|God's Temple in Prophecy
The Gates Bible references to God's house do not include the main temple building only. The two courts surrounding the temple building, with the six gates and many additional buildings, are included as an important part of God's house.
Entry to the inner and outer courts is through six different gates. Three gates lead to the outer court, and three gates to the inner. These gates are quite complex and involve much more than mere doors through a wall.
The gates are so important that almost one whole chapter in the Bible is given to explain them. They present several difficult problems — some more difficult to solve than the details of the main temple building.
Here, as in all other aspects, many students of the subject have erred greatly. They have rejected and torn out whole verses in the Bible that refer to these gates. The reason for this is that they are unable to put all of the factors in the proper place, and are not able to understand them.
The fortieth chapter of Ezekiel is the only place where these gates are described in detail. No mention of the gates, and no details of the courts are given in Kings or Chronicles. There were courts and gates in the former temples, however, none were apparently ever constructed just like the ones the prophet describes here. On this point all sources are agreed. The fact that this portion of prophecy has never been fulfilled is further evidence that it will be fulfilled during the millennial period.
In our description of the temple, we have started with the temple building proper, instead of the gates. That is the main point of interest to most people, therefore it has been described first.
Ezekiel does not follow this pattern but instead describes the eastern gate first. He gives much more detail about this particular gate than the others. But, he gives further details when describing the other gates that must be taken into consideration for the eastern gate.
One of the most difficult things to understand about the temple and the courts, is the section on the gates. In order to understand the various points in the text, it will be very helpful to refer frequently to the drawings of the floor plan, and the various side views that are included.
The exact dimensions are not included in the drawings. But, the exact measurements as given in the Bible are used in the illustrations.
The Wall The temple is enclosed by a wall one reed thick and one reed high. That means that this wall is approximately 12 feet high by 12 feet thick.
"And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man's hand a measuring reed of six cubits long, of a cubit and a handbreadth each; so he measured the breadth of the building, one reed, and the height, one reed" (Ezekiel 40:5). This wall encloses an area of 500 cubits square. Later on we learn that an additional area beyond this is also enclosed by another wall. It is 500 reeds square, or over 6,000 feet square (Ezek. 42:15-20).
The Eastern Gate This is the most important gate in the temple area, since it is the one where Christ will enter, and which will be closed to others.
"Then he brought me back the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary, which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. And the Lord said unto me: 'This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, neither shall any man enter in by it, for the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it; therefore it shall be shut" (Ezekiel 44:1-2). As Ezekiel entered this gate in his vision, he noticed that there were seven steps leading to it (Ezekiel 40:22).
He next measured the jambs of the gate, and found them to be one reed (six cubits) thick, just the same as the wall. A jamb is the side of an opening, or vertical piece forming the side of a doorway. These jambs form the openings in the outside wall.
"Then came he unto the gate which looketh toward the east, and went up the steps thereof; and he measured the jamb of the gate, one reed broad, and the other jamb, one reed broad" (Ezekiel 40:6). So far we have seen that there are seven steps, a gate opening in the wall with jambs on either side of the opening. After measuring the jambs Ezekiel entered through this gateway into a sort of open courtyard with small rooms or cells on either side.
"And every cell was one reed long, and one reed broad" (Ezek. 40:7). A few verses later we learn how many cells there are. They are on the north and south sides of this courtyard.
"And the cells of the gate eastward were three on this side, and three on that side; they three were of one measure" (verse 10). Between each of the cells was a "space" of five cubits.
"And the space between the cells was five cubits" (verse 7). Going further west there is another wall to the rear, or west of this small court. It is one reed of six cubits thick.
"And the jambs of the gate by the porch of the gate within were one reed" (verse 7). Notice that this jamb is "by the porch of the gate within." Here is the first indication that there is a "porch" to these gates as well as to the main temple building. The same identical Hebrew word for porch is used here that is used in reference to the temple. Therefore, we should expect the porches of the gates to be something similar to the temple porch.
This will be further discussed when we consider the vertical details of the gates. Right now we are interested in understanding the floor plan of the gate.
The floor dimensions of the porch are given next. This porch is on the inner side of the gate. Notice first the width.
