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
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
Acacia valley, on the borders of
the Israelites halted and sinned (Numbers 25:1; 33:49), had symbolized
that should be experienced by
permanently dwell in his holy mount of
accordingly, the same figure naturally occurs as a means of exhibiting the
life and healing, peace and prosperity, that should result
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.
parched and perishing.
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.
holiness springs up by the channel of Christ’s grace.
fruitfulness springs from the ever fresh supplies of Christ’s grace.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE WATERS.
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.
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.
services duly conducted. We receive grace through faith when we yield
our hearts and lives to Christ.
III. THE COURSE OF THE WATERS.
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.
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,
by the upper room at
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
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
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 Γαλιλαίαν – taen 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
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
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 διεκβολῆς – epi to hudor taes diekbolaes - ), to the sea
of the pouring
out,” i.e. the
With this Havernick agrees, rendering, “to the sea of that outflow.” Ewald reads,
“into the sea of muddy waters,” meaning the
where the waters are brought forth,” i.e. the ocean
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
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
antiquity and of most modern travelers,” says Robinson (‘Bibl. Res.,’
2:226), “there exists
within the waters of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
waters of which are to be miraculously healed by the coming of the life
bearing flood. Then fish shall swarm in the purified sea, “and everything
shall live whither the river cometh.” This is a parable of the course of the
gospel of Christ.
I. THE GRACE OF CHRIST FLOWS TO THE MOST DEAD AND
DEGRADED PEOPLE. The
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
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
can have no satisfaction till His gospel has reached the most sinful and
fallen creatures in the world.
II. THE GRACE OF CHRIST BRINGS PURIFICATION AND
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.
To the bather the waters are so pungent that they produce agonizing
sensations in the eyes, and the taste of them is unendurable. Enclosed by
the bluest of hills, steaming with tropical heat, the dull and heavy waters
produce a scene of noxious beauty — like the charm of the snake, like the
fascination of sin. But the gospel brings healing to the poisoned sea of
human life, as the temple flood was imagined to bring it to the Dead
III. THE PURIFICATION AND HEALING OF THE GRACE OF
CHRIST BEAR FRUIT IN LIFE. The purged sea is to team with fish, and
fishermen are to spread their nets on its now neglected shores. Before
Christ comes men are dead in trespasses and sins. He brings life for the
dead, and wherever His gospel goes it introduces this life to the world.
Even intellectual, social, and political life are energized by Christianity. The
strongest, keenest, freshest life of the world is found in Christendom.
Those lands which were once Christian, and have since lost the religion of
the Christ, have sunk back to semi-barbarism; e.g.
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
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
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
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
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
ever-deepening volume of blessing, all the nations comprehended in the
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
from the courts of the temple at
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
possession, first 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
oasis in the
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
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
Kedron, through land blasted with desolation, and found its way into the
tapestry of prophecy. He foresees the glorious reality of Messiah’s day. He
limns (outlines in sharp detail) the magnificent results of
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 needs — equal to the salvation of the race. If God is
the purveyor, there can be no lack. He gives with the heart of a Father and
with the freeness of a King.
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
and pungent to the taste as ever is that water. Though beautiful to the eye
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 Divine communion;
Already the deserts of earth have blossomed; already these fruits of
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
grace)is a desert more bald and
sterile than the hill-country of
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:
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.
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.
· ITS TWO SOVEREIGN VIRTUES.
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,
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
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
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.
of Christ. There is abundance of life and energy here. However many may
seek for grace from Christ, there is enough for all.
minds, to different circumstances and needs, and to different good ends.
There is a rich variety in the blessings of the gospel, like the variety of
nature, in which many kinds and species contribute to the general well
being of the whole.
III. THEIR PERENNIAL FRESHNESS.
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.
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.
IV. THE GREAT SERVICE THEY RENDER.
nourishes the interior life of his people with heavenly fruit. Excluded
spiritual paradise. Souls live on Christ, the heavenly Manna. His flesh
is meat indeed.
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
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.”
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
river of life are represented as characterized by unwithering leaf and by
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
the earth, as BENEFITED BY THE PROVISION OF DIVINE
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
HUMAN SOUL! Taking the latter first, as being first required, we have:
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
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.
I. THE BLESSINGS OF THE FATHER DESCEND TO THE
CHILDREN. Joseph had proved himself the best as well as the greatest of
the sons of Jacob. He had returned good for evil to his cruel, murderous
brothers, and had been the means of bringing blessing to all his father’s
household. He was now blessed in the blessing of his children. There is no
better way of rewarding good parents than by prospering their children.
We may see God’s favor descending in line from generation to generation
of them that fear him.
II. JUSTICE IS NOT THE SAME AS EQUALITY. It might seem to be
unjust to the rest of the tribes that Joseph’s descendants should be
reckoned as two tribes. But it is not always right and fair to give exactly
the same to every one. Equal partition may mean great wrong. Justice
takes account of merit; some deserve more than others. It takes note of
need; some require more than others. It has reference to capacity; some
can use more than others. It is not just to reward the faithless as much as
the faithful servant, nor to give to the giant as small a meal as to the dwarf,
nor to entrust to the man of small mind as much responsibility as to one of
large powers. Joseph’s tribes may have deserved, have needed, or have
been capable of using, more territory than any of the other tribes. They
were more numerous in population.
