The new temple (part 2)

Focusing on the floor plan of the temple described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 of his book, it is evident that the gates of the structure provided controlled access to three areas of the temple of God. First, there was the outer court, then the inner court, and finally, the temple itself. The temple complex was surrounded by a square shaped outer wall approximately 1/2 mile in length on each side. A total of seven gates limited access to the temple or house where God dwelt. Beginning with the east gate, Ezekiel portrayed the three gates that provided access to the inner court as being large enough to process as many as 1250 people at a time. The gates were similar to tunnels or long corridors in which stations were set up to perhaps check baggage or the identification of those who wished to pass through. Once inside, the inner court consisted of approximately 360,000 sq ft of standing space for people that wanted to participate in worship services.

Enclosed within the inner court was the temple structure which had to be accessed by three additional gates, one on the east, one on the north, and one on the south. This second set of gates was identical to the ones located in the outer court, except there were tables located along the sides of the gates where animals were killed before they were taken to the altar to be sacrificed. The temple court measured 100 cubits square or 175 ft by 175 ft, approximately 30,000 sq ft. The altar that was used for burnt offerings stood in the center of this court. One final gate or doorway had to be passed through to enter the temple. The size of the entryway was extremely small compared to the other gates. Ezekiel recorded “and he brought me to the porch of the house, and measured each post of the porch, five cubits on this side, and five cubits on that side: and the breadth of the gate was three cubits on this side, and three cubits on that side” (Ezekiel 40:48). Three cubits would have been enough room for only about three men to enter the gate simultaneously.

Jesus taught about entering into the kingdom of heaven through a straight or narrow gate in his Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus may have used the temple gates as an illustration of wide and narrow gates because he wanted his followers to understand that worshipping God was not enough to save them from going to hell. Jesus said of himself “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9). The Greek word Jesus used for door, thura means a portal or entrance and is also translated as gate (2374).


The liar

One of the few descriptions of the devil in the Bible is found in John 8:44. Differentiating between those who are true children of Abraham and those who are not, it says, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father ye will do .He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for his is a liar, and the father of it.” Satan’s reputation as the father of lies implies that all lies originate from him. In the book of 1 Kings, there is recorded an incident in which a lying spirit was sent to the king of Israel (1 Kings 22:23-24). A conversation between God and the host of heaven suggested that king Ahab could be persuaded by a lying spirit to do something that would result in his own death.

At the time of the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem, the people were being told lies about their safety inside the city walls. Ezekiel was told, “They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they made others to hope that they would confirm the word” (Ezekiel 13:6). “Divination was a pagan parallel to prophesying…it seems probable that the diviners conversed with demons…Divination was one of man’s attempts to know and control the world and the future, apart from the true God” (7080). Even king Zedekiah participated in the deception of God’s people. His consultation with Jeremiah revealed that surrender was the only way to avoid death, and yet, Zedekiah chose to keep the information from the people and tried to escape secretly by night (Jeremiah 39:4).

In an attempt to make the truth known to his people, Ezekiel was given advance warning of king Zedekiah’s plot (Ezekiel 12:6) and was told to warn the people against false prophets (Ezekiel 13:2). God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, what is that proverb that ye have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth? Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will make this proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision. For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 12:22-24).

The connection between idolatry and lying divination was found in a sacrificial system that promised peace and prosperity at a price. In a sense, the false prophets were bribed to tell the people what they wanted to hear. Sacrifices to pagan gods were used as a front for the business of organized crime. It was illegal for the Israelites to worship other gods, and yet, idols were kept in God’s own temple (Ezekiel 8:12). God’s condemnation of the false prophets showed that his people were under their control and needed to be delivered from their dangerous practices. He said, “Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life: therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 13:22-23).

The departure

Similar to the way the Holy Spirit dwells within believers in Jesus Christ, God’s glory was symbolic of his presence over the ark of the Testimony that was kept in the tabernacle, and afterward, the temple of God. The glory of God was not always visible and was intentionally concealed behind a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of God’s temple. After the renewal of his covenant with the Israelites, Moses asked God to show him his glory (Exodus 33:18). God responded, “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee…And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by” (Exodus 33:19, 21-22).

