Part 1: Lost and Found in the Temple

Author’s sketch of Ezekiel’s altar of burnt offering, based primarily on Block,  Ezekiel,  v.2, pp. 592–604. From his knowledge of the First Temple, Ezekiel might have understood it being ascended by a ramp rather than steps (Heb.  uma’alotehu ). From the Mishnah, Jewish commentators understand the steps or ramp to have risen toward the north, rather than the west as shown here (see p.8 in Part 2 and note). Primarily this drawing is meant to show the relationship of the altar’s four-square symmetry to that of Ezekiel’s overall temple plan (see Block,  Ezekiel,  v.2, pp.596–7).  * * *  THE WORD OF THE LORD  came expressly unto Ezekiel...And I  [saw]  a great cloud...And out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures...And every one had four faces, and...four wings... [which]  were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward... [Each]  had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and...the face of an ox on the left side; they...also had the face of an eagle...And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go...And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creatures was as…crystal, stretched forth over their heads...I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the voice of an host  [or  “the din of an army” ]  ... Over their heads was the likeness of a throne...  [and the]  appearance of a man above upon it…This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke. —from Ezekiel 1.3–28  AND DAVID MY SERVANT  shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd...I will make a covenant of peace with them; and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them...My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.— from Ezekiel 37.24–27, the Haftarah to  Va-yigash   SON OF MAN , show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, show them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out  [i.e., exits]  thereof, and the comings in  [or entrances]  thereof... —from Ezekiel 43.10–11, the Haftarah to  Tetsavveh

Author’s sketch of Ezekiel’s altar of burnt offering, based primarily on Block, Ezekiel, v.2, pp. 592–604. From his knowledge of the First Temple, Ezekiel might have understood it being ascended by a ramp rather than steps (Heb. uma’alotehu). From the Mishnah, Jewish commentators understand the steps or ramp to have risen toward the north, rather than the west as shown here (see p.8 in Part 2 and note). Primarily this drawing is meant to show the relationship of the altar’s four-square symmetry to that of Ezekiel’s overall temple plan (see Block, Ezekiel, v.2, pp.596–7).

* * *

THE WORD OF THE LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel...And I [saw] a great cloud...And out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures...And every one had four faces, and...four wings...[which] were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward...[Each] had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and...the face of an ox on the left side; they...also had the face of an eagle...And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go...And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creatures was as…crystal, stretched forth over their heads...I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the voice of an host [or “the din of an army”] ... Over their heads was the likeness of a throne... [and the] appearance of a man above upon it…This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of one that spoke.—from Ezekiel 1.3–28

AND DAVID MY SERVANT shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd...I will make a covenant of peace with them; and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them...My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.—from Ezekiel 37.24–27, the Haftarah to Va-yigash

SON OF MAN, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, show them the form of the house, and the fashion thereof, and the goings out [i.e., exits] thereof, and the comings in [or entrances] thereof...—from Ezekiel 43.10–11, the Haftarah to Tetsavveh

1.0 Introduction

Recently I saw an ad for a new Christian book that said something about the boy Jesus being “lost in the temple.” While instantly bringing to mind the familiar story about the twelve-year-old Jesus in Luke’s Gospel in the New Testament, those words had a puzzling twist. Could Jesus have literally gotten lost in the sprawling courts of Herod’s temple? As a child I was an avid explorer, always drawing maps or poring over them, and when I was eleven—a year younger than Jesus in that story—the big thing I asked for at Christmas was an expensive Rand McNally World Atlas. But I could easily have become lost if separated from my parents in a downtown department store in the holiday rush, much less among the annual Passover crowds at the temple in Jerusalem (to say nothing of the prophet Ezekiel’s complicated temple that will be our subject here.)

But after checking Luke 2, I satisfied myself that the ad I’d seen ought not to have meant Jesus had gotten “lost.” He’d just become lost for a time to Mary and Joseph, who didn’t know He’d lingered in Jerusalem when the family left to return to Nazareth. Of course they turned around and went back, probably asking people if they’d seen a boy of Jesus’ description, and eventually found Him back in the temple—not lost at all but sitting among the teachers, asking questions and giving profound answers. He was just where He meant to be. As He said,”I must be about my Father's business” (Luke 2:49 KJV), or “I must be in my Father's house” (as most translations say).

This notion of Jesus being lost and found in the temple (at least to Mary and Joseph) makes me want to share how I was in a sense “lost in the temple” also, and what I have “found” through a lifetime’s encounter with God’s temples, especially Ezekiel’s one.

1.1 Introducing Myself and Rabbi Heller

My full name is Emil Heller Henning III. As a child I had trouble liking my unusual name of “Emil,” which my parents actually pronounced in different ways on different occasions, adding to my embarrassment. But no nickname stuck, and I usually say it now (in what seems the most “American” way) as “Emily” minus the “y” (like Carl and Carl-y.) But my middle name “Heller” was a higher order of embarrassment altogether, and I dreaded anyone finding it out because of its association with a place of eternal pain, as well as a locus of evil. Nevertheless, Heller is my blood family. My father’s father was born Emil Heller, but as a young man took his stepfather Henning’s name.

Since I’ve known many Hellers to be of Jewish heritage, I’ve sometimes wondered myself about possible Jewishness, as had my father—Emil Heller Henning Jr. (like his father, also an M.D.) Dad sometimes told people we were “German Jew,” as if to deflect any anti-semitism the “Jew” part might entail, and said gefilte fish was served in his home growing up. (By contrast, Mom thought she was a Mayflower descendant, and although she worked to elect a Jew city council president, she worried about welcoming him into our home until our family’s minister okayed it.) As far back as we know, Dad’s father’s family seems to have been Christian, but that’s not very far. A “John” Heller we think was my great-grandfather appears in 1800s New York City directories as living within two blocks of a leading synagogue. Back in Bavaria, had he been Johann, or Yochanan? Did he just want a more American name for his new life here? (For that matter, there are American Jews named John, even rabbis.)

I know that Jewish heritage only on one’s father’s side is rejected at least by Orthodox and Conservative Jews as “not Jewish.” Yet Heller is no small Jewish name, and I can’t help being interested. The Encyclopedia Judaica has articles on seventeen Hellers, the most famous being Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman Heller (ca. 1577-1654), called the Tosefos Yom Tov. He wrote a noted commentary on the Mishnah, the core document of the Talmud. In recent years three books by or about him have been published in English [1].

Yom Tov Lipmann Heller was born in Wallerstein in Bavaria, the area our “John” Heller left for America. Something startling I learned about “my” Rabbi Heller while writing this (which I’ll share momentarily) convinced me finally to have a Y-DNA test. It did not tell me why people my age say I look like Sen. Barry Goldwater, or whether our John Heller went to that synagogue or not, but it did indicate I am not in Rabbi Heller’s Ashkenazi genetic group. Still, my “anecdotal Jewishness” (if that’s all it is) may explain my interest in Jewish things, and the reader may shortly judge if I do not have something quite as significant as blood lineage in common with the Tosefos.

In any event, I was born in 1946 in America’s “northeast corridor,” and grew up in a middle-class area of my father’s home city in that great megalopolis, next door to the church we attended. (People would ring our bell for the minister, who lived farther down the street.) Before supper Dad would pray, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and this food to us be bless’d”—sometimes in German remembered from his childhood. My parents were church-goers, but not then what would be called “evangelicals” today.

Knowing my fascination with geography and maps, an elementary school teacher asked me to draw a semi-realistic neighborhood map on a teachers’ workroom wall, though the principal nixed the idea. I was always mailing magazine coupons for travel brochures on places of natural beauty. My weekly allowance went to the 5-and-10 for 3-D ViewMaster cards (later disks) of National Parks. I requisitioned a dozen of my medical doctor dad’s glass specimen collecting bottles, labeling them for the colors of sand I would have collected from Arizona’s Painted Desert, had my parents not turned deaf ears to my pleas to vacation so far away. My first chemistry set was used mainly just to play with the brightly colored substances.

