Attention! has pledged to build one church a year in Uganda. Help us double that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 47

Verses 1-12

Chapter 47:1-12

Here suddenly the view becomes wider and freer. It enters into the Messianic times. From the restored temple at length salvation goes forth for the whole world: this is the naked thought. We shall have to regard as the Mediator of this salvation the exalted descendant of David, who, according to ch. Ezekiel 17:23, grows from a feeble sapling to a glorious cedar under which all fowls dwell: to the fowls of every wing there, correspond here the fish of every kind ( Ezekiel 47:10). In harmony with our prophecy the salvation here announced took its beginning at the time of the second temple, and flowed thence, where Jesus had the chief seat of His activity (comp. on John 7:3-4), over the nations of the earth.

The relations of the New Testament to our section are very rich and manifold. In reference to it the Lord in Matthew 4:18-19 says to Peter and Andrew, “I will make you fishers of men.” On it rests the miraculous draught of fishes by Peter at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus (Luke 5), and also the draught after the resurrection in John 21 Jesus designedly embodies, at the commencement and the close, the contents of our prophecy in a symbolic act. No less allusive to our prophecy is the parable of the net, which gathered of every kind, in Matthew 13:47. Finally, in Revelation 22:1-2 is announced the last and most glorious fulfilment of our prophecy. Our section is the only one in the whole cycle of ch. Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 48:35, the fulfilment of which is represented in the New Testament as belonging to the time of Christ. It should have set aside the old application of the whole prophecy concerning the new temple to the Christian church, that the New Testament affords no support for this interpretation. On this side of the Apocalypse the references are limited to ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12; all the rest is ignored, which would be inconceivable if it referred to the times of the New Testament. But the new Jerusalem in the Apocalypse, far from establishing the interpretation of the whole prophecy by the Christian church, stands to the restored Jerusalem of Ezekiel in an antithetic relation. In Ezekiel all is earthly; there all is above the earthly. The measures are quite different. In Ezekiel the whole city has the moderate circuit of about a mile and a half (about 7 Eng.), which agrees with its extent after the exile. On the contrary, in Revelation 21:16 the city is 12,000 stadia long, broad, and high. It measures on every side 300 geographical miles (above 1200 Eng.). In the Apocalypse all is of gold, precious stones, and pearls, while here the most moderate relations are presented. The temple that forms here the absolute centre is wanting altogether in the Apocalypse.

It is not otherwise with the closing prophecy of Ezekiel than in the prophecy in the first book of Moses. There the announcement concerning the blessing coming upon all the families of the earth through Abraham, and of the Shiloh, to whom the people cleave ( Genesis 49:10), only penetrates into the Messianic region. Irrespective of this, the prophetic announcement—as Genesis 12:1-3, and particularly the blessing of Jacob in Genesis 49, clearly show—refers to the deliverance of the nearer future, to the people springing from the descendants of the patriarchs, the release from the land of pilgrimage, the possession of Canaan. So, in Ezekiel, the lower but nearer deliverance preeminently draws his attention to itself, as indeed is the case in all other prophets; as, for ex., Habakkuk opposes to the Chaldean catastrophe first the release from the Chaldean bondage. Such a course is evidently wise and natural. The plain, obvious matter of fact could only be mistaken in a time when the mind was not alive to historical apprehension. It is an anachronism to attempt to revive such an interpretation. We certainly need not therefore mistake the fact, that in a certain sense the whole description of the new temple bears a Messianic character. The restoration of the temple here announced is not exhausted by the immediate fulfilment. It assures us that even in the church of Christ life will ever issue from death. But there it stops: ch. Ezekiel 47:1-12 alone is directly and exclusively Messianic. The order in this section, which runs parallel with ch. Isaiah 53 of Isaiah, ch. Jeremiah 30 and Jeremiah 31 of Jeremiah, and ch. Zechariah 11 of Zechariah, is very simple: first, the description, the water from the sanctuary, Ezekiel 47:1-6; the trees on its banks, Ezekiel 47:7; then the statement of the purpose served by that which is described—the water, Ezekiel 47:1-11; the trees, Ezekiel 47:12.

