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As the first part of Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 40-43.) dealt with the temple, or "house," and the second (Ezekiel 44-47.) with the ritual, or "worship," so the third, which beans with the present chapter (Ezekiel 47:1-23; Ezekiel 48:1-35.), treats of the land, or "inheritance" setting forth first its relation to the temple (verses 1-12) and to outlying countries (verses 13-21), and secondly its division among the tribes, inclusive of the priests, Levites, sanctuary, prince, and city (Ezekiel 48:1-23), with a statement of the dimensions and gates of the last (verses 24-35). The opening section of the present chapter (verses 1-12) is by Kliefoth and others connected with the second part as a conclusion, rather than with the third part as an introduction; but, taken either way, the passage has the same significance or nearly so. If read in continuation of the foregoing, it depicts the blessed consequences, in the shape of life and healing, which should flow to the land of Israel and its inhabitants from the erection in their midst of the sanctuary of Jehovah, and the observance by them of the holy ordinances of Jehovah's religion. Viewed as a preface to what follows, it exhibits the transformation which the institution of such a culture would effect upon the land before proceeding to speak of its partition among the tribes. The prophet's imagery in this paragraph may have taken as its point of departure the well-known fact that the waters of Shiloah (Isaiah 8:6; Psalms 46:4) appeared to flow from under the temple hill, the Pool of Siloam having been fed from a spring welling up with intermittent action from beneath Ophel. To Isaiah "the waters of Shiloah that go softly," had already been an emblem of the blessings to be enjoyed under Jehovah's rule (Isaiah 8:6); to Joel (Joel 3:18) "a fountain," coming forth from the house of the Lord and watering the valley of Shittim, or the Acacia valley, on the borders of Moab, on the other side of Jordan, where the Israelites halted and sinned (Numbers 25:1; Numbers 33:49), had symbolized the benefits that should be experienced by Israel in the Messianic era when Jehovah should permanently dwell in his holy mount of Zion; to Ezekiel, accordingly, the same figure naturally occurs as a means of exhibiting the life and healing, peace and prosperity, that should result to Israel from the erection upon her soil of Jehovah's sanctuary and the institution among her people of Jehovah's worship. Zechariah (Zechariah 13:1; Zechariah 14:8) and John (Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:2) undoubtedly make use of the same image, which, it is even probable, they derived from Ezekiel (comp. Ecclesiasticus 24:30, 31, in which Wisdom is introduced as saying, "I also came out as a brook from a river, and as a conduit into a garden. I said, I will water my best garden, and will water abundantly my garden bed; and, lo, my brook became a river, and my river became a sea").
Having completed his survey of the sacrificial kitchens in the outer court (Ezekiel 46:19-24), the prophet was once more conducted by his guide to the door of the house, or of the temple in the strict sense, i.e. of the sanctuary. There he perceived that waters issued (literally, and behold waters issuing) from under the threshold of the house, i.e. of the temple porch (see Ezekiel 40:48, Ezekiel 40:49; and comp. Ezekiel 9:3), eastward, the direction having been determined by the fact that the forefront of the house stood or was toward the east. He also noticed that the waters came down (or, descended)—the temple having been situated on higher ground than the inner court—from under the threshold, from the right side of the house—literally, from the shoulder (comp. Ezekiel 40:18, Ezekiel 40:40, Ezekiel 40:41; Ezekiel 41:2, Ezekiel 41:26; Eze 46:1-24 :29) of the house, the right. The two clauses are not to be conjoined as by Hengstenberg, Ewald, and Smend, as if they meant, from underneath the right side of the house; but kept distinct, to indicate the different features which entered into the prophet's picture. The first was that the waters issued forth from under the threshold of the house; the second, that they proceeded from the right side or shoulder of the house, i.e. from the corner where the south wall of the porch and the east wall of the temple joined (see Ezekiel 41:1); the third, that the stream flowed on the south side of the altar, which stood exactly in front of the temple perch (see Ezekiel 40:47), and would have obstructed the course of the waters had they issued forth from the perch doorway instead of from the comer above described.
As the prophet could not follow the stream's course by passing through the east inner gate, which was shut on the six working days (Ezekiel 46:1), or through the east outer gate, which was always shut (Ezekiel 44:1), his conductor led him outside of the inner and outer courts by the north gates (literally, to the north (outer) gate), and brought him round by the way without unto the outer gate by the way that looketh eastward. This can only import that, on reaching the north outer gate, the prophet and his guide turned eastward and moved round to the east outer gate. The Revised Version reads, by the way of the gate that looketh toward the east; but as the east outer gate was the terminus ad quem of the prophet's walk, it is better to translate, to the gate looking eastward. When the prophet had arrived thither, he once more beheld that there ran out—literally, trickled forth (מְפַכִּים occurring here only in Scripture, and being derived from פָכַה, "to drop down," or "weep")—waters. Obviously these were the same as Ezekiel had already observed. On (literally, from) the right side; or, shoulder. This, again, signified the corner where the east wall of the temple and the south wall of the gate joined.
Having emerged from the corner of the east outer gate in drops, the stream, which had not swollen in its passage across the outer court and under the temple wall, speedily exhibited a miraculous increase in depth, and therefore in volume. Having advanced eastward along the course of the stream an accurately measured distance of a thousand cubits (about one-third of a mile), the prophet's guide brought, or caused him to pass, through the waters, when he found that they were to the ankles; or, were waters of the ankles, as the Chaldee, Syriac, Vulgate, Keil, Kliefoth, Ewald, and Smend translate, rather than "water of the foot-soles," as Gesenius and Havernick render, meaning," water that hitherto had only been deep enough to wet the soles." The ὕδωρ ἀφέσεως, or "water of vanishing," of the LXX,, is based on the idea of "failing," "ceasing," "coming to an end," which appears to be the root-conception of (see Genesis 47:15, Genesis 47:16; Psalms 77:9; Isaiah 16:4).
At a second and a third distance of a thousand cubits the same process was repeated when the waters were found to be first waters to the knees, and secondly waters to (or, of) the loins. The unusual expression, מַיִם בִּרְכָּים, instead מֵי, as in the similar expressions before and after, may have been chosen, Keil suggests, in order to avoid resemblance to the phrase, מֵימֵי רַגְלַיִם in Isaiah 36:12 (Keri)—not a likely explanation. Havernick describes it simply as an instance of bold emphasis. Schroder breaks it up into two clauses, thus: "waters, to the knees they reach." Smend changes מַיִם into מֵי.
After a fourth distance of a thousand cubits, the waters had risen, or, lifted themselves up (comp. Job 8:11, in which the verb is used of a plant growing up), and become waters to swim in—literally, waters of swimming (שָׂחוּ occurs only here; the noun צְפָה only in Ezekiel 32:6)—a river that could not be passed over, on account of its depth. The word נָחַל was applied either to a river that constantly flowed from a fountain, as the Amen, or to a winter torrent that springs up from rain or snow upon the mountains, and disappears in summer like the Kedron, which had seldom any water in it (see Robinson's 'Bibl. Res.,' 1.402). That Ezekiel's river broadened and deepened so suddenly, and apparently without receiving into it any tributaries, clearly pointed to miraculous action.
Then he … caused me to return to the brink of the river. The difficulty lying in the word "return" has given rise to a variety of conjectures. Hengstenberg supposes the prophet had made trial of the river's depth by wading in (perhaps up to the neck), and that the angel caused him to return from the stream to the bank According to Hitzig, the measuring had taken place at some distance from the stream, and the prophet, having come up to his guide from the bank after making trial of the water's depth, was Once more conducted back to the river's brink. Havernick conceives the sense to be that the prophet, having accompanied the angel to the point where the stream debouched into the Dead Sea was led back to the riverbank. All difficulty, however, vanishes if, either with Schroder we refer וַיְשִׁבֵנִי to a mental returning, as if the import were that the angel, having ascertained that the prophet had "seen" the river's course, now told him to direct his attention to the bank, or, with Keil and Kliefoth, translate עַל by "along" or "on" rather than "to." As the prophet had been led along or on the river's bank to see the increasing breadth and depth of the water, so was he now "caused to return" along or on the same bank to note the abundance of the foliage with which it was adorned.
Now when I had returned בְּשׁוּבֵנִי is by the best interpreters, after Gesenius, regarded as an incorrect form for בְּשׁוּבִי (literally, in my returning), though Schroder adheres to the transitive sense of the verb, and translates," when I had turned myself," and Hitzig takes the suffix נִי as a genitive of possession, and renders, "when he came back with me." In any case, on the return journey the prophet observed that at (or, on) the bank (or, lip) of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Hitzig supposes the trees had not been there when the prophet made the down journey, but sprang up when he had turned to his guide (Ezekiel 47:6), and stood with his back to the river. Kliefoth's conclusion is better, that the trees had been there all the while, but that the prophet's attention had not been directed to them. The luxuriant foliage of this vision reappears in that of the Apocalyptic river (Revelation 22:2).
Toward the east country (הַקַּדְמוֹנָה אֶל־הַגְּלִילָה); literally, the east circle, in this case probably "the region about Jordan" (Joshua 22:10, Joshua 22:11), above the Dead Sea, where the valley or ghor widens out into a bread basin, equivalent to כִּכַּד הַיַרְדֵּן (Genesis 13:10). The LXX. render, or τὴν Γαλιλαίαν, designing by this, however (presumably), only to Graecize the Hebrew word גְּלִילָה as they do with the term הָעַרָבָה, desert, or, plain, which they translate by τὴν Ἀραβίαν. The Arabah signified the low, sterile valley into which the Jordan runs near Jericho, in which are the Dead Sea (hence called "the sea of the Arabah," Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 4:49), and the brook Kedron, or "river of the Arabah" (Amos 6:14), and which extends as far south as the head of the Elanitic gulf. The whole region is described by Robinson ('Bibl. Res.,' 2.596) as one of extreme desolation—a character which belonged to it in ancient times (Josephus, 'Wars,' 3.10. 7; 4.8. 2). The part of this Arabah into which the waters flowed was situated north of the sea, clearly not the Mediterranean, but the Dead Sea, "the sea of the Arabah," as above stated, and the "eastern sea" as afterwards named (Ezekiel 47:18), into which they ultimately flowed. The clause, which being brought forth into the sea, may either be connected with the proceeding words or formed into an independent sentence. Among those who adopt the former construction a variety of renderings prevails. The LXX. reads, "(And the water) comes to the sea (ἐπὶ τὸ ὕδωρ τῆς διεκβολῆς), to the sea of the pouring out," i.e. the Dead Sea, into which the river debouches. With this Havernick agrees, rendering, "to the sea of that outflow." Ewald reads, "into the sea of muddy waters," meaning the Dead Sea. Kimchi, "into the sea where the waters are brought forth," i.e. the ocean (the Mediterranean), whoso waters go forth to encompass the world. Hengstenberg, Kliefoth, Keil, and Currey, who adopt the latter construction, borrow בָאוּ from the antecedent clause, and translate, "To the sea (come or go) the waters that have been brought forth;" with which accords the Revised Version. The last words record the effect which should be produced by their entering into the sea. The waters shall be healed, i.e. rendered salubrious, from being hurtful (comp. Exodus 15:23, Exodus 15:25; 2 Kings 2:22). The translation of the LXX; ὑγιάσει τὰ ὕδατα, is inaccurate. The unwholesome character of the Dead Sea is described by Tacitus: "Lucius immenso ambitu, specie maris sapore corruptior, gravitate odoris accolis pestifer, neque vento impellitar neque pisces ant suetas aquis volucres patitur" ('Hist.,' 5.6). Yon Raumer writes, "The sea is celled 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." "According to the testimony of all antiquity and of most modern travelers," says Robinson ('Bibl. Res.,' 2.226), "there exists within the waters of the Dead Sea no living thing, no trace, indeed, of animal or vegetable life. Our own experience goes to confirm the truth of this testimony. We perceived no sign of life within the waters."
