Ezekiel 37 - Outline of Ezekiel (MENU page)
In the study of the previous chapter, we noted three facets of Israel's restoration, which the LORD will accomplish in His time, and in a set order. These were identified as Israel's (1) Regathering, (2) Regeneration, and (3) Restoration. (To review these, see the Book Notes on Eze 36:24-32.)
     While all three of these elements were brought out, in ch. 36, the emphasis was on Israel's Regathering to the Land... not because they were worthy (for they are not), but due to God's Grace, in His provision of the New Covenant, by which His people will receive new hearts which are filled with His Spirit.
     The present chapter is divided into two sections, both of which will again touch on all three of these factors. However, the first section illustrates the need for, and means of, Israel's spiritual Regeneration, and the second section illuminates the future political Restoration of Israel as one nation under one King. The two sections are:
  1. The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (37:1-14)
  2. The Sign of the Two Sticks (37:15-28)
 
1. The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (37:1-14)
    (The Resurrection of the Nation)
  1. The Vision Observed (v.1-10)
  2. The Vision Explained (v.11-14)
1. The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD,
and set me down in the midst of the valley which [was] full of bones,
2 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.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live?
And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones,
and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
5 Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones;
Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
6 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] the LORD.
The hand of the LORD was upon me...
This phrase marks another important point in Ezekiel's ministry.
By the LORD's hand and Spirit upon him...
  • Ezekiel had been prepared for the vision of the Glory of the LORD,
    who called, commissioned and instructed him to warn unrighteous Israel (1:3; 3:14,22).
  • Ezekiel had been prepared for the vision of the Glory of the LORD departing from Jerusalem (8:1),
    and to proclaim the unthinkable judgments that would follow.
  • Ezekiel was recommissioned and confirmed as God's prophet to proclaim judgment and restoration,
    to a people who considered God's Word beautiful but unbelievable, though the prophet's prior messages had been confirmed by the news of Jerusalem's fall (33:21,22).
  • Ezekiel is, here (37:1), prepared to foresee and proclaim 'impossible' things,
    which the LORD would accomplish, in behalf of His people Israel.
  • Ezekiel will be prepared (in 40:1) for the vision of the Glory of the LORD returning to His Temple.
    [Compare the above points with the Outline of Ezekiel, to observe this progression.]
...and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD... (v.1; cp. 3:14; 8:3; 11:24)
The Holy Spirit transported Ezekiel, in a vision, to see things which were unseen to the natural eye.
     It may be that Ezekiel was overwhelmed by revelation recently received from the LORD (ch. 34-36). How was it possible to reconcile the desperate and desolate condition of God's people (in their dispersion following the destruction of Jerusalem), with His wonderful promises of their restoration to blessing and bounty? As he wrestled in prayer, seeking to understand this conundrum, the LORD gave him further insight through this vision and the prophecies of subsequent chapters.
     [Compare Daniel and John - In answer to Daniel's continual prayer for comprehension of God's Word, the LORD often opened his understanding through prophetic visions and angelic explanations (eg., Dan 7:15,16; 9:1-3,20-22; 10:1-7). Likewise, John was prayerfully pondering the future of the persecuted church and the future 'Day of the LORD', when the Lord gave him revelation of "things which must shortly come to pass" (Rev 1:1,9-10).]
...and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones... caused me to pass by them round about... behold... they were very dry.
'The valley' {ie., 'plain' (as trans. in Eze 3:22), open wilderness} did not represent a prosperous inhabited area. Rather, judging from the many fallen and decomposed corpses, it had been a place of trouble. (cp. Hos 2:14,15, where 'Achor' means 'trouble', and a different word for 'valley' refers to a 'low place'.)
Ezekiel was instructed to carefully examine the depressing scene before him. His assessment was:
  1. there were 'very many' {an exceedingly large multitude} of bones, and
  2. these bones were 'very dry' {exceedingly dry}.
