Changes in the promised land

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The Creation Concept

Is the river of Ezekiel 47 literal?

How Jerusalem is raised up

Mountains that skip like rams

The valley of the mountains

What is Isaiah's high mountain?

How the desert becomes fruitful

Changes in the land

W. Harris and the stream of blessing

Hengstenberg's comments on Ezekiel's river

John Gill's commentary on Ezekiel 47:1-12

William Kelly: mired in literalism

Charles Henry Wright on the topographic changes of Zechariah 14:8-11

Patrick Fairbairn on the temple waters

Patrick Fairbairn on principles of interpretation

Interpretations of the promised land

Andrew Jukes and the land promise

F. B. Meyer's interpretation of the land of promise

John Owen on the rest of Hebrews 4:1

John Owen and the rest in Hebrews 4:3

Ezekiel and Leviticus 26

Currey's points of contact between Ezekiel and Revelation

Gardiner's Preliminary note on Ezekiel 40-48

Measuring the temple

The inheritance of the priests and Levites in Ezekiel 48

Does Ezekiel describe a literal temple?

Mountains in Prophecy

Changes in the land

The Old Testament prophets said that Jerusalem would be raised up.

Isaiah 2:1-3
1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Isaiah said, the mountain of the Lord's house will be raised up, to the top of the mountains. Jerusalem was already in a relatively high location, compared to Jerico in the Jordan Valley. The prophets saw it as being raised even higher.

In the New Testament, Jerusalem is raised up to heaven; Paul referred to the church as "the Jerusalem which is above." But what about Israel? Is Israel in heaven too? The woman in the prophecy of Revelation 12, who represents the saints, is pictured in heaven. She can be identified with the true Israel, the saints of all ages; but not the Jewish state, or unbelieving Jews. The temple in heaven, in Revelation 11:19 is also a symbol of the church.

Many of the prophets described remarkable topographic changes in the vicinty of Jerusalem and in the promised land. It was as if the promised land, in their view, needed to be modified. The changes they described were usually unnatural, and improbable, and in some cases, contradictory. These prophecies may be understood in the light of the gospel as metaphors. The literal land that was promised to Abraham's descendants represents the spiritual, and invisible things which are the inheritance of the saints. The land was associated with milk and honey, and some of the prophecies connect mountains, hills, and rivers with beverages such as wine, or milk.

Zechariah said rivers of living water would flow from Jerusalem, towards the east, and towards the west. Joel described a stream flowing from the temple, that would extend to a valley located east of the Jordan River. Ezekiel also described such a river. When its waters flow into the Dead Sea, the waters are healed. Isaiah also spoke of broad rivers around Jerusalem, but no galley of oars or gallant ship would be seen there.

Isaiah 33:21
But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.

Since Jerusalem is located on hills, viewing such rivers as literal, seems ludicrous!

Joel said mountains will drop wine, and hills will flow with milk, and the rivers of Judah will flow with water; these are mostly dry valleys in desert now. Isaiah said the desert will blossom.

Amos said the mountains will drop sweet wine, and all the hills will melt.

Nahum said the mountains quake, the hills melt, and the earth is burned at the presence of God.

Habakkuk said, "The mountains saw thee, and they trembled...Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers."

Zechariah said the Mount of Olives would cleave in the midst, and the two sections would move apart in opposite directions, forming a valley between. The area around Jerusalem would subside, and become a plain, like the Jordan valley. Meanwhile Jerusalem would be raised up.

In Revelation, John said every mountain and island would be moved out of their places.

Ezekiel described a redistribution of the land among the 12 tribes of Israel, in a series of east-west oriented strips, without regard to the topography.

Isaiah said the natures of wild animals would change, and the lion, leopard, and bear would become docile. Lions would eat straw like cattle. Poisonous snakes would become harmless. He said mountains would be made low, and valleys would to be filled, which presumably included the Jordan Valley, containing the Dead Sea.

Why does Isaiah say, go up into the high mountain?

Isaiah 40:9
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

The high mountain here represents a higher perspective.

God says his thoughts are "higher" than ours.

