ISRAEL’S POSSESSION OF HER INHERITANCE IN THE PROMISED LAND ALLOWS HER TO ENJOY THE ABIDING PRESENCE OF GOD
Lamar Cooper: Ezekiel saw five elements of the new kingdom that revealed the restoration would be permanent.
– First, the new temple will be dedicated to and indwelt by the one true God, Yahweh (40:1–43:12). He will finally and eternally be accessible to his people.
– Second, the new order of worship (43:12–46:24) will be designed to confirm the new covenant of Israel and commemorate the work of Christ.
– Third, the new quality of life (47:1–48:29) will be filled with material fruitfulness and spiritual fulfillment.
– Fourth, the new city (48:30–34) will be a symbol of the new unity and oneness of Israel and God.
– Fifth, the new name of the city will be Yahweh Shammah, “The Lord is There!” (48:35), as a testimony of God’s eternal presence among his people.
Iain Duguid: The final section of Ezekiel’s book records the delineation and distribution of the renewed land, continuing the trend of the vision to move outward from the temple. The land itself is oriented around the temple, however, and so the final section of the book will return to themes that have been central throughout the vision of chapters 40–48. In the same way as chapters 40–42 presented theology in architectural form, this final section renders theological concepts in geographical form. In both formats, the concepts of space, access, and position relative to the temple are crucial. . .
The high walls of the temple underline God’s transcendent presence in the midst of God’s people but separate from them, while the river of life speaks of God’s immanent presence for blessing in the midst of his people. Similarly, God’s transcendence is emphasized in the separation of the temple from the city, while at the same time his immanence is asserted by the sacred shape given to the city and its new name, “the Lord is there.”
Charles Dyer: God will return to dwell with His people. No longer worshiping lifeless idols and engaged in detestable practices, Israel will enjoy the Lord’s holy presence in the Millennium.
I. (47:13-23) THE BORDERS OF THE PROMISED LAND
“Thus says the Lord God,”
Douglas Stuart: There are two special areas of attention in this passage:
(1) the concern that God’s people occupy their full boundaries, and
(2) the concern that Gentiles will have an inheritance.
A. (:13-14) Defining the Promised Land
1. (:13b) Scope = Twelve Tribes of Israel
a. Normal Distribution for the Twelve Tribes
“This shall be the boundary by which you shall divide the land
for an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel;”
Daniel Block: Although the nation had been divided politically for nearly four hundred years, as in the case of all his prophetic colleagues Ezekiel’s vision of Israel’s future is based on the tradition of a united nation consisting of twelve tribes of Israel descended from Jacob’s twelve sons.
b. (:13c) Special Case = Tribe of Joseph
“Joseph shall have two portions.”
2. (:14a) Equality
“And you shall divide it for an inheritance,
each one equally with the other;”
3. (:14b) Fulfilment of Abrahamic Covenant
“for I swore to give it to your forefathers,
and this land shall fall to you as an inheritance.”
B. (:15-17) North Side Borders
“And this shall be the boundary of the land: on the north side, from the Great Sea by the way of Hethlon, to the entrance of Zedad; 16 Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath; Hazer-hatticon, which is by the border of Hauran. 17 And the boundary shall extend from the sea to Hazar-enan at the border of Damascus, and on the north toward the north is the border of Hamath. This is the north side.”
C. (:18) East Side Borders
“And the east side, from between Hauran, Damascus, Gilead, and the land of Israel, shall be the Jordan; from the north border to the eastern sea you shall measure. This is the east side.”
D. (:19) South Side Borders
“And the south side toward the south shall extend from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribath-kadesh, to the brook of Egypt, and to the Great Sea. This is the south side toward the south.”
E. (:20) West Side Borders
“And the west side shall be the Great Sea, from the south border to a point opposite Lebo-hamath. This is the west side.”
F. (:21-23) Equitable Distribution of the Promised Land
1. (:21) Summary Statement
“So you shall divide this land among yourselves
according to the tribes of Israel.”
