“And the burnt offering that the prince shall offer unto Jehovah in the sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish” (Ezekiel 46:4) David Rice
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There are five parts to the book of Ezekiel.
(1) Chapters 1-24 give various visions, chastisement, and prophecies about Israel.
(2) Chapters 25-32 are about Gentile nations near Israel: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Egypt.
(3) Chapters 33-36 return to Israel as the subject, specially the leaders of Israel, though the brother nation of Edom is included.
(4) Chapters 37-39 are about Israel’s return to their land, the subsequent invasion by Gog, and God’s deliverance of Israel through the Armageddon threat.
(5) Ezekiel closes with a nine-chapter extended vision of the Kingdom.
Our study for this article is from this last segment. This vision is often called the vision of Ezekiel’s Temple, because it includes a lengthy description of a Temple that, like the Temple of Solomon, represents God’s work of atonement to recover the world. During the Millennial Kingdom thus described, mankind will be restored to life. Israel will be the earthly center of this Kingdom and from there the blessings of life will extend to others.
Beginning of the Year
Ezekiel 40:1 tells us that the vision was given “in the beginning of the year,” the 25th year of Ezekiel’s captivity. The expression “beginning of the year” designates month seven, which during the captivity of Israel came to be called Tishri, the name used today. This month was called Ethanim previously (1 Kings 8:2). The name Tishri is derived from the Babylonian month Tashritu.
One might wonder if the “beginning of the year” intends to designate month one, but there are three considerations against this.
(1) Month “one” is twice explicitly referred to by number in Ezekiel 29:17 and Ezekiel 30:20, but month “seven” is never called out by number in Ezekiel.
(2) The regnal years of the Judean kingdom went from Autumn to Autumn, not spring to spring. See, for example, 2 Kings 22:3 and the following narrative until 2 Kings 23:23, where it is apparent that the year numbers did not increase at the beginning of month one of the year.
(3) Even to this day, “Rosh Hashanah” — the Jewish New Year Day — is the first day of Tishri.
The fact that Ezekiel’s vision is given “in the beginning of the year” is notable, because on other occasions the beginning of a new year is symbolic of a new age in the Divine Plan. For example, the construction of the Tabernacle represents the beginning of the Gospel Age, and the Tabernacle was reared up on the first day, of the first month, of the second year from the Exodus (Exodus 40:1,17). The date when the flood was dried, representing the end of the curse and the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, was the first day, of the first month, of year 601 of Noah’s life (Genesis 8:13).
Day of Atonement
The fact that Ezekiel’s “new year” commenced in month seven is meaningful because the specific day of the vision was “the tenth day of the month” (Ezekiel 40:1). That was the Day of Atonement. How appropriate that the vision of Millennial blessings for the world coincided with the day in Israel’s customs that represents reconciling God with man. Later in Ezekiel 47:10, there is a reference to the place names Engedi and Enegliam connected with the waters of life. These place names mean the fountain, or spring, of the goats and of the two bullocks, respectively. This connection to the sin offerings of the atonement day strengthen the symbolism that the theme of the vision is the atonement and restoration of mankind.
The Day of Atonement was even more special if it fell on year 50 of a Jubilee cycle. The trumpet of jubilee would sound at the close of that day, signalling a release for all servants and a return to lost inheritances. This is symbolic of the release of mankind during the kingdom and their return to the inheritance lost in Adam. If one compares Ezekiel 1:1, 2 with Ezekiel 40:1, it is apparent that this vision came on a year numbered 50. That this was a jubilee year, the one pointed forward to in Ezekiel 7:13, is supported by Rabbinic testimony.1
The Kingdom of God
Ezekiel 40:2 says that Ezekiel was taken in spirit to the land of Israel and was set “upon a very high mountain, by which was the frame of a city on the south.” The high mountain pictures the Kingdom of God. John the Revelator was also taken to a high mountain when he saw a vision of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 21:10). The city on the south pictures a government pertaining to earth.
