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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Ezekiel 47




Blessing of the Land of Canaan, and Distribution of It Among the Tribes of Israel - Ezekiel 47-48

After Ezekiel had seen the entrance of the glory of the Lord into the new temple, which was measured before his eyes, and had received the new thorah to be announced to the people concerning the service which Israel was to render to its God in the new sanctuary, a stream of living water was shown to him, proceeding from the threshold of the temple, flowing to the Arabah, and emptying itself into the Dead Sea, to fertilize the barren soil, and fill the salt water of the Dead Sea with vital power (Ezekiel 47:1-12); and finally, the command of the Lord is communicated to him concerning the boundaries of the holy land, its distribution among the twelve tribes of Israel, and the building of the holy city (Ezekiel 47:13-48:35).

Verses 1-12

The River of Water of Life

When Jehovah shall have judged all the heathen in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and shall dwell as King of His people upon Zion His holy mountain, then will the mountains trickle with new wine, and the hills run with milk, and all the brooks of Judah flow with water; and a spring will proceed from the house of Jehovah, and water the Acacia valley. With these figures Joel (Joel 4:18) has already described the river of salvation, which the Lord would cause to flow to His congregation in the time when the kingdom of God shall be perfected. This picture of the Messianic salvation shapes itself in the case of our prophet into the magnificent vision contained in the section before us.

(Note: Compare W. Neumann, Die Wasser des Lebens . An exegetical study on Ezekiel 47:1-12. Berlin, 1848.)

Ezekiel 47:1. And he led me back to the door of the house, and, behold, water flowed out from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the front side of the house was toward the east; and the water flowed down from below, from the right shoulder of the house on the south of the altar. Ezekiel 47:2. And he led me out by the way of the north gate, and caused me to go round about on the outside, to the outer gate of the way to the (gate), looking toward the east; and, behold, waters rippled for the right shoulder of the gate. Ezekiel 47:3. When the man went out toward the east, he had a measuring line in his hand, and he measured a thousand cubits, and caused me to go through the water-water to the ankles. Ezekiel 47:4. And he measured a thousand, and caused me to go through the water-water to the knees; and he measured a thousand, and caused me to go through-water to the hips. Ezekiel 47:5. And he measured a thousand-a river through which I could not walk, for the water was high, water to swim in, a river which could not be forded. Ezekiel 47:6. And he said to me, Hast thou seen it, son of man? and he led me back again by the bank of the river. Ezekiel 47:7. When I returned, behold, there stood on the bank of the river very many trees on this side and on that. Ezekiel 47:8. And he said to me, This water flows out into the eastern circle, and runs down into the plain, and reaches the sea; into the sea is it carried out, that the waters may become wholesome. Ezekiel 47:9. And it will come to pass, every living thing with which it swarms everywhere, whither the double river comes, will live, and there will be very many fishes; for when this water comes thither they will become wholesome, and everything will live whither the river comes. Ezekiel 47:10. And fishermen will stand by it, from Engedi to Eneglaim they will spread out nets; after their kind will there be fishes therein, like the fishes of the great sea, very many. Ezekiel 47:11. Its marshes and its swamps, they will not become wholesome, they will be given up to salt. Ezekiel 47:12. And by the river will all kinds of trees of edible fruit grow on its bank, on this side and on that; their leaves will not wither, and their fruits will not fail; every moon they will bear ripe fruit, for its water flows out of its sanctuary. And their fruits will serve as food, and their leaves as medicine.