Ezekiel 47:1. And he brought me back to the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the front of the house was toward the east, and the waters came down from under the right side of the house south of the altar. 2. And he brought me forth the way of the gate northward, and led me round without to the outer gate that looketh eastward; and, behold, waters gushed from the right side. 3. And when the man went forth to the east, and the line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and brought me through the waters, waters of the ankles. 4. And he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters, waters to the knees. And he measured a thousand, and brought me through waters of the loins. 5. And he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not wade: for the waters were high, waters of swimming, a river that could not be passed. 6. And he said unto me, Seest thou, son of man? And he led me, and brought me back to the brink of the river. 7. When I returned, behold, at the brink of the river were very many trees on this side and on that. 8. And he said unto me, These waters go out to the west circuit, and go down to the waste, and enter the sea; brought forth they fall into the sea, and the waters are healed. 9. And it shall be, that every living being that creepeth, to which the two rivers come, shall live; and the fish shall be very many: for these waters shall come thither, and they shall be healed; and every thing shall live to which the river cometh. 10. And it shall be, that fishers shall stand on it, from En-gedi even to En-eglaim; they shall be a spreading place for nets: their fish shall be of all kinds, as the fish of the great sea, very many. 11. Its mire and its marshes that are not healed are given to salt. 12. And on the river, on its brink, on this side and on that, shall grow all trees for food: its leaf shall not fade, nor its fruit cease; it shall ripen every month, for its waters flow forth from the sanctuary; and its fruit shall be for food, and its leaf for healing.

