1, 2. (a) What instructions does Ezekiel receive from Jehovah? (b) What questions will we consider?
EZEKIEL has just seen a vision that must have made his thoughts travel back nearly 900 years to the days of Moses and Joshua. At that time, Jehovah outlined to Moses the boundaries of the Promised Land and later told Joshua how that land should be allotted among the tribes of Israel. (Num. 34:1-15; Josh. 13:7; 22:4, 9) But now, in the year 593 B.C.E., Jehovah instructs Ezekiel and his fellow exiles to allot the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel again!—Ezek. 45:1; 47:14; 48:29.
2 What message did this vision contain for Ezekiel and his fellow exiles? Why is this vision a source of encouragement for God’s people today? Will it see a larger fulfillment in the future?
A Vision With a Four-Fold Assurance
3, 4. (a) Ezekiel’s final vision provided the exiles with what four assurances? (b) In this chapter, what guarantee will we examine?
3 The final vision that Ezekiel received fills nine chapters of his book. (Ezek. 40:1–48:35) It provided the exiles with four heartening assurances about the renewed nation of Israel. What were those assurances? First, pure worship would be restored in God’s temple. Second, righteous priests and shepherds would lead the restored nation. Third, land inheritances would be reserved for all those who would return to Israel. And fourth, Jehovah would be with them, dwelling among them again.
4 Chapters 13 and 14 of this publication considered how the first two guarantees—the restoration of true worship and the leadership by righteous shepherds—would come true. In this chapter, we will focus on the third guarantee, the promise about the inheritance of the land. In the following chapter, we will consider the promise regarding the presence of Jehovah.—Ezek. 47:13-21; 48:1-7, 23-29.
“This Land . . . Is Assigned to You as an Inheritance”
5, 6. (a) In Ezekiel’s vision, what territory was to be assigned? (See opening picture.) (b) What was the purpose of the vision of land assignment?
5 Read Ezekiel 47:14. In vision, Jehovah directed Ezekiel’s attention to a portion of land that would soon resemble “the garden of Eden.” (Ezek. 36:35) Then Jehovah stated: “This is the territory that you will assign as the land inheritance of the 12 tribes of Israel.” (Ezek. 47:13) “The territory” to be assigned was the restored land of Israel to which the exiles would return. Next, as recorded at Ezekiel 47:15-21, Jehovah went on to describe in detail the precise external boundaries of the whole land.
6 What was the purpose of this vision of land assignment? The description of the precisely measured boundaries reassured Ezekiel and his fellow exiles that their beloved land would definitely be restored. Imagine how that reassurance from Jehovah, in such detailed and descriptive language, must have lifted the hearts of the exiles! Did God’s ancient people indeed receive land that was allotted to them as an inheritance? Yes, they did.
7. (a) What events began in 537 B.C.E., reminding us of what? (b) What question will we consider first?
7 In 537 B.C.E., some 56 years after Ezekiel received his vision, thousands of exiles began to return to the land of Israel and take possession of it. Those remarkable events of long ago remind us of a similar development that has been taking place among God’s people in modern times. In a way, they too received an allotment of land. How so? Jehovah allowed his servants to enter a spiritual land and take possession of it. That being the case, the restoration of the ancient Promised Land can teach us much about the restoration of the spiritual land of God’s people today. But before we consider these lessons, let us first answer the question, “Why can we conclude that a spiritual land truly exists today?”
8. (a) Jehovah replaced the nation of natural Israelites with what nation? (b) What is the spiritual land, or paradise? (c) When did it come into existence, and who have settled in it?
8 In an earlier vision given to Ezekiel, Jehovah indicated that prophecies about Israel’s restoration would see a greater fulfillment after his “servant David,” Jesus Christ, began to rule as King. (Ezek. 37:24) That event occurred in 1914 C.E. By that time, the nation of natural Israelites had long since been replaced as God’s people by a nation of spiritual Israelites, made up of spirit-anointed Christians. (Read Matthew 21:43; 1 Peter 2:9.) However, Jehovah replaced not only the natural nation of Israel with a spiritual nation but also the physical land of Israel with a spiritual land, or paradise. (Isa. 66:8) As we saw in Chapter 17 of this publication, the spiritual land is the secure spiritual environment, or realm of activity, in which the remnant of the anointed ones have been worshipping Jehovah since 1919. (See box 9B, “Why 1919?”) As time progressed, those with an earthly hope, the “other sheep,” also began to settle in this spiritual land. (John 10:16) While the spiritual paradise continues to develop and expand today, its blessings will be experienced to the fullest extent only after Armageddon.