There are many rich lessons about the Kingdom introduced in these chapters. Four classes are mentioned in them: Priests (Church), Levites (Great Company), the Prince (Ancient Worthies), and the people of the land (world of mankind). Ezekiel 47 contains a well known depiction of a river of life flowing from the throne that reminds us of Revelation 22:1 and following. This river in Ezekiel began as a stream passing by the south side of the altar, indicating that this is the time for the blessings of life, contingent upon the sacrifices of the altar, to flow to the world during the earthly kingdom.2
Ezekiel proceeded a thousand cubits and found the water ankle-deep, a thousand cubits further they were knee-deep, a thousand more they were waist deep, and a thousand more the depth is all-encompassing, over the head. So will the blessings continue to aggregate and cover everyone. The progressive measure — 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000 — suggests that this river flows to bless the world during the Millennial Age.3
Let us now focus on chapter 46 of Ezekiel. We will concentrate on the first 13 verses. Already we know to expect something about the Millennial Kingdom, from the context of other, more familiar parts of the vision, such as those mentioned above.
Verse 1 — “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.”
This gate will provide access for the people of the land to approach God. But it is shut, unavailable, for the six working days. It seems readily apparent that this depicts the 6000 years, six millennial “days” of sin and death when mankind is estranged from God. However, on the sabbath day the gates will be opened. This depicts that on the 7th Millennium, the Millennial Reign of Christ, the world will have access to God in a way that hitherto they had not.
There is also another day when this access is granted. “And in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.” This is a second way of representing the Kingdom, but this time from a Jewish perspective. The whole world of Gentiles has been under the curse for 6000 years, so the first picture fits them all. But the day of the new moon pertains uniquely to Israel.
A new moon is the beginning of a month, when the moon is at low ebb, but it begins increasing in visibility, brightness, and size of illumination, night by night. This pictures the status of Israel in the Kingdom. They will turn to God for deliverance, the Ancient Worthies will be raised to help them, and they will then learn that Jesus is their blessed Messiah. Thereafter they will look unto “him whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10, John 19:37)4
At the first advent of Christ, Jesus was rejected by Israel and crucified at the time of full moon. This represented that with the presence of Jesus they were at a high point of favor, but because they did not receive him as a nation, their prospects dimmed day by day, just as the moon waned day by day. Here in Ezekiel 46:1 it is just the opposite. Now the blessings toward Israel will increase day by day. The gates will be opened on this day of Israel’s increasing favor, following their recognition of Jesus.
Verse 2 — In this verse the prince (the Ancient Worthies) approach God by the opened gate also. The prince will “enter by the way of the porch of that gate,” and stand by the post of the gate, where the priests will serve by offering burnt offerings and peace offerings on their behalf. We will discuss a little later the meaning of these kinds of offerings. For now we merely give our opinion that the burnt offerings express the appreciation of the offerer for the redemption secured by Christ, and the peace offerings represent devotion and consecration based on their redemption and clean standing before God. The priests receive these offerings as representatives of God.
This verse also stipulates that the gates will be open all day, “not … shut until the evening.” So this access will be available all throughout the Millennial “day.”
Verse 3 — “Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before Jehovah in the sabbaths and in the new moons.” Access will be granted worldwide to all people, freely.
Verse 4 — “And the burnt offering that the prince shall offer unto Jehovah in the sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish.” Apparently the prince is offering these on behalf of the people of the land of whom he is the prince, as well as himself. The reference to six lambs brings us directly to the title of our discussion, “Six Lambs.”
This is an unusual number of sacrifices. When multiple lambs were offered in the Law, most often the number was seven. For example, on all of these occasion, seven lambs were offered: New Moons, the week of Unleavened Bread (daily), Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Seven seems appropriate, for it is a number of good, blessing, and benefit.
