Ezekiel 43:13–27

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The laws of the temple that Ezekiel is to give to the people include not only the holy precinct of the temple, but also the instructions of the altar and how it is to be consecrated for use in worship. Because the measurements for the altar specify that they are the long cubit, roughly equivalent to 21 inches or a bit more than half a meter, the whole construction is really large. It is set up as a series of ledges like a ziggurat with the base being 14 long cubits on a side. Since the ledges are two and four cubits tall, there are steps on the eastern side of the altar for the priests to climb.

But the priests aren’t supposed to climb steps to any altar for the Lord, according to Exodus 20:26. That said, the reason given for this prohibition never really applied, because the priests were given undergarments as part of their vestements anyway, specifically to prevent their nakedness from being exposed during worship. In addition to the theological implications of nudity and clothing present throughout the Bible, this was a cultural distinctive for the Israelites in the ancient Near East. This is only speculation, but perhaps when this altar is constructed the steps will serve a new purpose because religious nudity is and will be far less prevalent than it was in the time of Moses.

The Lord gives instructions for the dedication and consecration of the altar. Again the family of Zadok is singled out for the purpose of offering the sacrifices on it. I promise the reason for this is coming soon. The first sacrifice is a bull, it’s blood put on the horns, ledge, and rim of the altar, but the rest of it are burned outside the sacred area. This was the common practice for the sin offering, which was for atoning for unintentional sins. The author of Hebrews compares the Crucifixion to a sin offering because Christ died outside of the city as well. After this initial sin offering, a goat is offered as a sin offering, and a bull and a ram are offered each day as a burnt offering with salt for a whole week. Once these are completed, the altar is consecrated and the people may again offer sacrifices to the Lord as they once had.

The cost of our sin is greater by far than all the animals we could ever sacrifice. Your mercy to us is greater than we can recognize.

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