    They were not only dead, but long dead and sun baked, with no trace of life remaining.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Ezekiel answered wisely. It certainly looked impossible to him, but he knew (at least, theoretically) that nothing is impossible with God. (cp. Jer 32:17,27; Mat 19:25,26)
     As the LORD will explain (in v.11-14), this multitude represents the nation of Israel. His question was not whether there will be a future resurrection of physically dead men, for that was well known to OT believers (eg., 1Sam 2:6; Job 19:25-27; Psa 23:6; Dan 12:2,9,13). Rather, the question was... Was it possible for this spiritually and politically dead nation to arise again upon the earth?
...prophesy... say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD...
God's Word to these dry bones (v.5,6) was that they would indeed live again. Furthermore, he described to them the progressive order, by which life would come to them: sinew... flesh... skin... breath... But did they have ears to hear? When the time is right, they will.
     The Word of God is the Word of Life, which the spiritually dead must hear, if they are to live (Joh 5:25-29; 6:63-69; Php 2:16). But, how shall the deaf hear (eg., Eze 12:2)? ...only as the Holy Spirit prepares hearts to receive the proclaimed Word (eg., Joh 16:7-11). Yet, it is our responsibility to proclaim it (Mat 13:1-9,18-23; 1Joh 1:1-3).
7 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.
8 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.
9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man,
and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10 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.
Observe the sequence of events which began as God's Word was issued through Ezekiel.
These events are in the order previously given in v.6 (and also 36:24-30, see below).
  • as I prophesied...
    1. ...there was a noise {ie., sound, voice, thunder}... a shaking {ie., commotion, earthquake}...
      Things were happening. There was a response to the Word.
    2. ...the bones came together, bone to his bone...
      The scattered and broken multitude began to regather and reassemble, in recognizable form. cp. Eze 36:19,24
    3. ...sinew {muscle, ligaments} and flesh {other bodily tissues} came up upon them.
      These terms suggest physical strength.
      Israel, like the Gentile nations, is flexing its economic and military muscles, today (2018 AD), though they are still spiritually dead.
    4. ...skin covered them...
      By this time, they looked handsome and powerful. Yet, they remained lifeless. Eze 36:25
  • and He said... Prophesy unto the wind... Come... O breath... that these may live...
    1. ...the breath came into them...
      The same word {HB=ruach} is translated as: wind, breath, and spirit. v.5,9,10,14
    2. ...they lived... stood up upon their feet...
      This resurrection is the regeneration through being born again of God's Spirit (as depicted in Eze 36:26,27).
    3. ...an exceeding {lit., exceedingly exceeding} great army {HB=chayil, force, strength, ability, army}.
      The people which had been exceedingly dead (v.2), were now established as a strong and capable nation. Eze 36:29,30
Some attempt to interpret this vision as depicting the process by which an individual comes to salvation, or by which Christ builds His church.
There are a few basic similarities, for all are spiritually dead, all must respond in faith to God's Word, and all must be born again by God's Spirit (eg. Eph 2:4-10).
     However, there is no pre-requisite regathering, re-ordering and strengthening of the sinner's life prior to his new birth. Rather, the hopeless, broken sinner turns to the Savior, and receives new life as a child of God (Eph 2:11-13). It is after being born again of God's Spirit, that the believer is progressively changed, matured and built up together with other believers in the body of Christ (eg., Eph 2:19-22; 4:12-16; 1Cor 6:9-11; 2Cor 3:18). This vision, of dry bones coming together and gathering strength, before receiving life by the Spirit, describes neither the experience of the NT believer, nor of the church.
     The LORD Himself clearly defines the meaning of the vision...
11 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.
12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
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.
13 And ye shall know that I [am] the LORD,
when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
14 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 the LORD have spoken [it], and performed [it], saith the LORD.
...these bones are the whole house of Israel...
The LORD explains that the vision applies to both the northern and the southern kingdoms of Israel. Both had been judged for their rebellion against Him. Both kingdoms had fallen to powerful enemies, which had taken their people captive and scattered them throughout the world. Together, both would be restored to their land (Eze 36:10).
