And it shall come to pass, that every thing that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall come, shall live…
Those who have read the travels of Bruce in Abyssinia, in search of the source of the Nile, may recollect the ecstasy he felt when he thought his adventurous undertaking was crowned with success. He stood in transport beside those welling fountains — so long sought for in vain — which poured forth the river that had washed the cities of the Pharaohs, and wandered among the Pyramids, diffusing fertility and beauty along its extensive course; and we must be destitute indeed of all imagination and enthusiasm if we do not, in some measure, enter into his feelings. Taking advantage of such a scene as this, and with an allusion, perhaps, to the river of paradise, the sacred writers often compare the Gospel, in its progress and blessings, to a river increasing as it flows, and diffusing beauty and fertility along its banks.
I. THE RIVER ITSELF.
1. Observe its source. The prophet had gone round the temple summoned up before him in vision, without observing any stream of water. His supernatural conductor, however, brought him once more to the front of the edifice which looked to the east, and now he saw a fountain issuing from under the threshold, flowing eastward, and running in a stream past the south side of the altar of burnt offerings which stood in the outer court. The spiritual meaning of this part of the emblematic vision it is not difficult to discern. Jerusalem and its temple were, so to speak, the original seat of the Gospel, and the scene of those events by which man was redeemed. It was there that the fountain was opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. It was there that the spiritual rock was smitten, and those waters flowed forth which are for the refreshment, the healing, and the regeneration of our race. There, too, it was, that the salvation wrought out in it was first applied to the souls of the guilty. "Beginning at Jerusalem."
2. The river of which the prophet speaks, progressively increased. The symbol was realised when the knowledge of salvation, no longer confined to the Hebrews, was communicated to the Gentiles with marked success, and provision made for its extension to men of every kindred and tongue.
3. The direction in which this river flowed. "These waters," said the prophet's guide, "issue out towards the east country" — that is, to the region eastward of Jerusalem. This part of the prophetic symbol evidently points to the eminent and early success of the Gospel by the ministry of the apostles in Judea itself, in Samaria, and the neighbouring countries. At the same time, a more enlarged and important signification must be attached to it. Samaria was the seat, for a time, of an idolatrous worship. When, therefore, this river is represented as flowing eastward to Samaria, may we not regard it as an intimation that by the Gospel idolatry shall be overthrown? that the Gospel shall be purified from those inventions of men by which it has often been debased, and shine forth in the dominions of the man of sin in its native purity, simplicity, and beauty?
II. THE QUALITIES OF THE WATERS OF THE RIVER.
1. They have a quickening and life-giving power. The sea into which this river falls is what is called the Dead Sea, which covers those cities of the plain which God destroyed with fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest. But mark the change that was to be effected when the waters of the sanctuary mingled with the briny wave! Instantly was it to teem with innumerable fishes; every species found in the Great Sea or Mediterranean would increase and multiply; and the strand on which the fisherman's bark never rested, was to be covered with fishers from En-gedi even to En-eglaim. Here we have an illustration of the power of the Gospel to quicken those who are dead in trespasses and sins. It gives life where formerly there was desolation. It fills the world with animated and active Christians, where formerly all was stagnation and insensibility. It communicates a power to love and serve and enjoy God, to those who were destitute of these exalted capacities.
2. The waters of this river have a healing virtue. "Being brought forth into the sea the waters shall be healed." Its pestiferous qualities shall be neutralised; its taste and smell shall be rectified; and it shall become a fit abode for those creatures that exist in other wholesome waters. As every individual who embraces the Gospel is blessed with light and purity, so in the state of society, and in the general tone of morals, it has produced great amelioration in all parts of the world into which it has penetrated. Even where Christianity has not saved, it has reformed. It has drawn into solitude and darkness the crimes that used to flaunt in the face of day. It has put an end to that systematic impurity which was practised under pretence of religion; softened the horrors of war; it has lightened the bonds of captivity; shaken the pillars of tyranny; overturned the altars of idolatry; given origin to benevolent institutions for the relief of every malady to which the mind and body of man are subject; advanced the cause of secular education; given rise to the noblest efforts, spiritually to enlighten and convert the world.
3. The waters of this river are fertilising and fructifying in their influence.
4. This river is not universal in its quickening, healing, and fertilising influence. "The miry places thereof, and the marishes thereof, shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt." How aptly does this representation typify those to whom the Gospel comes in vain, who are so sunk in the mire of sin, so saturated with the love and pollution of iniquity, that they will not yield themselves to the sanctifying influence of the Gospel. To such it is not the savour of life unto life, but of death unto death.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.
WEB: It shall happen, that every living creature which swarms, in every place where the rivers come, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish; for these waters are come there, and [the waters of the sea] shall be healed, and everything shall live wherever the river comes.