The nature of the healing is next described as an impartation of such celebrity to the waters that everything that liveth, which moveth—better, every living creature which swarmeth (comp. Genesis 1:20, Genesis 1:21; Genesis 7:21)—whitherseover the rivers (literally, the two rivers) shall come, shall live. The meaning cannot be that everything which liveth and swarmeth in the sea whither the rivers come shall live, because the Dead Sea contains no fish (see above), but whithersoever the rivers come, there living and swarming creatures of every kind shall spring into existence, shall come to life and flourish. The dual form, נַחֲלַיִם, has been accounted for by Maurer, as having been selected on account of its resemblance to מַיִם; by Hävernick and Currey, as pointing to the junction of another river, the Kedron (Hävernick), the Jordan (Currey), with the temple-stream before the latter, should fall into the sea; by Kliefoth, as alluding to a division of the river waters after entering the sea; by Neumann and Schroder, as referring to the waters of the sea and the waters of the river, which should henceforth be united; and by Hengstenberg, with whom Keil and Plumptre agree, as a dual of intensification (as in Jer 1:1-19 :21), signifying "double river," with allusion to its greatness, or the strength of its current. None of these interpretations is free from objection; though probably, in default of better, the last is best. Ewald changes the dual into נַחְלָם, a singular with a suffix, while Hitzig makes of it a plural; but neither of these devices is satisfactory. As a further evidence that the waters of the sea should be healed by the inflowing into them of the waters of the river, it is stated that the sea should thereafter contain a very great multitude of fish (literally, and the fish will be very many), of which previously it contained none. The next clauses supply the reason of this abundance of fish, because these waters (of the river) shall—or, are (Revised Version) come thither—(into the waters of the sea), for (literally, and) they, the latter, shall be (or, are) healed, and everything shall live (or, connecting this with the foregoing clause, and everything shall be healed, and live) whithersoever the river cometh—the river, namely, that proceedeth from the temple.
As another consequence of the inflowing of this river into the Dead Sea, it is stated that the fishers (rather, fishers, without the article) should stand upon its banks, from Engedi, even unto Englaim; there shall be a place to spread forth nets. The Revised Version more correctly renders, fishers shall stand by it; from Engedi even unto Eneglaim, shall be a place for the spreading of nets; or, more literally, a place of spreading, out for nets (comp. Ezekiel 26:5). Engedi, עֵין גֶּדִי, meaning "Fountain of the kid;" originally styled Hazezon-Tamar (2 Chronicles 20:2), now called 'Ain Jidy (Robinson,' Bibl. Res.,' 2.214), was situated in the middle of the west coast of the Dead Sea, and not at its southern extremity, as Jerome supposed. Englaim, עֵין עֶגְלַיִם, signifying "Fountain of two calves," was located by Jerome, who cars it En Gallim, at the northern extremity of the Dead Sea, and is usually identified with the modern 'Ain Feshkhah, or "Fountain of mist," at the northern end of the west coast, where the ruins of houses and a small tower have been discovered (Robinson, 'Bibl. Res.,' 2.220). Ewald cites Isaiah 15:8 to show that Englaim was on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, which, Smend notes, was given up by the prophet to the sons of the East.
The miry places thereof and the marshes thereof גְבָיָאו, "its pools and sloughs" (comp. Isaiah 30:14, where the term-signifies a reservoir for water, or cistern), were the low tracts of land upon the borders of the Dead Sea, which in the rainy season, when its waters overflowed, became covered with pools (see Robinson, 'Bibl. Res.,' 2.225). These, according to the prophet, should not be healed, obviously because the waters of the temple-river should not reach them, but should be given to salt. When the waters of the above-mentioned pools have been dried up or evaporated, they leave behind them a deposit of salt (see Robinson, 'Bibl. Res.,' 2.226), and Canon Driver, following Smend, conceives that the above-named miry places and marshes in the vicinity of the Dead Sea were to be allowed to remain as they were on account of the excellent salt which they furnished. (On the supposed (!) excellence of the salt derived from the Dead Sea, Thomson's 'Land and the Book,' p. 616, may be consulted.) If this, however, were the correct import of the prophet's words, then the clause would describe an additional blessing to be enjoyed by the land, viz. that the temple-river would not be permitted to spoil its "salt-pans;" but the manifest intention of the prophet was to indicate a limitation to the life-giving influence of the river, and to signify that places and persons unvisited by its healing stream would be abandoned to incurable destruction. "To give to salt" is in Scripture never expressive of blessing, but always of judgment (see Deuteronomy 29:23; Judges 9:47; Psalms 107:34; Jeremiah 17:6; Zephaniah 2:9).
The effect of the river upon the vegetation growing on its banks is the last feature added to the prophet's picture. Already referred to in Ezekiel 47:7, it is here developed at greater length. The "very many trees" of that verse become in this all trees, or every tree for meat, i.e. every sort of tree with edible fruit (comp. Leviticus 19:23), whose leaf should not fade or wither, and whose fruit should not be consumed or finished, i.e. should not fail, but continue to bring forth new fruit, i.e; early or firstfruits, according to his (or, its) months; or, every month; the לְ in לָחֱדָשִׁים being taken distributively, as in Isaiah 47:13 (compare לַיוֹם, "every day," in Ezekiel 46:13). This remarkable productivity, the prophet saw, was due, not so much to the fact that the tree roots sucked up moisture from the stream, as to the circumstance that the waters which they drank up issued out of the sanctuary. To the same circumstance were owing the nutritive and medicinal properties of their fruit and leaves respectively. The picture in this verse is unmistakably based on Genesis 2:9, and is as clearly reproduced by the Apocalyptic seer in Revelation 22:2. On this whole vision the remarks of Thomson, in 'The Land and the Book', are worthy of being consulted.
The boundaries of the land, and the manner of its division.
Thus saith the Lord. The usual formula introducing a new Divine enactment (comp. Ezekiel 43:18; Ezekiel 44:9; Ezekiel 45:9, Ezekiel 45:18; Ezekiel 46:1, Ezekiel 46:16). This. גֵה is obviously a copyist's error for זֶה, which the LXX; the Vulgate, and the Targum have substituted for it; the change seems demanded by the complete untranslatability of גֵה, and by the fact that וְזֶה גְּבוּל recurs in Ezekiel 47:15. The border, whereby ye shall inherit the land; or, divide the land for inheritance (Revised Version). The term גְּבוּל, applied in Ezekiel 43:13, Ezekiel 43:17 to the border of the altar here signifies the boundary or limit of the land. (For the verb, comp. Numbers 32:18; Numbers 34:13; Isaiah 14:2.) According to the twelve tribes. This presupposed that at least representatives of the twelve tribes would return from exile; but it is doubtful if this can be proved from Scripture to have taken place, which once more shows that a literal interpretation of this temple-vision cannot be consistently carried through. Smend observes that the word commonly employed in the priest-cede to denote "tribes" is מַטּוֹת (Numbers 26:55; Numbers 30:1; Numbers 31:4; Numbers 33:54; Joshua 14:1; Joshua 21:1; Joshua 22:14), which is never used by Ezekiel, who habitually selects, as here, the term שְׁבָטִים (Ezekiel 37:19; Ezekiel 45:8; Ezekiel 48:1), which also was not unknown to the priest-cede (Exodus 39:14; Numbers 18:2; Joshua 13:29; Joshua 21:16; Joshua 22:9, Joshua 22:10, Joshua 22:11, Joshua 22:13). That is to say, if the priest-cede existed before Ezekiel, he had the choice of both terms, and selected shebhet; whereas if Ezekiel existed before the priest-cede, and prepared the way for it, the author of the latter rejected Ezekiel's word shebhet, and adopted another perfectly unknown to the prophet. This fact appears to point to a dependence of Ezekiel on the priest-cede rather than of the priest-cede on Ezekiel. Joseph shall have two portions; rather, Joseph portions, as חֲבָלִיםis not dual. Yet that two were intended is undoubted (see Genesis 48:22; Joshua 17:14, Joshua 17:17).
Ye shall inherit it, one as well as another; literally, a man as his brother—the customary Hebrew phrase for "equally" (see, however, 2 Samuel 11:25). The equal participants were to be tribes, not the families, as in the Mosaic distribution (Numbers 33:54). Had the earlier principle of allotment been indicated as that to be followed in the future, it would not have been possible to give the tribes equal portions, as some tribes would certainly have a larger number of families than others. Nevertheless, the division was to be equal among the tribes, which shows it was rather of an ideal than of an actual distribution the prophet was speaking. Then what they should divide amongst themselves was to be the land concerning which Jehovah had lifted up his hand—a peculiarly Ezekelian phrase (see Ezekiel 20:5, Ezekiel 20:6, Ezekiel 20:15, Ezekiel 20:23, Ezekiel 20:28, Ezekiel 20:42), signifying "to swear" (comp. Genesis 14:22; Deu 33:1-29 :40)—to give it unto their fathers (see Genesis 12:7; Genesis 18:8; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 28:13). That the land was not divided after this fashion among the tribes that returned from exile is one more attestation that the prophet's directions were not intended to be literally carried out.
