VII. Ezekiel’s Plan of the Restored Temple. Ezekiel, being a true prophet, fully realized that the fundamental question regarding the future of his race was not whether they would be restored to their home but whether or not they would guard against the mistakes and sins of the past and live in accord with Jehovah’s just demands. The solution of this question which he proposes reveals his priestly training. With infinite pains and detail he develops the plan of a restored temple and ritual. The details were doubtless in part suggested by his remembrance of the temple at Jerusalem and in part taken from the great temples of Babylon. By means of this elaborate picture he declared his firm conviction that his race would surely be restored. His chief purpose, however, was to impress upon the minds of his people the transcendent holiness of Jehovah and the necessity that he be worshipped by a holy people. The entire plan of the temple, of the ritual, and even of the allotment of the territory of Canaan was intended to enforce this idea. His plan, if adopted, was calculated to deliver the people from the temptations and mistakes of the past. With this end in view Jehovah’s sacred abode was guarded with massive double walls and huge gateways. Only the priests were allowed to enter the inner court, and a sharp distinction was made between the priests who were the descendants of Zadok and the Levites whose fathers had ministered at the many sanctuaries scattered throughout the land of Israel. The territory immediately adjacent to the temple was assigned to the priests and Levites, and its sanctity was further guarded on the east and west by the domains of the prince. His chief function was, not to rule, as had the selfish and inefficient tyrants who had preceded him, but to provide the animals and the material requisite for the temple service. The territory on the north and the south of the temple was assigned to the different tribes of Israel.
No political or social problems clouded the prophet’s vision. The entire energies of priest, Levite, prince, and people were to be devoted to the worship of the Holy One, whose restored and glorified sanctuary stood in their midst. Thus it was that Ezekiel reversed the ideals of the pre-exilic Hebrew state and presented that programme which with many modifications was adopted in principle at least by the post-exilic Judean community. In place of the monarchy appeared the hierarchy; instead of the king the high priest became both the religious and the civil head of the nation. Soon the Davidic royal line disappeared entirely, and the interests of the people centred more and more about the temple and its ritual. Although Ezekiel’s vision was not and could not be fully realized, except by a series of miracles, this devoted priest-prophet of the exile was in a large sense the father of Judaism.