The glory of God was so magnificent that it could not be viewed by just anyone. One of the effects of God’s glory filling his temple was the sanctification or setting apart of the temple for the work of God (6942). Because God’s temple was holy and was intended for the express purpose of providing a sanctuary for him, God’s glory entered into the temple at its dedication and remained there until the temple  was destroyed. Unaware of God’s presence, the priests defiled the temple of God by erecting a statue of Asherah, the Canaanite goddess of fertility, at the gate of the altar (Ezekiel 8:5) and made sacrifices to her, supposing they wouldn’t be discovered (Ezekiel 8:12). At the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, Ezekiel was shown that the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub where it usually remained. It says in Ezekiel 10:4, “Then the glory of the LORD went up from  the cherub and stood over the threshold of the house: and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory.”

What Ezekiel saw was not visible to anyone but him. If the people of Jerusalem had been aware of God’s presence, they would most likely have acted differently. The Apostle Paul said believers were the temple of God and should not defile themselves by having intimate relationships with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:12-14), and yet, believers commit adultery and other such sins like everyone else. God’s glory’s departure symbolized the breaking of the covenant between God and his people. Although he did not end his relationship with the Israelites, God’s glory, and therefore God himself, did not dwell with his people from that point forward.

The missing book

King Josiah, the grandson of Hezekiah, began to reign in Judah when he was only eight years old (2 Kings 22:1). His reign began in 640 B.C. and it says in 2 Kings 22:3 that in the eighteenth year of his reign, approximately 622 B.C., he launched a building project to restore the temple of God. A hundred years had passed since the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel and the Assyrian empire was on the verge of collapse. While the temple construction was going on, Hilkiah the high priest “found the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:8).

There is no mention in scripture of the book of the law being lost, nor any indication of when it had last been used in temple worship services. The last reference to the temple was at the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign. It says in 2 Chronicles 29:3, “He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them.” That was in 715 B.C. It is possible the book was hidden during the reign of Queen Athaliah, along with Joash her grandson, in order to prevent the queen from destroying them around 840 B.C. (2 Chronicles 22:11-12).

Hilkiah the high priest gave the book to king Josiah’s scribe Shaphan. “And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes” (2 Kings 22:10-11). We don’t know whether Shaphan read the entire book of the law known as the Pentateuch or just the sections dealing with God’s commandments, but it is likely Shaphan concluded with the book of Deuteronomy which specifies the blessings and curses associated with keeping the law.

Josiah’s reaction to hearing the law indicated he was aware Judah was in trouble. Typically, a person rent his clothes as a sign of mourning, such as when Job received the news that all his children were dead (Job 1:20). Josiah sent several men to inquire of the LORD and he received a message through the prophetess Huldah. She said, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah read” (2 Kins 22:15-16).

The place God was referring to was Jerusalem. The holy city had been corrupted by idolatry and had reached the point where no one cared about the law anymore as evidenced by the high priest’s ignorance of the book of the law’s whereabouts. The good news for Josiah was God would spare him from going into captivity. God told him, “Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place” (2 Kings 22:20).

The problem of sin

When  the Israelites left Egypt, God traveled with them in the form of a pillar of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). While they were in the wilderness, before entering the Promised Land, the Israelites were instructed to make a tent of meeting, referred to as the tabernacle, so that God could dwell or live among his people. The tabernacle was assembled and then torn down every time the Israelites moved from one location to another (Numbers 10:17).

The temple built by king Solomon in Jerusalem was meant to be a permanent home for God (1 Kings 9:3). In connection with this, God made a covenant with Solomon that he would establish his throne for ever and would dwell among his people on the condition that Solomon and his descendants obeyed his commandments. The LORD specifically stated:

But if you shall at all turn from following me, you or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people; and at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto the land, and to his house? And they shall answer, Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them; therefore hath the LORD brought upon them all this evil. (1 Kings 6:6-9)

The Assyrian attack on Jerusalem in 701 B.C. was the first step taken to bring down the city that Solomon erected to glorify God. Referring to Judah’s distress, Isaiah declared, “Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself” (Isaiah 33:10). Solomon’s attempt to contain God in a man-made structure was a failure because God’s presence was dependent on the absence of sin in his people.

