Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Matthew Henry, , at sacred-texts.com
In this chapter we have particular directions given for the distribution of the land, of which we had the metes and bounds assigned in the foregoing chapter. I. The portions of the twelve tribes, seven to the north of the sanctuary (Eze 48:1-7) and five to the south (Eze 48:23-29). II. The allotment of land for the sanctuary, and the priests (Eze 48:8-11), for the Levites (Eze 48:12-14), for the city (Eze 48:15-20), and for the prince (Eze 48:21, Eze 48:22). Much of this we had before, ch. 45. III. A plan of the city, its gates, and the new name given to it (v. 30-35), which seals up, and concludes, the vision and prophecy of this book.
We have here a further account of the city that should be built for the metropolis of this glorious land, and to be the receptacle of those who would come from all parts to worship in the sanctuary adjoining. It is nowhere called Jerusalem, nor is the land which we have had such a particular account of the dividing of any where called the land of Canaan; for the old names are forgotten, to intimate that the old things are done away, behold all things have become new. Now, concerning this city, observe here, 1. The measures of its out-lets, and the grounds belonging to it, for its several conveniences; each way its appurtenances extended 4500 measures 18,000 in all, Eze 48:35. But what these measures were is uncertain. It is never said, in all this chapter, whether so many reeds (as our translation determines by inserting that word, Eze 48:8, each reed containing six cubits and span, Eze 40:5, and why should the measurer appear with the measuring reed in his hand of that length if he did not measure with that, except where it is expressly said he measured by cubits?) or whether, as others think, it is so many cubits, because those are mentioned Eze 45:2 and Eze 47:3. Yet that makes me incline rather to think that where cubits are not mentioned must be intended so many lengths of the measuring reed. But those who understand it of so many cubits are not agreed whether it be meant of the common cubit, which was half a yard, or the geometrical cubit, which, for better expedition, is supposed to be mostly used in surveying lands, which, some say, contained six cubits, others about three cubits and a half, so making 1000 cubits the same with 1000 paces, that is, an English mile. But our being left at this uncertainty is an intimation that these things are to be understood spiritually, and that what is principally meant is that there is an exact and just proportion observed by Infinite Wisdom in modelling the gospel church, which though now we cannot discern we shall when we come to heaven. 2. The number of its gates. It had twelve gates in all, three on each side, which was very agreeable when it lay four square; and these twelve gates were inscribed to the twelve tribes. Because the city was to be served out of all the tribes of Israel (Eze 48:19) it was fit that each tribe should have its gate; and, Levi being here taken in, to keep to the number twelve Ephraim and Manasseh are made one in Joseph, Eze 48:32. On the north side were the gates of Reuben, Judah, and Levi (Eze 48:31), on the east the gates of Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan (Eze 48:32), on the south the gates of Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun (Eze 48:33), and on the west the gates of Gad, Asher, and Naphtali, Eze 48:34. Conformable to this, in St. John's vision, the new Jerusalem (for so the holy city is called there, though not here) has twelve gates, three on a side, and on them are written the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, Rev 21:12, Rev 21:13. Note, Into the church of Christ, both militant and triumphant, there is a free access by faith for all that come of every tribe, from every quarter. Christ has opened the kingdom of heaven for all believers. Whoever will may come and take of the water of life, of the tree of life, freely. 3. The name given to this city: From that day, when it shall be newly-erected according to this model, the name of it shall be, not, as before, Jerusalem - The vision of peace, but which is the original of that, and more than equivalent to it, Jehovah Shammah - The Lord is there, Eze 48:35. This intimated, (1.) That the captives, after their return, should have manifest tokens of God's presence with them and his residence among them, both in his ordinances and his providences. They shall have no occasion to ask, as their fathers did, Is the Lord among us, or is he not? for they shall see and say that he is with them of a truth. And then, though their troubles were many and threatening, they were like the bush which burned but was not consumed, because the Lord was there. But when God departed from their temple, when he said, Migremus hinc - Let us go hence, their house was soon left unto them desolate. Being no longer his, it was not much longer theirs. (2.) That the gospel-church should likewise have the presence of God in it, though not in the Shechinah, as of old, yet in a token of it no less sure, that of his Spirit. Where the gospel is faithfully preached, gospel ordinances are duly administered, and God is worshipped in the name of Jesus Christ only, it may truly be said, The Lord is there; for faithful is he that has said, and he will be as good as his word, Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world. The Lord is there in his church, to rule and govern it, to protect and defend it, and graciously to accept and own his sincere worshippers, and to be nigh unto them in all that they call upon him for. This should engage us to keep close to the communion of saints, for the Lord is there; and then whither shall we go to better ourselves? Nay, it is true of every good Christian; he dwells in God, and God in him; whatever soul has in it a living principle of grace, it may be truly said, The Lord is There. (3.) That the glory and happiness of heaven should consist chiefly in this, that the Lord is there. St. John's representation of that blessed state does indeed far exceed this in many respects. That is all gold, and pearls, and precious stones; it is much larger than this, and much brighter, for it needs not the light of the sun. But, in making the presence of God the principal matter of its bliss, they both agree. There the happiness of the glorified saints is made to be that God himself shall be with them (Rev 21:3), that he who sits on the throne shall dwell among them, Rev 7:15. And here it is made to crown the bliss of this holy city that the Lord is there. Let us therefore give all diligence to make sure to ourselves a place in that city, that we may be for ever with the Lord.