Dividing the Land Evenly and Precisely
9. What detailed instructions did Jehovah give about the allotment of the land itself?
9 Read Ezekiel 48:1, 28. After having established the outer boundaries of the land, Jehovah described in detail how to allot the land itself. He directed that the 12 tribal inheritances be laid out evenly and precisely from north to south, starting with the tribe of Dan at the northern tip of the land and ending with the tribe of Gad at the southernmost boundary. Each of the 12 inheritances consisted of a horizontal strip of territory stretching from the land’s outer boundary in the east to the Great Sea, or the Mediterranean Sea, in the west.—Ezek. 47:20.
10. What assurances did this part of the vision likely convey to the exiles?
10 What assurances did this part of the vision likely convey to the exiles? The detailed description that Ezekiel gave of the land allotment must have impressed on the exiles that the dividing of the land would be a well-organized project. Moreover, the precise division of the land among all 12 tribes underlined that every one of the returned exiles would receive a secure inheritance in the restored land. No one would return only to end up landless or homeless.
11. What lessons can we draw from the prophetic vision of the land allotment? (See the box “The Allotment of the Land.”)
11 What strengthening lessons can we draw from this vision today? The restored Promised Land had a place not only for the priests, the Levites, and the chieftains but also for all other members of the 12 tribes. (Ezek. 45:4, 5, 7, 8) Similarly today, the spiritual paradise has a place not only for the anointed remnant and for those among the “great crowd” who take the lead but also for all other members of the great crowd.* (Rev. 7:9) No matter how modest our role in the organization may be, we have a secure place and a valuable assignment in the spiritual land. What a heartwarming assurance!
Two Significant Differences—What Do They Mean for Us?
12, 13. What specific instructions did Jehovah give about assigning the tribes shares in the land?
12 Some of Jehovah’s instructions about the allotting of land might have puzzled Ezekiel because they differed from those that God had given Moses. Consider two such differences. One has to do with the land; the other, with its inhabitants.
13 First, the land. Moses had been instructed to give the larger tribes more land than the smaller ones. (Num. 26:52-54) However, in Ezekiel’s vision, Jehovah gave specific instructions to assign all tribes “equal shares [“each like his brother,” ftn.].” (Ezek. 47:14) Thus, the distance from the northern border to the southern border in a tribal inheritance was to be exactly the same in each of the 12 allotments. All Israelites—no matter which tribe they belonged to—would have equal access to the natural bounty that the well-watered Promised Land was capable of producing.
14. How did Jehovah’s instructions regarding the foreign residents go beyond what had been stated in the Mosaic Law?
14 Second, the inhabitants. The Mosaic Law protected foreigners and allowed them to share in worshipping Jehovah, but they had no share in the land. (Lev. 19:33, 34) However, what Jehovah now told Ezekiel went beyond what He had stated in the Law. Jehovah instructed him: “Give the foreign resident an inheritance in the territory of the tribe where he has taken up residence.” With that command, Jehovah swept away a major difference between the “native-born Israelites” and the foreign residents in the land. (Ezek. 47:22, 23) In the restored land that Ezekiel saw in vision, he observed among its inhabitants equality and unity in worship.—Lev. 25:23.
15. What eternal truth about Jehovah was confirmed by his instructions about the land and its inhabitants?
15 These two remarkable instructions that Ezekiel received about the land and its people must have reassured the exiles. They knew that Jehovah would allot an equal place to them, whether they were Israelites by birth or were foreigners who worshipped Jehovah. (Ezra 8:20; Neh. 3:26; 7:6, 25; Isa. 56:3, 8) These instructions also confirmed the uplifting and eternal truth that to Jehovah, all his servants are equally precious. (Read Haggai 2:7.) Today, whether we have a heavenly hope or an earthly one, we cherish that same truth.
16, 17. (a) How do we benefit from considering the details about the land and the inhabitants? (b) What will we consider in the following chapter?
16 How do we benefit from considering these details about the land and the inhabitants? We are reminded that equality and unity need to be outstanding features of our worldwide brotherhood today. Jehovah is not partial. We need to ask ourselves: ‘Do I reflect Jehovah’s impartiality? Do I treat each fellow worshipper with heartfelt respect, no matter what his racial background or circumstances in life may be?’ (Rom. 12:10) We rejoice that Jehovah has given all of us equal access to the spiritual paradise, where we render whole-souled sacred service to our heavenly Father and enjoy his blessings.—Gal. 3:26-29; Rev. 7:9.
17 Let us now consider the fourth assurance given in the final part of Ezekiel’s last vision—the promise that Jehovah would be with the exiles. What lessons can we learn from that promise? We will find the answer in the following chapter.
For a consideration of the special place and assignment that Jehovah has set apart for the priesthood and the chieftain in the spiritual land, see Chapter 14 of this publication.