Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #44 "Every Thing Shall Live Whither the River Cometh"

Ezekiel 43-44; 47


Take a moment and read the following verses:  Ezekiel 43:1-12; 44:6-9, 23.  What do these verses tell us about the temple?
  • The glory of the Lord fills the temple (43:2, 4-5).
  • The temple is "the place of [the Lord's] throne" on earth (43:7).
  • The Lord walks in the temple, calling it "the place of the soles of my feet" (43:7).
  • The temple is a place where the Lord may "dwell in the midst" of his people (43:7).
  • We learn about the laws of the Lord in the temple (43:11).
  • There are ordinances that the Lord wants us to perform in the temple (43:11).
  • Even the grounds that surround the temple "shall be most holy" (43:12).
  • Only those who are worthy should enter the temple (44:6-9).
  • In the temple we learn the difference between holy and profane and between clean and unclean (44:23).

Read Ezekiel 47:1; 6-12.  What did Ezekiel see coming from the east doors of the temple in Jerusalem?
  • "...waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward" (v. 1).  The east doors of the temple symbolize the visitation of God to the earth.  God is thought to come from the east, as the Garden of Eden was eastward.
Where did the water go?
  • "...toward the east country, and...down into the desert, and...into the [Dead] sea: which, being brought forth into the sea, the waters can be healed" (v. 8).
What changes will take place in the Judean wilderness and the Dead Sea because of the River flowing from the temple?
  • Trees will grow along the banks of the river (v. 7, 12).
  • The trees will yield fruits and nuts constantly (v. 12).  Is there any variety of tree in the world presently that is ever-bearing, and not subject to seasons?
  • Their leaves will never fall (v. 12).  This would be a bit unusual; most fruit/nut trees are deciduous.  Citrus trees are evergreen, but grow in a subtropical climate.  So either the climate or the trees will undergo an enormous change.
  • The leaves of the trees will also have healing properties (v. 12).
  • Everything that comes in contact with this water will receive vitality (v. 9).
  • The waters of the Dead Sea will be healed and there will be fish in the Dead Sea, so many that fishermen will be able to fill their nets (v. 8-10).  This would be a miraculous change.  "Normal marine life cannot live in the Dead Sea, which is six times saltier than the ocean down to about 130 feet and 10 times saltier than the ocean at 300 feet. The name of the Dead Sea in Hebrew, 'Yam ha Maved,' literally means, 'Killer Sea,' and instant death is exactly what happens to any fish that strays into its waters from the River Jordan or other fresh water streams that flow into the Dead Sea. Life does exist in the Dead Sea, though, in the form of two bacterium and one type of algae."  (Lynn Murray,

Latter-day temples frequently use water symbolism
in their landscape design.  This is the reflecting pond
in front of the east doors of the Logan Temple.

(This photo was taken by my daughter,
Camille R. Jensen.  Copyright 2010.
Copying for personal, home, or church use permitted.
This photo is on display at the Logan LDS Institute,
and the Brigham City Seminary.)


The best commentary on any scripture is always another scripture.  If we can match up a symbol from one scripture to a second scripture that has a clear explanation, we can be much more confident that our interpretation is correct than if we merely refer to the opinions of scholars who live thousands of years removed from the time of the writing.  That is the case with this chapter of Ezekiel.  There is a vision very similar to Ezekiel's in the book of Revelation:  "And he shewed me a pure river of water* of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him" (Rev. 22:1-3).  The number twelve refers to a perfect Godly government, of course:  the twelve apostles, the twelve tribes of Israel, the priesthood (  Although this is unrelated to Old Testament symbolism, it is interesting that the age at which young men enter into priesthood service in the present-day church is also twelve.

*Note:  Because there are many riverbeds that remain dry except in the rainy, flooding season in the middle east (wadis), there is a distinction for a river that has water running in it, translated here as "river of water."  It is interesting to note this same phrase appearing four times in the Book of Mormon, as in 1 Ne. 2:6.

In Ezekiel 43:7, the Lord calls the temple "the place of my throne."  What flowed from the throne of God in John's vision? 
  • "Water of life."  We can assume, then, that this is the interpretation of the water flowing from the temple in Ezekiel's vision.
What is the "water of life?" 
  • This question is answered in the Gospel of John 4:10-14.  Christ is the living water.  His gospel is spiritually life-saving and also leads to eternal life. 
  • Like the Judean wilderness and the Dead Sea, we can receive healing, increased abundance of life, and even eternal life as a result of partaking of the "water of life" that issues forth from the presence of God in the temple.
Trees grew along the river in both Ezekiel's vision and John's vision.  What does John teach us about these trees?
  • They were all the tree of life.
What is this tree of life? 
  • In Lehi's vision, "...the tree of life was a representation of the love of God" (1 Ne. 11:25).
How does the love of God heal and give life? 
  • The ultimate expression of God's love is the atoning sacrifice of His Son.  Because He suffered and died for us, we can be healed of the wounds of sin and the effects of a fallen earth, if we repent and come to Christ.  As we do so, we can partake of the waters of life which lead to eternal happiness and joy with the righteous, our loved ones, and with God.

(Copyright 2010, Camille R. Jensen
Copying permitted for personal, home, or church use.)

