Ezekiel 37:1
The hand of the LORD was on me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the middle of the valley which was full of bones,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) In the midst of the valley.—The word is the same as in Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:4, and having the definite article prefixed, is very probably the same plain, now seen in spirit, in which Ezekiel had seen his former visions.

Which was full of bones.—It is better, with the Hebrew, to put a stop after “plain” (valley), and then read, this was full of bones. The bones, as the subsequent verses show, were not heaped together, but thickly strewn upon the face of the plain. After the prophet’s mind had so long dwelt upon the desolating campaigns of Nebuchadnezzar, these ghastly reminders of the loss of human life might naturally enter into his thoughts.

Ezekiel

THE DRY BONES AND THE SPIRIT OF LIFE

Ezekiel 37:1 - Ezekiel 37:14
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This great vision apparently took its form from a despairing saying, which had become a proverb among the exiles, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost: we are clean cut off’ {Ezekiel 37:11}. Ezekiel lays hold of the metaphor, which had been taken to express the hopeless destruction of Israel’s national existence, and even from it wrings a message of hope. Faith has the prerogative of seeing possibilities of life in what looks to sense hopeless death. We may look at the vision from three points of view, considering its bearing on Israel, on the world, and on the resurrection of the body.

I. The saying, already referred to, puts the hopelessness of the mass of the exiles in a forcible fashion. The only sense in which living men could say that their bones were dried up, and they cut off, is a figurative one, and obviously it is the national existence which they regarded as irretrievably ended. The saying gives us a glimpse into the despair which had settled down on the exiles, and against which Ezekiel had to contend, as he had also to contend against its apparently opposite and yet kindred feeling of presumptuous, misplaced hope. We observe that he begins by accepting fully the facts which bred despair, and even accentuating them. The true prophet never makes light of the miseries of which he knows the cure, and does not try to comfort by minimising the gravity of the evil. The bones are very many, and they are very dry. As far as outward resources are concerned, despair was rational, and hope as absurd as it would have been to expect that men, dead so long that their bones had been bleached by years of exposure to the weather, should live again.

But while Ezekiel saw the facts of Israel’s powerlessness as plainly as the most despondent, he did not therefore despair. The question which rose in his mind was God’s question, and the very raising it let a gleam of hope in. So he answered with that noble utterance of faith and submission, ‘O Lord God, Thou knowest.’ ‘With God all things are possible.’ Presumption would have said ‘Yes’; Unbelief would have said ‘No’; Faith says, ‘Thou knowest.’

The grand description of the process of resurrection follows the analogy of the order in the creation of man, giving, first, the shaping of the body, and afterwards the breathing into it of the breath which is life. Both stages are wholly God’s work. The prophet’s part was to prophesy to the bones first; and his word, in a sense, brought about the effect which it foretold, since his ministry was the most potent means of rekindling dying hopes, and bringing the disjecta membra of the nation together again. The vivid and gigantic imagination of the prophet gives a picture of the rushing together of the bones, which has no superior in any literature. He hears a noise, and sees a ‘shaking’ {by which is meant the motion of the bones to each other, rather than an ‘earthquake,’ as the Revised Version has it, which inserts a quite irrelevant detail}, and the result of all is that the skeletons are complete. Then follows the gradual clothing with flesh. There they lie, a host of corpses.

The second stage is the quickening of these bodies with life, and here again Ezekiel, as God’s messenger, has power to bring about what he announces; for, at his command, the breath, or wind, or spirit, comes, and the stiff corpses spring to their feet, a mighty army. The explanation in the last verses of the text somewhat departs from the tenor of the vision by speaking of Israel as buried, but keeps to its substance, and point the despairing exiles to God as the source of national resurrection. But we must not force deeper meaning on Ezekiel’s words than they properly bear. The spirit promised in them is simply the source of life,-literally, of physical life; metaphorically, of national life. However that national restoration was connected with holiness, that does not enter into the prophet’s vision. Israel’s restoration to its land is all that Ezekiel meant by it. True, that restoration was to lead to clearer recognition by Israel of the name of Jehovah, and of all that it implied in him and demanded from them. But the proper scope of the vision is to assure despairing Israelites that God would quicken the apparently slain national life, and replace them in the land.

