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
and five to the south,
II. The allotment of land for the sanctuary, and the priests
for the Levites
for the city
and for the prince,
Much of this we had before,
III. A plan of the city, its gates, and the new name given to it
which seals up, and concludes, the vision and prophecy of this
The Division of the Land.
B. C. 574.
1 Now these are the names of the tribes. From the north end
to the coast of the way of Hethlon, as one goeth to Hamath,
Hazar-enan, the border of Damascus northward, to the coast of
Hamath; for these are his sides east and west; a portion for
2 And by the border of Dan, from the east side unto the west
side, a portion for Asher.
3 And by the border of Asher, from the east side even unto the
west side, a portion for Naphtali.
4 And by the border of Naphtali, from the east side unto the
west side, a portion for Manasseh.
5 And by the border of Manasseh, from the east side unto the
west side, a portion for Ephraim.
6 And by the border of Ephraim, from the east side even unto
the west side, a portion for Reuben.
7 And by the border of Reuben, from the east side unto the west
side, a portion for Judah.
8 And by the border of Judah, from the east side unto the west
side, shall be the offering which ye shall offer of five and
twenty thousand reeds in breadth, and in length as one of the
other parts, from the east side unto the west side: and the
sanctuary shall be in the midst of it.
9 The oblation that ye shall offer unto the LORD shall be of
five and twenty thousand in length, and of ten thousand in
10 And for them, even for the priests, shall be this holy
oblation; toward the north five and twenty thousand in length,
and toward the west ten thousand in breadth, and toward the east
ten thousand in breadth, and toward the south five and twenty
thousand in length: and the sanctuary of the LORD shall be in the
11 It shall be for the priests that are sanctified of the
sons of Zadok; which have kept my charge, which went not astray
when the children of Israel went astray, as the Levites went
12 And this oblation of the land that is offered shall be
unto them a thing most holy by the border of the Levites.
13 And over against the border of the priests the Levites
shall have five and twenty thousand in length, and ten thousand
in breadth: all the length shall be five and twenty thousand,
and the breadth ten thousand.
14 And they shall not sell of it, neither exchange, nor
alienate the first-fruits of the land: for it is holy unto the
15 And the five thousand, that are left in the breadth over
against the five and twenty thousand, shall be a profane place
for the city, for dwelling, and for suburbs: and the city shall
be in the midst thereof.
16 And these shall be the measures thereof; the north side
four thousand and five hundred, and the south side four thousand
and five hundred, and on the east side four thousand and five
hundred, and the west side four thousand and five hundred.
17 And the suburbs of the city shall be toward the north two
hundred and fifty, and toward the south two hundred and fifty,
and toward the east two hundred and fifty, and toward the west
two hundred and fifty.
18 And the residue in length over against the oblation of the
holy portion shall be ten thousand eastward, and ten thousand
westward: and it shall be over against the oblation of the holy
portion; and the increase thereof shall be for food unto them
that serve the city.
19 And they that serve the city shall serve it out of all the
tribes of Israel.
20 All the oblation shall be five and twenty thousand by five
and twenty thousand: ye shall offer the holy oblation four-square,
with the possession of the city.
21 And the residue shall be for the prince, on the one side
and on the other of the holy oblation, and of the possession of
the city, over against the five and twenty thousand of the
oblation toward the east border, and westward over against the
five and twenty thousand toward the west border, over against the
portions for the prince: and it shall be the holy oblation; and
the sanctuary of the house shall be in the midst thereof.
22 Moreover from the possession of the Levites, and from the
possession of the city, being in the midst of that which is
the prince's, between the border of Judah and the border of
Benjamin, shall be for the prince.
23 As for the rest of the tribes, from the east side unto the
west side, Benjamin shall have a portion.
24 And by the border of Benjamin, from the east side unto the
west side, Simeon shall have a portion.
25 And by the border of Simeon, from the east side unto the
west side, Issachar a portion.
26 And by the border of Issachar, from the east side unto the
west side, Zebulun a portion.
27 And by the border of Zebulun, from the east side unto the
west side, Gad a portion.
28 And by the border of Gad, at the south side southward, the
border shall be even from Tamar unto the waters of strife in
Kadesh, and to the river toward the great sea.
29 This is the land which ye shall divide by lot unto the
tribes of Israel for inheritance, and these are their portions,
saith the Lord GOD.
30 And these are the goings out of the city on the north
side, four thousand and five hundred measures.
