Ezekiel 47



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 begins with the present chapter (Ezekiel 47., 48.), treats

of the land, or ‘, inheritance” setting forth first its relation to the temple

(vs. 1-12) and to outlying countries (vs. 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 (vs. 24-35). The opening section of the present

chapter (vs. 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; Psalm 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 (see Conder, ‘Handbook to the Bible,’ p. 334; King, ‘Recent

Discoveries on Temple Hill,’ p. 173). 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 (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; 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; 14:8) and

John (Revelation 22:1, 2) undoubtedly make use of the same image,

which, it is even probable, they derived from Ezekiel.


1 "Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and,

behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house

eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and

the waters came down from under from the right side of the house,

at the south side of the altar."  Having completed his survey of the sacrificial

kitchens in the outer court (ch. 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 ch. 40:48-49; and compare ch. 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 (compare ch. 40:18, 40-41; 41:2, 26) of the house, the right.

The two clauses are not to be conjoined 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 ch. 41:1); the

third, that the stream flowed on the south side of the altar, which stood

exactly in front of the temple porch (see ch. 40:47), and would have obstructed

the course of the waters had they issued forth from the porch doorway instead

of from the comer above described.


2 "Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led

me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh

eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side."

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

(ch. 46:1), or through the east outer gate, which was always shut

(ch. 44:1-3 - see ch. 43 - The Shut Gate - Reverence (vs. 1-2) - this website -

CY - 2017), 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

(whence probably the omission of the article). 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.


3 "And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth

eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me

through the waters; the waters were to the ankles."

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 - hudor apheseos -

water of vanishing, of the Septuagint, is based on the idea of “failing,”

“ceasing,” “coming to an end,” which appears to be the root-conception of

(see Genesis 47:15-16; Psalm 77:9; Isaiah 16:4).


4 "Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the

waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a

thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins."

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.


5 "Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could

not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river

that could not be passed over." After a fourth distance of a thousand cubits,

the waters were risen, or, lifted themselves up (compare 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 ch. 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 Arnon, 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 the river broadened and deepened

so suddenly, and apparently without receiving into it any tributaries, clearly

pointed to miraculous action.


(I would like to recommend – Ezekiel 47 – Spurgeon Sermon –

Waters to Swim In – this web site – CY – 2017)




The Vision of the Waters (vs. 1-5)


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.  (However, let us remember:  “And He

showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of

the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the midst of the street of it, and on

either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner

of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month:  and the leaves of the tree were

for the healing of the nations.” – Revelation 22:1-2 – CY – 2017)



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.


  • Cleansing. God has opened a fountain for all uncleanness.


  • Life. Christ gives the water of life. Without His grace our souls are

      parched and perishing.


  • 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.


  • Beauty. Where the water flows the land is green and fair. The beauty of

      holiness springs up by the channel of Christ’s grace.


  • Fruitfulness. There grow by the water fruit-bearing trees. Christian

            fruitfulness springs from the ever fresh supplies of Christ’s grace.




  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.




  • 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.


  • 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.


6 "And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he

brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river."

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.


7 "Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were

very many trees on the one side and on the other."  Now when I had returned

בְּשׁוּבֵנִי is by the best interpreters, after Gesenius (‘Hebrew Grammar,’ § 132. 2),

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 (v. 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).


8 "Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east

country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which

being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed."

“Toward the east country” - (הַקַּדְמונָה אֶל־הַגְּלִילָה); literally, the east circle,

in this case probably “the region about Jordan” (Joshua 22:10-11),  above

the Dead Sea, where the valley or ghor widens out into a bread basin,

equivalent to כִּכַּד הַיַרְדֵּן (Genesis 13:10). The Septuagint render, or

τὴν Γαλιλαίανtaen Galilaian -  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 taen Arabian - .

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; 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 (v. 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 Septuagint reads, “(And the water) comes to

the sea (ἐπὶ τὸ ὕδωρ τῆς διεκβολῆςepi to hudor taes diekbolaes - ), 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 healthful, from

being hurtful (Exodus 15:23, 25; II Kings 2:22). The translation of the

Septuagint, ὑγιάσει τὰ ὕδατα hugiasei ta hudata -  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 (p. 61) writes, “The sea is called 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



9 "And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which

moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there

shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall

come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live

whither the river cometh." 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 (compare Genesis 1:20-21;

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.  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.


10 "And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from

Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth

nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea,

exceeding many."  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 (compare ch. 26:5). Engedi, עֵין גֶּדִי,

meaning “Fountain of the kid;” originally styled Hazezon-Tamar (<142002>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.


