THE LIFE-GIVING WATER FLOWING FROM THE TEMPLE BECOMES A POWERFUL RIVER
Lamar Cooper: The view taken here is that Ezekiel 47:1–48:35 is neither wholly symbolic nor wholly literal. The best approach, considering the apocalyptic character of the text, is to regard the chapters as both a literal description with accurate details but also as highly symbolic with deeper truths. This approach is adopted by Davidson and will be the one followed in the discussion of 47:1–12.
Wiersbe: Jerusalem is the only great city of the ancient world that wasn’t located on a river, and in the east, a dependable water supply is essential for life and for defense. During the Kingdom Age, Jerusalem shall have a river such as no other nation ever had.
Daniel Block: the renewal of God’s people is from start to finish a miraculous work of divine grace. The revitalization of the landscape is not achieved through human ingenuity, technology, or effort; it is the result of Yahweh’s lifting of the curse and replacing it with his blessing. This river of life does not originate in the palace of the earthly king, but in the house of God. Wherever it flows, it produces life, even in the Dead Sea, the ultimate symbol of the curse (cf. Gen. 18). At the same time, the manner in which God produces life out of death is most remarkable. From small and often imperceptible beginnings and with little promise, God’s grace transforms a hostile world. Such is the mystery of divine power, miraculously bringing life out of death.
Brian Bell: Three part outline:
– The source
– The course
– The force of these waters
I. (:1-2) THE DIVINE SOURCE OF THE RIVER = THE TEMPLE
A. (:1) Flowing from under the Temple Porch
“Then he brought me back to the door of the house;
and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house
toward the east, for the house faced east.
And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar.”
David Guzik: Significantly, the river does not come from a king’s palace or a government building. It doesn’t come from a marketplace, a place of business, or an athletic arena. It comes from God’s house.
B. (:2) Flowing from under the Eastern Gate
“And he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around
on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east.
And behold, water was trickling from the south side.”
Constable: Just south of the east gate he saw water trickling to the east, a continuation of the stream that he had observed inside the temple enclosure.
Leslie Allen: This visionary experience portrays and proclaims the temple as source of blessing for the land. . . Ezekiel evidently stands at the entrance to the nave of the temple. . . A trickle of water ran down the steps in the direction of the east gate. However, since the altar stood in the way of a direct flow, the water first flowed down the right side of the steps and along the south sidewall of the temple before crossing the inner court in a course to the south of the altar. That course was apparently maintained across the outer court and beyond the outer east gate, as the prophet discovered after a necessary detour through the north gate(s), since the east gates were closed. There is an implicit reminder that this was the route that Yahweh had traveled in his return to the temple (43:1–5). The stream, virtually retracing his path, was flowing from the very presence of God.
Iain Duguid: The river flowing from Ezekiel’s temple follows the sacred route eastward from the inner court, out through the (closed!) east gate of the outer court (Ezek. 47:2). Because Ezekiel cannot follow it through there, he is brought round by the north gate and sees it trickling out of the south side of the gate. In comparison with the abundant streams of the traditional picture, the renewed temple provides at first a minimal flow. Yet the stream that starts out so pitifully small miraculously becomes progressively larger the further he journeys along it.
Lamar Cooper: The water that flowed from the threshold proceeded from the sanctuary on the east side and then flowed southeasterly past the altar on the south side, then to the south side of the eastern gate (v. 2). From that point it became a stream that flowed into the Kidron Valley at first turning south, then continuing past the Hinnom Valley, and then taking a turn southeast. . .
God alone is the Source of life and provides the Word of life that is the life-giving water that quenches the thirst of the human heart for life, forgiveness, and salvation (47:1–2; John 4:14; Eph 5:26; Rev 7:17; 21:6; 22:1, 17).
II. (:3-5) THE RAPIDLY INCREASING DEPTH OF THE RIVER = UNFORDABLE RIVER – SUFFICIENCY OF THE RIVER
A. (:3) Water Up to the Ankles
“When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand,
he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water,
water reaching the ankles.”
B. (:4a) Water Up to the Knees
“Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water,
water reaching the knees.”
C. (:4b) Water Up to the Loins
“Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water,
water reaching the loins.”
David Guzik: This rapid increase in depth – from a small trickle of a stream to ankle depth, to knee depth, to waist depth, all in the course of about a mile (or 1.5 kilometers) – is miraculous. We read nothing of other streams leading into this; it is a miraculous and abundant provision.
D. (:5) Water So Deep = Unfordable
“Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded.”
Constable: This description suggests that some major topographical changes will have occurred east of present-day Jerusalem by this time. Other revelation supports this conclusion (cf. 34:26- 30; 36:8-12, 30-36; 37:25-28; 45:1-8; 48:8-14; Joel 3:18; Zech. 13:1; 14:4-8). The water will follow the contours of the altered terrain, not the past or present landscape. Zechariah recorded that the water flowing from Jerusalem will divide with half of it going west to the Mediterranean Sea and half east to the Dead Sea (Zech. 14:8). Ezekiel described only the branch that flowed east.
Feinberg: Why was it necessary to bring Ezekiel through the waters in vision? The purpose was to reveal to him both the size and depth of the river. The trickle (the literal of ‘ran out’ of v. 2 is ‘trickled forth’) had become a veritable river during the measuring activity of the man in the vision.