II. We may extend the application of the vision to the condition of humanity and the divine intervention which communicates life to a dead world, but must remember that no such meaning was in Ezekiel’s thoughts. The valley full of dry bones is but too correct a description of the aspect which a world ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ bears, when seen from the mountain-top by pure and heavenly eyes. The activities of godless lives mask the real spiritual death, which is the condition of every soul that is separate from God. Galvanised corpses may have muscular movements, but they are dead, notwithstanding their twitching. They that live without God are dead while they live.

Again, we may learn from the vision the preparation needful for the prophet, who is to be the instrument of imparting divine life to a dead world. The sorrowful sense of the widespread deadness must enter into a man’s spirit, and be ever present to him, in order to fit him for his work. A dead world is not to be quickened on easy terms. We must see mankind in some measure as God sees them if we are to do God’s work among them. So-called Christian teachers, who do not believe that the race is dead in sin, or who, believing it, do not feel the tragedy of the fact, and the power lodged in their hands to bring the true life, may prophesy to the dry bones for ever, and there will be no shaking among them.

The great work of the gospel is to communicate divine life. The details of the process in the vision are not applicable in this respect. As we have pointed out, they are shaped after the pattern of the creation of Adam, but the essential point is that what the world needs is the impartation from God of His Spirit. We know more than Ezekiel did as to the way by which that Spirit is given to men, and as to the kind of life which it imparts, and as to the connection between that life and holiness. It is a diviner voice than Ezekiel’s which speaks to us in the name of God, and says to us with deeper meaning than the prophet of the Exile dreamed of, ‘I will put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live.’

But we may note that it is possible to have the outward form of a living body, and yet to have no life. Churches and individuals may be perfectly organised and perfectly dead. Creeds may be articulated most correctly, every bone in its place, and yet have no vitality in them. Forms of worship may be punctiliously proper, and have no breath of life in them. Religion must have a body, but often the body is not so much the organ as the sepulchre of the spirit. We have to take heed that the externals do not kill the inward life.

Again, we note that this great act of life-giving is God’s revelation of His name,-that is, of His character so far as men can know it. ‘Ye shall know that I am the Lord’ {Ezekiel 37:13 - Ezekiel 37:14}. God makes Himself known in His divinest glory when He quickens dead souls. The world may learn what He is therefrom, but they who have experienced the change, and have, as it were, been raised from the grave to new life, have personal experience of His power and faithfulness so sure and sweet that henceforward they cannot doubt Him nor forget His grace.

