By Levi Clancy for לוי on
The Prophet Ezekiel was exiled in 597 BC, the first Judean deportation, to a community along the Khabur River in modern Syria. He lived as a recluse until he received a dramatic vision of God, or of God's glory, an apprehensible manifestation of the inapprehensible. That a deportee could connect with God outside the promised land, without even a Temple where God could reside, meant that the Temple destruction had not severed the link between the Jews and God. Even without Jerusalem, the Jews could have contact with God (Armstrong, p 86).
The Hebrew bible asserts that an individual Israelite's sin polluted the temple; and the deity would want to leave a polluted temple. Thus, sin precipitated the Temple destruction. The bible states two ways to keep the land clean: sprinkling of sacrificial blood; and while sacrifice is great, one must also be moral, ethical and obedient to God. Ezekiel's promulgation of a virtuous life, and his assertion that it could link one to God, allowed the exiled Jews could make themselves into a sacred zone amidst pagan neighbors, and find consolation in their belittled God.
Ezekiel 40-48: Ezekiel's Vision of a New Israel
In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day, the hand of the lord was upon me, and he brought me there. He brought me, in visions of God, to the land of Israel, and set me down upon a very high mountain, on which was a structure like a city to the south. When he brought me there, a man was there, whose appearance shone like bronze, with a linen cord and a measuring reed in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway. The man said to me, "Mortal, look closely and listen attentively, and set your mind upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you; declare all that you see to the house of Israel. (Ezekiel 40:1-4)
Ezekiel is shown the temple plan in great detail, and what to include in the temple (Ezekiel 40-44). Next it is revealed to Ezekiel how to subdivide the land among the twelve tribes of Israel, with a separate holy district for God and adjacent to it a community district shared by all the tribes; and sandwiching the holy and community districts will be two lands, both for the king (Ezekiel 45:1-8). Following this is a detail of kingly bureaucratic and religious duties and restraints, priestly duties, proper rituals associated with the temple and Ezekiel is told what an honest and good king must do in terms of bureaucratic issues and religious duties (Ezekiel 45:9-24, 46:1-24). Then is a tour of a river that shall flow from the temple to the Dead Sea, bringing life and abundance to its banks and turning the Dead Sea into a freshwater cornucopia of fish (Ezekiel 47:1-12). Ezekiel then is instructed on the boundaries of the land of Israel (Ezekiel 47:13-20), followed by details on how it is to be subdivided among native aliens, Israelite tribes and the holy, communal and districts (Ezekiel 47:21-23, 48).
So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. You shall alot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who reside among you and have begotten children among you. They shall be to you as citizens of Israel; with you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Ezekiel 47:21-22