Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The vision of the waters; or, the blessings which flow from this source to animate and refresh all the inhabitants of the earth. Compare Isa 44:8...; Joe 3:18. Ezekiel's description is adopted and modifled by Zechariah and in Rev. (compare the marginal references) Hebrew tradition speaks of a spring of water, named Etham, said to be identical with the well-waters of Nephtoah Jos 18:15, on the west of the temple, whose waters were conducted by pipes into the temple-courts for the uses needed in the ministration of the priests. The waters of Shiloah Psa 46:4; Isa 8:6 flowed from the rocks beneath the temple-hill. It is quite in the manner of Ezekiel's vision to start from an existing feature and thence proceed to an ideal picture from where to draw a spiritual lesson. The deepening of the waters in their course shows the continual deepening of spiritual life and multiplication of spiritual blessings in the growth of the kingdom of God. So long as the stream is confined to the temple-courts, it is merely a small rill, for the most part unseen, but when it issues from the courts it begins at once to deepen and to widen. So on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the company of believers, little then but presently to develop into the infant Church in Jerusalem.
Out of the way of the gate northward - Rather, by the way of the northward gate.
The ancles - This may coincide with the step gained in the baptism of Cornelius Acts 10, and the opening of the Church to the Gentiles. The dispersion which had followed the martyrdom of Stephen Act 11:19, had carried believers into various countries, and so paved the way for the foundation of Gentile Churches.
The knees - The mission of Paul and Barnabas Act 13:1-4 is another marked epoch in the Church's history; and the time of Paul's martyrdom denotes an increase in the Gentile Church, which corresponds with the waters reaching the loins.
The rivers in Palestine were for the most part mere watercourses, dry in summer, in winter carrying the water along the wadys to the sea. The river of the vision is to have a continuous flow.
Waters to swim in - When under Constantine the Roman empire had become Christian, the Church may be contemplated as the full river, to flow on through time until the final completion of Isaiah's prophecy Isa 11:9.
Trees naturally flourish where there is abundance of water Psa 1:3.
"The sea" is a term commonly applied to the Dead Sea. Compare Deu 3:17, "the sea of the plain (Arabah), even the salt sea." The more literal rendering of the verse in this sense would be, "and go into the sea; into the sea go the waters that issue forth, and the waters shall be healed."
Healed - Every living thing (of which there were none before) shall abound in the "healed" waters. The absence of living creatures in the Dead Sea has been remarked by ancient and modern writers. So the water which Jesus should give should bring life to the dead in trespasses and sins. Compare Joh 4:14; Rev 22:2-3.
The rivers - literally, as in the margin. Perhaps with reference to the circumstance that this "brook or river" is to come into the Dead Sea through the same plain as the Jordan. The one river (Jordan) always flowed, but now, when another river comes in, and "two rivers" flow into the sea, the waters shall be healed.
"En-gedi" (see Sa1 23:29) was about the middle of the western shore of the Dead Sea.
En-eglaim does not occur elsewhere. Its form indicates that it was one of the double cities of Moab (see Eze 25:9 note). It has been identified with "Ain-el-Feshkah" to the north on the western bank of the Dead Sea. On this supposition, "from En-eglaim to En-gedi" would be the line of coast from the most northern fountain to the principal fountain southward.
The exception, which reserves for sterility places to which the living water does not reach, probably indicates that the life and health are solely due to the stream which proceeds from beneath the throne of God. Compare Isa 57:20-21.
The ideal reallotment of the land to the twelve tribes of Israel is found in Ezek. 47:13-48:14.
The special mention of Joseph's portions was in order to express that the twelve portions were to be exclusive of Levi's land, which was to be provided out of the "oblation."
As well as - Or, as. Ezekiel is speaking of "tribes," not "individuals." Each tribe is to have an equal "breadth" of land assigned to it.
The borders of the land follow closely Num. 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 occupation is ideal, but is grounded, as usual, on an actual state of things.
The border of the land toward the north - Names of places in the actual northern border are given (marginal references) not to mark exact geographical position, but to show that the original promise will be fulfilled.
The way of Hethlon, was probably the defile between the ranges of Libanus and Anti-libanus, from the sea to Hamath. "Hamath" Amo 6:2, at the foot of Mount Hermon, on the Orontes. was the ancient capital of the Hittites. Its Scripture history may be traced in Gen 10:18; Sa2 8:9; Kg2 18:34. It was never included in the possessions of Israel. The border ran considerably south of the town at the "entrance of Hamath," the northern opening of Coele-Syria.
"Berothah," probably the same as "Berothai" (marginal reference), lay between Hamath and Damascus, as did "Sibraim."
"Hazar-hatticon" is probably, as in the margin, "the middle Hazar," to distinguish it from Hazar-enan Eze 47:17.
And the north ... - Or, "and on the north, the border on the north shall be" etc.
The eastern boundary is to commence by separating off the territory of Damascus and Hauran, and then to follow the line of the Jordan to the Dead Sea. Further, the land occupied by the trans-Jordanic tribes was also to be separated off from the land of Israel. The trans-Jordanic tribes in fact occupied their ground (in Joshua's allotment) by sufferance. This did not belong to Canaan proper, the land of promise. Hence, the tribes, formerly on the east of the Jordan, have here allotments in Canaan, though "the oblation" Eze 45:1 extends to a considerable distance beyond the Jordan (see Plan, Ezek. 48). The whole arrangement being ideal and symbolic, the vision here, as in the case of "the waters" (Eze 47:1 note), departs from the physical features of the land for the purpose of maintaining symbolic numbers.
The south border (compare Num 34:4) commences with "Tamar," probably a village near the southern end of the Dead Sea. The word means "palm-tree;" and is given to more than one city in the holy land.
The river to the great sea - literally, "riverward to the great sea." By the "river" is meant the torrent-stream entering the Mediterranean near "Rhinocolura" (El Arish).
And to the strangers - Here is quite a new feature in the distribution of the land. Not only the Israelites by descent, but those who join themselves to Israel by allegiance to the true God, shall have a right of inheritance. Here are opened out the blessings which were to accrue to the Gentiles through the seed of Abraham. Compare Rom 9:24, following. The difference which existed under the old covenant between Jew and Gentile is now at last done away. But while pagandom thus unites itself with God's people, Israel is still as ever the chosen people, the center of this union. No new Church is founded side by side with the old. Pagandom is absorbed in Israel - the standard which God has set up for the nations - i. e., in the One True Church, which has subsisted from the beginning, and will subsist in eternity.