Some have observed that the number seven is at the heart of the Hebrew word for “oath,” so that for one to bind himself completely (as by an oath) is to “seven” oneself. Notice Genesis 21:28, where seven lambs are a token of an oath between Abraham and Abimelech. Because of the association between this number, and the concept of an oath, seven became attached to the oath-bound Abrahamic Covenant. Perhaps this is why this number is so widely used in the outworking of God’s Plan of blessing, affirmed with His oath.
But here, in Ezekiel 46:4, the number of lambs is conspicuously different. It is six. Why?
It is because mankind, through the leadership of the Ancient Worthies, begins to appreciate the redemption God has brought to them to relieve them from the curse of sin and death that endured for six millenniums. The concept expressed in the “six working days” of verse one is the key to understanding why “six lambs” are offered by the Prince on behalf of the people.
Another animal was offered with them, a ram. What is the difference between one of the six lambs, and this ram? It is not a gender difference. All of these are male offerings. We know that because they are all burnt offerings, and all burnt offerings must be males (Leviticus 1:3,10). They are both the same kind of animal, namely sheep. The difference is age. The lambs are immature, the ram is fully mature.
We suggest that the ram is the offering of appreciation by the Ancient Worthies who are already mature, spiritually, because of their devotion in their former life. Whereas the world of mankind, just coming to God in a meaningful way, are relatively immature — six lambs.
Verse 5 — “And the meat [meal] offering shall be an ephah for a ram, and the meat [meal] offering for the lambs as he shall be able to give, and an hin of oil to an ephah.”
These measures for the meal offering are both unusual. There was a standard formula in the Law for such things. Numbers 15:1-12 records this. A meal offering for a lamb is 1/10 of an ephah (called 1/10 of a “deal” in the King James version). For a ram it is 2/10 of an ephah. But in Ezekiel 46:5 these are both different.
In Ezekiel, the meal offering for the ram is a full ephah, and that for each of the six lambs is “as he shall be able to give.” The latter amount is a merciful provision for the “young” members of the world just learning to approach God. He does not impose the standard upon them because they are not yet well developed. “As he shall be able to give” is all that is required.
However, for the Ancient Worthies, who are raised perfect in being as a reward for their faith, a class who have undergone difficulty and development, they can yield even more than the previous standard. They can yield a full measure, a full ephah with their offering.
The meal offering is one of five designated offerings in Leviticus, chapters one through seven. It signifies activity, service, zeal, in appreciation for what God has done for them. This will be of a high measure for the Ancient Worthies, but a lower measure for the world as they begin to learn.
Verse five stipulates “a hin of oil to an ephah,” which is a generous amount, more than stipulated in Numbers 15. This probably represents that God will pour out His Spirit abundantly, so that there is an ample portion for all who are properly motivated. “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28).
Verse 6 — “And in the day of the new moon it shall be a young bullock without blemish, and six lambs, and a ram: they shall be without blemish.” The difference between the sabbath offerings, and the new moon offerings, is one animal: a young bullock.
A bullock is simply a bull, a bovine male.5 However, bulls can live a long while, and this text stipulates a “young” bull. This is a grown animal, it is not a calf, but neither is it fully matured as an older specimen would be. This young bullock, offered only on the day of the new moon, apparently pertains in some way to Israel, because the day of the new moon is specifically an Israelite connection, and this offering is the only distinction as compared to the sabbath offerings.
This seems to indicate the place of Israel in the kingdom arrangement. The lambs pertain to the world of mankind having been under the curse for six millenniums (thus six lambs). The young bullock, an offering of higher grade, pertains to Israel who will have a higher standing nationally as the kingdom begins. When Zechariah 12:10 is fulfilled at the outset of the Kingdom, Israel will have received the Ancient Worthies, recognized their Messiah, and thanked God for divine intervention. This will place them at an advantage in progressing up the Highway of Holiness, and introducing the benefits of the kingdom to others.
