Good morning! Today we finish Ezekiel, the last of the really long prophets! From here, the most we’ll spend in any one book is the next four days spent on Daniel. Otherwise, we’ll be reading a number of shorter books between here and October, when we start the New Testament! I’m hoping we can get some new and re-engaged folks reading along for the last three months of Daily Bible, and will be grateful for your help in welcoming others to join our reading of the New Testament when the time comes. But for today, we follow along as Ezekiel concludes instructions about ritual life in the envisioned city (chapter 46), and finishes by describing the land beyond the temple in chapters 47-48.
Amid the miscellaneous rules about worship and temple practices, one in particular stood out for me. Look for the rule about how gifts from a prince to sons are inherited forever, but when such gifts go to servants they must be returned after a time. This may seem to have no significance on the face of it (other than the rude thought of having to return gifts), but this cultural practice became a norm over the centuries following Ezekiel. It comes up again in the New Testament, apparently well-known enough to be referenced. Both Jesus and Paul make arguments about how the disciples of Christ are children rather than servants, meaning that the inheritance of God belongs to them forever and not just for a season. Tidbits like that can make it feel more meaningful to read these chapters of ritual instructions.
The final two chapters of Ezekiel are largely devoted to city planning and regional development. Ezekiel envisions a place for each historic tribe, slotted out in a geometric pattern over Palestine, unconcerned with natural lines or borders. In this, Ezekiel brings chapters from Joshua to mind, when the tribes invading Palestine are given regions in which to settle after displacing the Canaanites. Within the ancient version of longitudinal and latitude lines, two striking things catch my attention. One is the almost-overlooked instruction that resident aliens are to be treated as citizens, to receive land just as anyone else would. Such “amnesty” is not even practiced in 21st century America, and yet here it’s presented as part of God’s vision for people millennia ago! The other noteworthy element is water, flowing from the temple. Water holds the unmistakable promise of life in the midst of an arid climate. It flows from the temple out to the surrounding land all the way to the sea. The river increases in magnitude as one gets farther from the temple, a sign that God’s overwhelming blessings are rooted in the temple but not diminished by pouring out in all directions. This vision—of river banks filled with fresh fruit each month of the year, whose leaves are for healing—comes up again quite directly in the very last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22. It’s a beautiful vision of eternal flourishing beside the waters of life the flow from God’s home in the temple. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Daniel 1-3. Thanks for reading!