From the outer court, where Ezekiel had been shown the sacrificial kitchens for the people (Ezekiel 46:21.), he is taken back to the front of the door of the temple house, to be shown a spring of water, flowing out from under the threshold of the temple, which has swollen in the short course of four thousand cubits from its source into a deep river in which men can swim, and which flows down to the Jordan valley, to empty itself into the Dead Sea. In Ezekiel 47:1 and Ezekiel 47:2, the origin and course of this water are described; in Ezekiel 47:3 and Ezekiel 47:5, its marvellous increase; in Ezekiel 47:6, the growth of trees on its banks; in Ezekiel 47:7-12, its emptying itself into the Arabah and into the Dead Sea, with the life-giving power of its water. - Ezekiel 47:1. The door of the house is the entrance into the holy place of the temple, and מפתּן הבּית the threshold of this door. קדימה , not “in the east” (Hitzig), for the following sentence explaining the reason does not require this meaning; but “toward the east” of the threshold, which lay toward the east, for the front of the temple was in the east. מתּחת is not to be connected with מכּתף , but to be taken by itself, only not in the sense of downwards (Hitzig), but from beneath, namely, down from the right shoulder of the house. ירד , to flow down, because the temple stood on higher ground than the inner court. The right shoulder is the part of the eastern wall of the holy place between the door and the pillars, the breadth of which was five cubits (Ezekiel 41:1). The water therefore issued from the corner formed by the southern wall of the porch and the eastern wall of the holy place (see the sketch on Plate I), and flowed past the altar of burnt-offering on the south side, and crossed the court in an easterly direction, passing under its surrounding wall. It then flowed across the outer court and under the pavement and the eastern wall into the open country, where the prophet, on the outside in front of the gate, saw it rippling forth from the right shoulder of that gate. That he might do this, he was led out through the north gate, because the east gate was shut (Ezekiel 44:1), and round by the outside wall to the eastern outer gate. דּרך חוּץ is more minutely defined by אל־שׁער החוּץ , and this, again, by דּרך הפּונה קדים , “by the way to the (gate) looking eastwards.” The ἁπ . λεγ . ּרך̓̀ינבל; , Piel of פּכה , related to בּכה , most probably signifies to ripple, not to trickle. מים has no article, because it is evident from the context that the water was the same as that which Ezekiel had seen in the inner court, issuing from the threshold of the temple. The right shoulder is that portion of the eastern wall which joined the south side of the gate. - Ezekiel 47:3-5. The miraculous increase in the depth of the water. A thousand cubits from the wall, as one walked through, it reached to the ankles; a thousand cubits further, to the knees; a thousand cubits further, to the hips; and after going another thousand cubits it was impossible to wade through, one could only swim therein. The words מי אפסים are a brief expression for “there was water which reached to the ankles.” אפס is equivalent to פּס , an ankle, not the sole of the foot. In 1 Chronicles 11:13, on the other hand, we have פּס דּמּים for אפס דּמּים . The striking expression מים בּרכים for מי ברכים may possibly have been chosen because מי ברכים had the same meaning as מימי רגלים in Isaiah 36:12 ( Keri ). The measuring man directed the prophet's attention (Ezekiel 47:6) to this extraordinary increase in the stream of water, because the miraculous nature of the stream was exhibited therein. A natural river could not increase to such an extent within such short distances, unless, indeed, other streams emptied themselves into it on all sides, which was not he case here. He then directed him to go back again על שׂפת , along the bank, not “to the bank,” as he had never left it. The purpose for which he had been led along the bank was accomplished after he had gone four thousand cubits. From the increase in the water, as measured up to this point, he could infer what depth it would reach in its further course. He is therefore now to return along the bank to see how it is covered with trees. בּשׁוּבני cannot be explained in any other way than as an incorrect form for בּשׁוּבי , though there are no corresponding analogies to be found.

