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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 47

 

 

Introduction

Ezekiel 40-48. Religious Organisation of the People in the Messianic Days.

To a modern taste these chapters, crowded with architectural and ritual detail, may seem dreary and irrelevant: to Ezekiel they are the real climax of his book, the crown as well as the conclusion of all his literary and religious activity. The past had been stained with the record of innumerable sins against the holiness of Yahweh (Ezekiel 16, etc.)—His ritual no less than His ethical holiness: that must be made for ever impossible. As the God is holy, so must the people and the land be holy, and to a man of Ezekiel's priestly temper, that can be secured only by a definitely organised religious constitution and by a minutely prescribed ritual. Already we have seen how scrupulously the land was swept clean of whatsoever defiled it (Ezekiel 39:11-16) after the terrific assault of Gog and his hordes: this is significant of the punctilious purity which must everywhere prevail, and most of all in the formal worship of the sanctuary. True, the people of the latter days will be in possession of the spirit (Ezekiel 39:29); but spirit must express itself, and the expression must be correct. In this Ezekiel furnishes a very striking contrast to the severe spirituality of Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 3:16; Jeremiah 31:33).

Two considerations should be steadily held before the mind in pursuing one's way through the labyrinthine detail which seems to stand in so little real relation to pure and undefiled religion. (a) One is supplied by the very last phrase of the book—"Yahweh is there" (Ezekiel 48:35). This is the name of the holy city whose Temple, worship, and ministers are described with so thorough and faithful a minuteness. He is there—there, and nowhere else with the same completeness, i.e. among the people whose whole life and worship and approach to God are regulated by the standards laid down by His inspired prophet. This broad principle explains and controls the detail, and helps us to approach it more sympathetically, when we see the faith and hope, the devotion and enthusiasm by which it is inspired. (b) This whole section, ordaining the conditions by which the people and priests may maintain the requisite holiness and so make it possible for their holy God to return and dwell among them, is most fully appreciated when it is seen as the happy counterpart of the stern chapters 8-11 with their vivid descriptions of the base idolatries of Israel, and the solemn departure of Yahweh which those idolatries had occasioned. The lurid past is gone, and already Ezekiel beholds the dawning light of the radiant future, when it may be said of the people, "Yahweh dwells among them," and of the city, "Yahweh is there." The uninviting detail is lit with the presence of the God who had once withdrawn because His holiness had been insulted, but who has returned to abide with His people for evermore, because they know and do His holy will, as thus revealed.

The section is of great importance in the criticism of the Pentateuch, and for the historical reconstruction of the development of OT. Without going into detail, suffice it here to say broadly that the legislation here sketched is an advance on Dt., and prepares the way for the more elaborate legislation of the so-called Priestly Code (P) embodied in the Book of Lev. and the cognate sections of Ex. and Nu. This entirely agrees with what we know of the dates of the other codes. There are excellent reasons for believing that the Deuteronomic legislation was promulgated in the seventh century B.C. (621) and the Priestly Code in the fifth. Ezekiel's sketch comes between—in the sixth: its date, to be precise, is 572 (401). It is his last legacy to his people, conceived in the maturity of his power, elaborated with superlative accuracy, instinct with practical wisdom, and destined to exercise an immeasurable influence over the subsequent religious development of his people. See further pp. 46f., 129, 131.

Ezekiel 47, 48. The Holy Land, its Beauty, Boundaries, and Divisions.

Now that the Temple and its worship, which are indispensable to the welfare of the land, have been described, Ezekiel directs his parting glance to the land itself, introducing his description with a beautiful and suggestive picture, particularly refreshing after the long stretch of minute ceremonial detail, of the life-giving stream that flowed from the heart of the sanctuary. The clearness and keenness with which the prophet's imagination is working, comes out in the frequent repetition of the word "Behold."


Verses 1-12

Ezekiel 47, 48. The Holy Land, its Beauty, Boundaries, and Divisions.

Now that the Temple and its worship, which are indispensable to the welfare of the land, have been described, Ezekiel directs his parting glance to the land itself, introducing his description with a beautiful and suggestive picture, particularly refreshing after the long stretch of minute ceremonial detail, of the life-giving stream that flowed from the heart of the sanctuary. The clearness and keenness with which the prophet's imagination is working, comes out in the frequent repetition of the word "Behold."

Ezekiel 47:1-12. The River of Life.—From under the threshold of the Temple the prophet, led by his supernatural guide, is startled to see water trickling out and flowing past the altar eastwards, growing deeper and stronger as it flows, in the direction of the Dead Sea, into which it finally falls. On the banks of the river were trees both fair and fruitful, which yielded food for the hungry, and healing for the sick; to all the desert region through which it flowed it brought beauty and life, and the life which it brought to the waters of the Dead Sea was abundantly evidenced by the shoals of fish, which recalled the teeming life of the great (Mediterranean) sea. The eyes of the prophet's faith can see even the fishermen with their boats and nets, all the way from Engedi on the middle of its western shores to Eneglaim on the north. Only the salt swamps and marshes in the neighbourhood of the sea would remain unaffected, in order that salt in the future might be as abundant as now. This splendid imagination vividly suggests the beneficent and life-giving influences that will stream forth from the Church of God upon the sick and famished souls of a dead and arid world. (In Ezekiel 47:8, "into the sea, etc." should read "into the salt waters.")


Verses 13-20

Ezekiel 47:13-20. Boundaries of the Land.—The northern boundary was to run from a point on the Mediterranean a little north of Tyre eastward in the direction of Damascus, the eastern boundary would stretch along the sea of Galilee, the Jordan, and the Dead Sea to a point a little to the south, the southern boundary ran from this point west to the Mediterranean, which naturally constituted the western boundary. No land was included east of the Jordan. As Levi did not count (Ezekiel 44:28), the number twelve was made up by reckoning Joseph (Ezekiel 47:13) as two tribes—Ephraim and Manasseh. (Many of the places named in this list are unidentified.)


Verses 21-23

Ezekiel 47:21-23. The Law of the Alien.—For the purposes of the allotment, resident aliens who had families were to be reckoned as native Israelites.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ezekiel 47:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ezekiel-47.html. 1919.

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