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PRELIMINARY REMARKS ON CHAPTERS 40-48.*
* The reader is left to form his own judgment on the temple seen in vision by Ezekiel, from the various interpretations that I have given in the Preliminary Remarks, the Critical Notes, and the Reflections.
"VITRINGA has proved, in two volumes in Dutch, and a defence of them against the son of Cocceius, that this temple agrees with Solomon's, and with that which was afterwards built by Zerobabel and Herod." Secker.
"Men. Ben. Isr. de Resurrectione, lib. iii. c. 8. p. 314, &c. produces twenty-one instances to shew that this prophesy of Ezekiel was not fulfilled under the second temple; and therefore is yet to be fulfilled." Secker.
"This is certainly not the temple of Zerobabel, nor the division of the land nor the governors that we find either from Zerobabel's time to the destruction of the Persian empire, or from Simon the Prince to the destruction of the Jewish kings of the Hasmonean race: nor the temple which Herod the Great began to build in the 18th year; much less is Herod the Prince mentioned in the 45th chapter. I am not therefore able to give an historical account of these chapters." Michaelis.
"The temple described by Ezekiel should have been built by the new colonists; the customs and usages which he orders should have been observed by them; the division of the country should have been followed by them. That the temple did not arise out of its ruins according to his model, and that his orders were in no manner obeyed, was the fault of Israel. How far were they behind the orders of their first lawgiver Moses? what wonder therefore that they as little regard their second lawgiver Ezekiel? He supposes the return of all the tribes; which was agreeable to the prophesies of the other prophets, and to the will of Cyrus: but only Judah and Benjamin preferred the habitations of their ancestors to the country of Chaldea; and thus the great plan of Ezekiel was at once destroyed." Eichhorn.
A Dissertation on Ezekiel's Vision of the Temple, Ordinances of the Priest, Division of the Land, Flowing Waters out of the Temple, &c. By Archbishop Secker. Ezek. chap. xl-xlviii.
THE Israelites mentioned in this vision are said to be the twelve tribes: Joseph is to have two shares of the land, and Levi none; but in the names of the gates Levi is mentioned, and but one named from Joseph. The country allotted them is described by geographical marks to be the land of Canaan. Indeed the shares of the several tribes are not the same, which they were in Joshua; nor is any of the country beyond Jordan divided amongst them. And chap. Eze 47:22-23 orders, that the proselytes sojourning in each tribe shall have an inheritance in land with those of the tribe in which they sojourn. This doth not seem to have been practised before the captivity. For though the Kenites, Jud 1:16 or rather part of them, 1Sa 15:6 dwelt among the Jews, yet as they had neither house, nor vineyard, nor field, but dwelt in tents, Jer 35:7-9 as did Abraham, who had not a foot of the land in possession, Act 7:5 their case was not the same with that which is appointed here. But still in this alteration it appears, that the twelve tribes are meant literally, else there would be no distinction between them and the proselytes.*
* The meaning may possibly be, that the Gentile converts to Christianity shall have the same privileges with the Jewish. But supposing this, the twelve tribes must mean real Israelites: and they are considered as the principal inhabitants in this vision: whereas the Gentile proselytes to Christianity have greatly exceeded the Jewish. There is indeed a difficulty in the execution of this order, unless the several tribes in their captivity were kept distinct: for else how could it be determined amongst which of them the proselytes sojourned? But perhaps the meaning is, that where they sojourned after the return, and before the division of the land, there they should have a share. It is foretold, Zec 2:11 that Zion should have many proselytes, at the return from Babylon; for that time appears by Eze 39:6-7 to be meant.
And surely the vision must relate to those Israelites who were to return in a short time from Babylon, not to those of a future age. It belonged to those who had been idolaters,† and practised their idolatrous worship in God's temple, so that only the wall was between him and idols: compare chap. 8 and part of whose idolatries had been honouring the carcases of their kings, chap. Eze 43:7-9 and if they repented, the pattern of the house was to be shewn them, Eze 39:11 which had been a small consolation, had it not been to be built for above two thousand years after. And as no other cause of God's anger against them is mentioned or hinted at but their idolatry, surely the vision must relate to their return from that captivity, before which they had been idolaters, not from one before which they had not.‡
† They and their kings, chap. Ezekiel 43:7.