"He measured also the porch of the gate toward the house, one reed" (verse 8). This portion of the gate was "toward the house," or main temple building. The next verse has been a puzzle to some of the scholars, and yet it need not be.
"Then measured he the porch of the gate eight cubits" (verse 9). The wording of these two verses are almost identical. They both refer to the measurement of the porch, yet the measurement of both is different. Very obviously Ezekiel is just listing the two floor dimensions of the porch. So the porch is six by eight cubits.
There is another important part of this porch which is still left to be completed.
"And the posts thereof, two cubits" (verse 9). A post is a vertical wall or pillar, which usually is associated with a door or opening. We often refer to the sides of a door as the door posts. Sometimes they are called "jambs." In the description of the temple, it seems that the sides of thick walls are referred to as jambs while the sides of narrow walls are posts. There were posts at the rear of the gate. This porch was said to be "toward the house," or in the court "within," as we have already seen. This point is now emphasized in a different way.
"And the porch of the gate was inward" (verse 9). These "posts" were both of the same width on both sides of the porch. The one on the right (this side) was two cubits, and the one on the left (that side) was two cubits.
"And the posts had one measure on this side and on that side" (verse 10). We now have a brief description of the floor plan of the gate. It consists of an enclosure with three chambers or cells on both the north and south side, an entrance to the east, and a porch on the west.
It would be easy to misunderstand a point or two in this brief description, so God has given us the overall measurement so we may be sure of the right dimensions.
"And from the forefront of the gate of the entrance unto the forefront of the inner porch of the gate were fifty cubits" (verse 15). Now we should add up the various dimensions given. Here are the various items, going from east to west. Notice that they add up to exactly fifty cubits.
1. Jamb 6 cubits
2. Cell 6 "
3. Space 5 "
4. Cell 6 "
5. Space 5 "
6. Cell 6 "
7. Jamb 6 "
8. Porch 8 "
9. Post 2 "
Total 50 cubits
Entry of the Gate There are two important aspects of the entry to the gate which have been bypassed. They must be understood next.
"And he measured the breadth of the entry of the gate, ten cubits; and the length of the gate, thirteen cubits" (verse 11). At the beginning of this chapter we read that the jambs in the opening of the outside wall, were both six cubits, but nothing was said as to how far apart they were spaced. Now we have the answer. It is ten cubits. But did you notice one other puzzling aspect to this verse? It says that the length of the gate was thirteen cubits. What does this mean? The word length usually refers to the longer of the dimensions. We already have the two necessary dimensions to the entry of the gate which is six by ten cubits.
Is this a contradiction? Most of the translators and scholars think so. It is left out of some of the translations because of this apparent contradiction. One source states that the "thirteen cubits is generally rejected."
"Ezekiel 40:11, the Hebrew reads, the length of the gate thirteen cubits, but this contradicts (verse 15, 21). Either this is a gloss or else the text should be slightly revised..." (Israel's Laws and Legal Testaments, C. F. Kent, page 163, footnote). The reason that this is rejected is not because it is not in the original text, but rather because it appears to be contradictory. The meaning of the other verses mentioned is not understood.
Since we have two dimensions of the entry to the gate, a third dimension can mean only one thing, that it is in a different plane. The other dimensions are horizontal, or floor dimensions. This third dimension is the vertical dimension or height of the gate! How simple and plain the answer, and yet it has been a stumbling block to many scholars.
One thing that the researchers have been surprised about in Ezekiel's account of the temple, is that there are no vertical measurements. The reason they have assumed this is that they have rejected the plain Bible statements and they have not put it together with the account given in Kings and Chronicles.
A surprising thing is that there are at least four separate and distinct vertical dimensions of the gates given in Ezekiel! The men who have translated and interpreted this section have rejected every single one of them! No wonder they cannot understand!
This gate of the entry is ten cubits wide, six cubits long for the jambs, and thirteen cubits high.
More About the Cells How far apart are the cells from north to south? This question must now be answered in a round about way, but it is plain when explained.
