Vv 1-12: The temple river: This healing river of God is
plainly symbolic: (a) it arises at peak of mountain -- which is (practically) an
impossibility; (b) its volume increases dramatically, even though it has no
tributaries feeding into it; and (c) cp with Rev 22:2. (Cp also the sym nature
of Joe 3:18.)
HAW comments: "Because 'waters come down from under the right
side of the house, at the south side of the altar' (Eze 47:1), it is inferred
[by HSul] 'that the altar must be considerably elevated.' But is one at liberty
to deduce from the verb 'come down' that the waters descend from the top of a
mountain? The seven steps and eight steps (Eze 40:22,31) by which the house was
higher than its surroundings would be adequate to explain why the waters 'come
down' " (FLET).
"Springs do not emerge from the summit of 'a very high
mountain' [as HSul suggests]. Occasionally they spring from fairly near the
highest point of a mountain, but never from the top-most peak. Nor does a normal
stream deepen at such a fantastically rapid rate as to be crossed only by
swimming when a mere one and a half miles from its source. Nor does any river
grow in volume except through the contributions made by tributaries, and this
river has no tributaries. It may, of course, be urged in reply that these living
waters are to be altogether miraculous. And to such an 'argument' there can be
no answer. Nevertheless it is surely significant that this river, if real and
not symbolic, is the only miraculous element connected with Ezekiel's temple"
V 1: Ezekiel's guide, who appears to have been his
original guide in this vision (v 3), brought him back to the main entrance to
the temple proper. Ezekiel saw water flowing to the east from under the temple
threshold. It apparently flowed to the south of the stairs on the right side of
the temple as one faces east.
The man then brought Ezekiel through the north gate to the
outside of the outer wall of the temple enclosure. Just south of the east gate
he saw water trickling to the east, a continuation of the stream that he had
observed inside the temple enclosure.
Vv 3-5: The "man" took his measuring line (Eze 40:3) and
measured 1,000 cubits (about one-third of a mile) east from the wall along the
watercourse. He led Ezekiel across the river (Heb "nachal") and it was ankle
deep. Another 1,000 cubits farther east they crossed again, and this time the
water was knee-deep. Another 1,000 cubits and it was up to his waist. Another
1,000 cubits and it was so deep that they could not cross it standing up; it was
so deep they would have had to swim across.
This description suggests that some major topographical
changes will occur east of present-day Jerusalem by this time. Other prophecies
support this conclusion (Eze 34:26-30; 36:8-12,30-36; 37:25-28; 45:1-8; 48:8-14;
Joel 3:18; Zec 13:1; 14:4-8). The water will follow the contours of the altered
terrain. Zechariah recorded that the water flowing from Jerusalem will divide
with half of it going west to the Mediterranean Sea and half east to the Dead
Sea (Zec 14:9). Ezekiel described only the branch that flowed east.
DO YOU SEE THIS?: In other words, 'Have you considered
the spiritual import of this vision?'
A GREAT NUMBER OF TREES ON EACH SIDE OF THE RIVER:
Rivers, by their very nature, give and nurture life.
AND GOES DOWN INTO THE ARABAH: Presently this involves
a drop in elevation of over 3,700 feet (from the temple mount at 2,430 feet
above sea level to the Dead Sea at 1,290 feet below sea level).
WHEN IT EMPTIES INTO THE SEA, THE WATER THERE BECOMES
FRESH: Or, more expressively, as the KJV: "The waters shall be HEALED!".
Think of those waters of the Dead Sea, dreary and dreadful! This was the
"Chamber of Horrors" in the land of Israel. Travelers describe it as a place of
utter desolation. Lying in a deep hollow, some thirteen hundred feet below any
other sea, the Dead Sea was sunk deep into the earth, like the mouth of the
abyss. Masses of tar float upon its surface, and line its shores. Poisonous
gases abound, and on its banks are hot sulfur springs. Swimming, or rather
floating, in its thick brine is unpleasant; the skin tingles with its acid salts
long afterwards. It is not desirable to linger upon the brink of it, neither is
there anything to tempt one to do so. Very scanty is the vegetation, few are the
birds, and rare the living things. It is the place of destruction. Nothing may
live there, at least for long.