‡ It should also be observed, that as a person, with a line of flax in his hands, measures here the city as well as the temple, so Zechariah 2:0 l, 2 a person appears with a measuring line in his hand going to measure Jerusalem, the length and breadth of it; and this was when Zion, that dwelt with the daughter of Babylon, was commanded to flee from the land of the north; Ezekiel 39:6-7.
Besides, the temple to be built, or rather represented in this vision as built, is plainly the Jewish temple. Learned men, as Villalpandus and others, apprehend it to be of the same dimensions with Solomon's; and Vitringa is said to have proved it in a Dutch work to be of the same dimensions also with Zerobabel's and Herod's. And Lowth apprehends there might be probably need of so exact a description of it, as is given in this vision, in order to enable them to build one of the same dimensions. Moses had the dimensions of the tabernacle revealed to him, Exod. xxv, &c. and David of the temple, 1Ch 11:19 and no one after the captivity could be supposed to remember these. But there is a description of Solomon's temple,
1 Kings 6:0 which we must suppose them to have had then, and which would be a great direction to them, though not so particular as Ezekiel's.|| Zerobabel's temple was indeed much inferior to Solomon's, Hag 2:3 but this might be in ornaments, not things essential. The old people wept when the foundations of it were laid, Ezr 3:12 but this might be joy or tenderness, not sorrow at its being of less dimensions, and indeed Solomon's was not very large.§
|| And it is not easy to conceive, why directions so minute as his should be given, but in order to a real literal building; for surely no certain allegorical sense can be given of each: and to make them all only as ornaments of a parable is loading it with ornaments beyond measure.
§ Some make the measures of Ezekiel's temple and other things foretold so large, that the meaning cannot be literal; but I have not yet seen sufficient authority for this. Or if the measures were much larger than Solomon's temple, or than it was possible the temple, &c. should be, it might mean, not that no literal temple was intended, but that it should he a very large and spacious one, as certain numbers are put for uncertain, and hyperbolical ones for real ones, as in the burning the weapons of Gog's army, and burying their carcases.
The glory of the Lord had been seen by Ezekiel leaving the first house, chap. Eze 10:19 and going to a mountain on the east (as it must naturally do, when it went out of the house, because the entrance of it was from the east), and standing there, chap. Ezekiel 11:23. And from the east it returned to this temple in the vision, and filled the house, chap. Eze 43:1-5 Ezekiel 44:4. Now the glory of the Lord¶ entered into Solomon's temple at the dedication of it, so that the priest could not enter into it to minister, 1 Kings 8:10-11. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14. This was before Solomon's prayer. And again after this prayer fire came down from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice, and the glory filled the house so that the priests could not enter, 2 Chronicles 7:1-2. One supposes therefore, that it was not always in the same degree. But after this I know not that we have any mention of it in the historical books, though there is a vision of it, Isaiah 6:0. Nor, I think, doth Josephus say any thing of it afterwards, though he doth say, Antiq. 3:8, 9 that the prophetic shining of the breast-plate and stone of the high-priest's right shoulder left off two hundred years before his time: του θεου δυοχεραι νοντος επι τη παραβασει των νομων . We are not surely to think, that the glory of the Lord stayed till the return from the captivity, much less stays till a future return, on any hill to the east of Jerusalem; nor indeed is it said, but only that it went to a hill in the east, and returned by the way of the east. But are we to suppose that it did, or will literally return at all to the temple there described? It is said here that it did, but it is said in a vision.** And neither Ezra, who gives the history of the building of the temple, nor Nehemiah, nor the prophets, who wrote afterwards, nor Josephus, mention it, which yet surely some of them would, though one should indeed have thought the departing of it at the Babylonish captivity should have been mentioned too. But if it did not return at the return from Babylon, it is not likely, if Christianity be true, to return at any future return of the Jews. For will God's glory now inhabit a temple built on the principles of Judaism, as this of Ezekiel's plainly is?
¶ I think it is not mentioned from the entering into Canaan till now.
** Which perhaps may mean only, that God will as certainly direct and protect his people as if he was visibly present by a symbol amongst them.
