1 “These are the names of the tribes: Beginning at the northern extreme, beside the way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, as far as Hazar-enan (which is on the northern border of Damascus over against Hamath), and extending from the east side to the west, Dan, one portion. 2 Adjoining the territory of Dan, from the east side to the west, Asher, one portion. 3 Adjoining the territory of Asher, from the east side to the west, Naphtali, one portion. 4 Adjoining the territory of Naphtali, from the east side to the west, Manasseh, one portion. 5 Adjoining the territory of Manasseh, from the east side to the west, Ephraim, one portion. 6 Adjoining the territory of Ephraim, from the east side to the west, Reuben, one portion. 7 Adjoining the territory of Reuben, from the east side to the west, Judah, one portion.
8 “Adjoining the territory of Judah, from the east side to the west, shall be the portion which you shall set apart, 25,000 cubits in breadth, and in length equal to one of the tribal portions, from the east side to the west, with the sanctuary in the midst of it. 9 The portion that you shall set apart for the Lord shall be 25,000 cubits in length, and 20,000 in breadth. 10 These shall be the allotments of the holy portion: the priests shall have an allotment measuring 25,000 cubits on the northern side, 10,000 cubits in breadth on the western side, 10,000 in breadth on the eastern side, and 25,000 in length on the southern side, with the sanctuary of the Lord in the midst of it. 11 This shall be for the consecrated priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept my charge, who did not go astray when the people of Israel went astray, as the Levites did. 12 And it shall belong to them as a special portion from the holy portion of the land, a most holy place, adjoining the territory of the Levites. 13 And alongside the territory of the priests, the Levites shall have an allotment 25,000 cubits in length and 10,000 in breadth. The whole length shall be 25,000 cubits and the breadth 20,000. 14 They shall not sell or exchange any of it. They shall not alienate this choice portion of the land, for it is holy to the Lord.
15 “The remainder, 5,000 cubits in breadth and 25,000 in length, shall be for common use for the city, for dwellings and for open country. In the midst of it shall be the city, 16 and these shall be its measurements: the north side 4,500 cubits, the south side 4,500, the east side 4,500, and the west side 4,500. 17 And the city shall have open land: on the north 250 cubits, on the south 250, on the east 250, and on the west 250. 18 The remainder of the length alongside the holy portion shall be 10,000 cubits to the east, and 10,000 to the west, and it shall be alongside the holy portion. Its produce shall be food for the workers of the city. 19 And the workers of the city, from all the tribes of Israel, shall till it. 20 The whole portion that you shall set apart shall be 25,000 cubits square, that is, the holy portion together with the property of the city.
21 “What remains on both sides of the holy portion and of the property of the city shall belong to the prince. Extending from the 25,000 cubits of the holy portion to the east border, and westward from the 25,000 cubits to the west border, parallel to the tribal portions, it shall belong to the prince. The holy portion with the sanctuary of the temple shall be in its midst. 22 It shall be separate from the property of the Levites and the property of the city, which are in the midst of that which belongs to the prince. The portion of the prince shall lie between the territory of Judah and the territory of Benjamin.
23 “As for the rest of the tribes: from the east side to the west, Benjamin, one portion. 24 Adjoining the territory of Benjamin, from the east side to the west, Simeon, one portion. 25 Adjoining the territory of Simeon, from the east side to the west, Issachar, one portion. 26 Adjoining the territory of Issachar, from the east side to the west, Zebulun, one portion. 27 Adjoining the territory of Zebulun, from the east side to the west, Gad, one portion. 28 And adjoining the territory of Gad to the south, the boundary shall run from Tamar to the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. 29 This is the land that you shall allot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions, declares the Lord God.
30 “These shall be the exits of the city: On the north side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, 31 three gates, the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, and the gate of Levi, the gates of the city being named after the tribes of Israel. 32 On the east side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, and the gate of Dan. 33 On the south side, which is to be 4,500 cubits by measure, three gates, the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar, and the gate of Zebulun. 34 On the west side, which is to be 4,500 cubits, three gates, the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, and the gate of Naphtali. 35 The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” – Ezekiel 48:1-35 ESV
In this closing chapter of his book, Ezekiel provides a detailed layout of the tribal allotment within the Millennial Kingdom. Beginning in the north and working his way down, he describes God’s plan for the geographical arrangement of the 12 tribes, beginning with Dan and ending with Gad. Each tribe will occupy a portion of the land of promise that extends from east to west, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. The tribes of Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad will have the “Brook of Egypt” as their western border. Unlike the division of the land under Joshua, the Millennial Kingdom will allot equal portions of real estate to each of the tribes. When Moses had set aside the land for the people of Israel, he had done so based on the population size of each tribe. But in the Millennial Kingdom, the distribution of the land will be based on very different criteria. Rather than size, it appears to be based on faithfulness.
