Feast upon the Word Blog

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Sunday School Lesson 44: Ezekiel 43-44, 47

Posted by Jim F. on November 17, 2010

Ezekiel’s book goes back and forth between telling of the literal return from Babylon to Jerusalem in ways that we can also read to refer to the last days to speaking directly of the last days. (But when he thinks of the last days, is he thinking of the same event or events that we are thinking of?) Beginning in chapter 40, he has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem and of the order of temple worship there. What kind of vision do you think this is?

In Ezekiel 37:26-28, the Lord promised the temple as part of the covenant of peace that he will make with Israel. You may wish to review those verses to prepare for this lesson. What is the covenant of peace and why does the Lord call it specifically a covenant of peace? What kind of peace? Peace with whom? For whom? How is the temple relevant to that covenant? What do the end of verse 26 and the end of verse 28 suggest about the purpose of the temple?

The temple worship that Ezekiel describes in these chapters speaks of different sacrifices and different numbers of sacrifices than are mentioned in the Mosaic law. (Because of this, at one time the Jews considered excluding the book of Ezekiel from the Bible.) What do you think this shows?

Chapter 43

2-4: In Ezekiel 10:19, the Spirit of the Lord abandoned the temple by way of the east gate and took up his residence on the Mount of Olives. Here, the Spirit returns to the temple from the east, presumably from the Mount of Olives. What do you make of that?

7: The former temple was described as the footstool of God (e.g., 1 Chronicles 28:2). This temple is described as “the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet.” How is that different? Where do we find God’s throne otherwise? (See, e.g., Psalms 132:7.) What does the difference between the former temple and this temple teach us? Does this prophecy explain the prophecy of 1 Kings 9:5? If so, how?

10: Ezekiel is commanded to show Israel the plan of the temple so that they will be ashamed of their sins. Why would seeing the plan of the temple have that effect on them? Does this teach us anything about our own lives and our relation to the temple?

22: This is one of the differences between the offerings of the first temple and the offerings of this one: the dedication of the first temple didn’t include the sacrifice of a “kid of the goats,” in other words, a he-goat. (See also verse 25.) Why would the temple of the future offer a he-goat as a sin offering? What might the significance of this offering be?

Chapter 44

1: Why is the east gate to be permanently shut? Of what is its closure a symbol?

4: Why is the ruler of Israel referred to as a prince (nasi) here rather than as a king (melech)? Who is now the king?

4-14: The Lord speaks of the requirements for temple service. What problem is he speaking of in verses 7 and 9? What would a comparable problem be for us and how do we guard against it? In verse 10, the Levites are told that they will have to bear their iniquity. What was that iniquity? Verse 11 assigns the Levites temple work that previously had been assigned to others, including non-priests; this verse describes a demotion. Verse 13 continues to describe this demotion: the Aaronic priesthood will not be allowed in the inner courts of the temple. Think about where we see a type or shadow of this exclusion in our own temple ritual.

15-27: In Numbers 25:11-13, Phinehas was given the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Zadok, the high priest in Solomon’s temple, was a descendant of Phinehas and by Jewish law only a descendant of Zadok could be the high priest at the temple. Of what or whom, then, do you think “the sons of Zadok” are a type? Notice some things about these verses: Verse 19 says that the priests must not wear their temple clothing in public, but keep it within the temple. Verse 21 says that the priests of the temple should have medium-length hair: they should neither shave their heads nor let their hair grow long since those were both customs of the idolaters. What does verse 22 tell us about whom the sons of Zadok should marry? How does this apply to us? What does verse 23 mean? What does it mean to us?

Chapter 47

Verses 1-12: Notice that the prophet is guided to what he sees (verse 1). He was previously in the outer court (Ezekiel 46:21-24), where the cooking was done for the temple. Is his change of place in the temple significant for understanding this vision? Is it significant that he was led? For both questions: if so, how so? At each thousand cubits from the temple, the stream that comes from underneath the temple is deeper until, at 4,000 cubits it can only be crossed by swimming. Of what might the stream that grows into a river by a symbol? What might the trees on the sides of the river teach us? When the waters enter the Dead Sea, they heal it (verses 8-12). Of what do you think that is a symbol? Try to think of more than one symbol in each case. Which makes the most sense and why? Which group of symbols—for the river, the trees, the Dead Sea—makes the most sense as a group?

Verses 13-23: The Lord describes the future borders of Israel. The maps in your Bible can help you see what those borders will be. How would this have been important to the Jewish captives living in Babylon? Is it important to us? How?

8 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson 44: Ezekiel 43-44, 47”

  1. Gammaeileen said

    Thank you!!

  2. Janet Lisonbee said

    Jim, I love your posts and refer to them always when teaching my lessons. Thanks for posting your insights.

  3. NathanG said

    Jim,
    We had this lesson today. What do you make of the stream getting deeper at every 1,000 cubits? If I’m reading this correctly, it gets bigger the further it gets from the temple. Is this distance from the temple important?

    • Jim F. said

      Good question, NathanG. To figure out what it means, we’d have to figure out what the stream means. Whatever it is, as the river spreads wider, on its way toward “curing” the Dead Sea, it also gets deeper. If we give it a Christian interpretation–the gospel of Jesus Christ–that suggests that the closer the river gets to the time of the apocalypse, the wider and deeper it will be. Does that mean that it will include more people? Or something else? If we take understand it as the lesson manual seems to suggest–the teachings of the temple–I’m less sure what to make of the river’s increase as it heads for the Sea.

      • NathanG said

        Jim,
        Thanks for the thoughts. Here’s where some of my thoughts have gone. First, I would guess most people living in the region would think the idea of curing the Dead Sea as very absurd. Second, most large rivers become large because of their large drainage basins and their many tributaries. A single stream may supply something large like a lake, but the water must become very slow to supply a large body of water. Interestingly, the water in the Dead Sea that doesn’t flow remains dead (the marishes were those that were not healed). I would guess that somehow this enlargement of the stream into a large river is meant to somehow defy logic, enlarging to the point of something that is capable of meeting the task of curing the Dead Sea. This leads me to think of small and simple things leading to great things. There really shouldn’t be that much different between the Christian interpretation (gospel of Jesus Christ) and what comes from the manual (temples). Temple worship should really be the embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

        At least some initial thoughts.

  4. Jim F. said

    NathanG: interesting ideas. Thanks for contributing them. I think that perhaps the most important of them is that it would have been thought of as absurd that the Dead Sea could be cured, another symbol that with God all things are possible.

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