Under the figure of water salvation is often presented in Scripture, which appears even in paradise in the shape of water; comp. Genesis 13:10. In Psalms 46:5, “The river, its streams gladden the city of God,” the blessings of the kingdom of God, His royal graces, appear as a river that conveys its saving waters by a series of channels to the community of God. The saving waters that there belong first only to Zion are here k out also to the heathen. In Psalms 87:7, when the Messianic salvation is come which quickens the thirsty soul and the dry land, Israel sings, “All my springs are in Thee.” Isaiah prophesies in ch. Isaiah 30:25 of this time: “And there shall be on every high mountain, and on every lofty hill, rivers. Water-brooks, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.” While the judgment on the world proceeds, and in it annihilates all pride and abases all haughtiness, Zion is quickened by the waters of salvation. The figure is directly explained in several places. In Psalms 36:9, “And of the river of thy pleasure thou makest them drink,” the river denotes the fulness of delight which the Lord pours upon His own. Isaiah says in ch. Isaiah 12:3 of the Messianic times, “And with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” In Revelation 7:17 it is said, “The Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them to living fountains of waters.” Accordingly water signifies life, a powerful happy life disturbed by no hindrance. So also in Revelation 22:1. Ezekiel expands here what Joel has indicated in ch. Joel 3:18, “And a fountain goes forth from the house of the Lord, and waters the acacia dale,” the symbol of human need; and Zechariah again in ch. Zechariah 14:8 points back to Ezekiel. The water comes out under the threshold of the house. The house is the proper temple, the holy place, and the holy of holies. The proper fountain is in the latter. According to the Apocalypse, the water goes out from the throne of God. The prophet has in ch. Ezekiel 43:1 f. seen the new entrance of the Lord into the sanctuary forsaken by Him. In this entrance, from which the city again receives the name “Jehovah thither” (ch. Ezekiel 48:35), not only the appearance of Christ announced elsewhere by the prophet, but the issue of the waters consequent upon it, has its ground. But Ezekiel, held fast by the Old Testament limits, cannot advance to the fountain of waters. The entrance into the holy of holies was allowed only to the high priest. The words, “For the face or front of the house was toward the east,” explain the foregoing passage, where the threshold toward the east was spoken of. The front side is, as such, at the same time the door side. But the front of the temple is toward the east. That the descent of the water is spoken of is explained by this, that to depict its internal elevation the temple was higher than the court. The water comes down under the right or south side of the house, that is, to the south-east; for from what goes before, the south side can only be the south part of the east side. The water flows to the south end of the threshold. The reason why it came forth there, and not in the middle of the threshold, is given in the words “south of the altar.” The altar of burnt-offering lay immediately before the east door of the sanctuary (ch. Ezekiel 40:47): the water must therefore issue not from the middle of the threshold, if it was not to meet with an immediate hindrance; it must first come forth where the altar did not stand in the way. The prophet has, so far as he was allowed, seen the origin of the water. Now he is to observe its further course. For this purpose he must leave the temple. The most natural way out was the east gate of the court, where the water flowed toward the east. But as, according to ch. Ezekiel 44:1-2, the outer east gate was always shut, he must go round through the north gate, and outside the temple make his way to the east gate. There, according to Ezekiel 47:2, he sees water gushing out [312] on the right side. The right, or the south side, is here also, from the connection, the south-east. The south side of the east gate is first meant. But the water comes forth on the south side of the east gate, only because it has taken its rise on the south-east side of the temple. It goes forth thence in a straight course. The measuring in Ezekiel 47:3-5 is fourfold. The thought is, that the Messianic salvation, at first small in appearance, will unfold itself in ever richer fulness and glory, crescit eundo, while the streams of worldly enterprise after a brief course dry up—are streams whose waters lie ( Isaiah 58:11; Job 6:15-20). To be compared is ch. Ezekiel 17:22-23, where the tender sapling grows to a cedar, in whose shadow all the fowls of heaven, all the nations of the earth, dwell,—a passage that affords the necessary supplement to ours, as in it the person of the Mediator appears; and also in the New Testament the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. The same progress which is exhibited in the real world among the nations, appears also in the life of individuals. The wonderful power working in secret brings by degrees great out of small, fathers in God out of children. That it was not possible to walk through the water ( Ezekiel 47:5), the prophet ascertained by his own experience as he waded in to the neck ( Isaiah 8:8). In Ezekiel 47:6 the prophet is brought back from the stream to its brink. He cannot therefore have been satisfied with observing the state of the water from the brink, which has also all antecedent analogy against it. The words, “Seest thou, son of man” ( Ezekiel 47:6), point out the high significance of what precedes, and form at the same time the close and the transition. The words, “and brought me back to the brink of the river,” indicate that the attention is now to be turned to this, whereas hitherto it was directed to the bed of the river in which the prophet had to go hither and thither. It is said literally in Ezekiel 47:7, “when he turned me back.” [313] This is one of the verbal peculiarities which occur, in the whole of the Old and New Testament, only in Ezekiel. Me: this shows that the return was a passive act determined by a foreign influence. It is indeed preceded by, “He led me, and brought me back to the brink of the river.” The need of salvation is denoted by hungering as well as thirsting. Accordingly life or salvation is here represented in the shape of the fruit-tree, as before by the water; comp. Isaiah 55:1-2, where, in describing the future times of quickening, along with water for the thirsty, is named bread for the hungry. The trees have here no independent import. They come into account only for their fruit. If, by an unseasonable comparison of Psalms 1:3, Jeremiah 17:8, we understand by trees, men—the righteous of the Messianic time—by fruits their virtues, we violently sever our prophecy from the connection with Genesis 2:9, Genesis 3:22, on the one side, and with Revelation 22:2 on the other. That in the latter place persons are not spoken of, and the trees as in paradise come into account only for their fruits, is shown by the parallel passage, ch. Revelation 2:7, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Here the righteous are not themselves the tree of life, but they eat of the tree of life. With Ezekiel 47:8 begins the statement of the aim. First, we learn in Ezekiel 47:8-11 what the water means. The words, “These waters go out to the east circuit,” determine the region in which the waters are to prove effectual. The details then follow in the words, “And go down to the waste, and enter the sea.” The waste, the Arabah, denotes in general the valley of the Jordan. In this