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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ezekiel 48

Verses 1-35

Ezekiel 48:1-35. And these are the names of the tribes. From the north end to the part of the way of Hethlon, towards Hamath, Hazar-enan, the border of Damascus northwards, to the part of Hamath, and they shall be to him the east side the sea; Dan one. 2. And on the border of Dan, from the east side to the west side, Asher one. 3. And on the border of Asher, from the east side to the west side, Naphtali one. 4. And on the border of Naphtali, from the east side to the west side, Manasseh one. 5. And on the border of Manasseh, from the east side to the west side, Ephraim one. 6. And on the border of Ephraim, from the east side to the west side, Reuben one. 7. And on the border of Reuben, from the east side to the west side, Judah one. 8. And on the border of Judah, from the east side to the west side, shall be the oblation which ye shall offer, five and twenty thousand the breadth, and the length as one of the tribe-shares, from the east side to the west side, and the sanctuary in the midst of it. 9. The oblation which ye shall offer to the Lord shall be in length five and twenty thousand, and in breadth ten thousand. 10. And to these shall be the holy oblation to the priests, northward five and twenty thousand, and westward in breadth ten thousand, and eastward in breadth ten thousand, and southward in length five and twenty thousand: and the sanctuary of the Lord shall be in the midst of it. 11. To the priests, to him who is sanctified of the sons of Zadok, [326] who kept my charge, who went not astray, when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray. 12. And they shall have a heave-portion of the oblation of the land most holy, by the border of the Levites. 13. And the Levites over against the border of the priests, shall have five and twenty thousand in length, and in breadth ten thousand; the whole length five and twenty thousand, and the breadth ten thousand. 14. And they shall not sell of it, nor exchange, nor alienate the first-fruits of the land: for it is holy unto the Lord. 15. And five thousand that are left in the breadth, before the five and twenty thousand, shall be profane for the city, for dwelling, and for suburbs: and the city shall be in the midst of it. 16. And these are the measures of it; the north side five hundred and four thousand, and the south side again five hundred and four thousand, and on the east side five hundred and four thousand, and the west side five hundred and four thousand. 17. And there shall be a suburb to the city northward fifty and two hundred, and southward fifty and two hundred, and eastward fifty and two hundred, and westward fifty and two hundred. 18. And the residue in length, over against the holy oblation, shall be ten thousand eastward, and ten thousand westward; and it shall be over against the holy oblation: and the produce of it shall be for food for those who serve the city. 19. And they that serve the city shall serve it out of all the tribes of Israel. 20. All the oblation shall be five and twenty thousand by five and twenty thousand: a fourth part ye shall offer the holy oblation, for a possession of the city. 21. And the residue shall be to the prince, on this side and on that side of the holy oblation, and the possession of the city, before the five and twenty thousand of the oblation toward the east border, and westward before the five and twenty thousand toward the west border, over against the portions for the prince: and the holy oblation and the sanctuary of the house shall be in the midst of it. 22. And from the possession of the Levites, and from the possession of the city, in the midst of which is the prince’s, between the border of Judah and between the border of Benjamin, shall be the prince’s. 23. And the rest of the tribes, from the east side to the west side, Benjamin one. 24. And on the border of Benjamin, from the east side to the west side, Simeon one. 25. And on the border of Simeon, from the east side to the west side, Issachar one. 26. And on the border of Issachar, from the east side to the west side, Zebulon one. 27. And on the border of Zebulon, from the east side to the west side, Gad one. 28. And on the border of Gad, from the east side to the west side, and the border shall be from Tamar over the strife-waters of Kadesh, the inheritance to the great sea. 29. This is the land which ye shall allot of the inheritance to the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions, saith the Lord Jehovah. 30. And these are the outgoings of the city on the north side, five hundred and four thousand by measure. 31. 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. 32. And on the east side five hundred and four thousand: and three gates; the gate of Joseph one, the gate of Benjamin one, the gate of Dan one. 33. And the south side five hundred and four thousand in measure: and three gates; the gate of Simeon one, the gate of Issachar one, the gate of Zebulon one. 34. The west side five hundred and four thousand: and three gates; the gate of Gad one, the gate of Asher one, the gate of Naphtali one. 35. Around are eighteen thousand: and the name of the city from that day is Jehovah thither.

[326] Luther, “that shall be consecrated to the priests the children of Zadok,” contrary to 2 Chronicles 26:18.