We have here a very short and ready way taken for the dividing of the
land among the twelve tribes, not so tedious and so far about as the
way that was taken in Joshua's time; for in the distribution of
spiritual and heavenly blessings there is not that danger of murmuring
and quarrelling that there is in the participation of the temporal
blessings. When God gave to the labourers every one his penny those
that were uneasy at it were soon put to silence with, May I not do
what I will with my own? And such is the equal distribution here
among the tribes. In this distribution of the land we may observe,
1. That it differs very much from the division of it in Joshua's time,
and agrees not with the order of their birth, nor with that of their
blessing by Jacob or Moses. Simeon here is not divided in Jacob,
nor is Zebulun a haven of ships, a plain intimation that it is
not so much to be understood literally as spiritually, though the
mystery of it is very much hidden from us. In gospel times old things
have passed away; behold, all things have become new. The Israel
of God is cast into a new method.
2. That the tribe of Dan, which was last provided for in the first
division of Canaan
is first provided for here,
Thus in the gospel the last shall be first,
God, in the dispensation of his grace, does not follow the same method
that he does in the disposals of his providence. But Dan had now his
portion thereabouts where he had only one city before, northward, on
the border of Damascus, and furthest of all from the sanctuary, because
that tribe had revolted to idolatry.
3. That all the ten tribes that were carried away by the king of
Assyria, as well as the two tribes that were long afterwards carried to
Babylon, have their allotment in this visionary land, which some think
had its accomplishment in the particular persons and families of those
tribes who returned with Judah and Benjamin, of which we find many
instances in Ezra and Nehemiah; and it is probable that there were
returns of many more afterwards at several times, which are not
recorded; and the Jews having Galilee, and other parts, that had been
the possessions of the ten tribes, put into their hands, in common with
them, they enjoyed them. Grotius says, If the ten tribes had repented
and returned to God, as the chief fathers of Judah and Benjamin did,
and the priests and Levites
they would have fared as those two tribes did, but they forfeited the
benefit of this glorious prophecy by sin. However, we believe it has
its designed accomplishment in the establishment and enlargement of the
gospel church, and the happy settlement of all those who are Israelites
indeed in the sure and sweet enjoyment of the privileges of the new
covenant, in which there is enough for all and enough for each.
4. That every tribe in this visionary distribution had its particular
lot assigned it by a divine appointment; for it was never the intention
of the gospel to pluck up the hedge of property and lay all in common;
it was in a way of charity, not of legal right, that the first
Christians had all things common
and many precepts of the gospel suppose that every man should know his
own. We must not only acknowledge, but acquiesce in, the hand of God
appointing us our lot, and be well pleased with it, believing it
fittest for us. He shall choose our inheritance for us,
5. That the tribes lay contiguous. By the border of one tribe
was the portion of another, all in a row, in exact order, so
that, like stones in an arch, they fixed, and strengthened, and wedged
in one another. Behold how good and how pleasant a thing it is for
brethren thus to dwell together! It was a figure of the
communion of churches and saints under the gospel-government; thus,
though they are many, yet they are one, and should hold together in
holy love and mutual assistance.
6. That the lot of Reuben, which before lay at a distance beyond
Jordan, now lies next to Judah, and next but one to the sanctuary; for
the scandal he lay under, for which he was told he should not
excel, began by this time to wear off. What has turned to the
reproach of any person or people ought not to be remembered for ever,
but should at length be kindly forgotten.
7. That the sanctuary was in the midst of them. There were seven
tribes to the north of it and the Levites, the prince's, and the city's
portion, with that of five tribes more, to the south of it; so that it
was, as it ought to be, in the heart of the kingdom, that it
might diffuse its benign influences to the whole, and might be the
centre of their unity. The tribes that lay most remote from each other
would meet there in a mutual acquaintance and fellowship. Those of the
same parish or congregation, though dispersed, and having no occasion
otherwise to know each other, yet by meeting statedly to worship God
together should have their hearts knit to each other in holy love.
8. That where the sanctuary was the priests were: For them, even
for the priests, shall this holy oblation be,
As, on the one hand, this denotes honour and comfort to ministers, that
what is given for their support and maintenance is reckoned a holy
oblation to the Lord, so it intimates their duty, which is that,
since they are appointed and maintained for the service of the
sanctuary, they ought to attend continually to this very thing,
to reside on their cures. Those that live upon the altar must serve at
the altar, not take the wages to themselves and devolve the work upon
others; but how can they serve the altar, his altar they live upon, if
they do not live near it?
