Reading the Bible never ceases to amaze me, it is without a doubt the most remarkable of all documents. You can read a passage over and over again, only to discover a more significant meaning next time around. God has not made it easy for us to understand, I suppose if He did, perhaps His Message would be too simple to grasp and we might ignore deeper truths. Yet, He wants us to study, because the Scriptures serve as the schoolmaster for those who will graduate to His Greater Purpose, whatever that purpose may be. Only He knows how many of His Creation will ultimately graduate, all we know is that many are called, but few are chosen. We can only pray that our loved ones and our sisters and brothers will find favour and be called to the Lord Jesus Christ so they may be a part of His Coming Kingdom.
In Isaiah 40 God has given us a most comforting message, all about the wondrous things that await us when He returns. The time of Jacob’s trouble will be over and the Millennial Kingdom shall be upon us. What a wonderful thought! Yet, among all the pearls of wisdom in this chapter, there is one verse that I would like to quote to begin this Bible Study. Isaiah 40:12 reflects a God who has employed measurements throughout His entire Plan: “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance.” Throughout the entire Scriptures, there are examples of Him prophesying time periods using days, times, cubits, gerahs, shekels, coins and other units of measurements. Yet, no matter what the situation, great Bible scholars have shown how we can understand these prophetic periods.
In all the beauty and promises of Isaiah 40, there is one reassuring verse God must have inserted for those who need comforting: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40: 8). The Apostle Peter reinforced this statement of fact in 1 Peter 1: 25. So we can be confident the beautiful picture of Isaiah 40 will come to pass and that this is also true of every other prophecy contained in the Holy Bible. With this principle in mind, let us now examine Ezekiel 47: 3-5
“And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ancles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river, a river that could not be passed over” (Ezekiel 47: 3-5)
One glance at these verses certainly confirms that God has not made it easy for us to understand. Still, there is little doubt that this passage of the Bible is more difficult to comprehend than most. In fact, the whole of Chapters 40 to 48 concerning the “Rebuilt Temple” has been a great puzzle and the subject of different interpretations by some very learned men and women. The chapters themselves represent a yet unfulfilled vision. Taken together, some have suggested that they represent a prediction of the Messianic Age, of a Millennial Temple, complete with literal animal sacrifices. Yet, there would seem no reason for God to re-instate such sacrifices, after all, these were fulfilled and done away with in the crucifixion of our most wonderful Lord Jesus Christ. Some interpret them as a re-established Hebrew nation in Palestine and reading the entire Chapter 47, one will be hard-pressed to disagree. Nonetheless, in reading Ezekiel 7: 2, 21 & 24 and Ezekiel 36: 2 & 5, this doesn’t seem possible, at least not before the return of Jesus Christ.
Of course, the waters of Ezekiel 47: 3-5 have often been referred to as living waters and many relate them to a beautiful picture of Christ, coming out of Jerusalem and flowing forth in an ever-widening, ever deepening stream, blessing the nations with life-giving qualities. As touching as this sounds, we have to be realistic because the world today simply doesn’t fit this intrepretation. So, could this prophecy mean something else?
A British Bible scholar recently posed an interesting theory. He asks, “Is this another of God’s messages, coded not in weights but in cubits?” Using a scale of one cubit per year, and using the total of 4000 cubits, he measured the time from the completion of Solomon’e Temple (it was dedicated exactly 3,000 years from the fall of Adam) to the close of the 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom. He reasoned that taken together, the 3,000 and and 4,000 year periods make up God’s Great Week (7,000 years), described as the great river of God. His is an interesting interpretation.
All Bible research is worthwhile, but I wonder if there is a different, perhaps simpler, interpretation. After all, God wants us to understand and open up the subtle symbols of Scripture. I have my own thoughts on these three verses and I would like to present them to you. I suppose some reader might read my offering and say, “Interesting but I wonder if there is another answer.” If you are that reader, please share your thoughts with us. In the meantime, I hope the following makes as much sense to you as it does me.
God is employing cubits as a measurement of prophetic time in this prophecy. The use of such in place of years is not surprising. As I said earlier, God has employed everything from days to gerahs, shekels and coins to represent time periods. In fact, in Joshua 3: 3, 4, in crossing the Jordan River, He uses cubits as a measure in a situation that is also a prophecy covering 2,000 years (expressed as cubits). In Ezekiel 47: 3-5, God is also employing an analogy, comparing the depth of the water to the population of true Israel. Indeed, I believe God is revealing both the unfolding of time for Israel and the growth of the nation. With this in mind, let’s now look at how this prophecy unfolds.
“And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ancles.”
This is the first thousand cubits and the water is to the ankles. Let’s now examine how this prophecy unfolded.
It began with the birth of Abraham approximately 2000 BC, Abraham was destined to be God’s selection, through a line of descendants (via Isaac & Jacob), who would become His Servant People in order to take His Order and Law throughout the world and be a blessing to all nations. One thousand years (1,000 cubits) from this time brings us to appeoximately 1000 BC, when God established His everlasting Throne
- It was during this first 1,000-year period that God selected His Servant People, a covenant that the Bible refers to as a marriage. The Kingdom that would know no end was established, the Laws, Commandments and Judgments to guide Israel were codified and the penalties and curses were defined, the latter to come upon Israel for disobedience. Near the end of the 1,000-year period, God’s everlasting Throne was established and David became the first temporary occupant. The water was to the ankles; that is, the Israelite population had taken the first step toward “numbers that could not be counted.” It has been estimated that in David’s time, the Israelite population was in the neighbourhood of eight millions.
“Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees.”
- This 1,000 year period goes from the starting point of approximately 1000 BC to the cross over year of 1BC/1AD, and the future king whose Throne it is comes in the flesh.
This second thousand-year period began with Solomon’s Temple being dedicated to God and ends with the Birth of Jesus Christ. Much happened during this thousand year period. Israel had become very disobedient, so much so that God divorced them (Hosea 1) and sent them into captivity. This is why the Apostle James addressed his letter to the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad (James: 1: 1). He knew that only a very small remnant of Israelites were among Jewry, that most had been taken away centuries earlier and did not return. Indeed, as evidenced by John: 7: 35, it was common knowledge in Judea. Still, God’s own Law on divorce had to be obeyed by God Himself and so, Christ primarily gave His Life to fulfill this Law. Indeed, God the Son came in the flesh primarily to redeem His People Israel: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matthew 15: 24). Of course, the spilling of His Blood gives Israelites and non-Israelites alike the opportunity for Salvation. In the case of non-Israelites, making such a choice brings them under the benefits of the Covenant God made with Abraham.
The “water to the knees” represents an Israel with a growing population, so much so, in fact, that the Jewish historian Josephus made the statement that the lost tribes were beyond the Euphrates at the time of Christ and too numerous to be counted (Antiquities of the Jews). It was to these people that Jesus had dispatched His disciples to spread the word.
So, to this point, God had brought about the following:
- He selected the people of the Kingdom (the Israelites).
- He established the Constitution (the Laws).
- He established the Everlasting Throne.
- He appointed the future King.
“Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins.”
- Adding 1,000 years to the cross over year, we come to approximately 1,000 AD when the Kingdom lands were acquired and Christianity was accepted by the Israelites