Where Ezekiel's Temple is
Ezekiel is a strange book and its strange in many ways. One of the ways it is strange is that there are a lot of numbers in Ezekiel. And these numbers come in two forms. First, there are dates and second, there are measurements.
Regarding the first, there are more dates in Ezekiel than any other book in the Bible, 14 in total. And most of the time they’re very precise, including the year, month, and day. For instance, in the first verse of Ezekiel it says, “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month…” So why all these dates?
Some have thought that they relate to something that happened on or around those dates that we might know about from other sources inside or outside the Bible, but the problem is that we can’t make it work, most of them don’t really line up with other events we know about. Now it’s certainly possible that it may relate to other events, but before offer that explanation, let’s see if there’s any other explanation that might be more credible and explanatorily powerful.
Furthermore, to use a wonderful phrase from pastor Brandon Levering, the Bible is a relatively closed cognitive environment. That is, most of the meaning can be found inside the Bible, not in external sources.
The second set of numbers are measurements. The last major section of Ezekiel, chapters 40-48, describe a new temple. And Ezekiel is brought on a guided tour through this temple and the tour guide describes tons of measurements and quantities: walls, doors, rooms, etc. And once again, we wonder, why are we told this.
Well, there’s a fascinating connection between these two sets of numbers, these dates and measurements, and that is that most of the numbers in the dates are also found in the measurements. So the dates are repeated in the measurements of the temple.
Here are some of the connections between the dates and the measurement and quantities in the Temple. For instance, the first date, in Ezekiel 1:1, “In the thirtieth year…” And in the outer court of the temple there are thirty chambers. Also, in the temple building proper there are 30 side chambers on each three stories.
Or in Ezekiel 29:1 the date is the 10th year, 10th month, and 12th day of the month and you have ten steps, things measuring 10 cubits, and twelve gates. And on and on the connections go. Out of the 40 numbers there are 39 matches to measurements or quantities in the Temple.
Now I’m not saying these dates have direct connections to their corresponding measurements, like the 7th month corresponds to the 7 steps, because I don’t think that’s true. But, the author of Ezekiel is making the is connection by duplicating those numbers because he wants us to push us to understand that these two things are related.
And the connection that the author wants us to make is that the book itself is Ezekiel‘s temple, not fully but partly. That is the readers of this book back in Ezekiel‘s day and today are already participating in the new temple.
Think about this, what makes a temple Temple is God, God‘s presence in it. And in the first chapter of Ezekiel Ezekiel has a vision of God‘s throne coming from Israel to the exiles in Babylon. So already from the first chapter the main thing that makes the temple is not in the temple anymore.
Furthermore in these last chapters we get a guided tour of the temple so we actually get to see it and can return to it. So by marking time with the same dimensions as the temple the author is communicating that God’s presence is already being built into a temple in the very reading of this text.
Now of course that’s only the beginning of the fulfillment of this version but it is the beginning and it is important.