The north boundary. And this shall be the border of the land toward the north side. The Revised Version follows Kliefoth and Keil in detaching the last clause from the preceding words, and reading. This shall be the border of the land: on the north side. From the great sea, the Mediterranean, by the way of Hethlon, as men go to (or, unto the entering in of) Zedad. The former of these places (Chethlon), which is again mentioned in Ezekiel 48:1, has not yet been identified, though Currey suggests for the "way," "the defile between the ranges of Lebanus and Antilibanus, from the sea to Hamath." The latter (Zedad) Wetstein and Robinson find in the city of Sadad (Sudud), east of the road leading from Damascus to Humo (Emesa), and therefore west of Hamath; but as Hamath in all probability lay to the east of Zedad, this opinion must be rejected.
The four names here mentioned belong to towns or places lying on the road to Zedad, and stretching from west to east. Hamath, called also Hamath the Great (Amos 6:2), situated on the Orontes, north of Hermon and Antilibanus (Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3), was the capital of a kingdom to which also belonged Riblah (2 Kings 23:33). Originally colonized by the Canaanites (Genesis 10:18), it became in David's time a flourishing kingdom under Toi, who formed an alliance with the Hebrew sore-reign against Hadadezer of Zoba (2 Samuel 8:9; 1 Chronicles 18:9). It was subsequently conquered by the King of Assyria (2 Kings 18:34). Winer thinks it never belonged to Israel; but Schurer cites 1 Kings 9:19 and 2 Chronicles 8:3, 2 Chronicles 8:4 to show that at least in Solomon's reign it was temporarily annexed to the empire of David's son. In Ezekiel's chart the territory of united Israel should extend, not to the town of Hamath, but to the southern boundary of the land of Hamath. Berothah was probably the same as Berothai (2 Samuel 8:8), afterwards called Chun (1 Chronicles 18:8), if Chun is not a textual corruption. The town in question cannot be identified either with the modern Beirut on the Phoenician coast (Conder), since it must have lain west of Hamath, and therefore at a considerable distance from the sea; or with Birtha, the present day El-Bir, or Birah, on the east bank of the Euphrates, which is too far east; or with the Galilaean Berotha, near Kadesh (Josephus), as this is too far south; but must be sought for between Hamath and Damascus, and most likely close to the former. Sibraim, occurring here only, may, on the other hand, be assumed to have lain nearer Damascus, and may, perhaps, be identified with Ziphron (Numbers 34:9), though the site of this town cannot be where Wetstein placed it, at Zifran, north-east of Damascus, and on the road to Palmyra. Smend compares it with Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:24). Damascus was the well-known capital of Syria (Isaiah 7:8), and the principal emporium of commerce between East and West Asia (Ezekiel 27:18). Its high antiquity is testified by both Scripture (Genesis 14:15; Genesis 15:2) and the cuneiform inscriptions, in which it appears as Dimaski and Dimaska. Hazar-hatticon; or, the middle Hazar, was probably so styled to distinguish it from Hazar-enan (verse 17). (On the import of Hatticon, see Exodus 26:28 and 2 Kings 20:4, in both of which places it signifies "the middle.") The word Hazar (חֲצַר), "an enclosure," or "place fenced off," was employed to denote villages or townships, of which at least six are mentioned in Scripture (see Gesenius, 'Lexicon,' sub voce). Hauran, Αὐρανῖτις (LXX.), "Cave-land," so called because of the number of its caverns, was most likely designed to designate "the whole tract of land between Damascus and the country of Gilead" (Keil).
The northern boundary is further defined as extending from the sea, i.e. the Mediterranean on the west, to Hazar-enan, or the "Village of fountains," in the east, which village again is declared to have been the border, frontier city (Keil), at the border (Revised Version) of Damascus, and as having on the north northward the border or territory of Hamath. The final clause adds, And this is the north side, either understanding וְאֵת, with Gesenius, as equivalent to αὐτός, ipse, "this same," or with Hitzig and Smend, after the Syriac, substituting for it here and in Ezekiel 47:18, Ezekiel 47:19 ואֹת as in Ezekiel 47:20; though Hengstenberg and Keil prefer to regard אֵת as the customary sign of the accusative, and to supply some such thought as "ye see" (Hengstenberg), or "ye shall measure" (Keil), which Ezekiel 47:18 shows was in the prophet's mind. Compared with the ancient north boundary of Canaan (Numbers 34:7-9), this appointed by Ezekiel's Torah for the new land shows a marked correspondence.
The east boundary. And the east side ye shall measure from Hauran, etc. The Revised Version, after Keil and Kliefoth, translates, And the east side, between Hauran and Damascus and Gilead, and the land of Israel, shall be (the) Jordan; from the (north) border unto the east sea shall ye measure. Smend offers as the correct rendering, The east side goes from between Hauran and Damascus, and from between Gilead and the land of Israel, along the Jordan, from the border unto the east sea. In any case, by this instruction, first the land of Israel was defined as the territory lying west of the Jordan, and secondly its boundary should extend from the last-named north border at its easternmost point, Hazar-enan, down the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea. The practical effect of this would be to cut off the lands which in the earlier division (Numbers 34:14, Numbers 34:15) had been assigned to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Otherwise the boundary hero given corresponds with that traced in Numbers, though the latter is more minute. Hengstenberg, however, thinks the prophet cannot have intended to assert that the new Israel should not possess the land of Gilead as a frontier in the future as formerly, as in that case he would have been at variance, not only with preexisting Scripture (comp. Psalms 60:7; Micah 7:14; Jeremiah 1:19; Zechariah 10:10), but with subsequent history.
The south boundary. This should begin where the east boundary terminated, viz. at Tamar, "Palm tree." Different from Hazezon-Tamar, or Engedi (Ezekiel 47:10; 2 Chronicles 20:2), which lay too far up the west side of the sea, Tamar can hardly be identified either with the Tamar of 1 Kings 9:18 near Tadmor in the wilderness, or with the Thamara (Θαμαρά) of Eusebius between Hebron and Elath, supposed by Robinson to he Kurnub, six hours south of Milh, towards the pass of Es-Sufah, since this was too distant from the Dead Sea The most plausible conjecture is that Tamar was "a village near the southern end of the Dead Sea" (Currey). Proceeding westward, the southern boundary should reach to the waters of strife in Kadesh; better, to the waters of Meribotk Kadesh. These were in the Desert of Sin, near Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 20:1-13), which, again, was on the road from Hebron to Egypt (Genesis 16:14). The exact site, however, of Kadesh-Barnea is matter of dispute; Rowland and Keil find it in the spring 'Ain Kades, at the north-west corner of the mountain-land of Azazimeh, which stretches on the south of Palestine from the south-south-west to the north-north-east, and forms the watershed Between the Mediterranean and the Arabah valley. Delitzsch and Conder seek it in the neighborhood of the Wady-el-Jemen, on the south-east side of the above watershed, and on the road from Mount Hot. Robinson ('Bibl. Rea,' 2.582) discovers it in 'Ain-el-Weibeh, not far from Petra. A writer (Sin; Smend?) in Riehm ('Handworterbuch des Biblischen Alterthums,' art. "Kades") pleads for a site on the west side of the Azazimeh plateau, and in the vicinity of the road by Shur to Egypt. Leaving Kadesh, the boundary should continue to the river, or, brook, of Egypt, and thence extend to the great sea, or Mediterranean. The punctuation of גַחֲלָה, which makes the word signify "lot,' must be changed into נַחְלָה, so as to mean "river," since the reference manifestly is to the torrent of Egypt, the Wady-el-Arish, on the borders of Palestine and Egypt, which enters the Mediterranean near Rhinocorura (Ῥινοκόρουρα). In Numbers 34:5 it is called the river of Egypt. And this is the south side southward (see on Numbers 34:17). The correspondence between this line and that of the earlier chart (Numbers 34:4, Numbers 34:5) is once more apparent.
The western boundary. This, as in Numbers 34:6, should be the great sea from the border, i.e. the southern boundary last mentioned (Numbers 34:19), till a man come over against Hamath; literally, unto (the place which is) over against the coming to Hamath; i.e. till opposite the point (on the coast) at which one enters the territory of Hamath (comp. Judges 19:10; Judges 20:43).
The geographical boundaries of the land having been indicated, general directions are furnished as to the manner of its distribution.
(1) It should be partitioned among the tribes as tribes rather than among the families of Israel (see on Ezekiel 47:13).
(2) The division of the territory should be made by lot. This is pointed to by the use of חָלַק (from חֵלֶק, "a smooth stone"), which signifies "to divide by lot."
(3) The strangers who should sojourn amongst the tribes and beget children amongst them should inherit equally with Israelites who should be born in the country.
(4) The inheritance of the stranger should be assigned him in the tribe where he sojourned. Of these regulations the last two were an advance on the earlier Mosaic legislation with regard to "strangers," or גֵּרִים, who were to be treated with affectionate kindness (Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 24:14), admitted to offer sacrifice (Le Ezekiel 17:8, Ezekiel 17:10, Ezekiel 17:13), and even allowed to partake of the Passover on submitting to circumcision (Exodus 12:48), but on no account permitted to hold property in land (Leviticus 25:47-55). But if the priest-code was later than Ezekiel, why should it have receded from the freer and more liberal spirit of Ezekiel? If progressive development can determine the relative ages of two documents, then Ezekiel, which accords equal rights to Jew and Gentile in the new Israel, and thus anticipates that breaking down of the middle wall of partition which has taken place under the gospel (John 10:16; Romans 2:10, Romans 2:11; Romans 9:24; Galatians 3:8-14, Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:14-16), should be posterior to the priest-code, which shows itself to be not yet emancipated from the trammels of Jewish exclusivism. At the same time, Ezekiel's Torah does not grant equal rights with native-born Israelites to "strangers" indiscriminately, or only to those of them who should have families, as Hitzig suggests, in reward for their increasing the population, but to such of them as should permanently settle in the midst of Israel, and show this by begetting children, and in this manner "building houses" for themselves. Kliefoth justly cautions against concluding from the prophet's statement that the time in which the prophet's vision realizes itself will necessarily be one in which marrying and begetting children will take place; and with equal justice points out that the number of Israel, especially when swelled up by an influx of Gentiles, will be so great (comp. verse 10) as to render their settlement within the narrow boundaries of the land an impossibility—in this circumstance finding another indication that the prophet's language was intended to be symbolically, not literally, interpreted.