In Ezekiel 47:8-12 he gives him a still further explanation of the course of the river and the effect of its waters. The river flows out into הגּלילה הקּדמונה , the eastern circle, which is identical with גּלילות היּרדּן htiw lacitne , the circle of the Jordan (Joshua 22:10-11), the region above the Dead Sea, where the Jordan valley (Ghor) widens out into a broad, deep basin. הערבה is the deep valley of the Jordan, now called the Ghor (see the comm. on Deuteronomy 1:1), of which Robinson says that the greater part remains a desolate wilderness. It was so described in ancient times (see Joseph. Bell. Jud . iii. 10. 7, iv. 8. 2), and we find it so to-day (compare v. Raumer, Pal . p. 58). היּמּה is the Dead Sea, called היּם הקּדמוני in Ezekiel 47:18, and the sea of the Arabah in Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 4:49. We agree with Hengstenberg in taking the words אל־היּמּה המּוּצאים as an emphatic summing up of the previous statement concerning the outflow of the water, to which the explanation concerning its effect upon the Dead Sea is attached, and supply בּאוּ from the clause immediately preceding: “the waters of the river that have been brought out (come) to the sea, and the waters of the Dead Sea are healed.” There is no need, therefore, for the emendation proposed by Hitzig, namely, אל היּם הם מוּצאים . So much, however, is beyond all doubt, that היּמּה is no other than the Dead Sea already mentioned. The supposition that it is the Mediterranean Sea (Chald., Ros., Ewald, and others) cannot be reconciled with the words, and has only been transferred to this passage from Zechariah 14:8. נרפּא signifies, as in 2 Kings 2:22, the healing or rendering wholesome of water that is injurious or destructive to life. The character of the Dead Sea, with which the ancients were also well acquainted, and of which Tacitus writes as follows: Lacus immenso ambitu, specie maris sapore corruptior, gravitate odoris accolis pestifer, neque vento impellitur neque pisces aut suetas aquis volucres patitur ( Hist . v. c. 6), - a statement confirmed by all modern travellers (cf. v. Raumer, Pal . pp. 61ff., and Robinson, Physical Geography of the Holy Land ), - is regarded as a disease of the water, which is healed or turned into wholesome water in which fishes can live, by the water of the river proceeding from the sanctuary. The healing and life-giving effect of this river upon the Dead Sea is described in Ezekiel 47:9 and Ezekiel 47:10. Whithersoever the waters of the river come, all animated beings will come to life and flourish.

In Ezekiel 47:9 the dual נחלים occasions some difficulty. It is not likely that the dual should have been used merely for the sake of its resemblance to מים , as Maurer imagines; and still less probable is it that there is any allusion to a junction of the river proceeding from the temple at some point in its course with the Kedron, which also flows into the Dead Sea (Hävernick), as the Kedron is not mentioned either before or afterwards. According to Kliefoth, the dual is intended to indicate a division which takes place in the waters of the river, that have hitherto flowed on together, as soon as they enter the sea. But this would certainly have been expressed more clearly. Hengstenberg takes the expression “double river” to mean a river with a strong current, and refers to Jeremiah 50:21 in support of this. This is probably the best explanation; for nothing is gained by altering the text into נחלם (Ewald) or נחלים (Hitzig), as נחל does not require definition by means of a suffix, nor doe the plural answer to the context. is to be taken in connection with אשׁר ישׁרץ : “wherewith it swarms whithersoever the river comes;” though אל does not stand for על after Genesis 7:21, as Hitzig supposes, but is to be explained from a species of attraction, as in Genesis 20:13. יחיה is a pregnant expression, to revive, to come to life. The words are not to be understood, however, as meaning that there were living creatures in the Dead Sea before the health-giving water flowed into it; the thought is simply, that whithersoever the waters of the river come, there come into existence living creatures in the Dead Sea, so that it swarms with them. In addition to the שׁרץ , the quantity of fish is specially mentioned; and in the second hemistich the reason is assigned for the number of living creatures that come into existence by a second allusion to the health-giving power of the water of the river. The subject to וירפאוּ , viz., the waters of the Dead Sea, is to be supplied from the context. The great abundance of fish in the Dead Sea produced by the river is still further depicted in Ezekiel 47:10. Fishermen will spread their nets along its coast from Engedi to Eneglaim ; and as for their kind, there will be as many kinds of fish there as are to be found in the great or Mediterranean Sea. עין גּדי , i.e., Goat's spring, now Ain-Jidi , a spring in the middle of the west coast of the Dead Sea, with ruins of several ancient buildings (see the comm. on Joshua 15:62, and v. Raumer, Pal . p. 188). עין עגלים has not yet been discovered, though, from the statement of Jerome, “ Engallim is at the beginning of the Dead Sea, where the Jordan enters it,” it has been conjectured that it is to be found in Ain el-Feshkhah , a spring at the northern end of the west coast, where there are also ruins of a small square tower and other buildings to be seen (vid., Robinson's Palestine , II pp. 491, 492), as none of the other springs on the west coast, of which there are but few, answer so well as this. למינה is pointed without Mappik , probably because the Masoretes did not regard the ה as a suffix, as the noun to which it alludes does not follow till afterwards. - Ezekiel 47:11 introduces an exception, namely, that notwithstanding this the Dead Sea will still retain marshes or pools and swamps, which will not be made wholesome ( בּצּאת for בּצּות , pools). An allusion to the natural character of the Dead Sea underlies the words. “In the rainy season, when the sea is full, its waters overspread many low tracts of marsh land, which remain after the receding of the water in the form of moist pools or basins; and as the water in these pools evaporates rapidly, the ground becomes covered with a thick crust of salt” (Robinson's Physical Geography , p. 215). למלח נתּנוּ , they are given up to salt, i.e., destined to remain salt, because the waters of the river do not reach them. The light in which the salt is regarded here is not that of its seasoning properties, but, in the words of Hengstenberg, “as the foe to all fruitfulness, all life and prosperity, as Pliny has said ( Hist. Nat . xxxi. c. 7: Omnis locus, in quo reperitur sal, sterilis est nihilque gignit ”) (cf. Deuteronomy 29:22; Jeremiah 17:6; Zephaniah 2:9; Psalms 107:34). - In Ezekiel 47:12 the effect of the water of the river upon the vegetation of the ground, already mentioned in Ezekiel 47:7, is still further described. On its coast grow all kinds of trees with edible fruits ( עץ מאכל , as in Leviticus 19:23), whose leaves do not wither, and whose fruits do not fail, but ripen every month ( בּכּר , or produce first-fruits, i.e., fresh fruits; and לחדשׁים distributive, as in Isaiah 47:13), because the waters which moisten the soil proceed from the sanctuary, i.e., “directly and immediately from the dwelling-place of Him who is the author of all vital power and fruitfulness” (Hitzig). The leaves and fruits of these trees therefore possess supernatural powers. The fruits serve as food, i.e., for the maintenance of the life produced by the river of water; the leaves as medicine ( תּרוּפה from רוּף = רפא , healing), i.e., for the healing of the sick and corrupt ( εἰς θεραπείαν , Revelation 22:2).

