Ezekiel chapters 40 to 47 have fascinated me since I was little: the blueprints for a future Temple! However it is in these chapters more than any other that I wish the Bible included some handy illustrations to go alongside the text.
I've been sitting on this study for a while. It's been more than 15 years since I began working on the subject, and over the years my focus and understanding have shifted considerably. What began as an attempt to model someone else's conclusions (see Henry Sulley) transformed into a study of my own.
When I was 18 I started to learn how to write code in C++. This language allows programmers to write efficient, fast programs that can process a lot of data quickly. Computer games are a good example of this, and playing with frameworks that throw millions of pixels per second around a screen was like having the keys to my own private sweet shop.
I decided to model the Temple of Ezekiel's Prophecy in my own "game engine". This project got a major boost when I went to university and joined forces with my housemate, who was studying Computer Science in the year above me. Soon our whole student house of four was involved, using pizza boxes to map out the plan of the structure in our living room.
This interaction also shifted my focus back to the Bible, rather than the output of someone else's study. I will be forever grateful to my friends for persuading me of the wisdom of this approach.
Armed with some graph paper I started to work through the gate structures to the Temple. Here's what I ended up with (click to open a larger version of each image):
A basic introduction:
The units of measure are 1 royal cubit, about 53cm (21 inches). Measurements taken using either a 6-cubit rod or a measuring line. This translates neatly onto graph paper: one 2mm block represents a cubit.
A simple description would be a 6-roomed corridor (three rooms at either side) with a "porch" structure at the front. There are windows all around, and between gate rooms are pillars in the form of palm trees.
Although the height seems to be given as 60 cubits, there are some interesting idiosyncrasies of verse 14 which warrant their own post. Suffice to say for now that it isn't necessarily the height of the gates that is given. This is an important consideration as it massively influences models of the Temple vision.
The text is by no means conclusive as to the shape of the gateway. A number of descriptions fit. Below are some alternatives that I've favoured over the years which should give some idea as to the range of interpretations.
It was only much later that I found the 6-roomed "gateway" structure had precedent in ancient Israel, and I copied out some diagrams of similar gates from Gezer, Megiddo, Lachish, Hazor and Ashdod.
It is interesting to consider how Ezekiel would have reacted to this vision, as these gate rooms or guard houses typically found in the entrance to a city, are now found in the Temple. The same word is used to describe guard chambers in the King's house:
"...and King Rehoboam made in their place shields of bronze, and committed them to the hands of the officers of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house. And as often as the king went into the house of the LORD, the guard carried them and brought them back to the guardroom." - 1 Kings 14:27-28, ESV
Guardrooms are associated with city gates and royalty more than ritual Temple worship. Perhaps this is a hint at the combined roles of priest and king, the man "after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb 7), whose return will herald the construction of this great building.
I'll wind up this post with an early picture of the 3D engine that we built to simulate the Temple vision. As we move through the temple in forthcoming posts the vision will be laid out in increasing detail, and I'll begin to draw out some practical lessons and address many common questions and objections.