NOTE.—On the boundaries of the land. Smend thinks
(1) that in respect of the north boundary, Ezekiel and the priest-code contradict the older source of the Pentateuch, which does not permit the territory of Asher to extend so far north as Hamath (see Joshua 19:24-31; and comp. Judges 1:31);
(2) that never at any time did Israelites dwell so far north as at the entering in of Hamath;
(3) that this extension of the land northwards was intended as a compensation for the withdrawment of the territory east of the Jordan; and
(4) that in dividing among tribes rather than among families Ezekiel deviates from both the Jehovistic tradition and the priest-code.
(1) if the above-cited passages do not extend Asher's territory beyond Tyre, Genesis 15:18, which critics assign to the Elohist, one of the authors of J.E; the so-called prophetical narrative of the Hexateuch, and Exodus 23:31, which, according to the same authorities, formed part of the commonly styled book of the covenant, expressly mention the great river Euphrates as the north boundary of the land, while the same is recognized by the Deuteronomist (11:24; Exodus 19:8).
(2) 1Ki 4:24; 1 Kings 8:65; and 2 Kings 14:25 show that in the time of Solomon the boundaries of the land reached as far north as Hamath.
(3) As it was not originally contemplated by the Mosaic distribution to take immediate possession of the east Jordan land (Numbers 34:10-12), and this was only granted to Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh on their entreaty (Numbers 32:33-42), no ground existed why its withdrawal should be compensated for.
(4) If Ezekiers division of the land according to tribes rather than families shows that it existed prior to the priest-code, then the same argument should demonstrate its prior existence to J.E; which throughout as-stones the principle of division according to families.
(5) If Ezekiel preceded the priest-code, it will require some explanation to understand, first, why the author of the latter should have followed the comparatively uncertain Jehovistic tradition rather than the definite arrangements made by a prophet whom he regarded as practically the originator of his faith; and secondly, why he should have so materially altered that prophet's land-boundaries and tribe-dispositions.
The vision of the waters.
Hitherto most of Ezekiel's representations of the happy age of the restoration have been given in somewhat prosaic details which could be realized in actual facts. But now he returns to his figurative style, and sets before us a narrative picture of the glorious future. He passes from the regulations of the priesthood and the government to a description of a fountain of water issuing from the temple in the most natural way, as though all these things were equally sure to happen in the course of time. But the prophet can scarcely have been anticipating a repetition of Moses' miracle at the rock of Horeb, because his subsequent language would be absurd if we read it literally. It must be, therefore, that the prophecy is here symbolical. The blessings of the Messianic era are like waters flowing from under the threshold of the temple.
I. THE BLESSING OF THE WATERS. In a dry land streams of water are most highly valued. Their banks, fringed with green, tell a pleasing story of the life and fertility that they bring wherever they flow. The blessings of the gospel are like living waters.
1. Cleansing. God has opened a fountain for all uncleanness.
2. Life. Christ gives the water of life. Without his grace our souls are parched and perishing.
3. Refreshment. The water is continually flowing; it is no stagnant pool. The life which it first quickens is daily fed by its invigorating supplies. The good Shepherd leads his flock by the still waters for repeated cheering and refreshing.
4. Beauty. Where the water flows the land is green and fair. The beauty of holiness springs up by the channel of Christ's grace.
5. Fruitfulness. There grow by the water fruit-bearing trees. Christian fruitfulness springs from the ever fresh supplies of Christ's grace.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE WATERS.
1. From God. The stream issues from the temple where God visits the earth and has his typical dwelling. It is he who sends forth the life-giving flood. We have the gospel of the grace of God. From him, and him alone, comes our salvation.
2. By sacrifice. The stream is to flow from under the altar on which sacrifices are offered. God's grace is given to us in Christ, and by means of his great atoning sacrifice. Christ especially claimed to give living waters (John 4:10). It is by his death that we live. From his cross the stream now flows for the healing of the nations.
3. Through worship. The temple had to be built, the altar set up, and the services duly conducted. We receive grace through faith when we yield our hearts and lives to Christ.
III. THE COURSE OF THE WATERS.
1. Outflowing. They rise in the temple; but they are not shut up in the sacred enclosure; they flow out for the good of the people. The gospel rose in Judaism, and passed out to the Gentile world. The grace of Christ is for the people generally, chiefly for those who thirst and faint for need of it.
2. Increasing. The small stream becomes a mighty river. "He giveth more grace." The blessings of Christ increase with time. The more we know of him, and the longer we follow him, the more of his grace flows to us. The gospel widens its area as it flows down the ages. The tiny stream, represented by the upper room at Jerusalem, becomes the mighty river of Christendom. As the area of influence widens, the grace of Christ comes in ever more and more abundant supplies, so that there is enough for all.
Life and healing.
The stream that bursts from the temple rock is to flow through the dry ravines of the eastern wilderness until it reaches the Dead Sea, the desolate waters of which are to be miraculously healed by the coming of the life-bearing flood. Then fish shall swarm in the purified sea, "and everything shall live whither the river cometh." This is a parable of the course of the gospel of Christ.
I. THE GRACE OF CHRIST FLOWS TO THE MOST DEAD AND DEGRADED PEOPLE. The Dead Sea may be taken to represent the world in its sin, or that portion of mankind that is most sunken and worthless. The temple waters were not confined to the bracing heights of Jerusalem. They could not contain themselves in those upland regions. Their quantity was so great that they could not but overflow and pour themselves down through the wilderness. Christ cannot keep his rich gifts for a few rare, saintly souls already safely gathered into the Church. They are for the world, chiefly for the world in its sin and desolation. The gathering flood cannot rest till it finds the low level of the Dead Sea. Christ can have no satisfaction till his gospel has reached the most sinful and fallen creatures in the world.
II. THE GRACE OF CHRIST BRINGS PURIFICATION AND HEALING.
1. Purification The Dead Sea is charged with salts; the stream is represented as washing these away, or in some manner transforming them. Some great cleansing is needed to purge the earthy mixture out of the hearts and lives of man. Christ brings waters in which the foulest may wash and be clean.
2. Healing. The strong brine of the Dead Sea is fatal to all life. If fish come down in the Jordan they must perish as soon as they reach the fatal lake. To the bather the waters are so pungent that they produce agonizing sensations in the eyes, and the taste of them is unendurable. Enclosed by the bluest of hills, steaming with tropical heat, the dull and heavy waters produce a scene of noxious beauty—like the charm of the snake, like the fascination of sin. But the gospel brings healing to the poisoned sea of human life, as the temple flood was imagined to bring it to the Dead Sea.
III. THE PURIFICATION AND HEALING OF THE GRACE OF CHRIST BEAR FRUIT IN LIFE. The purged sea is to team with fish, and fishermen are to spread their nets on its now neglected shores. Before Christ comes men are dead in trespasses and sins. He brings life for the dead, and wherever his gospel goes it introduces this life to the world. Even intellectual, social, and political life are energized by Christianity. The strongest, keenest, freshest life of the world is found in Christendom. Those lands which were once Christian, and have since lost the religion of the Christ, have sunk back to semi-barbarism; e.g. North Africa. The best nourishment for the highest life of man in all its branches is found in the New Testament. When Christ is received, life is strong, rich, and fruitful.
Trees of life.
I. THE SITE ON WHICH THEY GROW. "By the river upon the bank, on this side and on that side" All the blessings of Christianity are drawn from its central stream in the grace of Christ. But that stream fertilizes its banks, like the Nile, and many trees overshadow its waters. As the dry wady is pleasantly broken by a thread of green just where the watercourse winds through it, so the dreary and spiritually fruitless waste of the sin-stricken world has the cheering presence in its midst of Christianity and the fruits of the love and work of Christ. We must be near the stream if we would reach the trees, and we must be near Christ if we would enjoy his blessing. The closer the trees stand to the refreshing flood the more freely wilt they grow and flourish, and the closer all our Christian work and various institutions are to Christ the Better will they thrive.
II. THE NUMBER AND VARIETY OF THEM. "All trees for meat," etc.
1. They are numerous. Many Christian agencies cluster about the gospel of Christ. There is abundance of life and energy here. However many may seek for grace from Christ, there is enough for all.
2. They are of various kinds. Thus they are suited to different orders of minds, to different circumstances and needs, and to different good ends. There is a rich variety in the blessings of the gospel, like the variety of nature, in which many kinds and species contribute to the general well-being of the whole.
III. THEIR PERENNIAL FRESHNESS.
1. They are evergreen. Most earthly comforts fade and pass away in course of time. Human good things are subject to shifting seasons. The fickle, changeful, transient character of the comforts of this world should drive us to the everlasting refuge of the Rock of Ages and the never-fading freshness of the trees of life. God's grace never fails. The blessings that spring from Christianity are independent of the fluctuations of outward life. It is possible to enjoy the green leaf in the garden of the Lord when all around is bare and desolate in wintry death.
2. Their fruit comes continuously. "It shall bring forth new fruit every month."
(1) The fruit-season in the kingdom of heaven is all the year round. Here we are often made to distinguish between the time of seed-sowing—which may be one of tears—and that of the joyous harvest. It is not so with the heavenly trees of life. They bear fruit in "the winter of our discontent." There is never a time when we may not seek and find some comfort and satisfaction in Christ.
(2) These blessings come again and again as fresh gifts from God: New fruit. We are not to be satisfied with the grace of the past; grace comes anew to God's people.
IV. THE GREAT SERVICE THEY RENDER.
1. They supply food. "The fruit thereof shall be for meat." Thus God nourishes the interior life of his people with heavenly fruit. Excluded from the earthly Eden, they can eat of the better fruit of the unseen and spiritual paradise. Souls live on Christ, the heavenly Manna. His flesh is meat indeed.
2. They give medicine. "And the leaf thereof for medicine." We need spiritual healing as well as feeding—healing from the bite of the serpent sin, from the crushing blow of adversity, from all that makes heart and soul sick. This too is provided in the grace of Christ the "good Physician." Balm of Gilead may fail us, but the Divine Herbalist has decoctions from the leaves of the tree of life that cure all soul ailments.
Joseph's double portion.
When the land was divided the tribes did not all share alike. Some had larger territories than others, and the descendants of Joseph had two tribal portions, being divided into two tribes—Ephraim and Manasseh.
I. THE BLESSINGS OF THE FATHER DESCEND TO THE CHILDREN. Joseph had proved himself the best as well as the greatest of the sons of Jacob. He had returned good for evil to his cruel, murderous brothers, and had been the means of bringing blessing to all his father's household. He was now blessed in the blessing of his children. There is no better way of rewarding good parents than by prospering their children. We may see God's favor descending in line from generation to generation of them that fear him.
