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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 47


Verse 1

1. Under the threshold… at the south side of the altar “There was a fountain connected with the temple hill the waters of which fell into the valley east of the city and made their way toward the sea; and long ere this time the gentle waters of this ‘brook that flowed fast by the oracle of God’ had furnished symbols to the prophets (Isaiah 8:6). Such waters in the East are the source of every blessing to men.” Davidson. The main religious teaching is that man’s blessings flow from the sanctuary of Jehovah. The waters of life start from the dwelling place of the Author of life. The symbols by which this thought was expressed would have been quite intelligible to the heathen among whom the captives lived. According to Babylonian tradition the threshold of the palace of Beltis-Allat, the lioness-queen of the lower world and goddess of fertility, stood upon a spring which had the property of restoring to life all who bathed in it or drank of its waters (Trumbull, Threshold Covenant, p. 115, etc.).

Verses 1-12

1-12. These verses describe the mysterious supernatural stream flowing from underneath the sacred threshold of the temple (see note Ezekiel 46:1-2), the waters of which turn the desert into a paradise and even sweeten the Dead Sea; a plain symbol of the power of a holy religion in the midst of a redeemed people. These living waters of blessing (compare Isaiah 8:6; Joel 3:18; Revelation 22:1-2) “trickled forth” (Ezekiel 47:2, R.V., margin) from under the threshold and passing eastward and a little south of the altar, which was directly in front of the temple porch (Ezekiel 40:47), descended the mountain gathering volume as it went, though seemingly without tributaries, until within four thousand cubits (about one and one third miles) from its source it had become a mighty torrent which no one could cross (Ezekiel 47:5). These waters plunge on into that deep depression in the Jordan valley which the Hebrews well called the “Arabah” (R.V., Ezekiel 47:8), or “desert” no traveler has ever failed to be impressed with its wildness and awful desolation and everywhere the miraculous life-giving power of these waters is seen, for “along the bank of the river” (Ezekiel 47:6) is “every sort of tree whose fruit is edible; their leaves shall not wither, nor their fruit fail; monthly they shall bear fresh fruit; for their waters issue from the sanctuary, and their fruit shall be for food, and their leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12; compare Ezekiel 47:7 and Revelation 22:2). And still continuing, these miraculous waters flow into the “sea of the Arabah” (Deuteronomy 3:17), the Dead Sea, and at their coming that strange lake, whose salty and sulphurous banks had been absolutely devoid of vegetation, and in which no fish could ever live, suddenly becomes as full of fish as the Mediterranean (Ezekiel 47:10), and “every living creature” (R.V., Ezekiel 47:9) which inhabits the sea begins to swarm in its waters. From the Oasis of En-gedi (on the middle of the west shore) even unto En-eglaim (probably situated at the extreme end of the sea) this most blistered and poisonous part of the world God’s “awful vale of judgment” (Genesis 19:24-28) becomes full of beauty and fertility and life, the place most prized by fishermen. Only a few fens and marshes remain unhealed (Ezekiel 47:11) in order that a supply of salt may still be obtained from them. “So there is nothing nothing so sunken, so useless, so doomed but by the grace of God it may be redeemed, lifted, and made rich with life.” (See G.A. Smith, Historical Geography, p. 511, etc.) Ezekiel’s prophecy has never been, nor can it ever be, fulfilled literally in Palestine, but in the course of providential history it has been more than fulfilled. “From the throne of God, yet also from the Church of God, the fertilizing stream has flowed. Derelict as that Church has been in its duty, cruel in its conscience, worldly in its lusts, superstitious in its fears, material and ritualistic in its conceptions of life, nevertheless through its gates has flowed the constantly deepening stream of the river of life. Whatever desert those waters have touched has bloomed; wherever that stream has come life has come; and on its banks have grown every sort of tree whose leaves have been for the healing of the nations.” Lyman Abbott. Natural symbols are constantly used by the prophet to image spiritual and natural conditions. (Compare, for example, Joel 2:30-31; Acts 2:19-20.) An ancient Jewish Midrash on Exodus 12:12, explains this passage according to the Messianic hope: “The Holy One will bring forth living waters from Jerusalem, and will cure with it all diseases, as it is said Ezekiel 47:9, and shall make the trees bring forth fruit every month, Ezekiel 47:12.”

Verse 9

9. The rivers Literally, the two rivers. Either an intensified double indicating the power of the stream, or, more probably, an indication that the holy Jordan unites with the temple stream in the work of healing the Salt Sea.

Verse 13


13. Joseph Representing the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 48:22; Joshua 16:4; Joshua 17:17), Joseph is given two portions.

Verse 14

14. Ye shall inherit it, one as well as another That is, ye shall share it equally. Just as the sacrifices in Ezekiel principally differ from those of the Mosaic law in the fundamental ideaof greater equality, so here this idea is again set forth.

Verses 15-17

15-17. “This is the border of the land on the north: from the Great Sea (the Mediterranean) by Hethlon to the frontier of Hamath as far as Zedad, thence on to Beroth-Sibraim, which is on the line between the territories of Damascus and Hamath, and to Hazar-enan, which is on the border of Hauran: that is, the border shall run from the sea to Hazar-enan, the territory of Damascus lying to the north. This is the northern border.” Toy. Most of these sites cannot now be identified. Damascus is well known. (See map facing page 232.) Hauran is almost certainly the modern Hauran (Auranitis). Hamath was on the Orontes, north of Mount Hermon (compare Amos 6:2; Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3); but this refers not to the city, but to the district of Hamath. Hazar-enan is possibly the modern Hader, at the foot of Mount Hermon. Toy connects Hethlon with the modern Adlun, near Tyre, and Hazar-enan with Hazureh, a little northward of Banias, adding, “the line seems to have started from a point on the Mediterranean Sea, near Tyre, and to have run eastward, near the parallel of 33 15’ to Dan (Banias).” Orelli connects Hethlon with the modern Heitela, and Zedad with the modern Sadad. “Thus,” says he, “the northern frontier inclosed the whole of Lebanon, and this is in full accord with the Mosaic program.”

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Verse 18


18. Davidson, following Smend, translates: “And the east side, from between Hauran and Damascus, between Gilead and the land of Israel, shall be the Jordan, from the (north) boundary to the eastern sea, even unto Tamar. This is the east side.” He adds: “The line starts from Hazar-enan, a place lying where Damascus and Hauran join one another (Ezekiel 47:16)… From this point the line runs south; its course is the Jordan, between Gilead and the land of Israel.… The phrase ‘Ye shall measure’ is no doubt a misspelling for ‘unto Tamar’… Tamar probably lay south of the Dead Sea.”

Verse 19

19. “And the south side southward shall be from Tamar as far as the waters of Meriboth-kadesh, to the brook of Egypt, unto the great sea (R.V.; compare Numbers 27:14; Numbers 34:3-5; Joshua 15:1-4). The Wady-el-Arish was called the “brook of Egypt.” (See Numbers 34:5, and map facing page 232.)

Verses 22-23

22, 23. This land shall be divided “by lot.” Although this word means “by lot,” yet evidently it was here used in the same way as our word “allot;” for the sections in which each tribe shall dwell are stated in the next chapter. A striking difference between Ezekiel’s division of the land as compared with the Levitical code (Leviticus 25:47-55) is the care with which the rights of “strangers” are guarded. These proselytes who have permanently settled in the land are allowed a perfect equality with the native born in the matter of inheritance. They are to share equally with the members of the tribe in which they live. (Compare note Ezekiel 47:14.)

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.