“The Sin Of The Sanctuary” And The Referent Of מקדש In Ezekiel 44 -- By: Nathanael James Warren

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 25:3 (NA 2015)
Article: “The Sin Of The Sanctuary” And The Referent Of מקדש In Ezekiel 44
Author: Nathanael James Warren

“The Sin Of The Sanctuary”
And The Referent Of מקדש In Ezekiel 44

Nathanael James Warren

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

In Ezekiel 44, foreigners are prohibited from entering the sanctuary of Ezekiel’s visionary temple. Past scholars have often read this passage in view of postexilic xenophobic developments in the Israelite attitude toward the foreigner, especially noting the foreigners’ total exclusion from the later Herodian temple precincts, the violation of which was punishable by death. However, I argue that in keeping with common Priestly tradition, Ezekiel reserves the term “sanctuary” (מקדש) for the realm of the Levites and Zadokite priests, that is, specifically the inner court of the temple complex. In light of this interpretation, Ezekiel 44 cannot be read to represent any especial polemic against the foreigner, pagan, or proselyte. Rather, I assert that the traditional place of the foreigner within the cultus of the first temple is understood to be among the native Israelite laity within the outer court of the temple complex.

Key Words: Ezekiel, Pentateuch, gates, foreigner, temple


In Ezek 40:5-37, we see specifications drawn up for six mammoth gates, protecting the north, south, and east entrances of the outer and inner courts of the temple complex, respectively. Moshe Greenberg notes that these gate complexes are so large that they seem “caricatured” in proportion to the rest of the temple.1 These “six-chambered” gates were a common feature of Iron Age fortresses and certain cities (mostly of military significance) throughout the ANE and represent the largest gate structure of Iron IIA and subsequent time periods.2 Daniel Frese notes that the portrayal of

excess was one function of the traditional city gate, which was often designed in physically imposing dimensions to serve as a “symbolic projection of power” and military security.3 Indeed, the three extant six-chambered gates of a consistent architectural form from contemporaneous strata of Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer have long been regarded to reflect a period of strong centralized government within Israel.4 Nonetheless, contrary to Carl Gordon Howie, there is no convincing evidence to support the idea that the six-chambered gates Ezekiel describ...

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