The Word Made Fresh
1Then he led me to the gate that faces east. 2I saw the brightness of the God of Israel approaching, accompanied by a sound like the rush of a mighty river, and the whole world reflected his shining glory. 3This was like the vision I had when he came to destroy the city, and the visions I had seen at the river Chebar. I fell on my face. 4The LORD’s brightness entered the temple through the east gate 5and I was lifted up and carried to the inner courtyard. The LORD’s glory filled the whole temple.
6The man was standing with me and I heard someone speaking to me from within the temple. 7The voice said to me, “Son of man, this is my throne and my footrest where I will live among the people of Israel forever. Neither Israel nor their kings will ever again corrupt my sacred name by their sins on their hilltops. 8When they made their entryways beside my entryway and their doorposts beside mine, with nothing between me and them except for a wall, they were defiling my sacred name by the sins they committed there. That is why I punished them in anger. 9Now, let them do away with their idols and the dead bodies of their kings, and I will come and live among them forever.
10“Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel. Let them measure the plans and let them be ashamed of their sins. 11When they are ashamed of their behavior show them the plan of the temple, how it is arranged, the entrances and exits, and its whole plan including its rules and laws. Write it all down while they watch so they can see and understand the whole plan and all the rules. 12The main rule is that the whole ground on the mount shall be sacred; this is the law of the temple.
13“The dimensions of the altar by long cubits (the cubit plus a handbreadth) are thus: the base will be one long cubit square with a rim around its edge a span wide. The height of the altar 14from the base on the ground to the lower ledge will be two cubits; the width will be one cubit. 15The edge of the altar will be four cubits and four horns will point upward from it. 16The altar will be a square twelve cubits long and twelve wide. 17The ledge will be fourteen cubits long and wide with a half cubit rim around it and a one-cubit base that surrounds it. The steps shall face the east.”
18Then he said, “Son of man, the LORD says these are the rules for the altar: on the day it is built for offering burnt offerings and blood dashed against it, 19you are to give the Levitical priests descended from Zadok, the ones authorized to work for me, a bull for a sin offering,” says the LORD God. 20“You are to take some of the blood and smear it on the four horns of the altar and four corners of the ledge and on the rim all around. This is how you will purify it and make it sacred. 21Then take the bull of the sin offering and burn it in the place outside the sacred area that is appointed for the purpose.
22“On the second day offer a male goat that has no imperfections for a sin offering. The altar must first be purified as it was with the bull. 23When you have purified it, offer a bull without blemish and a ram from the flock without blemish. 24Present them to the LORD and throw salt on them, then offer them as a burnt offering to the LORD. 25Each day for seven days provide a goat for a sin offering, and an unblemished bull and an unblemished ram from the flock. 26The altar shall be purified and cleansed for seven days, and then it is consecrated. 27When this has been done, then from the eighth day on the priests will offer on the altar your burnt offerings and peace offerings, and I will approve of you,” says the LORD God.
1-9: Ezekiel sees “the glory of the LORD” approaching from the east entering the temple. It reminds him of the initial vision he had by the river Chebar (see 1:26-28). Ezekiel feels himself mysteriously lifted up and taken into the courtyard where he hears the LORD’s voice speaking to him from inside the temple. God tells him that Israel’s punishment was for not honoring the holy place. They were chosen by God to be a holy people, but they violated the covenant by which they were made holy. The vision Ezekiel is seeing represents God’s invitation for them to enter into the covenant again, so that once again God will live in their midst.
10-12: Ezekiel is to report the vision to the exiles; in turn they will have a vision of what is to be, and will understand that the entire area around Mt. Zion will be holy.
13-21: Instructions are to be given to the exiles for the reconstruction of the altar for burnt sacrifices. When it is erected Ezekiel is to give the priests a bull to be sacrificed. He is to sprinkle the blood on the horns of the altar, clearly resembling the ritual by which Moses consecrated the first altar in the tabernacle in the wilderness (Leviticus 16:18).
22-27: The ritual of purifying the altar is completed with the offering of a goat. The altar being purified, it is necessary then for the people to be purified through the sacrifice of a bull on seven consecutive days, thus completing the atonement of Israel which enables God to accept them once again.
In ancient Israel your wealth was measured by how many animals you had. The practice of offering animal sacrifices disappeared after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans some forty or so years after Jesus. When we place our gifts in an offering plate on Sunday morning, we are participating in the same ritual of the ancient Hebrews and other ancient peoples. The offering itself is different; the idea is much the same. We owe God for our very existence.