Ezekiel 45:18-19, Ezekiel Changes the Law

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In the first month on the first day you are to take a young bull without defect and purify the sanctuary. The priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar and on the gateposts of the inner court.

//In these verses, Ezekiel describes the new Temple in God’s glorious new age (which he expects to occur as soon as the Jews are released from captivity in Babylon and allowed to return to Judea), and explains how a young bull is to be sacrificed as a sin offering in the first month of the year (Springtime, on the Jewish calendar). The odd thing about this is that this atonement sacrifice is supposed to be made in the Fall, during the Day of Atonement. Instead, Ezekiel moves the sacrifice to around the time of the Passover celebration. It is as if he merges the Fall and Spring festivals into one, with Passover absorbing the Day of Atonement.

Scholars argue about the reason for Ezekiel’s change of instructions. Some feel it illustrates nothing more than Ezekiel feeling free to creatively describe multiple Old Testament rituals with a single brush stroke. Others note that the instructions for applying the blood of the bull to the “upper ledge” and “gateposts” sounds an awful lot like the instructions God gave Israel for the blood of the lamb at Passover time.

I see the same thing in John’s Gospel. John doesn’t write chronologically, but purposefully tells the story of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem over and over, under the banner of different festival themes: The Feast of Booths, Hanukkah, Passover. It’s as if all of the feasts have been merged into one. Why?

Perhaps because nearly every feast has at the core of its tradition an expectation of the Messiah’s arrival. A dream of the Messiah arriving during that feast. But Jesus can’t come during them all, can he? He can only come once.

So, John, and Ezekiel before him, combine the major feasts into one.

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