From the Temple to the East Gate
Having completed the tour of the complex, the guide took Ezekiel back to the door of the sanctuary where God’s glory dwelt. Standing there before the door, he saw that water came out of the sanctuary and flowed east. East to west is the holy vector of the complex. Only the Prince is allowed to come into the east gate and it is purified in the offerings. The water, though, is flowing along this vector from the sanctuary on the western end toward the eastern gate, along this holy vector.
After the water flowed out of the threshold, it flowed south of the altar. In both the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple, there were basins for the priests to wash in, cleansing themselves. At Solomon’s temple, the basin was called a Sea. But, rather than the scary sea, this one is contained and used in service to God. The Israelites were Middle Eastern desert people. The sea was big and scary. We see that in the story of Jonah. We see the disciples scared of a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The meant chaos. But God could control it. Psalm 46:2-3 speaks of God being our refuge from the roaring, foaming sea.
In Ezekiel’s vision, we see, instead, a life giving river. Psalm 46:4 says “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God”. The Sea in Solomon’s temple was south of the altar, and the basin at the Tabernacle was south of the altar. They are replaced in Ezekiel’s vision with a river that runs south of the altar.
The guide took Ezekiel out north gate to see the river flow, for even in the vision, no one but the prince could enter the east gate.
The water got deeper as it flowed eastward. It started as a trickle. It became a big river. The guide measured the depth every thousand cubits. At one thousand it was ankle deep. (3) At two thousand it was knee deep. (4) At three thousand it was waist deep. (4) At four thousand it was a deep river you could swim in but could not walk through. (5) The guide asked Ezekiel if he saw this. I think he was asking if he understood this message.
So, what we have so far is water that flows from God’s presence out toward the east, getting deeper and deeper as it goes until it becomes a river.
Restoration of the earth and God’s people starts small and grows into a mighty thing. This is the message the guide wants Ezekiel to see. Jesus told a parable about this. A mustard seed grew into a huge bush or tree. (Matthew 13:31) God’s kingdom started small, with a handful of disciples, but continues to grow larger and larger.
As Ezekiel sat on the bank, the guide showed Ezekiel all of the trees that lined both sides of the river. He also saw that the river ran through the Arabah, or Jordan Valley, all the way to the dead sea.
This river flows with living water. This is shown to Ezekiel in the form of many fish and other creatures living in it. It is like the waters of Genesis 1:20 with fish of many kinds. In addition, it turned the salt water of the Dead Sea to fresh water. The Dead Sea contains so much salt that nothing lives in it. But when the water issuing from the presence of God comes into contact with it, it comes to life. The dead water is healed. When the Lord healed the bitter water at Marah in the desert, he said they could experience Yahweh Rapa, the LORD who heals you. (Exodus 15:22-26)
Ezekiel is also shown a vision of God providing for all human needs. The marshes and swamps somehow stay salty so the people can have salt on their food. (11) The trees bear fruit every month, not just once per year. The reason is that this living water flows to them from the sanctuary. (12) The fruit provides food. Their leaves provide healing.