connection, however, with the east region on the one side and the sea on the other, the Arabah can only come into account in its south end by the Dead Sea. There, in preparation for the Dead Sea, and as a fitter entrance to this, it is a horrid wilderness—“a solitary plain full of salt clay.” The wilderness is in Scripture a figure of ungodliness—thus a suitable emblem of the world estranged from God and excluded from His kingdom, to which applies the words in Psalms 107:5, “Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” In the fundamental passage of Joel corresponds to the Arabah here, “The vale of the acacias, the wilderness tree;” and in Isaiah 35:6, the Arabah is in parallelism with the wilderness: “In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the waste.” The figure of the wilderness transferred from Joel, the prophet only indicates. He turns immediately to a second more striking figure of ungodliness; and gives this at full length. “The sea” is from the whole context the east sea ( Ezekiel 47:18), the Dead Sea, of which Von Raumer says, p. 61, “The sea is called Dead, because there is in it no green plant, no water-fowl—in it no fish, no shell. If the Jordan carry fish into it, they die.” Gadow relates: “Some herons had taken their stand on the miry delta (of the entering Jordan), and sought the little fishes washed into the sea, that died instantly in the sharp lye. I remarked some struggling with death.” This explains the passage of Ezekiel 47:8-10. Sea-fishes, which Marshal Marmont at Alexandria cast into the water taken from the Dead Sea, died in two or three minutes. As a symbol of the corrupt world lying in wickedness ( 1 John 5:19), the Dead Sea is the more appropriate, as it owes its origin to a judgment on the corrupt world, and the spiritual eye discerns under its waves the figure of Sodom and Gomorrah. The prophet has already, in ch. Ezekiel 47, presented Sodom as a type of the world dead in sins; comp. above, p. 144. “Into the sea” is a repetition, in order to attach to it the statement of the aim and the import. All before this was purely geographical. For the statement of the aim the phrase “brought forth “prepares, which points to the higher hand, which by deliberate counsel executes the plan of salvation. “And it shall be” ( Ezekiel 47:9) directs the attention to the remarkable change. As there is in the Dead Sea no other “living being” than those who wrestle with death, or have yielded to it, so also its counterpart the world is a great charnel-house. “Living beings:” they merit this name first after the waters from the sanctuary have overcome the substances hostile to life. The “two rivers” stand for the strong river, as in Jeremiah 50:21 the double revolt means the strong revolt. The first oppressor of Israel in the time of the Judges bears, on account of his great wickedness, the name Rishathaim, double wickedness. [314] In a certain respect the foregoing passage speaks of a doubled water—the source as it first comes from the sanctuary, and the increase which it afterwards receives. Only after they receive this reinforcement they effect the here mentioned miraculous change in the Dead Sea. “And the fish shall be very many:” the sea appears in Scripture as the symbol of the world. Accordingly men appear as the living creatures in the sea, and in particular as the fishes; comp. on Revelation 8:9. In the Dead Sea of the world there were hitherto only dead fish, that are not reckoned as fish, but only unspiritual, unsaved men. If the meaning of the fish be settled, that of the fishers cannot be doubtful. If the fish be the men who have attained to life by the Messianic salvation, the fishers can only be the messengers of this salvation, who gather those who are quickened into the kingdom of God—introduce them into the communion of the church. So also has our Lord repeatedly and emphatically expounded this trait of our prophecy; thus in the words directed in the apostles to all the ministers of the church: “I will make you fishers of men; fear not, henceforth thou shalt catch men” ( Luke 5:11; in Matthew 13:47, etc.). The question is not of fishers who will divide the fish caught after their kind, but only of those who catch fish of different kinds. The forced transference of the prophecy to the last time of the kingdom of God has nothing for, everything against it: the gradual growth of the river of life; the authority of Christ, who sets out from this, that the fishing of men predicted by Ezekiel begins immediately; and the nature of the thing, as it would be absurd to ignore the beginning and contemplate the end alone or even chiefly, since it is already contained in the beginning. The fishers will stand from En-gedi to En-eglaim. Both places are combined, because they are both named from a fountain. En-gedi is known. It lies on the west side of the sea, pretty far toward the south, though by no means on the south end. Jerome places En-eglaim at the north end of the sea, where the Jordan flows into it. But as obviously the whole compass of the sea is intended, it is much better to look for En-eglaim on the east side of the sea. Now En-gedi is in fact obliquely over against the Eglaim mentioned in Isaiah 15:8; according to the Onom. s. v. Agallim 8 m. p., south of the old Moabite city Ar, probably identical with Agalla, a city which Alexander Jannaeus had wrested from the Arabs (Joseph. Arch. xiv. 1, 4). [315] “They shall be a spreading place for nets;” literally, they shall be a place for the spreading of the nets. The subject is the places from En-gedi to En-eglaim, thus the whole compass of the Dead Sea, on which hitherto no spread nets, as it were the symbol of the fish kingdom, were seen. The nets are spread after fishing to dry, in preparation for new work, new success. “Their fish shall be of all kinds:” this refers to Genesis 1:21. In the Dead Sea of the world arises such a joyful swarm of those who are made partakers of life from God, as once at the creation in the natural sea of ordinary fish. The salvation is for all, without distinction of nation, rank, or age. [316] “Its mire [317] and its marshes that are not healed” ( Ezekiel 47:11): the height of the water in the Dead Sea is different at different times. If the water subsides, salt morasses and marshes arise here and there, that are cut off from connection with the main sea (Robinson, Part ii. pp. 434, 459). In the Dead Sea of the world, the swamp and marshes are originally of the same nature as the main sea: the only difference is, that they cut themselves off from the healing waters that come from the sanctuary: comp. the sayings, “and ye would not;” and, “No man can come unto me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him”—whose drawing the longing of the soul must meet ( John 6:44). “Are given to salt:” the salt comes into account here not as seasoning, as often, but as the foe of fruitfulness, life, and prosperity. The salt land denotes, in Job 39:6, the desert, barren steppe. To be given to salt forms the contrast to deliverance from the corrosive power of salt, which would be effected by the water from the sanctuary, if access were afforded to it; the waters remain given over to the salt: “He that believeth not the Son of God shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” ( John 3:36). It is punishment enough for the world lying in wickedness, that it abides as it is. That the trees bring forth new fruit every month ( Ezekiel 47:12), indicates the uninterrupted enjoyment of salvation. The salvation must present itself for the deadly sick heathen world, before all in the form of saving grace. Besides the nourishing fruits, therefore, are named also the healing leaves.