In the effect of the water proceeding from the sanctuary upon the Dead Sea and the land on its shores, as described in Ezekiel 47:8-12, the significance of this stream of water in relation to the new kingdom of God is implied. If, then, the question be asked, what we are to understand by this water, whether we are to take it in a literal sense as the temple spring, or in a spiritual and symbolical sense, the complete answer can only be given in connection with the interpretation of the whole of the temple vision (Ezekiel 40-48). Even if we assume for the moment, however, that the description of the new temple, with the worship appointed for it, and the fresh division of Canaan, is to be understood literally, and therefore that the building of an earthly temple upon a high mountain in the most holy terumah of the land set apart for Jehovah, and a renewal of the bleeding sacrifices in this temple by the twelve tribes of Israel, when restored to Palestine from the heathen lands, are to be taken for granted, it would be difficult to combine with this a literal interpretation of what is said concerning the effect of the temple spring. It is true that in Volck's opinion “we are to think of a glorification of nature;” but even this does not remove the difficulties which stand in the way of a literal interpretation of the temple spring. According to Ezekiel 47:12, its waters posses the life-giving and healing power ascribed to them because they issue from the sanctuary. But how does the possession by the water of the power to effect the glorification of nature harmonize with its issuing from a temple in which bullocks, rams, calves, and goats are slaughtered and sacrificed? - Volck is still further of opinion that, with the spiritual interpretation of the temple spring, “nothing at all could be made of the fishermen;” because, for example, he cannot conceive of the spiritual interpretation in any other way than as an allegorical translation of all the separate features of the prophetic picture into spiritual things. But he has failed to consider that the fishermen with their nets on the shore of the sea, once dead, but now swarming with fish, are irreconcilably opposed to the assumption of a glorification of nature in the holy land, just because the inhabitants of the globe or holy land, in its paradisaically glorified state, will no more eat fish or other flesh, according to the teaching of Scripture, than the first men in Paradise. When once the wolf shall feed with the lamb, the leopard with the kid, the cow with the bear, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, under the sceptre of the sprout from the stem of Jesse, then will men also cease their fishing, and no longer slaughter and eat either oxen or goats. To this the Israelites will form no exception in their glorified land of Canaan. - And if even these features in the vision before us decidedly favour the figurative or spiritual view of the temple spring, the necessity for this explanation is placed beyond the reach of doubt by a comparison of our picture with the parallel passages. According to Joel 4:18, at the time when a spring issues from the house of Jehovah and the vale of Shittim is watered, the mountains trickle with new wine, and the hills run with milk. If, then, in this case we understand what is affirmed of the temple spring literally, the trickling of the mountains with new wine and the flowing of the hills with milk must be taken literally as well. But we are unable to attain to the belief that in the glorified land of Israel the mountains will be turned into springs of new wine, and the hills into fountains of milk, and in the words of the whole verse we can discern nothing but a figurative description of the abundant streams of blessing which will then pour over the entire land. And just as in Joel the context points indisputably to a non-literal or figurative explanation, so also does the free manner in which Zechariah uses this prophecy of his predecessors, speaking only of living waters which issue from Jerusalem, and flow half into the eastern (i.e., the Dead) sea, and half into the western (i.e., the Mediterranean) sea (Zechariah 14:8), show that he was not thinking of an actual spring with earthly water. And here we are still provisionally passing by the application made of this feature in the prophetic descriptions of the glory of the new kingdom of God in the picture of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1 and Revelation 22:2).

