In this vision (in 25th year of the exile), Yechezkel sees the Shchina returning to Yerushalayim in a manner similar to his vision of the Shchina as it left Yerushalayim (in the 5th year of the exile; see 40:1-3 and 43:1-3!).
In the beginning of chapter 43, Yechezkel explains one of the primary reasons that the Shchina left the first Bet HaMikdash:
"For they placed their threshold next to My threshold and their doorposts next to My doorposts, leaving only a wall between Me and them, and they would defile My Holy Name..." (See 43:8 and its context in 43:1-9)In simple terms, Yechezkel finds a certain fault in the original architectural plans of the First Temple, a fault that caused God's Name to be defiled. Recall from Sefer Melachim that when Shlomo HaMelech built the first Bet HaMikdash, the king's palace was built next door to Temple. In fact, Sefer Melachim describes the construction of the king's palace (7:1-12) as an integral part of the Temple complex (see 6:1-7:51).
[I recommend that you scan those chapters to note this. Note that there is not even a 'parsha break' between 6:38 (the completion of the construction of the Heichal) and 7:1 (the beginning of the construction of Shlomo's palace). Note also that the description of remainder of the Temple complex (7:13-51) continues immediately after the description of Shlomo's palace!]
With this background, we can better understand Yechezkel's prophecy in this week's Haftara (43:10-27).
Who's The King?
Shlomo HaMelech had good intentions when he built the Temple complex in this manner. After all, the King of Israel is to represent God before his own nation and also before all the nations of mankind. The proximity of these two palaces, with the House of God built high above the House of the King emphasizes this theme - that it is truly the Almighty who rules above all and that man's kingdom is below Him.
Despite the idealism of this original plan, in practice this plan backfired. Too often, the king perceived himself as God and acted as though he was in charge of what would take place in the Temple. [For example, see (in Divrei HaYamim) the acts of Assa, Amatzya, Uziyahu, Achaz, and Menashe in relation to the Bet HaMikdash.]
Therefore, Yechezkel explains, God destroyed the first Temple, so that the kings will not be able to do this again:
"...and I consumed them in My anger. Now, let them put their apostasy and the corpses of their kings far away from Me, and then I will dwell among them forever." (43:9)New Blueprints
[See the previous chapter, 42:15-20; read carefully (this may be the source for Har HaBayit being 500 [amot] x 500 [amot]). See also the context of the entire chapter. Clearly in 43:10, when Yechezkel tells the people of the plans for the Temple, he is referring to the details found in chapters 40-42.]
In fact, the name "Melech" (king) is rarely used in Sefer Yechezkel (only in 37:15-28, where he foresees that the kingdom will no longer be split between Yehuda and Ephraim). Instead, the national leader is consistently referred to as the "Nasi" - the prince. This is another indication of God's disgust with the kings of Israel during the first Temple period. [It is not by chance that a kingdom (and dynasty), like that of Bayit Rishon, never developed during Bayit Sheni.]
Therefore, Yechezkel instructs Bnei Yisrael (in exile) to study the Beit HaMikdash's new architectural plans, which reflect this change. By doing so, they will realize their sins and thus be better prepared for their return (43:10-12).
Yechezkel continues in chapter 43 with the plans for the new mizbayach (43:13-18). Because the Mizbach Ha'Olah is the primary vessel in the Mikdash, for upon it Bnei Yisrael offer their korbanot, it requires a special dedication ceremony. Once again, to emphasize the nature of the next Temple as a new start, it is necessary to perform a special dedication ceremony on the new mizbayach, just like the dedication ceremony for the Mizbach Ha'Olah in the Mishkan (Shmot chapter 29).
The Kohanim who will officiate on this mizbayach will be from the family of Zadok, for only that family remained worthy (43:19; see also 44:15-16!).
During this ceremony, the blood of the korbanot will be sprinkled not only on the mizbayach, but also on the four corners of the courtyard and upon the entire boundary of the Temple complex (43:20). Again, this may reflect the importance of the new large courtyard that protects the Mikdash from 'unwanted' neighbors and visitors (as explained above).
Just as in the Mishkan, this process will take seven days, and on each day a chatat and olah will be offered. On the eighth day, regular service can commence (43:21-27). It is the hope of Yechezkel that if the people prepare themselves properly, this new Temple (unlike the first Temple) will fulfill its divine purpose.
For Further Iyun
A. Note that during this dedication ceremony there is no third korban - the ayil ha'miluim - unlike in the ceremony in Shmot 29.
Can you explain why? (What was the purpose of that third korban? Is there a need for that to take place again?)
B. Later in Yechezkel, in the new Temple the Nasi is required to offer many special korbanot (see 45:18-46:15). Based on the above shiur, can you explain why?