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44 Then the man whose appearance was like bronze led me back to the eastern gate where the Eternal One had entered, but I could see that the outer gate was now closed.

Eternal One (to Ezekiel): This gate must remain closed. It will never be opened again for anyone to walk through. The Eternal God of Israel has entered through this gate, so it must remain shut for all time. Only the prince is allowed inside the gateway to sit and feast before the Eternal. He will not go all the way through the gate but only through the portico of the gateway where he will stop and sit. He’ll exit the same way he came in.

Then he led me back through the inner northern gate to stand in front of the temple. From there I witnessed the Eternal’s glory illuminating His temple. I fell and buried my face in the ground.

Eternal One: Son of man, look closely and listen carefully. Pay attention to all I am about to tell you. I am going to lay out the rules and regulations for My temple. Take note of those having to do with entering the temple and exiting the sanctuary. Tell the rebellious people of Israel living in exile what the Eternal Lord says: “I’ve had it with your disgusting actions, people of Israel! Not only do you engage in shocking behaviors, but you have the audacity to bring the uncircumcised—in heart and in flesh—into My sanctuary, knowing they’ll contaminate it. You allowed them in even as you offered My food, the fat and blood of the sacrifices, on the altar. In doing so, you shattered our pact. When you should have been upholding your side of the covenant and taking care of My holy things yourselves, you put outsiders in charge of My sanctuary.”

This is what I, the Eternal Lord, have to say: “Do not let any foreigner—even if he lives among the people of Israel—come into My sanctuary because foreigners are uncircumcised in both their hearts and their flesh. 10 The Levites who abandoned Me when the rest of Israel strayed and pursued their idols instead of Me will bear the consequences for the wicked things they have done. 11 They are still allowed to minister in My sanctuary, guard the temple outer gates, and serve in the temple proper. They are allowed to slaughter the burnt offerings and other sacrifices for the people, and to help serve them. 12 But because they acted as a stumbling block to Israel and helped the people worship their worthless idols, I have made an oath that they must pay for the wicked things they have done. This I, the Eternal One, promise. 13 They are not allowed to approach Me as the priests do. In fact, they aren’t permitted anywhere near Me or any of My sacred things and holy offerings. They must endure the shame of their shocking and deplorable actions. 14 But I will still allow them to be in charge of the maintenance of the temple and keep it running day to day.

15 “As for the Levitical priests who are the descendants of Zadok—the ones who took care of My holy place even as the rest of Israel strayed—they will draw near to Me and serve Me. They will stand before Me in the sanctuary and present offerings of fat and blood. 16 They are permitted to enter My sanctuary, draw near to My holy table, and accomplish all that priestly service requires. 17 When the Zadokite priests enter a gate to the inner courtyard, they should already be clothed in linen. They are not allowed to wear any wool clothing while serving inside the temple or inside any gate to the inner courtyard. 18 I want them to wear linen turbans on their heads and linen undergarments. They should not wear any clothing that will cause them to perspire. 19 When they enter the outer courtyard where all the people congregate, they should remove the linen clothes they wore while serving and leave them in the sacred chambers. They are to dress in regular clothing so that they do not pass on holiness to the people who may come in contact with their clothing. 20 They are not allowed to shave their heads or have long hair. They are always to keep their hair neatly trimmed. 21 Priests are not allowed to consume wine before they enter the inner courtyard. 22 The priests are not allowed to marry widows or women who are divorced. They are only allowed to marry virgins of Israelite ancestry or widows of other priests. 23 They are responsible for teaching My people Israel the line between the sacred and common. They are to instruct My people on how to detect what is ritually pure and impure. 24 I want the priests to act as the judges to resolve any dispute among My people. They are to judge and make their decisions according to the statutes I’ve outlined. The priests must uphold My rules and regulations regarding all My required feasts and all My holy Sabbaths. 25 Priests are not allowed to defile themselves by being in the presence of a dead person. The only exception is when the corpse is that of a close relative: mother or father, son or daughter, brother or unwed sister. In that situation a priest may be near and defile himself. 26 After the priest has been ritually purified from death’s defilement, he is required to wait seven days before returning to his duties. 27 When he does return to the sanctuary, he is to enter the inner court and first present a sin offering for himself before ministering for others.

28 “The priests are to have only one inheritance: Me. I am their inheritance. You are to allot them only one possession in Israel: Me. I am their possession. 29 As for the food they eat, they are to consume the grain offerings, the sin offerings, and the guilt offerings brought to the temple by the people. Everything devoted to Me will be theirs. 30 The priests are to receive the first and finest gifts of your firstfruit offerings, even your grain offerings, so that your household will be blessed. 31 The priests are not allowed to eat any animal—bird or beast—that dies of natural causes or is torn apart by a predator.”

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