11 “But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be

healed; they shall be given to salt.”  The miry places thereof (בִּצּלֺאתָו

an incorrect reading for בִּצּותַיו, the plural with suffix of בִּצָּה, “a marsh,

or swamp,” as in  Job 8:11; 40:21) and the marshes thereof גְבָיָאו,

“its pools and sloughs” (compare 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 (better than, “and that which shall not be

healed,” as in the margin of the Authorized Text), obviously because the

waters of the temple-river should not reach them, but should be given to

salt.  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; Psalm 107:34;

Jeremiah 17:6; Zephaniah 2:9)



Life and Healing (vs. 8-11)


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.



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.





  • 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.


  • 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 beautylike 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




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.


12 “And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that

side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade,

neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new

fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out

of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf

thereof for medicine.” 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 v. 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 (compare 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 (Revised Version margin), according to his (or, its) months; or,

every month; the לְ in לָךחדָשִׁים; being taken distributively, as in Isaiah

47:13 (compare לַיום, “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.



The Holy Waters (vs. 1-12)


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



  • 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 wellhead

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 most just 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.



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 bosom 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.



of the presence of the waters of life may be observed the following:


Ø      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.


Ø      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. (John 10:10)  Life of the

spirit, the very life of God Himself — such is the issue of the Divine

interposition and provision.


Ø      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:


o        Righteousness and holiness,

o        patience and peace,

o        devotion and hope,


such are the harvest for which the world is indebted

to the sweet waters OF THE DIVINE SANCTUARY!




The River of Salvation (vs. 1-12)


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 (200-300 years ago)

it has been discovered that immense reservoirs of water exist under the identical

spot where once the altar stood. Ezekiel borrowed the material of his 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

limns (outlines in sharp detail) 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.



“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 Savior's cross.

Hence we learn that the stream of Divine mercy, the river of life to men,

has its source in suffering and 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 needsequal 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.



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 river 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!” (Romans 11:33)  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. (Isaiah 11:9)  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.” (I John 1:1)  Attention is summoned: “Son of

man, hast thou seen this?”



“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



Ø      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



o       knowledge;

o       repentance;

o       pardon;

o       peace;

o       obedience;

o       adoption;

o       Divine communion;

o       strength;

o       purity;

o       patience;

o       hope;

o       immortality.


Already the deserts of earth have blossomed; already these fruits of

Paradise have been tasted. For long years the prophecy has ripened

into fact.


Ø      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.”

(Revelation 22:2)  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 been 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.”


Ø      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.


Ø      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.


o       Bodily life has been valued and prolonged.

o       The curative art has developed.

o       Domestic life has been enriched.

o       All forms of intellectual life have unfolded.

o       National life has been purified and organized.

o       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



Ø      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.”




The River of Life (vs. 1-12)


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:


  • 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.


  • 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:


Ø      the truth we most want to know concerning ourselves:

o       our nature,

o       our character,

o       our position before God,

o       our possibilities in the present and in the future; and also,


Ø      the truth we most want to know concerning God:

o       His character and disposition,

o       His purpose of mercy,

o       His supreme act of self-denying love,

o       His overtures of grace, and

o       His summons to eternal life.




Ø      That of renewal. All kinds of fish live in its waters (vs. 9-10); many

trees grow and thrive on its banks, nourished by its streams (v. 7);

“everything lives whither the river cometh” (v. 9).


Ø      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”

(v. 8). Such is the gracious and beneficent action of the truth of the

gospel of Christ.


o        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.


o        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.


  • ITS GLORIOUS ABUNDANCE. (vs. 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.


Ø      Have we partaken of its life-giving waters?

Ø      Are we gaining therefrom the healing and the growth they

will yield?




Trees of Life (v. 12)


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.




  • 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.


  • Their fruit comes continuously. “It shall bring forth new fruit every

      month.”  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.




  • 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.


  • 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.



The Tree of Life (v. 12)


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



  • 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.”


  • THE CHARACTER OF SALVATION. As represented in this

exquisitely beautiful figure, salvation is twofold.


Ø      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.


Ø      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:


o       provides truth for the understanding,

o       love for the heart, and

o       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.


  • THE ABUNDANCE OF SALVATION. The trees which grew by the

river of life are represented as characterized by unwithering leaf and by

unfailing fruit.


Ø      Salvation is afforded as God’s gift to innumerable applicants of

every variety of character and from every land.


Ø      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

            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.



