Notes on Ezekiel 37:1-14

Ezekiel 37:1‑14  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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This section contains a striking vision and a plain explanation of it. It is a question neither of the conversion of the soul nor of the resurrection of the body, but of God's causing Israel to live once more by-and-by as a people. They were at that time swept away and without a political existence; and greater troubles than those inflicted by Assyrian or Babylonian were before them, of which law and prophets clearly forewarned; but the word of Jehovah shall stand. And here again it was revealed to the sorrowing captives for their consolation after their earlier exile and before the later, that they might be sustained in presence of such overwhelming disasters by the sure hope of their national revival under the gracious working of the Lord.
“The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit of Jehovah, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry” (vss. 1-2). There is no disguise as to the estimate intended of those meant by the bones in the valley. There was not only no strength, but not even life. In order to bring out this the more we read, “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord Jehovah, thou knowest” (v. 3). The impotence thus implied and confessed opens the way for the word of the Lord. “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live, and ye shall know that I am Jehovah” (vss. 4-6).
Truly it was man's extremity and God's opportunity. He is the God that quickens the dead; and where should He exercise His glorious power if not on behalf of His people? And the prophet was given to see as well as to hear and speak. “So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them” (vss. 7-8). Still more solemnly is this followed up in verses 9 and 10. “Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet an exceeding great army” (vss. 9-10). It is impossible to apply such a statement as this with any show of propriety to the return of less than 43,000 from Babylon: especially as the armies of old far exceeded those usual in modern times. The returning remnant was a very small army compared with that of Judah alone under their kings. And we shall find later on that Ephraim as well as Judah are expressly contemplated: indeed it is implied immediately after in “the whole house of Israel” (v. 11). The past return from captivity is therefore out of the question.
But we are not left to reasoning of ours on the scope of this book and the general aim of Ezekiel. He who gave us the vision through His servant has added the most explicit interpretation. “Then He said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah; Behold, O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put My spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I Jehovah have spoken it, and performed it, saith Jehovah” (vss. 11-14).
To a mind simple and subject to scripture, there can be no hesitation here. To whatever use or application we may turn the vision, its direct and express meaning is God's revival of His ancient people Israel, then utterly destroyed, dead and buried, but yet to quit their graves according to the word of Jehovah. “These bones are the whole house of Israel.” And God would comfort His people as well as rebuke the unbelief which said, “Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts” (v. 11). His own faithful grace will undertake to do what is manifestly beyond the power of man. He declares that He will not only disinter them from the graves wherein they now lie buried as a nation, but will bring them into the land of Israel—an issue suitable neither to those risen from the dead nor to souls converted to God now by the gospel, for what have we to do with the land of Israel? But restoration to their land is the simple and necessary complement of the national resuscitation of Israel. And so all the Old Testament testifies. Continually we see the people and their land bound up: blessing by-and-by on both, as now alas a curse on both.
The meaning therefore seems incontestable, save to men whose minds have been corrupted by the Patristic or Puritan schools, who can see none of the ways of God in Israel for the earth, any more than they read aright His heavenly counsels for the church; and this because the starting-point of both, though in different forms, is the substitution of self for Christ. Their interpretation of prophecy in particular is vitiated by this fatal mistake, which practically razes the hopes of Israel from the Bible and lowers ours to a mere succession to their hope and inheritance with somewhat better light and privilege. It is a part of the first and widest and most tenacious corruption of Christianity against which the Apostle fought so valiantly. And it comes in the more insidiously, because it seems to those under its influence that they are of all men the most distant from the false brethren Paul denounced. To their minds the truest guard against judaizing is to deny that the Jews will ever be reinstated as a people, or be restored consequently to their own land. All the predictions of future blessedness and glory to Israel they turn over to Christendom now or to the church in glory. Most pernicious error! For this is exactly to judaize the Christian and the church by making them simply follow and inherit from Israel. The truth is thus swamped; Israel's bright prospects are denied; Gentile conceit is engendered; and the Christian is rendered worldly, instead of being taught his place of blessing on high in contrast with Israel's on the earth.