The science behind things interested me, but beauty came first. Like all boys, I loved cars, hunting every fall for holes in walls behind local dealerships for a peek at the new models prior to their display in the showrooms, but my passion was for snazzy grilles and taillights, not cubic displacement or horsepower. I gradually came to love music and mathematics, whose beauties again transcended practical utility. For hours I’d lie listening to Dad’s Classical LPs, my finger tracing the intricacies of the Persian rug under our dining room table. The aural beauties of music became entwined for me with the intellectual ones of visual and mathematical order. And as my beautiful things grew in sophistication, my aesthetic sense became entwined with selfish ambition—I sensed that Classical music and pure mathematics (which I heard was the fount of all beauty) could win me the admiration of others.

My religion was worship of Beauty and Self. When my mother first tried to tell me about God, I told her I wanted to be God, or if not, then at least something very great. When I was twelve, the same age as Jesus when He was “lost in the temple,” to keep peace in the family—by which I mean escape a close encounter with Dad's belt Betsy like when I spouted evolutionary doctrine at home—I stood with a confirmation class in front of the congregation next door to “join” the church, thinking only how a friend was getting fifty dollars for going through the ordeal, while I was getting nothing. I went to a window, looked at the sky, and shook my fist at God, vowing one day to prove evolution right and the Bible wrong. Dad tried to teach me the first Westminster Shorter Catechism question about the chief end of man—“to glorify God”—but my hostility was so great we never got to Question Two.

On a summer trip up the N.E. Corridor to my mother’s home city (my actual birthplace) an uncle pointed out, while frantically changing lanes on a busy highway, a sprawling university campus across the river, its solemn gray dome basking complacently in the haze. He said it was the “world center” of math and science, and I resolved on the spot to ascend one day those giddy heights—and if God or Jesus or any ignorant doctrine tried to get in the way, too bad for them!

1.2 Becoming Lost In the Temple

An idle glance I made one day in my upstairs bedroom into an essentially unopened King James Bible my parents had given me—likely instigated by nothing more than the boredom of a sultry summer afternoon before air conditioning—introduced me to Ezekiel’s bewildering Temple Vision. I still have that Bible, and its perennially musty odor and Elizabethan English to this day awaken in me stirrings of the terrors of Mount Sinai and priestly inspections for leprosy. Maybe because I was then adding architecture to the list of things that interested me, what I found in those last nine chapters of Ezekiel instantly fascinated me on an intellectual, if not spiritual level.

But I was perplexed, too. I saw nothing corresponding to any notion I had of Beauty, just a frustrating maze of gates and passageways and courts so tortuous that I could not form a mental map of it, however I tried. I saw that the prophet’s tour began at a gatehouse, but I could not grasp the layout of its internal chambers or distinguish them from those of the court beyond it, into which it apparently opened. I saw references to other gatehouses, but the possibility never occurred to me that they were nearly identical, making six in all, and were laid out in a symmetrical pattern. When I studied our Oriental rug to strains of Bach and Prokofiev beneath the dining room table, I could begin to grasp how its graceful arabesques mirrored others several feet away by standing up, pulling chairs back, and looking at the whole. Ezekiel would not let me do that.

If I had known then that people had long before puzzled out a diagram of what Ezekiel describes, it might have spared me some mental distress. Even just a few explanatory headings interspersed within the nine chapters to clarify where the description of one part of the temple ends and another begins would have helped, but my King James Bible had none of those fancy editorial features that came with the proliferation of new Bible versions over the course of my lifetime. It was an uninterrupted torrent of words, like Ezekiel wrote it (thankfully it had at least been broken into the nine numbered chapters!) One could get a feel for this by reading Ezekiel 40–48 in an old King James Bible or the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, which have chapter numbers but nothing else.

The dreary image of an infinite maze I took away from Ezekiel well characterizes my teen, college, and young adult years of rebellion against God. The maze of my life, in which I was indeed “lost,” had gates and courtyards opening up in every direction—all more alluring than Ezekiel's, but all leading to frustration and emptiness. My pursuit of beauty began turning up dead ends.

In junior high I felt such pressure to get good grades, keep the first desk in math class I’d struggled to obtain, and get into that college I’d lusted for across the river, that when a teacher sent me home one weekend with math tests to grade for her, sitting in that bedroom where I discovered Ezekiel I changed one of my own answers when I saw from other tests I was grading that mine was wrong. Could guilt from that have contributed to panic attacks I later had in college when sent to the board to prove a theorem?

Also in that same “Ezekiel bedroom,” I read in Scientific American about infinitesimal “wormholes” conjectured around 1960 to underlie all matter. I was laid prostrate on the floor as by an unseen hand, my mind boggling in its futile attempt to picture wormholes writhing inside everything. Those examples are just two among many, and were layered over undiagnosed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (grimaces, blinking, and compulsions to turn light switches on twice when entering a room) that I more or less internalized when Dad threatened to take me to a child psychiatrist.

Later in high school I was accused by a science teacher of falsifying data in a lab experiment, and though I don’t recall the details (but for my protestations of innocence) it seems like something I might have done to create at least the appearance of perfection. When I was later asked to read aloud a science journal article to an after-school meeting of a “future scientists” club, my way with words allowed me to pronounce the technical terms so convincingly—though I understood little I was reading—that I was immediately elected president of the group. I knew at that moment that I should have declined, but the exhilaration of being admired pushed conscience aside. It tormented me all that year that a classmate who’d worked tirelessly in service to the club had been passed over, and my inadequacy in the position led to a problem that not only heaped ridicule on me, but embarrassed the club

After the great university I’d worshiped from across the river rejected my college application, I spent a year in math at another highly ranked university highlighted by those panic attacks, then an easier year at a college in the Southeast, where my parents had moved, and then finished college and grad school at a fine midwestern university. Jewish friends there invited me to Seders and Sabbath services—assuring me that “belief in God” was not required. (I think I felt too insecure to mention to them anything about my own “Jewish” wonderings.) It was at that school that I finally realized I could not breathe the abstract air of pure mathematics and settled on architecture, a field with mathematical aspects, though less demanding ones. I saw potential for bringing such math as I understood to bear on architectural aesthetics, like finding ways to “generate” beauty with formulas (the famous “Golden Ratio” being one example [2].)

1.3 Sorcerer’s Apprentice

This next part will sound made up, but in the summer of 1968 between college and architecture school I actually found myself working for a progressive northeastern architecture firm that had just (unbeknown to me) been hired to design orientation maps and signage for that world class university—no less!—that my uncle had pointed out, with its over 100 interconnected buildings. I got at least to stroll through the vaunted halls that I now knew I’d never conquer with great mathematical discoveries. I even had the opportunity to propose a math-inspired system for numbering buildings and rooms that I thought made sense for orientation maps, as well as befitting a bastion of science (the school rejected it for that very reason, wanting something more “human” instead.) I little noticed then how comparable the sprawl of that great campus—the closest thing I then wanted to a “temple” in my life—was to that of Ezekiel’s, or how similar my proffered solution was to his organizational concept (which I was still a decade from grasping.)

On a lunch break near our office I discovered in a bookstore window a treatise by two area theoreticians that I thought could advance my grandiose dreams of putting architecture more on a mathematical basis as a “visual language” of architectural form that might once again “speak” to ordinary people, compelling them to admire it.