Verse 7 — A full ephah for a meal offering accompanies both the bullock and the ram (Israel and the Ancient Worthies). This full measure of appreciation will be exhibited in their obedience to God, and in their service to the world. On this day of the new moon the meal offering for the lambs remains, as on the sabbath day, “as his hand shall attain unto.” God will accept whatever good spirited obedience and cooperation the world will be able to yield in their developing state.
Verses 8, 9 — Verse eight stipulates that the gate used by the prince to approach God is the same gate to be used in his egress. By contrast, in verse nine, the people of the land entering by the north gate will leave by the south gate, and vice versa. In other words, their direction of travel will be straight. Perhaps this stipulation means that the world will need to take special care to “make straight paths for [their] feet” to overcome and avoid the tendencies toward sin (Hebrews 12:13). Whereas the Ancient Worthies, more developed and tried by experience, will have more liberties.
Verse 10 — “And the prince in the midst of them, when they go in, shall go in; and when they go forth, shall go forth.” This apparently shows that the world will need the company and assistance of the Ancient Worthies to properly approach God in a holy, reverent, and obedient way.
Verse 11 says that in the various feasts and solemn special occasions, the meal offerings for specified animals will match those of the sabbath and new moon days. Verse 12 shows that the Ancient Worthies will yield voluntary offerings to demonstrate their appreciation to God, including peace offerings, which denote commitment, devotion, consecration. Nothing is said in these texts about the world giving peace offerings. The world will eventually become devoted, of course. But the contrast of affirming peace offerings by the Ancient Worthies, but not from the world, perhaps shows the consecrated service of the former, as distinguished with the obedient, but not as sacrificial or zealous, compliance by the world — at least as the Millennium gets underway.
Verse 13 speaks of the daily burnt offering, prepared every morning. Conspicuously absent is a second lamb in the evening, as was customary in the Tabernacle and Temple. It is as though both offerings are now combined into a single offering.
For some time, this writer has believed that the two daily lambs that were customary pertain to Israel (in the morning) and Gentiles (in the afternoon). In accord with this, the Pentecostal blessing came on Jewish Christians in the morning, and the call of the Gentiles came to Cornelius and his gathering in the afternoon (Acts 2:15, 10:3,30). But during the Kingdom the two classes will gradually merge. Israelites of course are still part of the world of mankind. But in an important sense, mankind will merge into Israel. They will accept the Messiah of Israel and have the principles of Israel’s new covenant inscribed onto each heart. Gentiles thus will “proselyte” into the household of faith.
The meal offering for these lambs is unique. Rather than 1/10 of an ephah as stipulated in Numbers 15, it is to be one sixth of an ephah. This is more than customary, not quite double, almost to account for the whole amount that would have been offered for the customary two daily lambs. The reduction from a double 2/10, one fifth part, to one sixth part, reminds us of the six days of labor, and the six lambs. Everyone, Israelite or Gentile, has been under the 6000 year curse.
The one lamb rather than two shows that the one sacrifice of Christ covers all. The meal offering being near the combined amount for two lambs is as though to say both Jews and Gentiles appreciate that one offering. The slight reduction to 1/6 reminds us of the curse that all have experienced.
The main kind of offering in all of these sacrifices is burnt offerings. What is the meaning of a burnt offering? How does it relate to other offerings?
Among brethren there is a sense that the burnt offering has something to do with acceptance. There is some foundation for this, inasmuch as on perhaps four occasions God manifested his acceptance of such an offering by consuming it with fire from heaven. Those occasions were Leviticus chapter nine shortly after the Tabernacle had been established, again when the Temple of Solomon was dedicated, also in Elijah’s confrontation with the priests of Baal, and perhaps in the original offerings by Cain and Abel where Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s was not. But the concept is a little vague. Acceptance — yes — but is there something more specific?
Yes, there is something more specific. The foundation offering for anything acceptable to God is the Ransom sacrifice of Jesus. The burnt offering, fundamentally, represents the ransom. The evidence for this follows.