MacArthur: The picture is that of an enlarged Canaan for all to inhabit. The boundaries are substantially larger than those given to Moses in Nu 34:1-15. Palestine, promised in God’s covenant with Abraham (v. 14; Ge 12:7), has specific geographical limits within which Israel will finally occupy tribal areas which differ from the occupation in Joshua’s day (cf. Jos 13-22). This is the complete fulfillment of the promise of the land in the Abrahamic Covenant.
2. (:22-23) Dealing with Foreign Proselytes
a. (:22) Equal Treatment as Native-born Sons of Israel
“And it will come about that you shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst. And they shall be to you as the native-born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.”
David Guzik: The general allotments of land were assigned to each tribe. Within each tribal allotment, particular portions of land would be assigned to families by lot.
b. (:23) Location Determined by Tribal Association
“‘And it will come about that in the tribe with which the alien stays, there you shall give him his inheritance,’
declares the Lord God.”
Constable: The reference to these aliens bearing children marks them as having mortal bodies, in contrast to believers with immortal (resurrected) bodies, who will also have access to the millennial earth (cf. Matt. 22:30; Rev. 20:4). These aliens were to inherit portions of land in the tribal allotments just like the Israelites who lived there (cf. 14:7; 22:7; Lev. 19:34; 24:22; Num. 15:29; Isa. 56:3-8).
John Taylor: It is based on the principle that if these men choose to accept the standards, the religion and the way of life within Israel as a permanency, i.e. as proselytes who settle and have children there (verse 22), then they are entitled to the same treatment as native Israelites.
II. (48:1-7) ALLOTMENTS FOR THE SEVEN NORTHERN TRIBES
“Now these are the names of the tribes: from the northern extremity, beside the way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, as far as Hazar-enan at the border of Damascus, toward the north beside Hamath, running from east to west, Dan, one portion. 2 And beside the border of Dan, from the east side to the west side, Asher, one portion. 3 And beside the border of Asher, from the east side to the west side, Naphtali, one portion. 4 And beside the border of Naphtali, from the east side to the west side, Manasseh, one portion. 5 And beside the border of Manasseh, from the east side to the west side, Ephraim, one portion. 6 And beside the border of Ephraim, from the east side to the west side, Reuben, one portion. 7 And beside the border of Reuben, from the east side to the west side, Judah, one portion.”
Constable: The tribe of Dan was to receive the northernmost section of the Promised Land. The order of tribes from north to south, north of the sacred district, was Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben and Judah—seven tribal allotments of equal size (47:14). Since they will be of equal size, and since the east-west width of the Promised Land would vary depending on the latitude of each allotment, it seems that the north-south distance would also vary somewhat.
John Taylor: The pattern which the allocation of the land follows is that, because the central sacred portion is well to the south, seven tribes have land to the north of it and the remaining five have land to the south. The northern tribes (beginning from the north) are Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben and Judah. Of these it is worth noting that the three which are farthest from the sanctuary are tribes descended from sons of Jacob’s concubines, Dan and Naphtali having been born to Rachel’s maid Bilhah, and Asher to Leah’s maid Zilpah (Gen. 30:5–13). The fourth son by concubinage, Gad, is the farthest away from the sanctuary among the southern group of tribes (27). Judah has pride of place immediately to the north of the central portion, as being the inheritor of the Messianic promise through the blessing of Jacob (Gen. 49:8–12), and he supersedes Reuben, the first-born, who is in the next position away on the north side. The other two places are held by the two grandsons of Rachel, the children of Joseph.
III. (48:8-20) ALLOTMENTS FOR THE SANCTURY, PRIESTS AND CITY
A. (:8-9) The Sanctuary
“And beside the border of Judah, from the east side to the west side, shall be the allotment which you shall set apart, 25,000 cubits in width, and in length like one of the portions, from the east side to the west side; and the sanctuary shall be in the middle of it. 9 The allotment that you shall set apart to the LORD shall be 25,000 cubits in length, and 10,000 in width.”