The north border, with which the tribe-land begins, is briefly transferred to Ezekiel 48:1 from ch. Ezekiel 47:15-17. First, as in ch. Ezekiel 47:15, the course of the north border from west to east; then, as in ch. Ezekiel 47:17, the eastern point, Hazar-enan, and the most northern, Hamath. “To the part of the way:” this shows that the border runs along this way. The words, “And they shall be to him the east side the sea,” assert that all the tribe-lands fill the whole breadth of the land of Canaan. What is here said in general of all the tribes is in the following applied to every single tribe except the first, Dan, which the prophet had specially in his eye in the preliminary general statement. “To him:” this can only refer to the whole of the tribes previously named, which are combined into an ideal unity. The reference to Dan, who is first named afterwards, is impossible. A general expression for that which is afterwards applied to the several tribes we expect beforehand; and the deviation from the standing formula, which is afterwards used in the several tribes, is obviously designed to prevent the application to Dan. [327] The oblation stands in Ezekiel 48:8 in the widest sense, including even the land of the prince. Only when the portion of the prince is taken in, has the oblation the given dimensions. Oblation is all that is not included in the partition, but is antecedently set apart for God. The prince is no less than the priests and Levites the servant of God, and as such is endowed with lands. The breadth is here throughout the extent from north to south, the length from east to west. The reason why the length of the oblation is not given, as the breadth, is that the prophet by such statements would go out of his proper sphere. The length is determined by the boundaries of nature, the Jordan on the one side and the Mediterranean on the other; and to fix them must be left to the geometers. In regard to the length of the oblation, the prophet contents himself with remarking that it is equal to that of the tribe portion, in which he also does not fix the length. Von Raumer (p. 25) reckons the middle breadth of the land at 15 (about 68 Eng.) miles. This whole breadth (or, according to our passage, length) belonged to the prince, with the exception of 25,000 cubits for priests, Levites, and city. “And the sanctuary shall be in the midst of it”—of the whole oblation. The sanctuary lies in the midst of the priests’ part. This is enclosed on the east and west by the portion of the prince. On the north and south it lies in the midst of the Levites’ part, south of the tribe-land of Judah and of the city territory, and north of the tribe-land of Benjamin. The oblation that is to be specially set apart for the Lord ( Ezekiel 48:9), the holy oblation in Ezekiel 48:10, as distinguished from the oblation in general ( Ezekiel 48:8), is the priests’ part, with the sanctuary in the midst. The prophet begins with this, because he has in view not the situation, but the dignity. The length, the extent from east to west, is the same in the portion of the priests, Levites, and city—25,000 cubits; the breadth, the extent from north to south, is peculiar to each—the priests’ part 10,000 cubits, the Levites’ part also 10,000, and the city’s part 5,000. In the north ( Ezekiel 48:10), as also in the south, the border of the priests’ part measures from east to west 25,000 cubits; in the west and the east, the border from north to south or the broad side, 10,000 cubits. As the receivers of the priests’ part are named in Ezekiel 48:11 the sons of Zadok, who remained faithful to the Lord in the time of the apostasy, excluding the rebellious, comp. ch. Ezekiel 44:10, Ezekiel 44:15. They are sanctified by their fidelity, by which their election is made sure. The others are in punishment desecrated, degraded, reduced to mere Levites. [328] “As the Levites went astray,” those who defiled themselves by the service of idols are no longer honoured with the priestly name; comp. ch. Ezekiel 44:10 f. Here also it is clear that the range in which the prophet moves is the time immediately after the exile. The relations and persons with which he is concerned had long disappeared in the times of the New Testament. The heave-portion, [329] which fell to the priests, is described in Ezekiel 44:12 as most holy, because it has God’s sanctuary in the midst of it, and belongs to His most eminent ministers, in contrast with the part of the Levites, which had only the second degree of holiness, and with that of the city, which had only the third. “By the border of the Levites:” this forms the transition to that which follows, where the Levites’ part is spoken of. But it was, even apart from this, proper to make it prominent that the Levites’ part bordered on that of the priests. In the description of the oblation, for theological reasons, the prophet had begun with the middle portion, the priests’ part. It is necessary now to guard against the thought that the Levites’ part was separated by the city, or the city by the Levites’ part from the sanctuary. The servants of the house, the Levites, and also the inhabitants of the city, who in the divine services were to form the holy assembly, behoved to have the sanctuary as near as possible. The “whole length” in Ezekiel 48:13 is explained by Ezekiel 48:10: the length from east to west, not merely on the south border, which was spoken of in the beginning of the verse, where the Levites’ part adjoined the priests’ part, but also on the north border, where the Levites’ part bordered on the tribe of Judah.

