13 Thus says the Lord God: “This is the boundary by which you shall divide the land for inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions. 14 And you shall divide equally what I swore to give to your fathers. This land shall fall to you as your inheritance.
15 “This shall be the boundary of the land: On the north side, from the Great Sea by way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, and on to Zedad, 16 Berothah, Sibraim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer-hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran. 17 So the boundary shall run from the sea to Hazar-enan, which is on the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This shall be the north side.
18 “On the east side, the boundary shall run between Hauran and Damascus; along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel; to the eastern sea and as far as Tamar. This shall be the east side.
19 “On the south side, it shall run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea. This shall be the south side.
20 “On the west side, the Great Sea shall be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo-hamath. This shall be the west side.
21 “So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. 22 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 47:13-23 ESV
In this brief, yet critical, passage, God provides Ezekiel with a detailed description of the tribal land allotment in the Millennial Kingdom. With the people of Israel returning to the land, there will need to be a reassignment of the boundaries that will determine each tribe’s portion of the newly reconstituted nation. Over the centuries, those boundaries have all but been eliminated, and in its current state, the land of Palestine no longer reflects the territorial boundaries that God had given to Moses.
Prior to entering the land of Canaan for the first time, Moses received a detailed description from God as to what the actual boundaries of the “Promised Land” would be.
“Give these instructions to the Israelites: When you come into the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your special possession, these will be the boundaries.” – Numbers 34:2 NLT
What God described to Moses is similar to what He shares with Ezekiel. The exterior boundaries of the Millennial Kingdom will be virtually the same as those of the Promised Land given to the descendants of Abraham. But the actual tribal allotment will look quite different. There is an order to the arrangement of the tribes that sets it apart from the original layout given to Moses. Things appear to be arranged in a more linear/sequential order, with the tribes dispersed from north to south in a very particular pattern. The boundary to the west is “the Great Sea,” which refers to the Mediterranean Sea. The primary boundary to the east is the Jordan River. The southern boundary extends from Kadesh Barnea to the “Brook of Egypt,” which Jewish tradition takes to be a reference to the Nile. To the north, the boundaries will run from the Mediterranean Sea (Mount Hor) to Hamath to Zedad.
Within these borders, each of the 12 tribes will receive a new allotment of land to occupy, and at the center will be the special holy allotment that will contain the temple compound in Jerusalem. Ezekiel recorded the layout and dimensions of this holy district in chapter 45.
“When you divide the land among the tribes of Israel, you must set aside a section for the Lord as his holy portion. This piece of land will be 8 1⁄3 miles long and 6 2⁄3 miles wide. The entire area will be holy. A section of this land, measuring 875 feet by 875 feet, will be set aside for the Temple. An additional strip of land 87 1⁄2 feet wide is to be left empty all around it. Within the larger sacred area, measure out a portion of land 8 1⁄3 miles long and 3 1⁄3 miles wide. Within it the sanctuary of the Most Holy Place will be located. This area will be holy, set aside for the priests who minister to the Lord in the sanctuary. They will use it for their homes, and my Temple will be located within it. The strip of sacred land next to it, also 8 1⁄3 miles long and 3 1⁄3 miles wide, will be a living area for the Levites who work at the Temple. It will be their possession and a place for their towns.” – Ezekiel 45:1-5 NLT
The tribe of Levi would live within this central section of holy (set apart) land. It would be their portion within the new Millennial Kingdom. But each of the other tribes would receive new allotments, with the two tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) receiving two portions. Just before Jacob died in the land of Egypt, he pronounced a blessing on his sons, including his favorite son, Joseph. As part of that blessing, he swore to adopt Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own, guaranteeing them a right to his inheritance.
“Now I am claiming as my own sons these two boys of yours, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born here in the land of Egypt before I arrived. They will be my sons…” – Genesis 48:5 NLT
The descendants of those two boys did receive their allotment of land in Canaan. And in the Millennial Kingdom, they will also occupy their own tracts of land.
The arrangement of the tribes in the Millennial Kingdom is fascinating to consider. First of all, the tribes of Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali are all located on the northern and southern edges of the land. These were the sons born to Zilpah and Bilhah, the two concubines given to Jacob by his two wives so that he might bear additional sons. The descendants of these four sons will have land in the Millennial Kingdom, but it will be further from the holy district at the center.
The two tribes that will sandwich the holy district where the new Millennial Temple will reside are those of Judah and Benjamin. Those were the two tribes that made up the southern kingdom of Judah after God divided the kingdom of Solomon as punishment for his idolatry. What set the southern kingdom apart was the city of Jerusalem, the nation’s capital and the home of the temple that Solomon had built to honor Yahweh. Even in the Millennial Kingdom, these two tribes will still find themselves in close proximity to God’s house.
It’s interesting to note that every tribe will receive an equal apportionment of the land. No one tribe will have a large portion. God makes it clear that “each tribe will receive an equal share” (Ezekiel 47:14 NLT). And God reminds Ezekiel that this would all be in fulfillment of His covenant promise.
“I took a solemn oath and swore that I would give this land to your ancestors, and it will now come to you as your possession.” – Ezekiel 47:14 NLT
God will keep His word. He will honor His commitment to the people of Israel by restoring them to the land He promised to their forefather, Abraham.
But this land will not be strictly reserved for the descendants of Abraham. God makes it clear that there will be Gentiles living among His chosen people in the Millennial Kingdom.
“Distribute the land as an allotment for yourselves and for the foreigners who have joined you and are raising their families among you. They will be like native-born Israelites to you and will receive an allotment among the tribes.” – Ezekiel 47:22 NLT
The Millennial Kingdom will into being as a result of Christ’s second coming. He will return at the end of the seven years of the Tribulation, defeat the armies of the world, and reestablish the Davidic line by ascending the throne in Jerusalem, where He will rule for 1,000 years on earth.
With the end of the Tribulation, all those who survived the judgments of God will still remain on earth. That will include Jews who survived the persecutions of the Antichrist, Gentiles who lived through the judgments of God, and all those (Jews and Gentiles) who came to faith in Christ during those terrible days. All of these people will be living on the earth during Christ’s earthly reign. Over the ten centuries of His rule, children will be born and generations will come and go. There will be unbelievers living on the earth with Jesus Christ, the righteous King ruling over them. There will be unbelieving Jews who will be participating in the newly inaugurated sacrificial system in the new Millennial Temple. But salvation will come by faith in Christ alone, not by the blood of bulls and goats. Everything in the Millennial Kingdom will point to Christ. He will occupy the throne of David in Jerusalem from within that holy district that lies in the center of the newly restored land of Israel.
The presence of Gentiles within the land should not surprise us. God will still be redeeming those who are willing to seek salvation through His Son. While the land belongs to the Israelites, the chosen people of God, He sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. All of this is in keeping with the promise God made to Abraham when He first called him.
“I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” – Genesis 12:2-3 NLT
All of this will be a preface for what is yet to come. While the Millennial Kingdom will be 1,000 years in length, it will still be temporary and not eternal. It will be followed by the eternal state. But this future time period is when God will finally fulfill all the promises He has made to His covenant people. He will honor His word by returning them to the land and restoring them to a right relationship with Himself, because He is faithful, righteous, and good.
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.