Duties of Temple Priests
Verse 1 – Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut.
Verse 2 – And the Lord said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.
There were several reasons for this east gate to remain shut; one, God Himself came through the east gate and no man could walk where God had entered. Second, no one would ever be able to stand there and worship the sun again because it rises in the east. Today in Jerusalem the gate known as the “Golden Gate” remains sealed.
Verse 3 – “As for the prince, because he is the prince, he may sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway, and go out the same way.”
Verse 4 – Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; so I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord; and I fell on my face.
Verse 5 – And the Lord said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes and hear with your ears, all that I say to you concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord and all its laws. Mark well who may enter the house and all who go out from the sanctuary.
Ezekiel here is depicted as the new Moses. After the entrance of God into the temple, God revealed statutes and laws to His prophet.
Verse 6 – “Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “O house of Israel, let us have no more of all your abominations.
Verse 7 – “When you brought foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to defile it – My house – and when you offered My food, the fat and the blood, then they broke My covenant because of your abominations.
Verse 8 – “And you have not kept charge of My holy things, but you have set others to keep charge of My sanctuary for you.”
This may refer to the practice of using foreigners as guards in the temple.
Verse 9 – ‘Thus says the Lord God: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel.
Ezekiel’s vision was for a restored, purified worship, where only those who prepared themselves physically and spiritually could participate.
Verse 10 – “And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after idols, they shall bear their iniquity.
Jeroboam, who set up a new worship, got as many of the priests he could to join him in idol worship. These priests “shall bear their iniquity,” means they would not return to their rank or privileges.
Verse 11 – “Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offerings and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them.
Ministers – Servants employed in the lowest work. Sanctuary, not the temple itself, but about the courts of it. They would be servants to the priests.
Verse 12 – “Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have lifted My hand in an oath against them,” says the Lord God, “that they bear their iniquity.
Verse 13 – “And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priests, nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place; but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed.
These were the ones that were there before the temple was destroyed, allowed idol worship and abominations to defile the temple. They would no longer be called priests.
Verse 14 – “Nevertheless I will make them keep charge of the temple, for all its work, and for all that has to be done in it.
Verse 15 – “But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,” says the Lord God.
Zadok’s descendants are mentioned because they had remained faithful to God, while others had become corrupt. Zadok’s descendants were considered the true priestly line throughout the time between the Old and New Testament.
Verse 16 – “They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge.
Verse 17 – “And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court or within the house.
No wool. Why? Because wool was more apt than linen to contract dirt and breed insects. It also caused them to perspire which was considered defiling.
Verse 18 – “They shall have linen turbans on their heads and linen trousers on their bodies; they shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat.
Verse 19 – “When they go out to the outer court, to the outer court to the people, they shall take off their garments in which they ministered, leave them in the holy chambers, and put on other garments; and in their holy garments they shall not sanctify the people.
Verse 20 – “Nor shall they shave their heads, nor let their hair grow long; but they shall keep their hair well-trimmed.
Verse 21 – “No priest shall drink wine when he enters the inner court.
Verse 22 – “They shall not take as wife a widow or a divorced woman, but take virgins of the descendants of the house of Israel, or widows of priests.
It’s pretty plain that God did not forbid the priest to marry.
Verse 23 – “And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
Verse 24 – “In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments. They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths.
Verse 25 – “They shall not defile themselves by coming near a dead person. Only for father or mother, for son or daughter, for brother or unmarried sister may they defile themselves.
Verse 26 – “After he is cleansed, they shall count seven days for him.
Verse 27 – “And on the day that he goes to the sanctuary to minister in the sanctuary, he must offer his sin offering in the inner court,” says the Lord God.
Verse 28 – “It shall be, in regard to their inheritance, that I am their inheritance. You shall give them no possession in Israel, for I am their possession.
Verse 29 – “They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering; every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs.
Verse 30 – “The best of all firstfruits of any kind, and every sacrifice of any kind from all your sacrifices, shall be the priests; also you shall give the priests the first of your ground meal, to cause a blessing to rest on your house.
Verse 31 – “The priests shall not eat anything, bird or beast, that died naturally or was torn by wild animals.
These laws were originally given to God’s people in the desert. They are recorded in Exodus and Leviticus. They reveal approaching God respectfully, and they give guidelines for the priests to live above reproach. They had a huge responsibility of teaching the people to discern between clean and unclean.