Daniel Block: v. 8 sets the agenda for vv. 8–22. Parallel to the twelve tribal territorial grants (naḥălôt) is a thirteenth strip of land, identified as the tĕrûmâ, a technical sacrificial expression for a “gift” dedicated (hērîm) to Yahweh. There is irony in Ezekiel’s unique usage of the term inasmuch as the command to dedicate the tĕrûmâ occurs in a context where Yahweh is giving his land to his people. But cast in the second person plural of direct address (like v. 9), v. 8 calls for action by the Israelites: they are to raise (hērîm) the territorial reserve as if it were an offering presented to deity. This tract of land shall measure 25,000 cubits wide (about 8 mi.) and run from the eastern border (the Jordan) to the western border (the Mediterranean), parallel to the tribal allotments. For the first time these allotments (naḥălôt) are referred to as ḥălāqîm, “portions” (cf. 45:7), which link this text with Joshua’s division of the territorial spoils of holy war against the Canaanites. Situated between Judah and Benjamin, the tĕrûmâ splits the ḥălāqîm into two unequal groups, seven in the north and five in the south. This tract not only represents the theological center of gravity (not the geographic middle!) of the nation; it has its own nucleus, the sanctuary (miqdāš) “in its midst” (bĕtôkô).
B. (:10-14) The Zadokite Priests and Levites
“And the holy allotment shall be for these, namely for the priests, toward the north 25,000 cubits in length, toward the west 10,000 in width, toward the east 10,000 in width, and toward the south 25,000 in length; and the sanctuary of the LORD shall be in its midst. 11 It shall be for the priests who are sanctified of the sons of Zadok, who have kept My charge, who did not go astray when the sons of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray. 12 And it shall be an allotment to them from the allotment of the land, a most holy place, by the border of the Levites. 13 And alongside the border of the priests the Levites shall have 25,000 cubits in length and 10,000 in width. The whole length shall be 25,000 cubits and the width 10,000. 14 Moreover, they shall not sell or exchange any of it, or alienate this choice portion of land; for it is holy to the LORD.”
C. (:15-20) The City = The Public Allotment
“And the remainder, 5,000 cubits in width and 25,000 in length, shall be for common use for the city, for dwellings and for open spaces; and the city shall be in its midst. 16 And these shall be its measurements: the north side 4,500 cubits, the south side 4,500 cubits, the east side 4,500 cubits, and the west side 4,500 cubits. 17 And the city shall have open spaces: on the north 250 cubits, on the south 250 cubits, on the east 250 cubits, and on the west 250 cubits. 18 And the remainder of the length alongside the holy allotment shall be 10,000 cubits toward the east, and 10,000 toward the west; and it shall be alongside the holy allotment. And its produce shall be food for the workers of the city. 19 And the workers of the city, out of all the tribes of Israel, shall cultivate it. 20 The whole allotment shall be 25,000 by 25,000 cubits; you shall set apart the holy allotment, a square, with the property of the city.”
John Taylor: The city is allotted the remaining strip of land to the south of the priests’ portion. This contained the city proper, a square of 4,500 cubits, with a 250 cubit surround of open land (17) flanked by two stretches of arable land, 10,000 × 5,000 cubits each. This was for those who worked in the city to cultivate, both industrial and agricultural workers, who would have belonged to a variety of tribes (19). The total area of the whole of this central square, 25,000 × 25,000 cubits, would be about 50 square miles by the conventional cubit or 69 square miles by Ezekiel’s longer cubit (cf. 40:5).
Feinberg: Notice once again the great minuteness of detail. This is more than strange, it is inexplicable, if all the statements are to be taken symbolically. As far as we are aware, no such abundance of details occurs anywhere else in Scripture outside the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and its priestly service, which no orthodox expositor feels called upon to interpret other than with strict literalness. Then it is only consistent to do the same here. No commanding considerations indicate otherwise.
