The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Ezekiel 48

Eze 48:1

Vv 1-7: Tribal allotments in the north: The tribe of Dan was to receive the northernmost section of the Promised Land. The order of tribes from north to south, north of the sacred district, was Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben and Judah -- seven tribal allotments of equal size (Eze 47:14). Since they will be of equal size, and since the east-west width of the Promised Land would vary depending on the latitude of each allotment, the north-south distance would also vary somewhat.

The order of these tribes does not conform to any other in Scripture. These tribal allotments are not like those that Joshua assigned nor are they as large (cf Jos 14--22). There is a general progression from the most unfaithful tribe, Dan, to the most faithful, Judah. Judah, from which Messiah came, received the blessing of being adjacent to the holy allotment. The tribes that descended from Jacob's concubines (Dan, Asher, Naphtali, and Gad) received land to the far north and far south. Those that descended from Jacob's wives received land toward the center of the land (cp Gen 35:23-26).

Eze 48:8

Vv 8-22: The holy allotment.

South of Judah's portion would be a special territory, which would be the same size as the other tribal allotments. It would include a section 25,000 cubits wide, and the temple sanctuary would stand in its center.

Eze 48:9

Vv 9-12: This portion would be 25,000 cubits long, from east to west, and 10,000 cubits wide, from north to south. It would be for the descendants of the Zadokite priests who remained faithful to the Lord. This would be a most holy place next to the territory for the other Levitical priests.

Eze 48:13

Vv 13,14: The other Levitical priests would have an allotment the same size next to the allotment of the Zadokite priests. They were not to sell or exchange any of this land for other land because it was holy to the Lord.

Eze 48:15

Vv 15-19: The remaining portion of this allotment, a section 25,000 cubits wide by 5,000 cubits north to south, would be for the holy city and the open spaces beside it. The city itself would occupy the central portion of this section. It would be for the common use of the Israelites, as would be its open spaces and home sites. The city itself would be 4,500 cubits square with a 250 cubit open space border on each of its four sides, another green belt like the one around the temple complex (cf Eze 45:2). The 10,000 cubit-wide areas on the east and west sides of the city would also be for the production of food for those who lived in the city. Those who lived in the city, from all the tribes of Israel, would cultivate those fields.

Whereas cities have always been known as places of moral corruption and rebellion, this city will be a place of eternal rest, refuge, and personal fellowship with others and God (Eze 48:8-20,30-35).

Eze 48:20

The total holy allotment would be 25,000 cubits square including the city and its adjacent lands as well as the territories for the Levites and Zadokites. This is an area of almost 70 square miles.

Eze 48:21

Vv 21,22: The prince would receive the rest of this allotment, on the east and west sides of this square and between the boundaries of the tribes of Judah on the north and Benjamin on the south.

Eze 48:23

Vv 23-29: Tribal allotments in the south: The tribal allotments south of this special territory would fall to Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad. This was the total land to be divided by lot and the tribes' individual portions.

The tribe of Benjamin received land next to the holy allotment -- possibly because Benjamin was one of Rachel's sons, or because the Benjamites supported David (2Sa 19:16,17) and allied with Judah to form the Southern Kingdom.

Eze 48:30

Vv 30-35: The city, its gates, and its name.

Vv 30-34: The Lord next specified the gates of the holy city. Though Ezekiel did not name the city, Zechariah did. It is Jerusalem (Zec 14:8). On each of its 4,500 cubit-long sides there would be three gates. The ones facing north would be named in honor of the tribes of Reuben (Jacob's firstborn), Judah (the kingly tribe), and Levi (the priestly tribe). All three of these patriarchs were Leah's sons. The gates on the east would bear the names of Joseph and Benjamin (Rachel's sons), and Dan (a son of Bilhah). The south gates would honor Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun (Leah's other three sons). The west gates would bear the names of Gad, Asher, and Naphtali (all sons of the two handmaids, Zilpah and Bilhah). The many gates illustrate the accessibility of the city.

The New Jerusalem of Revelation is similarly described: having three gates on each of its four sides, each named for one of the 12 sons of Jacob (Rev 21:12,13). That city will also be square, but it will be a cube, ie of three dimensions -- like the most holy place (Rev 21:16). Also it will be very much larger (Rev 21:16,17). Thus it seems that the "eternal city" will be similar to but not identical with the city of Ezekiel's vision.

Eze 48:35

The circumference of the city proper would be 18,000 cubits, less than six miles. And its name from the day of its establishment would be "The LORD is there" (Heb "Yahweh shammah").

AND THE NAME OF THE CITY FROM THAT TIME ON WILL BE: THE LORD IS THERE: "Jehovah-Shammah", or "Yahweh-Shammah". The new name indicates a new character, as always in Scripture, namely that the Lord would forever reside among His people: thus He will be the great Immanuel: "God is with us" (cf Isa 7:14). Despite what fortunes and misfortunes beset the people of God, this is His promise: there will come a time when their God would never again depart from them or send them out of His land. He will forever dwell among them, and they will forever enjoy the unbroken fellowship with God that He intended since the creation of the world. The Book of Ezekiel -- just like the Book of Revelation -- ends with a description of a New Jerusalem. However, the New Jerusalem of Ezekiel has to do with earlier times, and is dependent upon the faithfulness of Israel; whereas, the New Jerusalem at the end of Revelation is absolute and eternal.

Twenty-two years and 48 chapters earlier Ezekiel began his book with a vision of a storm picturing the destruction of Old Jerusalem (Eze 1), and God's departure from it (Eze 10; 11). He ends it with another vision of the Glory of God returning to His city and temple (Eze 43:2-5), and the building of a special temple-city to be named "The LORD is there" (Eze 48:35). The glory of the LORD is the unifying feature that ties the book together and runs through it from beginning to end.

Due to man's unbelief and disobedience, God's glory departs from him. But when man's unbelief gives way to faith, and his disobedience to obedience, then that wondrous Glory may yet return to him. And when -- through the mercies of our God -- all sins are forgiven, then will be ushered in the Age of "God who is all in all" (1Co 15:28), and the Glory will return to His land and His city and His temple and His people, never to depart again. Truly "THE LORD WILL BE THERE": "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' " (Rev 21:3-5).

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