Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 48

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verses 1-35

“Now these are the names of the tribes: From the north end, beside the way of Hethlon to the entrance of Hamath, Hazar-enan at the border of Damascus, northward beside Hamath (and they shall have their sides east and west), Dan, one portion. And by the border of Dan, from the east side unto the west side, Asher, one portion. And by the border of Asher, from the east side even unto the west side, Naphtali, one portion. And by the border of Naphtali, from the east side unto the west side, Manasseh, one portion. And by the border of Manasseh, from the east side unto the west side, Ephraim, one portion. And by the border of Ephraim, from the east side even unto the west side, Reuben, one portion. And by the border of Reuben, from the east side unto the west side, Judah, one portion. And by the border of Judah, from the east side unto the west side, shall be the oblation which ye shall offer, five and twenty thousand reeds in breadth, and in length as one of the portions, from the east side unto the west side: and the sanctuary shall be in the midst of it. The oblation that ye shall offer unto Jehovah shall be five and twenty thousand reeds in length, and ten thousand in breadth. And for these, even for the priests, shall be the holy oblation; toward the north five and twenty thousand in length, and toward the west ten thousand in breadth, and toward the east ten thousand in breadth, and toward the south five and twenty thousand in length: and the sanctuary of Jehovah shall be in the midst thereof. It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the sons of Zadok, that have kept my charge, that went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray. And it shall be unto them an oblation from the oblation of the land, a thing most holy, by the border of the Levites. And answerable unto the border of the priests, the Levites shall have five and twenty thousand in length, and ten thousand in breadth: all the length shall be five and twenty thousand, and the breadth ten thousand. And they shall sell none of it, nor exchange it, nor shall the first-fruits of the land be alienated; for it is holy unto Jehovah. And the five thousand that are left in the breadth, in front of the five and twenty thousand, shall be for common use, for the city, for dwelling and for suburbs; and the city shall be in the midst thereof. And these shall be the measures thereof: the north side four thousand and five hundred, and the south side four thousand and five hundred, and on the east side four thousand and five hundred, and the west side four thousand and five hundred. And the city shall have suburbs: toward the north two hundred and fifty, and toward the south two hundred and fifty, and toward the east two hundred and fifty, and toward the west two hundred and fifty. And the residue in the length, answerable unto the holy oblation, shall be ten thousand eastward, and ten thousand westward; and it shall be answerable unto the holy oblation; and the increase thereof shall be for food unto them that labor in the city. And they that labor in the city, out of all the tribes of Israel, shall till it. All the oblation shall be five and twenty thousand by five and twenty thousand: ye shall offer the holy oblation foursquare, with the possession of the city. And the residue shall be for the prince, on the one side and on the other of the holy oblation and of the possession of the city; in front of the five and twenty thousand of the oblation toward the east border, and westward in front of the five and twenty thousand toward the west border, answerable unto the portions, it shall be for the prince: and the holy oblation and the sanctuary of the house shall be in the midst thereof. Moreover from the possession of the Levites, and from the possession of the city, being in the midst of that which is the prince’s, between the border of Judah and the border of Benjamin, it shall be for the prince. And as for the rest of the tribes: from the east side unto the west side, Benjamin, one portion. And by the border of Benjamin, from the east side unto the west side, Simeon, one portion. And by the border of Simeon, from the east side unto the west side, Issachar, one portion. And by the border of Issachar, from the east side unto the west side, Zebulun, one portion. And by the border of Zebulun, from the east side unto the west side, Gad, one portion. And by the border of Gad, at the south side southward, the border shall be even from Tamar unto the waters of Meribath-kadesh, to the brook of Egypt, unto the great sea. This is the land which ye shall divide by lot unto the tribes of Israel for inheritance, and these are their several portions, saith the Lord Jehovah. And these are the egresses of the city: On the north side four thousand and five hundred reeds by measure; and the gates of the city shall be after the names of the tribes of Israel, three gates northward: the gate of Reuben, one; the gate of Judah, one; the gate of Levi, one. And at the east side four thousand and five hundred reeds, and three gates: even the gate of Joseph, one; the gate of Benjamin, one; the gate of Dan, one. And at the south side four thousand and five hundred reeds by measure, and three gates: the gate of Simeon, one; the gate of Issachar, one; the gate of Zebulun, one. At the west side four thousand and five hundred reeds, with their three gates: the gate of Gad, one; the gate of Asher, one; the gate of Naphtali, one. It shall be eighteen thousand reeds round about: and the name of the city from that day shall be, Jehovah is there.”