II. JUSTICE IS NOT THE SAME AS EQUALITY. It might seem to be unjust to the rest of the tribes that Joseph's descendants should be reckoned as two tribes. But it is not always right and fair to give exactly the same to every one. Equal partition may mean great wrong. Justice takes account of merit; some deserve more than others. It takes note of need; some require more than others. It has reference to capacity; some can use more than others. It is not just to reward the faithless as much as the faithful servant, nor to give to the giant as small a meal as to the dwarf, nor to entrust to the man of small mind as much responsibility as to one of large powers. Joseph's tribes may have deserved, have needed, or have been capable of using, more territory than any of the other tribes. They were more numerous in population.
III. THERE IS NO INJUSTICE WHERE NO ONE IS WRONGED. Provision was made for the double share of Joseph by giving to one of his tribes the portion that would have fallen to the lot of Levi, who was provided for out of the sacrificial offerings and the sacred cities whose inheritance was the Lord. Thus when it is granted that sacrifices should be made and tithes paid for religious purposes, we may conclude that there was a portion to spare. The ten tribes were not robbed to give to Ephraim or Manasseh, No injustice was done to those laborers of our Lord's parable who had toiled all day when the eleventh-hour laborers received equal wages; for the former had had full pay, all they had agreed for, and the heavier rate of the payment given to the latter was dependent only on the generosity of the master, who, having satisfied all due claims, had a right to do as he would with his own (Matthew 20:15). Angels have no right to envy God's grace to men, for angels have their due. We have no right to begrudge to any people whatever favor God may show them. He does not rob us.
IV. GOD PROVIDES FOR INDIVIDUALS, AND NOT MERELY FOR COMMUNITIES. Ephraim and Manasseh, the two tribes of Joseph, were equal in population to the other tribes, if not more numerous. Therefore, the individual members of these two tribes received no more than their brethren in other tribes. Caring for man and not for communities, God was fair in giving most land to the most populous branch of the family of Jacob. His blessings now are for separate souls.
V. GREAT TRUSTS BRING GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES. The man of five talents does his duty in getting five more, while he of two talents does his equally in getting but two more. With double territory the two tribes of Joseph were expected to furnish a proportionately large supply of men for the national defense. Much is expected of those to whom much has been given. Specially privileged Christian people may rest assured that specially important duties have been laid upon them.
The division of the land.
I. THE DIVISION WAS INTO SEPARATE ALLOTMENTS. The land of Israel was not held in common by the whole people. Certain dues were attached to it, and certain regulations governed the treatment of it by its owners. Thus it was forbidden for any one to make an absolute sale of his estate. On these conditions each family held its own land, like the peasant-proprietors of France and Belgium, God divides our lives out severally. Each must live his own separate life and discharge his individual duty while he receives his personal grace, we are to live in the community and for its benefit, bearing one another's burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ, but still each taking his own particular part in the common life of the whole.
II. THE DIVISION WAS CLEAR AND DEFINITE. There were exact confines, and it was a criminal offence for any one to remove his neighbor's landmark (Deuteronomy 19:14). We ought to have no doubt as to our portion in life. Occasionally we may see a desolate, ruinous house—part of an estate in chancery, the ownership of which is disputed; on the other hand, we hear of claimants to estates who find it difficult to obtain what they urge is their own property. But in the region of personal religion each should see what is his portion and mission for the world.
III. THE DIVISION INCLUDED A PORTION FOR EVERY ISRAELITE. It was so carefully made that the most insignificant family should not be overlooked. There should be a share for every one in the produce of our great fruitful earth. Centers of population may be overcrowded, but the earth is not yet full. Folly and sin, tyranny, injustice, and robbery, keep many out of their fights. If all did their duty and had their dues there would be enough for all. This holds good also in the spiritual world. There is room in the kingdom of heaven for all. No one need fear that others will go in first and take the blessing, and so leave him behind too late to get any benefit from the Divine bounty—like the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:7). There is a portion in Christ's redemption for every soul of man. It only remains for all to receive their inheritance, accepting it by faith and entering it with obedience to the Lord who is supreme over the whole.
IV. THE DIVISION WAS BY LOT. This expedient prevented all complaints of supposed injustice. The owner of a bit of bare hillside had no right to envy the fortunate possessor of a rich plot in the valley. But there was more than this object in view in the use of the lot, which was taken as part of the method of Divine government. "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord" (Proverbs 16:33). The people were thus to feel that God was to determine where each should settle, and to say, "He shall choose our inheritance for us" (Psalms 47:4). We talk of the "lottery of life," but we should remember that Providence obliterates chance. God orders our circumstances, and whether the lines have fallen to us in pleasant places and we have a goodly heritage, or we are left to poverty and hardship, our Father's choice must be good.
Ezekiel 47:22, Ezekiel 47:23
The stranger's portion.
We do wrong to the ancient Jewish Law and to the character of the Jews themselves when we regard a selfish exclusiveness as the marked feature of Old Testament times. A certain separateness was required to keep the people of God from the idolatry and immorality of their heathen neighbors, and none of the privileges of Israel could be enjoyed excepting on condition of entering into the covenant of Israel—the covenant which needed to be accepted and kept by the chosen people themselves in order that they might enjoy their privileges. But the bitter jealousy which was seen in the narrow Judaism of New Testament times is not encouraged by the Law, nor does it seem to have been indulged in by the Old Testament Israelites. It was the revenge of a persecuted sect turned against their powerful oppressors. A freer, happier, more generous spirit prevailed in the earlier Hebrew nation. The people were taught to cultivate national hospitality. Care for the stranger was repeatedly inculcated in their Law. Much more is it incumbent on Christians to manifest a brotherly spirit in welcoming strangers.
I. STRANGERS SHOULD RECEIVE A BROTHERLY WELCOME FROM CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. Hospitality is an Eastern habit; it should be a Christian grace.
1. In the church. Care should be taken to make strangers feel at home in our midst. The least aversion to having a stranger sitting by one's side may cheek the beginning of a new course of life by repelling the seeker after truth from the means of enlightenment. The friendless, the poor, the timid, the penitent, should be received with especial kindness.
2. In the home. Christian people have not sufficiently regarded their Lord's command to make guests of the poor who can offer no return (Luke 14:13).
3. In the world. A generous Christian spirit should open the heart to receive strangers. The miserably selfish isolation in which some people immure themselves is quite alien to the brotherly spirit of Jesus Christ.
II. STRANGERS ARE WELCOMED BY CHRIST INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
1. Gentiles. Assuredly Christianity is not narrower than Judaism, under which even provision was made for a brotherly reception of proselytes. They who were strangers to the covenant of promise are now brought nigh by the blood of Christ. The wild olive branch is grafted in to the fruitful stock (Romans 11:17). Gentiles are freely admitted to the promised blessings of Abraham.
2. Heathen. Strangers to Christendom are invited into the kingdom of Christ. The heathen world is to receive the gospel. From China, from New Guinea, from Central Africa, the strangers press into the privileged kingdom.
3. Sinners. We have not to go to a distant continent to discover strangers to Christ. They may be found in a Christian land—even in a Christian Church! Every man who lives in sin is a stranger to Christ. But all sinners are invited to the Savior.
III. STRANGERS MUST BECOME TRUE CITIZENS IN ORDER TO ENJOY THE PRIVILEGES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The stranger needed to adopt the Law, to be circumcised, and to become a Jew, if he was to have his portion in the land. People who are spiritually strangers now need a circumcision of heart (Deuteronomy 30:6) and a new birth to have the blessings of Christ. All may have the Christian blessedness, but all must first become Christians. There is a portion for every one in Christ's kingdom; it now only rests with every one to qualify himself for his inheritance by penitence and faith in Jesus Christ.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The holy waters.
The beauty and even sublimity of this portion of Ezekiel's prophecies must impress every reader of imagination and taste. Upon the suggestion of the waters of Siloam taking their rise from the temple rock, and the watercourse of the Kedron threading its way among the rocky deserts until it reaches the expanse of the Dead Sea, the poet-prophet describes a river which has its source in the sanctuary of Jehovah, and which broadens and deepens as it flows, until it becomes a stream of vastest blessing, diffusing health and life for the benefit of multitudes of men. Under this similitude Ezekiel pictures the spiritual blessings brought by God, through the channels of his grace and faithfulness, not to Israel alone, but to all mankind.
I. THE SOURCE OF THE HOLY WATERS. AS the rain comes down from heaven, filters in the soil, and wells up a living spring, so the blessings of the gospel have their fountain in the very mind and heart of God himself. But, as conveyed to men, they have a well-spring human and earthly. The student of human history, who looks beneath the surface of things, and seeks to understand the growth of thought and of morals, turns his attention to the Hebrew people, wondering that from them, as from a well-head of ethical and religious life, should flow blessings so priceless for the enrichment of humanity. Yet so it is; the temple at Jerusalem is the symbol of a Divine revelation. The justest and noblest ideas which have entered into the intellectual and spiritual life of man have very largely issued from Moses and the Hebrew prophets. How far Ezekiel entered into this truth may not be certain; yet since he was a cosmopolite, in relation with Babylon, Egypt, and Tyre, and knew well the mental and moral state of the nations of antiquity, it seems reasonable to believe that he had enough of the critical spirit to compare the debt of the world to the Hebrews as compared with the people that figure so vastly in secular history. He was certainly right in tracing to Israelitish sources the waters of life, fruitfulness, and healing which were to bring blessing to mankind.
II. THE WIDENING AND DEEPENING OF THE HOLY WATERS. It is here that Ezekiel passes from history to prophecy. Possessed by the Spirit of God, he was able to look into the future and behold the wonder yet to be. It is, indeed, marvelous that, in a period of national depression, when national extinction seemed to human foresight to be imminent, the prophet of the exile should have had so clear a perception of the reality of things, and so clear a foresight of the spiritual future of the world, which must in his apprehension have appeared bound up with the continuity of the history and religious life of Israel. The river, like the temple from which it proceeded, was the emblem of what was greater than itself. Christian commentators have taken pleasure in tracing Correspondences between the gradual increase of the stream and the growth of true and spiritual religion. Beginning with Judaism, the stream of truth and blessing widened and deepened into Christianity; and Christianity itself, commencing its course in the besom of Israel, soon came to include in its ever-widening flood, its ever-deepening volume of blessing, all the nations comprehended in the dominion of Rome. And following centuries have witnessed the constant broadening of the life-giving and beneficent stream, so that none can place a limit to the area which shall be fertilized and refreshed by the waters that first flowed from the courts of the temple at Jerusalem.
