Daniel 4:17
This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will, and sets up over it the basest of men.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(17) By the decreei.e., the message to the king rests on this decree or sentence, and it is ascribed to the “watcher,” because to him pertained the execution of the decree.

The demand.—Comp. Isaiah 44:26. According to the use of the word in Chaldee elsewhere, this can be the only true meaning. The “holy one” makes this request of God, and the carrying out of His decree pertains to the “watcher.” “This,” says Dr. Pusey, “gives another glimpse into the interest of the holy angels in ourselves. They, too, longed that oppression should cease, and joining in the cry which for ever is going up from the oppressed to the throne of mercy and judgment, prayed for that chastisement which was to relieve the oppressed and convert the oppressor” (Lectures on Daniel, p. 525).

Ruleth . . .—i.e., Almighty God disposes of human empires as He pleases. (Comp. Daniel 5:21.)

Daniel 4:17-18. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, &c., to the intent that the living may know, &c. — The intent of the matter was to give mankind a proof, in the fall and restoration of this mighty monarch, that the fortunes of kings and empires are in the hand of God; that his providence perpetually interposes in the affairs of men, and that he distributes crowns and sceptres according to his will, but always for the good of the faithful primarily, and ultimately of his whole creation. And setteth over it the basest of men — If this be applied to Nebuchadnezzar, it must be understood, either with respect to his present condition, whose pride and cruelty rendered him as despicable in the sight of God as his high estate made him appear honourable in the eyes of men; and, therefore, was justly doomed to so low a degree of abasement: or else it may be interpreted of his wonderful restoration and advancement after he had been degraded from his dignity.4:1-18 The beginning and end of this chapter lead us to hope, that Nebuchadnezzar was a monument of the power of Divine grace, and of the riches of Divine mercy. After he was recovered from his madness, he told to distant places, and wrote down for future ages, how God had justly humbled and graciously restored him. When a sinner comes to himself, he will promote the welfare of others, by making known the wondrous mercy of God. Nebuchadnezzar, before he related the Divine judgments upon him for his pride, told the warnings he had in a dream or vision. The meaning was explained to him. The person signified, was to be put down from honour, and to be deprived of the use of his reason seven years. This is surely the sorest of all temporal judgments. Whatever outward affliction God is pleased to lay upon us, we have cause to bear it patiently, and to be thankful that he continues the use of our reason, and the peace of our consciences. Yet if the Lord should see fit by such means to keep a sinner from multiplying crimes, or a believer from dishonouring his name, even the dreadful prevention would be far preferable to the evil conduct. God has determined it, as a righteous Judge, and the angels in heaven applaud. Not that the great God needs the counsel or concurrence of the angels, but it denotes the solemnity of this sentence. The demand is by the word of the holy ones, God's suffering people: when the oppressed cry to God, he will hear. Let us diligently seek blessings which can never be taken from us, and especially beware of pride and forgetfulness of God.This matter is by the decree of the watchers - See the notes at Daniel 4:13. They are described here not only as watching over the affairs of men, but as entrusted wth the execution of high and important designs of God. The representation is, that one of these heavenly beings was seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his visions, and that this one stated to him that he had come to execute what had been determined on by his associates, or in counsel with others. The idea would seem to be, that the affairs of the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar had been in important respects placed under the administration of these beings, and that in solemn council they had resolved on this measure. It is not said that this was not in accordance with, and under the direction of, a higher power - that of God; and that is rather implied when it is said that the great design of this was to show to the living that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men." In itself considered, there is no improbability in supposing that the affairs of this lower world are in some respects placed under the administration of beings superior to man, nor that events may occur as the result of their deliberation, or, as it is here expressed, by their "decree." If, in any respect, the affairs of the world are subject to their jurisdiction, there is every reason to suppose that there would be harmony of counsel and of action, and an event of this kind might be so represented.

And the demand - Or, the matter; the affair; the business. The Chaldee word properly means a question, a petition; then a subject of inquiry, a matter of business. Here it means, that this matter, or this business, was in accordance with the direction of the holy ones.

The holy ones - Synonymous with the watchers, and referring to the same. See the note at Daniel 4:13.

To the intent that the living may know - With the design that those who live on the earth may understand this. That is, the design was to furnish a proof of this, so impressive and striking, that it could not be doubted by any. No more effectual way of doing this could occur than by showing the absolute power of the Most High over such a monarch as Nebuchadnezzar.

That the Most High - He who is exalted above all men; all angels; all that pretend to be gods. The phrase here is designed to refer to the true God, and the object was to show that he was the most exalted of all beings, and had absolute control over all.

Ruleth in the kingdom of men - Whoever reigns, he reigns over them.

And giveth it to whomsoever he will - That is, he gives dominion over men to whomsoever he chooses. It is not by human ordering, or by arrangements among men. It is not by hereditary right; not by succession; not by conquest; not by usurpation; not by election, that this matter is finally determined; it is by the decree and purpose of God. He can remove the hereditary prince by death; he can cause him to be set aside by granting success to a usurper; he can dispose of a crown by conquest; he can cut off the conqueror by death, and transfer the crown to an inferior officer; he can remove one who was the united choice of a people by death, and put another in his place. So the apostle Paul says, "There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" Romans 13:1.

