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5. Topographical aspects of the Millennium chs. 47-48
God promised Abraham that He would give a particular piece of real estate to his descendants (Genesis 12:7). Later He reiterated this promise and became more specific about its boundaries (Genesis 15:7; Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:8; Numbers 34:1-12). He also told the Israelites that they would only be able to occupy the land to the extent that they followed Him faithfully (Deuteronomy 7:12; Deuteronomy 8:2). If they proved unfaithful, He would not only limit their possession of the land but even drive them out of it (Deuteronomy 28). Ezekiel prophesied that God would bring the Israelites back into the land (Ezekiel 36:24-30). He would give them a different attitude, and they would follow Him faithfully. Then they would finally, as never before, enjoy the full extent of the land He had promised their forefathers (cf. Deuteronomy 30). He also promised that they would never lose possession of the land, because they would remain faithful to Him (ch. 39). The assurance of the fulfillment of these ancient promises, which date all the way back to Abraham, concludes Ezekiel. It is a fitting climax to this section assuring future blessings for Israel (chs. 33-48) following the return of God’s glory to the land (chs. 40-48).
This section has two main parts: the description of a river that would flow through and heal the land (Ezekiel 47:1-12) and the description of Israel’s boundaries and tribal allotments during the Millennium (Ezekiel 47:13 to Ezekiel 48:35).
Ezekiel’s guide, who appears to have been his original guide in this vision (Ezekiel 47:3), brought him back to the main entrance to the temple proper. Ezekiel saw water flowing to the east from under the temple threshold. It apparently flowed to the south of the stairs on the right side of the temple as one faces east.
The Letter of Aristias, dated about 100 B.C., contains reference to a spring on the temple mount inside the enclosure of the temple area. [Note: Cooke, pp. 517-18.] There may already be a natural water source at this site.
The temple river 47:1-12
The man then brought Ezekiel through the north gate to the outside of the outer wall of the temple enclosure. Just south of the east gate he saw water trickling to the east, a continuation of the stream that he had observed inside the temple enclosure.
The "man" took his measuring line (cf. Ezekiel 40:3) and measured 1,000 cubits (about one-third of a mile) east from the wall along the watercourse. He led Ezekiel across the river (Heb. nahal), and it was ankle deep. Another 1,000 cubits farther east they crossed again, and this time the water was knee-deep. Another 1,000 cubits, and it was up to his waist. Another 1,000 cubits, and it was so deep that they could not cross it standing up. It was so deep they would have had to swim across.
This description suggests that some major topographical changes will have occurred east of present-day Jerusalem by this time. Other revelation supports this conclusion (cf. Ezekiel 34:26-30; Ezekiel 36:8-12; Ezekiel 36:30-36; Ezekiel 37:25-28; Ezekiel 45:1-8; Ezekiel 48:8-14; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 13:1; Zechariah 14:4-8). The water will follow the contours of the altered terrain, not the past or present landscape. Zechariah recorded that the water flowing from Jerusalem will divide with half of it going west to the Mediterranean Sea and half east to the Dead Sea (Zechariah 14:8). Ezekiel described only the branch that flowed east.
The guide made sure Ezekiel saw this. Then he brought him back to the edge of the river. Many trees were growing on both sides of the riverbank. Rivers, by their nature, give life.
The man explained that the river continued east and emptied into the Arabah, the Jordan valley, and eventually into the Dead Sea. Presently this involves a drop in elevation of over 3,700 feet (from the temple mount at 2,430 feet above sea level to the Dead Sea at 1,290 feet below sea level). These waters purified the waters of the Dead Sea and made it a live sea. The Dead Sea presently contains 24-26 percent minerals compared with normal seawater that contains 4-6 percent. [Note: Ibid., p. 520.] This is the reason no fish or other aquatic life live in it. The water of this river would give life to all the creatures that would gather in swarms along its banks and to the fish that would swim in it.
"The Dead Sea today is a symbol of barren desolation. This future change is a visible reminder that God can turn death to life. Our God specializes in changing the unchangeable!" [Note: Dyer, in The Old . . ., p. 697.]
The Dead Sea would become so full of many varieties of fish that fishermen would fish for them from Engedi, on the west side of the sea about midway north to south, to Eneglaim, possibly on the northwest shore near Qumran or on the eastern side. The entire Dead Sea region would not become fresh, however; the swamps and marshes would remain saline, perhaps to provide salt and or other minerals for the people.
Fruit trees would grow all around the Dead Sea. They do not do so now. They would remain continually healthy and productive. These trees would be so fruitful that they would bear fruit every month of the year. People would eat their fruit and use their leaves for medicinal purposes. This formerly desert region would blossom like a rose (cf. Ezekiel 36:35; Isaiah 35:1-2; Isaiah 35:6-7; Joel 3:18; Romans 8:19-22).