...behold, they say, Our bones are dried and our hope is lost, we are cut off...
In the assessment of the Jewish people, the nation was long dead and beyond possibility of reviving (v.1-3; eg., Psa 141:7; Isa 49:14). In their despair, they thought the LORD had forsaken them. But in actuality, they had forgotten the One who is their Hope. Psa 130:7,8; Jer 14:7-9
...Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves... cause you to come up out... bring you into the land of Israel...
The vision is explained, not as the resurrection of physically dead men, but as the regathering of Israel's scattered people from the countries of their dispersion (referred to allegorically as their 'graves'}. Other passages also depict the re-establishment of Israel under their King, as a resurrection out of death. The penalty for sin is death, whether applied to individual sinners, or to sinful nations (eg., Eze 18:20; Mic 3:9-12). However, Israel's true King paid the price of redemption (for believing individuals, and thus, for the nation which they compose), by His death and resurrection (eg., Isa 26:19; Hos 6:2; Rom 11:15).
     In spite of their rebellious character, the LORD lovingly appeals to them, "O, My people..." His heart yearns for them to turn to Him, to walk in His ways, and to know His blessings. The things, which they had suffered at His hand, were intended to turn them back to Him (Hos 6:4,5).
     He calls them to "Behold... I will..." - The things, which He has done, and that He is preparing to do for them, are all intended to cause the nation to look to Him (cp. Isa 65:1,2).
...ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves... and brought you up...
Today, the people of Israel should begin to see that it is the LORD, who is already doing the "impossible," in the present process of their regathering to their own land. Yet, they will not truly understand, until...
...and [I] shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live... then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
When they come alive spiritually, through the New Covenant established by their Messiah, the Holy Spirit will give them eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand the LORD's work of Grace, in their behalf. v.6; Eze 36:27-38; 2Cor 3:14-16
 
2. The Sign of the Two Sticks (37:15-28)
    (The Reuniting of the Nation)
15. The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick,
and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions:
then take another stick, and write upon it,
For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and [for] all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee,
saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou [meanest] by these?
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph,
which [is] in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows,
and will put them with him, [even] with the stick of Judah,
and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
...take thee one stick... For Judah, and... his companions... Take another stick... For Joseph... Ephraim... and his companions.
What is the stick of Joseph?
     [Beware of false teachers: The Mormon church teaches that the stick of Joseph (Smith) is the Book of Mormon, which they say is now joined with the stick of Judah (which they say is the Bible). But their false teaching can hardly be further from the truth.]
     It is very clear from the context, that the two sticks, in Ezekiel's hand, were representative of the two segments of the divided kingdom of Israel (eg., v.11). Both kingdoms had fallen into idolatry and gross sin. By the time of this prophecy, neither kingdom was still standing, because both had been severely judged and uprooted from the land, and their people had been scattered among the nations.
     One stick represented the tribe of Judah and those individuals and tribes which had been associated with the southern kingdom, with its capital and place of worship in Jerusalem. When the kingdoms divided due to a rebellion during the reign of Solomon's son, Rehoboam, the tribes of Levi and Benjamin, and some individuals from other tribes, had remained loyal to the Davidic king and were (initially) faithful to the LORD. But, in time, idolatrous apostasy had overtaken even the Temple worship.
     The other stick represented the northern kingdom, which was led by the tribes of Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Of these, Ephraim was the most prominent. Their 'companions' included the remaining tribes. The ten northern tribes fell into idolatry soon after the division of the nation.
...and join them one to another into one stick... they shall be one in thine hand.
Here, the LORD (through Ezekiel) presented another object lesson to His people, to get their attention.
When the people asked for its meaning, Ezekiel was prepared with the LORD's answer.
...Thus saith the LORD, I will take the stick of Joseph... with the stick of Judah, and make them... one in mine hand.
The two sticks, which became one, in Ezekiel's hand, illustrated what the LORD's hand would do with the divided kingdoms of Israel.
