Ezekiel 47
Pulpit Commentary
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.
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.
Verse 2 - 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 (Ezekiel 46:1), or through the east outer gate, which was always shut (Ezekiel 44:1), 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; see Ewald's 'Syntax of the Hebrew Grammar,' p. 34, Eng. transl.). 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.
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 ancles.
Verse 3. - 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, or "water of vanishing," of the LXX,, 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).
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.
Verse 4. - 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.
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.
Verse 5. - After a fourth distance of a thousand cubits, the waters had risen, or, lifted themselves up (comp. 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 Ezekiel 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 Amen, 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 Ezekiel's river broadened and deepened so suddenly, and apparently without receiving into it any tributaries, clearly pointed to miraculous action.
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.
Verse 6. - 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 Dead Sea was 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.
Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other.
Verse 7. - 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 (ver. 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 (Revelation 22:2).
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.
Verse 8. - 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 LXX. render, or τὴν Γαλιλαίαν, 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. The Arabah signified the low, sterile valley into which the Jordan runs near Jericho, in which are the Dead Sea (hence called "the sea of the Arabah," Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 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 Dead Sea, "the sea of the Arabah," as above stated, and the "eastern sea" as afterwards named (ver. 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 LXX. reads, "(And the water) comes to the sea (ἐπὶ τὸ ὕδωρ τῆς διεκβολῆς), to the sea of the pouring out," i.e. the Dead Sea, into which the river debouches. With this Havernick agrees, rendering, "to the sea of that outflow." Ewald reads, "into the sea of muddy waters," meaning the Dead Sea. Kimchi, "into the sea where the waters are brought forth," i.e. the ocean (the Mediterranean), whoso 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 salubrious, from being hurtful (comp. Exodus 15:23, 25; 2 Kings 2:22). The translation of the LXX., ὑγιάσει τὰ ὕδατα, is inaccurate. The unwholesome character of the Dead Sea is described by Tacitus: "Lucius 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 celled Dead, because there is in it no green plant, no water-fowl in it, no fish, no shell. If the Jordan carry fish into it, they die." "According to the testimony of all antiquity and of most modern travelers," says Robinson ('Bibl. Res.,' 2:226), "there exists within the waters of the Dead Sea no living thing, no 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 waters."
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.
Verse 9. - 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 (comp. Genesis 1:20, 21; Genesis 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. The dual form, נַחֲלַיִם, has been accounted for by Maurer, as having been selected on account of its resemblance to מַיִם; by Hävernick and Currey, as pointing to the junction of another river, the Kedron (Hävernick), the Jordan (Currey), with the temple-stream before the latter, should fall into the sea; by Kliefoth, as alluding to a division of the river waters after entering the sea; by Neumann and Schroder, as referring to the waters of the sea and the waters of the river, which should henceforth be united; and by Hengstenberg, with whom Keil and Plumptre agree, as a dual of intensification (as in Jeremiah 1:21), signifying "double river," with allusion to its greatness, or the strength of its current. None of these interpretations is free from objection; though probably, in default of better, the last is best. Ewald changes the dual into נַחְלָם, a singular with a suffix, while Hitzig makes of it a plural; but neither of these devices is satisfactory. 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.
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.
Verse 10. - As another consequence of the inflowing of this river into the Dead Sea, it is stated that the fishers (rather, fishers, without the article) 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 (comp. Ezekiel 26:5). Engedi, עֵין גֶּדִי, meaning "Fountain of the kid;" originally styled Hazezon-Tamar (2 Chronicles 20:2), now called 'Ain Jidy (Robinson,' Bibl. Res.,' 2:214), was situated in the middle of the west coast of the Dead Sea, and not at its 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 Dead Sea, and is usually identified with 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 Dead Sea, which, Smend notes, was given up by the prophet to the sons of the East.
But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.
Verse 11. - 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; Job 40:21) and the marshes thereof גְבָיָאו, "its pools and sloughs" (comp. Isaiah 30:14, where the term-signifies a reservoir for water, or cistern), were the low tracts of land upon the borders of the Dead Sea, which in the rainy season, when its waters overflowed, became 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. When the waters of the above-mentioned pools have been dried up or evaporated, they leave behind them a deposit of salt (see Robinson, 'Bibl. Res.,' 2:226), and Canon Driver ('Literature of the Old Testament,' p. 276), following Smend, conceives that the above-named miry places and marshes in the vicinity of the Dead Sea were to be allowed to remain as they were on account of the excellent salt which they furnished. (On the supposed (!) excellence of the salt derived from the Dead Sea, Thomson's 'Land and the Book,' p. 616, may be consulted.) If this, however, were the correct import of the prophet's words, then the clause would describe an additional blessing to be enjoyed by the land, viz. that the temple-river would not be permitted to spoil its "salt-pans;" but 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).