[312] פכךְ? , to roll, is connected with בקק , both formed after the sound, “of the sound which the emptying bottle makes,” in Arab, to break forth, gush forth. Very unsuitable is the comparison with בכה , weep, then trickle. The water must in its very origin bear the character of fulness and life.

[313] In the infinitive, ֵ ני—regularly and without exception denotes the accus. me, ִ י—the genitive of the subject, my (Böttcher, Gram.).

[314] Perhaps ענלים in Ezekiel 47:10 is also such a dual, the double calf in parallelism with the goat. Springs are named after the discoverers. The calf had signalized itself by the discovery. The doubled stands often for the distinguished: thus כפלים , Job 11:6; םשנה , Isaiah 61:7.

[315] That Eglaim in Isaiah is written with א is not decisive, as ע and א are not seldom exchanged; comp. Gesen. Thes. under &#א אגלים affords no suitable derivation.

[316] Jerome: Omnia capta sunt ab apostolis, nihil mansit incaptum, dum nobiles et ignobiles, divites et pauperes et omne genus hominum de mari hujus seculi extrahitur ad salutem. The great multiplicity of kinds has since then become infinitely more manifest.

[317] The singular stands in the text. The Keri, to which the vowels belong, substitutes the plural on account of the following plural. But בצה occurs elsewhere only in the sing. ( Job 8:11; Job 40:21); and also בץ , mire, Jeremiah 38:22.

Verses 13-23

Chapter 47:13-23

From the far future the prophet returns to the near, from the higher salvation to the lower, which formed its presupposition. He has already painted the temple and city of the future. It remains to show how Israel is reinstated in the possession of the land. In this section the boundary of the land is given. In ch. Ezekiel 48 then follows the partition among the several tribes.