The figurative interpretation, or spiritual explanation, is moreover favoured by the analogy of the Scriptures. “Water,” which renders the unfruitful land fertile, and supplies refreshing drink to the thirsty, is used in Scripture as a figure denoting blessing and salvation, which had been represented even in Paradise in the form of watering (cf. Genesis 13:10). In Isaiah 12:3, “and with joy ye draw water from the wells of salvation,” the figure is expressly interpreted. And so also in Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour water upon the thirsty one, and streams upon the desert; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:” where the blessing answers to the water, the Spirit is named as the principal form in which the blessing is manifested, “the foundation of all other salvation for the people of God” (Hengstenberg). This salvation, which Joel had already described as a spring issuing from the house of Jehovah and watering the dry acacia valley, Ezekiel saw in a visionary embodiment as water, which sprang from under the threshold of the temple into which the glory of the Lord entered, and had swollen at a short distance off into so mighty a river that it was no longer possible to wade through. In this way the thought is symbolized, that the salvation which the Lord causes to flow down to His people from His throne will pour down from small beginnings in marvellously increasing fulness. The river flows on into the barren, desolate waste of the Ghor, and finally into the Dead Sea, and makes the waters thereof sound, so that it swarms with fishes. The waste is a figure denoting the spiritual drought and desolation, and the Dead Sea a symbol of the death caused by sin. The healing and quickening of the salt waters of that sea, so fatal to all life, set forth the power of that divine salvation which conquers death, and the calling to life of the world sunk in spiritual death. From this comes life in its creative fulness and manifold variety, as shown both by the figure of the fishermen who spread their nets along the shore, and by the reference to the kinds of fish, which are as manifold in their variety as those in the great sea. But life extends no further than the water of salvation flows. Wherever it cannot reach, the world continues to life in death. The pools and swamps of the Dead Sea are still given up to salt. And lastly, the water of salvation also possesses the power to produce trees with leaves and fruits, by which the life called forth from death can be sustained and cured of all diseases. This is the meaning, according to the express statement of the text, of the trees with their never withering leaves, upon the banks of the river, and their fruits ripening every month.

Verses 13-23

Boundaries of the Land to be Divided among the Tribes of Israel.

Ezekiel 47:13. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, This is the boundary according to which ye shall divide the land among you for an inheritance, for Joseph portions. Ezekiel 47:14. And ye shall receive it for an inheritance, one as well as another, because I lifted up my hand to give it to your fathers; and thus shall this land fall to you for an inheritance. Ezekiel 47:15. And this is the boundary of the land: toward the north side, from the great sea onwards by the way to Chetlon, in the direction of Zedad; Ezekiel 47:16. Hamath, Berotah, Sibraim, which is between the boundary of Damascus and the boundary of Hamath, the central Hazer, which is on the boundary of Haruan. Ezekiel 47:17. And the boundary from the sea shall be Hazar-Enon, the boundary town of Damascus; and as for the north northwards, Hamath is the boundary. This, the north side. Ezekiel 47:18. And the east side between Hauran and Damascus and Gilead and the land of Israel, shall be the Jordan; from the boundary to the eastern sea ye shall measure. This, the east side. Ezekiel 47:19. And the south side toward the south; from Tamar to the water of strife, Kadesh, along the brook to the great sea. This, the south side toward the south. Ezekiel 47:20. And the west side; the great sea from the boundary to Hamath. This, the west side. Ezekiel 47:21. This land shall ye divide among you according to the tribes of Israel. Ezekiel 47:22. And it shall come to pass, ye shall divide it by lot among yourselves for an inheritance, and among the foreigners who dwell in the midst of you, who have begotten sons in the midst of you; they shall be to you like natives born among the sons of Israel; they shall cast lots with you for an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Ezekiel 47:23. And it shall come to pass, in the tribe in which the foreigner dwells, there shall ye give him his inheritance, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.