Back in my midwestern architecture school, I reserved the conference room for a pompous seminar on what I’d found. That year I told someone I was a “priest” restoring a lost sense of myth and ritual to the sterile modern world through “communicating” forms from the pagan past, manipulated with pseudo-mathematical processes I’d control like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in the Disney movie (I kept that part to myself.) It was a lashing-out like when I shook my fist at God. One day my radio dial landed on a sermon on Revelation 13, where the “false prophet” animates a dead “image” and makes people worship it, and I was so shocked by the similarity to my program that my hair started to fall out. The campus barber showed me how it was coming out in his comb and said I’d be bald in a month (I’m thankful that slowed, leaving me some hair fifty years later.)

Considering my defiance of God, the Christian reader might think what the Apostle Paul says in the first chapter of Romans would have characterized my life. But I could not live totally as the “free moral agent” the rebellious culture of my Woodstock generation advertised. Owing, I’m sure, to my baptism and early covenant upbringing, things never reached a Romans 1 level, though I did live in a world of unseemly fantasies, and the part about the “debased mind” rings true. My ability to form close, long-term relationships with the opposite sex suffered significantly, leading to many frustrating dead ends. There was room for only one person in my life—me.

Although guilty feelings led me to “go forward” twice at evangelistic meetings I was invited to in my teens, God finally brought the claims of the Bible to bear on my life in 1977 at the age of thirty. After three years in the army, I had returned to the Southeast, where I’d spent that one college year and the rest of my family had moved. I was hired to design, with a small area firm, an educational addition for a church—working in some of my “speaking architecture” ideas. One day the pastor pointed to a preliminary drawing of the building’s facade and asked, “Emil, why do I see a swastika in the front of your design?” I was struck to the quick.

That night I picked up that musty King James Bible (where I encountered Ezekiel) and saw myself condemned in the self-worshiping Babylon of Isaiah 47. Opening this moment that same Bible, it says, “Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth...thou shalt not be able to put it off…Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou has labored from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame...” (Isa. 47.10–14a).

I woke the next morning and knelt by my bed in prayer, asking the Jesus I’d so long resisted to pardon my sins and come into my life [3].

1.4 Going Back to the Temple

For several years after I believed in Jesus, I gave no thought to Ezekiel’s temple, feast-ing my soul on the riches of God’s Word and immersing myself in the practical craft of architecture. But one day in a public library I happened upon an article about Ezekiel in James Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4], and saw a diagram that instantly shed light on what had formerly seemed impenetrably obscure. Figure 1 is my somewhat simplified version of Hastings’ diagram.

FIGURE 1:   The Layout of Ezekiel’s Temple   Shading indicates areas not clearly understood as to precise locations of walls and roofed-over areas. (In fact, although Ezekiel describes the three inner gates in detail, he does not mention a wall of any sort connecting them and separating the outer and inner courts.)

FIGURE 1: The Layout of Ezekiel’s Temple

Shading indicates areas not clearly understood as to precise locations of walls and roofed-over areas. (In fact, although Ezekiel describes the three inner gates in detail, he does not mention a wall of any sort connecting them and separating the outer and inner courts.)

In Figure 2, I have superimposed Ezekiel’s travel path through the temple upon it, as best I understand it, to help anyone struggling with the text as I did, and to highlight its rather convoluted nature.

FIGURE 2:   Ezekiel’s Tour Through the Temple   Numbers on the diagram indicate the chapter and verse where Ezekiel’s discussion of each feature begins. The author dos not yet himself understand how Ezekiel moves from the Sanctuary at 42:1 to the Outer Court in 42:15, or exactly what he sees in these verses. The interested reader is referred to the good discussion and conjectures in Block,  Ezekiel , Vol. 2, pp. 560–8.

FIGURE 2: Ezekiel’s Tour Through the Temple

Numbers on the diagram indicate the chapter and verse where Ezekiel’s discussion of each feature begins. The author dos not yet himself understand how Ezekiel moves from the Sanctuary at 42:1 to the Outer Court in 42:15, or exactly what he sees in these verses. The interested reader is referred to the good discussion and conjectures in Block, Ezekiel, Vol. 2, pp. 560–8.

I cannot absolutely prove that this Hastings plan—as I will call it, though it has some antecedents of which I have since become aware [5]—is what Ezekiel saw, but Figure A-1 (appended at the end of this article, following the endnotes) shows that the widths of his buildings and courts add up exactly to the 500 by 500 cubit overall dimensions he gives at the end of chapter 42 [6]. I've since seen this plan to have been adopted, with only superficial differences, by Christian interpreters of many theological stripes and ideas of the temple's meaning.

The only truly different plan I’ve seen was drawn long ago by none other than “my” rabbi, Yom Tov Lippman Heller. Though I’ve known of him a few years, the big thing I said I just learned about him is that he wrote the first full book [7] about Ezekiel’s temple in 1602—some 411 years before I published my own book about it in 2013! My surprise doubled a few weeks later, when I noticed the plan Heller drew for his 1602 book in the ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach, a Bible widely used by Orthodox Jews! [8] (The text of the 1985 NJPS Tanakh used by Reform and most Conservative Jews implies a diagram like my “Hastings” one utilized here [9].) Several other Orthodox books also have variations on Heller’s plan [10], but since it requires discussing the Talmud, I will consider it in detail later on in Part 3 of this paper. In short, I believe the Hastings plan is closer to the truth, though my main observations should apply to Heller’s plan as well.

I saw from Hastings' plan that Ezekiel's temple is square, with a large outer court (Fig. 1) wrapping three quarters of the way around a smaller square inner one. The outer court is interrupted on its west side by buildings around the temple’s inner sanctuary (simplified somewhat in my version of the plan.) Centered in the inner court is a four-horned altar, upon which two diagrammatic axes or spines running through the entire temple converge like cross-hairs, or the principal avenues of a city. My childhood city had a corner downtown where two main north-south and east-west streets crossed, and early one Saturday morning in my teens I stood in that intersection, picturing myself at the center of a million people. The place itself was utterly unremarkable, but that could hardly be said of Ezekiel’s altar with its sacrificial fire, visible to anyone outside the temple looking in from the north, east, or south gates along either axis.

I gradually revisited Ezekiel 40–48 in my old Bible, and others I acquired to compare different translations. Eventually I noticed that the two axes have thematic roles in organizing the material in the biblical text, forming a Scriptural framework, diagram, or pattern on which biblical events and truths are displayed. The east-west axis (Figure 3) has two mighty, divine acts in Ezekiel’s vision.

FIGURE 3:   The East-West Axis : “I will be their God”—God’s Sovereign Acts  for  His People

FIGURE 3: The East-West Axis: “I will be their God”—God’s Sovereign Acts for His People

The first of these divine acts is the entry of God’s Presence (ch. 43) to the temple in distinct stages, approaching the east gate with “a noise of many waters” (43.2). The Targum (the ancient translation from Hebrew into Aramaic) calls this “the sound of the camp of the angels on high” [11]. Then “the earth shone with his glory” (43.2) as the Divine Presence enters the temple. After a change of Ezekiel’s viewpoint (from the Spirit’s lifting and carrying him into the inner court) he sees God’s glory filling the entire temple, even to its inmost spaces [12]. Then the east outer gate closes forever, in accord with God’s promise never to leave as He did the idol-polluted First Temple (see Ezek. chs. 8–11, where the departure, like this arrival, has several stages.) In his 1950 Soncino commentary on Ezekiel, Rabbi S[olomon] Fisch observed that the First Temple had been the place of the “soles” of God’s “feet” (with His “throne” remaining in heaven) but Ezekiel’s temple is for His feet and His throne forever, and thus is “in a complete sense the abode of the Divine Presence” (my italics) [13].