[327] Text: The LXX. are correct: Καὶ? ἐ?́?σται αὐ?τοῖ?ς τὰ? πρὸ?ς ἀ?νατολὰ?ς ἑ?́?ως πρὸθά?λασσαν .

[328] The singular המקדש denotes the hallowed part, as distinct from that which is not hallowed. The plur. would attribute the consecration to the collective priestly class; comp. 2 Chronicles 26:18.

[329] תרומיה , different from תרומה , the י denoting descent, is a terumah-part.

The ordinance in Ezekiel 48:14 transfers to this new Levitical land what was said in Leviticus 25:34 regarding the lands of the Levitical cities. The ordinance applies naturally also to the priests’ land; but it is expressly given only for the Levites’ part, because its holiness is less, so that the thought of its being saleable might more readily arise. The “first-fruits of the land” is thus the oblation, to which the Levites’ part belonged, denoted by an abridged comparison, to indicate that of this first part, as of the first-fruits, nothing may be given over to common use. Barter is excluded where God is the landowner and the Levites are only the usufructuaries. [330] In Ezekiel 48:15 follows the third part of the oblation, the city, with its environs situated in the south part of it. Here the breadth of the city lands, its extent from north to south, is first given. It takes in 5,000 cubits which remain over of the total breadth of 25,000. In regard to the length, it is only stated that the city ground, so far as it reaches, lies before the 25,000 cubits, the total length of the oblation, which are common to the priests’ part and the Levites’ part. The particulars of the length, the extent from east to west, appear first in Ezekiel 48:16. The city has the 25,000 cubits over against it, but the 25,000 have the city opposite only for 5,000 cubits; for the city quarter extends so far in length. The city lies in the midst of the whole city quarter: it is surrounded on all sides by an open space, which serves the inhabitants for many purposes. [331] The district of the city is designated as profane, in comparison with the holier district of the Levites, and the most holy of the priests. In a general sense, the city also is holy. The city is indeed a part of the oblation, and oblation and holy coincide. The former Jerusalem is commonly called the holy city. The restored Jerusalem itself is called Kadytis, the holy city, in Herodotus. In Ezekiel 48:16-17 are given the complete measures of the city in the strict sense, and of the free space. To the already known 5,000 of the north side are here added those of the other sides. We learn here that the city part, which according to Ezekiel 48:15 has half the breadth of each of the other two parts of the oblation, includes in the length from east to west only a fifth part of it. The city itself is 4,500 cubits on each side. [332] The free space has ( Ezekiel 48:17) 250 cubits on each side, so that the whole city district contains 5,000 cubits in length and 5,000 in breadth. The small compass of the city district wholly excludes the inhabitants from agriculture. Ezekiel 48:18-19 now dispose of the 20,000 cubits, which still remain in the extent from east to west of the 25,000 cubits of the oblation. These 20,000 cubits, which no less than the 5,000 of the city lie beside the holy oblation, the priests’ part—which is here once more emphatically repeated, that no one may mistake the situation, or in particular shove in the Levitical part between, by which the holy oblation would be separated from its guardians—are divided into two parts of 10,000 cubits each, which take the city in the midst and enclose it east and west. The produce of these two districts is destined for those who “serve the city.” We can only understand by this a militia, who take the city in the midst—military service is the only rude service which can be rendered to a city—and, as is so emphatically stated, are encamped as a guard by the holy oblation with the temple. On the north side of the holy oblation are the Levites as the militia sacra ( Numbers 4:23, Numbers 8:24); on the south side the ministers of the secular arm, which is to protect the church. Adjoining the provision made for these servants on both sides is the domain of the prince, who is to be considered the commander of these guards. [333] Among others, Egypt afforded an example of such military colonies endowed with land. The militia is to be out of all the tribes of Israel; not a hired host gathered out of the lands of other lords, as formerly the Kerethi and Pelethi, but consisting of those who will also serve their Lord in this lower sphere. [334] In Ezekiel 48:20 is the closing remark on the whole oblation thus far described. The holy oblation in the wider sense has without the city 20,000 cubits in breadth: 5,000 cubits in the breadth—that is, the fourth part of 20,000 cubits—fall to the district of the city, this being taken in the wider sense, so that it includes the land of “the servants of the city.” [335] The parts of the priests and the Levites are together four times greater than that of the city. The city is here also included in the holy oblation. In Ezekiel 48:21-22 the part of the prince. This contains on both sides of the holy oblation, extending 25,000 cubits from east to west, which is included in the midst of his department, the land eastward to the Jordan and westward to the sea. On the north, like the holy oblation, particularly the Levitical part, it abuts on Judah; and on the south, as the city portion, on Benjamin. From north to south it has on the east and west sides, first the Levitical part, then the priestly part, then the city part, specially the land of “the servants of the city.” [336] In Ezekiel 48:22, “the possession of the Levites” either includes at the same time the part of the priests who were also Levites, or the two ends only of the oblation, the northern and the southern, are given. In Ezekiel 48:23-28 follow the five remaining tribe territories. On Ezekiel 48:28, comp. Ezekiel 46:17. In Ezekiel 48:29, the closing formula to the account of the partition among the tribes. It is said of, not to, the inheritance, because a part of the whole was not to be distributed, but set apart first as holy ground. In Ezekiel 48:30-35 follow now the “outgoings” of the city. These comprise, as the following details show, two things,—first the boundary lines marked out by walls on the four sides, and next the gates. Both together are that in which the city terminates. The boundary line measures on each side 4,500 cubits: the gates on each side are three, each denoted by one of the names of the tribes of Israel, only for honour, not with reference to the situation of the tribe-land; whence Levi, omitted in the statement of the tribe allotments, must also be mentioned, while the two tribes Ephraim and Manasseh are comprised under the name Joseph, so that the number twelve, which has become the signature of the covenant people, remains to the tribes. At the close of the whole is given the name of the city in its new state. It is henceforth called [337] “Jehovah thither.” This name is explained by Deuteronomy 11:12. There the land, which Israel prepared to occupy, is designated as “a land which the Lord thy God seeks, on which the eyes of the Lord thy God are continually from the beginning of the year to the end of it.” “Jehovah thither” accordingly means the city to which Jehovah continually turns His heart and eye. This “Jehovah thither” showed itself in the most glorious manner in the coming of Christ, in the many attempts which He made to gather the children of Jerusalem, in the tears which the Son of God shed over the fruitlessness of these attempts. When, however, they would not, when His own received not Him that came to His own, the highest grace was turned into a curse—Jerusalem was destroyed; and the “Jehovah thither,” which had availed the restored city for five hundred years, now passed to the new people of God gathered out of Jews and Gentiles, the legitimate continuation of Israel and Jerusalem ( Matthew 21:43), to which Jesus has promised, “Lo, I am with you alway, unto the end of the world.” The material Jerusalem has thenceforth and for ever lost its significance. The fig-tree of the Jewish people, as the people of God, has been torn up with the root ( Mark 11:20); and Jerusalem has not merely for a time, but for ever, ceased to be a privileged city for the worship of God and the revelation of His grace ( John 4:21-24).

