The measurements of the eastern vestibule area (Ezek 40:6-40:7)

“Then he went

Into the gateway

Facing east.

He went up its steps.

He measured

The threshold

Of the gate,

One reed deep.

There were recesses.

Each recess was

One reed wide

With one reed deep.

The space

Between the recesses

Was five cubits.

The threshold

Of the gate

By the vestibule

Of the gate

At the inner end

Was one reed deep.”

As usual, Ezekiel was very detailed in his descriptions. The bronze man continued to measure various things on the eastern vestibule of the Temple. All the measurements were exactly the same, one reed or 10 feet. The only exception was the space between the recesses or alcoves that was only 5 cubits or about 8 feet. Otherwise, the threshold of the gate was also 10 feet. The recesses or alcoves were symmetrical, 10 feet wide and 10 feet deep.

The wall around the temple (Ezek 40:5-40:5)

“Now there was a wall

All around the outside

Of the temple area.

The length

Of the measuring reed

In the man’s hand

Was six long cubits.

Each cubit

Was a cubit

Plus a handbreadth

In length.

He measured

The thickness

Of the wall,

One reed.

He measured

The height

Of the wall.

One reed.”

Almost like Moses in Exodus, Ezekiel’s vision of the future described what the new Temple should look like. Surprisingly, it was much like the old Temple. There was no indication that the Second Temple was built like this vision of Ezekiel indicated. First, this bronze man was going to measure the wall around the Temple. He took his measuring reed that was 6 long cubits. The long cubit was 4 inches longer or the width of a hand longer than the regular cubit that was about a foot and a half long. When this bronze man measured the thickness and the height of the wall, they were symmetrical, exactly the same, one reed or 6 long cubits, somewhere between about 10 feet high and 10 feet wide, a massive construction.

 

The bronze man (Ezek 40:3-40:4)

“When he brought me there,

A man was there.

His appearance shone

Like bronze.

He had a linen cord

With a measuring reed

In his hand.

He was standing

In the gateway.

The man said to me.

‘Son of man!

Look closely!

Listen attentively!

Set your mind

Upon all

That I shall show you.

You were brought here

In order

That I might show it

To you.

Declare all

That you see

To the house of Israel!’”

Who was this bronze man? He was not a comic book superhero, but a man that appeared to be bronze. Was he a deeply tanned man? Was he an angel of God? Was he God himself? Many have interpreted him as an angel or messenger as in other later Second Temple literature. Genesis, chapter 18, has similar appearances of men who were either angels of God or God himself. Anyway, this bronze man greeted Ezekiel at the gateway. He had in his hand a linen cord to measure short distances and a measuring reed to measure long distances. Then this man also called Ezekiel the son of man, just like Yahweh had. This bronze man told him to look closely and listen attentively. He was to keep his mind focused on what this guy was going to show him. After Ezekiel had seen this, he was then to tell the house of Israel about it. For the next few chapters, this bronze man will be the guide who measured the Temple for Ezekiel.

Food and drink (Ezek 4:11-4:13)

“‘You shall drink

Water

By measure,

One-sixth of a hin.

You shall drink

At fixed times.

You shall eat it

As a barley cake.

You will bake it

In their sight

On human dung.’

Yahweh said.

‘Thus shall

The people of Israel

Eat their bread unclean,

Among the nations

To which I will drive them.’”

Yahweh clearly gave orders about food and drink. Ezekiel had to measure his water.   A hin is about 5 quarts, so that 1/6th of a hin would be a little less than a quart of water, which is a reasonable amount of water. Once again, Ezekiel was to drink it at fixed times. Then he was to eat barley cakes that were baked on human dung. This seems odd. Here, Yahweh seems to say that the people of Israel should eat unclean bread, as long as they were living among strangers in various countries.

The fixed order and Israel (Jer 31:35-31:37)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Who gives the sun

For light by day?

Who has the fixed order

Of the moon

With the stars

For light by night?

Who stirs up the sea

So that its waves roar?

Yahweh of hosts

Is his name.

If this fixed order

Were ever to cease

From my presence,

Then also the descendants

Of Israel

Would cease

To be a nation

Before me forever.’

Says Yahweh.

Thus says Yahweh.

‘If the heavens above

Can be measured,

If the foundations

Of the earth below

Can be explored,

Then I will reject

All the offspring of Israel

Because of all

That they have done.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh says that he makes sure that there is a sun for daylight with the moon and the stars for light at night. Yahweh stirs up the seas so that they roar. It is Yahweh who keeps all this in a fixed order. If these things ceased to exist, then the descendants of Israel would cease to be a nation forever before him. In other words, as long as there is a sun, a moon, stars, and a roaring sea, Israel will be a nation, according to Yahweh.  Yahweh then said that if they could measure the heights of the heavens or the depths of the earth’s foundations, then he would reject the offspring of Israel, because they must have done something wrong.

Divine grandeur (Isa 40:12-40:14)

“Who has measured the waters

In the hollow of his hand?

Who has marked off the heavens

With a span?

Who has enclosed the dust of the earth

In a measure?

Who has weighed the mountains

In scales?

Who has weighed

The hills in a balance?

Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh?

What counselor has instructed him?

