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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 48

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


The distribution of the tribes is perhaps best seen from the chart on preceding page and the map facing page 232. As previously stated, while there is a symbolic and pictorial equality in these divisions which run in parallel sections from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, if an attempt had been made to literally divide the land in this way, the plan would have been found impracticable and unjust. (See introduction to chaps. 40-48.)

It is noticeable that several of the tribes have not the same position they occupied previous to the exile (Joshua 14-19). The reasons for the change cannot always be understood by us. Yet it is easy to see why the royal house of Judah and Benjamin, always close to Jerusalem and united in the Judaic kingdom, should be nearest the sanctuary. Reuben and Simeon, Issachar and Zebulun (sons of Leah) also occupy places corresponding to their traditional importance; Ephraim and Manasseh (sons of Joseph, the best beloved of Rachel and Jacob) have choice lots, while the sons of the handmaids (Naphtali, Asher, Dan, and Gad) are on the frontiers of the Holy Land. (See Genesis 35:0 and Genesis 49:1-27.)

Verse 1

1. The text is difficult. Toy probably gives the true meaning: “These are the names of the tribes. Onto the frontier of Hamath and to Hazar-enan, the territory of Damascus being on the north border from the sea by Hethlon, the north, from the east border to west border, Dan one portion.” The northern border, here assigned to Dan, has previously been described (Ezekiel 47:16-17).

Verses 8-9

8, 9. Toy reads: “On the border of Judah, from the east end to the west end, shall be the reservation which ye shall set aside: twenty-five thousand cubits wide, and in length equal to one tribal portion from east to west; and the sanctuary shall be therein. The reservation which ye shall set aside for Jehovah shall be twenty-five thousand cubits long and twenty thousand cubits wide.” Plumptre, with many old expositors, believes not cubit but reed is “undoubtedly the word to be supplied” in the above specifications, if so it would mark distinctively the ideal character of the land distribution, since if the attempt were made to lay off this reservation (A.V., “offering;” R.V., “oblation”) of twenty thousand reeds (one hundred and forty thousand cubits) in length, it would extend far beyond the Jordan, which is given as the east border of the land. We think probably “cubit,” not “reed,” should be supplied (see Ezekiel 45:1-5) and read with the Septuagint twenty thousand instead of ten thousand (Ezekiel 48:9), believing that this verse and the close of Ezekiel 48:13 refer to the entire territory occupied by both priests and Levites.

Verse 11

11. “It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the sons of Zadok, which have kept my charge; which went not astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray” (R.V.; see note Ezekiel 44:9-16).

Verses 13-14

13, 14. The Levites’ portion adjoins that of the priests to the north and is exactly equal to it. This territory and its first fruits were sacred to Jehovah and could not be disposed of at the will of its occupants (xlv, 1; compare Leviticus 25:24; Leviticus 25:32).

Verses 15-19

15-19. “The five thousand [cubits] that are left in the breadth, in front of the five and twenty thousand, shall be for common use.” In the midst of this reserve (see chart, page 235) is the city, which occupies a square of four thousand five hundred sacred cubits of seven handbreadths each (note Ezekiel 40:5), which, counting eighteen inches to the ordinary cubit, would make the circuit of the city about six miles, which is something more than double that of the city of Jerusalem to-day. The suburbs of the city reach out two hundred and fifty cubits further on each side (about one hundred and forty-five yards). “The rest of the length, alongside of the sacred reservation, ten thousand cubits on the east and ten thousand cubits on the west shall belong to the city, and its produce shall be the food of the inhabitants of the city; the inhabitants of the city shall come from all the tribes of Israel” (Ezekiel 48:18-19, Toy). According to the R.V., the produce from these outside strips of land is for them that “labor in the city,” and Ezekiel 48:19 reads, “And they that labor in the city out of all the tribes of Israel shall till it.” In either case the verse does not refer to a lower caste or class of workmen, but merely to those engaged in ordinary employments as distinguished from the priests and Levites previously mentioned.

Verses 20-22

20-22. The entire reservation including the city constituted a square twenty-five thousand by twenty-five thousand, and on the east side of this sacred domain, protecting it on the east and west, were the sections assigned to the prince, extending to the Jordan on the one side and the Mediterranean on the other. (See chart, page 235.) This domain, which is “over against the portions” (that is, the portions assigned to Judah and Benjamin), “shall be for the prince: and the holy oblation and the sanctuary of the house shall be in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 48:21). Everything lying between the border of Judah and Benjamin east and west from this central square (wherein lie the city and the Levitical possessions) shall be for the prince (Ezekiel 48:22).

Verses 23-29

23-29. South of the sacred square and the domain of the prince shall lie in parallel sections the lands belonging to Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad the southernmost border of the Holy Land running from Tamar to Meribath-kadesh, and then alongside the Wady-el-Arish to the Mediterranean. (See Ezekiel 47:18-19, and notes; also map facing page 232.)

Verses 30-34

30-34. These closing verses relate to the goings out (literally, outer boundaries, Toy) of the city. On each side (exclusive of the suburbs, Ezekiel 48:17) it measures four thousand five hundred cubits (see notes Ezekiel 45:15; Ezekiel 48:8-9), and twelve gates lead out of the city, each gate named after one of the tribes. (Compare Revelation 21:2.) The three gates on the north (as one looks from west to east) are those of Reuben, Judah, and Levi; on the east (from north to south) those of Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan; on the south (from east to west) those of Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun; on the west (from south to north) those of Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. (Compare Genesis 29:30, 40; Deuteronomy 33:0.)

Verse 35

35. “It shall be eighteen thousand… round about: and the name of the city from that day shall be Jehovah-shammah.” If the city were eighteen thousand reeds in circumference, it would measure nearly thirty-six miles; if we should supply “cubits” instead of “reeds,” as we believe should be done (see notes Ezekiel 45:1-5; Ezekiel 48:8-9), its circuit would be nearly six miles. At the beginning of the Christian era its circumference was calculated by Josephus to be about four miles (Bell. Jud., v, Ezekiel 5:4). At the present time its circuit is about two and a half miles.

The Lord is there For the meaning of Jehovah see notes Ezekiel 6:7; Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 12:16; Ezekiel 12:20; Ezekiel 13:9; Ezekiel 13:21; Ezekiel 13:23; Ezekiel 28:26; Ezekiel 34:27; Ezekiel 34:30, etc. The new city receives a new name in accordance with its new character. (Compare Jeremiah 23:6; Revelation 21:3; Revelation 21:10-21.) It is now in truth a holy city, worthy to be called by the holy name of its holy God. Nevermore will Jehovah depart (11). He has returned to abide with his own forever (Ezekiel 37:26; Ezekiel 37:28; Ezekiel 43:4; Ezekiel 43:7). The Lord is there “to dwell, govern, defend, prosper, and crown.” “Such is the case of every true believer, who may, whenever he is in the way of duty, still write ‘Jehovah-shammah,’ My God is here.” Wesley.

As he pens the closing words of these comments the writer is oppressed with the sense of their inadequacy. The study of Ezekiel resembles the prophet’s vision of the divine stream the farther one goes the deeper he wades. Yet we may say, with Duhm, “One need not be ashamed of his own weakness, even if these prophecies always remain greater than their interpreter” ( Die Theologie der Propheten).

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 48". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/ezekiel-48.html. 1874-1909.
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