05 August 2011

"This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no-one shall enter by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut." (v. 2)


Today's passage revolves around the symbolism of the shut gate.

I can think of three reasons to shut a gate or door:

  • to keep someone in
  • to keep someone out
  • to ensure privacy.

Here the gate is shut to symbolise that God has entered and will not be leaving the temple. Clearly no physical door will can actually keep God in the temple (or anywhere else) but it can symbolise God's permanent presence.

In fact the closing of the East gate may be intended to demonstrate that God has entered the temple. This passage is part of a series of visions which began in  chapter 40 when Ezekiel (who was in exile in Babylon) saw himself being taken to the land of Israel and met a man who was measuring the temple. In  Ezekiel 40:6 the mysterious man in Ezekiel's vision went through the gateway which was facing east; in  Ezekiel 43:4 the glory of the Lord entered by the eastern gate, but now it is said that no-one else may enter that way - in other words something very significant has happened between the beginning of the visions and the vision that Ezekiel is seeing now, God has taken up residence in God's temple.

However, there is one (partial) exception to this rule that no-one may use the gate and that is the strange reference to "the prince" (v. 3); he is introduced quite abruptly, with no explanation although he does reappear later on (Ezekiel 45:21 - 46:12). To understand his role in this passage it is worth noting that even the prince, who is clearly an important and powerful figure (as he may eat his food before the Lord within the eastern gate), may not use the eastern gate as a gate. He has to enter and leave a different way.


To Ponder

What reassures you that God is with you?

This passage is about hope for a people who are living in very difficult circumstances. Thinking about the most difficult time in your life, what symbolised hope for you?

Bible notes author: The Revd Judith Rossall

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