Strangers, uncircumcised in heart and in flesh, had been brought into the temple, and the prophet was directed to tell the people of this; and to charge, that into this new temple no stranger uncircumcised in heart or flesh should enter, chap. Ezekiel 44:6-9. Surely this direction and charge must relate to a time near the commission of that offence, and to the next temple that was built after it, not a time distant, we know not how much above two thousand years; especially as the last temple had no such crime allowed in it, and therefore there was no need to caution against it in a yet future one. And a literal circumcision must be meant here. For the crime under the former temple had been, admitting persons literally uncircumcised; and the repetitions of that being forbid, the same circumcision must be meant; besides that the sense is determined by adding in the flesh as well as in heart. Uncircumcised, when opposed to uncircumcised in heart, means literally, Jeremiah 9:25-26.; much more then, wherein flesh is added.
Farther; sacrifices* were to be offered in this temple, chap. Ezekiel 43:0; Ezekiel 44:0; Ezekiel 45:0; Ezekiel 46:0 of blood and fat, chap. Ezekiel 44:7; the blood to be sprinkled on the altar, chap. Ezekiel 43:18; and God promises to accept them, chap. Ezekiel 43:27. Now though Christians are said in the New Testament to offer sacrifices, and their worship is understood to be meant in the Old Testament when incense and a pure offering is mentioned, Malachi 1:11; yet the word there is מנחה minchah, which denotes particularly a bread-offering, and I believe the goats, bullocks, rams for sin, peace, burnt-offerings, with their times, and quantities of flour and oil added to them, as described in these chapters, cannot be understood of other, than real Jewish sacrifices.†
* There was to be an altar of such dimensions as are exactly specified, chap. Ezekiel 43:13.
† Which, if the Epistle to the Hebrews be true, to say nothing of the rest of the New Testament, God will not accept now, and therefore they must not be understood of future times.
Besides, they were to be offered by priests of the line of Aaron, and those of the sons of Zadoc, because the other priests had been guilty of idolatry, and those priests were to be employed only in lower offices in the temple, chap. Eze 44:10-16 Ezekiel 48:11. Now this seems to intimate a more speedy restoration of the temple, than the seventy years of Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, will allow; and Ezekiel never mentions a number of years, but only that the time of return is near. After the seventy years scarce any could be supposed capable of officiating, that had officiated in an idolatrous worship before. But the prohibition may be designed for their posterity. And for their posterity in Zerobabel's temple it might. But surely not in a time yet future, when nothing but a revelation can determine who are Zadock's posterity, and when it would seem very strange, a punishment should commence for what their forefathers did so long ago. And not only the sons of Aaron as such would not be put to officiate in a Christian temple of the Jews, but Christian ministers would scarcely be described in this manner. But supposing this temple to be that to be built after the return from Babylon, all would be easy.
Farther still; ceremonial laws of sacrifices and purification and distinction between what the priests might do, and what the people might, &c. were to be in force under this temple, chap. Ezekiel 43-44. Whether some of these may differ from the Mosaic, I have not particularly examined: if they do, Ezekiel must be considered as being in part a new legislator; and I believe David and Solomon varied in some things from the rules of Moses. But still all these things cannot be designed, either to have allegorical meanings only, or to be ornaments of a parable only.