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone,
and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
{v.12; Eze 36:24}
22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel;
and one king shall be king to them all:
and they shall be no more two nations,
neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols,
nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions:
but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned,
and will cleanse them:
{v.14; Eze 36:25-29; Zech 13:1; Heb 9:13,14}
so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. {Eze 36:28}
24 And David my servant [shall be] king over them;
and they all shall have one shepherd:
they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
{Eze 36:27}
25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt;
and they shall dwell therein, [even] they, and their children, and their children's children for ever:
and my servant David [shall be] their prince for ever.
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them;
it shall be an everlasting covenant with them:
and I will place them, and multiply them, {Eze 36:28,29; Isa 60:21; 66:22}
and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
{Zeph 3:14,15}
27 My tabernacle also shall be with them:
yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel,
when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
The future Restoration of Israel is totally the LORD's doing.
In the Bible text above, observe how often He says "I will..."
(The indented lines show the effect of His actions, for His people.)
By these actions, the LORD will...
  1. Regather the people of Israel to their land. v.21
  2. Regenerate the people of Israel by His Spirit. v.23
    The above two points were the focus of ch.36 and v.1-14 of this chapter.
    (See references with the Bible text above.)
  3. Restore the nation politically.
    Verses 15-28 emphasize this point, and provide new details.
    1. The divided nation will be re-united. v.19,22
      During the period of division between the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel, the twelve tribes were separated, not only by different capital cities, but frequently, by animosity and war. As the kingdoms distanced themselves from the LORD, they lost the central purpose which held them together, namely their separation from the world, to serve Him alone.
           Instead, sin separated them from Him, their land and one another. Who could span that great gulf, which grew ever wider during Israel's dispersion? Only the Person who has already removed the barrier between believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph 2:14).
           Isa 11:12,13; Jer 3:18; 32:39; Hos 1:11
    2. The form of government will be a Kingdom. v.22
      Today, Israel is governed by a constitutional democracy. Decision making is frequently a difficult, drawn out process, due to differences of opinion between leaders, and between citizens on all levels of society.
           In a kingdom, decisions are made and actions are taken, at the discretion and upon the authority of the king. A good king can govern with great efficiency and without delay, for the great benefit of his people. In the LORD's Kingdom, His Will will "be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Mat 6:9,10).
           Sadly, the kingdoms of this world are currently characterized by corruption and injustice, because powerful sinful men rule to benefit their selfish interests.
    3. The identity of the King. v.24,25
      The King, who was rejected at His first coming, will be enthroned, at His second coming (Psa 2:1-6).
      The Lord Jesus Christ is identified here as...
    4. The character of His Kingdom - righteousness and peace. v.23-25
      Isa 9:6,7
    5. The location of the Kingdom - the historic land of Israel. v.25
    6. The duration of the Kingdom - for ever. v.25
    7. The documents of the Kingdom - an everlasting covenant of peace. v.26
      This is the New Covenant. Eze 34:25; Jer 31:33; 32:38-40; also see Psa 89:3,4; Isa 55:3
    8. The central purpose of the Kingdom - the right relationship of God and man. v.26-28
      • ...My tabernacle {HB=mishkan, tent, dwelling} shall be with them... I will be their God... they shall be my people.
        The Holy God will dwell among His people, whom He has cleansed and made holy, and fit for His Presence.
        Eze 34:24; 36:28,29; See the word 'dwell' in Joh 1:14; Col 2:9,10; Rev 21:3
      • ...My sanctuary {HB=miqdash, holy place} shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
        His purpose for Israel will have been realized, for His very own people will serve Him in His Kingdom of priests. Deu 14:2 (In Christ, NT believers have already entered into a similar privilege and responsibility. Titus 2:14; 1Pet 2:9)
    9. The effect of this Kingdom upon other nations -
      ... they shall know that I the LORD do sanctify {HB=qadash, make holy, purify, set apart} Israel. v.28
      The Glory of the LORD will be known through His grace toward Israel, in that day when He dwells among a people wholly devoted to Him. Eze 36:23,36; Isa 46:13; Psa 102:15,16

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