III. As to the bearing of the vision on the doctrine of the resurrection little need be said. It does not necessarily presuppose the people’s acquaintance with that doctrine, for it would be quite conceivable that the vision had revealed to the prophet the thought of a resurrection, which had not been in his beliefs before. The vision is so entirely figurative, that it cannot be employed as evidence that the idea of the resurrection of the dead was part of the Jewish beliefs at this date. It does, however, seem most natural to suppose that the exiles were familiar with the idea, though the vision cannot be taken as a revelation of a literal resurrection of dead men. For clear expectations of such a resurrection we must turn to such scriptures as Daniel 12:2, Daniel 12:13.Ezekiel 37:1. The hand of the Lord was upon me — I was actuated by a divine power; and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord — Or, by the Spirit of the Lord. It is highly probable that all this passed in vision. And set me down in the midst of the valley full of bones — The first and great object of this prophecy seems evidently to be the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity. A nation carried into captivity ceases to be a nation, and therefore may be fitly compared to bones, or dead bodies; so that by the valley of bones was first signified, the Babylonish dominions filled with captive Jews. Bishop Warburton observes, “that the messengers of God, prophesying for the people’s consolation in disastrous times, frequently promise a restoration to the former days of felicity; and, to obviate all distrust from unpromising appearances, they put the case even at the worst, and assure the people, in metaphorical expressions, that though the community were as entirely dissolved as a dead body reduced to dust, yet God would raise that community again to life.” But besides the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, this vision is a lively representation of a three- fold resurrection: 1st, Of the resurrection of souls, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, to a holy, heavenly, spiritual, and divine life, by the power of divine grace accompanying the word of Christ, John 5:24-25. 2d, The resurrection of the gospel church, or of any part of it, from an afflicted state to liberty and peace. 3d, The resurrection of the body at the great day, especially the bodies of believers, to life eternal. This last seems to be one thing particularly designed. “Though the generality of commentators,” says Mr. Peters, “regard this vision and prophecy as no other than a figurative representation and prediction of a return of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon, or some other of their captivities and dispersions, yet, perhaps, we shall find, upon a more attentive consideration, that whatever hopes it might give them of a temporal and national deliverance or prosperity, yet there was evidently something further designed; and that to comfort them in their distressed situation, with the prospect of a future resurrection in a proper sense, was as much intended by the Spirit of God, or rather more so, than the other.37:1-14 No created power could restore human bones to life. God alone could cause them to live. Skin and flesh covered them, and the wind was then told to blow upon these bodies; and they were restored to life. The wind was an emblem of the Spirit of God, and represented his quickening powers. The vision was to encourage the desponding Jews; to predict both their restoration after the captivity, and also their recovery from their present and long-continued dispersion. It was also a clear intimation of the resurrection of the dead; and it represents the power and grace of God, in the conversion of the most hopeless sinners to himself. Let us look to Him who will at last open our graves, and bring us forth to judgment, that He may now deliver us from sin, and put his Spirit within us, and keep us by his power, through faith, unto salvation.The valley - The same word as "the plain" Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:4. The "dry bones" represented the Israelites dispersed abroad, destitute of life national and spiritual. CHAPTER 37

Eze 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 (Eze 37:1-14). (2) The reunion of the formerly hostile members of the community, whose contentions had affected the whole (Eze 37:15-28). (3) The community thus restored is strong enough to withstand the assault of Gog, &c. (Eze 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 (Eze 3:22). The valley represents Mesopotamia, the scene of Israel's sojourn in her state of national deadness.By the resurrection of dry bones the revival of the lost hope of Israel is prefigured, Ezekiel 37:1-14. By the uniting of two sticks is showed the incorporation of Israel with Judah, Ezekiel 37:15-19. Their blessings in union under Christ their king, Ezekiel 37:20-28.

The hand; either the prophetic Spirit, as Ezekiel 1:3 8:1, moving him to prophesy by this emblem; or else the Spirit of God carrying him visionally, not corporeally, as in Ezekiel 8, into such a prospect or landscape.

In the spirit; either in the power of the Spirit of God, or it may refer to the prophet’s own spirit, he was in his spirit, or mind and apprehension.

Set me down; so it seemed to me in the vision, that I was set gently down.

In the valley; it is vain to inquire what valley this should be, which was visional, not corporeal or real.

Full of bones: it is as vain to inquire whose bones these were, they are visional, and hieroglyphics of Israel’s present condition.

The hand of the Lord was upon me,.... The Spirit of the Lord, a powerful impulse of his upon the prophet; the Targum interprets it a spirit of prophecy; See Gill on Ezekiel 1:3,

and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord: out of the place where he was to another; not really, but visionally, as things appeared to him, and as they were represented to his mind by the Spirit of God:

and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones: of men, as the Targum adds: this valley, Kimchi thinks, was the same by the river Chebar, where the prophet had his visions at first. R. Jochanan says it was the valley of Dura, and these the bones of them that were slain by Nebuchadnezzar there, Daniel 3:1. Rab says these were the children of Ephraim, slain by the men of Gath, 1 Chronicles 7:20. Some of the Jewish Rabbins think there was a real resurrection at this time. R. Eliezer says, the dead Ezekiel quickened stood upon their feet, sung a song, and died. R. Eliezer, the son of R. Jose the Galilean, says, they went up into the land of Israel, married wives, and begat sons and daughters. R. Judah ben Bethira stood upon his feet, and said, I am of their children's children, and these are the "tephillim" my father's father left me (r); but these are all fabulous and romantic: others of them understand the whole in a parabolical way: these bones, and the quickening of them, were an emblem of the restoration of the Jews from their captivity, who were in a helpless and hopeless condition, as appears from Ezekiel 37:11, and of the conversion of that people in the latter day, which will be as life from the dead; and of the revival of the interest and church of Christ, when the slain witnesses shall rise, and ascend to heaven; and of the resurrection of the dead at the last day; and may be applied unto and be used to illustrate the quickening of dead sinners, by the efficacious grace of the Spirit of God.