The prince mentioned in this vision, chap. 44:—xlviii. cannot be the Messias, but the ruler for the time being of the Jewish nation. It is directed, where he should sit in the temple to eat his share of the sacrifices, when and how be should go in and out, what he shall offer is specified very minutely for the sabbath-day, for his voluntary offering, &c. Particularly, it is directed, chap. Eze 45:22 that at the passover he shall offer a bullock, a sin-offering for himself and all the people. To guard himself against the temptation of oppressing the people, he hath a provision of land allotted him, chap. Eze 45:8 where it follows. "and my princes shall not more oppress my people."‡ It is directed, chap. Ezekiel 46:16, &c. that if he give land out of his inheritance to one of his children, it shall be perpetual; but if to another, it shall be only to the Jubilee. And the prince shall not take of the people's inheritance by oppression, to thrust them out of their possession: he shall give his sons inheritance out of his own possession. These are plainly political rules for common princes, and for a succession of them. Nor is there any thing great said either of the character, or the dignity and dominion, of any particular prince in this vision: though there are considerable things said of the prosperity of the branch of the cedar, which God would plant in the mountain of Israel, but not more than would be proper concerning a flourishing king of Israel; chap. Ezekiel 17:22, &c. Nor doth he any where say|| more of the people of the Jews, than that they should return, and live happily in their own land, one people under one king, God's servant David, and should not be wicked any more or longer, but have his tabernacle amongst them for ever. See particularly chap. Eze 37:24 and Ezekiel 39:25, &c. And accordingly in this vision it is said, chap. Ezekiel 43:7.* that the temple here described was the place of God's throne, where he would dwell for ever in the midst of the children of Israel, and his holy name should neither they nor their kings defile any more by their idolatries. This must relate to their return from a captivity, into which they had been sent for idolatry. And in order to preserve the truth of the prophesy, the words for ever and no more must be explained, as they must in several other places for the same purpose. But supposing them to be understood of a long time only, they will preclude any plea, that the things here foretold were to have been fulfilled if the Jews had been pious; but were not, they being otherwise.
‡ The princes, it seems, had oppressed them, whence it follows, Ezekiel 39:9. "Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel—take away your exactions from my people."
|| Or prophesy any thing against that kingdom, in which he lived; though not only Isaiah, who lived before, but Jeremiah, who lived in a remote part of the empire, did.
* On the house being filled with the glory of the Lord.
Some object against understanding the description of the temple, &c. literally, that the waters said to flow from the temple, and the increase of them, and their sweetening the Dead Sea, and the trees upon their banks with leaves for medicine, chap. Eze 47:1-12 cannot be so understood, and direct the rest not to be so understood. But there was some liberal foundation for this also. For there was much water conveyed in pipes to the temple for washing the place and the sacrifices and the priests, as Aristeus affirms, whose book must have been written whilst the temple stood, and Lightfoot from the Rabbins, and the nature of the things shews. And if I understand Lowth right, they ran out at the east end of the temple, and these several pipes uniting their streams with one another, and with the water of Siloam, and Kidron, and others, which were formerly more plentiful about Jerusalem, than in later times, and with waters from cisterns, see Reland, p. 294. 299, 300. 303. 856-860 might in a short space grow deep and considerable, and might also have trees on their banks, though I find no mention of any, and though Reland, p. 295 mentions a place where Kidron had none. What virtues the leaves of these trees might have I know not. But I see not why Grotius should think these waters must be those of the fountain Callirhoe: for that being a medicinal water, as Josephus and Pliny say it was, see Reland, p. 302, 303 hath no connexion with the medicinal virtue of the trees on its banks. And though Solinus in Grotius says, it was Hierosolymis proxima, [near to Jerusalem] yet that proximity might be at some miles distance, and these waters were at a town which took its name of Callirhoe from them, and was near the Dead Sea: Reland, p. 302, 678. Grotius also understands the healing of the waters to mean only, that this river shall pass through the Dead Sea, without being hurt by it, as the Rhone through the Lemane Lake and others. But no river passes through the Dead Sea, but all are lost in it. And though perhaps a larger quantity running in might make fish live in it; yet neither hath this ever literally happened, nor doth it appear to what very great purpose it would serve. Can it be intended then only as an hyperbolical expression, that in some time then future, Jerusalem should have a more plentiful supply of water,† or in general, that it should have every thing they could wish?