48:8a — South of Judah’s portion would be a special territory, which would be the same size as the other tribal allotments.
48:8b-12 — It would include a section 25,000 cubits (about 8.3 miles) wide, and the temple sanctuary would stand in its center. This portion would be 25,000 cubits long, from east to west, and 10,000 cubits (about 3.3 miles) wide, from north to south. It would be for the descendants of the Zadokite priests who remained faithful to the Lord. This would be a most holy place next to the territory for the other Levitical priests.
48:13-14 — The other Levitical priests would have an allotment the same size next to the allotment of the Zadokite priests. They were not to sell or exchange any of this land for other land because it was holy to the Lord.
48:15-19 — The remaining portion of this allotment, a section 25,000 cubits (about 8.3 miles) wide by 5,000 cubits (about 1.7 miles) north to south, would be for the holy city and the open spaces beside it. The city itself would occupy the central portion of this section. It would be for the common use of the Israelites, as would be its open spaces and home sites. The city itself would be 4,500 cubits (about 1.5 miles) square with a 250 cubit (416 feet 8 inches) open space border on each of its four sides, another green belt like the one around the temple complex (cf. 45:2). The 10,000 cubit-wide (3.3 miles) agricultural areas on the east and west sides of the city would also be for the production of food for those who lived in the city. Those who lived in the city, from all the tribes of Israel, would cultivate those fields.
48:20 — The total holy allotment would be 25,000 cubits (8.3 miles) square including the city and its adjacent lands as well as the territories for the Levites and Zadokites. This is an area of almost 70 square miles.
Daniel Block: The design of this area reflects three levels of increasing sanctity: profane city, moderately sacred Levitical tract, most sacred priestly land.
IV. (48:21-22) ALLOTMENT FOR THE PRINCE
“And the remainder shall be for the prince, on the one side and on the other of the holy allotment and of the property of the city; in front of the 25,000 cubits of the allotment toward the east border and westward in front of the 25,000 toward the west border, alongside the portions, it shall be for the prince. And the holy allotment and the sanctuary of the house shall be in the middle of it. 22 And exclusive of the property of the Levites and the property of the city, which are in the middle of that which belongs to the prince, everything between the border of Judah and the border of Benjamin shall be for the prince.”
Constable: The tribe of Benjamin received land next to the holy allotment, possibly because Benjamin was one of Rachel’s sons or because the Benjamites supported David (cf. 2 Sam. 19:16-17) and allied with Judah to form the Southern Kingdom.
Lamar Cooper: At least three factors stand out regarding this allotment.
(1) The territory for the prince is larger than that of either the Zadokite priests or the Levites. This fact is more impressive when you realize that this allotment was for one family in contrast to the others that were for tribal groups.
(2) The proximity of the land allotted to the prince to that of the Zadokite priests, Levites, the sanctuary and the city corresponds to his probable role as the administrative representative of the Messiah (see 44:1–3).
(3) The location of these two territories will make them the eastern and western boundaries of the sacred area twenty-five thousand cubits square and suggests a possible role for the prince and his family as guardian or protector.
V. (48:23-29) ALLOTMENTS FOR THE FIVE SOUTHERN TRIBES
“As for the rest of the tribes: from the east side to the west side, Benjamin, one portion. 24 And beside the border of Benjamin, from the east side to the west side, Simeon, one portion. 25″And beside the border of Simeon, from the east side to the west side, Issachar, one portion. 26 And beside the border of Issachar, from the east side to the west side, Zebulun, one portion. 27 And beside the border of Zebulun, from the east side to the west side, Gad, one portion. 28 And beside the border of Gad, at the south side toward the south, the border shall be from Tamar to the waters of Meribath-kadesh, to the brook of Egypt, to the Great Sea. 29 ‘This is the land which you shall divide by lot to the tribes of Israel for an inheritance, and these are their several portions,’ declares the Lord God.”