And setteth up over it the basest of men - That is, he appoints over the kingdom of men, at his pleasure, those who are of the humblest or lowest rank. The allusion here is not to Nebuchadnezzar as if he were the "basest" or the "vilest" of men, but the statement is a general truth, that God, at his pleasure, sets aside those of exalted rank, and elevates those of the lowest rank in their place. There is an idea now attached commonly to the word "basest," which the word used here by no means conveys. It does not denote the mean, the vile, the worthless, the illiberal, but those of humble or lowly rank. This is the proper meaning of the Chaldee word שׁפל shephal - and so it is rendered in the Vulgate, humillimum hominem. The Greek of Theodotion, however, is, "what is disesteemed among men" - ἐξουδένωμα ἀνθρώπῶν exoudenōma anthrōpōn. In the latter part of the dream Daniel 4:15-16 we have an illustration of what often occurs in dreams - their singular incongruity. In the early part of the dream, the vision is that of a tree, and the idea is consistently carried out for a considerable part of it - the height of the tree, the branches, the leaves, the fruit, the shade, the stump; then suddenly there is a "change" to something that is living and human - the change of the "heart" to that of a beast; the being exposed to the dew of heaven; the portion with the beasts of the earth, etc. Such changes and incongruities, as every one knows, are common in dreams. So Shakespeare -

"True, I talk of dreams,

Which are the children of an idle brain,

Begot of nothing but vain fantasy;

Which is as thin of substance as the air,

And more inconstant than the wind, who woos

Even now the frozen bosom of the North,


17. demand—that is, determination; namely, as to the change to which Nebuchadnezzar is to be doomed. A solemn council of the heavenly ones is supposed (compare Job 1:6; 2:1), over which God presides supreme. His "decree" and "word" are therefore said to be theirs (compare Da 4:24, "decree of the Most High"); "the decree of the watchers," "the word of the holy ones." For He has placed particular kingdoms under the administration of angelic beings, subject to Him (Da 10:13, 20; 12:1). The word "demand," in the second clause, expresses a distinct idea from the first clause. Not only as members of God's council (Da 7:10; 1Ki 22:19; Ps 103:21; Zec 1:10) do they subscribe to His "decree," but that decree is in answer to their prayers, wherein they demand that every mortal who tries to obscure the glory of God shall be humbled [Calvin]. Angels are grieved when God's prerogative is in the least infringed. How awful to Nebuchadnezzar to know that angels plead against him for his pride, and that the decree has been passed in the high court of heaven for his humiliation in answer to angels' demands! The conceptions are moulded in a form peculiarly adapted to Nebuchadnezzar's modes of thought.

the living—not as distinguished from the dead, but from the inhabitants of heaven, who "know" that which the men of the world need to the taught (Ps 9:16); the ungodly confess there is a God, but would gladly confine Him to heaven. But, saith Daniel, God ruleth not merely there, but "in the kingdom of men."

basest—the lowest in condition (1Sa 2:8; Lu 1:52). It is not one's talents, excellency, or noble birth, but God's will, which elevates to the throne. Nebuchadnezzar abased to the dunghill, and then restored, was to have in himself an experimental proof of this (Da 4:37).

The decree was God’s, and the demand was of the holy angels; if God would enact and ratify it, the angels as commissioners had the dispensation of it put into their hands, and they all consent to it as a just judgment of God, to be executed by them according to the will and pleasure of God; and they desire of God it may be done, alluding to the customs of some nations, and speaking after the manner, for the holy angels are zealous for God’s honour, and pray him to assert his own sovereignty against the bold encroachments of mortal men, especially rampant and savage tyrants, to make them know themselves.

Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men: this Nebuchadnezzar and his flatterers conceited he was god in earth, independent and unaccountable to any; and though he had notions of a supreme God, yet he confined his government to heaven. Jupiter in heaven, Caesar in earth, rules all, said the heathen poet. But the great God will make all men know he rules all in earth too, and sets up at his pleasure whom he will, and plucks them down again. All power is of God, Romans 13:1, who doth often make use of his power in this case, thereby declaring he only is arbitrary and absolute; for instance, he gives this dignity sometimes to the basest of men, as he took it from Saul and gave it David, a poor shepherd’s boy, Psalm 78:70,71, and made him a name among the great men of the earth, 1 Samuel 2:7,8 1 Chronicles 17:7,8. This matter is by the decree of the watchers,.... That is, the cutting down the tree, and what is signified by it, was with the advice, consent, and approbation of the watchers, by whom is generally understood angels; not that they were the authors of this decree, but approvers of it; and were ready, not only to subscribe it, but to execute it; it being against a wicked man, and an oppressor of the Lord's people: they are represented as assessors with God; called into a consultation with him; alluding to the manner of kings and princes, who have their privy council, whom they advise with on occasion; though, properly speaking, nothing of this nature is to be attributed to God, only after the manner of men; see 1 Kings 22:19.