In Numbers 34 and in Joshua 15 the statement of the boundaries proceeds from the south; here, on the contrary, it begins in the north, and the tribes also in ch. Ezekiel 48 follow from north to south. The distinction arises from this, that in ancient times Israel came from the south into the land, but here the return takes place from the land of the north.

Everything also in our section depends on this, that we rightly conceive the aim of the prophet. His problem is this, to give a hold and a ground for believing hope in the restoration to the land of their fathers as it existed for the people affected by the Chaldean catastrophe (to those affected by the Roman conquest such a hope is nowhere held out in the Old or New Testament, and could not be held out according to the nature of the New Testament). Questions of detail—whether the Phoenicians and the Philistines shall keep their coast-land, whether the transjordanic region shall, as formerly, come into possession of Israel as a frontier of the proper Canaan—interest him not. He deals only in the general. He knows that the Mosaic boundary is not completely covered by the later actual boundary—that circumstances have changed the state of things. He adheres closely to this Mosaic boundary as it is presented in Numbers 24, as in the description of the temple he does to the pattern of that of Solomon. In conclusion, he declares that the strangers who have been incorporated with Israel during the exile, shall be made equal with the natives in the partition of the land. We have here a remarkable monument of faith—a parallel to the blessing of Jacob, who, far from the land of promise, contemplated its future possession as present. The exposition that would transfer all to the times of the New Testament, is in this section also involved in perplexity. It asserts that all is to be spiritually understood here, but cannot give the spiritual sense more precisely. It is true our section contains ‘‘ truth and poetry;” but if we do not understand that the truth in it is the restoration from the Chaldean exile, which even in Jeremiah, for ex., in ch. Jeremiah 31:30, presents itself as the chief source of comfort, all floats in the air.

Ezekiel 47:13. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, The inside of the border by which ye shall inherit the land, for the twelve tribes of Israel: for Joseph two portions. 14. And ye shall inherit it, every one as his brother; which I lifted up my hand to give to your fathers: and this land shall fall to you for inheritance. 15. And this is the border of the land on the north side, from the great sea towards Plethlon, and thence to Zedad; 16. Hamath, Berathah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath; Hazer the middle, which is on the border of Hauran. 17. And the border from the sea shall be Hazar-enon, the border of Damascus, and the north northward, and the border of Hamath. And this is the north side. 18. And the east side, from between Hauran, and Damascus, and Gilead, and the land of Israel, is the Jordan; from the border to the east sea ye shall measure. And this is the east side. 19. And the south side southward, from Tamar to the waters of Meriboth Kadesh the inheritance reaches to the great sea. And this is the south side southward. 20. And the west side is the great sea, from the border over against the way to Hamath. This is the west side. 21. And ye shall divide the land for you unto the tribes of Israel. 22. And it shall be, that ye shall allot it for an inheritance to you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, who have begotten children among you; and they shall be unto you as the natives among the children of Israel; with you shall they share in the inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23. And it shall be, that in the tribe with which the stranger dwells, there ye shall give him his inheritance, saith the Lord Jehovah.

