Author: Ron Graham
Ezekiel Chapters 46, 47, and 48
—Outline and Notes
On this page, chapters 46, 47, and 48 of Ezekiel are outlined and analysed. These chapters are about a river flowing from the temple, and the division of the land by tribes.
1 Context Overview
Toward the end of Ezekiel’s ministry, the captivity and exile of the Israelites by the Babylonians is drawing to its close. In time, the Medes and the Persians will be the world power and they will assist the Israelites to return to Jerusalem, rebuild and resettle.
Ezekiel’s last visions showed a plan from God of a temple, a city, and tribal lands.
There were lights among the Israelites such as Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, and Zechariah. However many Israelites had not learned much from the desolation of Jerusalem and prolonged captivity and exile. Nehemiah mentions some of their errors; for example chapter 13.
God had appointed Ezekiel to be a watchman for Israel. He faithfully performed enactments, published oracles, and described his visions, just as God commanded him. But sadly many failed to heed the word of God that came through Ezekiel. In particular, the temple was built but it failed to conform to the pattern shown to Ezekiel.
2 Outline of Ezekiel 46, 47, and 48
Conduct of Burnt Offerings
- The east-facing gate of the inner court is to be shut except on the Sabbath and New Moon (Ezekiel 46:1).
- The prince to worship by the gatepost. The priests prepare the prince’s offerings (Ezekiel 46:2).
- The people of the land are to worship at this entrance on Sabbaths and New Moon (Ezekiel 46:3).
- The prince’s offerings detailed (Ezekiel 46:4-7).
- Entering and leaving by the gates (Ezekiel 46:8-10).
- The grain offering detailed (Ezekiel 46:11).
- Arrangements for voluntary offerings by the prince (Ezekiel 46:12).
- Offerings every morning detailed (Ezekiel 46:13-15).
Gifts from the Prince’s Inheritances
- The prince may pass part of his own property, but nobody else’s, to his sons and slaves (Ezekiel 46:16-18).
The Priest’s Chambers and Kitchens
- Ezekiel is taken into the chambers of the priests and shown the place where offerings are prepared (Ezekiel 46:19-20).
- Ezekiel is then taken out to the court to see the kitchens where the priests work (Ezekiel 46:21-24).
A River Flows from the Temple
- Ezekiel is taken back to the door of the temple. He sees an eastward flow of water from the temple threshold on the right side (Ezekiel 47:1-2).
- The man with a measuring line leads Ezekiel out into the water, but it gets too deep. It was a river he could not cross (Ezekiel 47:3-6:).
- Returning to the bank, Ezekiel sees many trees along the river on both sides. (Ezekiel 47:7).
- The man explains how the river will reach the sea. The river will be abundant with fish, and the trees with fruit for food and leaves for medicine, yielding every month (Ezekiel 47:8-12 cf Revelation 22:1-2).
The Promised Land Restored
- God honours his ancient oath by restoring the land as an inheritance to all the tribes (Ezekiel 47:13-14).
- God defines the northern, eastern, southern, and western borders of the land (Ezekiel 47:15-20).
- The strangers who dwell with the Israelites must be treated as though native born. They are entitled to share in the inheritance of the tribe with which they dwell (Ezekiel 47:21-23).
Division of the Land
- Details of portions allotted to Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, Judah (Ezekiel 48:1-7).
- The LORD’s District defined including accomodation for the Zadok priests (Ezekiel 48:8-12).
- Details of the portion allotted to the Levites (Ezekiel 48:13-14).
- Details of the city area (Ezekiel 48:15-16).
- Details of the common land (Ezekiel 48:17-20).
- Details of the prince’s property which shares borders with the holy district, the common property of the city, the Levite’s portion, and the portions of Judah and Benjamin (Ezekiel 48:21-22).
- Details of portions allotted to Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad (Ezekiel 48:23-28).
- God decrees that in the above manner the inheritances shall be apportioned (Ezekiel 48:29).
- Each of the twelve gates of the city is named after one of the twelve sons of Jacob (Ezekiel 48:30-34).
- A special name for the city (Ezekiel 48:35).
3 The Meaning of the River
Ezekiel’s description of the temple vision concludes, in chapter 47, with the appearance of a flow of water from the temple.
This stream became a river too deep to cross and running to the sea. It provided abundance of fish and the trees along both sides yielded fruit and medicinal leaves.
If the temple had been built according to the pattern, would this river have flowed from it? God could have worked the miracle, of course, but is this what the vision means? That's a hypothetical question, since the temple actually built was not according to the pattern in Ezekiel.
The other possibility is that this part of the temple vision is symbolic like a similar vision of a river proceeding from the throne of God seen and recorded by John in Revelation 22.
The river that Ezekiel saw could represent the presence of God and life in the blessing of the Holy Spirit. God wanted such fellowship with his people. The river flowing to the sea may represent progress toward the kingdom of Messiah and eternal life.