Ezekiel 47:15-23: Allotted Inheritance

You can’t love people collectively.
— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Salt of the Earth)

I don’t play the lottery. I don’t have any biblical justification for my views (other than the implications of stewardship); I just don’t need another way to lose my money!

One of the things I’ve heard people complain about is the taxation level on lottery winnings.

“Congratulations! You’ve won $1,000,000 dollars! (Now give $250,000 to the government)”.

I wonder how the exiles took the bombshell Ezekiel dropped in vv. 22-23?

. . .

Verses 15-20 are awkward to read, because we don’t understand where many of the places referenced were actually located. By deducing what we don’t know from what we do, God was offering Israel roughly the same land they had occupied in the past. They would return to the place from where they were exiled. Good news.

Although we can’t accurately chart on a map the various places mentioned, you can be sure that the ear of every exile would be straining to hear these names. Each mention would be a burst of life in the heart of a refugee.

Daniel Block makes the interesting point that although the English language seems to describe boundaries, the Hebrew language describes the place in between the lines. Where someone lived was far more important than the abstract line that defined the border of her property.

. . .

Then Ezekiel drops the bomb:

You shall allot 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. In whatever tribe aliens reside, there you shall assign them their inheritance. (vv. 22-23, NRSV, emphasis mine)

God gave them their land with strings attached. They were to dole it out generously to whoever decided to become a part of Israel. In the Mosaic covenant, foreigners were allowed to live within Israel when they committed themselves to Yahweh—but they were never to own land. This is novel and unprecedentedly gracious.

That revelation struck me in a few different ways.

  1. God is generous, and he wants his people to be generous. How are we doing?
  2. I’m thankful that as a Gentile (a non-Jew), God has accepted me “as citizens” of his people. Paul used a horticultural metaphor: grafted into the vine.
  3. What does it have to say to the leaders of Israel in our current political climate? Is there an implicit rebuke of modern Zionism?
  4. What does it have to say about the West’s increasingly stringing immigration laws and terrorism paranoia? Does it rebuke the Minutemen?

. . .

Lord, give us the grace to consider others more highly than ourselves.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 47:13-14 | Surprise Inheritance

Ezekiel 48:1-7; 23-29 | Divided Equally >

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