The Glory Returns to the Temple: Commentary on Ezekiel Chapter 44


Ezekiel chapter 44 contains a vision of the glory of God returning to a restored temple in Jerusalem. This temple represents the future messianic kingdom when Jesus Christ will reign from Jerusalem. Some key themes in this chapter include:

  • The east gate of the temple will be shut, meaning no one can enter except the Lord. This shows the holiness of God’s presence.
  • Rules are given regarding who can minister in the temple, barring foreigners and Levites who went astray. Only descendants of Zadok can minister before the Lord.
  • Instructions for holy garments the priests must wear, and rules against shaving their heads or drinking wine before ministering. This upholds the sanctity of temple service.
  • The priests are rebuked for failing to guard the holy things and uphold God’s laws. They must now serve as examples and teach the people God’s laws.
  • Regulations for how priests must handle and eat sacrifices, distinguishing between holy and common.

This chapter emphasizes God’s holiness and the need for those who minister before Him to live in purity and faithfulness. As the glory fills the temple, it is a picture of God’s presence returning to a purified people..

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Key Takeaways

  • The shut east gate represents that access to God’s presence is restricted. Jesus alone is the way to the Father.
  • Rules barred foreigners and unfaithful Israelites from the temple, which was to remain holy.
  • Levites who went astray could only serve in temple duties, not as priests handling holy things.
  • The faithful sons of Zadok were rewarded with the priesthood. Priests had to uphold holiness.
  • The priests were rebuked for failing to keep God’s laws. Now they must lead by example.
  • These rules under the old covenant emphasized the need for holiness before God.
  • Jesus fulfilled the law and inaugurated a new covenant giving us direct access to God by grace.
The Glory Returns to the Temple: Commentary on Ezekiel Chapter 44

Detailed Commentary

The East Gate Remains Shut

Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. As for the prince, because he is the prince, he may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way.” (Ezekiel 44:1-3 NKJV)

The east gate likely refers to the outer east gate of the outer court where the glory of God was last seen departing the temple before its destruction (Ezekiel 10:18-19, 11:23). Now Ezekiel sees a vision of this gate shut, meaning no one can enter it. This signifies the holiness of the Lord’s presence and that He alone determines the requirements for entering His presence.

Though the prince (referring to the Messiah or a ruler under Him) may sit and eat bread before the Lord in this gate, the gate itself remains shut. Jesus proclaimed “I am the door” (John 10:9) and the only way of entrance to the Father. As the prince, Christ has special access to God’s presence. But the shut gate reminds us that such access is based on Christ’s atoning sacrifice, not human merit.

Restrictions on Foreigners Entering the Temple

Then He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; so I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord; and I fell on my face. And the Lord said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes and hear with your ears, all that I say to you concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord and all its laws. Mark well who may enter the house and all who go out from the sanctuary.

“Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “O house of Israel, let Us have no more of all your abominations. When you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to defile it—My house—and when you offered My food, the fat and the blood, then they broke My covenant because of all your abominations. And you have not kept charge of My holy things, but you have set others to keep charge of My sanctuary for you.” Thus says the Lord God: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel. (Ezekiel 44:4-9 NKJV)

Ezekiel again sees a vision of God’s glory filling the temple, emphasizing that this represents a future, purified temple. Strict rules are now given regarding who may enter and minister in the temple.

Foreigners (non-Israelites) and the uncircumcised (referring to those outside God’s covenant) are barred from entering. God rebukes Israel for previously allowing pagan foreigners to defile the temple. Only consecrated priests of Levitical descent can minister in the temple and handle the holy things.

This upholds God’s holiness and the covenant relationship He established with Israel. Though God welcomes all nations to worship Him, only those in right relationship through the covenant can minister before Him. Jesus fulfilled the covenant and tore down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:14), mediating access to God.

Levites Who Went Astray Cannot Minister

“And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity. Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them. Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them,” says the Lord God, “that they shall bear their iniquity. And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest, nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place; but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. Nevertheless I will make them keep charge of the temple, for all its work, and for all that has to be done in it. (Ezekiel 44:10-14 NKJV)

The Levites who went astray by worshiping idols will now be barred from serving as priests. Though they can serve in temple duties like gatekeeping, they cannot handle holy things or enter the Most Holy Place. This is punishment for leading Israel into idolatry.