The rules for the various kinds of offerings under the Law are contained in the first seven chapters of Leviticus. These are appropriately inserted at the beginning of Leviticus, for these rules give direction as to how the succeeding offerings mentioned in Leviticus are to be handled.
This seven-chapter insert somewhat obscures the connection between the closing of Exodus and the opening of Leviticus. In fact, the day discussed in Exodus chapter 40, the day of rearing up the Tabernacle, is the very same day as that discussed in Leviticus chapter eight, consecrating the priesthood. That one day was both for rearing up the Tabernacle and initiating the priesthood.
If one reads the account of installing the priesthood with that in mind, piecing together the narrative of Exodus chapter 40, about the last half, with Leviticus chapter eight, we have a fuller account of that single day. The text is about consecrating the priesthood, a service which continued for a full week of seven days complete (Leviticus 8:33). Leviticus chapter nine then takes up the activities of the very next day, day eight of the series (Leviticus 9:1). Now that a priesthood was available to serve, the first order of business was to reconcile the people. That was done by the offerings of chapter nine.
Chapter 16 describes the annual Day of Atonement, in the autumn of the year, not quite six months removed from the activities of Exodus 40, Leviticus 8, and Leviticus 9.
Five Offerings of the Law
Leviticus chapters one through seven discuss five kinds of offerings. The narratives go through these in detail once, and then a second time, more briefly, to include some specifics relevant to the priests. That second pass through the offerings is from Leviticus 6:8 through chapter seven. If there had been a clean chapter break for this segment in our common versions, it that would have made things somewhat clearer.
The five offerings discussed are the Burnt offering, Meal offering, Peace offering, Sin offering, and Trespass offering, in that sequence. Of these, the Meal offering is an accoutrement to the animal offerings, and the Trespass offering is closely related to the Sin offering, so closely that one might say it was a special case of Sin offering. Thus these five offerings resolve to three specific animal sacrifices — Burnt offering, Peace offering, Sin offering.
By reducing these to this simple triad, they are easier to compare and distinguish, both in how they were handled, and in the symbolic meaning they convey.
Returning to the Burnt Offering
The burnt offerings is foundational to the other two. It is the chief offering that brings atonement (Leviticus 1:4). In the Divine Plan, that foundational offering is the ransom. Here are some additional reasons for connecting the burnt offering with the ransom.
(1) The ransom was pictured in the passover lamb, and there are stipulations in the regulations about the passover and burnt offerings that appear to relate the two. Both offerings could only be males — whereas both peace offerings and sin offerings allowed either gender depending on conditions. The burnt offering was consumed by fire, the lamb was roasted with fire. (Some of the other offerings were boiled.)
(2) The most repeated offering, day by day, was the daily offering of two lambs, morning and afternoon. This reminds us that Jesus was put on the cross in the morning, and died on the cross in the afternoon. Those daily burnt offerings are usually recognized as pictures of the death of Jesus at Calvary. So at least in those cases the burnt offerings are connected to the ransom.
(3) The mention of removing the “daily sacrifice” by Papacy, by setting up the mass, referred to in Daniel 11:31, depends upon this connection of the daily sacrifice with the ransom.
(4) The burnt offering was accepted for the offerer “to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:4). This is not definitive, because other offerings also brought the offering closer to God. But it is at least consistent with the ransom.
(5) The burnt offering was “a sweet savour unto Jehovah” (Leviticus 1:9), and Paul says that Jesus gave himself as “a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. This also is not definitive, for other offerings were also a sweet savour. But it is consistent.
(6) The burnt offering was laid directly on the wood. “Put fire upon the altar … lay the wood in order upon the fire … lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar” (Leviticus 1:7,8). What does the wood represent? It represents the wood of the cross. In Genesis 22:6, when Abraham and Isaac were going up Mount Moriah to make an offering, “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son.” This reminds us of Jesus bearing his cross to Golgotha (John 19:17). If the wood is the cross, then the offering is the ransom.