III. THE BENEFICENCE OF THE HOLY WATERS. Among the results of the presence of the waters of life may be observed the following.
1. Healing. The salt and bituminous waters of the Dead Sea are represented as being healed and restored to sweetness by this inflow of the sweet and wholesome waters issuing from the sanctuary. By this may be understood the power of pure and supernatural religion to heal the corruptions of sinful society. Certainly, as a matter of fact, not a little has been done in this direction in the course of the centuries, as the Church has taken possession, first of the Roman empire, and then of the nations of the North, and as, in these latter days, it has, with missionary zeal, penetrated the foulness of the remotest heathenism.
2. Life. And this in two several directions. The prophet saw very many trees on the banks of the river, and a very great multitude of fish in its translucent waters. Life, both vegetable and animal, life of every kind and order, is the result of the stream's full and beneficent flow. Corresponding with this is the spiritual life which results from the benign and wholesome influence of true Christianity. The Lord Jesus came that men might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Life of the spirit, the very life of God himself—such is the issue of the Divine interposition and provision.
3. Fruitfulness and abundance. The fishers spread their nets and draw up from the waters a great supply of fish; the husbandmen go forth into the gardens and vineyards by the river-side and gather great crops of fruit. The river of the water of life, like the streams of Damascus creating a green oasis in the Syrian desert, brings fertility, a wealth of blossom and of fruit, wherever it flows. Righteousness and holiness, patience and peace, devotion and hope,—such are the harvest for which the world is indebted to the sweet waters of the Divine sanctuary.—T.
The tree of life.
The river, which in his prophetic vision Ezekiel beholds, as it pursues its widening course from the temple rock eastwards towards the Arabah, is seen by him to be bordered with trees, clad with perennial foliage, and laden with luscious and nutritious fruits. And as the waters of life bring satisfaction and refreshment to the thirsting spirits of men, so do the trees supply them with leaves to heal their wounds and sicknesses, and with fruit to satisfy the hunger which the Dead Sea apples can only mock and leave unappeased.
I. THE SOURCE OF SALVATION. The fruitfulness of the trees which border the riverbanks is accounted for by the fresh and flowing waters which keep their roots for ever moist and nourished. The gospel is a Divine provision for human need; its suitableness and sufficiency are only to be explained by its heavenly origin in the infinite wisdom and the infinite love of God himself. Our Savior Christ, "for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven." The Holy Spirit who enlightens, quickens, and blesses, is the Gift of God, "proceeding from the Father and the Son."
II. THE CHARACTER OF SALVATION. As represented in this exquisitely beautiful figure, salvation is twofold.
1. It includes healing for sin. As the leaves of certain trees were and are applied to the body for the healing of wounds and diseases, so the, gospel brings to sinful men the Divine remedy and cure.
2. It includes the supply of spiritual wants. It is an imperfect view of religion which confines it to a provision for pardon. Religion takes possession of the whole nature, and provides truth for the understanding, love for the heart, and power for the life. It is to the spiritual nature what food is to the body—sustenance, stimulus, and strength. As the strong man eats in order that he may be in health and vigorous life, in order that he may do his daily work, so does the good man partake of the fruit of God's Word in order that he may be empowered to render true and effective service to his God.
III. THE ABUNDANCE OF SALVATION. The trees which grew by the river of life are represented as characterized by unwithering leaf and by unfailing fruit.
1. Salvation is afforded as God's gift to innumerable applicants of every variety of character and from every land.
2. Salvation is provided for successive generations. There was a marvelous largeness of view in the Prophet Ezekiel; he contemplated not only the many nations of men, but the successive inhabitants of the earth, as benefited by the provision of Divine mercy. The perennial and inexhaustible trees of life afford to all mankind in every age the healing and the sustenance which they require. There is no limit to God's bounty, as there is no limit to man's need.—T.
The inheritance of the children.
The prophet was locking forward to the restoration of his fellow-countrymen to the land given by God to their fathers. The temple and all that concerns its services and ministrations having been described, Ezekiel naturally turns in the next place to picture the repossessed and apportioned inheritances. There are difficulties in interpreting this passage relating to the territories given to the several tribes; but there can be no doubt that the prophet foretold the renewed occupation of the soil by the descendants of Abraham. It seems probable that all the while Ezekiel had in his mind the spiritual Israel of which the chosen people were the type. There is an inheritance for the whole Israel of God.
I. A DIVINELY APPOINTED INHERITANCE. Whatever are the possessions and privileges of God's people, this is certain, that they are the gift of God's goodness. What have we that we did not receive? All things are of God. If we as Christians have entered upon a heritage of knowledge, of liberty, of purity, of peace, this is because the Lord has dealt bountifully with us.
II. AN ESPECIAL INHERITANCE FOR EACH. In the settlement of the tribes in the Holy Land nothing was left to accident or to ambition; the lot of each tribe was marked out by Divine appointment. All Christians may appropriate the language of the psalmist, "The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage." To one the great Head of the Church assigns an inheritance of conflict; to another, an inheritance of peace. One section of the Church is distinguished for its thinkers; another, for its workers. But each has his own ministry and responsibility, and it becomes each to be content and to refrain from envying the lot of another.
III. A SUFFICIENT INHERITANCE FOR ALL. Palestine, though comparatively a small country, was large enough to contain all the tribes. In the Church of Christ there is abundant accommodation and provision for all the members of that Church. "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." There is no limitation to the Divine resources or to the Divine liberality.
IV. A PERPETUAL INHERITANCE. Israel retained possession of the laud of promise for generations, for centuries; but that possession, nevertheless, came to an end. In this respect, there is a contrast between the temporal and the spiritual inheritance. None of God's people can ever be dispossessed from God's favor, or deprived of the privileges which are secured to them by the faithful promises of God. Those promises have respect, not to time only, but to eternity. Theirs is an "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away."—T.
Ezekiel 47:22, Ezekiel 47:23
The inheritance of the strangers.
It was certainly a provision of remarkable interest and liberality that is recorded in these verses. Considering the exclusive and clannish spirit which so largely distinguished the Hebrew people, we cannot but read with wonder as well as with gratification that aliens were permitted to partake with them the possession and enjoyment of the land of promise. Those of other blood, but of the same religion, who during the Captivity had cultivated the soil, were to be suffered to retain their inheritance equally with the returning exiles. Probably there was abundant room for all, for the numbers of the Israelites may well have been diminished during their exile. Strangers thus coalesced with the sons of Israel in the several tribes that went to make up the nation. In the same manner, upon a larger scale, an amalgamation of Jews and Gentiles took place in the constitution of the Israel of God—the Church of Christ.
I. THE EQUAL INHERITANCE OF ALL CHRIST'S PEOPLE IN CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGES IS NOT OWING TO NATURE, BUT IS THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE GRACE OF GOD.
II. THE EQUAL INHERITANCE INVOLVES A SIMILAR SPIRITUAL PREPARATION AND ADAPTATION.
III. THE EQUAL INHERITANCE ENTITLES ALL THE MEMBERS OF CHRIST'S CHURCH TO EQUAL PRIVILEGES.
1. All distinctions of an hereditary, secular, and educational character are of little importance in the Christian community. Boasting is excluded where all is of grace, and where none has any claim of right.
2. Mutual consideration and forbearance should obtain within the boundaries of the Church. Every Christian has some especial office and gift; perhaps every Christian has some special infirmity and imperfection.
3. It is profitable and delightful to look forward to the perfect fulfillment of the Savior's purpose and prayer, to anticipate the time when all shall be one—one flock under one Shepherd. The inheritance of all God's people is known only by the common designation: "the inheritance of the saints in light."—T.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
The river of salvation.
The prophet has advanced from step to step in his outline sketch of Israel's destined glory. The temple is now complete. The throne is to be erected on a foundation of righteousness. The better order for sacrificial worship is instituted. The climax of blessing is almost reached. One great defect had been manifest in Israel's past history. They lived for themselves. They were the exclusive favorites of Jehovah. This defect shall be remedied. Israel shall henceforth be a blessing to the world. From under the temple altar a stream of life is seen to flow, which deepens as it flows, and which shall irrigate and vitalize whatever is Barren in the land. From Israel, as from a center, gracious power shall go forth to penetrate with new life the human race. Such is the significance of the vision. Yet this structure of future hope rests upon a groundwork of fact. Within recent years it has been discovered that immense reservoirs of water exist under the identical spot where once the altar stood. Ezekiel borrowed the material of Iris vision from the physical features of the temple area, and from the formation of the country lying to the east. By a geographical necessity, this stream flowed (in Ezekiel's day) down the valley of Jehoshaphat, along the valley of the Kedron, through land blasted with desolation, and found its way into the Dead Sea. With this raw material of fact the prophet weaves a gorgeous tapestry of prophecy. He foresees the glorious reality of Messiah's day. He limos in outline the magnificent results of Calvary.. Pentecost, with its far-reaching consequences, was filling his heart with joy: hence he describes in glowing colors man's regenerated state through the abounding grace of God.
I. MARK THE SOURCE OF THIS LIFE—GIVING STREAM. "Behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward … the waters came down from under from the fight side of the house, at the south side of the altar." Here we have an early unfolding of God's great plan of salvation—an anticipation of the closing vision in John's Apocalypse. There is vital instruction in every line. The stream had its rise under the altar, which altar is the emblem of the Saviors cross. Hence we learn that the stream of Divine mercy, the river of life to men, has its source in suffering rod sacrifice and death. Atoning death, the outburst of pent-up love, is the spring of life to the world. Such was the spectacle to the prophet s eye; this was revelation enough for the moment; yet there was a gracious fact further back. The real, invisible source of this salvation is in the heart of infinite love; but for wisest reasons the stream flows through the channel of the cross. Therefore, to the eye of man the most fitting spot whence this stream should seem to rise is the altar in the temple, where for ages God had been sought and his mercy had been found. The plural word "waters" signifies "abundance." They gushed forth in copious plentifulness. The impression made upon the mind was the very opposite to stint or reluctance. It was a generous overflow, a glad relief from previous restraint. Such is the quality of God's mercy to men. It leaps forth in generous abundance. There is no limit to his kindness. His love is equal to men's largest needs—equal to the salvation of the race. If God is the purveyor, there can be no lack. He gives with the heart of a Father and with the freeness of a King.
