Ezekiel 48 – “The LORD is There”
A. The division of the land.
1. (1-8) The seven northern tribes.
“Now these are the names of the tribes: From the northern border along the road to Hethlon at the entrance of Hamath, to Hazar Enan, the border of Damascus northward, in the direction of Hamath, there shall be one section for Dan from its east to its west side; by the border of Dan, from the east side to the west, one section for Asher; by the border of Asher, from the east side to the west, one section for Naphtali; by the border of Naphtali, from the east side to the west, one section for Manasseh; by the border of Manasseh, from the east side to the west, one section for Ephraim; by the border of Ephraim, from the east side to the west, one section for Reuben; by the border of Reuben, from the east side to the west, one section for Judah; by the border of Judah, from the east side to the west, shall be the district which you shall set apart, twenty-five thousand cubits in width, and in length the same as one of the other portions, from the east side to the west, with the sanctuary in the center.
a. These are the names of the tribes: Here God listed the seven tribes of Israel that will have a share of the northern portion of land in the coming kingdom period. For a visual representation, the reader is recommended to consult commentaries or other searchable maps and diagrams.
b. There shall be one section for Dan: It seems that the land was apportioned from north to south in bands or layers. One notable difference is that there is no land occupied on the east side of the Jordan River where the three Transjordan tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh) formerly had land.
i. For Dan: Curiously, Dan is omitted in a listing of the tribes regarding the 144,000 in Revelation 7. Many think it was because Dan was the first tribe to embrace idolatry (Genesis 49:16-17 and Judges 17-18). Now, as a demonstration of God’s great grace, not only is Dan included, they are listed first.
ii. For Judah: “It is immediately evident that Judah and Benjamin, the tribes which remained faithful to the Davidic dynasty, will be honored by proximity to the center of the millennial kingdom.” (Feinberg)
2. (9-12) The district of the LORD.
“The district that you shall set apart for the LORD shall be twenty-five thousand cubits in length and ten thousand in width. To these—to the priests—the holy district shall belong: on the north twenty-five thousand cubits in length, on the west ten thousand in width, on the east ten thousand in width, and on the south twenty-five thousand in length. The sanctuary of the LORD shall be in the center. It shall be for the priests of the sons of Zadok, who are sanctified, who have kept My charge, who did not go astray when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went astray. And this district of land that is set apart shall be to them a thing most holy by the border of the Levites.
a. The district that you shall set apart for the LORD: As previously described in Ezekiel 45:1-6, this is an area that Israel will set apart for the LORD. It contains the temple described in Ezekiel 40-43, with the sanctuary of the LORD in the center.
b. It shall be for the priests: This will be a district set aside for the LORD, that He in turn provides for His priests.
3. (13-14) The area for the Levites.
“Opposite the border of the priests, the Levites shall have an area twenty-five thousand cubits in length and ten thousand in width; its entire length shall be twenty-five thousand and its width ten thousand. And they shall not sell or exchange any of it; they may not alienate this best part of the land, for it is holy to the LORD.
a. The Levites shall have an area: Bordering the area of the priests will be land God has set aside for the Levites, who would serve at the temple to support and assist the work of the priests.
b. It is holy to the LORD: The land will remain God’s set-apart possession; therefore the Levites will not be permitted to sell or exchange any of it.
4. (15-20) The land apportioned for the city.
“The five thousand cubits in width that remain, along the edge of the twenty-five thousand, shall be for general use by the city, for dwellings and common-land; and the city shall be in the center. These shall be its measurements: the north side four thousand five hundred cubits, the south side four thousand five hundred, the east side four thousand five hundred, and the west side four thousand five hundred. The common-land of the city shall be: to the north two hundred and fifty cubits, to the south two hundred and fifty, to the east two hundred and fifty, and to the west two hundred and fifty. The rest of the length, alongside the district of the holy section, shall be ten thousand cubits to the east and ten thousand to the west. It shall be adjacent to the district of the holy section, and its produce shall be food for the workers of the city. The workers of the city, from all the tribes of Israel, shall cultivate it. The entire district shall be twenty-five thousand cubits by twenty-five thousand cubits, foursquare. You shall set apart the holy district with the property of the city.
a. Shall be for general use by the city: Here God apportioned land for Jerusalem in the kingdom period. It included land for dwellings and common-land.
i. “The city is about a mile and a half square (Ezekiel 48:16), with an open space on each side (Ezekiel 48:17), and land for cultivation to the east and west (Ezekiel 48:18-19).” (Wright)
ii. “Notice once again the great minuteness of detail. This is more than strange, it is inexplicable, if all the statements are to be taken symbolically. As far as we are aware, no such abundance of details occurs anywhere else in Scripture outside the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and its priestly service, which no orthodox expositor feels called upon to interpret other than with strict literalness. Then it is only consistent to do the same here.” (Feinberg)
b. Its produce shall be food for the workers of the city: There would be land for farms and gardens bringing food to the people and workers of the city.
5. (21-22) The portion for the prince.