The second great divine act on Ezekiel’s east-west axis is the outflowing of a miraculous, ever-increasing, life-giving stream (see ch. 47) from inside the temple, exiting just south of the closed east outer gate and flowing eastward into the desert. This reflects the promise of the Spirit in Ezekiel 36-7, with a “new heart” for man accompanied by a divine sprinkling of cleansing water, recalling the water flowing from the rock struck by Moses, and the river symbolism of Ps. 36, Ps. 46, Isa. 12.3, Joel 3.18, and Zech. 14.8.

In contrast to those sovereign acts of God for His people, the north-south axis (Figure 4) displays His work in them—their Spirit-enabled response as they enter (ch. 46) to worship through the north outer gate and depart through the south one, or vice versa.

FIGURE 4:   The North-South Axis : “They shall be My people”—God’s work  in  His people to make them His own.

FIGURE 4: The North-South Axis: “They shall be My people”—God’s work in His people to make them His own.

Unlike the east-west axis with its mighty things, the north-south one lies submerged in the text of chapter 46 until we consider God’s command to Ezekiel in 43.11 to show Israel the temple’s exits and entrances (see Frontispiece), a command Jews will recognize from the Haftarah to Tetsavveh in their synagogue liturgy. With the east gate shut, and no west gate, the north and south gates are the only usable “exits and entrances” [14].

A worship leader or “Prince” (chs. 44 and 46)—by implication in fact a “King” [15]—moves on both temple axes. While not a Levitical priest, he has a priest-like, intercessory role as a “representative,” Rabbi Fisch says [16], for the people. Identified both with King David and the “shepherd” of Israel (Ezek. 34 and 37), he enters on the north-south axis with the worshipers, but unlike them crosses the outer court on the divine east-west axis (Figure 5), from the inside vestibule of the closed east outer gate to the east-facing vestibule of the inner court, to present his offerings on behalf of them.

FIGURE 5:   The Activities of Ezekiel’s Prince on Both Axes

FIGURE 5: The Activities of Ezekiel’s Prince on Both Axes

In Genesis 14, Ps. 110, and Zechariah 6, priest-kings typify the temple-building “Branch” (Zech. 3.8, 6.12), the Son of David, the Messiah [17]. (The Prince’s ties to the east gate are another Messianic association with the entry of God’s glory to the temple.)

All this is unlike anything in Moses, as are Ezekiel’s changed annual feasts and sacrifices [18], his lack of a high priest, or of an Ark in the Holy of Holies—something prophesied by Ezekiel’s contemporary Jeremiah (3.16) for this very time when Jerusalem would be God’s “throne” (Ezek. 43.7) [19]. No wonder the Jewish sages said Elijah and Messiah must explain these discrepancies when they come [20]. These changes betoken the “new covenant” that Jer. 31.31 prophesies—one “not like” that made with Moses—for a day when all enemies have been destroyed on the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 39.1–4), when God would “forgive” the people’s “iniquity,” and write His law on their hearts (Jer. 31.33–34)—as Ezekiel 36 says also. Then not just the inner rooms, but all the temple and land around it would be “most holy” (Ezek. 43.12). The Jewish commentators Rashi and Radak associated Ezekiel’s temple vision with a 50-year Jubilee for Israel, when all debts would be forgiven and all slaves freed [21], when the “new spirit” of Ezekiel 36–37 would make Israel fully God’s people, obeying Him from the heart.

1.5 Ezekiel’s Spiritual Geometry

As a lover of geography, I noticed in Ezekiel’s plan a fourfold diagram of the land of Israel, with its north-south travel routes used for commerce and by enemies for attack [22]. To the east is the sunrise, the pre-compass world’s main direction for orientation [23]. To the west is the Mediterranean, which Israel feared and turned its back upon, as Ezekiel’s temple does also. Fourfold geometry also appears in Abraham’s instructions in Genesis 13 to look north, south, east, and west as far as he could to see Israel’s future, and symbolically to possess it by walking its “length” and “breadth” [24].

God’s visible “four-cornered” creation and His invisible transcendence meet in Ezekiel’s chapter 1 vision (see Frontispiece, the verses at the beginning of this article) of God’s “Presence” or “Glory” (kabod). Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses with his 70 elders, Gideon, and Isaiah—as well as Ezekiel—saw theophanies of “the Lord”/Hashem, simultaneously distinguished from Him as men or angels [25]. These theophanies are called “the Word” (Memra) [26] in the Aramaic Targums, and the “personification of the Word” (Greek: Logos) in the Jewish Encyclopedia [27]. The Mikra’ot Gedolot, the Bible from which all rabbis preach, includes in one place a Targum saying, “The Memra (Word) of Yhvh sits upon his throne high and lifted up[28]; the text of Ezekiel says “the word of the Lord came” to him, then records what he saw—the “Word” in human form enthroned, high up (1:3).

The fourfold connection is that this bodily manifestation of the Word was carried on a “chariot” (Merkavah) of four cherubim, each with four wings and four faces—lion, ox, man, eagle—moving but never rotating, one set of faces always looking ahead. The chariot is God’s Providence, ordering all things through second causes, moving like lightning to do His will but always oriented, like a spiritual compass or gyroscope, in the fixed perspective of His unchanging Word [29]. The ArtScroll Tanach Series Ezekiel commentary says this vision (and its return in chs.10–11) “are the links which hold together the myriad parts of [Ezekiel’s] prophetic edifice” [30]. Whatever exactly it meant, I see this in the way the fourfold chariot comes to rest (43.5) in the fourfold layout of Ezekiel’s temple. It fades from the vision at the spot of the four-horned altar—mentioned before only in passing (40.47), but now described in detail, the chariot having fulfilled its role [31]—at least insofar as the prophecy of Ezekiel is concerned (its cherubim having served as “bearers of God’s Glory” [32] in carrying it from the doomed First Temple to Ezekiel’s visionary one.) The Jewish Study Bible well notes (p.1047) that the “number four” associated with the chariot’s cherubim “also presupposes the four horns of the Temple altar,” and by means of the “four winds” or cardinal directions represents “God’s presence in the Temple at the center of creation.”

As I prayed one Sunday before church for a way to characterize the bi-axial temple plan in the simplest biblical way, the covenant promise formula, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people,” came to mind [33]. Was it read just before in Sunday School? Maybe I got it from Dr. O. Palmer Robertson [34], who calls it the “Immanuel Principle”—God with us (Isa. 7.14)—which defines any true temple. It’s there at the end of Ezekiel’s chapter 37 (see Frontispiece), just two chapters before the temple vision. The “I will be their God” side of the promise has His sovereign, omnipotent acts to save His people on the east-west axis— supernaturally coming to His temple and then sending spiritual life and salvation back out into the world. The “They shall be my people” side is their Spirit-enabled response on the north-south axis, as they worship and serve God and are made a people for His name [35]. The temple was coming into focus! Regarding Ezekiel’s not mentioning gold plating anywhere in his temple, the ArtScroll commentary says, “We must assume that God’s purpose was to show [Ezekiel] the underlying structure of the temple rather than the finished, shining edifice” (my italics) [36]. Whatever it saw as the temple’s “underlying structure,” I second that conclusion.

In the fourfold underlying structure I see, the altar is at the intersection of both axes because it belongs to both. Ezekiel has two main sacrifice types—burnt (‘olah) ones for God and peace (well-being) ones (shelamim) for the worshiper [37]. On the north-south axis, the altar is the destination of the streams of animals brought by faithful worshipers for conversion into smoke with an aroma pleasing to God. It is on the east-west axis because those animals come from God’s providence, as His creatures and His gifts, and only His sovereign mercy gives the death of an animal any value in placating His anger at man’s sins and trespasses, even in a symbolic way [38]. The altar’s four corner horns are to be sprinkled with blood for atonement (43.20) like guilt and sin offerings in the tabernacle (Lev. 9.9). And because of the devouring rage God has against sin (Ex. 24.17, 32.10), the surface of the hearth of this altar is called ari’el—“lion of God” [39].