Referring to God as a devouring fire, Isaiah asked, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?” (Isaiah 33:14). God wanted to dwell among his people, but his holy nature made it impossible for him to coexist with sinners. The Israelites failed to understand that justification was a requirement for fellowship with God. Referring to the redeemed city of Jerusalem, Isaiah stated, “The people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity” (Isaiah 33:24).

God’s judgment of sin would not be isolated to his people. Ultimately, there would be universal judgment of sin (Isaiah 24:6) in order to eradicate it from God’s creation. Isaiah prophesied that in the end, there would be a complete destruction of God’s enemies.

Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people; let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.

Spiritual reform

Hezekiah’s intentional effort to revive his nation’s worship system began immediately after he became king of Judah. It says in 2 Chronicles 29:3, “He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them.” During his father Ahaz’s reign, idolatry had replaced worship of the LORD and the temple of God had been desecrated by foreigners (2 Kings 16:17-18). Hezekiah took responsibility for his nation’s spiritual reform and acted quickly to make things right again.

Hezekiah saw the connection between Judah’s trouble and the neglect of God’s temple. Hezekiah’s personal commitment to the LORD resulted n a national revival at a time when there was little to no interest in God’s blessing (2 Chronicles 30:10). Much of what Hezekiah did could be attributed to supernatural circumstances or divine intervention. After the temple was restored to daily activity, it was noted that it happened suddenly, as if in the blink of an eye (2 Chronicles 29:36).

The primary focus of Hezekiah’s spiritual reform was restoration of the Passover celebration. The Passover was key to the Israelites relationship with God because it not only represented their deliverance from Egyptian slavery, but also signified their forgiveness of sin. The Day of Atonement was a national celebration in which the priest made reconciliation in order to atone for the sins of all Israel (2 Chronicles 29:34). The sacrifice literally wiped the slate clean for the entire nation in a single moment.

The positive effect of having their sins forgiven resulted in the people of Judah giving generously to support the priest and Levites who served in the temple. It says in 2 Chronicles 31:5, “as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.” The people brought so much stuff to the temple that it took four months to process and store their offerings (2 Chronicles 31:7).

Hezekiah’s spiritual reform shows that the kings influence had a significant impact on the people. His actions were described as “that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 31:20). But, perhaps the best testimony to Hezekiah’s positive spiritual example was the condition of his heart. It says in 2 Chronicles 31:21, “in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart.”


Jehu did not walk in the law of the LORD (2 Kings 10:31), therefore, “the LORD began to cut Israel short; and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel” (2 Kings 10:32). Hazael, the king of Syria, was a ruthless dictator appointed by God to afflict Israel because of their idolatry. Hazael had been in power approximately 12 – 15 years when Johoash a.k.a. Joash began to reign at the age of seven.

While Jehu was alive, Hazael focused on the northern kingdom of Israel. For twenty three years, Johoash had a chance to restore the temple of God and to rid Judah of Baal worship. Jehoash’s plan to reignite the people’s passion for their temple centered on the repair of breaches in the house of God (2 Kings 12:5). The breaches may have been gaps in the exterior wall or the interior chamber known as the Holy of Holies. The temple’s existence for more than a hundred years suggests that the building had become old and worn down.

The temple had been Jehoash’s home for seven years while he was being hidden from Athaliah. No doubt, he was very familiar with the structure and the condition of its chambers. As a child, he probably explored places that no one had entered for years. In spite of his order to collect money and make the repairs, the priests refused to follow Jehoash’s command. By the twenty third year of his reign, nothing had been accomplished(2 Kings 12:6).