III. THERE IS NO INJUSTICE WHERE NO ONE IS WRONGED.
Provision was made for the double share of Joseph by giving to one of his
tribes the portion that would have fallen to the lot of Levi, who was
provided for out of the sacrificial offerings and the sacred cities whose
inheritance was the Lord. Thus when it is granted that sacrifices should be
made and tithes paid for religious purposes, we may conclude that there
was a portion to spare. The ten tribes were not robbed to give to Ephraim
or Manasseh, No injustice was done to those laborers of our Lord’s
parable who had toiled all day when the eleventh-hour laborers received
equal wages; for the former had had full pay, all they had agreed for, and
the heavier rate of the payment given to the latter was dependent only on
the generosity of the master, who, having satisfied all due claims, had a
right to do as he would with his own (“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.
IV. GOD PROVIDES FOR INDIVIDUALS, AND NOT MERELY FOR
COMMUNITIES. Ephraim and Manasseh, the two tribes of Joseph, were
equal in population to the other tribes, if not more numerous. Therefore,
the individual members of these two tribes received no more than their
brethren in other tribes. Caring for man and not for communities, God was
fair in giving most land to the most populous branch of the family of Jacob.
His blessings now are for separate souls.
V. GREAT TRUSTS BRING GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES. The man of
five talents does his duty in getting five more, while he of two talents does
his equally in getting but two more. With double territory the two tribes of
Joseph were expected to furnish a proportionately large supply of men for
the national defense. Much is expected of those to whom much has been
given. Specially privileged Christian people may rest assured that specially
important duties have been laid upon them.
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.
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.
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)
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
(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
in all probability lay to the east of Zedad, this opinion must be rejected.
16 “Hamath, Berothah,
Sibraim, which is between the border of
and the border of
which is by the coast of
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
(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
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
town of Hamath, but to the
southern boundary of the
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
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
Kadesh (Josephus), as this is too far south; but must be sought for between
occurring here only, may, on the other hand, be assumed to have lain
(Numbers 34:9), though the site of this town cannot be where Wetstein
placed it, at Zifran,
Smend compares it with Sepharvaim
(II Kings 17:24).
the well-known capital of
emporium of commerce between East and
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,
Αὐρανῖτις – Hauranitis (Septuagint), “Cave-land,” so called because of
the number of its caverns, was most likely designed to designate “the whole
tract of land between
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
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
Hamath. The final clause adds, And this is the north side, either
understanding וְאֵת, with Gesenius, as equivalent to αὐτός – autos - 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
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
shall ye measure. Smend offers as the correct rendering, The east side
goes from between Hauran and
the land of Israel, along
any case, by this instruction, first the
territory lying west of the
from the last-named north border at its easternmost point, Hazar-enan,
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
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
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
The most plausible conjecture is that Tamar was “a village near the southern
end of the
boundary should reach to the waters of strife in Kadesh; better, to the
waters of Meriboth Kadesh. These were in
Barnea (Numbers 20:1-13), which, again, was on the road from
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
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
Weibeh, not far from
(‘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
the river, or, brook, of
“lot,’ must be changed into נַחְלָה, so as to mean “river,” since the
reference manifestly is to the torrent of
Rhinocorura (Ῥινοκόρουρα – Rhinokoroura). In Numbers 34:5 it is called
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
(compare Judges 19:10; 20:43).
21 “So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of
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
you among the tribes of
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
(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
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
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
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
(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
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
(4) that in dividing among tribes rather than among families Ezekiel
deviates from both the Jehovistic tradition and the priest-code.
(1) if the above-cited passages do not extend Asher’s territory beyond
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
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
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
(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
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
tribes in the
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.
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)
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
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
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.
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
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,”
the architecture of the heavenly city was formed of materials borrowed
from the earthly
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
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
condition of entering into the covenant of
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
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.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
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!
ENJOY THE PRIVILEGES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The
stranger needed to adopt the Law, to be circumcised, and to become a
Jew, if he was to have his portion in the land. People who are spiritually
strangers now need a circumcision of heart (Deuteronomy 30:6) and a
new birth to have the blessings of Christ. All may have the Christian
blessedness, but all must first become Christians. There is a portion for
every one in Christ’s kingdom; it now only rests with every one to qualify
himself for his inheritance by penitence and faith in JESUS CHRIST!
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.
CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGES IS NOT OWING TO NATURE, BUT IS
THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE GRACE OF GOD.
SPIRITUAL PREPARATION AND ADAPTATION.
OF CHRIST’S CHURCH TO EQUAL PRIVILEGES.
1. All distinctions of an hereditary, secular, and educational character are
of little importance in the Christian community. Boasting is excluded where
all is of grace, and where none has any claim of right.
2. Mutual consideration and forbearance should obtain within the
boundaries of the Church. Every Christian has some especial office and
gift; perhaps every Christian has some special infirmity and imperfection.
3. It is profitable and delightful to look forward to the perfect fulfillment of
the Savior’s purpose and prayer, to anticipate the time when all shall be
one — one flock under one Shepherd. The inheritance of all God’s people
is known only by the common designation: “the inheritance of the saints
in light.” (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,
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 “
come to his true home, that he is “as the home-born.”
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