Ezekiel’s whole altar measures 20 × 20 cubits, the exact size of his empty Holy of Holies [40]. With no gold plating, no Ark with cherubs on its cover, no golden cherubs towering above, and no high priest to go inside, Ezekiel’s “spiritual center” is no longer the place of the stone tablets of the written law, but the temple’s geometric center in the inner court, where the Presence-bearing chariot comes [41]. At the midpoints of the square chariot’s four sides the wingtips of the four corner cherubs touch (1:11), recalling those on and above the Ark in the First Temple, but Ezekiel’s cherubim are superior. They move, and are alive, and speak of a living Word [42]. The altar where the axes cross and the chariot rests is where the meaning of Ezekiel’s temple must be sought.

Finished reading Part 1?

Readers are invited to learn how Jesus (Yeshua) fulfills all of the things discussed here, and many more besides, in Part 2 of this “Christian midrash” on Ezekiel’s Temple Vision, entitled Jesus in the Temple.

Appended Images

Figure A-1:   The Measurements of Ezekiel’s Temple   Numbers on the diagram indicate lengths in cubits and the chapter and verse where those measurements are given. Analysis based mainly on Block,  Ezekiel , Vol. 2, pp. 517–571.

Figure A-1: The Measurements of Ezekiel’s Temple

Numbers on the diagram indicate lengths in cubits and the chapter and verse where those measurements are given. Analysis based mainly on Block, Ezekiel, Vol. 2, pp. 517–571.



Block, Daniel I., The Book of Ezekiel (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament series) (2 Volumes). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997.

Breuer, Rabbi Joseph, The Book of Yechezkel (trans. Gertrude Hirschler), N.Y. and Jerusalem: Phillip Feldheim, Inc., 1993.

Clorfene, Chaim, The Messianic Temple: Understanding Ezekiel’s Prophecy, Jerusalem: Menorah Books, 2005. Features computer-generated drawings and a colorful new model.

Davis, Joseph, Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller: Portrait of a Seventeenth Century Rabbi (Oxford and Portland, OR: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2005).

Eisemann, Rabbi Moshe, The Book of Yechezkel, 3rd Ed.: A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources, Brooklyn, NY: Mesoreh Publications, ArtScroll Tanach Series, 1988.

Fisch, Rabbi Dr. S[olomon], Ezekiel with Hebrew Text and English Translation with an Introduction and Commentary, London & Bournemouth: The Soncino Press, 1950. (A newer second edition of this work, slightly revised, was published in 1994.)

Greenhill, William, An Exposition of the Book of Ezekiel (orig. pub. 1645–67). Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994.

Heller, Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman (“Tosefos Yom Tov”), The Third Beis Hamikdash,Trans. R. Eliyahu Touger. Brooklyn, NY: Moznaim Publishing, 2016. A newly translated and supplemented edition of R. Heller’s Tzuras Beis HaMikdash (“Form of the House”, 1602) which includes as a fold-out his original temple diagram, said to be published with the book for the first time in 2016. Recent commentators (Eisemann, Clorfene, etc.) who refer to the written commentary in R. Heller’s book seem unfamiliar with this fold-out.

Henning, Emil Heller III, Ezekiel’s Temple: A Scriptural Framework Illustrating the Covenant of Grace (Second Revised Edition). Maitland, FL: Xulon Press, 2013 (rev. 2016).

Holtz, Barry W. (Ed.), Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1984. Chapters by Jewish scholars on the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, Jewish Mysticism, etc.

The Jewish Study Bible, Eds. Adele Berlin and Marc Svi Brettler. Oxford and NY: O.U.P., 2004. Based on the text of the 1985 Jewish Publication Society Tanakh (NJPS).

Lipschitz, Rabbi C.U. and Dr. Neil Rosenstein, The Feast and the Fast: The Dramatic Personal Story of the Tosefos Yom Tov, NY and Jerusalem: Maznaim Publishing Corp., 1984. (Incorporates a newly translated edition of R. Yom Tov Lippman Heller’s personal memoir Megilas Eivah (ca. 1631) with supplemental biographical information and genealogical charts.)

Luzzatto, Rabbi Moshe Chaim (“Ramchal”), Secrets of the Future Temple (Mishkney Elyon), Jerusalem: The Temple Institute, 1999. A recent translation of Mishkney Elyon by R. Luzzatto (1707–47) with supplemental articles and illustrations.

Rabinowitz, Rabbi Chaim Dov, Da’ath Sofrim: Commentary to the Book of Yehezkel (trans. Zvi Faier), N.Y. and Jerusalem: R. Vagshal, 2001.

Ritmeyer, Leen, The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, Jerusalem: Carta, 2006. A masterful study of the archaeology and biblical history of the Jerusalem temples.

Rosenberg, Rabbi A.J., The Book of Ezekiel (Judaica Books of the Prophets series) (2 Vols.), NY: Judaica Press, 2000.

Steinberg, Rabbi Shalom Dov, The Third Beis HaMikdash (trans. R. Moshe Leib Miller), Jerusalem: Mosnaim Publications.

The Stone Edition Tanach (ArtScroll Series), Ed. Rabbi Nosson Scherman. Brooklyn, NY: ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, 2013. Its supplemental notes on Ezekiel cite R. Eisemann’s book (above.)


1.^For the recently published book by Rabbi Heller, originally written in 1602, see note [6]. C. U. Lipschitz and N. Rosenstein’s The Feast and the Fast (see Bibliography) contains a personal memoir written by R. Heller himself, an addendum by his son, and further biographical and genealogical information. Joseph Davis’s Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller: Portrait of a Seventeenth Century Rabbi (see Bibliography) is a scholarly study of his contributions, in particular his liberal approaches toward science and non-Jews.

2.^The Golden Ratio of 1 : 1.618... and its related Fibonacci sequence have been claimed to underly the design of plants, seashells, and many masterpieces of art, architecture, and music. See The Golden Ratio (NY: Broadway Books/Random House, 2002) by Mario Livio, then Head of the Science Division of the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute. I myself have made more use of the less well known “Plastic Ratio” of 1 : 1.3247… (within half of one percent of 3:4) related to the Padovan sequence.

3.^See my Ezekiel’s Temple: A Scriptural Framework Illustrating the Covenant of Grace (see Bibliography), pp. 71–74, and my longer memoir, Yearning for a Broad Place (in preparation 2018).

4.^James Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. IV, (NY: Scribner’s, 1905) p.704. (A more recent one-volume edition lacks this temple diagram.)

5.^Around 2015, I discovered the plan of Juan Baptista Villalpando, or Villalpandus (1562–1607) in John Archer, “Puritan Town Planning in New Haven,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 34, No.1, March 1975, pp. 148–9. Villalpando’s plan is close enough to Hastings’ to have been a direct ancestor, though Archer suggests there were similar drawings before or contemporaneous with it. See the discussion in the second, 2016 edition of my Ezekiel’s Temple: A Scriptural Framework, 2nd Rev. Ed. (2016) pp. 85–88.