The Double Service — Meat and Medicine (v. 12)


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
Taking the latter first, as being first required, we have:


  • THE RESTORING VIRTUE OF THE GOSPEL. The leaf of the tree of

life is “for medicine,” or “for bruises and sores” (marginal reading).


Ø      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.


Ø      How invaluable is the remedy which this tree of life provides! To

such wounded hearts comes the healing Savior; He comes:


o        with tender sympathy, offering Himself as the Divine Friend,

who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities;”

o        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;

o        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 (II Corinthians 12:9);

o        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.



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:


Ø      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.


Ø      Christian fellowship. For the society of the holy is a sustaining power

that builds up and makes strong in faith and purity.


Ø      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.


vs. 13-23 - The boundaries of the land, and the manner of its division.


13 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; This shall be the border, whereby ye

shall inherit the land according to the twelve tribes of Israel:

Joseph shall have two portions.”  Thus saith the Lord. The usual formula

introducing a new Divine enactment (compare ch. 43:18; 44:9; 45:9, 18; 46:1,16).

This גֵה is obviously a copyist’s error for זֶה, which the Septuagint, 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 v. 15. The border, whereby ye shall inherit the

land; or, divide the land for inheritance (Revised Version). The term

גְּבוּל, applied in ch. 43:13, 17 to the border of the altar here

signifies the boundary or limit of the land. (For the verb, compare

Numbers 32:18; 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-code to

denote “tribes” is מַטּות (Numbers 26:55; 30:1; 31:4; 33:54; Joshua

14:1; 21:1; 22:14), which is never used by Ezekiel, who habitually selects,

as here, the term שְׁבָטִים (ch. 37:19; 45:8; 48:1), which also was

not unknown to the priest-code (Exodus 39:14; Numbers 18:2;

Joshua 13:29; 21:16; 22:9-11,13). That is to say, if the priest-code

existed before Ezekiel, he had the choice of both terms, and selected

shebhet; whereas if Ezekiel existed before the priest-code, 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-code rather than of the

priest-code on Ezekiel. Joseph shall have two portions; rather, Joseph

portions, as חֲבָלִים is not dual. Yet that two were intended is undoubted

(see Genesis 48:22; Joshua 17:14, 17).




Joseph’s Double Portion (v. 13)


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.



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.



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.



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 (“Is it not lawful for me to do what

I will with mine own?  Is thine eye evil, because I am good?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.



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.



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.


14 “And ye shall inherit it, one as well as another: concerning the

which I lifted up mine hand to give it unto your fathers: and this

land shall fall unto you for inheritance.”  Ye shall inherit it, one as well

as another; literally, a man as his brother — the customary Hebrew phrase

for “equally” (see, however, II 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 ch. 20:5-6, 15, 23, 28, 42), signifying “to swear”

(compare Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40) — to give it unto their fathers

(see Genesis 12:7; 18:8; 26:3; 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 Threefold Inheritance (vs. 13-14 with ch. 44:28)


“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.


  • 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.


  • 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

I 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.  (For an eye opening read, I

recommend Deuteronomy ch. 32 v. 9 - God's Inheritance by

Arthur Pink - #95 - this website - CY - 2017)


  • 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



15 “And this shall be the border of the land toward the north side, from

the great sea, the way of Hethlon, as men go to Zedad;”  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 ch. 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 Huma (Emesa), and therefore west of Hamath; but as Hamath

in all probability lay to the east of Zedad, this opinion must be rejected.


 16 Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus

and the border of Hamath; Hazarhatticon, which is by the coast of Hauran.” 

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 (II 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 sovereign against Hadadezer of Zoba (II Samuel 8:9;

I Chronicles 18:9). It was subsequently conquered by the King of Assyria

(II Kings 18:34). Winer thinks it never belonged to Israel; but Schurer

cites I Kings 9:19 and II Chronicles 8:3-4 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 (II Samuel 8:8),

afterwards called Chun (I 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 (II 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 (here, ch. 27:18).

Its high antiquity is testified by both Scripture (Genesis 14:15)

and the cuneiform inscriptions, in which it appears as Dimaski and

Dimaska (Schrader, ‘ Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament,’ p. 138).

Hazar-hatticon; or, the middle Hazar, was probably so styled to

distinguish it from Hazar-enan (v. 17). (On the import of Hatticon, see

Exodus 26:28 and II 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,

ΑὐρανῖτιςHauranitis (Septuagint), “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).


17 “And the border from the sea shall be Hazarenan, the border of

Damascus, and the north northward, and the border of Hamath.

And this is the north side.”   The northern boundary is further defined as e\

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 αὐτόςautos - this

same, or with Hitzig and Smend, after the Syriac, substituting for it here

and in vs. 18-19 ולֺאת as in v. 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 v. 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.


