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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Ezekiel 47

Verses 1-23

Ezekiel 47:16 . Hamath, a city commanding the passage of mount Lebanon, and the north-west boundary of the Israelites. 1 Chronicles 13:5.


The jews rejoiced more when they poured water on the sacrifices, than when they poured wine; because water designated the Holy Spirit in all his plenitude of grace. We now come to the richer sources of the sanctuary of God, to sources of glory and beauty to the saints, and of life and verdure to the barrenest parts of the earth. The sanctuary and city of the jews, with the division of their land, is here taken both literally and spiritually; and spiritually we must take this fountain, though it is sincerely believed that God will work many marvellous changes in nature for the good of man in the glory of the latter day. There was however no such river opened when Ezra presided over the people, and no gentile had then a lot among the Israelites, as in Ezekiel 47:22. Ezra expelled the sons of the priests, because they could not prove their legitimate descent: Ezra 2:62; Ezra 2:64. Our Saviour seems most evidently to allude to those waters when he says, that a river of living water should flow from the belly of every believer. John 7:38-39. Every believer is the temple of the living God, and grace opens the fountain of life in his soul. Our Saviour likewise assured the woman of Samaria that he could give her living water. John 4:10.

We may here remark, that this river proceeded from the foundation of the house; it burst out at the threshold, and also at the sides, and circumscribed the altar as an island. St. John also was shown the river of the water of life, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Here the Holy Spirit, in all the manifold operations of justifying and sanctifying grace, is shadowed forth, as already remarked concerning the river which maketh glad the city of God; to which the reader is referred in the note on Psalms 46:4.

This river marvellously encreased. Ezekiel was directed to ford it at regular distances. First, it reached to the ancles; secondly, to the knees; thirdly, to the middle; but when he had reached about a mile and a quarter from the threshold of the temple, the river was no longer fordable: he could swim in the abundant waters. This assuredly marks the rich and overflowing grace which God designs to shed down on the earth in the gospel age, and in the glory of the latter day; and it apprizes believers that they should not remain in a loitering state, trampling the shallow waters of grace; but go on to a deeper baptism of the spirit, till they can swim in the abounding streams of grace. The soul groaning after purity and perfection longs to be filled with the Spirit; yea, “plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea, and lost in thine immensity.”

This river flowed with a constant as well as an encreasing stream. Zechariah remarks, that it was alike in summer and winter: Zechariah 14:8. The heavenly Zion is as the fountain of the whole earth: it is not subject to periodical droughts and rains, as natural rivers are, but flows with a stream constant as the Father’s love, and copious as redeeming grace. Hence they that are planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God: they shall grow and not wither, they shall bring forth fruit in old age.

The virtues of these waters counteracted the bituminous qualities of the sea of Sodom, called the dead sea, because the waters killed the fish. It is not improbable, but some natural changes will take place in the glory of the latter day. When the wickedness of man shall diminish, it is not an improbable conjecture that God will diminish the afflictions of man, will remove many impediments of agriculture, cause the earth to bring forth her full encrease, and make the desert as the garden of the Lord. But of the spiritual waters we ought to speak with more decision. They heal, when flowing with a full torrent, all the bitter waters of the human heart, which are fostered, like Sodom, with pride, idleness, and fulness of bread. They shed a vivifying influence on all around, and make the barrenest heart as the Eden of the Lord. Zechariah on this subject, has enlarged on Ezekiel. He saw the living waters not only flow towards Sodom, but another stream taking a western course to the Mediterranean sea: most happy image of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, going forth in every direction, and richly accompanied with the sanctifying graces of the Holy Spirit, that all nations might be healed of discord, wickedness, and war. This is surely the fountain of life opened from above, and chasing darkness, death and the curse, far away from the earth for a thousand sabbatic years.

These healing and vivifying waters communicated perpetual fertility to an infinitude of trees, which adorned both the shores. As a month is the usual season of any kind of ripe fruits, so these trees, having their nature rëanimated, were always budding, blooming, and bearing fruit. No hungry man could come seeking fruit, and finding none. Christ is indeed this tree of life, growing on either side of the river, and also in the city of God. By his leaves, or the adorning of his virtues, our concupiscence is healed; and by the fruit of his redeeming love, our souls are nourished with the health of eternal life. Happy is the age, happy the heart which shall see this paradise opened from above.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.