The Population of Ezekiel’s Restored Land of Canaan
Dispensationalist authors contend that when the Millennium arrives all of the world’s Jews will be gathered up together and return in one body to old Canaan. Free from any Gentile domination, they will then devote a solitary thousand years together with their Messiah in the restored land as described in detail by the Prophet Ezekiel’s vision in chapters 40-48. Meanwhile, they believe, the Gentiles will have been raptured off the earth to some far distant planet in a corner of the universe some call “planet heaven.” As we will see, however, it is mathematically incredible for world Jewry to fit into the relatively small area detailed by the Prophet Ezekiel, nor was Israel’s physical return to be complete. Let us begin with a closer look at the population density of Ezekiel’s vision of the restored land.
The Keil & Delitzsch Bible Commentary says, “The extent [north to south] of Canaan from Beersheba [in the far south], or Kadesh, up to a line running across from Râs esh-Shukah to the spring El Lebweh [the northern border of King Solomon’s territory], is 3-1/3 degrees, i.e., fifty geographical miles, ten of which are occupied by the terumah [sacred enclosure], and forty remain for the twelve tribe-territories, so that each tribe-lot [tribal portion] would be 3-1/3 geographical miles in breadth [i.e. 40 miles divided by twelve tribes]…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…” Each tribal territory would be 3-1/3 miles north to south, and an average of 10 miles east to west. This is a little over 33 square miles per tribe. Ezekiel’s tribal portions therefore total 400 square miles (33.3 square miles x 12 tribes). Divide that into an estimated twelve million Jews in the world today, and it gives a population density of 30,000 people per square mile. To put this into perspective, compare the Population Density of New York City in 2020, according to the population-world.info website:
New York City has a population density of over 27,000 people per square mile, and by itself has more people than 40 of the 50 U.S. states. The Dispensationalist so-called Millennial Jerusalem would have over 10% more residents per square mile than even New York City, which has the highest population density of any city in the U.S.! That doesn’t sound like a Millennial paradise! It would be more akin to wall-to-wall people. There would be no room for a farm and no forests or countryside. New York City has 8.8 million residents, slightly larger than the 7.8 million of the present Israeli state. In comparison, the population density of the city of Detroit is 4,788 per square mile, so Ezekiel’s vision would have over 6-1/4 times (30,000 / 4,788 =6.266) more density than Detroit.
The World Population Review website statistics tell us that the modern Israeli state had 395 people per square kilometer in 2020, or 1022 per square mile. Ezekiel’s vision, if including all of world Jewry, would cram almost 30 times more people per square mile than that of the Israeli state today! [30,000 / 1022] The combination of many more people (all of world Jewry) and a very small, restored land (400 square miles) makes the Dispensational-Futurist interpretation entirely fallacious.
To put this into further perspective, if the prophecy referred to the current full number of world Jews, and if you were an Israeli today with a home with 4 individuals living there, in the Dispensationalist conception you might have 120 people crammed living in your house! (30 times more people x4). Or there would need to be a huge amount of New York City style high-rises. That number doesn’t include all of the animals, the lions and snakes and so forth, we are told by Isaiah in chapter 11 that will be safely and happily living together with the people—if this were in fact the Millennial kingdom! You might need to have lions and snakes sitting on your lap because there is so little room! It is obvious that Ezekiel’s vision is NOT MILLENNIAL! It is referring to the much, much smaller population that existed at the time of the quite limited return from exile in the 5th century, B.C. Numerous Scriptures reveal how few of just two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, returned to Canaan.
Notably, the prophet Isaiah named his son Shearjashub, meaning: “a remnant shall return” (Isa. 7:3). Isaiah prophesied, “ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel.” (Isa. 27:12) Jeremiah said, “I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” (Jer. 3:14) He later recorded, “pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us).” (Jer. 42:2) Israel and Judah were many that were exiled, but a relative few individuals of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were all that came back. Ezra, the prophet of the return, said that less than 50,000 returned to Canaan (Ezra 2:64), and no attempt was made by them to fulfill Ezekiel’s vision. It was simply not possible to do with only a small remnant of just two tribes. Dividing Ezra’s actual number of returnees, 42,360 by 400 square miles gives a relatively tiny population density of 106 people per square mile, which is less than half of one percent of New York City’s current density (106 / 27,000).
Ezekiel 36:24 and 37:21 make it clear that in the prophet’s vision the land is carefully parceled out “according to the twelve tribes.” For the restoration vision to be properly fulfilled, all of Israel, both houses and all 12 tribes, would need to repent, return to Canaan, and dwell as one people of God under one prince in their own land. It was a wonderful offer if only they would repent and turn from their lawless ways—but they did not!
The Kelly Commentary says, “Less than fifty thousand men, women, and children came up from Babylon: a little remnant of a remnant, and in no sense those twelve tribes, whom the prophet sees to take up their allotted portions in the land…Indeed there never was the very smallest semblance of the holy oblation any more than of the allotments of the land from east to west here predicted…The fact is that those who returned from Babylon fell back on the order as existing before the captivity, and in no respect made good the peculiar condition predicted by Ezekiel. Thus no one appeared answering to the prince, while the high priest was as before a notable personage; the land was not parceled out to the remnant, still less to all Israel, by lot…”
Modern Dispensational-Futurism is widely taught in our churches today with little regard to the math and logic of their system. It is a certainty that the Prophet Ezekiel had no intention of implying that twelve millions of exiles would crowd into his little restored realm, nor that Jews should set up a kingdom independently from the ten tribes of the House of Israel.