The fixing of the boundary of the land which Israel was to divide in future according to its twelve tribes is commenced (Ezekiel 47:13 and Ezekiel 47:14) and concluded (Ezekiel 47:22 and Ezekiel 47:23) with certain general statements concerning the distribution. The introductory statements are attached to the heading “this is the boundary,” which is therefore repeated in Ezekiel 47:15. גּה is evidently a copyist's error for זה , which is adopted by all the older translators, contained in some Codd ., and demanded by וזה in Ezekiel 47:15. גּבוּל stands here for the whole of the boundary of the land to be distributed; and אשׁר which follows is an accusative, “according to which.” - ”According to the twelve tribes,” - for all Israel is to return and dwell as one people of God under one prince in its own land (Ezekiel 36:24., Ezekiel 37:21.). But the division among the twelve tribes is more precisely defined immediately afterwards by the clause abruptly appended, “Joseph portions,” i.e., two portions for Joseph. There can be no doubt that this is the meaning of the words in accordance with Genesis 48:22 and Joshua 17:14, Joshua 17:17. Hence the notice-like form of the expression, which should not be obliterated by pointing חבלים as a dual, חבלים . If the land was to be divided by lot according to twelve tribes, and the tribe of Levi was to receive its portion from the terumah which was set apart, Joseph must necessarily receive two hereditary portions for his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, in accordance with the appointment of the patriarch in Genesis 48:22. The commencement of Ezekiel 47:14 is not at variance with this, as Hitzig imagines; for the words, “ye shall receive it for an inheritance, one as another,” simply affirm, that of the twelve tribes reckoned by Israel in relation to the נחלה , all were to receive equal shares, the one as much as the other. As the reason for this command to divide the land, allusion is made to the oath with which God promised to give this land to the fathers (cf. Ezekiel 20:28).