The inside of the border ( Ezekiel 47:13) is the land enclosed within the border. [318] The following “by which”—in what relation, to what extent—“ye shall inherit the land” serves for explanation. “Joseph parts;” that is, wherein Joseph shall receive two parts. The allusive brevity, which shows itself particularly in this, that a multiplicity of parts is spoken of instead of a definite duality, arises from this, that the proportion is generally known. Jacob, in Genesis 48:5, makes the two sons of Joseph equal in respect of the share in the land of Canaan—raises these grandsons to the rank of sons. In the statement of the north boundary in Ezekiel 47:15-17, the direction is first defined in Ezekiel 47:15 by a prominent point. It commences at the Mediterranean, and proceeds thence over Hethlon to Zedad. This, the present Zadad or Sudud, four hours from Hasya on the west edge of the desert, was named in Numbers 34:8 as the north-eastern point of the territory of Israel. In Ezekiel 47:16 are then named some of the most important places lying on the north border; at the head Hamath, as the most considerable of the border lands. Then in Ezekiel 47:17 the sea is designated as the western point of the north border; Hazar-enon as the eastern, which appeared in Numbers 34:9 as the eastern point of the north border; and Hamath as the northern, [319] which often presents itself, after the example of Numbers 34:8, as the northern limit of Canaan. Solomon assembles all Israel to the dedication of the temple, from Hamath to the river of Egypt ( 1 Kings 8:65). [320] As the east border, by which the land of Israel is separated from Hauran, Damascus, and Gilead, appears in Ezekiel 47:18 the Jordan. The transjordanic region is thus not reckoned to the land of Israel. A reversal of relations has thence been wrongly inferred. Even in Numbers 32:30, Numbers 33:51, the land of Canaan is the land west of the Jordan. In Joshua 22:9, Canaan and Gilead are set over against one another quite as here. But when the prophet here excludes Gilead from the proper land of Israel, he does not in the remotest degree say that they shall not have it as a frontier in the future, as formerly. If he asserted this, he would be at variance with Psalms 60, with Micah 7:14, where it is said of the people delivered from the Babylonian catastrophe (ch. Micah 4:9, Micah 4:7), “They shall feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old;” with Jeremiah 50:19, where, along with Karmel and Mount Ephraim, Bashan and Gilead appear as the possession of the people restored from Babylon; with Zechariah 10:10, and not less with history. “From the border to the east sea ye shall measure:” the border on the north has been already defined in Ezekiel 47:15-17; and then again in our verse, where Hauran stands at the head as the northern point of the east border, the east sea is named as the southern point of the east border—the Dead Sea, so called in contrast with the Mediterranean, which lay to the west. The starting-point of the south border, Tamar, in Ezekiel 47:19, occurs not elsewhere in the Old Testament. As the west sea is given as the end of the south border, we must look for Tamar at the extreme south-east, at the end of the east sea, which appears in Ezekiel 47:18 as the southern part of the east border. To this also point Numbers 34:4 and Joshua 15:2, according to which the south border begins at the end of the salt sea, the tongue that looketh southward from the southern end of the Dead Sea, on which Tamar must have stood. [321] The second point, the strife-waters of Kadesh, is made prominent on account of the theological monitory significance which it has in the history of the old time. [322] The great sea is designated as the western point of the south border. [323] The west border in Ezekiel 47:20, the Mediterranean, begins with the western point of the south border mentioned in Ezekiel 47:19, and goes in the north, “over against the way to Hamath,” to the point where the way from the sea to Hamath, that lay inland in the extreme north, begins, Ezekiel 47:17. The land so designated by its boundary is to be divided ( Ezekiel 47:21) among the tribes of Israel; yet so, it is added in Ezekiel 47:22-23, that the strangers who have been naturalized in Israel in the times of affliction (strangers in general are not intended; but the more exact definition is added, “who have begotten children among you”) are considered in the partition, and indeed each in the tribe to which he has attached himself. Some have wished to find here a New Testament trait; but they have not reflected that the boundaries of the land confined between the Jordan and the Mediterranean render it impossible to think of the hosts of heathen who were then received into Israel, and still less that only the strangers already naturalized in Israel are here spoken of. The general principle which lies at the root of this regulation is already expressed by Moses in Leviticus 19:34: “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be as the home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.” Thus, according to the Mosaic law, heathens by birth might be received into the community of God. The exception that in this respect is made regarding the Ammonites and the Moabites ( Deuteronomy 23:3-5), serves only to confirm the rule ( Deuteronomy 23:7-8). Already in the condition of the people, as Moses discovered, was found a considerable foreign element—the whole posterity of the servants who went to Egypt with Jacob. [324] A new accession took place in Egypt at the time of the exodus. We find of those in the train of Israel a great swarm of Egyptians ( Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4). In 1 Chronicles 2:34-35 we have an example [325] that these Egyptian strangers were considered in the partition of the land, and indeed in the territory of the tribe to which they were attached. Further, Moses gives the friendly invitation to his Midianitish brother-in-law, according to Numbers 10:29 f., to share with his tribe the lot of Israel: “What good the Lord does to us, we will do to you.” “Hobab,” says Knobel, “shall have equal rights with them; thus, for ex., a share in the land. As no further refusal, but immediately after the departure of Israel, is recorded, Hobab consented. In fact, we find his family afterwards in the Hebrew land.” We may compare Judges 1:16, Judges 4:11; Jeremiah 35. Only apparently at variance with Ezekiel is the conduct of Ezra towards the heathen wives ( Ezra 9:10), and that of Nehemiah in ch. Nehemiah 13 toward the heathen men who had settled among the Israelites. Ezekiel speaks of those who had attached themselves by inner inclination to Israel at a time when he had no form nor comeliness, and when there was nothing in him to desire but the true God; Ezra and Nehemiah are zealous against the attempt to make heathendom of equal right with Israel, and to break down the partition wall so necessary in the times before Christ. Both the attraction which Ezekiel commends, and the repulsion for which Ezra and Nehemiah are zealous, arise rather from the same principle. It is the true God who here binds and there severs.