Isaiah 55:6-11
6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

From these scriptures, it seems clear that to go up into a high mountain, must represent contemplating higher thoughts, and having an elevated point of view. Such ideas are expressed in prophetic language, and they include great promises.

Mountains are among the most prominent features of the land. They are landmarks that can be seen from far off; they affect the weather; they attract clouds; they give rise to rivers; they are durable; they have different aspects; they provide a view of the surrounding territory; until the modern age, they were the highest places where men could go.

Many similar things can be said about the promises of God.

The promises of God, Peter said, are "exceeding great and precious"

2 Peter 1:3-4
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

These promises become available to us, through the knowledge of God, and so they have to do with understanding God's word.

Like mountains, the promises of scripture are viewed by many as if from afar. Relatively few have an intimate knowledge of them.

Mountains give rise to streams, and the promises of God also may give rise to rivers of blessing, and streams of knowledge.

Mountains are durable, and similarly the promises of God endure forever.

Mountains can be viewed in different ways. They have different sides, from which they can be viewed. On one side, a mountain may be steep, and inaccessible, while on another side, it may have quite a gentle slope. And the mountains can be viewed from other mountains. Similarly, related prophecies can be compared, and viewed from the perspective of another prophecy. A different perspective may help in understanding or interpreting a difficult saying. This is well illustrated in the book Revelation, where John reworks and brings together many different prophecies from the Old Testament. The prophecies of scripture reveal to us the plan of God.

Mountains associated with rivers

The source of the Jordan River is the southern slopes Mount Hermon, the highest mountain in the Middle East, at 2,224 meters. Several prophecies associate mountains and rivers.

Joel said mountians will drop down new wine, and the rivers of Judah will flow with waters. The territory of Judah includes a large area of desert.

Joel 3:18
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.

Ezekiel connected rivers with mountains.

Ezekiel 34:13
And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.

One of the features of the rivers in Zechariah's prophecy is that they flow in summer and in winter. In Palestine today, there is a serious shortage of water.

The continuity of prophecy

The mountains of Israel are part of a continuous area of land; they are simply higher parts of it. If the promised land is a metaphor that represents the revelations of God, and the inheritance or promised "rest" of the saints, the mountains must represent the major promises, and prophecies, and hills the less prominent ones.

A wider area can be viewed from a higher elevation, such as a mountain.

It is helpful to compare various prophecies, as one prophecy will often enlighten another. In scripture, prophecies and revelations of God may sometimes be represented by mountains. The Olivet Discourse of Jesus, for example, is very likely represented by the Mount of Olives, in Zechariah's prophecy in 14:3-5.

The idea of continuity of prophecy was expressed by Caspari, who was quoted in Patrick Fairbairn's Prophecy viewed in respect to its distinctive nature, its special function, and proper interpretation p. 194.

"The Old Testament prophets," says Caspari, "form a regular succession; they are members of an unbroken continuous chain; one perpetually reaches forth the hand to another. The later prophets had always either heard or read the prophecies of the earlier, and had these deeply impressed upon their minds. When, therefore, the Spirit of God came upon a prophet and irresistibly impelled him to prophesy (Amos iii. 8), it naturally happened, first, that here and there, sometimes more, sometimes less, he clothed what the Spirit imparted to him, in the words of one or other of the prophets, he had heard or read--the words of his prophetical fore- runner thus cleaving to his memory, and forming part of the materials of utterance of which the Spirit availed himself; and second, that the later prophet attached himself to the prophetical views of the earlier, and in the power of the prophetic Spirit, which descended on him from above and wrought in his soul, either confirmed them anew by a fresh promulgation, or expanded and completed them. For the most part, the coincidence in thought and expression, is found united in the prophets." [Uer Prophet Obadiab, Ausgelegt Von Carl Paul Caspari, pp. 21. 22.]

The idea of continuity is also illustrated by the use of the river metaphor. The prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and Zechariah all refer to rivers, which are spiritual in nature. A river is continuous. Caspari refers to "an unbroken continuous chain" which captures the same idea.

Copyright © 2010, 2012 by Douglas E. Cox
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