The apportionment of the Land of Canaan among the Twelve Tribes, following the setting apart of the land for Jerusalem is detailed here. The Twelve Tribes are named, with their allotments; but they are not named in the usual order. A land allotment is made for the king; the Twelve Tribes are honored by having the twelve gates of Jerusalem named for them, one gate for each tribe.

It is easy to see that very little of this section of Ezekiel can be seen as having very much importance to Christians. The kingdom of God reaches into all nations and kingdoms of the world; and that little acreage called Palestine is a tiny place indeed compared to the world-wide Empire of the Christ. It is true that countless millions do not serve or worship Christ; but countless millions do so in all of the most favored and blessed of earth’s nations, a fact that stands in evidence as Cause and Results upon the face of the whole earth. “The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our God and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

This eternal reign of Christ is not something for some faroff tomorrow. It is going on now. Christ has been reigning ever since Almighty God committed into his hands “All authority in heaven and upon earth”; and it will continue until the last enemy, death itself, has been destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:25).

Oh, but some do not allow Christ to reign over them. True indeed, but that makes no difference whatever. Jesus Christ is over all; and the people who refuse him have chosen for themselves eternal death.

Before leaving this section, we shall observe what some scholars have said about it:

“The water flowing out of the Temple teaches that all blessings material and spiritual emanate from the presence of the Lord and of his people.”(F1) Did not Paul himself say the same thing? “All spiritual blessings in the heavenly places are in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

When the Jews who returned from Babylon finally got around to restoring the Temple, “Cyrus’ decree authorizing the building of the Temple specified a height of 60 cubits, which was twice the height of Solomon’s Temple.”(F2) Since God controlled the actions of Cyrus, this indicates that, at first, God did really intend that the magnificent Temple such as Ezekiel saw in his vision should have actually been built. That it was not can be attributed only to the sins and hardening of the Chosen People.

“We cannot interpret these chapters as an allegory, because of the large number of directions and measurements.”(F3)

We have discovered ten different diagrams of Ezekiel’s Temple, and no two of them are exactly alike. We have decided to spare the reader any effort of our own to submit another diagram! What possible difference could minor distinctions make in a Temple that was never built?

Yet it must be admitted that, “Nothing that Ezekiel could have written would have stirred up as much interest and excitement as this description of the New Temple to be constructed in Jerusalem would have stirred up among the exiles.”(F4)

“To make these nine chapters a deliberately symbolical description of the worship of the Christian Church is out of the question, because Ezekiel expected this vision to be carried out to the letter; furthermore he envisioned it as taking place (in part miraculously) upon the coming of Messiah.”(F5)

Nevertheless, Canon Cook affirmed that, “The vision must be viewed as symbolical, the symbols employed being the Mosaic ordinances.”(F6) We believe Cook is correct, because the Temple itself was never intended as anything else except a symbol, as were the priests and their ordinances and the whole order of the Mosaic tabernacle. See our Commentary on Exodus for full elaboration of this. The Temple, from the first, symbolized God’s dwelling in the midst of his people; the priests were symbols of Christians; their sacrifices typefled the great atoning sacrifice of the blood of Christ and also, in a lesser sense, their ministrations typified the spiritual services which Christians offer up to God (1 Peter 2:5). We do not believe for a moment that Ezekiel fully understood the symbolical nature of the vision which he saw, no doubt thinking of it as the ultimate reality itself.

