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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Ezekiel 47

Verses 1-12

Healing Waters (47:1-12)

Ezekiel now depicts the influence of the re-established Temple and its effect upon the land. Coming to the back of the Temple the prophet sees a stream of water issuing from the threshold of the Temple and coming out on the south side of the Temple. Going to the outside of the sanctuary area, he sees the stream flowing outward. The same heavenly figure who has been companion to the prophet through this visionary visit to the restored city is still beside Ezekiel with a measuring line in his hand. One thousand cubits from the Temple the water was ankle-deep, and thereafter it grew progressively deeper as it flowed farther from the Temple. Finally, as it went eastward toward the Dead Sea, the stream became a mighty river in an otherwise desolate and barren land (vss. 1-6).

Standing on the bank of this River of God the prophet witnesses a remarkable transformation in the landscape, which had been the most barren and useless area of Palestine, as it is to this day. This water moving southward by way of the Arabah, the great geologic depression in the south, entered the Dead Sea with its brackish waters and caused the deadly waters to become fresh. In these renewed waters there will be many fish, so that fishermen will stand by the shore from En-gedi to En-eglaim (two small springs in an otherwise desolate shore line). The fish will be of many kinds, like those found in the Mediterranean. Yet nature will keep her balance. Swamps and marshes will retain their saline content lest this essential substance be totally removed. On the banks of the river, fruit trees will flourish, bearing fruit each month and having luxuriant leaves. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for medicinal purposes. The transformation is possible because water has issued from the Temple of God to transform a desert and make it into a garden. God’s presence alone makes the desert blossom like a rose. Those familiar with the Book of Revelation will recognize in this life-giving stream the pattern for the same figure in the last book of the Bible (see Revelation 22:1-2).

Verses 13-35

Division of the Restored Land (47:13-48:35)

The restored land is given back into the hands of the twelve tribes, with two portions going to the house of Joseph — Ephraim and Manasseh (Ezekiel 47:13-14). Four boundaries are set for the whole new land in which the restored and reunited kingdom will dwell in peace (Ezekiel 47:15-20). Then the division of the land is ordered, with provision for aliens who settle in the land to be treated as native-born sons of Israel (Ezekiel 47:21 to Ezekiel 48:35).

Beginning with the northern border and proceeding south to the area reserved for the city, the Temple, and the prince, seven divisions are made in this order: Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah. This is artificial and idealized division and has little if any connection with historic reality, past or present. Divisions and boundary lines completely ignore historic and geographical factors, since both were unimportant for the purposes of this oracle.

In the midst of the land, just south of the inheritance of Judah, there shall be established the holy district, 25,000 x 25,000 cubits. The priests are to be allotted 25,000 x 10,000 cubits (Ezekiel 48:9, margin) , in which they will live and where the Temple will be located, and the Levites are to be given the same-sized tract for their own needs (compare 44:28-45:8). None of this consecrated territory may under any conditions be sold or even temporarily exchanged (Ezekiel 48:8-14). The third portion of 25,000 x 5,000 cubits is to be reserved for the use of all Israel. In the midst of the area a city 4,500 x 4,500 cubits square shall be erected, and around the city on all sides shall be a strip of land 250 cubits wide. The remaining part of the area on the east and west, two tracts 10,000 x 5,000 cubits, shall be used for the workers of the city to produce food (Ezekiel 48:15-20).

The territory east and west of the "holy portion," and extending to the borders of the land, shall belong to the prince. This land of the prince, divided by the holy portion in the middle, is to lie between the territories of Judah and Benjamin.

In verses 23-29 the remaining tribes are given their inheritance in the restored and renewed land. Moving from the south border of the holy portion southward the allotments are in the following order: Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad.

The city with measurements as previously given will have twelve gates, one for each tribe but with this significant difference: Joseph is given but one gate (not two for his sons Ephraim and Manasseh), and Levi is given a gate in this list. The city measures 18,000 cubits around and its name is "The Lord is there." The message of the entire Book of Ezekiel is given real emphasis and stress in the name bestowed upon the City of God. Destruction came in the past because the Lord was not "there"; he had withdrawn his presence from the sinful city. Future hope rests now on the promise that "The Lord is there."

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 47". "Layman's Bible Commentary".