03 August 2011

"As for you, mortal, describe the temple to the house of Israel, and let them measure the pattern, and let them be ashamed of their iniquities." (v. 10)


Imagine this - a great proclamation of hope - which is centred on the measurements of a building. The English translation of verse 10 literally reads 'proclaim [to] the house of Israel the house'. Ezekiel was being told to declare the wonderful message ... of the building plan for the temple. This could be another way of telling the Israelites that the temple would be rebuilt - but the plan for the building emphasises something more.

It is worth reading verse 11 quite closely: Ezekiel was to make known to the Israelites, first the plan of the temple - that is the overall layout of this sacred place where God is to dwell. Secondly he was to tell them about the entrances and exits - that is how they are to get in and out of the sacred place. Finally, he was to tell them about "its whole form" (v. 11); that is both the plan and its ordinances and instructions - he was to tell them how to behave in this holy place. This was so important that he was to write down what he says.

So how would this appear to the Israelites? Ezekiel was talking to people who are living hundreds of miles away from their own capital city. They had lived for years with the knowledge that the temple lay in ruins and, since they believed that the temple was where God lived, they must have wondered what had become of the promise that God would always be with them. Now Ezekiel was told to announce a plan for the temple, with great care shown for how they are to enter the temple and for how they are to behave while they were there. The message is not simply about God's presence but also about their future.

To Ponder

Notice the link that the passage makes between the Israelites being "ashamed of their iniquities" and the announcement of the plans for the temple. How far does being aware that we have gone wrong help us to hear what God is saying?

Israelites are to have special rules for how to behave in their holy place. Should we behave differently in our holy places, for example in church? If so, how? If not, why not?

Bible notes author: The Revd Judith Rossall

  • Sign up for e-newslettersKeep in touch with what interests you