Leslie Allen: vv. 3-6a — In just over a mile the stream increases to a deep river. Normally one would envisage tributaries and drainage as the cause of such a phenomenon. Here, however, a miracle is at work, somewhat like the unspent jar of meal and unfailing cruse of oil in 2 Kgs 8:1–6, or like the growth of the kingdom of God from mustard seed to spreading tree (Mark 4:31–32; cf. Dan 4:8) or like the stone that became a great mountain (Dan 2:35). Still more surprises are in store. As the question implies, Ezekiel has seen nothing yet!
Lamar Cooper: The river is like the blood of the Messiah from the cross of Calvary that began as a trickle (John 19:34). Finally, the blood, like the river, became a flood of redemption for all people (Rev 1:5). So the flow from Calvary became a fountain of redemption for all people including Israel (see Zech 13:1–6; Rev 1:5–6). Just so, the water of life that the prophet saw coming from the threshold came forth gently, then began to flow, and finally became a mighty river of life healing all in its wake. When God’s Word is received, he transforms death into life and produces life in abundance springing up as life-giving water within every person. This abundant sustenance was made available to all people through Jesus Christ (John 4; 10:10).
III. (:6-12) THE LIFE-GIVING POWER OF THE RIVER = TRANSFORMING DESOLATION INTO PARADISE – STRENGTH OF THE RIVER
A. (:6-7) Giving Life to Many Trees
“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen this?’ Then he brought me back to the bank of the river. 7 Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other.”
B. (8-:11) Giving Life to Many Fish
“Then he said to me, ‘These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. 9 And it will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there, and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.’”
Constable: These millennial waters will purify the waters of the Dead Sea and make it a live sea. The Dead Sea presently contains 24-26 percent minerals, compared with normal seawater that contains 4-6 percent. This is the reason no fish or other aquatic life live in it. But the water of this future river will give life to all of the creatures that will gather in swarms along its banks, as well as to the fish that will swim in it.
Lamar Cooper: The sufficiency of the water of life from the throne of God is evidenced by the fact that no additional elements were needed to produce life, fruit, transformation, or healing. With the life-giving water from God the barren becomes fruitful, the dry becomes nourished, the empty becomes filled, the bitter becomes sweet, the unhealthy is healed, and the dead is made alive (vv. 6–8; Luke 7:21–22).
Charles Dyer: The Dead Sea today is a symbol of barren desolation. This future change is a visible reminder that God can turn death to life. Our God specializes in changing the unchangeable!
Peter Pett: we must recognise its intention. It was to bring life wherever it went (Ezekiel 47:9). To the ancients the primary power of water was to give life. Those who lived in Canaan knew what it was to watch all nature die in a waterless and very hot summer. And then the rains came, and almost immediately, like magic, the bushes came to life, greenery sprang from the ground, and the world came alive again. That was the life-giving power of water. In Babylonia Israel had also witnessed the power of the great rivers. Along their banks life always flourished, and water was taken from them by irrigation to bring life to drier areas. The wilderness blossomed like a rose. They knew that the coveted Garden of Eden had been fruitful because of the great river flowing through it that became four rivers and watered the world. So that was their dream for their everlasting homeland, a great and everflowing river that would bring life everywhere, and especially in men’s hearts.
Feinberg: En-gedi is located at about the middle of the west shore of the Dead Sea, whereas En-eglaim has not been definitely identified. Some think it is Ein Feshkha near which are the caves of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Thus En-gedi and En-eglaim may loosely represent the two extremities of the Dead Sea. The sea in its entire length will be completely changed. . .
Even the Talmud pointed out that salt from the Dead Sea was preferred above all other kinds because it was reputed to hasten the burning of the sacrifices, as well as to minimize the unpleasant odors of burning flesh.
Constable: The entire Dead Sea region would not become fresh, however; the swamps and marshes would remain saline, perhaps to provide salt and or other minerals for the people.
Daniel Block: The preservation of some pockets of saltiness is intentional, recognizing the economic benefit of the minerals found in and around the Dead Sea. Salt (melah) is not only a valuable seasoning and preserving agent; the word functions generically for a wide range of chemicals extracted from the sea.
C. (:12) Giving Life to All Kinds of Trees for Food
“And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”
Constable: The river that Ezekiel saw was a real river with life-giving and healing properties. But like the rivers in Genesis 2 and Revelation 22 it also has symbolic significance. Many interpreters spiritualize the entire passage and see no literal fulfillment in the future. It represents the spiritual life and healing that flow to humanity from the throne of God (cf. John 4:14; 7:37- 38).
Leslie Allen: Barren land was to be transformed into a scene of sustenance and herbal healing, a perennial antidote to pain and need.
Iain Duguid: The numerous trees of Ezek. 47:7 are now more closely defined as “fruit trees” (lit., “food trees,” 47:12). They will not suffer from any lack of moisture; rather, as with the depiction of the righteous person in Psalm 1, “their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail.” Indeed, they will be so full of life that they will bear new fruit every month to feed the population, and their leaves will be for healing (Ezek. 47:12). All of this will be brought about because they are fed from the source of life-giving fruitfulness, the stream that flows from the temple.
Charles Dyer: Another way God will provide for Israel is by the trees on the riverbanks that will bear fruit year-round. The fruit will provide food and their leaves will provide healing. How healing will come from the leaves is not clear, but sickness will be virtually eliminated. God will use these trees to meet people’s physical needs.