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.
Verse 12. - 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 ver. 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 (comp. 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 Revelation 22:2. On this whole vision the remarks of Thomson, in 'The Land and the Book' (pp. 660-663), are worthy of being consulted.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; This shall be the border, whereby ye shall inherit the land according to the twelve tribes of Israel: Joseph shall have two portions.
Verses 13-23. - The boundaries of the land, and the manner of its division. Verse 13. - Thus saith the Lord. The usual formula introducing a new Divine enactment (comp. Ezekiel 43:18; Ezekiel 44:9; Ezekiel 45:9, 18; Ezekiel 46:1, 16). This. גֵה is obviously a copyist's error for זֶה, which the LXX., 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 ver. 15. The border, whereby ye shall inherit the land; or, divide the land for inheritance (Revised Version). The term גְּבוּל, applied in Ezekiel 43:13, 17 to the border of the altar here signifies the boundary or limit of the land. (For the verb, comp. Numbers 32:18; Numbers 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-cede to denote "tribes" is מַטּות (Numbers 26:55; Numbers 30:1; Numbers 31:4; Numbers 33:54; Joshua 14:1; Joshua 21:1; Joshua 22:14), which is never used by Ezekiel, who habitually selects, as here, the term שְׁבָטִים (Ezekiel 37:19; Ezekiel 45:8; Ezekiel 48:1), which also was not unknown to the priest-cede (Exodus 39:14; Numbers 18:2; Joshua 13:29; Joshua 21:16; Joshua 22:9, 10, 11, 13). That is to say, if the priest-cede existed before Ezekiel, he had the choice of both terms, and selected shebhet; whereas if Ezekiel existed before the priest-cede, 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-cede rather than of the priest-cede 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).
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.
Verse 14. - Ye shall inherit it, one as well as another; literally, a man as his brother - the customary Hebrew phrase for "equally" (see, however, 2 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 Ezekiel 20:5, 6, 15, 23, 28, 42), signifying "to swear" (comp. Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 33:40) - to give it unto their fathers (see Genesis 12:7; Genesis 18:8; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 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.
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;
Verse 15. - 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 Mediterranean, by the way of Hethlon, as men go to (or, unto the entering in of) Zedad. The former of these places (Chethlon), which is again mentioned in Ezekiel 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 Sadad (Sudud), east of the road leading from Damascus to Humo (Emesa), and therefore west of Hamath; but as Hamath in all probability lay to the east of Zedad, this opinion must be rejected.
Hamath, Berothah, Sibraim, which is between the border of Damascus and the border of Hamath; Hazarhatticon, which is by the coast of Hauran.
Verse 16. - 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 Orontes, north of Hermon and Antilibanus (Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3), was the capital of a kingdom to which also belonged Riblah (2 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 sore-reign against Hadadezer of Zoba (2 Samuel 8:9; 1 Chronicles 18:9). It was subsequently conquered by the King of Assyria (2 Kings 18:34). Winer thinks it never belonged to Israel; but Schurer cites 1 Kings 9:19 and 2 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 Israel should extend, not to the town of Hamath, but to the southern boundary of the land of Hamath. Berothah was probably the same as Berothai (2 Samuel 8:8), afterwards called Chun (1 Chronicles 18:8), if Chun is not a textual corruption. The town in question cannot be identified either with the modern Beirut on the Phoenician coast (Conder), since it must have lain 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 Euphrates, which is too far east; or with the Galilaean Berotha, near Kadesh (Josephus), as this is too far south; but must be sought for between Hamath and Damascus, and most likely close to the former. Sibraim, occurring here only, may, on the other hand, be assumed to have lain nearer Damascus, and may, perhaps, be identified with Ziphron (Numbers 34:9), though the site of this town cannot be where Wetstein placed it, at Zifran, north-east of Damascus, and on the road to Palmyra. Smend compares it with Sepharvaim (2 Kings 17:24). Damascus was the well-known capital of Syria (Isaiah 7:8), and the principal emporium of commerce between East and West Asia (Ezekiel 27:18). Its high antiquity is testified by both Scripture (Genesis 14:15; Genesis 15:2) 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 (ver. 17). (On the import of Hatticon, see Exodus 26:28 and 2 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 (LXX.), "Cave-land," so called because of the number of its caverns, was most likely designed to designate "the whole tract of land between Damascus and the country of Gilead" (Keil).
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.
