Chapter forty begins a new section of Ezekiel, this one devoted to the glorious promise of God to His people for their restoration and future. Ezekiel is taken by God back to the city of Jerusalem.
What might we expect him to see there?
Certainly not what he saw. Josephus, writing in the first century, described what had happened to the city and the temple as follows: And now it was that the king of Babylon sent . . . the general of his army, to Jerusalem, to pillage the temple; who had it also in command to burn it and the royal palace, and to lay the city even with the ground, and to transplant the people into Babylon. Accordingly he came to Jerusalem, in the eleventh year of king Zedekiah, and pillaged the temple, and carried out the vessels of God, both gold and silver, and particularly that large laver which Solomon dedicated, as also the pillars of brass, and their chapiters, with the golden tablets and the candlesticks: and when he had carried these off, he set fire to the temple in the fifth month, the first day of the month, in the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, and in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar; he also burnt the palace, and overthrew the city . . . (Antiquities 10:144-146).
It has been fourteen years since that day. We would expect Ezekiel to see a ruin, weeds everywhere growing up between scattered and charred stone. A ghost town.
But he doesn’t. Instead, he sees a beautiful and well-appointed temple, larger and more grand than anything Solomon ever constructed.
When did this get built?
It didn’t, of course. Ezekiel is seeing Israel’s future, what it could be, if she will simply trust in the Lord.
She never did, and this temple was never built. The plans (drawn out below and taken from Ian Duguid, NIV Application Commentary: Ezekiel (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999) p. 473) stand as a lasting reminder of what can be when we devote ourselves to serving God in His way.