The next of the three animal sacrifices was the peace offering. This was an offering of devotion, vow, or consecration by the offerer who had already achieved peace with God. The ram of consecration in Leviticus chapter eight was a peace offering. Leviticus 3:5 stipulates that Aaron’s sons “shall burn [the peace offering] on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is upon the wood that is on the fire.” Because we have been reconciled (by the burnt offering), we can offer our consecration to God (the peace offering).
“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ [through his sacrifice for us]. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace [of the high calling, entered by consecration] wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1,2).
The last of the three is the sin offering. The purpose of this offering was to purge sin. This is distinct from atoning for sin, or removing the curse. Purging sin pertains to (a) removing the estrangement of a recognized sin, and (b) removing the propensity for sin from the heart of the offerer. “If the blood of bulls and goats [sin offerings]” purified the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13,14).
In the Christian Life
The sequence of these offerings in Leviticus matches the sequence in which these offerings affect the believer coming to God. We are first reconciled by the burnt offering. That provides atonement. Then we yield ourselves in consecration to God, as a peace offering. Then, through the remainder of life, our high priest purges the propensity for sin from us though the experiences of life.
In the formal offerings of Leviticus chapters 8, 9, and 16, the sequence is modified. In those chapters the sequence is always: Sin offering, Burnt offering, Peace offering. Why is the Sin offering in these cases moved from last to first?
It is because these chapters represent the way things would be actually fulfilled in the plan of God. Jesus offered himself as a Sin offering at Jordan, and was “burning” on the altar for 3½ years. At the close of this experience, Jesus died for our ransom, as a Burnt offering, on the wood of Calvary’s cross. After that, following the Pentecostal blessing, his followers offer themselves in consecration, representing in the Peace offerings of the worshippers.
Ezekiel 46 — Six Lambs
The burnt offerings described in Ezekiel 46 are remembrances of the ransom that Jesus gave for all in order to remit the curse, bring atonement to the world, and set them on the course toward God again. The six lambs as a burnt sacrifice are offered to recognize and appreciate what has been done by Jesus for the world of mankind that lay under the curse for 6000 years.
When doing this they can add whatever is in their hand to do. They are not even required to offer the rudimentary 1/10 ephah stipulated in the Law. God will accept whatever they can give, as the world begins to come up the Highway of Holiness, back to standing with God.
(1) “The last jubilee occurred on the ‘tenth day of the month [Tishri], in the fourteenth year after that the city was smitten’ (Ezekiel 40:1), which was the New Year’s Day of the jubilee (Ab. Zarah 9b, Ar. 11b- 12b).” (Jewish Encyclopedia, article “Sabbatical Year and Jubilee,” searchable on the internet (unedited full text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia).
(2) North is the direction sometimes ascribed to God (Isaiah 14:13). North was the side of the altar a worshipper was to slay a sacrifice, perhaps because of the identification of that side with the presence of God (Leviticus 1:11, Ezekiel 40:35,39). By contrast, south would be earthly. Zechariah 14:4 shows the Mount of Olives, representing the kingdom of God, split in two parts, one on the north and one on the south. These would be the two parts of the Kingdom, heavenly (north) and earthly (south).
(3) Notice a similar connection to the number 1000 in Nehemiah 3:13 respecting the completion of the walls of Jerusalem.
(4) John 19:37 in our common version says, where John is quoting Zechariah, “They shall look on him whom they pierced.” The word “on” is better rendered “unto.” John used the word eis, meaning unto. Eis can also mean “into,” but only “unto” makes sense in this particular case. John’s use of this word in quoting Zechariah 12:10 indicates that this is the way the Apostle John understood the Zechariah text. The common version of Zechariah 12:10 reads, “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” But neither Israel nor the world will literally look upon Jesus. Everyone, however, will look “unto” him as their leader and master. The ASV in Zechariah 12:10 agrees with this, “they shall look unto me.”
(5) Nothing intrinsic in the word indicates youth.