‡ Isaiah 41:17-20, promises the Jews plenty of water in the wilderness, where there was none before, and that a variety of trees should grow there; and chap. Eze 43:19-20 that they should be for his people to drink, and that the beasts, dragons, and owls, should honour him for them. And from chap. Eze 35:6-10 and Eze 48:20-21 one should think this was to be at the journey from Babylon, in which if any miracles of this kind had been literally performed, surely the book of Ezra, or Nehemiah, would have mentioned them. But Isa 44:1-5 rather directs to understand these promises of God's spirit, which should extend to the fiercest of the Gentiles, as well as be abundantly poured on the Jews; and to these waters every one that is thirsty is invited, Isa 55:1 and shall draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation, Isa 12:3 and God feeds his sheep by the waters of rest, Psalms 23:0. And this seems the most natural interpretation of what is said here, and Joe 3:18 that a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and water the valley of Shittim, which was near the Dead Sea; and Zec 14:8 that living waters should flow from Jerusalem, half to the eastern, half to the west sea.|| Indeed commentators mention some springs at Jerusalem that flowed literally some to the one, some to the other; but I know not on what authority. And were it literally true, it would still seem also a figure of what Eze 39:9 expresses, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth;" and which Isa 2:3 and Mic 4:2 express in terms nearer akin to this figure: "The Lord shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."§ And the conversion of Gentiles is foretold in the Old Testament under the figure of taming wild beasts, and may be well understood here in Ezekiel, by healing the waters of the Dead Sea, of which yet some places would not be healed.¶ But still this doth not prove, that the rest of the prophesy is not to be understood literally, any more than that the return from the captivity is not to be understood so. Nor doth any thing determine this increase of religious knowledge and practice to Christianity. Yet the mention of fishers favours it, as the apostles were some of them such, and Christ tells them, they should be fishers of men. But on the other hand this makes a confusion of figures: first, to make the waters a symbol of religious knowledge and divine grace, then instantly to represent the conversion of men, by pulling them out of these waters in which alone they can live: whereas considering it only as an ornament consequential to the waters being made wholesome, this difficulty is avoided.
† Which might be by the repairing of the aqueducts, of which as Solomon and Hezekiah took care, so did afterwards Nehemiah and Simon. See Notes on Zec 14:8 in Pool.
‡ As indeed a promise of streams of water in uncommon places seems, Isa 30:25 to mean plenty of good and happiness.
|| Conformably to which Ezekiel, chap. Eze 47:9 mentions two rivers, though before and after only one is mentioned. But see Hebr. Bib.
§ And Isai. chap. Eze 40:9 brings it nearer still, "The earth, shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." And it hath been already observed here, that Zechariah foretels, there should be many proselytes after the return from Babylon.
¶ If the waters mentioned in the above place of Zec 14:8 be the same with the fountain opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness, Zec 13:1 this would turn one's thoughts to water for washing, not drinking, that is to say, to expiation, not instruction. But the fountain, Zec 13:1 seems rather parallel to the clean water sprinkled, Eze 36:25 for the water of sprinkling was for חטאת chatath and נדה niddah, Numbers 19:9; Num 19:13 which are the very words used Zechariah 13:1.
Some indeed have understood Eze 39:8 that these waters were to flow through Galilee; and so ο translate it, and so Ch. Syr. may be understood. Whether the word may not also be an appellative in them I know not. But if it be Galilee, it must be also eastern Galilee, and no such country is named elsewhere.* Besides, no waters from Jerusalem could flow through Galilee; but they did flow through the east country, to the Dead Sea, which is called the East Sea, Eze 39:18 and these very waters are said to flow that way in Joel, and part of them to flow that way in Ezekiel. And the word must in same places of Scripture signify something different from Galilee, and probably signifies a country, or boundary. Nor doth the New Testament, or any old Christian writer, so far as I can learn, apply this text to Christ's preaching. Still, without question, Christianity had spread true religion vastly more than Judaism did; and therefore this part of the prophesy is more applicable to Christianity. And as these waters flowed out after the temple was built, and it is not said how long after, or how long they were coming to be so great a stream; the building of the temple, and the rules about worship, and about the prince, may be literal, and belong to Judaism, and this of the waters be figurative, and belong to Christianity. But then† the division of the land cannot well be both literal and true; for few of the twelve tribes returned, and we have no ground to think any such division was made to those that did; nor yet did their sins hinder these things; for, as was mentioned above, it is in this vision foretold they should not sin.‡
* Upper and lower are: but one lay just south of the other.
† The city and temple were not built according to these directions; for they were not separate from one another as chap. 45: chap. 48: require them, and accordingly Rev 21:22 says there was no temple in the city, but gives another reason; nor were there such portions assigned, so far as appears, to people, prince, or priests at Jerusalem.
[‡ And probably for some time after their return from captivity they sinned less than ever they had done in the same time before.