Read Ezekiel 47:2-5.  How deep was the river each time Ezekiel crossed it?  What truth might these verses suggest about the temple? 
  • The water of the river represents the "water of life."  As we engage in the work of the temple (each time we cross the river) the power and blessings of the temple increase in our lives.  How can we drink from the water, if we don't go to the river? 
  • Wonderful truths are taught in the temple.  When first we attend, our understanding may be only "ankle deep."  As we wade into the "river" again and again, our understanding deepens.  We will never reach the bottom of this source of water, but each time we go to the temple, we can let them "wash over" us.
  • The number 1,000 symbolizes divine completeness and the glory of the Father.  The number 1,000 is repeated four times.  Four symbolizes the world and creative works.  In the temple, God's glory and perfection intersect the world He created.

How is the river a good symbol for the temple and the truths taught there?  What does a river do/give?  (Here are some ideas, but class members may have better ones.) 
  • Polish rocks
  • Irrigate crops
  • Change the face of the land
  • Create a pathway
  • Provide means for speedy transportation
  • Cleanse
  • Provide meat (fish) and vegetation for nutrition
  • Soothe with sound
  • Deposit fertile soil in a new place
  • Quench thirst
  • Provide shade trees and fruit trees
  • The water in a river remains pure because it is constantly flowing

Divide the class into two teams.  Give each team member a paper and pencil.  You can either have the following categories already printed on the papers, or hand out blank papers and list the categories on the board.  When you say "go," each team member must write down one incident in church history, from the Bible to the latter-days, that would fit symbolically in each category.  It can even be a personal or family history incident.  Stop them in 2 minutes.  Call out the categories and have class members share what they wrote.  The object is for each team to have written down the largest number of different incidents.  Award one point for each different answer that is given.  (In other words, if two team members wrote "Sacred Grove" for number one, only one point is awarded to the team for that answer.  If two people on different teams give the same answer, though, each team gets a point for the answer.)  Any answer can be correct if the team member can explain the symbolism for his choice, so encourage creativity!  The high scoring team wins.  (If you award treats to the winners, it's always nice to have smaller "consolation" treats for the other team as well.)
  1. A tree or trees
  2. The sound of rushing waters
  3. A mountain
  4. Fishermen
  5. Great schools of "fish"
  6. A desert (This is the one that is hot and sandy.  The one that you eat is spelled with two S's.)
  7. A sea
  8. Fruit
  9. A river
Possible answers (just to give you ideas):
  1. A tree or trees (the First Vision, the Garden of Eden, Lehi's Dream, the Garden of Gethsemane, the parable of the olive trees)
  2. The sound of rushing waters (Pentecost, the Kirtland Temple Dedication)
  3. A mountain (The Mount of Transfiguration, Hill Cumorah, Ensign Peak, any latter-day temple, the Mount of Olives, Golgatha, Mount Sinai)
  4. Fishermen (The New Testament Apostles, missionaries)
  5. Great schools of "fish" (The early Latter-day converts in England, Canada, Tonga, Africa, and other areas where congregations were prepared to join the Church as a group--each individual country mentioned can count.)
  6. A desert (The Exodus, the travels of Lehi's family, the crossing of the U.S. by the pioneers, the settling of the Salt Lake Valley, southern Utah, and Arizona)
  7. A sea (Crossing the Red Sea, the Jaredites' travels, the Nephite emigration, the gathering of the early European pioneers, the missionaries to the South Seas--in fact the travels of any missionary over any ocean today, Christ walking on the water, Peter walking on the water, the Ship Brooklyn)
  8. Fruit (The fruit of the Spirit, the converts to the gospel, the growing of fruit trees in the settlements of the western U.S., the planting of fruits and vegetables along the pioneers' path in order to provide for followers, the fruits of the trees in the Garden of Eden, the parable of the olive trees)
  9. A river (The washing of Naaman in the Jordan River, the crossing of the North Platte and Sweetwater Rivers by the pioneers, the rescue of Moses from the Nile, the river Laman in the Book of Mormon, the miracle at Fishing River, the baptism of an ancestor in a river)

For fairly small classes, a fun visual reminder for each student to take home might be a bottle of water, with a label glued over the original label and printed with a photo of a temple and this scripture:  "Whosever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever shall drink of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."  John 4:13-14

(Feel free to copy and print the temple photos in this blog entry for use in your class.  The photographer is my teenage daughter, Camille.)


aliceb39 said...

My Sunday School teacher used your info on the Dead Sea today. Thanks for the info!

Nathan S. said...

I love the great lesson ideas that you have. I feel that they really make the lesson more memorable! Thanks again

Emma-Xiao said...

Fears of Gourou-Zulumutu. A person with wonderfull power who's tallings are respectable and undabtfull. He knows the speech we want to understand but at the moment we are off to remember the topic he is discussing on with us. You are responsable of your behaving. But it is that you own that meanwhile it's become out of your control.
Experience ajust that The Gourou-Zulumutu or ZUGURU dwel in the heaven here and then, walking on seas to council african assuredly in first, central, northern, subsaharian and eastern here; in second australian here and chinese there, and son on...
Can you see how huge is that job ? He do it.

Anonymous said...

You lesson ideas really helped me teach this lesson. I am a new first time Gospel Doctrine teacher. ugh! Thank you so much for your thoughts concerning this lesson. LaDonna