Whom did he consult for his enlightenment?

Who taught him the path of justice?

Who taught him knowledge?

Who showed him the way of understanding?”

In a series of questions, Second Isaiah shows the power of God, his greatness. Yahweh is like a great superman. Who is able to measure the great waters in his hand? Who can span the heavens? Who can measure the earth or weigh the mountains and hills? Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh? Who are his counselors? Who taught him enlightenment, justice, knowledge, and understanding? The obvious answer is no one because he could do and know all this by himself, without the help of anyone, since he is the great God.

The ideal wife (Sir 26:13-26:18)

“A wife’s charm

Delights her husband.

Her skill puts flesh

On his bones.

A silent wife is a gift

From the Lord.

There is nothing so precious

As her self-discipline.

A modest wife

Adds charm to charm.

No scales can weigh

The value of her chastity.

Like the sun rising

In the heights of the Lord,

So is the beauty

Of a good wife,

In her well-ordered home.

Like the shining lamp

On the holy lamp stand,

So is a beautiful face

On a stately figure.

Like golden pillars

On sliver bases,

So are shapely legs

With steadfast feet.”

Sirach describes the ideal wife. Her charms delight her husband. Her skills keep him in good health. If she is silent, she is a gift from the Lord. Her self-discipline is precious. Her modesty adds further charms. There is no way to measure her chastity. Her beauty is like a sunrise on the mountains. She keeps a well ordered house. She has a beautiful face on a stately figure, like the holy lamp stand in the Temple. Her legs and feet are like golden pillars on silver bases. Thus we have the ideal wife, charming, disciplined, orderly, and beautiful. There is no indication where you might find such a women.

The greatness of God (Sir 18:1-18:7)

“He who lives forever

Created the whole universe.

The Lord alone is just.

There is no other beside him.

He steers the world

With the span of his hand.

All things obey his will.

He is king of all things

By his power.

He separates the holy things

From the profane.

To none has he given power

To proclaim his works.

Who can search out his mighty deeds?

Who can measure his majestic power?

Who can fully recount his mercies?

It is not possible to diminish or increase them.

It is not possible to fathom the wonders of the Lord.

When human beings have finished,

They are just beginning.

When they stop,

They are still perplexed.”

The eternal God has created the whole universe. The Lord alone is just since there is no one beside him. He steers the world with his hands. Everything obeys his will, since he is the king of all things. The Lord separates the sacred from the profane. No one can proclaim his works, search out his mighty deeds, measure his majestic power, or tell all about his mercy. You cannot increase or decrease his power. You cannot imagine all the wonders of the Lord. Humans think that they are finishing things, but they are only beginning, since they are still perplexed. The Lord is the great creator of this wonderful world.

Divine punishment towards Egypt (Wis 11:15-11:20)

“In return for their foolish thoughts,

In return for their wicked thoughts,

Which led them astray

To worship irrational serpents,

To worship worthless animals,

You sent upon them

A multitude of irrational creatures

To punish them.

Thus they might learn

That one is punished

By the very things

By which one sins.

Your all-powerful hand,

Which created the world out of formless matter,

Did not lack the means to send upon them

A multitude of bears,

Or bold lions,

Or newly created unknown beasts full of rage,

Or such as breathe out fiery breath,

Or belch forth a thick pall of smoke,

Or flash terrible sparks from their eyes.

Not only could the harm they did destroy people,

But the mere sight of them could kill by fright.

Even apart from these,

People could fall at a single breath

When pursued by justice.

They could be scattered by the breath of your power.

But you have arranged all things by measure.

You have arranged all things by number.

You have arranged all things by weight.”

The divine plague punishments could have been much worse for the Egyptians in Exodus, chapters 9-11. In fact, this author implies that God was mild with his punishments because the Egyptians had foolish and wicked thoughts that led them to worship serpents and animals. God very kindly sent them only irrational creatures like frogs, mosquitoes, flies, and gnats to punish them. He could have sent them a multitude of bears or bold lions. He might have sent them unknown beasts full of rage that would breathe out fire and belch out smoke, with flashing terrible sparks in their eyes that could have killed them with fright. God could have made them fall with a single breath or scattered them through the world, but he carefully arranged all this according to his measure, number, and weight.

Yahweh the all powerful (Ps 147:1-147:6)

“Praise Yahweh!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

He is gracious!

A song of praise is fitting.

Yahweh builds up Jerusalem.

He gathers the outcasts of Israel.

He heals the broken hearted.

He binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars.

He gives to all of them their names.

Great is Yahweh!

He is abundant in power.

His understanding is beyond measure.

Yahweh lifts up the downtrodden.

He casts the wicked to the ground.”

Psalm 147 is the second alleluia psalm as praise for Yahweh dominates. Once again there is no beginning title. It almost seems like a continuation of the preceding psalm. They were to all sing praises to Yahweh, another way of saying alleluia, the Hebrew “Hallelujah,” because he is gracious. It is fitting to sing to Yahweh because he built up Jerusalem. He gathered the outcasts. He healed the broken hearted by binding up their wounds. He determined the number and named all the stars. Yahweh is great with abundant power. No one could measure his understanding. He lifted up the downtrodden, but he cast out all those wicked ones to the ground.