Why is the word Bayith (Strong's 1004) in Ezekiel 40:5 translated by some as Temple and others as House?

For example:

And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about (KJV)

I saw a wall completely surrounding the temple area (NIV)

1 Answer 1


The answer to the title is "yes", most contemporary versions use the word temple - which I suppose could be somewhat ambiguous - while more easy-reader version even use "Temple" with a capital "T" brooking no disagreement (a major one being the New Living Translation, but also the Good News Translation).

Bayith means "house". That's its general meaning.

Firstly, what is the Hebrew word for "temple"? There isn't one. What we have is either the house of God or the palace of God. Now can the temple as described in Ezekiel's vision be truthfully described as the house of God? Arguably, not until 43:5 when the Spirit fills it and thus for Ezekiel to speak of the house/palace of God would be wrong.

The first readers knew that they had no word for temple and thus would find no oddity in this word being used to describe this building; Hebrew has a generally smaller number of roots anyway. However, the LXX that I saw also use the word "house" even though they have a word for temple. But, the point is that since Ezekiel did not avoid using the Hebrew word for temple and instead used a different word - but instead lacked a word for temple - thus translators also feel no obligation to avoid using the English word temple.

But why do the translators think it is the temple?

  1. In verse 43:5, the Spirit fills it
  2. The description looks like the temple
  3. There is a place for sacrifices
  4. It has ministers, and these ministers are the house of Zadok
  5. It has a sanctuary, it has an inner sanctuary; these have carvings of Cherubim and palm trees (as the first temple, as the tabernacle, as did the garden of Eden).
  6. In 42:13-14, their is a brief recap of sacrificial rite

It is, as a whole pretty unambiguously the temple. Contemporary translations - even more word for word translations such as the ESV - use the word "temple" to make it easier for the reader to understand; particularly useful if the reader (or the listener!) is not too familiar with Ezekiel. In doing so it is not so literal, and they lose the idea of the "house" of Israel being told of this "house", but they also keep people from picturing it as if it was talking about a family dwelling.

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