18 “And the east side ye shall measure from Hauran, and from

Damascus, and from Gilead, and from the land of Israel by Jordan,

from the border unto the east sea. And this is the east side. 

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 34:14-15)

had been assigned to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Otherwise the boundary here 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

(compare Psalm 60:7; Micah 7:14; Jeremiah 50:19; Zechariah 10:10), but

with subsequent history.


19 “And the south side southward, from Tamar even to the waters of

strife in Kadesh, the river to the great sea. And this is the south

side southward.”  The south boundary. This should begin where the east

boundary terminated, viz. at Tamar, “Palm tree.” Different from Hazezon-

Tamar, or Engedi (v. 10; II Chronicles 20:2), which lay too far up the

west side of the sea, Tamar can hardly be identified either with the Tamar

of I Kings 9:18 near Tadmor in the wilderness, or with the

(Θαμαρά - Thamara) of Eusebius between Hebron and Elath, supposed by

Robinson (‘Bibl. Rea,’ it 616, 622) 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 Meriboth 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-

northeast, 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 ‘Ainel-

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 Rhinokoroura). In Numbers 34:5 it is called

the river of Egypt. And this is the south side southward (see on v. 17). The

correspondence between this line and that of the earlier chart  (Numbers 34:4-5)

is once more apparent.


20 “The west side also shall be the great sea from the border, till a man

come over against Hamath. This is the west side.”  The western boundary.

This, as in Numbers 34:6, should be the great sea from the border, i.e. the

southern boundary last mentioned (v. 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

(compare Judges 19:10; 20:43).


21 “So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of

Israel.  22 And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an

inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you,

which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you

as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have

inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.  23 And it shall come

to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give

him his inheritance, saith the Lord GOD.”  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 v. 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; 23:9;

Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 1:16; 24:14), admitted to offer

sacrifice (Leviticus 17:8, 10, 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 2:10-11; 9:24; Galatians 3:8-14, 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 (compare v. 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.  (A close reading of all the scriptures

cited above will greatly enlighten and I trust profit us!  CY – 2017)



A 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 compare  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 Ashers 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; 19:8).


(2) I Kings 4:24; 8:65; and II Kings 14:25 (compare II Chronicles 7:8; 8:3-4)

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

(ibid. ch. 32:33-42), no ground existed why its withdrawal should be

compensated for.


(4) If Ezekiel’s 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 assumes

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 Inheritance of the Children (vs. 13-21)


The prophet was looking 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.



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.


  • 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.” (Psalm 16:6)  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.



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.” (I Corinthians 3:22-23)  There is no limitation to

the Divine resources or to the Divine liberality.


  • A PERPETUAL INHERITANCE. Israel retained possession of the

land of promise for generations, for centuries; but that possession,

nevertheless, came to an end. (Because of sin.  II Chronicles 36 -

CY - 2017)  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. (John

10:28-30)  Those promises have respect, not to time only,

BUT TO ALL ETERNITY!   Theirs is an “inheritance

incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”




The Division of the Land (v. 21)



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.



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.



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.


  • 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” (Psalm 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

(Psalm 16:6), or we are left to poverty and hardship, our Father’s choice

must be good.



Canaan a Type of Heaven (vs. 13-14, 22-23)


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.



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.”



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.”



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 doth 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.”



SPIRITUAL AFFINITIES. The favored occupants still dwell according to

their tribes. In 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.



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





The Stranger’s Portion (vs. 22-23)


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.



FROM CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. Hospitality is an Eastern habit; it should be

a Christian grace.


Ø      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.


Ø      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



Ø      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.





Ø      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.


Ø      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



Ø      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 SAVIOUR!




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!



The Inheritance of the Strangers (vs. 22-23)


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.














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.”  (Colossians 1:12)



Jew and Gentile (ch. 22-23)


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:



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.


Ø      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.


Ø      Yet, on the other hand, the gospel of Christ has been a great attractive



o        The repose which it offers to the human mind, presenting to it one

Divine and holy Creator and Sustainer of all things and beings;

o        the rest which it offers to the human heart, tendering to it full and

immediate restoration to a Divine Father’s love;

o        the enlargement which it offers to human life, making it a sacred and

noble thing even in obscurity and poverty;

o        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

§         to those of other faiths which have no such doctrine to preach,

no such glad tidings to convey;

§         to those of no faith at all, and to whom this world proves to be

insufficient for lasting joy.




Ø      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.). 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).


Ø      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.”



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