Esther in Ezekiel’s Temple

EzekielsTemple 3D-S

The final vision of Ezekiel is one of the most hotly debated passages in the Bible. Since the structure described has never been built, those who take the passage as fulfilled in history believe it to be figurative. However, the building is described in such careful detail that common sense suggests that something else is going on. The precise measurements remind us of the instructions given concerning the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple for the purpose of physical construction. Is Ezekiel’s temple a false prophecy, or does it describe a third, and as yet unbuilt, Temple in Jerusalem?

Covenant Context

The destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus brought an end to the new covenant. This was not the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood, but the new covenant predicted by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. This was the covenant ratified by Haggai and Zechariah, and established by Ezra and Nehemiah. Just as Israel’s idolatry before Sinai resulted in a new set of tablets, so her idolatry under the kings would also result in a “new law.” This is what Jeremiah 31 speaks of, and it is only referred to in the letter to the Hebrews as a type of the greater events occurring in the first century. We must not let the later allusion obscure the original meaning and Covenant context of Jeremiah’s promise to the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

So, the first “new Jerusalem” was the city rebuilt after the exile, but as with all new bodies constructed through an experience of death and resurrection (beginning with Eve), the new version was “bridal.” Just as David’s restored Tabernacle included Gentile worshipers, so Nehemiah’s new Jerusalem was part of a Jew-Gentile construct, an architecture which more truly represented the nations, which through his “servant” Nebuchadnezzar God had put under the umbrella of empire. Before the exile, only the Temple was holy. After the exile, Jerusalem was described as the “holy city” for the first time. (This information is all background, and you can find it in greater detail in the works of Jordan and Leithart.)

Architectural Context

It is interesting that the first constructed element of this revived worship was the altar (Ezra 3). Its four corners represented the four corners of the Land. The place of sacrifice outside the house was always Adamic, but the house itself was always “Evian.” This is the difference between the bronze altar (earthy) and the golden altar (heavenly). The altar was a place of death, and the house was a place of resurrection. The construction of a new altar of sacrifice represented the death of “four cornered” Israel in Babylon. The construction of the Temple itself represented her rebirth. So, together, these represented an Israel cleansed by a national death under the laws of God and a national resurrection by the Spirit of God.

Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

Literary Context

When Peter tells us that judgment begins at the house of God, this is not a new revelation. It is an observation based upon the repeated patterns of Israel’s history. God calls the prophet who speaks to Israel, which results in judgments. These flow out into the nations around Israel. But the pattern is chiastic. The word of God is not only sent out but it (or He) returns. Just as it is with Covenant, the ministry of prophecy is always a tour of duty. (Leithart has also suggested that the New Testament follows this pattern, and I believe he is correct.)

We see this pattern in the book of Ezekiel, hence the judgments upon Canaanite nations in the center of the book. But what happens after that? God takes Israel’s “Adamic” bones (Jeremiah 8:1-2; Ezekiel 6:5-7) and starts putting new flesh upon them. This should remind us not only of the Israelite nation constructed upon the bones of Joseph and lifted up “on eagle’s wings” out of death in Egypt, but the original type found in Genesis 2. Ezekiel 37, the rebirth of Israel after exile, is the word of God returning from Babylon with a new body. This then gives us the context of Ezekiel 38-39, which describe the plot of Haman the Agagite to destroy this revived nation. (Remember that out of all the nations in Canaan, only Israel regained status as a kingdom. Ham was indeed cut off.)

‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates…’ (Ezekiel 38:11)

So, since the old Temple and its unholy city are judged and destroyed at the beginning of Ezekiel, the new Temple described at its end must have its historical referent in events immediately following the book of Esther. The question of the reason for the meticulous detail remains.

Architecture as Promise

The failure of exegesis on both sides of this debate to understand that all sacred architecture in the Bible is form of promise is a problem. The gold, silver, and precious stones of the house of God were always signs prefiguring a holy human culture. What was built by God’s Spirit-filled craftsmen was to be measured out and constructed of people. The long architectural descriptions were recorded to edify out hearts, and not merely in a general sense. Each detail is significant, a puzzle for us to meditate upon.

This typological language explains why Paul considered the physical riches of Herod’s temple to be spiritual wood, hay and stubble, and “the day of the Lord” in AD70 declared it to be so. Spiritually, Herodian worship was “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17), so Jesus counseled the rich to buy from him a better grade of gold, something everlasting. (This failure concerning architectural types also underpins the erroneous identification of the harlot in Revelation with Rome, since her riches are listed as precious and exotic merchandise.)

This means that the place of Jerusalem and Israel within the Gentile oikoumene beginning with the induction of Joshua the High Priest and ending with the High Priesthood of Jesus, the greater Joshua, is given to us in the careful architecture of Ezekiel’s Temple. But to understand this development, we must think like God does, and that is, in fractals. Before your eyes glaze over, this is the same process we find in nature. For instance, think about growth rings in trees. The constant addition of new life at the center results in the expansion of the boundary of the trunk. My argument here is not only that the resurrection of Israel was new life at the center of an expanded boundary (explained by Jordan), but that this is expressed architecturally in the vision of Ezekiel’s Temple. The ministry of the priesthood in these chapters was never followed by men, yet it was fulfilled by God. These sacrifices of God were true offerings, beginning with a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).

Esther in God’s Court

The 500 year oikoumene was a Jew-Gentile construct, beginning with the ministry of Daniel in Babylon which was then measured out as the marriage of two cities: the citadel of Susa and the city of Jerusalem. In Esther, however, Israel’s people are described as dwelling in unwalled cities, secure under the shelter of their Persian emperor. The author of Esther subtly contrasts the walled nature of the Gentile capital with the unwalled towns of Israel, disregarding the walls rebuilt by Nehemiah. Why? Because Israel’s victories over her post-exile enemies, including Haman, would not be “by might.” The bloody “Adamic” Israel was dead. The New Israel was the prophetic Eve, calling down the curses of the Covenant upon the serpent felled by her Adam.

