Ezekiel 40 Commentary

40:1-48:35 THE NEW AGE

In this the final section of his book, Ezekiel adds to the picture he has already given of Israel’s restoration to the land and the golden age that will follow. He has already dealt at length with the return to the land; now he deals with matters relating to the people’s way of life within the land. In particular he deals with the temple and the city.

Although the blessings outlined by Ezekiel were intended for restored Israel, the nation missed out on the blessings when it turned away from God as in former days. But some remained true to God, and the faithful remnant of old Israel became the nucleus of the new people of God, the Christian church. The new Jerusalem is a spiritual community of those of all nations who are ‘born from above’ (Gal 3:26-29; 4:26-28).

This new community can learn from Ezekiel’s visions, even though the visions were given for the benefit of people of Ezekiel’s time. But even this new community may not at present experience the full blessings pictured by Ezekiel. The visions seem to point beyond, to the time when the kingdom of Jesus Christ will be established in its fullest glory. The great expectation of God’s people is the new age yet to come, when God will dwell for ever with all his redeemed people in an order of existence never before experienced.

Pictures and language

In revealing certain characteristics of life in his eternal kingdom, God used words and illustrations that people of Ezekiel’s day could understand. Since the immediate hope for those people was to return to their land and rebuild the temple and city, God used this immediate hope as his means of instructing them concerning his ultimate purposes. The restoration was a shadow or picture of greater things to come.

Just as the details of Ezekiel’s previous visions are not to be understood in a literal or physical sense, so neither are the details of his visions of the new temple and the new Jerusalem. Ezekiel was a priest, and he best understood the ideal life of God’s people in terms of an ideal religious system. He saw a temple where God dwelt among his people and was worshipped by them in a religious order that was perfect in every detail (e.g. 43:10-12). He saw a nation whose ideal existence was possible only because everything was perfectly arranged around the central presence of God (e.g. 48:8,20,35).

Ezekiel, like all seers, was concerned with spiritual realities more than with physical details.

Nevertheless, he had to use examples from the physical world to illustrate the spiritual, because the

 

physical world was the only world that he and his readers knew. In this he may be compared with another seer, John, the writer of the book of Revelation. As Ezekiel used the illustration of a temple, John used the illustration of a city. Both were concerned with informing their readers of that quality of life that can find its fullest expression only in the age to come.

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