Then the man brought me back to the east gateway in the outer wall, but it was closed.
And the LORD said to me, "This gate must remain closed; it will never again be opened. No man will ever pass through it, for the LORD, the God of Israel, entered here. Thus, it must always remain shut.
Only the prince himself may sit inside this gateway to feast in the LORD's presence. But he may come and go only through the gateway's foyer."
Then the man brought me through the north gateway to the front of the Temple. I looked and saw that the glory of the LORD filled the Temple of the LORD, and I fell to the ground with my face in the dust.
And the LORD said to me, "Son of man, take careful notice; use your eyes and ears. Listen to everything I tell you about the regulations concerning the LORD's Temple. Take careful note of who may be admitted to the Temple and who is to be excluded from it.
And give these rebels, the people of Israel, this message from the Sovereign LORD: O people of Israel, enough of your disgusting sins!
You have brought uncircumcised foreigners into my sanctuary -- people who have no heart for God. In this way, you profaned my Temple even as you offered me my food, the fat and blood of sacrifices. Thus, in addition to all your other disgusting sins, you have broken my covenant.
You have not kept the laws I gave you concerning these sacred rituals, for you have hired foreigners to take charge of my sanctuary.
"So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: No foreigners, including those who live among the people of Israel, will enter my sanctuary if they have not been circumcised and do not love the LORD.
And the men of the tribe of Levi who abandoned me when Israel strayed away from me to worship idols must bear the consequences of their unfaithfulness.
They may still be Temple guards and gatemen, and they may still slaughter the animals brought for burnt offerings and be present to help the people.
But they encouraged my people to worship other gods, causing Israel to fall into deep sin. So I have raised my hand and taken an oath that they must bear the consequences for their sins, says the Sovereign LORD.
They may not approach me to minister as priests. They may not touch any of my holy things or the holy offerings, for they must bear the shame of all the sins they have committed.
They are to serve as the Temple caretakers and are relegated to doing maintenance work and helping the people in a general way.
"However, the Levitical priests of the family of Zadok continued to minister faithfully in the Temple when Israel abandoned me for idols. These men will serve as my ministers. They will stand in my presence and offer the fat and blood of the sacrifices, says the Sovereign LORD.
They are the ones who will enter my sanctuary and approach my table to serve me. They are the ones who will fulfill all my requirements.
When they enter the gateway to the inner courtyard, they must wear only linen clothing. They must wear no wool while on duty in the inner courtyard or in the Temple itself.
They must wear linen turbans and linen undergarments. They must not wear anything that would cause them to perspire.
When they return to the outer courtyard where the people are, they must take off the clothes they wear while ministering to me. They must leave them in the sacred rooms and put on other clothes so they do not harm the people by transmitting holiness to them through this clothing.
"They must neither let their hair grow too long nor shave it off completely. Instead, they must trim it regularly.
The priests must never drink wine before entering the inner courtyard.
They may choose their wives only from among the virgins of Israel or the widows of the priests. They may not marry other widows or divorced women.
They will teach my people the difference between what is holy and what is common, what is ceremonially clean and unclean.
"They will serve as judges to resolve any disagreements among my people. Their decisions must be based on my regulations. And the priests themselves must obey my instructions and laws at all the sacred festivals, and they will see to it that the Sabbath is set apart as a holy day.
A priest must never defile himself by being in the presence of a dead person unless it is his father, mother, child, brother, or unmarried sister. In such cases it is permitted.
But such a priest can only return to his Temple duties after being ritually cleansed and then waiting for seven days.
The first day he returns to work and enters the inner courtyard and the sanctuary, he must offer a sin offering for himself, says the Sovereign LORD.
"As to property, the priests will not have any, for I alone am their inheritance.
Their food will come from the gifts and sacrifices brought to the Temple by the people -- the grain offerings, the sin offerings, and the guilt offerings. Whatever anyone sets apart a for the LORD will belong to the priests.
The first of the ripe fruits and all the gifts brought to the LORD will go to the priests. The first samples of each grain harvest and the first of your flour must also be given to the priests so the LORD will bless your homes.
The priests may never eat meat from any bird or animal that dies a natural death or that dies after being attacked by another animal.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)