9. Those priests had the priests' share of these lands that had
approved themselves faithful to God in times of trial
It shall be for the sons of Zadok, who, it seems, had signalized
themselves in some critical juncture, and went not astray when
the children of Israel, and the other Levites, went astray. God
will put honour upon those who keep their integrity in times of general
apostasy, and he has special favours in reserve for them. Those are
swimming upwards, and so they will find at last, that are swimming
against the stream.
10. The land which was appropriated to the ministers of the sanctuary
might by no means be alienated. It was in the nature of the
first-fruits of the land, and was therefore holy to the
Lord; and, though the priests and Levites had both the use of it
and the inheritance of it to them and their heirs, yet they might not
sell it nor exchange it,
It is sacrilege to convert that to other uses which is dedicated to
11. The land allotted for the city and its suburbs is called a
or common; not but that the city was a holy city above other
cities, for the Lord was there, but, in comparison with the sanctuary,
it was a profane place. Yet it is too often true in the worst sense
that great cities, even those which, like this, have the sanctuary near
them, are profane places, and it ought to be deeply lamented. It was
the complaint of old, From Jerusalem has profaneness gone forth into
all the land,
12. The city is made to be exactly square, and the suburbs extending
themselves equally on all sides, as the Levites' cities did in the
first division of the land
which, never being literally fulfilled in any city, intimates that it
is to be understood spiritually of the beauty and stability of the
gospel church, that city of the living God, which is formed
according to the wisdom and counsel of God, and is made firm and
immovable by his promise.
13. Whereas, before, the inhabitants of Jerusalem were principally of
Judah and Benjamin, in whose tribe it lay, now the head city lies not
in the particular lot of any of the tribes, but those that serve the
city, and bear office in it, shall serve it out of all the
tribes of Israel,
The most eminent men must be picked out of all the tribes of Israel for
the service of the city, because many eyes were upon it, and there was
great resort to it from all parts of the nation and from other nations.
Those that live in the city are said to serve the city, for, wherever
we are, we must study to be serviceable to the place, some way or
other, according as our capacity is. They must not come out of the
tribes of Israel to the city to take their ease, and enjoy their
pleasures, but to serve the city, to do all the good they can there,
and in so doing they would have a good influence upon the country too.
14. Care was taken that those who applied themselves to public business
in the city, as well as in the sanctuary, should have an honourable
comfortable maintenance; lands are appointed, the increase
whereof shall be food unto those that serve the city,
Who goes a warfare at his own charges? Magistrates, that attend the
service of the state, as well as ministers, that attend the service of
the church, should have all due encouragement and support in so doing;
and for this cause pay we tribute also.
15. The prince had a lot for himself, suited to the dignity of his high
we took an account of it before,
He was seated near the sanctuary, where the testimony of Israel was,
and near the city, where the thrones of judgment were, that he
might be a protection to both and might see the that duty of both was
carefully and faithfully done; and herein he was a minister of God for
good to the whole community. Christ is the church's prince, that
defends it on every side, and creates a defense; nay, he is himself a
defence upon all its glory and encompasses it with his favour.
16. As Judah had his lot next the sanctuary on one side, so Benjamin
had, of all the tribes, his lot nearest to it on the other side, which
honour was reserved for those who adhered to the house of David and the
temple at Jerusalem when the other ten tribes went astray from both. It
is enough if treachery and apostasy, upon repentance, he pardoned, but
constancy and fidelity shall be rewarded and preferred.
The Plan of the City.
B. C. 574.
31 And the gates of the city shall be after the names of the
tribes of Israel: three gates northward; one gate of Reuben, one
gate of Judah, one gate of Levi.
32 And at the east side four thousand and five hundred: and
three gates; and one gate of Joseph, one gate of Benjamin, one
gate of Dan.
33 And at the south side four thousand and five hundred
measures: and three gates; one gate of Simeon, one gate of
Issachar, one gate of Zebulun.
34 At the west side four thousand and five hundred, with
their three gates; one gate of Gad, one gate of Asher, one gate
35 It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the
name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.
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,
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,
each reed containing six cubits and span,
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
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
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,
On the north side were the gates of Reuben, Judah, and Levi
on the east the gates of Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan
on the south the gates of Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun
and on the west the gates of Gad, Asher, and Naphtali,
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,
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,
(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
that he who sits on the throne shall dwell among them,
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
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Ezekiel' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".