[330] The Keri ,יעביר , Hiph. instead of Kal, rests on a perverse assimilation to ימר , etc.

[331] The suff. in בחוכה refers to the city in the wider sense—to לעיר ; the city in the strict sense lies within the city in the wide sense. The Masoretes could not understand this, and appended the masc. suff.

[332] The Masoretes could make nothing of the second חמש . They have left it without vowels, to indicate that it is to be omitted in reading. But it points to this, that the south side equally with the north side has 4500 cubits. Five stands, by an abbreviation usual with Ezekiel in local statements, for on the five, or to the five, etc.

[333] אבד occurs of military service also in ch. 29:20. עבדים for soldiers is quite common.

[334] The fem. suff. in תבואתה the Masoretes could not understand, because the residue means the remaining land, and here the produce of land is to be spoken of.

[335] רביעית means only the fourth part, which refutes the other explanation.

[336] The suff. in בתוכה , Ezekiel 48:21, refers to the domain of the prince.

[337] After מיום , from the day, usually follows the definition of the day: for ex. Deuteronomy 9:24, “from the day that I knew you;” Exodus 10:6, “from the day that they were in the land.” Here this definition is not expressly stated; but it is to be derived from the context, from the day that it is restored, that it appears in the state so fully described. מיום stands thus elliptically in Isaiah 43:13: “from the day” means from the time when the prophecy will be fulfilled; comp. 48:16. מיום never means, and cannot mean, “always,” and just as little “from to-day.” שמה never means “there,” always “thither,” and there is no reason here to abandon this meaning; comp. Christol. on Hosea 2:17.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 48". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.