This explains the careful “Tabernacle”-like architectural descriptions at the beginning of Esther. Representing all Israel, this young woman would stand in the court of the king on what can only be described as a “crystal sea,” the court not of priestly Israel (the laver), nor of kingly Israel (the bronze sea) but of prophetic Israel. Ezekiel’s Temple was neither a single basin, nor a sea with ten basins on chariots prepared for spiritual warfare, but an actual flow of living water into the nations.

So, Jerusalem’s new Temple was little more than a token because it was part of a bigger picture, fractally-speaking. All of Persia, its provinces dotted with synagogues, was now the city of God, with the original city serving as its holy, three-tiered altar (Ezekiel 43:13-17). The entire kingdom of Israel was now serving as a holy priesthood, hence the requirement in Ezra for evidence of genealogy not only for priests but for all Israelites. In this final vision, the Israel which resurfaced from the flood of Babylonian troops was merely the place of death, and the city of Susa was the place of resurrection. As Jordan argues in Through New Eyes, the true glory of Israel during this Restoration Covenant was a spiritual glory, the word being taught – and vindicated – across the empire. But if we understand the architectural details of Ezekiel’s Temple as speaking of events which were later fulfilled, we might be able to shed some more light on their significance. This would explain why the action in Esther, resulting in the cleansing of all nations between India and Ethiopia, flowed not from Jerusalem but from the capital of the Gentile empire. Daniel and his three friends offered themselves up before a Gentile king that old Israel might die – an Adamic ministry outside the house. Esther offered herself up before a Gentile king that a new Israel might be a faithful witness and live – a fragrant Evian ministry inside the house.

The End of the Oikoumene

The “fractal” work of God took another leap forward in the first century. In this New Jerusalem, a building would not be required at all, though the Church is indeed a tangible building, as tangible as its Head (1 John 1).

So, the Revelation is not a description of the Jewish war, though it is part of the outcome. It is a liturgy describing the sacrifice of Israel once again for the sake of the empire. However, the offering up of Herod’s Jerusalem in a spectacle of blood, fire and smoke was only part of the proceedings. Since the four imperial beasts on the Land in Daniel 7 are representatives of the four beasts beneath the throne of God in heaven, they perhaps represent the four corners of the territory described in terms of sacred architecture in Ezekiel. The entire oikoumene was now an altar, a place for the shedding of Adamic blood for the sake of all nations, not merely the ones within this first century “world.”

It is perhaps no coincidence then that the burning of Rome, the “heavenly court” of the Gentiles, occurred in the same year as the completion of the Temple intended to vindicate Judah in the face of the judgment of Jesus and His apostles. The entire oikoumene was now offered up, with persecutions and massacres occurring right across the empire before the destruction of not only Israel’s priesthood but Rome’s imperial order as well. This is why the book of Revelation carefully follows the pattern laid down by Ezekiel. It does not describe the same events. It describes similar events occurring at a much greater scale. It seems that just as the Temple altar was the first element to be constructed, so it was the last of these stoicheia to be dissolved by fire (2 Peter 3:10). (That fact that it was a thousand years between the construction of Solomon’s Temple and the destruction of Herod’s Temple might also explain Peter’s millennial reference.)

francescohayez

How are we to understand the architectural details given to us in the Revelation? As promises concerning the establishment, delegation of authority, ministry, rewards and final glory of the current “new Jerusalem,” the Church of God.

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Related articles:
Peter Leithart, Jewish War.
Daniel the Destroyer
Esther and the Ten Words
Ezekiel’s Numbers
For A Thousand Years

Top image: www.bibliaprints.com

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3 Responses to “Esther in Ezekiel’s Temple”

  • David Says:

    So when you write that Titus brought an end to the ‘New Covenant’ (but not Jesus New Covenant), it sounds like there was an Old Covenant and a New Covenant in the Old Testament, and then another New Covenant brought in by Jesus in the New Testament? (I know that Covenant and Testament have the same meaning).
    Thanks,
    -David

  • David Says:

    Also, for the benefit of other readers – do you think that there is any significance to the re-birth of Israel as a nation in May of 1948? and what do you think of the efforts going on right now to re-built the Temple (for the third time)?

    Thanks,
    -David

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Thanks David

    Firstly, God deals in fractals. The new tablets at Sinai were effectively a new covenant. So was the law given to the new generation of Israel in Deuteronomy. Each time the Covenant was renewed, it reflected a greater maturity, and also became the watershed between the old and new. The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood effectively made all the others the “old.”

    Good question. Since I believe the office of Jew no longer exists, there is no Covenant significance. Circumcision and the Land were related promises which were fulfilled and transcended in Christ, the only true offspring. In that respect, things are now as they were before the institution of circumcision, except that baptised Christians are an army of Noahs, a cleansing flood of humanity.

    Rebuilding the Temple means two things: that Christ has not come in the flesh (as the foundation of the true temple), that Christ’s blood was not sufficient, and that Christ has not ascended to heaven as the centre of true worship (since the Tabernacles and Temples were the centre of worship on earth, much like the claims of Rome). Also, Rabbinic Judaism is such a perverted version of Judaism it is almost unrecognisable. If they do manage to rebuild a Temple it would simply be a centre for the cult invented by the Rabbis in their rejection of Christ. See…

    http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2012/07/05/when-judaism-jumped-the-shark/

    Thanks for the questions.