II. MARK THE RAPID GROWTH OF THE STREAM. At the distance of a thousand cubits from its source the waters reached only to a man's ankles. Another like distance was measured, now they reached the knees; and soon the stream was a river to swim in—a fiver that could not be forded. Impressive picture this of the development of God's plan of redemption! In Eden there was only an obscure promise. Down to the days of Abraham the rill of experienced mercy reached only to the ankles. But it steadily grew in depth and fullness. It would be a waste of blessing if God should disclose his grace faster than man has capacity to receive. In Paul's day the stream had swelled in volume, so that, having tried his sounding-line, he stood confounded, and could only exclaim, "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" Still the stream rolls on and increases in magnitude. At its banks every thirsty soul may drink and live. For six thousand years it has been flowing, and, instead of giving any sign of diminution, the volume still increases and shall increase. For this saving knowledge shall cover the earth as the natural water fills the caverns of ocean. So important did God conceive it to be that Ezekiel should know of this steady increase, that he caused him to test it by personal experiment. It did not suffice that Ezekiel looked upon this increasing volume with his eye; he must go into it, and have deepest knowledge of the fact. They who preach to others must have personal experience of the truth. Theory and tradition and speculation will not suffice for the instruction of men. The preacher sent from God must declare what he has "tasted and handled and felt of the good word of life." Attention is summoned: "Son of man, hast thou seen this?"
III. MARK THE SALUTARY EFFECTS OF THIS STREAM. "Everything shall live whither the river cometh." The prophet soon left the region of natural fact. There then a stream flowing out from under the temple; but its waters were not sweet; it did not grow in bulk as it proceeded; it did not bring fertility and life to the district. The country through which the Kedron flows is the most rocky and desolate to be found in Palestine. Although this little stream has been flowing for ages into the Dead Sea, it has not perceptibly alleviated its bitterness. Nauseous and pungent to the taste as ever is that water. Though beautiful to the eye as the Sea of Galilee, no animated life is on its shores; all verdure is wanting; and not the tiniest animalcula can live in its depths. It is the scene of silence and desolation. Pathetic emblem this of man's moral barrenness!
1. Food is provided. To this natural spectacle what a contrast does Ezekiel's picture present! This copious stream brings life and beauty to both its banks. Here grows every tree that can yield fruit. Here no scarcity can be found, for the trees bear in constant succession. As soon as one sort of fruit is exhausted another is purple with ripeness. No winter is here; it is perpetual summer. Such fruits may be enumerated:
(7) Divine communion;
Already the deserts of earth have blossomed; already these fruits of Paradise have been tasted. For long years the prophecy has ripened into fact.
2. Medicine. "The leaf thereof shall be for medicine." The provision which God makes is always complete. Man is not only the subject of hunger, he is a victim of disease. He is racked with pain, torn with sorrows, tormented with a thousand cares. And as in nature the leaves and cells of plants contain medicine for every bodily disease; so in his kingdom of grace God has furnished remedies for all care and sorrow. "The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." And what else can these leaves be except the truths and promises of the gospel of Christ? Is it not a fact well attested that these words and pledges of Jehovah have alleviated the distress of many an anguished soul? acted as cooling balm to many a fevered heart? How many men, fettered with chains of despair, have broken them by virtue of the promise, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out!" How many no tongue can tell. And like healing medicine to a thousand afflicted souls has bee,, the whispered assurance, I will never leave thee; and this, My grace is sufficient for thee." "He has sent forth his word and healed them."
3. There is perpetual virtue. Of these trees "the leaf shall not fade." As a willow planted by the riverside is well-nigh always verdant, so the trees of righteousness were beauteous in immortal verdure because their roots were nourished by the river of God. Human nature (unvisited by God's grace)is a desert more bald and sterile than the hill-country of Judaea. But wherever this crystal stream of mercy comes, life—luxuriant, joyous life appears. The plants of holiness flourish—"trees of the Lord, full of sap." A thousand such deserts have already blossomed, and the prophecy is undergoing fulfillment before our eyes.
4. Abundant life is yet another effect. "There shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither." It is in keeping with the allegory that the prophet should speak only of fish as the kind of life generated by this stream. Yet as the result of this human life was sustained. Population increased, for men found useful occupation. The whole circumference of the Dead Sea became a scene of activity—the home of industry and plenty. Again we have a graphic sketch of the life-giving grace of our God. Wherever it has penetrated it has been life from the dead. Bodily life has been valued and prolonged. The curative art has developed. Domestic life has been enriched. All forms of intellectual life have unfolded. National life has been purified and organized. Population has grown. Best of all, the spiritual life in man has been awakened, and practical love to the human race has flourished. A moral revolution among mankind is in progress. The regeneration of society is proceeding.
5. Exceptional barrenness is incurable. "But the miry places thereof, and the marshes thereof, shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt." There is a certain physical condition of barren land which no abundance of water will fertilize. So in the kingdom of grace resistance of Divine influence is possible. Among the chosen twelve there was a Judas. In the first Church avarice and hypocrisy wrought havoc of death. Some always "resist the Holy Ghost." Some "count themselves unworthy of everlasting life." To some in his day Jesus spake with pathetic sorrow, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."—D.
Ezekiel 47:13, Ezekiel 47:14, Ezekiel 47:22, Ezekiel 47:23
Canaan a type of heaven.
To the Jews exiled in Chaldea restoration to Palestine seemed a lesser heaven. To regain their land, their ancestral estates, their temple, their priesthood, was the goal of present ambition, was a steppingstone to yet higher good. The prophetic pictures of Ezekiel were designed to tempt their thoughts to loftier soarings. A better thing than Canaan was in store for them, but as yet they could not appreciate it, therefore could not perceive it. So, by slow and patient steps, God leads us upward. We know but little as yet, realize little as yet, of our great inheritance. The soul is under bondage to the flesh. The eye is veiled with material things.
I. HEAVEN IS ASSIGNED AS THE INHERITANCE OF THE TRUE ISRAEL. It is an undoubted fact that the natural Israel is the type of the faithful in every land. It is a fact that the earthly Canaan is described in the New Testament as the type of the heavenly. "If we are Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." "We are come," says St. Paul, "to the heavenly Jerusalem." To the eye of the exiled John the architecture of the heavenly city was formed of materials borrowed from the earthly Jerusalem. Hence we still "seek a country, that is, a heavenly." It is provided for us by God; it is in course of preparation for our use. His house must be furnished with guests, and the guests are being prepared for the place. "The redeemed shall dwell there." "The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell among them." "He is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has provided for them a city."
II. THIS INHERITANCE GOD HAS SECURED BY OATH UNTO ALL THE HEIRS. The title-deed is signed and sealed. It is writ in lines of blood—the blood of Christ.
"Signed when our Redeemer died,
Sealed when he was glorified."
To all other guarantees God has added this, viz. his solemn oath. "Concerning the which I lifted up mine hand to give it." As men will accept transference of property and testimony in general, done under the sanction of an oath, when they would not accept it as final and unalterable without the oath, so God has condescended to our infirmities—condescends to act according to human customs. A single promise from him suffices; a single word is enough. When he created, a word was ample: "He spake, and it was done." He said, "Let light be and light was!" So, in securing to us the inheritance of heaven, a word from him is full security. His promise is as good as his performance. Yet he stoops to employ human methods and human expedients in order to quell our doubts and satisfy our faith. Not a loophole for doubt is left. As firmly established as Jehovah's throne is the gift: "Ye shall inherit it, one as well as another." 'Tis not a matter of purchase; it is his spontaneous gift. "I am Jehovah; therefore I change not."
III. THIS INHERITANCE COMPRISES DISTINCT REWARDS FOR FAITHFUL SERVICE. "Joseph shall have two portions." It would be a serious mistake to suppose that heaven contained equal measures of honor and of joy for all. In all likelihood there is greater diversity in eminence and in joy than on earth. From the lips of the unerring Judge the verdicts fall, "Be thou ruler over ten cities Be thou ruler over five cities." The place of honor on Christ's right hand shall be given to him "for whom it is prepared." In proportion to fidelity here shall be reward there. Even Jesus Christ himself tastes a richer joy as the result of his suffering. "For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross;" "Therefore cloth my Father love me, because I lay down my life for the sheep." For some there is in store "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
IV. THE HEAVENLY INHERITANCE HAS A PLACE FOR SPIRITUAL AFFINITIES. The favored occupants still dwell according to their tribes. In St. John's enumeration of the redeemed he reads the muster-roll of the tribes. Each tribe had its tale complete—it numbered twelve thousand. To the same effect Jesus affirmed, "In my Father's house are many mansions." The demarcations made by family and social lines on earth will be obliterated; but instead, new associations, new affinities, will appear. The denizens will be drawn closer together, or less close, according to spiritual tastes and proclivities. "He that doeth the will of my Father in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." There will be emulation, and a measure of seemly rivalry, while envy and jealousy will be unknown.
V. THE HEAVENLY INHERITANCE WILL BE COMPREHENSIVE IN CITIZENSHIP. "Ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you … they shall be unto you as born in the country." The old spirit of exclusiveness shall cease. Earthly nationality is an accident, which possesses in itself no excellence. Concerning Greek, or Barbarian, or Hebrew, "God is no respecter of persons." In Christ Jesus "neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but simply a new creature." The distinction in God's kingdom is character. Demarcation is between the excellent and the vile. He who has in his breast the faith of Abraham will receive a welcome, while he who inherits only Abraham's blood will be excluded. No matter in what clime a man is born, no matter what the color of his skin, if he chooses God to be his God and Sovereign and Friend, he shall find a place among the citizens; he shall obtain a lot among one of the tribes. "Wherefore," saith God, "separate yourselves from the evil, and be ye clean, and I will receive you:! will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." The simple term of citizenship is a "new birth." "Except ye be converted, and become as a little child "—such is the condition to Jew and Gentile alike—"ye cannot enter the kingdom of God." "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." There is world-wide comprehensiveness, coupled with self-imposed exclusiveness.—D.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The river of life.
In this noble vision we have a prophecy of that great redeeming power which Jesus Christ should introduce to the world, and we have some insight given us of its triumphs in the far future. Of this wonderful river we have to inquire into
I. ITS DIVINE SOURCE. The river flowed "from under the threshold of the house"—from the very dwelling-place of Jehovah. The river of life has its source in the Divine, in God himself, in his fatherly yearning, in his boundless pity, in his redeeming purpose. The heavens themselves pour down the rains, which feed the springs, which make the rivers of earth; but from above the clouds, from one whom "the heaven of heavens cannot contain," comes that river of life which a wasted and despoiled world is waiting to receive. It is a Divine mind alone that could conceive, a Divine heart alone that-could produce, such a benevolent force as this.
