1 April 2014

Ezekiel 47:1-9

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.” (Psalm 46:4)


Psalm 46 is a good commentary on the Ezekiel passage. Water is a precious commodity in a dry climate, although in this country we have been seeing the ill effects of flooding. So in the Bible water is often used a symbol of the blessings God gives.

The closing chapters of Ezekiel describe the prophet's vision of the glorious future for God's people Israel when they are brought back to the land from which they had been taken (Ezekiel 40:1-2). It describes a rebuilt Jerusalem with its temple, the earthly dwelling-place of God, at its heart. An angelic figure is Ezekiel's guide. In visions, as in dreams, real-life constraints of geography can be ignored. So here we have a picture of a river, with only a single source and no tributaries to swell it, flowing steadily downhill from the temple eastward, getting deeper as it goes, and creating conditions of fertility, with trees and fish, until it reaches what we now call the Dead Sea and transforms it. It is a symbol of the transforming power and abundance of God's blessing. It calls to mind the description of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:4-14, and is perhaps intended to do so.

Ezekiel has in mind the nation, called to be faithful to God, but exiled in Babylon because of their unfaithfulness, now forgiven and to be restored. But his words have wider application and provoke reflection on the transforming power and generosity of God.

To Ponder

  • Reflect on the properties of water (cooling, cleansing, quenching thirst and so on). What do these suggest to you about the blessings of God?
  • In the Bible God often communicates through dreams and visions. How far is this still so today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..