Genesis 35 provides the names of the 12 sons of Israel (Jacob).
Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram. – Genesis 35:21-26 ESV
In examining the north-to-south allotment of the land, it becomes clear that there is an intended progression to their order. Dan, one of the most unfaithful tribes, will find itself located in the far north of the land. The tribe of Gad will bookend the land from its location in the south. It’s interesting to note that the four sons born to Jacob’s concubines (Dan, Asher, Naphtali, and Gad) all occupy land on the extreme edges of the Kingdom. Yet Judah and Benjamin are located on either side of the holy district, the site of the Millennial Temple. These were the two tribes that made up the southern kingdom of Judah after God split Solomon’s kingdom in two. During the days of the divided kingdom, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin displayed the greatest degree of faithfulness to Yahweh and yielded the largest number of godly kings. Their reward for their faithfulness will be in the form of land allotments on either side of the holy district. The rest of the sons born to Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel, will occupy land toward the center of the kingdom.
Proximity to the Millennial Temple seems to be the point in all of this because that is where God’s presence will dwell. Ezekiel saw the vision of God’s glory reentering the new temple and taking up residence in the Most Holy Place (Ezekiel 43:4). The Millennial Temple will sit within the holy city, and Ezekiel describes this future Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8) as being six miles in circumference. It will have 12 gates, three on each side, dedicated to the 12 tribes of Israel.
His description of the city and its gates mirrors the one given by the apostle John in the book of Revelation. But John was describing the New Jerusalem.
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. – Revelation 21:10-13 ESV
He was not describing the Jerusalem of the Millennial Kingdom, but yet another iteration of the holy city that will appear at the end of the millennial age when God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). This New Jerusalem will have 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel, but it will also feature 12 foundations, dedicated to the 12 apostles.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. – Revelation 21:14 ESV
The greatest difference between these two versions of the city of Jerusalem appears to be the timing of their appearance. The Jerusalem that will exist during the Millennial Kingdom will feature a temple and a reinstated sacrificial system. The city will be occupied by both Jews and Gentiles, but not all will be Christ followers. In the New Jerusalem, the occupants will be from every tribe, nation, and tongue, and share a common faith in Christ. It will be filled with the elect of God from all eras, including both Jews and Gentiles.
The Millennial Kingdom is dedicated to the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Its very existence culminates God’s covenant promises to the patriarchs and fulfills every commitment He had made to them. But that kingdom will come to an end and be replaced by the New Jerusalem and the eternal state, and at that time, “it will be “true” Israel—those who have trusted in Jesus Christ—that will enter the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is through the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem that the true tribal people—believers of Jewish descent as well as Gentiles who have been “grafted in” with God’s people (Romans 11:17–25)—will enter the joy of the Lord (see Matthew 25:21). (https://www.gotquestions.org/twelve-gates-Revelation.html).
But there is one important factor that both Jerusalems have in common: The presence of God. John describes his vision of the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven.
I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4 ESV
The dwelling place of God will be with man. He will dwell with them. God himself will be with them as their God. There is a promise of permanence in this passage. God will come to live among His people – on earth. Our final destination is not heaven, but earth. All the redeemed will live in perfect unity with God the Father and God the Son – for all eternity. And in this future Jerusalem, there will be no temple.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it… – Revelation 21:22-24 ESV
But the Jerusalem of the Millennial Kingdom, with its glorious temple filled with the glory of God, will also enjoy God’s presence. In fact, the very name of the main gate that will lead into this future city is “The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35 ESV).
The book of Ezekiel has finally come to an end. It has been 22 years since Ezekiel first saw his vision of God and received his commission as God’s prophet to the people of Judah. His ministry began with an unbelievable glimpse of the glory of God. He was given a word to deliver from the very mouth of God, predicting the coming siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, and the deportation of the people of Judah to Babylon. In chapter ten, Ezekiel was shown the real tragedy of it all – the glory of God departing the temple. The very presence and power of God were removed from the midst of the people due to their sin and rebellion. But two decades later, God gave Ezekiel another vision of a rebuilt temple, a restored Jerusalem, and a revived relationship with the people of God.
The book of Ezekiel ends with the city of Jerusalem referred to by the name, “The Lord Is There,” and if the Lord is there that means His glory has returned once again to the city. This book began with the glory of God and ends with it. God will one day take up residence in the city of Jerusalem. The abiding presence of God is a powerful image with which to sum up this book. While God had to punish His people for their sins, He never abandoned them completely. He remained faithful and committed to His plan for them. Even while they were in exile, He sent His prophets to communicate His message to them. And ultimately, God returned them to the land. But there is a day yet future when God will complete His plan for the people of Israel and fully fulfill His promises to them. He will once again make His place among them, so that the city of Jerusalem can truly be called, “The Lord Is There.”
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.