II. ITS SPIRITUAL CHARACTER. The river of the gospel of Christ is the river of Divine truth. The kingdom of God is to be established by purely moral and spiritual agencies. When violence is used to promote it, there is a miserable departure from its essential spirit, and there is a serious injury done to its final triumph. For it wins by other and better means. And as water is itself composed of two elements, so the truth of God in the gospel of Christ is twofold. It includes the truth we most want to know concerning ourselves—our nature, our character, our position before God, our possibilities in the present and in the future; and also the truth we most want to know concerning God—his character and disposition, his purpose of mercy, his supreme act of self-denying love, his overtures of grace, his summons to eternal life.
III. ITS TWO SOVEREIGN VIRTUES.
1. That of renewal. All kinds of fish live in its waters (Ezekiel 47:9, Ezekiel 47:10); many trees grow and thrive on its banks, nourished by its streams (Ezekiel 47:7); "everything lives whither the river cometh" (Ezekiel 47:9).
2. That of cleansing. Such are the virtues of this river that, flowing into the Dead Sea, it sweetens even its salt waters and cleanses them of their bitterness, so that fish once more live therein: "Its waters are healed" (Ezekiel 47:8). Such is the gracious and beneficent action of the truth of the gospel of Christ.
(1) It is the source of new life; it revives and it sustains. It finds men and communities in spiritual death, and it imparts a new and blessed life; before it comes is a dreary moral waste, after its waters have begun to flow there is beauty and fertility. Peoples that seemed wholly lost to wisdom and to righteousness are regained; homes that appeared hopelessly darkened with sin and shame are made light with its beams of truth and grace; hearts that were desolate and deathful are filled with peace and joy and immortal hope. Everything lives where this blessed river comes.
(2) It is the one great cleansing power. Into the darkest and foulest places it enters, and it brings with it sweetness and purity; corruption cannot live where its waters pass, but disappears before them. This is true, not only of the hearts and the homes of men, but of districts, of cities, of countries.
IV. ITS GLORIOUS ABUNDANCE. (Ezekiel 47:3-5.) Once a small stream, it is now a broad, deep river, whose course nothing can check, whose waters are inexhaustibly full, whose beneficence nothing can measure. It has come down these many centuries, it has girdled the whole earth, it will flow on and on until all the nations have been renewed.
1. Have we partaken of its life-giving waters?
2. Are we gaining therefrom the healing and the growth they will yield?—C.
The double service - meat and medicine.
So nourishing should be the waters of this (allegorical) river that the trees which they fed upon its banks should produce a never-failing fruit and an unfading leaf, "and the fruit thereof should be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine." The gospel of Jesus Christ perfectly fulfils the prophecy; its properties and provisions are such that it supplies ample food (or meat) for the sustenance, and all healing (or medicine) for the recovery of the human soul. Taking the latter first, as being first required, we have—
I. THE RESTORING VIRTUE OF THE GOSPEL. The leaf of the tree of life is "for medicine," or "for bruises and sores" (marginal reading).
1. How great is the need for such medicine as this in "a bruised and sore" world like ours! On every hand are men and women who are chafed with the worries of life, who are perplexed with its problems, who are smitten and are sore by reason of its varied persecutions, who are worn and wearied with its excessive toils, who are badly wounded by its heavier sorrows, by crushing loss, by darkening disappointment, by saddening bereavement, by disabling sickness, by cruel disloyalty. And beyond these there are those who are stung with shame, who have been awakened to a sense of their guilt before God, and are filled with a holy shame, a compunction which is the first step to true blessedness, but which "for the present" is grievous and distressing to the soul.
2. How invaluable is the remedy which this tree of life provides! To such wounded hearts comes the healing Savior; he comes
(1) with tender sympathy, offering himself as the Divine Friend, who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities;"
(2) with the comfort of his own example, as our Leader, "whose way was much rougher and darker than ours," and who asks us whether "it is not enough for the disciple to be as his Lord;
(3) with his Divine aid, ready, at our appeal, to revive us by his indwelling Spirit and grant us such sustaining grace that, instead of groaning under the blow, we can even glory in bearing it for him (2 Corinthians 12:9);
(4) with his gracious promises, offering pardon, peace, eternal life, to every penitent and believing heart; thus is he the Divine Healer of the bruised and bleeding hearts of men.
II. THE NOURISHING POWER WHICH IT POSSESSES. "The fruit thereof shall be for meat [or, 'food']." When health has been restored, when the medicine of the leaf has done its work, then there needs to be sustenance in order that the recovered strength may be maintained. Shall we not find the nourishment where we found the healing? The gospel of Christ meets this our need by providing:
1. Divine truth. All that truth concerning the nature, character, will, purpose, of God our Father and our Savior which we have revealed to us in the Word of God, and more particularly in the teaching of his Son, who came forth from him and was one with him. All that truth also which relates to our spiritual nature, to our duty, to our privilege, to our prospects.
2. Christian fellowship. For the society of the holy is a sustaining power that builds up and makes strong in faith and purity.
3. The action of the Spirit of God. We are "strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." Such ample and such fitting food as this makes strong for testimony, for endurance, for energetic action, for growth unto the full stature of Christian manhood, for readiness for the heavenly kingdom.—C.
Ezekiel 47:13, Ezekiel 47:14
(with Ezekiel 44:28)
The threefold inheritance.
"Ye shall divide the land for inheritance;" "Ye shall inherit it, one as well as another;" "I am their Inheritance … I am their Possession." These passages speak of two kinds of inheritance, and there is a third which remained to be revealed, and still remains to be possessed.
I. THE MATERIAL INHERITANCE. According to the prophetic vision the land of Israel was to be fairly divided among the different tribes. The prospect here held out is the possession of the soil—that soil which has within it the power of great material enrichment. Land we call "real property," as distinguished from that about which there is a measure of insecurity or fluctuation. Those who own the soil own that which cannot be taken away, and which, though its market value may rise and fall, and though it may be greatly enriched by diligence or impoverished by recklessness, still has the possibility and the promise of produce and provision. Land, therefore, may well stand as the representation and type of all material inheritance. God gives to us here a certain heritage of this order; not, indeed, "one as another" in the sense of equality, for there is very great inequality. The inequality cannot be said to be due to Divine arrangement; it is rather the bitter consequence of all forms of sin and folly. God has given us a large, ample, fruitful, beautiful world for our earthly home. And if we were but actuated by the spirit of justice and of kindness, though there might not be anything like the absolute equality of which some men dream, yet would there be a goodly heritage for every child of man—enough for the comfort of every home, for the training of every mind; enough to satisfy, to beautify, to gladden. But there is a better heritage than this.
II. THE SPIRITUAL INHERITANCE. The Levites were not to have any land for their share; God himself and his service—this was to be their "Inheritance," this their "Possession" (Ezekiel 44:28). What was true in their case is surely far more true in ours. To us to whom God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ a spiritual well-being is offered which does indeed constitute a noble heritage. "God has provided some better thing for us" (Hebrews 11:40). For us there is not the tangible mountain, the visible fire, the audible trumpet, but an inheritance which eye cannot see, nor car hear, nor could the heart of man conceive (see Hebrews 12:18 with 1 Corinthians 2:9); for us there is a redeeming God, an Almighty Savior, a Divine Comforter, a holy and elevating service, a heavenly home. In this last particular we have a third heritage, compared with which any partition of the soil was small indeed.
III. THE HEAVENLY INHERITANCE. There are those who pass through so great "a fight of afflictions" that even with all the boundless blessings and invaluable treasures which are "in Christ Jesus," life may seem of little worth; for these, as indeed for us all, there is the fair prospect of "an exceeding and eternal weight of glory"—of such glories that the sufferings of time are "not worthy to be compared" with them; the near presence of Christ; a home of perfect love and rest; reunion with the holy and the true; a sphere of untiring, elevating service; a life of growing blessedness.—C.
Ezekiel 47:22, Ezekiel 47:23
Jew and Gentile.
The introduction of this passage is an indication of the figurative and spiritual character of the whole prophetic utterance. The ideal community, the kingdom of Christ, was to be one that would attract those that were without and that should welcome all that came; it should be a welcome home to the "stranger;" there the ancient "people of God" should find their inheritance; and thither those who had been his wandering and distant children should resort. Thus we gain the idea of—
I. THE ATTRACTIVENESS OF THE KINGDOM. As the Gentiles are here imagined as crossing the Jordan to sojourn within the borders of Israel, so we are to expect that men will come from beyond the pale of the Christian Church to find a home within its gates.
1. It ought to be far more attractive than it has been made. The discord, the envy, the strife among its members; the lamentable inconsistencies in the lives of too many of its professors; and the grave unwisdom with which its teachers have propounded their theories as if they were of the essence and substance of its truth; these have been repelling enough.
2. Yet, on the other hand, the gospel of Christ has been a great attractive power.
(1) The repose which it offers to the human mind, presenting to it one Divine and holy Creator and Sustainer of all things and beings;
(2) the rest which it offers to the human heart, tendering to it full and immediate restoration to a Divine Father's love;
(3) the enlargement which it offers to human life, making it a sacred and noble thing even in obscurity and poverty;
(4) the high and glorious hope it holds out to the human soul, speaking of a heavenly future;—all this may well prove, as it does prove, attractive
(a) to those of other faiths which have no such doctrine to preach, no such glad tidings to convey;
(b) to those of no faith at all, and to whom this world proves to be insufficient for lasting joy.
II. THE WELCOME ON WHICH ALL COMERS MAY COUNT.
1. Christ welcomes them to his kingdom. There is no doubt at all as to the certainty or the cordiality of that welcome. Even the son that has gone into the very far country and done sad dishonor to the Father's Name is received back with every manifestation of parental joy (Luke 15:1-32.). Jesus Christ is not only the Approachable One, from whom no sincere seeker need shrink; he is the One that seeks, that comes to our own door, that stands and knocks and waits for entrance there (Revelation 3:20).
2. All his true disciples welcome them. There may be found communities bearing the Christian name, whose gates are too narrow to receive many a true follower of Christ; but all those in whom the Spirit of Jesus Christ is dwelling, and who do not misrepresent their Master, will gladly welcome every "stranger" that comes to "sojourn" or to settle in the kingdom; they will encourage him to enter; they will give him the right hand of fellowship, they will find him a post in the vineyard of the Lord; they will make him to know and feel that in entering "Israel" he has come to his true home, that he is "as the home-born."—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19