6.^See Daniel I. Block, Ezekiel, Vol. 2, pp. 520, 541, 565, 570; and my Ezekiel’s Temple: A Scriptural Framework, 2nd Rev. Ed. (2016) pp. 85–88. At the end of chapter 42, Ezekiel seems to say the temple is not 500 × 500 cubits square, but 500 × 500 rods square. Since a rod was six cubits in lenth, this would make the temple six times as long on a side, or 36 times greater in area, leading in my opinion to insuperable difficulties in reconciling the internal dimensions Ezekiel gives for the temple. (This is discussed in connection with the Orthodox, talmudic understanding of the plan in my Part 3, "Ezekiel’s Temple and the Temple of Talmud".) I believe it is far better to assume, with the NJPS Tanakh and the English Standard Version (ESV) that Ezekiel meant these dimension to be in cubits, as measured with the measuring rod, which appears to have been the opinion of Radak (rejected by Heller in favor of Rashi.) This would seem to be supported, if not proved, by the recent discovery by Leen Ritmeyer (see Bibliography) of an actual 500 × 500 cubit square in the existing Temple Mount, reflecting Ezekiel’s 20.5 inch cubit, not the rod.

7.^See The Third Beis HaMikdash by Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller (transl. R. Eliyahu Touger, see Bibliography). This Hebrew-English book was translated from Heller’s 1602 book Tzuras HaBayis (“The Form of the House”) and published only in 2016. Heller says (pp. 10–11) his goal was to translate the un-illustrated temple commentary of his great medieval predecessor Rashi into a coherent diagram. Clorfene (p.13) affirms Heller’s book as the first “complete” work on Ezekiel’s Temple, praising it as “a great work of dialectic exposition,” but criticizing it for its reliance on “deductive reasoning” in contrast to the more “spiritual” and “intuitive” approach favored by Radak and himself—resulting in Heller’s failure, Clorfene says, to “stir a general response among the Jewish populace” of the sort undertaken today by people clamoring to see something built soon on the Temple Mount.

The 2016 edition of Heller’s book contains, supposedly for the first time in print, an original temple fold-out diagram by R. Heller that it says was drawn by him for inclusion in the 1602 book, but was actually inserted only later as a supplement. To my knowledge, no Orthodox source published before 2016 that pays tribute to Heller—including many that closely follow his plan—acknowledges actually having seen it. Rabbi Eisemann (Ezekiel, p.xxxviii) mentions R. Heller’s “description” but not his drawing. Likewise Clorfene. The new 2016 edition of Heller’s book with his drawing also has photos of a model built according to Rabbi Heller’s words and plan by an Avraham Heller (relationship to R. Heller uncertain.) Interestingly Heller’s plan was drawn just two years before Villalpandus’ 1604 plan which, in my opinion, correctly proportions the courts and gatehouses. (See more in my Part 3.)

8.^The diagram in the ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach (see Bibliography) that I find to resemble R. Heller’s plan appears on page 2042. Its caption does not mention R. Heller, saying only that it shows the temple “as closely as possible to the way Rashi must have understood it.” For more details, the caption refers the reader to the ArtScroll Ezekiel commentary, The Book of Yechezkel, 3rd Ed., by Rabbi Moshe Eisemann (see Bibliography). In his commentary, Rabbi Eisemann attributes (on page [xv] of his Appendix X) this plan not to R. Heller, but to a Rabbi Moshe Ivier who lived from 1721 to 1771 (according to a note on R. Eisemann’s p. xxxvii), though Eisemann says a Mr. Gershon Goldman and Rabbi Shea Brander polished R. Ivier’s plan for publication by ArtScroll. As I said in note [7] above, Eisemann mentions R. Heller, but not any diagram by him. R. Heller’s plan (based, according to Heller, on Rashi’s earlier, un-illustrated commentary) seems almost identical to the one in the ArtScroll Tanach and the Eisemann commentary, but is now alleged to have been drawn by Heller over 100 years before their R. Ivier had even been born! Perhaps Heller’s drawing was not actually known to the ArtScroll editors, who may not by then have seen the new 2016 Heller edition with the plan included for the first time since its original publication in 1602 (assuming the drawing is authentic, of course).

9.^In addition to the interpretation (apparently originally that of Radak) that the “rods” at the end of chaper 42 mean cubits, as measured with the measuring rod (see note [5] above), the NJPS also follows Radak’s interpretation that the gatehouses’s 50 cubit dimension in 40.15 is a horizontal dimension, not a vertical one—the vertical one being the interpretation of Heller, all subsequent Orthodox commentaries following Rashi and Heller, and many Christian Bibles. On the “rods” vs. “cubits” issue, the Jewish Study Bible note (p. 1125) backs Rashi’s “rods” (instead of the NJPS translation it is based upon.) Clorfene (p.126) claims Radak only saw the 500 × 500 cubits as an initial condition, until the dead are raised from paved-over cemeteries. (For further discussion see my Part 3, The Temple of Ezekiel and the Temple of Talmud.)

10.^Other Orthodox diagrams based on Heller’s besides the ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach and R. Eisemann’s commentary, include the Ezekiel commentaries of Rabbis Joseph Breuer (p.356) and A.J. Rosenberg (Vol. 2, p.xxii), The Messianic Temple by Clorfene, The Third Beis HaMikdash by R. Steinberg, and the R. Luzzatto Mishkney Elyon book (see Bibliography). Proponents of these Orthodox diagrams have pointed to the “man” portrayed in it, in which the disposition of secondary buildings they place within the outer court, together with the central sanctuary, take on the appearance from above, they say, of either a priest with hands raised in blessing or a worshiper prostrate in prayer (e.g., see Clorfene, The Messianic Temple, p. 116). This hardly seems proper for God’s temple; I Chron 29.1 (NJPS) says “the temple is not for a man, but for the LORD God.” Christians may think of 2 Thess. 2:4, where Antichrist usurps a place for himself within the temple of God. Secrets of the Future Temple (Mishkney Elyon) by R. Luzzatto (p.34) explains how in Jewish mysticism the ten invisible sefirot, or “emanations” of God can be envisioned as having “the same essential structure of ‘head, body, arms, and legs’” as the “man” they see in Ezekiel’s plan. Interestingly, the Mishkney Elyon book has a frontispiece comparable to mine quoting Ezekiel’s chapter 43 commission to convey the vision to the house of Israel, but it omits, with a series of dots indicating the omission, any mention of the temple’s exits and entrances. (Perhaps he thinks his “man in the temple” more important than that.)

11.^Rashi, from Targum Jonathan, in Rabbi A.J. Rosenberg, Ezekiel, Vol. 1, p.12.

12.^On God’s Glory “filling the entire temple,” my understanding is that Ezekiel was brought by the Spirit into the inner court not to see the Divine Presence vanish into the inner sanctuary as its ultimate destination, but to see from that vantage point that not just those inmost spaces but the entire temple had become permeated, as it were, with God’s Glory. In defense of this I would observe first that (contra. R. Eisemann, p.685) in Chapter 43.4 through 43.12, the only Hebrew term used for the temple or any space in it is bayit, a generic term for the whole “house of Israel,” or the whole temple complex (starting with its introduction in 40.5) or any one part of it. Elsewhere in Ezekiel when the “holy place” or “nave” of the inner sanctuary is singled out (viz., ch. 41), the word heykal alternates with bayit, but not in ch. 43. (In 2 Chron. 26, where King Uzziah trespasses into the Holy Place to burn incense at its incense altar, he is said to be in the heykal (v.16), sinning before “the priests of the house” (bayit)—that is, before the priests who were over the whole temple, not just the heykal.)

Second, I note that when the voice of God then speaks to Ezekiel “out of the house”—again, bayit, not heykal—Rabbi Eisemann (p.669) says “His speaking is described in the reflexive voice, as if to say, He spoke to Himself, and I listened.” My conjecture would be that if Ezekiel thought the voice was coming out from an unseen location within the inner sanctuary, he perceived it also coming to him in a non-localized manner, as if from the fabric of the whole temple around him. R. Eisemann says the Hebrew construction is the same as in Ezek. 1.28–2.2, where the prophet hears a voice speaking to him, but doesn’t identify it as coming from the mouth of the enthroned theophanic vision high above. Rabbi Fisch (p.294) also comments on this “reflexive” nature in the Divine speaking. My inference is that we are to understand Ezekiel seeing the Divine filling of the entire Temple complex in Rabbi Dr. S. Fisch’s “complete sense” (see note [13] below), as opposed to going into the inner chambers of the sanctuary and disappearing inside.