One of the problems with furnishing the temple was it attracted attention from the surrounding nations. Solomon’s temple was known for its extravagance. Most of the utensils and furnishings were made of precious metals and had been stolen on previous occasions. If the temple became operational, it could be assumed that treasure was available for the taking. Finally, when the repairs began, “there was not made for the house of the LORD bowls of silver, snuffers, basons, trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 12:13).

After the repairs had been made, Hazael, king of Syria, attacked Jerusalem. “And Jehoash king of Judah took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicate, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of the LORD, and in the king’s house, and sent it to Hazael king of Syria: and he went away from Jerusalem” (2 Kings 12:18).


Night Watch

It’s hard to say what exactly went on in Solomon’s temple because what was prescribed was not always carried out. One of the reasons Israel went into exile was they were not observing certain portions of the law. Temple activities were intended to be continuous, with some things happening on a 24/7 basis. The priests who were responsible for maintaining these activities worked in shifts, rotating in and out over a period of time. Some of them worked through the night during what were called watches. “During Old Testament times the ‘night’ was divided into three watches: from sunset to 10 P.M., from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M., and from 2 A.M. to sunrise” (3915).

I think the hardest part of becoming a mom is attending to the needs of a newborn baby around the clock. Although we are used to sleeping at night, newborns have no awareness of time and do not differentiate between night and day. Their patterns are based on activity in the womb and must be adapted to sleeping only at night.

The Levites that served in the temple had to adapt their behavior to God’s patterns and ways of doing things. It says in Psalm 134:1, “Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.” The word translated stand, amad basically means “to stand upright,” but “cultically (with reference to formal worship activities) this verb is used of approaching the altar to make a sacrifice. It describes the last stage of this approaching, ‘to stand finally and officially’ before the altar (before God; cf Deut 4:11). Such standing is not just standing still doing nothing but includes all that one does in ministering before God (Num 16:9)” (5975).

God’s response

It goes without saying that when we pray, we expect to get an answer, but I wonder, do we really? I’ve heard it said that prayer is supposed to be like having a conversation with God, and yet, I’m still amazed that the first time I prayed, God actually answered me.

When Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, God answered him, but not until several years later. It says in 2 Chronicles 7:11-12, “Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD, and the kings house: and all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of the LORD, and in his own house, he prosperously affected. And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for a house of sacrifice.” It says in 2 Chronicles 8:1 that it took Solomon 20 years to build “the house of the LORD, and his own house,” so it appears God’s response came at least 13 years after Solomon prayed at the temple dedication (1 Kings 6:38 – 7:1).

The obvious question is, why did it take the LORD so long to respond? God operates outside of time, so from his perspective, there was no delay. His response came when the outcome had been decided. Because we have free will, our actions to a certain extent determine God’s responses to our prayers.

God’s response to Solomon contained an if/then statement. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Prayer alone does not get God’s attention. God looks for evidence of repentance in our actions before he intervenes. Even though Solomon prayed on his knees with his hands raised toward heaven, his actions demonstrated his real priorities. Solomon spent seven years building the house of the LORD, “But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years” (1 Kings 7:1).


In addition to being Israel’s king, Solomon was a spiritual leader of the people. His prayer of dedication was an important one because it was made “before all the congregation of Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:13). In order to be certain that everyone could see him, Solomon had a platform erected that was “five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high.” Then he, “kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven” (2 Chronicles 6:13). Most likely, Solomon wanted everyone to know that he worshipped the LORD like his father David had and would depend on God for guidance as he led the people.

Solomon’s prayer of dedication was quite long for a public prayer. He recounted many details of God’s covenant with Israel. The words recorded are probably a summary rather than an exact dictation of what he said. The entire prayer may have lasted as long as 30 – 60 minutes. For Solomon to be on his knees with his hands raised heavenward for that length of time was an excessive display of devotion. I doubt he could not have done it unless he was accustomed to praying in that posture.

It is likely that David taught Solomon how to pray and the two of them may have even prayed together. Solomon had a much different relationship with the LORD than his father David did, but it is clear that Solomon understood the importance and power of prayer.