After Christ has returned and freed the tribes of Israel from slavery, brought them into the Promised Land and begun the reinstitution of the temple service, He will allot the Promised Land to the twelve tribes. This will apparently occur during the remaining 3 ½ years of Christ’s ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (compare our Q&A, “What will Jesus do after Satan has been banished?”).
Beginning with Ezekiel 47:13, and continuing until the end of chapter 48, we are introduced to the description of the borders by which the Promised Land will be divided as an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph will have two portions in his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, who will each have a separate inheritance. The priestly tribe of Levi will receive a special area (Ezekiel 45:1-8; 48:8-14), but since Joseph’s inheritance is divided into two tribes to compensate for Levi, the number of twelve for the tribes will be maintained.
As the Nelson Study Bible and the Ryrie Study Bible explain, the tribes will not be arranged as they were historically under Joshua. A reason for this deviation is not expressly given, but some indications can be deduced, as explained below. To the north of the central district around Jerusalem, which will be set aside for religion and government, will be the seven tribes of Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben and Judah. To the south will be the remaining five tribes, i.e., Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulon and Gad.
The Nelson Study Bible includes the following interesting comments:
“The tribes resulting from the offspring of Jacob and his wives’ servants are given lands farthest from the most holy areas…, while the descendants of Jacob’s wives occupy a central position… the tribe of Judah is most favored, for it produced the Davidic and messianic line…. Historically, the tribe of Dan had occupied the northern limits of the land… Its idolatry was well known—Jeroboam had placed a golden calf there… Benjamin like Judah is favored.”
Some, like Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, maintain that the boundaries of the Promised Land and the borders are different than they were under Joshua—that they will be much larger and more extensive, being similar to the borders and boundaries under David and Solomon—while others state that the boundaries “are substantially the same as those given by Moses in Nu[mbers] 34:1-29; they here begin with the north, but in Numbers they begin with the south (Nu[mbers] 34:3)” (compare Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary).
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible agrees, adding: “The borders of the land follow closely Numbers 34, where they begin from the south, as the people came up from Egypt; in Ezekiel, they begin from the north, as they might return from Babylon.”
The Ryrie Study Bible summarizes the boundaries in Ezekiel 47 in this way:
“The northern border of Israel’s land will run from the Mediterranean north of Tyre to a point near Damascus (vv. 15-17); the eastern border will be formed by the Jordan River and the Dead Sea (v. 18); the southern boundary will run from a little below the Dead Sea to the river of Egypt (v. 19… [Note that some commentaries feel that the reference to the “river of Egypt” is not identical with the Nile]); and the western border will be the Mediterranean. This particular area will be allotted to the Israelites for their residences, though apparently they will control all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates (cf. Gen. 15:18).”
Ezekiel 47:21-23 specifically adds that strangers who will join and live among the tribes of Israel, will also obtain the right of inheritance. That was not the case under Moses and Joshua, showing further distinctions between the original distribution of the Promised Land under Joshua and the future allotment of the Promised Land, as foreseen by the prophet Ezekiel.
We also read that there will be exits of the city of Jerusalem, and the gates of these exits will be named after the tribes of Israel. Note the following comments by the Nelson Study Bible:
“The northern gates are Reuben (the firstborn), Judah (the tribe of the messianic line), and Levi (the priestly tribe)—all descendants of Jacob and Leah [Jacob’s first wife, even though Jacob was tricked into this marriage by his uncle Laban]… On the eastern side the gates represent Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan. While the first two were children of Jacob and Rachel [Jacob’s second wife whom he really loved and wanted to get married to in the first place], the third [Dan] was the child of Jacob and Rachel’s servant Bilhah… South of the city, the three other offsprings of Jacob and Leah have gates named for them: Simeon, Issachar and Zebulon… The three western gates are named after Gad and Asher—the sons of Jacob and Leah’s maidservant Zilpah—and Naphtali—a son of Jacob and Bilhah.”
It is interesting to compare the physical description of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas with the spiritual or heavenly Jerusalem (in which there will be no Temple), as described in Revelation 21 and 22, which will descend to the earth after the Millennium, the Great White Throne Judgment and the Third Resurrection, when God will create a new heaven and a new earth, in which there will dwell righteousness. This will be the topic of a further Q&A.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link