Verse 17. - The northern boundary is further defined as extending from the sea, i.e. the Mediterranean on the west, to Hazar-enan, or 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 Damascus, and as having on the north northward the border or territory of Hamath. The final clause adds, And this is the north side, either understanding וְאֵת, with Gesenius, as equivalent to αὐτός, ipse, "this same," or with Hitzig and Smend, after the Syriac, substituting for it here and in vers. 18, 19 ולֺאת as in ver. 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 ver. 18 shows was in the prophet's mind. Compared with the ancient north boundary of Canaan (Numbers 34:7-9), this appointed by Ezekiel's Torah for the new land shows a marked correspondence.
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.
Verse 18. - 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 Hauran and Damascus and Gilead, and the land of Israel, shall be (the) Jordan; from the (north) border unto the east sea shall ye measure. Smend offers as the correct rendering, The east side goes from between Hauran and Damascus, and from between Gilead and the land of Israel, along the Jordan, from the border unto the east sea. In any case, by this instruction, first the land of Israel was defined as the territory lying west of the Jordan, and secondly its boundary should extend from the last-named north border at its easternmost point, Hazar-enan, down the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea. The practical effect of this would 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 Israel should not possess the land of Gilead as a frontier in the future as formerly, as in that case he would have been at variance, not only with preexisting Scripture (comp. Psalm 60:7; Micah 7:14; Jeremiah 1:19; Zechariah 10:10), but with subsequent history.
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.
Verse 19. - The south boundary. This should begin where the east boundary terminated, viz. at Tamar, "Palm tree." Different from Hazezon-Tamar, or Engedi (ver. 10; 2 Chronicles 20:2), which lay too far up the west side of the sea, Tamar can hardly be identified either with the Tamar of 1 Kings 9:18 near Tadmor in the wilderness, or with the Thamara (Θαμαρά) of Eusebius between Hebron and Elath, supposed by 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 Dead Sea The most plausible conjecture is that Tamar was "a village near the southern end of the Dead Sea" (Currey). Proceeding westward, the southern boundary should reach to the waters of strife in Kadesh; better, to the waters of Meribotk Kadesh. These were in the Desert of Sin, near Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 20:1-13), which, again, was on the road from Hebron to Egypt (Genesis 16:14). The exact site, however, of Kadesh-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 Palestine from the south-south-west to the north-north-east, 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 road from Mount Hot. Robinson ('Bibl. Rea,' 2:582) discovers it in 'Ain-el-Weibeh, not far from Petra. A writer (Sin., Smend?) in Riehm ('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 Egypt. Leaving Kadesh, the boundary should continue to the river, or, brook, of Egypt, and thence extend to the great sea, or Mediterranean. The punctuation of גַחֲלָה, which makes the word signify "lot,' must be changed into נַחְלָה, so as to mean "river," since the reference manifestly is to the torrent of Egypt, the Wady-el-Arish, on the borders of Palestine and Egypt, which enters the Mediterranean near Rhinocorura (Ῥινοκόρουρα). In Numbers 34:5 it is called the river of Egypt. And this is the south side southward (see on ver. 17). The correspondence between this line and that of the earlier chart (Numbers 34:4, 5) is once more apparent.
The west side also shall be the great sea from the border, till a man come over against Hamath. This is the west side.
Verse 20. - The western boundary. This, as in Numbers 34:6, should be the great sea from the border, i.e. the southern boundary last mentioned (ver. 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 territory of Hamath (comp. Judges 19:10; Judges 20:43).
So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of Israel.
Verses 21-23. - 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 Israel (see on ver. 13).

(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; Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 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 Israel, and thus anticipates that breaking down of the middle wall of partition which has taken place under the gospel (John 10:16; Romans 2:10, 11; Romans 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 midst of Israel, and show 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 Israel, especially when swelled up by an influx of Gentiles, will be so great (comp. ver. 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. NOTE. - On the boundaries of the land. Smend thinks

(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 territory of Asher to extend so far north as Hamath (see Joshua 19:24-31; and comp. 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 Jordan; and

(4) that in dividing among tribes rather than among families Ezekiel deviates from both the Jehovistic tradition and the priest-code. But

(1) if the above-cited passages do not extend Asher's territory beyond Tyre, Genesis 15:18, which critics assign to the Elohist, one of the 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 river Euphrates as the north boundary of the land, while the same is recognized by the Deuteronomist (Deuteronomy 11:24; 19:8).

(2) 1 Kings 4:24; 1 Kings 8:65; and 2 Kings 14:25 (comp. 2 Chronicles 7:8; 2 Chronicles 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 Jordan land (Numbers 34:10-12), and this was only granted to Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh on their entreaty (Numbers 32:33-42), no ground existed why its withdrawal should be compensated for.

(4) If Ezekiers 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 as-stones 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.

And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an 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 Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.
And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord GOD.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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