The geography of Ezekiel 47 (Ezekiel 47)

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Illustration: The Millennial River

The Great Rift Valley is an enormous depression roughly extending from north to south from Turkey to Lebanon and Syria, through the Galilee and Jordan Valleys, down to the Dead Sea and from there to the Gulf of Aqaba. The geologic depression continues in the form of the Gulf of Aqaba itself, creating a division between Arabia and the Sinai, from there it reappears on land in Africa and extends as far south as modern Mozambique.

In Palestine the depression created by the Great Rift Valley, known as the Arabah, runs from the Sea oof Galilee to the Gulf of Aqaba (although at times the term Arabah is used to refer specifically to the desert valley extending from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba). Waters from the Sea of Galilee flow south via the Jordan and are joined by the waters of Yarmuk and Jabbok Rivers, both of which flow into the Jordan, which in turn empties into the Deas Sea. Water leaves the Dead Sea only by evaporation; there is no natural exit to the sea. For this reason the Deas Sea (or “Salt Sea”) has a high concentration of minerals, prohibiting survival of aquatic life and rendering this body of water in effect “dead”.

In Ezekiel’s vision waters from the temple, located in the western central mountain region, flow eastward into Arabah and the Jordan River Valley. The water from there flows into the Dead Sea and freshens its waters. In the vision this creates an environment favorable to the growth of trees, plants and fish. Fishermen in this visualization would spread their nets for fishing from En Gedi (located at the centre of the western Dead Sea shoreline) to En Eglaim, an as yet unidentified ancient location.

Biblical scholars differ regarding whether this vision is to be read symbolically or literally. If it is to have a literal fulfilment, something must happen beyond what the text indicates. A simple infusion of fresh water would not in fact revive the Dead Sea, which already receives fresh water. The problem is that the water has no outlet. In favour of a more symbolic interpretation, Jesus may have been alluding to this passage in John 7:38.


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