The doomed lake has dark mysteries buried in its heart -- down
deep in its depths lie the destroyed cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah,
whose sins provoked the wrath of God. In this respect the Dead Sea is a fit
picture of our fallen humanity, a truthful symbol of the whole world, which lies
in wickedness. It may be said that the world is a vast "Dead Sea", and its
cities modern "Sodoms".
God is at work creating new heavens and a new earth, and in
the process forms of beauty are developed -- little "outposts" of the Kingdom of
God which is coming -- but to this day the old decadent cities of our world
remain easily-recognizable matches for the depraved and debauched cities of the
plain, where Lot first pitched his tent, and then finally took up residence.
And the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked. Can
it ever be purified? Can its "waters" be healed? Yes, God says, they WILL be
healed! Let us believe His promise, and take courage. Let us believe that, one
day, the worst hell-holes of sin will yet be made holy. Even when it seems to be
the least likely expectation, even when we are shocked at the sin which
surrounds us, we are still to believe that Yahweh shall reign for ever and ever,
and the serpent and sin shall be crushed under our Redeemer's heel. "The waters
SHALL be healed": all the brine and tar of the Dead Sea will not be enough to
forestall the hand of the Almighty. The worst that Calcutta, or London, or New
York can offer will yet be made sweet as the pure water of Siloam. The
atrocities of war and oppression will cease, and the reign of evil will end; for
the Lord has promised it, and it will be done. The kingdoms of this world must
become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and every heart and every
mind will be truly and wholly his. "The waters shall be healed." Thank
The river of "life" represents the spiritual life and healing
that flows to humanity from the throne of God (John 4:14; 7:37,38). "The river
is like the blood of the Messiah from the cross of Calvary that began as a
trickle (John 19:34). Finally, the blood, like the river, became a flood of
redemption for all people (Rev 1:5). So the flow from Calvary became a fountain
of redemption for all people including Israel (see Zech 13:1-6; Rev 1:5-6). Just
so, the water of life that the prophet saw coming from the threshold came forth
gently, then began to flow, and finally became a mighty river of life healing
all in its wake" (Cooper, cited in Const).
THERE WILL BE LARGE NUMBERS OF FISH: "The special
mention of abundant fish and a thriving fishing industry is difficult to
understand, if intended literally. But the spiritual meaning of these words is
too obvious to require elucidation. 'As the fish of the Great Sea' certainly
suggests the blessing of the Gentile nations through the godly influence of this
new House of God" (FLET).
The Dead Sea would become so full of many varieties of fish
that fishermen would fish for them from Engedi, on the west side of the sea
about midway north to south, to En Eglaim, possibly on the northwest shore near
Qumran or on the eastern side. The entire Dead Sea region would not become
fresh, except as described in v 11.
EN GEDI: Sig "the fountain of a kid". The fountain is
for cleansing (Zech 13:1). The kid, a sin-offering, points to the Day of
Atonement (Lev 16:5). Cp Song 1:14.
EN EGLAIM: Sig "the fountain of the young calves":
young bullocks of burnt-offering.
BUT THE SWAMPS AND MARSHES WILL NOT BECOME FRESH; THEY WILL
BE LEFT FOR SALT: "This river of life goes to the Dead Sea and its waters
are healed, so that they swarm with fish. Nevertheless 'the miry places thereof
and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.'
Literally the words are really difficult. Symbolically they suggest easily
enough that whilst this rebuilt temple of an Israel returned from captivity will
have wondrous possibilities of carrying divine influence and blessing to the
most unlikely quarters, it was not to be expected that in that age a perfect and
complete reformation would be accomplished" (FLET).
Fruit trees would grow all around the Dead Sea. They would
remain continually healthy and productive. These trees would be so fruitful that
they would bear fruit every month of the year. People would eat their fruit and
use their leaves for medicinal purposes. This formerly desert region would
blossom like a rose (cp Eze 36:35; Isa 35:1,2,6,7; Joel 3:18).
THEIR LEAVES FOR HEALING: "Here, surely, is a detail
which shouts for symbolic interpretation... The symbolic use of this very
passage in Rev 22:2 indicates expressly what is being argued for here as almost
self-evident: '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.' He would be a bold man who
would maintain the literal intention of these words in this context!"
Vv 13-21: This describes a land whose territory is
considerably less than that promised to Abraham (Gen 15:18): this cannot be the
future Kingdom of God.