The general, as opposed to localized nature of the Divine “filling” can be sensed in Rabbi Rabinowitz’s commentary (p.665–6), where he seems uncertain whether what Ezekiel describes is actually occurring more in the unseen Temple above than here on earth. With respect to the place of God’s “throne,” he says its “exact place is not explicitly stated, because it was not appropriate at this time to mention the place which was yet to be profaned in the future by alien structures and feet.”

This question of the Glory filling the whole Temple, as opposed just to the inner sanctuary, ties into the question to be raised in Part 3 about precisely what temple door is closed after the Glory’s entrance. Here we have considered it to be the east outer gate—agreeing with God’s Presence filling, and never leaving, the whole temple complex as 43.10–12 seem to say—but the door meant in the Orthodox view (see Part 3) would seem to confine God’s “throne” and permanent residence within the inner sanctuary.

13.^Rabbi Dr. S. Fisch, Ezekiel, p.294. For the First Temple, see I Chron. 28.2, etc.

14.^The east outer gate was shut permanently in 44.1–2 after the entry of God’s Glory into the temple. This is the outer gate mentioned in 42.15, from which Ezekiel measures the outside dimensions of the temple complex. There is no mention anywhere in Ezekiel of an opening on the west side.

15.^In 1 Chron. 17.7 David is said to have been chosen by God as “Prince” over Israel when he was already “King.” Rabbi Eisemann (p.687) raises the interesting point that according to BT Yoma 28a, only kings from the house of David are allowed to sit anywhere in the inner court (which would include its entrance gateway). This of itself associates this Prince with the “David” of Ezek. 34.

16.^Rabbi Dr. S. Fisch, Ezekiel, p.318.

17.^Rabbi Fisch (Ezekiel, pp. 251-2) says that “while king signifies a political ruler, shepherd denotes a spiritual leader. The Messiah will combine both offices.” (Citing Malbin). On his p.302, R. Fisch seems to deny the Prince (nasi) can be a King (melek), citing 37.25 re David, but in the preceding verse 24 David is explicitly termed melek. See also Ps. 110, Zech. 6, Midrash Tehillim 2:9, 18:29, and discussion in Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), Vol. 3, p.193, 143–5, and 227.

18.^See R. Fisch, p.318 and the charts in Block, Ezekiel, Vol.2, pp. 673–6. R. Fisch says the Prince’s offerings appear to be a “new institution.” For a scholarly rabbinic analysis of the issue, see Reuven Chaim (Rudolph) Klein, “Reconciling the Sacrifices of Ezekiel with the Torah,” Jewish Bible Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 4 (2015), pp. 211–222. Rabbi Klein lists seven major contradictions between Ezekiel and Moses, and surveys rabbinic responses, most of which involve “reinterpretations” of what Ezekiel says to mean something else, for instance when Ezekiel mentions a sacrifice in the “seventh month,” that really means “the issue of a novel ruling ... through which [a rabbinic court] led unwitting or ignorant persons to sin” (p.214). Besides the “novelty” of this reinterpretation, is it really saying that a bet din in a Messianic age will issue rulings that lead people to sin? Of course one of the big “fallback” reconciliations is that Elijah will explain it all when he comes. I like R. Klein’s alternative that “future sacrifices will differ from those in the past” (p.217). Based on 1 Peter 1:10–12, I am confident that in some way God enabled Ezekiel to understand he was prophesying the completion of the sacrificial system in one greater Sacrifice yet to be revealed in the Messiah.

19.^Again, as R. Fisch (p.294) pointed out, Ezekiel’s Temple is for God’s “throne” as well as His footstool, in contrast to what Solomon says about the First Temple just being His “footstool” in I Chron. 28. Since that is the very time period specified in Jer. 3.16 for the absence of the Ark, it seems reasonable to infer that there indeed is no Ark in Ezekiel’s Temple.

20.^BT Men. 45a.

21.^See BT Arachin 12a, ArtScroll Tanach p. 1302, and Clorfene p.50n. D.I. Block, Ezekiel (Vol. 2, p. 512) suggests Ezekiel’s reference to the “year of liberty” in 46.17 could indicate he thought in those terms.

22.^In particular, the clouds of judgment suggested in the ch. 1 coming of the chariot from the north characterizes the attacks Jerusalem had from eastern powers channeled around from that direction to avoid the brutal desert directly to the city’s east. Indeed, during Ezekiel’s ministry to the captives Jerusalem would suffer such an attack from Nebuchadnezzar, resulting in the destruction of its temple. Greenhill’s Ezekiel commentary (p.22) cites in this connection Jer. 1.13–14 with its “boiling pot” tipped from the north in the direction of Israel.

23.^BT Men. 27b.

24.^The west-east, north-south promise of the land is renewed to Jacob in Gen. 28.14.

25.^In the Bible the Divine Presence or Glory is distinguished from God Himself. The theophanic glory or Word of the Lord is even described with the impersonal pronoun “it” in places like Ezek. 1.28 (“When I saw it I fell on my face….”) and 3.12 (“Blessed be the glory of the LORD from its place!”) Yet when Ezekiel is spoken to in ch. 2, he falls on his face as typically happens when a human is addressed by YHVH, and when the Voice tells Ezekiel he will “speak my words” to Israel, that unquestionably means YHVH’s words. This is characteristic of theophanies, as will be discussed further in Part 4, and in my opinion is more that just a modest “circumlocution” commonly attributed to Ezekiel out of reverent fear of talking about God in unveiled terms.

26.^See Daniel Boyarin, “The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John,” Harvard Theological Review, 94:3 (2001), 243–84. Also Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000, Vol. 2, pp. 3–37. Certainly there is overlap between the Jewish-Aramaic “Word” as Memra and Philo’s Logos, which I have not attempted to address here, knowing it is less close to Judaic thought than the former, which was demonstrably ingrained in the worship of the synagogue before the time of Jesus. For a testimony to the importance of Aramaic texts in the time of Jesus, see Andrew B. Perrin, “The Lost World of the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept./Oct. 2018, pp.42–48.


28.^See Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections, Vol. 2, p. 21.

29.^The word “chariot” (merkavah) occurs in 1 Chron. 28.18 in connection with the gold cherubim on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple. See also Ps. 18.11 and Ps. 68.18 (Eng. v.17). As Eph. 1:11 in the N.T. says, God “works all things after the counsel of his own will.” The famous “wheels” below the chariot would appear to represent the universe of immediate second causes ordered by Providence. With regard to the “wheels within wheels” (1.16) Matthew Henry’s commentary (p.1035) says that although those providences may seem “intricate, perplexed, and unaccountable,” they are still “wisely ordered.” Rabbi S. Fisch (Ezekiel, p.xii) points out that Ezekiel’s chapter 1 is the Haftarah for the first day of Pentecost, associated in Jewish tradition with the giving of the Word at Sinai.

30.^R. Moshe Eisemann, Book of Yechezkel, p.668. See also H. Van Dyke Parunak, “The Literary Architecture of Ezekiel’s Mar’ot ‘Elohim,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 99/1 (1980), pp. 61–74. Parunak shows how the three visions Eisemann cites (chs. 1, 8–11, and 40–48) are “linked together through shared motifs” (p.74) and “nest inside one another, in a series of adaptive imbeddings” (p.62).