The definition of the boundaries commences with Ezekiel 47:15. In form it differs in many points from Numbers 34:1-5, but in actual fact it is in harmony with the Mosaic definition. In Num 34 the description commences with the southern boundary, then proceeds to the western and northern boundaries, and closes with the eastern. In Ezekiel it commences with the northern boundary and proceeds to the east, the south, and the west. This difference may be explained in a very simple manner, from the fact that the Israelites in the time of Moses came from Egypt i.e., marching from the south, and stood by the south-eastern boundary of the land, whereas at this time they were carried away into the northern lands Assyria and Babylon, and were regarded as returning thence. Again, in Ezekiel the boundaries are described much more briefly than in Num 34, the northern boundary alone being somewhat more circumstantially described. The course which it takes is represented in a general manner in Ezekiel 47:15 as running from the great sea, i.e., the Mediterranean, by the way to Chetlon, in the direction toward Zedad. In Ezekiel 47:16 and Ezekiel 47:17 there follow the places which formed the boundary. The starting-point on the Mediterranean Sea can only be approximately determined, as the places mentioned, Chetlon and Zedad, are still unknown. Not only Chetlon , but Zedad also, has not yet been discovered. The city of Sadad ( Sudud ), to the east of the road leading from Damascus to Hums (Emesa), which Robinson and Wetzstein suppose to be the same, lies much too far toward the east to be used in defining the boundary either here or in Numbers 34:8 (see the comm. on Numbers 34:8). Among the names enumerated in Ezekiel 47:16, חמת is not the city of Hamah on the Orontes, which lay much too far to the north, but the kingdom of Hamath , the southern boundary of which formed the northern boundary of Canaan, though it cannot be given with exactness. Berothah is probably identical with Berothai in 2 Samuel 8:8, a city of the king of Zobah; but the situation of it is still unknown. Sibraim may perhaps be identical with Ziphron in Numbers 34:9, which has also not yet been discovered, and is not to be sought for in the ruins of Zifran , to the north-east of Damascus, near the road to Palmyra; for that place could not form the boundary of Damascus and Hamath. The situation of the “central Hazer ” has also not yet been determined. Hauran , on the boundary of which it stood, is used here in a more comprehensive sense that ̓Αυρανῖτις in Josephus and other Greek authors, and includes the later Auranitis , together with Gaulanitis (Golan) and Batanaea (Bashan), and probably also Ituraea , as only Damascus and Gilead are named in Ezekiel 47:18 in addition to Hauran, on the east side of the Jordan; so that the whole tract of land between the territory of Damascus and the country of Gilead is embraced by the name Hauran. חורן , Arab. Hawrân , is derived from the number of caves ( חור , חוּר ) in that district, to which Wetzstein ( Reiseber . p. 92) indeed raises the objection that with the exception of the eastern and south-eastern Hauran, where no doubt most of the volcanic hills have been perforated by troglodytes, the dwellings in caves are by no means common in that region. But the name may have originated in this eastern district, and possibly have included even that portion of Gilead which was situated to the north of the Jabbok, namely, Erbed and Suët , the true cave-country. For further remarks concerning these districts, see the comm. on Deuteronomy 3:4 and Deuteronomy 3:10. The statement in Ezekiel 47:17 , “the boundary from the sea shall be Hazar-Enon , the boundary of Damascus,” cannot have any other meaning than that the northern boundary, which started from the Mediterranean Sea, stretched as far as Hazar - Enon , the frontier city of Damascus, or that Hazar-Enon formed the terminal point on the east, toward the boundary of Damascus, for the northern boundary proceeding from the sea. חצר עינון or חצר עינן (Numbers 34:9), i.e., spring-court, we have endeavoured to identify in the comm. on Numbers 34:3 with the spring Lebweh , which lies in the Bekâa at the watershed between the Orontes and the Leontes; and the designation “the boundary of Damascus” suits the situation very well. Ezekiel 47:17 has been aptly explained by Hitzig thus, in accordance with the literal meaning of the words, “and as for the north north-wards, Hamath is the boundary,” which he further elucidates by observing that צפונה is intended as a supplementary note to the boundary line from west to east, which is indicated just before. ואת פּאת צפון is a concluding formula: “this, the north side.” But ואת (here and Ezekiel 47:18 and Ezekiel 47:19) is not to be altered into זאת after Ezekiel 47:20 and the Syriac version, as Hitzig supposes, but to be explained, as Ezekiel 47:18 clearly shows, on the supposition that Ezekiel had תּמודּוּ , “ye shall measure,” floating before his mind, to which ' ואת פ , “and that the northern boundary,” would form a correct logical sequel.

The eastern boundary is defined in v. 18 in the same manner as in Numbers 34:10-12, except that in the latter it is more minutely described above the Lake of Gennesaret by the mention of several localities, whereas Ezekiel only names the Jordan as the boundary. - פּאת , with supplementary remarks, is not to be taken as the predicate to the subject היּרדּן , as Hitzig has correctly observed; for the meaning of פּאה does not allow of this. The explanation is rather this: as for the east side, between Hauran, etc. and the land of Israel, is the Jordan. Hauran, Damascus, and Gilead lie on the east side of the Jordan, the land of Israel on the west side. The striking circumstance that Ezekiel commences with Hauran, which lay in the middle between Damascus and Gilead, - Hauran, Damascus, and Gilead, instead of Damascus, Hauran, and Gilead, - may probably be explained from the fact that the Jordan, which he names as the boundary, for the sake of brevity, did not extend so far upwards as to the territory of Damascus, but simply formed the boundary of the land of Israel between Hauran and Gilead. מגּבוּל points back to the northern boundary already mentioned. From this boundary, the eastern terminal point of which was Hazar-Enon , they are to measure to the eastern sea, i.e., to the Dead Sea.