"And he measured the gate from the roof of the one cell to the roof of the other, a breadth of five and twenty cubits; door against door" (verse 13). This tells us how far apart the roof to the cells are. It does not say how far apart the cells are. It is plain from this text that the cells have roofs, and that there is no roof in between. In other words, there is a space of twenty-five cubits from north to south which has no roof. That is a sort of courtyard space enclosed by the cells on two sides, the entry of the gate on the east, and the porch on the west.
The preceding verse states that there is a border of one cubit toward this open space. The Bible refers to the larger walls as just that — "walls." But have you noticed how thick these walls are. They are about ten or twelve feet thick! With such thick walls, it is no wonder that in this place a mere one cubit wall of two feet be called a "border" instead of a wall.
"...and a border before the cells, one cubit (on this side), and a border, one cubit on that side; and the cells, six cubits on this side, and six cubits on that side" (verse 12). Other Dimensions Given
We now know that there is a distance of twenty-five cubits between the roofs, one cubit for each inside wall of the cells, and six cubits for each cell. We have not yet noticed if there is an overhang to the roof. Another important measurement of our north-south dimension is still lacking. That is the overall dimension, and the dimension of the outside wall. They are not specifically stated in the Bible. Since they are not given, it must be obvious from other statements.
The walls to the side chambers of the temple are the same thickness as the "space" between the cells (verse 7). Therefore, let us use this same pattern for the outside walls since no dimension is given. Here are the measurements added together going from north to south.
1. Wall 5 cubits
2. Cell 6 "
3. Border 1 "
4. Open space 25 "
5. Border 1 "
6. Cell 6 "
7. Wall 5 "
Total 49 cubits Notice how close this figure is to the overall dimension of the distance from east to west. Certainly there must be some relationship between the two. So many times in the temple and its courts a square is used. Certainly that must be what is intended here also.
One additional cubit is needed to make up the difference. Nothing has been stated about overhang to the roof. Let's make it one-half cubit on each side. That should be a reasonable amount. With that, we have a gate area of exactly fifty cubits in both directions. How simple!
Here is a summary of our north-south measurements.
1. Wall 5 cubits
2. Cell 6 "
3. Border (wall) 1 "
4. Roof overhang 1/2 "
5. Open space 25 "
6. Roof overhang 1/2 "
7. Border 1 "
8. Cell 6 "
9. Wall 5 "
Total 50 cubits
The Porch is Sixty Cubits High Our next problem is again one where most stumble. It is a vertical dimension. It can plainly be only a vertical dimension or height. Since it is so large, it does not fit with the ideas of some, so they have almost universally rejected it.
"He made also posts of threescore cubits; even unto the posts of the court in the gates round about" (verse 14). Here is an example of how some people have come to the conclusion that this text should be changed or deleted.
"It is far more sensible to emend the text with the aid of the LXX (Septuagint version), and to read, 'And he measured the porch...20 cubits'; i.e. in breadth-the other measurements have been given..." (Dictionary of the Bible, James Hastings, Editor). The height of these posts equals a modern twelve story building! These posts are not just in the east gate but are also "in the gates round about." All six gates have these same high posts.
Just where are they located in each gate? So far we have found reference to two different sets of posts in this chapter. There were the posts of the "porch of the gate," which was inward (verse 9). There are also posts for the individual cells. It becomes apparent on close study that the posts relating to the cells are door posts only, and not great high posts towering into the air.
The only other "posts" mentioned in the gates are the two in the porch inward. These are the only posts which could be meant. If the posts of the porch are sixty cubits high then the porch must also be at least that high. The porch of the temple is one hundred twenty cubits high, so the porch of the gate is half the height of the porch of the house. In the drawings of the gates you will notice the similarity between these porches and those of the temple.
The Arches One of the most difficult things to understand about the gates are the "arches." An arch is a sort of half circle used over an opening or door.
"And there were narrow windows to the cells and to their posts within the gate round about, and likewise to the arches; and windows were round about inward..." (verse 16). Standing in the open space or courtyard of the gate, narrow windows are seen in all the cells. They are referred to as narrow windows, just as were described concerning the temple.
Windows in the Arches Notice that there are also windows round about in the "arches." This is the first we have read about arches. Where are they located, what are they like? What is their dimension?