“The rest shall belong to the prince, on one side and on the other of the holy district and of the city’s property, next to the twenty-five thousand cubits of the holy district as far as the eastern border, and westward next to the twenty-five thousand as far as the western border, adjacent to the tribal portions; it shall belong to the prince. It shall be the holy district, and the sanctuary of the temple shall be in the center. Moreover, apart from the possession of the Levites and the possession of the city which are in the midst of what belongs to the prince, the area between the border of Judah and the border of Benjamin shall belong to the prince.
a. The rest shall belong to the prince: As previously described in Ezekiel 45:7-8, there will be land set aside for the Messiah’s appointed ruler, the prince.
b. The area between the border of Judah and the border of Benjamin shall belong to the prince: There will be additional lands that would be given to the prince.
6. (23-29) The five southern tribes.
“As for the rest of the tribes, from the east side to the west, Benjamin shall have one section; by the border of Benjamin, from the east side to the west, Simeon shall have one section; by the border of Simeon, from the east side to the west, Issachar shall have one section; by the border of Issachar, from the east side to the west, Zebulun shall have one section; by the border of Zebulun, from the east side to the west, Gad shall have one section; by the border of Gad, on the south side, toward the South, the border shall be from Tamar to the waters of Meribah by Kadesh, along the brook to the Great Sea. This is the land which you shall divide by lot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions,” says the Lord GOD.
a. As for the rest of the tribes: After listing the land allotments for the seven tribes north of the LORD’s district (Ezekiel 48:1-8), now the list continues with the land allotments for the tribes to the south of the LORD’s district.
b. This is the land which you shall divide by lot as an inheritance: Each of the tribes would be restored to the land and none of them will be forgotten before God.
B. The city: Yahweh Shammah.
1. (30-34) The gates of the city.
“These are the exits of the city. On the north side, measuring four thousand five hundred cubits (the gates of the city shall be named after the tribes of Israel), the three gates northward: one gate for Reuben, one gate for Judah, and one gate for Levi; on the east side, four thousand five hundred cubits, three gates: one gate for Joseph, one gate for Benjamin, and one gate for Dan; on the south side, measuring four thousand five hundred cubits, three gates: one gate for Simeon, one gate for Issachar, and one gate for Zebulun; on the west side, four thousand five hundred cubits with their three gates: one gate for Gad, one gate for Asher, and one gate for Naphtali.
a. These are the gates of the city: The city – Jerusalem in the Messiah’s kingdom to come – will have memorial gates for each tribe.
i. “The image of a city with twelve gates distributed equally among the four sides and named after the twelve tribes of Israel is strikingly unconventional. City walls were usually designed intentionally with only one gate.” (Block)
ii. The twelve gates “beautifully symbolizes at the same time in visible form the unity and harmony in the nation so long divided. All the ancient rivalries, contentions and jealousies will be gone, and blessed unity will prevail.” (Feinberg)
iii. All this is suggestive of, but not the same as, the eternal state as described in Revelation 21:12-14. “The whole passage leads us to compare Revelation 21, with its description of a new heaven and a new earth and the vision of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It too had twelve gates, named after the twelve tribes of Israel, but it also had twelve foundations inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Taylor)
b. One gate for Joseph: This list of the tribes follows the pattern of the 12 direct sons of Jacob/Israel. Joseph is one tribe, not two.
2. (35) The name of the city.
All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.”
a. All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits: Once more, an actual measurement gives a literal and not a symbolic sense.
i. “This will be a ‘kingdom Jerusalem,’ a new city for the new nation and the new era. ” (Wiersbe)
ii. “The measurement of 18,000 reeds calls for a circumference somewhat less than six miles. Jerusalem in Josephus’ day (first century, A.D.) was about four miles.” (Feinberg)
b. THE LORD IS THERE: Throughout the larger section of Ezekiel 40-48, the name of the city of Jerusalem is never specifically mentioned. Here we discover why; God will give the city a new name. It will be known as Yahweh Shammah, “Yahweh is There.” In that day, the overwhelming character and idea of Jerusalem would be that God was there.
i. Ezekiel experienced the horror of seeing the glory of God departing from the temple in a vision (Ezekiel 11). Then he saw it return (Ezekiel 43:5). Now, in the new name for the city, he received the assurance that God would remain.
ii. “We bethink us of the truth that there is to be a millennial age — a time of glory, and peace, and joy, and truth, and righteousness. But what is to be the glory of it? Why this, ‘Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there!’” (Spurgeon)
iii. The principle will carry on into the eternal state. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.(Revelation 21:3)
iv. Wiersbe explains: “This is one of seven compound names of Jehovah found in the Old Testament.”
· Jehovah Jireh—’the LORD will provide’ (Genesis 22:13-14).
· Jehovah Rapha—’the LORD who heals’ (Exodus 15:26).
· Jehovah Shalom—’the LORD our peace’ (Judges 6:24).
· Jehovah Tsidkenu—’the LORD our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6).
· Jehovah Shammah—’the LORD is present’ (Ezekiel 48:35).
· Jehovah Nissi—’the LORD our banner’ (Exodus 17:8-15).
· Jehovah Ra’ah—’the LORD our shepherd’ (Psalm 23:1).
v. “The name tells of complete satisfaction; that of God, and that of man. God is at rest among His people, His original purpose realised. Man is seen at rest in God, his true destiny reached.” (Morgan)