This river is similar to two other rivers in the Bible: the river that flowed out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10) and the river that will flow in the New Jerusalem during the eternal state (Revelation 22:1-2; cf. Psalms 46:4; Psalms 65:9; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8). Like the river in Revelation the one in Ezekiel will flow from the throne of God; He is the source of both rivers. However, there will be a temple in the millennial earth, but there will not be one in the eternal state (Revelation 21:22). The river in Revelation also flowed down the street of the city, but Ezekiel mentioned no city to the east of the temple, just one to its south (Ezekiel 45:6). It seems that Ezekiel and John saw two different rivers, but the purpose of both rivers was the same. God will be the source of fertility, blessing, and health in the Millennium and throughout eternity.
The river that Ezekiel saw was a real river with life-giving and healing properties. But like the rivers in Genesis 2 and Revelation 22 it also has symbolic significance. Many interpreters spiritualize the entire passage and see no literal fulfillment in the future. [Note: E.g., Taylor, p. 278.] It represents the spiritual life and healing that flow to humanity from the throne of God (cf. John 4:14; John 7:37-38). [Note: See Davidson, pp. 349-50.]
"The river is like the blood of the Messiah from the cross of Calvary that began as a trickle (John 19:34). Finally, the blood, like the river, became a flood of redemption for all people (Revelation 1:5). So the flow from Calvary became a fountain of redemption for all people including Israel (see Zechariah 13:1-6; Revelation 1:5-6). Just so, the water of life that the prophet saw coming from the threshold came forth gently, then began to flow, and finally became a mighty river of life healing all in its wake." [Note: L. Cooper, p. 411.]
"All blessings, material and spiritual, will emanate from the presence of the Lord with His people." [Note: Feinberg, p. 272.]
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow!" [Note: The Doxology.]
The boundaries and principles of allotment of the land 47:13-48:35
"There are two special areas of attention in this passage: (1) the concern that God’s people occupy their full boundaries, and (2) the concern that Gentiles will have an inheritance." [Note: Stuart, p. 414.]
The Lord instructed the future Israelites (cf. Ezekiel 47:21) to divide the Promised Land for their inheritance. He first described the boundary around the entire land. The tribes of Joseph, namely, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to have two portions (cf. Genesis 48:5-6; Genesis 48:22). This was important to clarify at the outset because the tribe of Levi would receive another portion of the land (Ezekiel 45:1-8; Ezekiel 48:8-14). Thus the number of tribal allotments would be 12 plus the Levitical portions. Each tribe was to have as much land as all the others; the portions were to be equal in size. This was not the case when Joshua divided the land among the tribes; some tribes received more land than others. Thus the Lord would fulfill His promise to give the Israelites the land as an inheritance. The overall boundaries described here are almost identical to the ones in Numbers 34:3-12 (cf. 1 Kings 8:65).
The boundaries of Israel’s Promised Land inheritance 47:13-23
Note the similarities between Ezekiel and Moses in this section that describes the division of the Promised Land. This is another part of the new constitution for the reconstituted nation of Israel that Ezekiel revealed.
The Lord specified the boundaries by listing place names that the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day would have known. Not all of them are identifiable today.
The northern boundary would run from the Great (Mediterranean) Sea east, following the road to Hethlon, to the entrance of the town of Zedad, and through the region of Hamath (cf. 1 Kings 8:65) near Berothah to Sibraim. It then ran through Hazar-hatticon (lit. the middle Hazar) on the border of the territory of Hauran. Hazar-enan (perhaps the same as Hazar-hatticon) seems to have been the easternmost town in this string. It apparently stood between the borders of the territories controlled by Damascus and Hamath. Some of these sites apparently stood within or adjacent to the region described, not just along its border.
The eastern border would run between the territories of Hauran and Damascus and then along the Jordan River between the land of Israel on the west and Gilead to the east. This boundary would continue south through the eastern (Dead) sea to the town of Tamar.
The south border would run west from Tamar to the waters of Meribath-kadesh (Kadesh-barnea), to the Brook of Egypt (Wadi el-Arish), and along this stream to the Mediterranean Sea.
The west border would be the Mediterranean Sea from the south border, the Brook of Egypt, to a point west of Lebo-hamath in the north.
The Israelites were to divide the land in this way for the tribes of Israel by lot (cf. Ezekiel 45:1). It was not to be for Israelites alone, however. Aliens who permanently lived among them could dwell in this region too. Under the Mosaic economy, resident aliens were non-Israelites who had adopted the religion and laws of the Hebrews; they had become converts to Yahweh worship. The Israelites were to regard these alien peoples as equals with themselves concerning their rights within the land. The reference to these aliens bearing children marks them as having mortal bodies in contrast to believers with immortal (resurrected) bodies who will also have access to the millennial earth (cf. Matthew 22:30; Revelation 20:4). These aliens were to inherit portions of land in the tribal allotments just like the Israelites who lived there (cf. Ezekiel 14:7; Ezekiel 22:7; Leviticus 19:34; Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 15:29; Isaiah 56:3-8).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany