Ezekiel 37:1-28 . THE VISION OF DRY BONES REVIVIFIED, SYMBOLIZING ISRAEL'S DEATH AND RESURRECTION.
Three stages in Israel's revival present themselves to the prophet's eye. (1) The new awakening of the people, the resurrection of the dead ( Ezekiel 37:1-14 ). (2) The reunion of the formerly hostile members of the community, whose contentions had affected the whole ( Ezekiel 37:15-28 ). (3) The community thus restored is strong enough to withstand the assault of Gog, &c. (Ezekiel 38:1-39:29') [EWALD].
1. carried . . . in the spirit--The matters transacted, therefore, were not literal, but in vision.
the valley--probably that by the Chebar ( Ezekiel 3:22 ). The valley represents Mesopotamia, the scene of Israel's sojourn in her state of national deadness.
2. dry--bleached by long exposure to the atmosphere.
3. can these bones live? . . . thou knowest--implying that, humanly speaking, they could not; but faith leaves the question of possibility to rest with God, with whom nothing is impossible ( Deuteronomy 32:39 ). An image of Christian faith which believes in the coming general resurrection of the dead, in spite of all appearances against it, because God has said it ( John 5:21 , Romans 4:17 , 2 Corinthians 1:9 ).
4. Prophesy--Proclaim God's quickening word to them. On account of this innate power of the divine word to effect its end, prophets are said to do that which they prophesy as about to be done ( Jeremiah 1:10 ).
5. I . . . cause breath to enter into you--So Isaiah 26:19 , containing the same vision, refers primarily to Israel's restoration. Compare as to God's renovation of the earth and all its creatures hereafter by His breath, Psalms 104:30 .
ye shall live--come to life again.
6. ye shall know that I am the Lord--by the actual proof of My divinity which I will give in reviving Israel.
7. noise--of the bones when coming in mutual collision. Perhaps referring to the decree of Cyrus, or the noise of the Jews' exultation at their deliverance and return.
bones came together--literally, "ye bones came together"; as in Jeremiah 49:11 (Hebrew), "ye widows of thine shall trust in Me." The second person puts the scene vividly before one's eyes, for the whole resurrection scene is a prophecy in action to render more palpably to the people the prophecy in word ( Ezekiel 37:21 ).
8. So far, they were only cohering in order as unsightly skeletons. The next step, that of covering them successively with sinews, skin, and flesh, gives them beauty; but still "no breath" of life in them. This may imply that Israel hereafter, as at the restoration from Babylon was the case in part, shall return to Judea unconverted at first ( Zechariah 13:8 Zechariah 13:9 ). Spiritually: a man may assume all the semblances of spiritual life, yet have none, and so be dead before God.
9. wind--rather, the spirit of life or life-breath (Margin). For it is distinct from "the four winds" from which it is summoned.
from the four winds--implying that Israel is to be gathered from the four quarters of the .earth ( Isaiah 43:5 Isaiah 43:6 , Jeremiah 31:8 ), even as they were "scattered into all the winds" ( Ezekiel 5:10 , 12:14 , 17:21 ; compare Revelation 7:1 Revelation 7:4 ).
10. Such honor God gives to the divine word, even in the mouth of a man. How much more when in the mouth of the Son of God! ( John 5:25-29 ). Though this chapter does not directly prove the resurrection of the dead, it does so indirectly; for it takes for granted the future fact as one recognized by believing Jews, and so made the image of their national restoration (so Isaiah 25:8 , 26:19 , Daniel 12:2 , Hosea 6:2 , 13:14 ; compare Note,
11. Our bones are dried--( Psalms 141:7 ), explained by "our hope is lost" ( Isaiah 49:14 ); our national state is as hopeless of resuscitation, as marrowless bones are of reanimation.
cut off for our parts--that is, so far as we are concerned. There is nothing in us to give hope, like a withered branch "cut off" from a tree, or a limb from the body.
12. my people--in antithesis to "for our parts" ( Ezekiel 37:11 ). The hope that is utterly gone, if looking at themselves, is sure for them in God, because He regards them as His people. Their covenant relation to God ensures His not letting death permanently reign over them. Christ makes the same principle the ground on which the literal resurrection rests. God had said, "I am the God of Abraham," &c.; God, by taking the patriarchs as His, undertook to do for them all that Omnipotence can perform: He, being the ever living God, is necessarily the God of, not dead, but living persons, that is, of those whose bodies His covenant love binds Him to raise again. He can--and because He can--He will--He must [FAIRBAIRN]. He calls them "My people" when receiving them into favor; but "thy people," in addressing His servant, as if He would put them away from Him ( Ezekiel 13:17 , 33:2 , Exodus 32:7 ).
out of your graves--out of your politically dead state, primarily in Babylon, finally hereafter in all lands (compare Ezekiel 6:8 , Hosea 13:14 ). The Jews regarded the lands of their captivity and dispersion as their "graves"; their restoration was to be as "life from the dead" ( Romans 11:15 ). Before, the bones were in the open plain ( Ezekiel 37:1 Ezekiel 37:2 ); now, in the graves, that is, some of the Jews were in the graves of actual captivity, others at large but dispersed. Both alike were nationally dead.
16. stick--alluding to Numbers 17:2 , the tribal rod. The union of the two rods was a prophecy in action of the brotherly union which is to reunite the ten tribes and Judah. As their severance under Jeroboam was fraught with the greatest evil to the covenant-people, so the first result of both being joined by the spirit of life to God is that they become joined to one another under the one covenant King, Messiah-David.
Judah, and . . . children of Israel his companions--that is, Judah and, besides Benjamin and Levi, those who had joined themselves to him of Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, Asher, Zebulun, Issachar, as having the temple and lawful priesthood in his borders ( 2 Chronicles 11:12 2 Chronicles 11:13 2 Chronicles 11:16 , 15:9 , 2 Chronicles 30:11 2 Chronicles 30:18 ). The latter became identified with Judah after the carrying away of the ten tribes, and returned with Judah from Babylon, and so shall be associated with that tribe at the future restoration.
For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim--Ephraim's posterity took the lead, not only of the other descendants of Joseph (compare Ezekiel 37:19 ), but of the ten tribes of Israel. For four hundred years, during the period of the judges, with Manasseh and Benjamin, its dependent tribes, it had formerly taken the lead: Shiloh was its religious capital; Shechem, its civil capital. God had transferred the birthright from Reuben (for dishonoring his father's bed) to Joseph, whose representative, Ephraim, though the younger, was made ( Genesis 48:19 , 1 Chronicles 5:1 ). From its pre-eminence "Israel" is attached to it as "companions." The "all" in this case, not in that of Judah, which has only attached as "companions" the children of Israel" (that is, some of them, namely, those who followed the fortunes of Judah), implies that the bulk of the ten tribes did not return at the restoration from Babylon, but are distinct from Judah, until the coming union with it at the restoration.
18. God does not explain the symbolical prophecy until the Jews have been stimulated by the type to consult the prophet.
19. The union effected at the restoration from Babylon embraced but comparatively few of Israel; a future complete fulfilment must therefore be looked for.
stick of Joseph . . . in the hand of Ephraim--Ephraim, of the descendants of Joseph, had exercised the rule among the ten tribes: that rule, symbolized by the "stick," was now to be withdrawn from him, and to be made one with the other, Judah's rule, in God's hand.
them--the "stick of Joseph," would strictly require "it"; but Ezekiel expresses the sense, namely, the ten tribes who were subject to it.
with him--that is, Judah; or "it," that is, the stick of Judah.
22. one nation--( Isaiah 11:13 , Jeremiah 3:18 , Hosea 1:11 ).
one king--not Zerubbabel, who was not a king either in fact or name, and who ruled over but a few Jews, and that only for a few years; whereas the King here reigns for ever. MESSIAH iS meant ( Ezekiel 34:23 Ezekiel 34:24 ). The union of Judah and Israel under King Messiah symbolizes the union of Jews and Gentiles under Him, partly now, perfectly hereafter ( Ezekiel 37:24 , John 10:16 ).
23. ( Ezekiel 36:25 ).
out of . . . their dwelling-places--( Ezekiel 36:28 Ezekiel 36:33 ). I will remove them from the scene of their idolatries to dwell in their own land, and to serve idols no more.
26. covenant of peace--better than the old legal covenant, because an unchangeable covenant of grace ( Ezekiel 34:25 , Isaiah 55:3 , Jeremiah 32:40 ).
I will place them--set them in an established position; no longer unsettled as heretofore.
my sanctuary--the temple of God; spiritual in the heart of all true followers of Messiah ( 2 Corinthians 6:16 ); and, in some "literal" sense, in the restored Israel (Ezekiel 40:1-44:31').
27. My tabernacle . . . with them--as foretold ( Genesis 9:27 ); John 1:14 , "The Word . . . dwelt among us" (literally, "tabernacled"); first, in humiliation; hereafter, in manifested glory ( Revelation 21:3 ).