Ezekiel 47:19. The southern boundary toward the south is to proceed from Tamar to the water of strife, Kadesh, (and thence) along the brook to the great (i.e., Mediterranean) sea. Tamar , a different place from Hazazon-tamar , called Engedi in Ezekiel 47:10 (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:2), is supposed to be the Thamara ( Θαμαρά ),

(Note: The statement runs thus: λέγεται δέ τις Θαμαρά κώμη διεστώσα Μάψις ἡμέρας ὁδόν, ἀπιόντων ἀπὸ Χεβρὼν εἰς Αἰλάμ, ἥτις νῦν φρούριόν ἐστι τῶν στρατιωτῶν . In Jerome: est et aliud castellum, unius diei itinere a Mampsis oppido separatum, pergentibus Ailiam de Chebron, ubi nunc romanum praesidium positum est . But on account of the Μάψις ( Mampsis ), which is evidently a corruption, the passage is obscure. Robinson's conjecture concerning Thamara is founded upon the assumption that the reading should be Μάλις , and that this is the Malatha mentioned by later writers as the station of a Roman cohort.)

which was a day's journey on the road from Hebron to Aelam ( Aelath , Deuteronomy 2:8; 1 Kings 9:26), according to Eusebius in the Onomast . ed. Lars. p. 68, and had a Roman garrison; and Robinson ( Pal . III pp. 178 and 186ff.) accordingly conjectures that it is to be found in the ruins of Kurnub , which lie six hours' journey to the south of Milh , toward the pass of es-Sufâh . But this conjecture is bound up with various assumptions of a very questionable character, and the situation of Hurnub hardly suits the Tamar of our passage, which should be sought, not to the west of the southern point of the Dead Sea, but, according to the southern boundary of Canaan as drawn in Numbers 34:3-5, to the south of the Dead Sea. The waters of strife of Kadesh (Numbers 20:1-13), in the desert of Zin, were near Kadesh-barnea, which was in the neighbourhood of the spring Ain Kades , discovered by Rowland to the south of Bir-Seba and Khalasa by the fore-courts of Jebel Helal , i.e., at the north-west corner of the mountain land of the Azazimeh (see the comm. on Numbers 10:12; Numbers 12:16, and Numbers 20:16). Instead of מריבות we have the singular מריבת in Ezekiel 48:28, as in Numbers 27:14 and Deuteronomy 32:51. נחלה is to be pointed נחלה , from נחל with ה loc .; and the reference is to the brook of Egypt; the great wady el-Arish ( ̔Ρινοκορουρα ), along which the southern boundary of Canaan ran from Kadesh to the Mediterranean Sea (see the comm. on Ezekiel 34:5). - Ezekiel 47:20. The Mediterranean Sea formed the western boundary. מגּבוּל , i.e., from the southern boundary mentioned in Ezekiel 47:19 till opposite ( עד ) to the coming to Hamath, i.e., till opposite to the point at which one enters the territory of Hamath (Hitzig), i.e., the spot mentioned in Ezekiel 47:20 (? 17) as the commencement of the northern boundary in the neighbourhood of the promontory of esh-Shûkah between Byblus (Gebal) and Tripolis. - Ezekiel 47:21. This land they are to divide among them according to their tribes. With this remark, which points back to Ezekiel 47:13, the definition of the boundaries is brought to a close. There is simply added in Ezekiel 47:22 and Ezekiel 47:23 a further regulation concerning the foreigners living in Israel. The law of Moses had already repeatedly urged upon the Israelites affectionate treatment of them, and in Leviticus 19:34 the command is given to treat them like natives in this respect, and to love them. But the full right of citizenship was not thereby conceded to them, so that they could also acquire property in land. The land was given to the Israelites alone for an hereditary possession. Foreigners could only be incorporated into the congregation of Israel under the limitations laid down in Deuteronomy 23:2-9, by the reception of circumcision. But in the future distribution of the land, on the contrary, the גּרים were to receive hereditary property like native-born Israelites; and in this respect no difference was to exist between the members of the people of God born of Abraham's seed and those born of the heathen. At the same time, this right was not to be conferred upon every foreigner who might be only temporarily living in Israel, but to those alone who should beget sons in the midst of Israel, i.e., settle permanently in the holy land. The Kal יפּלוּ is not to be altered into the Hiphil תּפּילוּ , as Hitzig proposes, but is used in the sense of receiving by lot, derived from the Hiphil signification, “to apportion by lot.”


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47:4". 1854-1889.

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