Adam Clarke says at this point "The arch was not known at this period" (Clarke's Commentary, Adam Clarke, Volume IV, page 535). So he is no help in answering the question. It is found on careful investigation that the arch was known in ancient times.
Another source, already quoted on other points has this comment.
"40:16 The Hebrew text is corrupt; a scribe has apparently confused the Hebrew word for vestibule with the similar word for arch" (Israel's Laws and Legal Precedents, C. F. Kent). Gesenius, in his Hebrew-English Lexicon states the following on page 38, under the word translated "arch."
"A term in architecture which is very difficult to define. It appears to have signified the projection of a pediment. It is clearly distinguished from...(Hebrew word for vestibule) with which many confound it." Therefore Gesenius does not agree with C. F. Kent on this point.
The word translated "arches" is eylam, or in a shortened form elam. According to Strong, this word is probably taken from ayil which is the word for "post." He states that it is apparently "a pillar space (or colonnade), i.e. a pale." The same word is also translated ram. A ram with its two curved horns may have given the same idea because of the tall horns.
In the original Hebrew there were no vowels. They were added later. The original Hebrew for these two words was spelled as follows, aleph, lamed, mem for arches, and aleph, lamed for posts.
A Hebrew Lexicon shows that the next word after elam is another word of exactly the same letters but written eylim. This is stated to be a "plural of ayil." In this case the word is used for palm trees in the desert. It was the name given to a place in the desert by the children of Israel when they left Egypt. You may remember the place where they found seventy "palm trees" or eylim (Exodus 15:27). It was called Elim.
We need to go a little further on this same point before we draw any final conclusions. The word translated "porch" is also from this same root Hebrew word. It is listed by Strong as "ulam." Each word for post, arch and porch, started with the Hebrew letter "aleph," even though they are changed slightly in our euphonic spelling.
The root word used for post then is the same root for arches, palm trees, and porch. Notice that the porch is very tall and slender. Also, the posts are tall and slender. The arch (as it is translated), must also be similar.
The New American Standard Bible uses the word "porches" instead of "arches", and the New International Version uses the word "portico".
"And there were arches round about, five and twenty cubits long, and five cubits broad" (verse 30). Here is another place that is almost universally rejected and even left out of some translations. The Septuagint leaves this out. Kent says, of these dimensions, "These, however, are impossible."
The prophet is merely giving us the dimensions of these arches as being twenty-five cubits high and five cubits broad. They have windows in them and they are round about, or on both sides of the court. Notice, the proportion of one to five here. This is just about the same proportion as the side dimensions of the porch in the temple.
It should now be obvious that these so-called arches are simply miniature "porches." But where are they located? Going back to verse seven notice that the "space between the cells was five cubits." Here is the only place where they could fit in the various parts of the gate. These must be the arches. When first mentioned, they are not defined, but only referred to as a "space."
The Septuagint uses the word for "post" here instead of space. Since "arches" may be the plural of post, or porch, they might also be called posts.
In order that there be no confusion, we will continue to refer to these particular pillars or porches as "arches" to differentiate from other porches and posts, even though they are in no way what we now call arches.
These arches have windows "round about inward." Therefore, there are windows on the inner side facing the interior of the courtyard. These arches face outward in the inner gates. Apparently the outer gates have their arches facing in the same direction.
"And the arches thereof were toward the outer court" (verse 31). Just what is meant by this? There is a front and back side to these arches. The side toward the interior of the courtyard is obviously the side and not the back or front, and there are windows in it. Apparently the front also has windows contrasted to the back side which would not have windows. There are no other details that might indicate the difference between back and front.
With these arches having narrow windows, and being of narrow, high construction, leads us to only one conclusion as to their use. They could possibly be lookout towers. Because of their limited size that is about all they could be used for. The inside measurement with a one cubit wall would only be six by eight feet, not including an inside ladder or stairwell.
For such a purpose a narrow ladder of the fire escape type could be in one corner. An entrance would be most practical from the ground floor through small doors in the wall of the cells.
The Porch of the Gate The porch of the gate is at the opposite end from the entry to the gate. These porches are on the side of the gate nearest the outer court. On the outer gates they are located on the inward side, and on the inner gates they are on the outer side. The posts of this porch are at the extreme end of the gate. Here is a comment about the inner gate toward the north.