“The picture of the river flowing from under the threshold of the Temple is a clear instance of symbolism, expressive of the blessings that flow from God’s presence in his sanctuary (his Church).”(F7)

“These closing chapters present vast difficulties. The Rabbis of the Talmud remarked that only Elijah, who will herald the ultimate redemption, will elucidate the discrepancies with the Pentateuchal laws and the terms which are found only here.”(F8) Many scholars have cited places in the text which they have designated as “hopelessly corrupt.” Cooke noted that, “Much of the detail in Ezekiel 40-42 is difficult and obscure.”(F9)

God at this time was drafting a new constitution, a New Covenant, for a New Israel of God, the first step being a return of Israel from Babylon and the reestablishing of them in Canaan; and this New Temple to come at the close of the Exile would never be able to meet the demands of that New Israel of God; and in this description of it, “There is a reaching out to something broader, larger, and more spiritual, even to that Israel of Messianic times, i.e., the Church of God in the Christian ages.”(F10)

Eichrodt marveled that nothing was said here about the foreign nations;(F11) but the application of the great symbols of this passage to the New Israel in the times of Messiah makes any mention of “foreign nations” absolutely unnecessary. In the New order, there will be no such thing as Jews and foreign nations. All will be upon exactly the same level. Jews will have no special privileges in the New Israel. We believe that all the foreign nations (Gentiles) are symbolized by the Ten Tribes of lost Israel.

The Millennial view that the distant future will see the actual building of some literal Temple in Jerusalem and the bringing together of the alleged Tribes of Israel together to offer sacrifices in it appears to be the ultimate impossibility. The Tribes of Israel have long been lost as regards their identity, there not being a Jew on earth today who can possibly know what tribe he came from. Furthermore, regarding animal sacrifices, what earthly good could come of such things? Could they be a substitute for the `Blood of Jesus Christ’? “A Temple with such sacrifices now would be a denial of the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. Under Moses, he who sacrificed animals confessed Christ; whosoever would do so now would most solemnly deny him.”(F12)

Alexander referred to Ezekiel’s Temple as “the Millennial Temple”;(F13) but it is our conviction that the Church of Jesus Christ is the only Millennial Temple known to God. The Church is the Temple which was indeed built, by the Son of God Himself; it is the Temple in which the Spirit of God and his indwelling presence may be found forever.

This literal thing that Ezekiel saw, what good could it possibly serve? Could one Temple in Jerusalem serve the millions of the servants of God? What earthly benefit could be won by animal sacrifices? Would the Jews still cheat the worshippers by overcharging for the sacrifices and then cheating on the Temple exchange like they did when they ran it of old? We are mystified indeed by the loyalty some seem to have in regard to theories of a literal Millennium.

Howie noted that the omission of the west gate in chapter 40 was due to the fact that, “It should be understood that there was no west gate; the Temple faced toward the East, and there was no rear entrance.”(F14) We have already noted that it is very unlikely that Ezekiel had any adequate conception whatever of the true spiritual import of certain elements in his vision. As Skinner said, “Although Ezekiel himself does not distinguish between symbol and reality, it is nevertheless possible for us to see, in the essential ideas of this vision, a prophecy of that eternal union between God and man which is brought to pass by the work of Christ.”(F15)

The literalists who think they can find the promise of fleshly Jews being glorified in a return to Canaan and the rebuilding of their Temple can find no support whatever for such views in the New Testament. As Keil said, “It is impossible to understand the Holy City of Revelation 11 as the literal Jerusalem, nor the woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12 as the Jewish race converted to Christ. The Jerusalem of those passages is spiritually the same as Sodom and Egypt.”(F16)

Nevertheless, it must be remembered that a great deal of the imagery used by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation strongly resembles the terminology here. The Twelve Gates of the eternal City coming down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:12), having the names of the Twelve Tribes engraved upon them, is an example of this.

“This whole section of Ezekiel forms an ideal picture which was never actually to be realized, but which strikingly embodies the conception of the abiding presence of God with his people, and of their perfect fellowship with him.”(F17)

“The last two chapters of Revelation refer to this section of Ezekiel, as the previous chapter refers to that of Gog and Magog. and therefore these chapters of Ezekiel are to be the more regarded.”(F18)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 48". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/ezekiel-48.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Ads FreeProfile