DIVISION OF THE LAND - EZEKIEL 47:13-48:35
This is the final section of the book of Ezekiel. It continues his vision of a future place with God in its center and completely subject to him. It is a place where his holiness is demonstrated and protected.
The Boundaries of the Land
Here we see is the boundaries for the restored land. This boundary comes directly from the Lord. Verse 13 begins with “Thus says the Lord God” (ESV) or “This is what the Sovereign Lord says”. (NIV) Within these boundaries will be all of the allotments of land.
the first thing to note is, the Lord said that there will be two portions for Joseph. This goes all the way back to Genesis 48:5. Jacob treated Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his since they were born to Joseph in Egypt before Jacob met them. Since they were treated as sons, each received his own allotment of land, meaning Joseph effectively had two rather than one. Since Levi received no allotment, there were still 12 sons and 12 allotments. So God honored the blessing of Jacob\Israel.
The second thing to note is that the land is to be divided equally among them. It literally says “each like his brother”. This is different than the original allotment. That allotment, made by Joshua, Eleazar and the elders, divided the land by size. That is, the tribes with the most people received the largest allotments. We see this in Numbers 33:54. Here they are equal. Also, no attention if given to natural barriers. This is sort like the picture of the river of life, which would have to flow up the Mount of Olives if the route is taken literally. Only the boundaries of Dan are described, which let us see that the allotments and therefore the country is ordered along the sacred east to west axis, as is the temple complex. (48:1)
There does seem to be a discrimination between the tribes, although not by size, but by proximity (closeness) to the holy district. The allotments most distant from the holy district, and therefore having the least honor, are those of the sons of Jacob’s concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah. In contrast, the eight sons of Joseph’s wives, Rachel and Leah, take the four strips immediately north and south of the holy district.
The third thing to note is the boundaries are similar to those God allotted to Moses in Numbers 34:1-12. Although Israel never occupied this much land, it is the same land God promised. Thus it represents a fulfillment of God’s covenant promise.
As a side note, it is interesting that the Kadesh Barnea of Numbers 34 is referred to as Maribah Kadesh in verse 19, describing the southern boundary. This is a subtle reminder that Israel rebelled against God at Kadesh, yet God provided water from the rock, as described in Numbers 20:13. This comes right after his reference to the river of life flowing from the temple to provide for Israel’s needs for food and water.
The fourth thing is that, the description of the boundaries goes in different directions in Ezekiel’s description and that contained in Numbers. Ezekiel starts in the north and goes counter clockwise. Numbers started in the south and went counterclockwise.
The fifth thing to notice is there is no allotment east of the Jordan. When Israel came originally to the Jordan, Reuben, Gad and Manasseh asked for land on the east side of the river, separated from the land God gave Israel. In Ezekiel’s vision, all the allotments are within the boundaries.
The sixth thing is there are not two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. There is only one kingdom and one prince.
The seventh thing is that aliens get an inheritance of land also, not just Jews. (22) In the old covenant, aliens did not own land and were, therefore, second class citizens at best. Because of this, they were subject to oppression. God, therefore, protected them in the covenant law. (Leviticus 19:33) This appears to be a foreshadowing of the inclusion of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God. Paul wrote that Gentiles originally were excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenant. But, as believers in Christ, they became fellow citizens in Israel, no longer foreigners and aliens. (Ephesians 2:11-22) Again in Ephesians 3:6, Paul wrote that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus.
The Division of the Land
This passage describes the division of the land and gives the location for each tribe. It starts at the north and goes to the south. Dan is the northernmost tribe. (48:1)
South of the allotment for Judah is the holy district. (8) Although this has already been described in detail in 45:1-6, it is again described in detail here in 48:8-14. Yet, the allotments for the tribes are not described at all. They are only given in order and equal in size. Again, this draws our attention to God’s holiness. The things devoted to God are described in great detail. The things that are common, the tribal allotments, are very general.
Here again is a visual representation of the allotment.
The sacredness of the holy district is also emphasize by its central location in the land. One interesting observation is that the district seems to be north of the original temple in Jerusalem. It seems closer to Shiloh the ancient location of the tabernacle.
The sacredness, or holiness, of this district is also shown by the amount of attention given to it. Whereas every tribal allotment is given one verse, the holy district receives 15 verses of description. So, this district is shown to be holy, sacred and the spiritual center of Israel.
The Gates of the City
The Lord focused on the exits from the city, as he did the exits from the temple court in 43:11. The city is a square, as was the temple. It has 12 gates, three on each side. This time Joseph has one gate as opposed to his two allotments. And Levi has a gate although he had no allotment.
The last thing that Ezekiel is told is the name of the city. (48:35) The city has never been named to this point. It’s name is “The LORD is There”, or “Yahweh is There”. In Hebrew it is “Yahweh samma”.
The reality in Ezekiel’s time was a defiled city and defiled temple which were destroyed. But God gave Ezekiel a vision of a restored and holy temple and city. It is a visual representation of his promise:
“I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. and I well set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” (Ezekiel 37:26-27)
What a blessing it is to live where God is! And we do. When Jesus was born, Matthew tells us it fulfilled Isaiah 7:14. A son is born and called “God with us”. He dwells in us. Jesus said “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home (dwell) with him.” (John 14:23) He told us the Holy Spirit would come to believers and live with them and be in them. (John 14:17)
But, Jesus will only dwell with you, be in you, if you believe in him. Believe today. Repent of your rebellion against him, confess him Jesus as Lord and believe he is the Son of God raised from the dead and you will be saved. (Romans 10:9-10) And once you are saved, Jesus will dwell with you know and bring you to be with him for all eternity.