"And the posts thereof were toward the outer court; and palm-trees were upon the posts thereof, on this side, and on that side; and the going up to it had eight steps" (verse 37). The new point here is that there are palm trees upon each of these posts. These are artificial palm-trees, cut right into the material of the porch.
In the porch there is an "entry" toward the rear, and also to each side. This is proved by the following text.
"Then he brought me through the entry, which was at the side of the gate..." (Ezekiel 46:19). As we will see later in the next chapter there is a "pavement" on each side of the gate, around the outer court. It is only as wide as the gate, therefore these entries provide access directly to the pavement.
Six Gates In the description of the gate there are six separate and distinct gates. Verses six through sixteen in chapter 40, describes the outer gate toward the east. Next, Ezekiel describes another outer gate, this time to the north. It is described in verse twenty through twenty-three. Notice that this gate is after the same pattern or measure of the first gate.
"And the gate of the outer court that looked toward the north, he measured the length thereof and the breadth thereof. And the cells thereof were three on this side and three on that side; and the posts thereof and the arches thereof were after the measure of the first gate; the length thereof was fifty cubits, and the breadth five and twenty cubits. And the windows thereof, and the arches thereof, and the palm-trees thereof, were after the measure of the gate that looketh toward the east; and it was ascended by seven steps; and the arches thereof were before them" (verses 20-22). In the remaining gates, the description is given in much the same way, showing that they are all identical. Verse twenty-four through twenty-seven concern the outer gate to the south. Then follows the description of the inner gates to the south, east and north. The inner gates provide entry into the inner court which immediately surrounds the temple.
There is one difference between the inner and outer gate that must not be overlooked. There are seven steps leading to the outer gates, but eight steps leading to the inner gates (verse 37).
Summary Since we have gone through these details rather exhaustively, it would be good to summarize the details of the gate.
Let's take a quick tour of the eastern gate. The visitor approaches this gate from the east and first traverses seven steps. High doors of about 26 feet with posts on the right and left of the approximate same height are faced. After entering through this opening, a small courtyard is entered. There are three rooms on the right side and three rooms on the left side. Each of these rooms has a door and two windows facing toward the spectator. Between the rooms are tall pillars or posts with windows facing to the outside and also toward the inner part of the court. There are four of these pillars, and they are about 50 feet high. Straight ahead is the porch of the gate. It has an entry onto the pavement of the "outer court" to the right and left, plus another entry straight ahead toward the main temple building. This porch towers some 120 feet.
The researchers have in general rejected any high porches or towers as has been amply mentioned before. Now we understand that there are actually about 42 projections (7 in each gate) which might be called towers. Then the greatest tower of all, the porch of the temple.
In rejecting these high towers, they have also rejected a prophecy of the time to come when Christ will raise up Zion for His Temple. Then the people of the world will come and count these towers.
"Walk about Zion, and go round about her; Count the towers thereof" (Psalms 48:13). The porch of the house is said to have a face (Ezekiel 41:25). In other words, the front of the porch is considered the face. The front of the individual arches, and porches should also be considered faces. A face, of course, is usually a part of a head. A head is also defined in the dictionary as "that part of anything which forms or is regarded as forming the top, summit, or upper end...a 'projecting part.'" There are seven such heads to each gate. The posts for the doors, the four "arches" and the one porch.
One of the Psalms refers to this. Because of its poetical beauty this Psalm has become well known and has been set to music by several different composers. Very few really understand the significance and meaning behind it. It is not just a lot of unusual poetical abstraction or poetry but really means something. Let us look at this Psalm from the aspect of the gates to God's Temple.
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates, And be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; That the King of glory may come in. 'Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle.' Lift up your heads, O ye gates, Yea, lift them up, ye everlasting doors; That the King of glory may come in. 'Who then is the King of glory? The Lord of hosts; He is the King of glory'" (Psalms 24:7-10). The "heads" of the gates to God's temple will be lifted up. The doors of the gates will be set. Jesus Christ, the King of glory will be in His Temple in the millennial age to come.