One should not think Ezekiel had respect to the tree of life, in what he says of the trees on the bank of this river; for though indeed in Hebrew tree may be used for such trees, yet Gen 2:9 placing the tree of life in the midst of the garden intimates there was but one, whereas in Ezekiel there are many trees, and it should seem of several sorts: yet Rev 22:2 plainly referring to this place calls the tree [for he says Ξυλον, though he must mean in the plural] Ξυλον ζωης [the tree of life].]
The vision of the holy waters. The virtue of them. The borders of the land. The division of it by lot.
Before Christ 574.
Ezekiel 47:1. Behold, waters issued out— There was a large quantity of water for the uses of the temple, conveyed in pipes under ground from the fountain of Etam. From these waters the prophet draws his similitude of the salubrious waters, which increased as they flowed, till they reached the borders of Israel; hereby not obscurely prefiguring that salvation which was to flow forth from Jerusalem to all the children of Abraham by faith. So it is elsewhere foretold, a law shall go forth from Sion; and ye that are athirst, come to the waters, &c. Waters first flow towards the south of the temple, then to the east; which was the first course of the gospel, before it was disseminated widely among the Gentiles. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 47:2. Then brought he me out of the way, &c.— Out by the way, &c. Houbigant. There ran out waters on the right side; that is to say, from the south of the temple to the east; therefore the measure of the thousand cubits, which is made afterwards, is made from west to east, and the farther the river recedes from the temple the deeper it becomes. See Houbigant.
Ezekiel 47:3-5. And when the man—went forth— The gradual rise of the waters denotes the large effusion of the Spirit, which was very remarkable at the first publication of the gospel, and its wonderful increase from small beginnings; as well as some future and large effusion of that Spirit, when God shall be pleased to pour it forth upon the Jews for their conversion. The supplies of grace are often represented under the metaphor of a river, and streams watering a dry and thirsty soil, and cleansing and making fruitful the ground where they pass. Many of the ideas in this chapter are taken from the terrestrial paradise; see Ezekiel 47:7; Eze 47:12 which ideas are also carried to the celestial paradise by St. John. Revelation 22:0.
Ezekiel 47:8. And go down into the desert— That is to say, along the plain towards the lake, where Sodom formerly stood, called the Dead or Salt Sea. Almost all the writers who describe this sea or lake, observe, that nothing can live in it. The text tells us, that these living and salubrious streams, by mixing with the salt and brackish waters of the sea, shall render them wholesome, and fit for use; mystically implying the healing virtue of God's grace in curing the vices of corrupt man.
Ezekiel 47:9. And it shall come to pass— As no fish can live in the Dead Sea, so, on the contrary, the waters which flow from the fountain of salvation shall give life to all who drink of them. See Exodus 7:18. By the fishers in the next verse may be understood the apostles, and other ministers of the gospel. En-gedi was situated at the beginning of the Red Sea, near the Jordan; and En-eglaim where it disembogues itself.
Ezekiel 47:11. But the miry places, &c.— Hereby are meant, says Calmet, those wicked Christians, who dishonour the church whereof they are corrupt members. Salt here signifies sterility.
Ezekiel 47:12. Whose leaf shall not fade— Flourishing like the trees of paradise; a very proper emblem of the righteous and faithful; still bringing forth fruit unto holiness, and whose end is everlasting life. See the description of the new Jerusalem, Revelation 22:1-5.
Ezekiel 47:13. This shall be the border— By the captivities of Judah and Israel, the several limits or borders belonging to the inheritance of each tribe were obliterated and forgotten; whereupon here is a new boundary and division of the Holy Land, which is to be understood in a mystical sense also. The places hereafter mentioned were the boundaries of the Holy Land, as will appear from an inspection of the map of Canaan.
Ezekiel 47:15. Great sea— Mediterranean sea.
Ezekiel 47:17. And the north, northward, &c.— And Zaphon to the north, and Hamath the border. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 47:18. Unto the east sea, &c.— Unto the Dead Sea on the east. Ezekiel 47:22. And to the strangers] Neither under Joshua, nor under Zerubbabel, were the Jews allowed to give strangers a part of their inheritance with them; this therefore can only be understood as a prediction of that which happened under the Lord Jesus Christ, when strangers were admitted into the heritage of Israel, and put in possession of the true land of promise, without distinction of Jew or Gentile; for there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. See Rom 10:12 and Calmet.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The waters of the sanctuary mentioned above are by many commentators supposed to signify the gospel of Jesus, the blessed effects and glorious extent of it being hereby represented. There was nothing like these streams flowing from the material temple at Jerusalem, and therefore they consider it necessary to take the vision in a mystical sense.
