The Word Made Fresh
1Then he brought me back to the temple’s entrance. Water was flowing from the base of the temple entrance toward the east, for the temple faced east. The water was flowing from below the southern end of the entrance of the temple, which was toward the south from the altar. 2Then he brought me out through the north gate and led me around outside to the outer gate that faces east. The water was flowing from the south side.
3Continuing eastward with a rope in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, which was ankle-deep. 4He measured another thousand cubits and led me through the water which was now knee-deep. He measured another thousand cubits and led me through the water which was now waist deep. 5Yet again he measured a thousand cubits, and it was now a river I could not walk across for the water had risen to the point that it was deep enough to swim in and too wide to cross on foot. 6“Son of man, have you seen this?” he asked.
Then he led me back along the riverbank. 7As I was returning I saw a lot of trees on the banks of both sides of the river. 8He said, “This river flows toward the lands to the east and goes on down to the Arabah. When it enters the lake of stagnant water, the water will become fresh. 9Wherever the river goes, all the animals that swarm will live, and there will be plenty of fish once the waters reach there. It will then become fresh water, and everything will live wherever the river flows. 10People will stand and fish beside it from En-Gedi to En-Eglaim. It will be a place to spread the nets, and it will have many kinds of fish, like the fish in the Great Sea (the Mediterranean). 11But its swamps and marshlands will not become fresh, for they are to provide salt. 12On both sides of the river, all kinds of food-producing trees will grow on the banks. Their leaves will not wither nor will their fruit fail. They will continue to bear fruit month by month because the water that feeds them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be edible, and their leaves will have healing properties.”
13“The LORD God says these are the boundaries in which you may divide the land between the twelve tribes of Israel, and it will be their inheritance. Joseph shall be awarded two portions. 14Divide the rest equally. ‘I promised I would give it to your ancestors, and it now falls to you as your inheritance.'”
15The boundary of the land on the north side will be from the Great Sea through Hethlon to Lebo-Hamath and on to Zedad, 16Berothah, Sibraim (between Damascus and Hamath), and on to Hazer-Hatticon on the border with Hauran. 17So, the border will run from the Sea to Hazar-Enon north of the Damascus border. The Hamath border is there, and this shall be the north side.
18On the east between Hauran and Damascus the border will run along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel, then on to the eastern sea as far as Tamar. This is the east side.
19On the south side, the border will run from Tamar as far as the lakes of Meribath-Kadesh, and from there it will continue along the wadi to the Great Sea. This constitutes the south side.
20The Great Sea will be the boundary on the west side, up to Lebo-Hamath.
21So, divide all this land between the tribes of Israel. 22It will be your inheritance. The foreigners among you who have begotten children alongside yours will also be citizens of Israel, and they along with you will be given an inheritance among the Israelite tribes. 23They should be given an inheritance with whatever tribe they reside with, says the LORD.
1-12: In his trance Ezekiel is taken back to the entrance of the temple where he sees a trickle of water flowing from beneath the threshold. The little stream flows around the south side of the altar, then under the outer east gate, the one that is closed forever. He is led out through the north gate and around to the east gate where he sees the water flowing from under the gate. As the man leads him along the course of the stream it grows ever deeper until it is too deep to walk across. He is led back, seeing this time many trees growing on the banks of this new stream. He is told that the water flows on toward the Arabah, a desert region to the east which will now begin to flourish. It flows into the Dead Sea, changing its stagnant water into fresh water. He pictures people lined up along the banks of the once Dead Sea, catching fish of all kinds. The marshes are left for salt, but the sea is fresh water. The angel explains that the trees along the stream produce food. It is a beautiful picture of new life flowing from Mt. Zion.
13-23: Ezekiel, like Moses, is to mark the outer boundaries of the land, now squarely between the Jordan and the Mediterranean and not all the way to the Euphrates (see Genesis 15:18). Then he is to allot territories to all the tribes and to aliens living among the tribes. Even the aliens will be given land within the tribal territory in which they reside. The reason for this surprising move is not difficult to see, however: God wants to be known among all the nations.
This appears to be an easy move from exile to a secure, peaceful land, with plenty of animals, fish, and crops to sustain the people – a land blessed with milk and honey, to use a Biblical description. It will, of course, not be easy, but the point is that God’s people have a future that is worth their obedience to the faith. That future is passed on as a blessing also to foreigners! That’s us, you know.