(r) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 92. 2. Vid. Kimchi & Abendana in loc.

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 {a} bones,

(a) He shows by a great miracle that God has power and will deliver his people from their captivity, in as much as he is able to give life to the dead bones and bodies and raise them up again.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. The hand of the Lord] The prophetic ecstasy from the Lord, ch. Ezekiel 1:3. On “spirit” of the Lord cf. Ezekiel 3:14, Ezekiel 8:3, Ezek. 9:24. The “valley” is probably that mentioned early in the Book, Ezekiel 3:22.

1–14. The vision of Israel’s resurrection from the dead

The vision seems suggested by the saying current among the people, “our bones are dried, our hope is lost; we are wholly cut off.” This idea and feeling of the people takes form in the vision which the prophet saw in the valley. The language of the people is figurative: they speak of the nationality, which is no more,—it is dead and its bones scattered and dry. And this idea regarding the nationality, figuratively expressed by the people, is embodied to the prophet in a vision. Hence the passage is not a literal prophecy of the resurrection of individual persons of the nation, dead or slain; it is a prophecy of the resurrection of the nation, whose condition is figuratively expressed by the people when they represent its bones as long scattered and dry. Perfect consistency is not maintained by the prophet: in Ezekiel 37:1-2 the dry bones are represented as lying on the face of the valley, very many and very dry; in Ezekiel 37:12 they are represented as buried and brought up out of their graves. Hosea had already used the figure of resurrection for the resuscitation of the nation (Ezekiel 6:2, Ezekiel 13:4); but, though the language used both here and by Hosea shews familiarity with the idea of the raising again of individuals, this is not what is prophesied. In Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12 the actual resurrection of individual members of Israel is predicted, cf. Job 14:13 seq.Verse 1. - The hand of the Lord was upon me. The absence of the customary "and" (comp. Ezekiel 1:1, 3; Ezekiel 3:14, 22), wanting only once again (Ezekiel 40:1), appears to indicate something extraordinary and unusual in the prophet's experience. In the words of Ewald, such a never-beheld sight one sees freely (by itself) in a moment of higher inspiration or never;" and that in this whole vision the prophet was the subject of a special and intensified inspiration is evident, not alone from the contents of the vision, but also from the language in which it is recorded. And carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord. So the Vulgate and Hitzig - a translation which Smend thinks might be justified by an appeal to Ezekiel 11:24, in which the similar phrase, "Spirit of God (Elohim)," occurs; though, with Grotius, Havernick, Keil, and others, he prefers the rendering of the LXX., "And Jehovah carried me out in the Spirit." The Revised Version combines the two thus: "And he carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord." Keil suggests that the words, "of God," in Ezekiel 11:24, were omitted here because of the word "Jehovah" immediately following. And set me down in the midst of the valley. As the article indicates, the valley in the neighborhood of Tel-Abib, where the prophet received his first instructions concerning his mission (Ezekiel 3:22); although Hengstenberg holds, wrongly we think, that "the valley here has nothing to do with the valley in Ezekiel 3:22." Which (literally, and it) was full of bones; i.e. of men who had been slaughtered there (ver. 9; comp. Ezekiel 39:11), and whose corpses had been left unburied upon the face of the plain (ver. 3), so that they were seen by the prophet. Whether these bones were actually in the valley, or merely formed part of the vision, can only be conjectured, though the latter opinion seems the more probable. At the same time, such a plain as is here depicted may well have been a battle-ground on which Assyrian and Chaldean armies had often met.
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