11 August 2011

"Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary." (v. 12)


The consequences of the river's blessings are found in this section - the most notable being the transformation of the sea of stagnant waters at Arabah into fresh water. This region is of course the Dead Sea which will presumably have to be renamed! But Ezekiel's mixture of symbolic ideas with physical realities continues with his explanation that the marshy areas will still provide salt, an essential mineral in that time as it is in ours. An abundance of fish like those found in the Great Sea (the Mediterranean) will be fished, whilst on the banks trees will produce fruit every month, and have medicinal leaves.

Once again, a merely literal interpretation of this passage will miss the deeper symbolic significance and we will not have really seen. Rivers and seas are not our natural environment, just as fish are creatures from another realm. Also, the idea of an abundance of animals that swarm in verse 9 sounds more like a plague from the book of Exodus than a blessing. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning here about the blessings that may come as we engage with things that make us less than comfortable. Equally too, we must remember that waters and the deep are often seen to symbolise the unconscious (although of course Ezekiel was not a follower of Freud or Jung!).

The trees on the river bank with their hyper production of fruit also have a symbolic meaning. Ezekiel has himself used the symbol of a tree to talk about the power of nations and empires such as Assyria in chapter 31. This particular tree became proud and violent and so was cut down by God in stark contrast to the trees sustained by the river of God's blessing. In the Garden of Eden there were of course two trees, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life (see Genesis 2:9). It seems that the fruit from these trees is now freely available and bring life rather than death.

To Ponder

What are the stagnant pools in our nation's life that need the transforming power of God's Spirit?

What are the areas of God's blessing in your life which are currently disguised as places of discomfort?

Bible notes author: The Revd Jonathan Mead

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