ron Graham
Ezekiel Chapters 40, 41, and 42
—Outline and Notes
On this page, chapters 40, 41, and 42 of Ezekiel are outlined and analysed. These chapters are about Ezekiel's vision of an ideal temple being carefully measured.
1 Context Overview
For much of their history the Israelites practised idolatry and all the immorality and wickedness that went with it. They “played the harlot” as God put it. They were unfaithful to the LORD. Even when they worshiped him their hearts were far from him.
God finally gave the Israelites over to be conquered by the Assyrians. Later Judah was punished by means of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty king of Babylon and Chaldea. But when the Medes and Persians took over, a remnant of the Israelites, who had been scattered among the nations, returned and resettled the land.
Ezekiel’s prophecies looked forward to the return which took place decades later when leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah, encouraged the Israelites to live holy lives. The temple was rebuilt and its sacrifices restored. It was not as grand a temple as the one Ezekiel sees in his vision; nevertheless, the people based their lives on the temple and its laws and sacrifices. Furthermore, Ezekiel’s vision encouraged God’s people to live in hope for the kingdom of Heaven, the glorious and heavenly Israel to come.
2 Outline of Ezekiel 40‑41‑42
25th YEAR (Ezekiel 40:1).
- It is 25 years since King Jehoiakin was exiled and Ezekiel and others were captured with him. It is 14 years since Jerusalem was destroyed. Ezekiel is transported in visions to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:1-2).
The Man with a Measuring Rod
- Ezekiel sees a bronze‑like man with a rod and a linen cord as measuring devices. The man tells Ezekiel to watch carefully everything the man shows him and report it to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 40:3-4).
- The rod's length measured six cubits, but these were a handbreadth longer than the standard cubit. Ezekiel sees a wall surrounding the temple area. It is one rod (six cubits) high and one rod thick. (Ezekiel 40:5-10).
The Three Gates (facing east, north, south)
- The man measured the East gate with five gate chambers. These, and the thresholds of the gate conformed to the undivided whole cubit. The gate’s portico, roof and posts also conformed, their measurements being in whole cubits without fractions; likewise the gate’s width and length. (Ezekiel 40:11-14).
- There were windows all around the gate elements and the pillars were decorated with a palm tree motif (Ezekiel 40:16).
- The lower pavement of the outer court had 30 chambers. The outer court, from the front of each gateway to outside of the inner court, measured 100 cubits (Ezekiel 40:17-19).
- The North Gate had the same structure and measurements as the East gate.(Ezekiel 40:20-23).
- The South facing gate was measured in detail and found to be just like the others. Seven steps led up to the gate (Ezekiel 40:24-26).
Matching Gates of the Inner Court
- From the front of the outer gate to the wall of the inner court is confirmed to be 100 cubits (Ezekiel 40:27).
- The man takes Ezekiel into the inner court. It has three gates just like the outer gates with the same measurements. Eight steps lead up to each gate. Each gate faces, and is in line with, its opposite outer gate (Ezekiel 40:28-37).
Inside the Inner Court
- Within and next to the inner gateways, there were rooms furnished with tables for the slaughter and preparation of animals for sacrifice (Ezekiel 40:38-41).
- There were also four tables of dressed stone for keeping the tools used for slaughter. The prepared offerings were placed on the tables supported by hooks in the wall. The tables were a cubit and a half wide, the first and only mention of a fraction in measurement (Ezekiel 40:42-43).
- Within the inner court there were two rooms. One room was beside the north gate and faced south. It was for the priests who keep charge of the temple in general. The other room was beside the south gate and faced north. It was for the priests in charge of the altar, exclusively sons of Zadok. (Ezekiel 49:44-45).
- Next the man measured the inner court. It was square, 100 by 100 cubits. In front of the temple was the altar. (Ezekiel 40:47).
- The temple was measured next. Its pillars, gateway, side walls, and portico, were all measured. Ten steps led up to the temple (Ezekiel 40:48-49).
Measuring the Temple
- Measurements of the outer sanctuary (The Holy Place) using the measuring rod (Ezekiel 41:1-2).
- Measurements of the inner sanctuary (The Most Holy Place) using the measuring rod (Ezekiel 41:3-4).
- Ezekiel describes the side rooms (90 of them). They are built on three levels connected by a stairway (Ezekiel 41:5-11).
- Measuring a building that faced the temple on the west (Ezekiel 41:12).
- Measuring the temple and courtyard, each measurement 100 cubits (Ezekiel 41:13-15a).
- Wooden panels and overlays described (Ezekiel 41:15b-16).
- Carved cherubim and palm trees described (Ezekiel 41:17-20).
- Door frames of the sanctuaries described (Ezekiel 41:21).
- The altar measured and described (Ezekiel 41:22).
- Doors, panels, canopy, windows, and carvings of the sanctuaries described (Ezekiel 41:23-26).
- The outer chambers on the north side, on three levels, described and measured (Ezekiel 42:1-5).
- Details of the arrangement of the chambers (Ezekiel 42:5-9).
- Chambers on the south side are the same as those on the north (Ezekiel 42:10-12).
- The man explains the use of the chambers on both north and south. There the priests [sons of Zadok] take and eat the offerings observing rules of holiness (Ezekiel 42:13-14).
- The wall separating the holy area from common ground measured five hundred cubits on all sides of the square (Ezekiel 42:15-20).
3 Notes on Ezekiel 40, 41, and 42
No gold or precious materials. Although Ezekiel saw a grand temple, nowhere in its description was anything said about gold, precious stones, or precious materials. The temple was made of stone and wood. Perhaps this would help the Israelites to focus on the glory of the LORD rather than on material things.
God still had in mind a temple in Jerusalem. These three chapters are perhaps tedious for us to read, but they would have encouraged the house of Israel still captive in Babylon. Firstly the vision showed that God still had in mind a temple in Jerusalem, a temple built of stone and wood where sacrifices could be offered. This was fulfilled in the reigns of the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius.
A dual fulfillment However this is an example of a class of prophecies in the Old Testament which appear to have a dual fulfillment, that is to say they predict something to take place in the nearer future which relates to something greater that will take place in the distant future. Thus some elements of the prophecy apply to the nearer event, others to the distant event, and some elements may apply to both events. The nearer event is usually the more "earthly" whilst the distant event is more "heavenly".
The nearer fulfillment. With stops and starts, a stone and wood temple was built under Zerubbabel and those who returned with him. First they built an altar and offered sacrifices. Religious reform was implemented by Ezra when more people returned with him. This temple, however, was inferior to the temple of Ezekiel’s vision.
The distant fulfillment. As with many Bible prophecies, there is a second more distant fulfillment in the time of Messiah. Jesus made one sacrifice for sin once and for all. He entered the Most Holy Place in "the greater and more perfect tabernacle" which is not a physical building (Hebrews 9:11-12, 10:19-22). This is symbolised by the temple of Ezekiel’s vision, greater and more perfect than the one actually built.
No ark in the Most Holy Place. There was no ark of the covenant in the temple of Ezekiel’s vision. Only the glory of the LORD filled it. This indicates that Messiah (Christ) would mediate a new and better covenant and abolish the old. His covenant and Holy Spirit would live in human hearts.
Whole numbers in measurements. The man equipped with the measuring rod and line measured everything and every measurement registered whole cubits. There were no fractions except in two instances of a half cubit in the measurement. The stone tables for the burnt offering were one and a half cubits in width and height (Ezekiel 40:42). The altar had a rim of half a cubit (Ezekiel 43:17). This may be a subtle sign that the burnt offerings fall short of providing complete forgiveness. Only the sacrifice of Christ can provide that.