Rivers and Streams in Jerusalem?

Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us. Isa. 33:20-22

Jerusalem, the crown of the Middle East, with all its splendor, yet there is still one thing missing from the landscape. There are no rivers and only a very few streams. In fact, you have to zoom out several clicks on the map to find the Jordan River to the east which connects the two other significant water masses, the Sea of Galilee to the north and the Dead Sea to the south. Yet, the prophet Isaiah sees an entirely different picture of future Jerusalem.

First, the prophet sees Jerusalem in peace, a city with none of her stakes removed and no cords broken. In other words, in light of recent current events, the city will not be divided or shrunk in size. And then, he also sees the glorious Lord there. If you are familiar with the book of Isaiah, this is nothing new. In chapter two, we are told that people will come to Zion and be taught the ways of the Lord, “for from Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3). Only this time the prophet says that “the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams.” Now there is a tendency to go for the metaphorical interpretations with Isaiah’s use of such vivid imagery, but our rules of interpretation state that “if the literal sense makes sense, then we are to seek no other sense.” Could a thing as wonderful as this be possible though, rivers coming out of Jerusalem?

There is an interesting documentary entitled, The Burdensome Stone, where a number of Jewish scholars, Rabbis, and religious leaders, each from opposite ends of the spectrum as far as their viewpoint on the interpretation of the Torah and the Prophets, weigh in on what is known to the Jews as the Foundation Stone. There were also a number from the scientific community explaining the significance of the stone as well. Among these experts were Kabbalist as well as strict Orthodox Jews, but there was one thing that they all had in common: they all agreed on a literal interpretation of the Foundation Stone.

Long story short, there was a consensus among the interviewees that where the Bible speaks of the waters of the “deep,” dividing “the waters,” or “the fountain of the deep,” these have been capped off for the time being with a large stone called the “foundation stone.” According to the Jewish view, God used this foundation stone to stop this vast resource of water. Contrary to most of the flood accounts we learned in Sunday School, there were two sources of water mentioned. The Bible says that in Noah’s 600th year, “all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Gen. 7:11). And again after forty days, the Bible records that both “the fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped” (Gen 8:2). The common belief among Jewish scientist and religious leaders interviewed was this stone was placed, of all places, on top of Mt. Moriah where Abraham offered Isaac and where the Jewish Temple once stood. Today, of course, the Jews are not the only ones laying claim to this site. For the Muslims, this same place is now their third most holy site known as the Dome of the Rock.

The film shows actual footage of recent development that is causing quite a stir; there is water seeping from the old temple’s foundation. A stir, in one sense that the Jewish archeologist want to continue their digs in the area, but the current possessors of the Temple Mount don’t share their enthusiasm. In the documentary, there was one staunch believer of the Temple Mount Faithful who made it down to the waters underneath the Dome of the Rock, but he had also gotten thrown out on numerous occasions. It also has caused a stir in another sense. The Jews believe that this is a sign of the end of all things. And one major reason for this is a very literal interpretation of the latter part of Ezekiel where he describes the Temple in the midst of the faithful city in the last days. The prophet describes the Temple in the heart of the city in such picturesque details few would disagree that he is speaking of the millennial reign of Christ. The problem with this view is that the period of time described is so different from this current time that many of us sweep it under a big metaphorical rug and don’t give it much thought at all. In the documentary, the Jewish mystics certainly were not guilty of this fallacy, at least when dealing with the Ezekiel’s temple. What is Ezekiel’s temple so different from Solomon’s? Mainly, the prophet sees “waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward” (Ezek. 47:1). The Jewish experts in the documentary see this water seeping from the “foundation stone” as a direct fulfillment of what the prophet Ezekiel spoke of and a major end-time sign.

Could this be what Isaiah saw as well in the last days? Not only did he see the coming reign of Messiah in Jerusalem bringing peace and protection from her foes, but he saw rivers and streams flowing from the city of the great King. You may recall, the prophet Ezekiel foretold that one day the water would start to trickle out of the side of the temple. Ezekiel’s guide led him out a thousand cubits where the water was ankle-deep. Then he led him another thousand cubits and it was knee-deep. Then he led him another thousand cubits, and it was waist-deep. Finally, the water was deep enough to swim in! The prophet goes on to say that the water from the temple would flow eastward then down till it enters the sea. And when it does, the water will become fresh (Ezek. 47:8). If you recall the only sea to the east and south is the Dead Sea. The salt is so dense in this sea that nothing can possibly live in this sea. And as if that wasn’t a grand enough miracle, the prophet says that there will be many fish, and that “everything will live where the river goes” (Ezek. 47:9). This will truly be glorious thing to behold when fishermen are fishing in the Dead Sea of all places.

Before we spiritualize the picturesque words of the prophets, maybe we should read these words with some of the same expectancy as the Jewish interpreters. After all, it is God and his plans for the future of Jerusalem that we are talking about here! We should remind ourselves of the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “Ah Lord God! Behold thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jer. 32:17). If the Jewish community sees this water seeping from under the foundation stone as a literal fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy and a sign of the end, then maybe we should take a closer look. Peter, when referring to the Day of the Lord, questions what manner of people should we be? He concludes that we should live “in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12). Not only should we be watching closely for the water under the temple, we should prepare for the Messiah’s imminent return, literally!

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