Vv 13,14: The Lord instructed the future Israelites (cf v 21)
to divide the Promised Land for their inheritance. He first described the
boundary around the entire land. The tribes of Joseph, namely Ephraim and
Manasseh, were to have two portions (cf Gen 48:5,6,22). This was important to
clarify at the outset because the tribe of Levi would receive another portion of
the land (Eze 45:1-8; 48:8-14). Thus the number of tribal allotments would be 12
plus the Levitical portions. Each tribe was to have as much land as all the
others; the portions were to be equal in size. This was not the case when Joshua
divided the land among the tribes; some tribes received more land than others.
Thus the Lord would fulfill His promise to give the Israelites the land as an
inheritance. The boundaries described here are almost identical to the ones in
Num 34:3-12 (cf 1Ki 8:65).
Vv 15-17: The LORD specified the boundaries by listing place
names that the Israelites of Ezekiel's day would have known. Not all of them are
identifiable today. The northern boundary would run from the Great
(Mediterranean) Sea east, following the road to Hethlon, to the entrance of the
town of Zedad, and through the region of Hamath (cp 1Ki 8:65) near Berothah to
Sibraim. It then ran through Hazar-hatticon (lit, "the middle Hazar") on the
border of the territory of Hauran. Hazar-enan (perhaps the same as
Hazar-hatticon) seems to have been the easternmost town in this string. It
apparently stood between the borders of the territories controlled by Damascus
and Hamath. Some of these sites apparently stood within or adjacent to the
region described, not just along its border.
THE NORTHERN BORDER OF DAMASCUS... HAMATH: In other
words, the NORTHERN border of the land will be the SOUTHERN border of Damascus
The eastern border would run between the territories of Hauran
and Damascus and then along the Jordan River between the land of Israel on the
west and Gilead to the east. This boundary would continue south through the
eastern (Dead) sea to the town of Tamar.
HSul takes the "east sea" to be the Persian Gulf, and draws
maps showing strips of Israel's territory stretching across Arabia to the
Euphrates. But, plainly, the eastern border of the Land will be the Jordan
River, And the "eastern sea" = the Dead Sea (Num 34:3; Josh 12:3; Joel 2:20). No
other conclusion is possible.
The south border would run west from Tamar to the waters of
Meribath-kadesh (Kadesh-barnea), to the Brook of Egypt (Wadi el-Arish), and
along this stream to the Mediterranean Sea.
The southern border: "Kadesh in the Negeb is unmistakable. The
great sea is certainly the Mediterranean. But many identify 'the river' as being
the Nile, and thus proceed to appropriate a big piece of the land of Egypt as
part of Israel's future inheritance. But this is certainly not the true
interpretation, as is proved by the mention of Kadesh. Also, the southern limit
of the Land promised to the Fathers is 'the river of Egypt', which is undeniably
the wadi El Arish which enters the sea just south of Gaza. Also, the Hebrew word
for 'river' here is that which describes a torrent and is certainly not the
correct word for a mighty flood of waters like the Nile" (FLET).
The west border would be the Mediterranean Sea from the south
border, the Brook of Egypt, to a point west of Lebo-hamath in the
The Israelites were to divide the land in this way for the
tribes of Israel by lot (cf Eze 45:1).
Vv 22,23: The land was not to be for Israelites alone,
however. Aliens who permanently lived among them could dwell in this region too.
Under the Mosaic economy, resident aliens were non-Israelites who had adopted
the religion and laws of the Hebrews; they had become converts to the worship of
Yahweh. The Israelites were to regard these alien peoples as equals with
themselves concerning their rights within the land. These aliens were to inherit
portions of land in the tribal allotments just like the Israelites who lived
there (Eze 14:7; 22:7; Lev 19:34; 24:22; Num 15:29; Isa 56:3-8).
THE ALIENS WHO HAVE SETTLED AMONG YOU: The Gentiles who
have accompanied the Jews in their return from exile: the "mixed multitude". Or,
possibly, those Gentiles already in the Land when the captives return.
In vv 22,23 there is "explicit legislation to ensure that
strangers in the Land shall not be disinherited but shall have their own portion
alongside the children of Israel. This is difficult to reconcile with the many
promises that, in the Kingdom Age, the Land is to be for Israel, ruled over by
the twelve apostles. But as a solution of the inevitable difficulty that the
Jews returning from Babylon would find people of other races already settled in
their territory, it is eminently sensible and just" (FLET).