47:1-6 – A trickle from the temple becomes a great river. The location that Ezekiel is shown may indicate where the “sea” was once kept in Solomon’s temple, but there is no mention of such a thing in this temple (1 Kings 7:23-26). While the directional descriptions are difficult it seems that the trickle flowed through the temple and out the eastern gate that was closed (Ezekiel even uses a Hebrew term that sounds like gurgling from a jug for it coming out the gate). Again, the man has his measuring rods and begins taking notes. At 1000 cubits (1500ft.) it was ankle deep, at 3000ft. it was knee-deep, 4500ft. it was waist-deep and at 6000ft from the temple it was already so deep that Ezekiel was forced to swim…and all of this without tributaries and from a trickle!
47:7-12 – The river from the temple brings miraculous life wherever it flows (cf. Gen.2:10-14; Ps.36:8-9; 46:4; Joel 3:17-18; Zech.14:5-11; John 7:38; Rev.22:1-2). “The scene calls for a miraculous act, the converse of that experienced by the Israelites at the Red Sea. Instead of creating a dry path through the sea, this holy stream produces a water course through the desert” (Block NICOT II:694). On the banks are many trees whose leaves will not whither providing “healing” and whose seasons have become months because of the life they receive from the river (cf. Ps.1:1-3; Rev.22:2). The river will flow to the Arabah (or the Jordan valley) and into the Salt Sea (the aptly named “Dead” Sea because it sits at 1400 feet below sea level and cannot sustain life) where it will not only turn its waters to fresh water (cf. Exo.15:25; 2 Kings 2:19-22), but will cause its waters to have more life than even the Mediterranean (the Great) Sea. In fact the whole (“from En Gedi to En Eglaim” refers to the western and eastern shores respectively) of the Sea will be changed to give life, with the exception that the low areas will still produce salt. Why should they be left? “It is necessary that salt should be available as an element of covenant consummation” (Duguid NIVAC 533). It will also serve as a blessing to those who fish and those who harvest.
47:13-23 – The boundaries of the land of Israel (cf. Num.34:1-15; Josh.15-21). Why does Joseph get two portions? Because there must still be twelve (this was also the counting of the tribes) and Levi receives his portion as a priestly portion and because Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh as his own (Gen.48:8-20). Of particular significance are four things: first that they receive their portions as “inheritance” in the form of gift from a sovereign and not by right, and second that they “are to divide it equally among them”. This is significant, because this had never been done before. There was a greater equilibrium to be accomplished in Israel by this act. As part of this they each had a portion that ran from the Mediterranean inland and was exactly the same distance north-to-south. Third, all twelve of the tribes were to be reunited into one land again which had not been possible for several hundred years. Fourth, their boundaries were to exceed anything in their previous history. It is also notable that Ezekiel mentions the “aliens” (Heb. gēr) as being permitted to receive an inheritance if they settle and have children (cf. Lev.19:33-34; or the “foreigner” in Isa.56:3-8). In other words, this was not only a promised blessing for ethnic Israel, but for all who would identify themselves with the covenant community.
48:1-29 – The tribal, princely, sacred and city allotments. The tribes are largely rearranged from their earlier portions and there is no longer any mention of the territories possessed in the Trans-Jordan. Dan Block notes that in the allotment Bilhah and Ziphah’s sons are furthest out with Benjamin and Judah on both sides of the sacred precinct (cf. Josh.18:28; 1 Sam.9; 2 Sam.5:5-6)—though Judah is on the north and Benjamin the south—and Rachel and Leah’s sons are closest with Ephraim and Manasseh by each other (NICOT II:723-724; for the matronage see Gen.35:22-26). In the midst of verses 1-8 and 22-29 describing the tribal allotments is the focus of the chapter—the special allotment that is for the prince, the city and the sacred precincts. We have previously discussed this area in chapter 45 (for more detail see the notes there). Some of the new things emphasized here pertain to the workers that would be necessary for maintaining the city and the supply of food for all of the tribes as they take their turns in coming to the temple and the city.
48:30-35 – The exits of the city. There are twelve gates to this city which is considerably more than any normal city not to mention that it would be exceptional that any city should be square to begin with which has sacred connotations. The city is approximately one mile by one mile (contrast this to the New Jerusalem that is described as a cube-like structure approximately 1400 miles by 1400 miles by 1400 miles! Rev.21:16). Interestingly, Levi has a gate and so Joseph has a gate (which would be for both Ephraim and Manasseh).