and the demand by the word of the Holy Ones; the same as before, in other words; watchers and Holy Ones being the same, the holy angels; See Gill on Daniel 4:13, and the decree and the demand the same; or the request (o), or petition; which shows what concern they had in the decree; they only requested it might pass, or be carried into execution; though some understand this of saints on earth, who, in their prayers and supplications, requested for the judgments of God to come down upon this proud monarch: though, after all, it may be best to interpret the whole of the three Persons in the Godhead, who are perfectly pure and holy, essentially and inderivatively; and may be called watchers, because they watch over the good, to bring it upon the Lord's people; and over the evil, to bring it upon their enemies: and to them well agree the decree and the demand; and the rather this may be thought to be the true sense, since this decree is called the decree of the most High, Daniel 4:24, and who is expressed in the next clause:

to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men; though men have kingdoms on earth, and multitudes subject to them, yet they are not absolute sovereigns; there is a God that is higher than they, at whose control they are, and does whatsoever he pleases in their kingdoms, of which the event signified in this dream was a proof; and would be brought about on purpose to make it appear that those that live on earth (for, as for the dead, they know nothing what is done on it), both princes and people, might be sufficiently convinced of the truth of it:

and giveth it to whomsoever he will; that is, the kingdom; he takes it from one, and gives it to another; pulls down one, and sets up another, as he pleases; see Daniel 2:21,

and setteth up over it the basest of men; or, "the lowest of men" (p); men of the meanest and lowest rank and condition of life, as David was taken from the sheepfold, and made king of Israel; perhaps respect is had to Nebuchadnezzar himself; not to his person, as Saadiah, who says he was short, and low of stature; but to his llater state and condition, when he was taken from among the beasts of the field, and restored to his throne and kingdom.

(o) "petitio", Pagninus, Montanus; "postulatio", Munster; "hoc postulatum", Junius & Tremellius; "petitio haec", Piscator. (p) "humliem hominum". Montanus, Grotius; "humilem inter homines", Pagninus; "humilem virorum", Michaelis; "humillimum hominum", Cocceius.

{i} This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.

(i) God has decreed this judgment and the whole army of heaven has as it were joined in being a part of it, just as they also desire the execution of his decree against all those that lift up themselves against God.

17. This matter] either The word (i.e. The sentence, R.V., as Ecclesiastes 8:11 [cf. Esther 1:20, the decree, for the same word in Hebrew]), or (in a weakened sense), The thing (cf. Daniel 3:16 ‘in this matter’), i.e. what has just been described.

by the decree &c.] implying that it is unalterably fixed.

of the watchers, &c.] in Daniel 4:24 the king’s doom is said to be ‘by the decree of the Most High.’ God is represented in the O.T. as surrounded by an assembly of angels (1 Kings 22:19), who form almost a kind of heavenly council, Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 15:8 (R.V. marg.), Jeremiah 23:18, Psalm 89:7; and it seems that in Dan. the decree is regarded as possessing the joint authority of God and of His council. By the later Jews this assembly of angels was called God’s ‘court of judgement’ (בית דין), or His ‘family’ (פמליא); and He was represented as taking counsel with it, or communicating to it His purposes (so Genesis 1:26 in the Targ. of Ps.-Jon.). In Sanh. 38 b it is said, “The Holy One, blessed be He! does nothing without first consulting the family above, as it is said (Daniel 4:17), ‘By the decree of the watchers,’ &c.” See further Weber, System der Altsynag. Theol. p. 170 f.

the demand] probably the matter (R.V. marg.). The Aram. means either a request (1 Kings 2:16, Heb. and Targ., Luke 23:24, Pesh. for αἴτημα), or a question, subject of discussion or dispute (Jeremiah 12:1, Targ.); and is hence generally supposed to have here the weakened sense of the matter. (‘Demand’ must be understood in a sense analogous to that expressed by the verb in Daniel 2:27 (see the note); there is no warrant for giving the Aram. word the sense of authoritative request.)

to the intent &c.] the humiliation of the mighty king is to teach all who witness it that God is supreme over the kingdoms of the world.