[318] גה is no “old mechanically perpetuated clerical error for זה .” Had this been so, no writer would have put גה for it. Any one must have attentively considered the letters before he wrote גה . It seems almost that Ezekiel wished to teaze scribes and critics, and put them to the test with the &#גה גה is of like import with גֵ הָ ה , Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good to the inwards, and a broken spirit drieth the bone.” The stem is גהה or הוה . Cognate is גּ ֵ ו , middle—in Chald. &#גּ ַ ו גיא , valley, the interior enclosed by mountains; גוי , people, the interior, the centre, in opposition to the individuals as the periphery. The Syr. renders גה rightly by גנלה . It is not the border that is afterwards spoken of, but the territory, גה is here also the fitting word, as זה in Ezekiel 47:15.

[319] צפון , north, without the preposition, denotes the north border, to which all the places named belong. צפונה , toward the north, gives the special in the general. The north border was no straight line, but had its more and less northern points. The most northern was Hamath.

[320] “This is the north side.” את may also here be regarded as a sign of the accus. We may supply “ye see,” or the like. We have here in the local descriptions of Ezekiel a style which closely resembles our telegram. In such a style it is quite perverse to wish, by critical alteration and verbal exposition, to force that which is so easily explained by the assumption of omissions.

[321] Robinson (Traveh, iii. 1, pp. 179, 186), whom several have inadvertently followed, looked for Tamar on the site of the present Kurnub. But the positive grounds are wholly uncertain. The situation of the Thamara mentioned in the Onom. is determined by a change of text—a mere conjecture! But Robinson’s hypothesis leads to the unnatural assumption that the description of the border begins at a point in the middle, and then turns first to the east, and then to the west, against which all analogy speaks.

[322] The designation is taken from Numbers 27:14; only, instead of the singular there, the plural מריבות is put, which points to this, that the strife there involves a whole fulness of rebellion,—a solemn N.B. for those who bore in themselves the nature of their fathers, who were still to the present day a “house of rebellion.”

[323] Instead of “the inheritance goes to the great sea,” it is now usually said, by the river to the great sea, with reference to Numbers 34:6, Joshua 15:4, where, in the definition of the south border, mention is made of the river which falls into the Mediterranean at the old Rhinokorura, the modern Arish. But this river is nowhere else briefly called the river. or river without the article—always the river of Egypt, even in Isaiah 27:12—and could least of all here be so designated by mistake in a section that treats so strictly of the נחלה , the inheritance of Israel. The assumption connected with this interpretation of the incorrectness of the vocalization and accentuation—the word must then have been written as in Numbers 34:5—has not a single analogy in the whole so carefully elaborated text of Ezekiel. The oldest translators, LXX.—who have here παρεκτεῖ?νον , in the repetition (ch. 48:28) κληρονομί?ας—Jonathan, the Syriac, are against this explanation. The inheritance here corresponds to the border of the land in the first two places. That there is an allusion to the river in Numbers 34 we may certainly assume.

[324] Compare my essay, “Moses and Colenso,” Ev. K. Z. lxiv. p. 195.

[325] Compare on this the essay above quoted.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.