The Millennial Temple: Levitical Caretakers and Zadokite Priests – Part 6

THE SHUT GATE

Much of Ezekiel chapters 44 through 46 describe the priesthood, the sacrificial system that they will implement and related matters.  In 44:1-3 it is said that the outer eastern gate is to remain shut because it is through that entrance that the LORD God of Israel entered the temple (vv. 1-2; cf. Ezek. 43:2).  The implication is that the LORD and His glory will never depart from His home or Israel again.  The resurrected prince David (cf. Ezek. 34:23-24; 37:24) will have the honor of sitting in the gateway and eating bread before the Lord Jesus.  Because the gate can never be opened, the prince will enter through a special porch door (v. 3).

            THE LEVITICAL CARETAKERS

Ezekiel 44:4-14 concerns the statutes, laws and holiness that must be observed in the temple.  The LORD used the vision of the glory of the LORD filling the temple to impress upon Ezekiel the importance of these things (v. 4).  Israel is reminded of her never to be repeated sin of allowing unbelieving foreigners into the sanctuary, thereby profaning it and voiding the covenant (vv. 6-8).  These foreigners were used as caretakers so that the priests could focus on their more important duties.  It is now the Levites, demoted from being priests, who will become the temple’s caretakers (vv. 11, 14).  The Levites must face the consequence of seeking idols instead of God (v. 10).  The Levites became a stumbling block of iniquity to Israel and they must bear that shame.  They shall not come near to God, for they are no longer priests (vv. 12-13).  How one lives his or her life results in very real repercussions for the coming kingdom.

THE KITCHENS

Later, the bronze guide takes the prophet to see the kitchens in Ezekiel 46:19-24.  He was first led into the chambers that faced north, the building where the priests eat the holiest of the offerings and change their clothes (Ezek. 42:13-14).  From there, Ezekiel beheld the western end of the building.  This is where the priests are to boil the guilt and sin offerings and bake the grain offering (vv. 19-20).  These kitchens are kept internal so that the offerings will not have to be taken into the outer court, thus transmitting holiness to the people (v. 20).  Ezekiel is then brought into the outer court to view four enclosed little courts, each measuring sixty by forty-five feet, in each corner (vv. 21-22).  Lining the inside of each little court is a stone ledge set above cooking hearths (v. 23).  It is in these outer court kitchens where the Levitical caretakers will cook the sacrifices that are for the people to eat (v. 24).

THE ZADOKITE PRIESTS

Zadokite PriestsEzekiel 44:15-31 discloses the duties for the only Levites who are allowed to serve as priests: the line of Zadok (cf. 1 Ch. 6:1-8).  In 1 Samuel 2:35, God declared that He would raise up for Himself a faithful priest who would act according to God’s heart and soul.  The priest, later confirmed as Zadok (2 Sam. 8:17; 15:24-29), was to be rewarded with an enduring house as he walks before God’s anointed forever.  God also promised Zadok’s ancestor Phinehas that his descendants would become a perpetual priesthood (Num. 25:13).  When the rest of Israel went astray, the Zadok family priests remained faithful to their temple duties.  Therefore, they will be rewarded by continuing their faithful temple service, only this time they will be doing so directly before the Messiah in the messianic kingdom (v. 15)!  They will enjoy access to the LORD’s table, ministering to Him and keeping His charge (v. 16).  Before Solomon built the first temple (1 Kin. 6), it was Zadok who anointed him king (1 Kin. 1:39).  The house of Zadok has a long and deep history with the LORD’s temples.

When the Zadokites enter into the inner court they are required to wear linen clothing, including turbans and undergarments.  Cotton is forbidden so that the priests can more easily avoid sweating, thereby staying clean as they perform their duties (vv. 17-18).  The work clothing must remain in the priest’s chambers so that any attached holiness is not taken out among the people (v. 19).  The Zadokites are not to shave their heads bald, nor are they allowed to let their hair grow long (v. 20).  No doubt this is to symbolize a separation from pagan practices (cf. Lev. 21:5, 10).  The priests are not to drink wine when they enter the inner court (v. 21).  The inference being that the priests can drink wine when they are off duty.  They must marry only Jewish virgins or widows of other priests (v. 22).  This rule will keep the Zadokite line pure, signifying separation.  What was once only a restriction for the high priest (Lev. 21:13-15) will now be required of all the Zadokite priests.

The Zadokites are charged with teaching the people the difference between the holy and profane, resulting in their ability to discern the clean from the unclean (v. 23).  The very regulations that the Zadokites live by allow them to serve as living examples of this kind of separation.  They also teach by judging over disputes according to God’s rules.  The priests will Keep God’s laws regarding the appointed feasts and they will sanctify His Sabbaths (v. 24).  Paul taught that the feasts and Sabbaths were a shadow of what is to come, but their substance was found in Christ (Col. 2:16-17).  Even with Jesus physically present in the Millennium, the feasts and the Sabbaths will still be important reminders of what is ultimately found only in Him.

The priests will only be able to approach a deceased body if it belongs to an immediate family member (v. 25).  Even when they do tend to their family member’s remains, the priests will still become defiled and must undergo seven days of cleansing (vv. 25-26).  When such a priest returns to his duties in the inner court he must provide a sin offering (v. 27).  The people are not to give the Zadokite priests an inheritance or possession of anything in Israel, for God is their inheritance and possession (v. 28).  In other words, the priests already have more than they could ever need in what is provided by God.  They are to eat the grain offering, the sin offering and the guilt offering.  Every devoted thing in Israel will belong to them (v. 29).  They will enjoy the first of the first fruits and when the people give the priests the first of their dough they will receive a blessing on their house (v. 30).  The priests are not to eat any bird or animal that died a natural death or was killed by other animals (v. 31).  This again underscores the separation unto holiness that the Zadokites represent.

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