the basest] i.e. the lowest (R.V.),—viz. in rank and position, not in character. ‘Base’ in Old English meant ‘low, humble, not necessarily worthless or wicked,’ (Wright, Bible Word-Book, s.v.). Polydore Vergil i. 70 (cited ib.), ‘which the baser sorte [i.e. common people] doe sometime superstitiouslye note as signs and wonders.’ In 1 Corinthians 1:28 the ‘base things of the world’ (τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου) means merely ‘things of no account’; and in 2 Corinthians 10:1 St Paul in calling himself (A.V.) ‘base among you,’ of course really only means to say that he is ‘lowly’ (R.V.). Cf. Ezekiel 17:14; Ezekiel 29:14-15. The same word which is used in the Aram. here is used also (in its Heb. form) in Job 5:11, ‘to set up on high those that be low;’ Psalm 138:6, ‘yet hath he respect unto the lowly,’ and Isaiah 57:15 (‘humble’).Verse 17. - This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy odes: to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. In this verse the difference between the Septuagint text - we mean the text behind that version - and that of the Massoretes is great. It is as follows: "Until he know the Lord of heaven to have power over all things which are in heaven and on the earth, and such things as he willeth to do, he doeth." This, as may be observed, is very much briefer than the Massoretic, and hence, to a certain extent, to be preferred. It is, however, difficult to imagine the genesis of the one from the other, as they have only two words in common in a similar connection, שַׁלִּיּט (shaleet) and ינְדְּעוּן (yinedeoon)' If we start with the supposition that the Massoretic text is the primary, we have a difficulty in seeing what reason induced this peculiar form of condensation. Had it been to get rid of the decree of the watchers, and the demand of the holy ones, that clause might have been simply omitted, and the sense would have given no sign of anything having been omitted. If, again, we start with the Septuagint text as our basis, it is difficult to understand what led to the insertion of "the decree of the watchers" and "the demand of the holy ones." Of course, the period of the Persian domination and that of the early Greek supremacy was one in which the angelic hierarchy was enormously increased and made vastly more complex than it had been before. Further, it is to be noted that "the watchers," עירין ('ereen), are here distinguished absolutely from "the holy ones," קַדִישִׁין (gad-deesbeen), whereas in ver. 10 (13) "the watchers" and "the holy ones" are identified. This distinction is made in later Jewish commentators, and therefore its. presence here, fin contradistinction to ver. 13, is proof of a relatively late origin for this clause. Zockler would avoid this by asserting a parallelism of members in this sentence; but, in the first place, this is not verse, but prose, and therefore parallelism need not be expected. Further, גְזֵדֵת (gezayrath) is "a decree" given by a person in authority, and צּצּצּ (sh'alayth) is "a petition" presented to one in authority. So far from the two being identified in the verse before us, the watchers and the holy ones are as absolutely contrasted as they can be. Bevan simply appeals to ver. 10 (13) to prove their identity - sense has no influence with him. When we turn to Theodotion, we find that, in his practical identity with the Massoretic text, he has preserved the contrast between "decree" and "petition," the former word being represented by σύγκριμα, and the second by ἐπερώτημα. These two words represent fairly well the distinction between גְצֵרֵת (gezayrath), and שְׁאַלֵת (sh'alayth). It is probable that σύγκριμα is used instead of κρίμα in order to show that εἴρ is to be regarded as genitive plural. The Peshitta follows the Massoretic, but less closely. It has עיר, "watcher," in the singular. This clause in the Syriac should be rendered, "according to the decrees of the watcher is this order, and according to the word of the holy one is the request;" it retains the distinction in question much as it is in the received text, but with a distinct difference of meaning in regard to the ether words of the clause. So, too, Jerome in the Vulgate translates, "In sententia vigilum decretum eat et sermo sanctorum et petitio," thus maintaining, in all the confusion there is in this rendering, the distinction we have referred to. In the final clause, the Vulgate is further astray from the Massoretic. translating, super eum. The theology of this passage is singular, so singular that, were it not for the omission of the passage from the Septuagint. and its contradiction of ver. 13, we might be inclined to think it must be genuine. (For a similar statement, see Galatians 3:19, "The Law... was ordained by angels;" Hebrews 2:2, "If the word spoken by angels was steadfast.") The view seems to be that the Almighty had a council of angels, and before them was every question discussed ere it was decreed. In short, that there was a heavenly sanhedrin, corresponding to that on earth - an idea which was developed by the Talmudists. It appears in Enoch, not vet fully developed. In Enoch 12. certain of the watchers are denounced as having defiled themselves with women; in ch. 20. we have the name of the holy angels who watch, and in this chapter we have the different provinces assigned to each of them. Six are enumerated. They have thus no collective function. In the portion of Enoch preserved in Syncellus, men are represented as calling to the heavens, and addressing them; and the four angels, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel, give answer by looking down upon the earth, and they see the blood that is being shed by violence. Then follows the statement, "And the four archangels came before the Lord, and said." They may be here said to act in a collective capacity, but they have no deliberative function, still less have they any power to decree. The interpolated verse before us thus represents an angelo-logy more developed than that of the date of the Book of Enoch. And setteth up over it the basest of men. This phrase suggests the "vile person," נִבְּזֶה (nibezeh), of Daniel 11:21, who is probably Epiphanes - the reference in this interpolated verse is not unlikely the same. The Syriac form of עליה in the K'thib has to be observed. One peculiarity which points to interpolation is the Hebrew plural here used, אֶנָשִׁים (anasheem). Were it not that our suspicions of this verse are deepened by examination of it, we should be inclined to see a reference to that usurpation of Nebuchadnezzar's throne, which Lenormant thinks is implied in the title Neriglissar gives to his father. There seems to be a reference to something like this in ver. 24 of this chapter, according to the version of the LXX. The division of the land, like the definition of the boundaries (Ezekiel 47:15), commences in the north, and enumerates the tribes in the order in which they were to receive their inheritances from north to south: first, seven tribes from the northern boundary to the centre of the land (Ezekiel 48:1-7), where the heave for the sanctuary, with the land of the priests and Levites and the city domain, together with the prince's land on the two sides, was to be set apart (Ezekiel 48:8-22; and secondly, the other five tribes from this to the southern boundary (Ezekiel 48:23-29). Compare the map on Plate IV.

Ezekiel 48:1. And these are the names of the tribes: from the north end by the side of the way to Chetlon toward Hamath (and) Hazar-Enon the boundary of Damascus - toward the north by the side of Hamath there shall east side, west side belong to him: Dan one (tribe-lot). Ezekiel 48:2. And on the boundary of Dan from the east side to the west side: Asher one. Ezekiel 48:3. And on the boundary of Asher from the east side to the west side: Naphtali one. Ezekiel 48:4. And on the boundary of Naphtali from the east side to the west side: Manasseh one. Ezekiel 48:5. And on the boundary of Manasseh from the east side to the west side: Ephraim one. Ezekiel 48:6. And on the boundary of Ephraim from the east side to the west side: Reuben one. Ezekiel 48:7. And on the boundary of Reuben from the east side to the west side: Judah one. Ezekiel 48:8. And on the boundary of Judah from the east side to the west side shall be the heave, which ye shall lift (heave) off, five and twenty thousand (rods) in breadth, and the length like every tribe portion from the east side to the west side; and the sanctuary shall be in the midst of it. Ezekiel 48:9. The heave which ye shall lift (heave) for Jehovah shall be five and twenty thousand in length and ten thousand in breadth. Ezekiel 48:10. And to these shall the holy heave belong, to the priests, toward the north, five and twenty thousand; toward the west, breadth ten thousand; toward the east, breadth ten thousand; and toward the south, length five and twenty thousand; and the sanctuary of Jehovah shall be in the middle of it. Ezekiel 48:11. To the priests, whoever is sanctified of the sons of Zadok, who have kept my charge, who have not strayed with the straying of the sons of Israel, as the Levites have strayed, Ezekiel 48:12. To them shall a portion lifted off belong from the heave of the land; a most holy beside the territory of the Levites. Ezekiel 48:13. And the Levites (shall receive) parallel with the territory of the priests five and twenty thousand in length, and in breadth ten thousand; the whole length five and twenty thousand, and (the whole) breadth ten thousand. Ezekiel 48:14. And they shall not sell or exchange any of it, nor shall the first-fruit of the land pass to others; for it is holy to Jehovah. Ezekiel 48:15. And the five thousand which remain in the breadth along the five and twenty thousand are common land for the city for dwellings and for open space; and the city shall be in the centre of it. Ezekiel 48:16. And these are its measures: the north side four thousand five hundred, the south side four thousand five hundred, the east side four thousand five hundred, and the west side four thousand five hundred. Ezekiel 48:17. And the open space of the city shall be toward the north two hundred and fifty, toward the south two hundred and fifty, toward the east two hundred and fifty, and toward the west two hundred and fifty. Ezekiel 48:18. And the remainder in length parallel with the holy heave, ten thousand toward the east and ten thousand toward the west, this shall be beside the holy heave, and its produce shall serve the workmen of the city for food. Ezekiel 48:19. And as for the workmen of the city, they shall cultivate it from all the tribes. Ezekiel 48:20. The whole of the heave is five and twenty thousand by five and twenty thousand; a fourth of the holy heave shall ye take for the possession of the city. Ezekiel 48:21. And the remainder shall belong to the prince on this side and on that side of the holy heave and of the city possession; along the five and twenty thousand of the heave to the eastern boundary, and toward the west along the five and twenty thousand to the western boundary parallel with the tribe portions, it shall belong to the prince; and the holy heave and the sanctuary of the house shall be in the midst. Ezekiel 48:22. Thus from the possession of the Levites (as) from the possession of the city shall that which lies in the midst of what belongs to the prince between the territory of Judah and the territory of Benjamin belong to the prince. Ezekiel 48:23. And the rest of the tribes are from the east side to the west side: Benjamin one. Ezekiel 48:24. And on the boundary of Benjamin from the east side to the west side: Simeon one. Ezekiel 48:25. And on the boundary of Simeon from the east side to the west side: Issachar one. Ezekiel 48:26. And on the boundary of Issachar from the east side to the west side: Zebulon one. Ezekiel 48:27. And on the boundary of Zebulon from the east side to the west side: Gad one. Ezekiel 48:28. And on the boundary of Gad on the south side toward the south, the boundary shall be from Tamar to the water of strife from Kadesh along the brook to the great sea. Ezekiel 48:29. This is the land which ye shall divide by lot for inheritance to the tribes of Israel; these are their portions, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah.

The new division of the land differs from the former one effected in the time of Joshua, in the first place, in the fact that all the tribe-portions were to extend uniformly across the entire breadth of the land from the eastern boundary to the Mediterranean Sea on the west, so that they were to form parallel tracts of country; whereas in the distribution made in the time of Joshua, several of the tribe-territories covered only half the breadth of the land. For example, Dan received his inheritance on the west of Benjamin; and the territories of half Manasseh and Asher ran up from the northern boundary of Ephraim to the northern boundary of Canaan; while Issachar, Naphtali, and Zebulon received their portions on the east of these; and lastly, Simeon received his possession within the boundaries of the tribe of Judah. And secondly, it also differs from the former, in the fact that not only are all the twelve tribes located in Canaan proper, between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea; whereas previously two tribes and a half had received from Moses, at their own request, the conquered land of Bashan and Gilead on the eastern side of the Jordan, so that the land of Canaan could be divided among the remaining nine tribes and a half. But besides this, the central tract of land, about the fifth part of the whole, was separated for the holy heave, the city domain, and the prince's land, so that only the northern and southern portions, about four-fifths of the whole, remained for distribution among the twelve tribes, seven tribes receiving their hereditary portions to the north of the heave and five to the south, because the heave was so selected that the city with its territory lay near the ancient Jerusalem. - In Ezekiel 48:1-7 the seven tribes which were to dwell on the north of the heave are enumerated. The principal points of the northern boundary, viz., the way to Chetlon and Hazar-Enon, the boundary of Damascus, are repeated in Ezekiel 48:1 from Ezekiel 47:15, Ezekiel 47:17, as the starting and terminal points of the northern boundary running from west to east. The words אל־יד חמת fix the northern boundary more precisely in relation to the adjoining territory; and in 'והיוּ the enumeration of the tribe-lots begins with that of the tribe of Dan, which was to receive its territory against the northern boundary. לו refers to the name דּן which follows, and which Ezekiel already had in his mind. פּאת קדים היּם is constructed asyndetôs; and פּאת is to be repeated in thought before היּם: the east side (and) the west (side) are to belong to it, i.e., the tract of land toward its west and its east side. The words which follow, דּן אחד, are attached in an anacoluthistic manner: "Dan (is to receive) one portion," for "one shall belong to Dan." To אחד we are to supply in thought the substantive חבל, tribe-lot, according to Ezekiel 47:13. "The assumption that one tribe was to receive as much as another (vid., Ezekiel 47:14), leads to the conclusion that each tribe-lot was to be taken as a monas" (Kliefoth). In this way the names in Ezekiel 48:2-7, with the constantly repeated אחד, must also be taken. The same form of description is repeated in Ezekiel 48:23-28 in the case of the five tribes placed to the south of the heave. - In the order of the several tribe-territories it is impossible to discover any universal principle of arrangement. All that is clear is, that in the case of Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, and Ephraim, regard is had to the former position of these tribe-territories as far as the altered circumstances allowed. In the time of the Judges a portion of the Danites had migrated to the north, conquered the city of Laish, and given it the name of Dan, so that from that time forward Dan is generally named as the northern boundary of the land (e.g., as early as 2 Samuel 3:10, and in other passages). Accordingly Dan receives the tract of land along the northern boundary. Asher and Naphtali, which formerly occupied the most northerly portions of the land, follow next. Then comes Manasseh, as half Manasseh had formerly dwelt on the east of Naphtali; and Ephraim joins Manasseh, as it formerly joined the western half of Manasseh. The reason for placing Reuben between Ephraim and Judah appears to be, that Reuben was the first-born of Jacob's sons. The position of the termuah between Judah and Benjamin is probably connected with the circumstance that Jerusalem formerly stood on the boundary of these two tribes, and so also in the future was to skirt Benjamin with its territory. The other tribes had then to be located on the south of Benjamin; Simeon, whose territory formerly lay to the south; Issachar and Zebulon, for which no room was left in the north; and Gad, which had to be brought over from Gilead to Canaan.

In Ezekiel 48:8-22, the terumah, which has already been described in Ezekiel 45:1-7 for a different purpose, is more precisely defined: first of all, in Ezekiel 48:8, according to its whole extent - viz. twenty-five thousand rods in breadth (from north to south), and the length the same as any one ( equals every one) of the tribe-lots, i.e., reaching from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea (cf. Ezekiel 45:7). In the centre of this separated territory the sanctuary (the temple) was to stand. בּתוכו, the suffix of which refers ad sensum to חלק instead of תּרוּמה, has not the indefinite meaning "therein," but signifies "in the centre;" for the priests' portion, in the middle of which the temple was to stand, occupied the central position between the portion of the Levites and the city possession, as is evident from Ezekiel 48:22. The circumstance that here, as in Ezekiel 45:1., in the division of the terumah, the priests' portion is mentioned first, then the portion of the Levites, and after this the city possession, proves nothing so far as the local order in which these three portions followed one another is concerned; but the enumeration is regulated by their spiritual significance, so that first of all the most holy land for the temple and priests is defined, then the holy portion of the Levites, and lastly, the common land for the city. The command, that the sanctuary is to occupy the centre of the whole terumah, leads to a more minute description in the first place (Ezekiel 48:9-12) of the priests' portion, in which the sanctuary was situated, than of the heave to be lifted off for Jehovah. In Ezekiel 48:10, לאלּה, which stands at the head, is explained by לכּהנים which follows. The extent of this holy terumah on all four sides is then given; and lastly, the command is repeated, that the sanctuary of Jehovah is to be in the centre of it. In Ezekiel 48:11, המקדּשׁ is rendered in the plural by the lxx, Chald. and Syr., and is taken in a distributive sense by Kimchi and others: to the priests whoever is sanctified of the sons of Zadok. This is required by the position of the participle between לכּהנים and מבּני צדוק (compare 2 Chronicles 26:18, and for the singular of the participle after a previous plural, Psalm 8:9). The other rendering, "for the priests is it sanctified, those of the sons of Zadok," is at variance not only with the position of the words, but also with the fact, namely, that the assignment to the priests of a heave set apart for Jehovah is never designated as קדּשׁ, and from the nature of the case could not be so designated. The apodosis to Ezekiel 48:11 follows in Ezekiel 48:12, where לכּהנים is resumed in להם. תּרוּמיּה is an adjective formation derived from תּרוּמה, with the signification of an abstract: that which is lifted (the lifting) from the heave, as it were "a terumah in the second potency" (for these formations, see Ewald, 164 and 165). This terumiyah is called most holy, in contrast with the Levites' portion of the terumah, which was קדשׁ (Ezekiel 48:14). The priests' portion is to be beside the territory of the Levites, whether on the southern or northern side cannot be gathered from these words any more than from the definition in Ezekiel 48:13 : "and the Levites beside (parallel with) the territory of the priests." Both statements simply affirm that the portions of the priests and Levites were to lie side by side, and not to be separated by the town possession. - Ezekiel 48:13 and Ezekiel 48:14 treat of the Levites' portion: Ezekiel 48:13, of its situation and extent; Ezekiel 48:14, of its law of tenure. The seemingly tautological repetition of the measurement of the length and breadth, as "all the length and the breadth," is occasioned by the fact "that Ezekiel intends to express himself more briefly here, and not, as in Ezekiel 48:10, to take all the four points of the compass singly; in 'all the length' he embraces the two long sides of the oblong, and in '(all) the breadth' the two broad sides, and affirms that 'all the length,' i.e., of both the north and south sides, is to be twenty-five thousand rods, and 'all the breadth,' i.e., of both the east and west sides, is to be ten thousand rods" (Kliefoth). Hitzig has missed the sense, and therefore proposes to alter the text. With regard to the possession of the Levites, the instructions given in Leviticus 25:34 for the field of the Levites' cities - namely, that none of it was to be sold - are extended to the whole of the territory of the Levites: no part of it is to be alienated by sale or barter. And the character of the possession is assigned as the reason: the first-fruit of the land, i.e., the land lifted off (separated) as first-fruit, is not to pass into the possession of others, because as such it is holy to the Lord. The Chetib ya`abowr יעבור is the correct reading: to pass over, sc. to others, to non-Levites.

Ezekiel 48:15-18 treat of the city possession. As the terumah was twenty-five thousand rods in breadth (Ezekiel 48:8), after measuring off ten thousand rods in breadth for the priests and ten thousand rods in breadth for the Levites from the entire breadth, there still remain five thousand rods על, in front of, i.e., along, the long side, which was twenty-five thousand rods. This remnant was to be חל, i.e., common (not holy) land for the city (Jerusalem). למושׁב, for dwelling-places, i.e., for building dwelling-houses upon; and למגרשׁ, for open space, the precinct around the city. The city was to stand in the centre of this oblong. Ezekiel 48:16 gives the size of the city: on each of the four sides, four thousand five hundred rods (the חמשׁ, designated by the Masoretes as כתיב ולא קרי, has crept into the text through a copyist's error); and Ezekiel 48:17, the extent of the open space surrounding it: on each side two hundred and fifty rods. This gives for the city, together with the open space, a square of five thousand rods on every side; so that the city with its precinct filled the entire breadth of the space left for it, and there only remained on the east and west an open space of ten thousand rods in length and five thousand rods in breadth along the holy terumah. This is noticed in Ezekiel 48:18; its produce was to serve for bread, i.e., for maintenance, for the labourers of the city (the masculine suffix in תּבוּאתה refers grammatically to הנּותר). By עבדי העיר Hitzig would understand the inhabitants of the city, because one cultivates a piece of land even by dwelling on it. But this use of עבד cannot be established. Nor are עבדי העיר the workmen employed in building the city, as Gesenius, Hvernick, and others suppose; for the city was not perpetually being built, so that there should be any necessity for setting apart a particular piece of land for the builders; but they are the working men of the city, the labouring class living in the city. They are not to be without possession in the future Jerusalem, but are to receive a possession in land for their maintenance. We are told in Ezekiel 48:19 who these workmen are. Here העבד is used collectively: as for the labouring class of the city, people out of all the tribes of Israel shall work upon the land belonging to the city. The suffix in יעבדוּהוּ points back to הנּותר. The transitive explanation, to employ a person in work, has nothing in the language to confirm it. The fact itself is in harmony with the statement in Ezekiel 45:6, that the city was to belong to all Israel. Lastly, in Ezekiel 48:20 the dimensions of the whole terumah, and the relation of the city possession to the holy terumah, are given. כּל־התּרוּמה is the whole heave, so far as it has hitherto been described, embracing the property of the priests, of the Levites, and of the city. In this extent it is twenty-five thousand rods long and the same broad. If, however, we add the property of the prince, which is not treated of till Ezekiel 48:21-23, it is considerably longer, and reaches, as has been stated in Ezekiel 48:8, to the boundaries of the land both on the east and west, the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, as the several tribe-territories do. But if we omit the prince's land, the space set apart fro the city possession occupied the fourth part of the holy terumah, i.e., of the portion of the priests and Levites. This is the meaning of the second half of Ezekiel 48:20, which literally reads thus: "to a fourth shall ye lift off the holy terumah for the city possession." This is not to be understood as meaning that a fourth was to be taken from the holy terumah for the city possession; for that would yield an incorrect proportion, as the twenty thousand rods in breadth would be reduced to fifteen thousand rods by the subtraction of the fourth part, which would be opposed to Ezekiel 48:9 and Ezekiel 48:15. The meaning is rather the following: from the whole terumah the fourth part of the area of the holy terumah is to be taken off for the city possession, i.e., five thousand rods for twenty thousand. According to Ezekiel 48:15, this was the size of the domain set apart for the city.

In Ezekiel 48:21-23 the situation and extent of the prince's possession are described. For Ezekiel 48:21, vid., Ezekiel 45:7. הנּותר, the rest of the terumah, as it has been defined in Ezekiel 48:8, reaching in length from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. As the holy terumah and the city possession were only twenty-five thousand rods in length, and did not reach to the Jordan on the east, or to the sea on the west, there still remained an area on either side whose length or extent toward the east and west is not given in rods, but may be calculated from the proportion which the intervening terumah bore to the length of the land (from east to west). אל־פּני and על־פּני, in front of, or along, the front of the twenty-five thousand rods, refer to the eastern and western boundaries of the terumah, which was twenty-five thousand rods in length. In Ezekiel 48:21 the statement is repeated, that the holy terumah and the sanctuary were to lie in the centre of it, i.e., between the portions of land appointed for the prince on either side; and lastly, in Ezekiel 48:22 it is still further stated, with regard to the prince's land on both sides of the terumah, that it was to lie between the adjoining tribe-territories of Judah (to the north) and Benjamin (to the south), so that it was to be bounded by these two. But this is expressed in a heavy and therefore obscure manner. The words בּתוך אשׁר לנשׂיא יהיה, "in the centre of that which belongs to the prince," belong to העיר... וּמאחזּת, and form together with the latter the subject, which is written absolutely; so that מן is not used in a partitive, but in a local sense (from), and the whole is to be rendered thus: And as for that which lies on the side of the possession of the Levites, and of the possession of the city in the centre of what belongs to the prince, (that which lies) between the territory of Judah and the territory of Benjamin shall belong to the prince. Hitzig's explanation - what remains between Judah and Benjamin, from the city territory to the priests' domain, both inclusive, shall belong to the prince - is arbitrary, and perverts the sense. The periphrastic designation of the terumah bounded off between the prince's land by the two portions named together without a copula, viz., "possession of the Levites and possession of the city," is worthy of notice. This periphrasis of the whole by two portions, shows that the portions named formed the boundaries of the whole, that the third portion, which is not mentioned, was enclosed within the two, so that the priests' portion with the sanctuary lay between them. - In Ezekiel 48:23-27 the rest of the tribes located to the south of the terumah are mentioned in order; and in Ezekiel 48:28 and Ezekiel 48:29 the account of the division of the land is brought to a close with a repetition of the statement as to the southern boundary (cf. Ezekiel 47:19), and a comprehensive concluding formula.

If now we attempt, in order to form a clear idea of the relation in which this prophetic division of the land stands to the actual size of Canaan according to the boundaries described in Ezekiel 47:15., to determine the length and breadth of the terumah given here by their geographical dimensions, twenty-five thousand rods, according to the metrological calculations of Boeckh and Bertheau, would be 1070 geographical miles, or, according to the estimate of the Hebrew cubit by Thenius, only 975 geographical miles.

(Note: According to Boeckh, one sacred cubit was equal to 234-1/3 Paris lines equals 528.62 millimtres; according to Thenius equals 214-1/2 P. l. equals 481.62 millim. Now as one geographical mile, the 5400th part of the circumference of the globe, which is 40,000,000 metres, is equivalent to 7407.398 metres equals 22, 803.290 old Paris feet, the geographical mile according to Boeckh is 14, 012-1/10 cubits equals 2335-1/2 rods (sacred measure); according to Thenius, 15, 380-1/6 cubits equals 2563-1/3 roads (s. m.), from which the numbers given in the text may easily be calculated.)

The extent of Canaan from Beersheba, or Kadesh, up to a line running across from Rs esh-Shukah to the spring El Lebweh, is 3 1/3 degrees, i.e., fifty geographical miles, ten of which are occupied by the terumah, and forty remain for the twelve tribe-territories, so that each tribe-lot would be 3 1/3 geographical miles in breadth. If, now, we reckon three geographical miles as the breadth of each of the five tribe-lots to the south of the terumah, and as the land becomes broader toward the south a breadth of 3-4/7 geographical miles for the seven tribe-lots to the north, the terumah set apart in the centre of the land would extend from the site of Jerusalem to Dothan or Jenin. If, however, we take into consideration the breadth of the land from east to west in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, or where the Jordan enters the Dead Sea, Canaan is eleven geographical miles in breadth, whereas at Jenin it is hardly ten geographical miles broad. If, therefore, the length of the terumah (from east to west) was fully ten geographical miles, there would only remain a piece of land of half a mile in breadth on the east and west at the southern boundary, and nothing at all at the northern, for prince's land. We have therefore given to the terumah upon the map (Plate IV) the length and breadth of eight geographical miles, which leaves a tract of two miles on the average for the prince's land, so that it would occupy a fifth of the area of the holy terumah, whereas the city possession covered a fourth. No doubt the breadth of the terumah from south to north is also diminished thereby, so that it cannot have reached quite down to Jerusalem or quite up to Jenin. - If, now, we consider that the distances of places, and therefore also the measurements of a land in length and breadth, are greater in reality than those given upon the map, on account partly of the mountains and valleys and partly of the windings of the roads, and, still further, that our calculations of the Hebrew cubit are not quite certain, and that even the smaller estimates of Thenius are possibly still too high, the measurements of the terumah given by Ezekiel correspond as exactly to the actual size of the land of Canaan as could be expected with a knowledge of its extent obtained not by trigonometrical measurement, but from a simple calculation of the length of the roads. - But this furnishes a confirmation by no means slight of our assumption, that the lengths and breadths indicated here are measured by rods and not by cubits. Reckoned by cubits, the terumah would be only a mile and a half or a mile and two-thirds in length and breadth, and the city possession would be only a third of a mile broad; whereas the prince's land would be more than six times as larg

Daniel 4:17 Interlinear
Daniel 4:17 Parallel Texts

Daniel 4:17 NIV
Daniel 4:17 NLT
Daniel 4:17 ESV
Daniel 4:17 NASB
Daniel 4:17 KJV

Daniel 4:17 Bible Apps
Daniel 4:17 Parallel
Daniel 4:17 Biblia Paralela
Daniel 4:17 Chinese Bible
Daniel 4:17 French Bible
Daniel 4:17 German Bible

Bible Hub

Daniel 4:16
Top of Page
Top of Page