Then the man brought me back to the outer gate of the temple. It was the one that faced east. It was shut.
The LORD said to me, "This gate must remain shut. It must not be opened. No one can enter through it. It must remain shut because I have entered through it. I am the God of Israel.
The prince is the only one who can sit in the gateway. There he can eat in front of me. He must enter through the porch of the gateway. And he must go out the same way."
Then the man brought me through the north gate. He took me to the front of the temple. I looked up and saw the glory of the Lord. It filled his temple. I fell with my face toward the ground.
The LORD said to me, "Son of man, pay attention. Look carefully. Listen closely to everything I tell you about all of the rules concerning my temple. Pay attention to the entrance to the temple and to all of its exits.
"Speak to the people of Israel. They refuse to obey me. Tell them, 'The LORD and King says, "People of Israel, I have had enough of your evil practices. I hate them.
You brought strangers into my temple. They were not circumcised. Their hearts were stubborn. You polluted my temple. But you offered me food, fat and blood anyway. When you did all of those things, you broke the covenant I made with you. I hated all of the evil things you did.
" ' "You did not do what I told you to. You did not take care of my holy things. Instead, you put other people in charge of my temple." ' "
The LORD and King says, "No stranger whose heart is stubborn can enter my temple. They have not been circumcised. Even if they live among the people of Israel they can't enter it.
"Some Levites wandered far away from me when Israel went down the wrong path. They worshiped the statues of their gods. So they will be punished because they have sinned.
They might serve in my temple. They might be in charge of its gates. They might kill the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people. And they might stand in front of the people and serve them in other ways.
"But they served the people of Israel while they were worshiping their gods. They made the people fall into sin. So I raised my hand and took an oath. I warned them that I would punish them because of their sin," announces the LORD and King.
"They must not approach me to serve me as priests. They must not come near any of my holy things. They must stay away from my very holy offerings. They did many things they should have been ashamed of. I hated those things.
"But I will still put them in charge of the temple duties. They can do all of the work that has to be done there.
"But the priests must approach me to serve me. They are Levites from Zadok's family line. They faithfully carried out their duties in my temple. They obeyed me when the people of Israel turned away from me. Those priests must serve me by offering sacrifices of fat and blood," announces the LORD and King.
"They are the only ones who can enter my temple. Only they can come near to serve me and do my work.
"They will enter the gates of the inner courtyard. When they do, they must wear linen clothes. They will serve at the gates of the inner courtyard or inside the temple. When they do, they must not wear any clothes that are made out of wool.
They must have linen turbans on their heads. They must wear linen underwear around their waists. They must not put anything on that makes them sweat.
"They will go into the outer courtyard where the people are. When they do, they must take off the clothes they have been serving in. They must leave them in the sacred rooms. And they must put other clothes on. Then they will not make the people holy if the people happen to touch their clothes.
"The priests must not shave their heads. They must not let their hair grow long. They must keep it cut short.
No priest can drink wine when he enters the inner courtyard.
They must not get married to widows or divorced women. They can only marry Israelite virgins or the widows of priests.
"The priests must teach my people the difference between what is holy and what is not. They must show them how to tell the difference between what is 'clean' and what is not.
"When people do not agree, the priests must serve as judges between them. They must make their decisions based on my laws. They must obey my laws and rules for all of my appointed feasts. And they must keep my Sabbath days holy.
"A priest must not make himself 'unclean' by going near a dead person. But suppose the dead person was his father or mother. Or suppose it was his son or daughter or brother or unmarried sister. Then the priest can make himself 'unclean.'
After he is pure and clean again, he must wait seven days.
Then he can go to the inner courtyard to serve in the temple. But when he does, he must sacrifice a sin offering for himself," announces the LORD and King.
"The priests will not receive any part of the land of Israel. I myself will be their only share.
They will eat the grain offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings. Everything in Israel that is set apart to me in a special way will belong to them.
The best of every first share of the people's crops will belong to the priests. So will all of their special gifts. The people must give the priests the first share of their ground meal. Then I will bless my people's families.
"The priests must not eat any bird or animal that is found dead. They must not eat anything that wild animals have torn apart.