1. The fountain-head was in the sanctuary, and from the threshold of the house the waters issued. In the temple did Christ and his apostles daily teach, and thence did the word of the Lord go forth into the Gentile lands; and he himself is both the temple and the door, from which these living waters flow, and who gives them their quickening power and efficacy.
2. The course of the river was eastward; and then, either by dividing its streams, or by winding round, it turned west into the sea, the Dead Sea or the Lake of Sodom, or, as some suppose, into the Mediterranean. The gospel, which began to be preached at first in Galilee, and spread afterwards chiefly through the countries that lay east of Judea, went forth in process of time into all lands, even to the ends of the earth.
3. The waters, as they ran, grew wider and deeper: the prophet and his divinely-appointed guide, crossing them three times at the distance of a thousand cubits each from the fountain-head, found the river swoln from their ancles to their knees, then risen to their loins; and when the fourth time they would have crossed the waters, they were no longer fordable. And this may refer, [1.] To the spreading of the gospel in the world: from small beginnings the church of God has increased exceedingly, and shall go on still enlarging, till the whole earth shall be covered with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. [2.] To the truths of God, which the farther we search the deeper we shall find them. Some things are plain and obvious, and reach but to the ancles; in others more abstruse, experience and inquiry will lead us farther up to the loins; whilst in some, the farther we go, the more we are lost, and can only stand on the river's brink, and cry with St. Paul, O the depth! Romans 11:33. [3.] To the work of grace in the faithful soul, which by continual accessions of light and love from the great fountain-head, increases with the increase of God, till we come to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
4. Wherever these streams went forth, their wondrous virtue appeared: even the waters of Sodom were healed: for such is the mighty efficacy of the Saviour's grace, that it reaches to the most desperate; the vilest may find pardon through his blood, and renovation by the power of his Spirit: to the uttermost his salvation extends, and none are beyond it, who do not wilfully reject it. And whithersoever these rivers came, they communicated life; such is the quickening influence which attends the gospel of Jesus: wherever it is preached, dead sinners live, and, like a well-watered tree, the souls of believers are green and flourishing: but the obstinate and impenitent are left to their misery as the marshes and miry places; abandoned to eternal ruin.
5. Vast shoals of fish shall live in this river, and the fishermen cast in their nets, and dry them on the banks thereof; intimating the multitude of converts that by the preaching of the gospel shall be called into the church of Christ, and the diligence and laboriousness of the ministers of Christ, as well as the success of their ministrations; for their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.
6. On the banks every useful tree for food or physic grew, their leaf never fading, their fruit ever abounding; see Revelation 22:2. These represent the souls of the faithful saints of God, the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, deriving from Jesus their life and vigour; watered every moment by his grace; green in their professions; in every good work bringing forth fruit to the glory of God; pouring the balm of friendly advice and consolation into the hearts of the tempted and afflicted; and, persevering in every labour of love, till their life of grace on earth shall be exchanged for the eternal life of glory in heaven.
2nd, The borders of the land here marked out are considerably larger than those described by Moses and Joshua, or than the country possessed by the Israelites after their return from the Babylonish captivity; which may be understood typically of the church of Christ, and the true Israel of God, which, under the gospel dispensation, should have a great increase.
Joseph has two portions, to complete the number of the twelve tribes, Levi being taken to attend the sanctuary, and having a portion adjoining thereunto. They are to divide the land into twelve equal shares; see Rev 7:4-8 which was not the case at the first division of the country, when the greater tribes had more, and the smaller less. But now, in the militant church of Christ, believers are all entitled to the same blessings and privileges.
Here also the strangers are allowed to inherit among native Israelites, which before was forbidden; for now the middle wall of partition is taken down, and the Gentiles made fellow-heirs and of the same body, members of the glorious dispensation of the gospel of Christ.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany