Now these are the names of the tribes. From the north end to the coast of the way of Hethlon, as one goes to Hamath, Hazarenan…
1. The vision of these last chapters is the vision of a city rebuilt and a temple restored. Ezekiel's temple and city seem to be only a magnified edition of the city and temple which he had known in his youth — which he had loved so fondly, and lost so early. The city and temple of St. John are purely ideal, symbolical. The city "descends out of heaven from God, having the glory of God." Its length and its breadth and its height are all equal. Literal temple, such as Ezekiel describes, it has none. "I saw no temple therein," St. John writes; "for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." Here, then, as everywhere in the pages of the Bible, we find growth, progress: first the lower, then the higher; first the earthly, then the heavenly; first the natural, then the spiritual. The new fulfils the old, has its roots in the old, affiliates itself to the old; but transcends and surpasses it. John, the exile of Patmos, must not be as Ezekiel, the exile of Chebar: even as the exile of Chebar could not be as the exile of Patmos. Both the one and the other wrote, as it were, in view of the ruins of a destroyed temple. But the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar was destined to rise again from its ruins: not so the temple destroyed by the Roman armies under Titus. In the prospect of such a literal restoration, Ezekiel, the priest, might reasonably desire that the new might be as the old, only larger and more magnificent. And within certain narrow bounds and limits at last it was so. Herod's pile was at least as stately and grand as that which Nebuchadnezzar destroyed. But all such hopes and visions would have been only an anachronism to St. John. It was well for Ezekiel to cherish them: it was impossible, it would have been folly, for John to do so. In the interval between the one and the other, the world had moved on some four hundred or five hundred years: and "the fulness of the time" had come; and it was possible to proclaim as the basis of a worldwide church, and the centre of a worship which should last until the end of time — not some visible temple made with hands, but this eternal truth: "The hour cometh, and now is," etc.
2. We may pass now to what is of more immediate concern to ourselves; the thoughts suggested by the words of our text, and their connection with the New Year upon which we have so recently entered. Ezekiel's last words, and, doubtless, they expressed his dearest hopes for the future, are these: "The name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there." We realise Ezekiel's meaning more clearly and forcibly, if we alter the very negative name, "Lord," into the English word which represents most accurately the Hebrew original — the "Eternal," or the "Changeless," or the "Selfsame." The unchangeableness of Jehovah gives the prophet hope for the city that is to be. Let us then gather up all our own thoughts in reference to the future — our own future, and that of the nations around us — in this brief phrase of Ezekiel's, as motto and watchword — "Jehovah-Shammah" — "The Eternal is there." And if such watchword smites us with a sober, solemn awe, it is well that it should be so. It is well that we should remind ourselves, not merely at the beginning of a new year, but at all times, that the kingdom of God is, and will be, over and around us and all men, during the coming months; that we are in it and under it, as subjects and citizens of it; and that this kingdom is the kingdom of the Eternal, the Unchangeable, the Selfsame — "the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Once, in the wilderness, under the leadership of Moses, the Israelites asked, in a season of weariness and cowardice, and of atheistic doubt, such as springs out of weariness and cowardice and feeds them, "Is the Lord," is the Eternal, "among us or no?" In after years, just before he was taken from them by death, their great leader recurred to that question of theirs, and bade them beware of tempting the Lord again so. "Ye shall not tempt the Eternal your God, as ye tempted Him at Massah." We will welcome the lesson for ourselves. Be the individual future of each one of us what it may, at any rate of this we may be sure, the Eternal will be there. He will be with us in it. "God's kingdom ours abideth," come what may. We cannot be taken out of its reach. Now this thought admits of many applications. It must ever be a thought of solemn awe. But in that awe terror may predominate, or comfort and peace and joy, according as we will have it.
(D. J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now these are the names of the tribes. From the north end to the coast of the way of Hethlon, as one goeth to Hamath, Hazarenan, the border of Damascus northward, to the coast of Hamath; for these are his sides east and west; a portion for Dan.
WEB: Now these are the names of the tribes: From the north end, beside the way of Hethlon to the entrance of Hamath, Hazar Enan at the border of Damascus, northward beside Hamath, (and they shall have their sides east [and] west), Dan, one [portion].