31.^At the end of the chariot’s retreat from the doomed First Temple (11.24) it pauses on the Mount of Olives to the east of the city, and “fades out” of the story, though it later becomes involved again in chapter 43. There it also “fades out” of the vision after “delivering” the Divine Presence to “fill” the Temple (see note [12] above), apparently after coming to rest in the inner court in the vicinity of the altar of burnt offerings, which Ezekiel only then describes. Based on Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Temple, 2:4), Clorfene (p.134) says the altar’s description immediately follows Ezekiel’s commission in ch. 43 because “the altar is equal to the entire Temple.” Indeed, the altar is a sort of microcosm of the whole temple; Block, Vol. 2, pp. 596–597 remarks how its “shape is seen to match the symmetry of the temple complex as a whole.”

32.^R. Eisemann (p.181), following Hirsch and Hoffmann, uses that term to distinguish the “cherubim” of the ch.10 vision from those of ch.1, where they are called “living creatures.” He says the new term’s emphasis on the bearing of God’s Glory suits their role in carrying the Presence from the golden cherubim on the Ark of the First Temple away to the visionary one.

33.^The idea is implicit in Gen. 17.8 and first explicitly stated—in its reverse form, which from God’s eternal standpoint is essentially equivalent—in Ex. 6.7, and in its direct form in Lev. 25.12. In one of its two forms it occurs in Jer. 31.33 and 32.38; Ezek. 11.20, 36.28, and 37.27; and Zech. 8:8, in addition to being implicit in numerous other verses, for instance Jer. 31.1. In the New Testament, it occurs in 2 Cor. 6:16 and 6:18, Heb. 8:10. and Rev. 21:3 and 21.7. My Ezekiel’s Temple: A Scriptural Framework (pp. 7, 9, 27) provides numerous examples of Bible verses in both Testaments that incorporate the two sides of the promise; for instance, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (God’s sovereign, saving act), “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life“ (Man’s Spirit-enabled response).

34.^O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), pp. 45–52. Dr. Robertson preached at my church several times in the 1980s and 90s, and I bought his book early on, though without reading it cover to cover. I didn’t specifically recall this principle until after I’d begun working seriously on Ezekiel around 2000, but don’t doubt his teaching in person or his book made an early impression on me. (I disagree with his later book about the nation of Israel in Romans 9–11, however.)

35.^See my Ezekiel’s Temple: A Scriptural Framework, pp. 25–34 for more discussion.

36.^R. Eisemann, Yechezkel, p.651. The immediate context there is the mysterious wooden table Ezekiel sees in the “nave,” or “holy place” of the inner sanctuary, which Eisemann understands to correspond in function, if not exact dimensions, to the “incense altar” of the First Temple. The Rabbi notices there is no mention of gold plating as in the tabernacle and earlier temple, and goes on to say the same is true of all the interior wood paneling—no mention of gold as in the earlier temple. That provokes his comment about God wanting Ezekiel to see the “underlying structure.” If he is just referring to the table, mere gold plating would not conceal the way it was built, only its wooden material, in which case the Rabbi would better have referred to the “underlying material.” And what about the unadorned wood surfaces was God indicating as important? I would point out also that nowhere in connection with Ezekiel’s Temple is any hint of color—not only no gold, but no scarlet and blue fabrics, veils, or priestly garments as in the earlier temple and tabernacle.

Rabbi Joseph Breuer (The Book of Yechezkel, p. 373) offers a view that gold plating is not mentioned because “the Prophet does not consider this Sanctuary as a completed structure,” which R. Breuer somehow finds supported in 41.21 and 43.11. Rabbi Breuer also asserts that “according to the Law of God, no bare wood was permitted to be seen in the Sanctuary,” which would nullify R. Eisemann’s apparent suggestion that the wood of the table was meant to be seen.

37.^Block, Ezekiel, Vol. 2, p.611. ‘Olah burnt offerings for God, shelamim peace (NJPS: well-being) offerings to nourish the worshiper.

38.^Verses showing the Providential origin of the sacrifices include Gen. 3.21, 22.8–14; Lev. 17.11; Ps.50.10–12. King David acknowledged that all the abundance that the people had contributed for the First Temple’s construction “comes from your hand and is all your own” (I Chron. 29:16). Only by God’s mercy is the sacrifice of an animal accepted as a payment for man’s sin.

39.^R. Moshe Eisemann, The Book of Yechezkel, p. 675. R. Breuer (The Book of Yechezkel, p. 386) says the term is an allusion to the “fire of the Law,” which is “mightly like a lion.” See also William Greenhill, Ezekiel, pp. 797–8, who says it was so named because “as a lion tears and devours the prey, so the fire of this altar did eat up the sacrifices laid upon this grate.”

40.^Following Block, Ezekiel, Vol. 2, pp. 593, 601, I see the altar proper as measuring 14 × 14 cubits (per Ezek. 43.17), with curbs and gutters extending out three cubits beyond that on each side (per Ezek. 43.13–14), totaling 20 × 20 cubits, the exact size of the Most Holy Place. This creates an open hearth area of 12 × 12 cubits (per Ezek. 43.16) atop the altar, an area only about 2/3 that of the First Temple’s altar, but many times larger than that of the Tabernacle (see Block, Vol. 2, p.603. As Block points out (p.601), this would be large enough to sacrifice great numbers of animals, but from the standpoint of this paper it would be more than adequate for the crucifixion of one Person (even with two robbers or insurrectionists besides.)

However, the Orthodox claim is that the altar is supposed to be doubled in size beyond what Ezekiel says. The altar’s top, they say, is 28 × 28 cubits instead of 14 × 14 (see, e.g. Eisemann, pp. 676–679), resulting in an open area for sacrificing nearly three times as large as in the First Temple. Exactly why they think they need that much area is not clear, given that the sacrifices specified by Ezekiel, though different from those of the Torah, are at least comparable in scope. The rationale for changing Scripture seems to come from a principle they discern in the First Temple, whereby they understand certain altar measurements to have been made from the center of the altar out to one to the edge of one side rather than the full way across. Accordingly, the ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach translates 43.17 to say that the altar’s top is 14 × 14 cubits “for its four quadrants”—meaning, they say, the entire top has four quadrants, each of that size, giving a total top dimension of 28 × 28. But the NJPS translation says “with 4 equal sides” there, with nothing about the hearth being in “four quadrants.” Block (p.593) shows how that Hebrew phrase agrees with similar usage in 40.47 and 45.1–2 that indicate a square with four equal sides, not a quartered form meant to be doubled.

41.^In note [12] I argued that the “filling of the temple” in ch. 43 meant, in accord with Rabbi Fisch’s “complete sense” and the “law of the temple,” that everything in and around it is “most holy”—that the whole temple complex was radiant with God’s Glory, not that it was hidden away inside the inner sanctuary. That would imply God’s Glory was not meant for Israel to hoard in a secret chamber, but to shine out into all the cosmos. (As observed in note [12], the exact temple gate that is closed forever after the entry of the Presence ties into this (see Part 3).) As Rabbi Eisemann says (Yechezkel, p.xx), “God’s Shechinah rests ultimately on His people, not on their architecture. His purpose is Man, not man’s temples.” My understanding of Ezekiel’s Temple is that everything once associated with the Most Holy Place moves to the inner court. Atonement is no longer begun in the court and completed by sprinkling in the Holy of Holies, but is now begun and completed at the central altar.

42.^“These cherubim are the living heavenly realities that the static sculptures in the inner sanctum symbolize” (Block, Ezekiel, Vol. 2, p.320).

Copyright 2018 by Emil H. Henning III. Properly credited quotation or copying of this paper and its diagrams is allowed, in whole or part, for free, non-commercial purposes, in print or electronic form. No portion may be altered or incorporated into any print or media product offered for sale or used for any promotional purpose, without author’s written permission. Unless noted, Bible verses are quoted from the King James Version (some words modernized.)