Ezekiel's North Gate

In Ezekiel’s second vision he is brought to the Jerusalem temple “to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy” (Ezek 8:3).

אֶל־פֶּ֜תַח שַׁ֤עַר הַפְּנִימִית֙ הַפּוֹנֶ֣ה צָפ֔וֹנָה אֲשֶׁר־שָׁ֣ם מוֹשַׁ֔ב סֵ֖מֶל הַקִּנְאָ֥ה הַמַּקְנֶֽה

The problem is that if you look at the construction of the temple in Kings and Chronicles, there is no “gateway of the inner court that faces north.” All entrances are face east. In Ezek 8, there are two entrances from the north: one in the city walls and one in the wall into the temple proper.

Just as a sidenote, it is so interesting how questions like these are constantly passed over by commentaries. Given the specificity of architectural constructions in Scripture, especially later in Ezek 40-48, new gates/openings should jump out at us.

First, in Canaanite mythology, Baal’s temple was in the north: Mount Zaphon (saphon).

Second, the north is a highly symbolically and theological significant direction in Scripture and in the latter prophets. The word occurs 46 times in Ezekiel. Let’s follow this canonically in the latter prophets. In Isaiah, God’s throne is in the north and Babylon strives to take God’s palatial place in the north (Is 14:13).

Intriguingly, Jeremiah begins with a prophesy of the enemies of Israel attacking from the north and they will set their “throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem.” The Assyrians come out of the north. And Babylon will be destroyed from the North. In Zechariah, God’s army is from the north.

The picture seems to be that God’s throne-palace was originally in the north and God’s enemies try to usurp his place in the north. In Ezek 8, we find out that Israel is so degenerate that they have made a gateway for the foreign countries and gods. The text says that the “image of jealousy” is positioned there. This is corroborated by 8:16 where the 25 priests are facing away from the most holy place to the east to worship the sun (i.e. where the sun rises).

Ironically, in Ezekiel’s visionary temple there is both a north and south gateway. But in this case it is to let in Gentiles, not false gods.

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