John Taylor: Benjamin has the privileged position nearest to the sanctuary, as his father’s youngest son by Rachel; Simeon, Issachar and Zebulun come next, all born of Leah; and finally, as we have already noticed, Gad, the child of the concubine, Zilpah. It needs little imagination to realize that, apart from Judah and Benjamin, which adjoin the holy portion and which always had the closest geographical interest in Jerusalem, the other ten tribes are allotted without any regard to their original position in the land of Israel at the time of the conquest.
VI. (48:30-35) MILLENNIAL CITY OF THE LORD’S PRESENCE WITH ITS GATES
A. (:30-31) North Side Gates
“And these are the exits of the city: on the north side, 4,500 cubits by measurement, 31 shall be the gates of the city, named for the tribes of Israel, three gates toward the north: the gate of Reuben, one; the gate of Judah, one; the gate of Levi, one.”
B. (:32) East Side Gates
“And on the east side, 4,500 cubits, shall be three gates: the gate of Joseph, one; the gate of Benjamin, one; the gate of Dan, one.”
C. (:33) South Side Gates
“And on the south side, 4,500 cubits by measurement, shall be three gates: the gate of Simeon, one; the gate of Issachar, one; the gate of Zebulun, one.”
D. (:34) West Side Gates
“On the west side, 4,500 cubits, shall be three gates: the gate of Gad, one; the gate of Asher, one; the gate of Naphtali, one.”
Derek Thomas: The city has twelve gates, three on each side, named according to the twelve tribes of Israel, with ‘Joseph’ replacing his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (48:32), and ‘Levi’ taking the additional place (48:31). Levi was given no land in which to dwell and is therefore not mentioned in the land distribution of the preceding sections (cf. Josh. 13:14). The point being made is that everyone in Israel has access to the city of God.
Feinberg: The fact that the names of all the tribes will appear on the gates of the glorious city is harmonious with the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ concerning the rule in the kingdom (Matt. 19:28), and beautifully symbolizes at the same time in visible form the unity and harmony in the nation so long divided. All the ancient rivalries, contentions and jealousies will be gone, and blessed unity will prevail.
E. (:35) Particulars
1. Size of the City
“The city shall be 18,000 cubits round about;”
2. Name of the City
“and the name of the city from that day shall be, ‘The LORD is there.’”
Constable: The new name would indicate a new character, as always in Scripture, namely, that the Lord would forever reside among His people (cf. 11:20; 37:23, 27; Gen. 17:8; Isa. 7:14; Jer. 24:7; 32:38; Zech. 8:8).
The Lord will never again depart from them, or send them out of His land. He will forever dwell among them, and they will forever enjoy the unbroken fellowship with God that He intended since the creation of the world. The Book of Ezekiel ends with a description of a New Jerusalem like Isaiah 65—66 and the Book of Revelation, though the New Jerusalem of Ezekiel is millennial and the New Jerusalem at the end of Revelation is eternal.
Derek Thomas: And the name of this city? Not Jerusalem, or Zion, but Yahweh-Shammah—‘THE LORD IS THERE’ (48:35). This has been the meaning of the entire vision: to point out to a despondent people in exile that God is with them. The point of this vision has not been to focus on the city of Jerusalem, or the temple in its gigantic proportions; still less to get sidetracked by discussions of its relevance to modern Israel. Ezekiel wants his readers to be taken up with God and his presence with his people. At the heart of the covenant was the Lord dwelling among his people. ‘I will be your God and you will be my people,’ had been the theme of ages. God commanded Israel to construct a tabernacle that he might dwell among them (Exod. 25:8). It was to be the place where he would dwell among his people (Exod. 29:42–44). Throughout Deuteronomy, God had spoken of a place ‘to put his Name … for his dwelling’ (Deut. 12:5; cf. 12:11, 14; 14:23; 16:2, 6, 7, 11). Ezekiel has already spoken in similar terms in chapter 37: ‘I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’