They key distinction is between priestly duties like offering sacrifice versus menial temple service. The priests must be holy examples to the people, so those who went astray cannot fill this role. Yet God is merciful to still allow them to serve in the temple in limited capacity. Those who minister before the Lord must live above reproach.

The Sons of Zadok Will Minister as Priests

“But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,” says the Lord God. “They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge. And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court or within the house. They shall have linen turbans on their heads and linen trousers on their bodies; they shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat. When they go out to the outer court, to the outer court to the people, they shall take off their garments in which they have ministered, leave them in the holy chambers, and put on other garments; and in their holy garments they shall not sanctify the people. (Ezekiel 44:15-19 NKJV)

In contrast to the Levites who went astray, the sons of Zadok will be honored to serve as priests. The Zadokite priests remained faithful when Israel fell into idolatry. They kept God’s charge and are now rewarded with the priestly office.

They alone can handle the holy things, offer sacrifices, and enter the Most Holy Place in God’s presence. They must wear holy linen garments while ministering, not mixing wool and sweat which can cause ritual impurity. When ministering to the people in the outer courts, they must change into different garments to avoid transmitting holiness.

This distinction upholds the sanctity of God’s house and presence. The priests must live and serve in purity and faithfulness. Jesus is our great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5-7), providing perfect access to God.

Rules About Priestly Hair and Drink

They shall not shave their heads or let their hair grow long, but they shall keep their hair well trimmed. No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court. They shall not take as wife a widow or a divorced woman, but take virgins of the descendants of the house of Israel, or widows of priests. And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. (Ezekiel 44:20-23 NKJV)

Further rules are given here about the conduct required for priests. They must keep their hair neatly trimmed, avoiding pagan mourning rituals. They cannot drink wine before entering the inner court to minister, lest they forfeit sobriety and self-control.

They are also restricted in marriage, only marrying virgins of Israelite descent or widows of priests. This upholds purity within their line. Most importantly, the priests must teach the people discernment between holy and common, clean and unclean. The priests were teachers of God’s law.

These regulations ensured priests avoided anything that could profane the sanctity of God’s house or their role. They must exemplify holiness. Today Christ’s blood sanctifies us wholly to serve God (Heb 10:10).

Rebuke for Failing to Uphold God’s Laws

“In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments. They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths.

“They shall not defile themselves by coming near a dead person. Only for father or mother, for son or daughter, for brother or unmarried sister may they defile themselves. After he is cleansed, they shall count seven days for him. And on the day that he goes to the sanctuary to minister in the sanctuary, he must offer his sin offering,” says the Lord God.

“So they shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering; every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs. The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priest’s; also you shall give to the priest the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house. The priests shall not eat anything, bird or beast, that died naturally or was torn by wild beasts.” (Ezekiel 44:24-31 NKJV)

The priests are rebuked for failing to uphold God’s laws and rules previously. Now they must serve as judges and examples, obeying the laws themselves and teaching the people. This includes properly keeping the Sabbath and avoiding ritual impurity.

They are allowed to incur impurity only for close family members’ deaths. They must then cleanse themselves before returning to service. The priests are also provided for by being allotted portions of offerings and firstfruits. But they are restricted from eating meat that was not properly slaughtered.

The priestly line failed in their duties before, leading to judgment. Now their roles are restored, contingent on faithfulness and obedience. They must lead by example in upholding God’s holiness. Christ’s sacrifice makes us a royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9).


Ezekiel 44 contains a sobering vision of God’s restored temple which Messiah Himself will enter. Access to God’s presence is restricted and priests must serve in purity. This reminds us of God’s holiness and the imperfect old covenant under the law.

But Jesus inaugurated a new and better covenant through His blood, tearing the veil and giving us direct access to God by grace (Matt 27:51, Heb 10:19-22). Though we are still called to lives of holiness, Christ’s perfect sacrifice sanctifies us wholly. We can draw near with full assurance as a kingdom of priests praising God’s glory revealed in Jesus Christ.

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