You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatted calves of Bashan.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Drink the blood of the princes.—In these verses there is a curious mingling of the figurative and the literal; thus the “princes” are immediately explained by the mention of the various sacrificial animals; and in Ezekiel 39:20 these are again interpreted of “horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war.” And when the figure is so far explained it only leads to a literal sense which must yet be considered as itself but the symbol of something further. (Comp. Revelation 19:17-18.)
fatlings of Bashan—ungodly men of might (Ps 22:12). Bashan, beyond Jordan, was famed for its fat cattle. Fat implies prosperity which often makes men refractory towards God (De 32:14, 15).
The mighty; who had great authority, great courage and strength, the giant-like ones, commanders of great note in the army.
The princes: many princes came with their countrymen and subjects to assist in this war, whose blood these fowls should drink; and these compared to rams which lead the flock.
Lambs are the more ordinary in the army. Goats; great goats, as the Hebrew denoteth; and these signify the more lascivious and impetuous among them.
Bullocks; such as, though more slow, were of great strength.
Fatlings; well fed, it was no lean sacrifice made.
Of Bashan, a mountain of most rich and sweet soil, and that fed the best of any.
and drink the blood of the princes of the earth: both the princes of his own family and court, and those of his allies and auxiliaries that will come along with him:
of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks; which the Targum Jarchi, and Kimchi, interpret of kings, princes, dukes, rulers, and governors; and so does John, in the Revelation, of kings, captains, and mighty men, Revelation 19:18,
all of them fatlings of Baasha; which was a country in Israel, very fruitful, and full of pastures, where much fat cattle were bred; and to which these great personages in Gog's army are compared, for their bulk, strength, and wealth. So the Targum,
"all of them rich in substance.''
It may be rendered, "all of them the merie of Bashan"; for "meri" is the name of an ox or buffle; and Jarchi says that a fat ox is called in the Arabic language "almari" (h).Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. The actual victims sacrificed were princes and mighty men; here they are described as rams and goats—the usual animals sacrificed. Jeremiah 51:40.
fatlings of Bashan] Bashan was a pastoral country, producing the fattest and greatest beasts. Cf. Deuteronomy 32:14; Amos 4:1; Isaiah 34:6-7; Psalm 22:12.Verse 18 specifies the victims whose flesh and blood should form their banquet, viz. the mighty, as in Ezekiel 32:12, 27, and the princes of the earth, meaning the nobles and other dignitaries in Gog's army, who, in accordance with the symbol of a feast, are spoken of as "rams," "lambs," "goats," "bullocks," and "fatlings of Bashan" (comp. Psalm 22:12). "Per haec animantium, quae in saarificiis usurpari solebant, nomina varii hominum ordines intelliguntur, principum, ducum, militum, quod et Chaldaeus observat " (Grotius. Comp. Revelation 19:17, 18). In Zephaniah 1:7 the heathen are the guests, and his people the victims, at Jehovah's banquet. Ezekiel 37:1. There came upon me the hand of Jehovah, and Jehovah led me out in the spirit, and set me down in the midst of the valley; this was full of bones. Ezekiel 37:2. And He led me past them round about; and, behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and, behold, they were very dry. Ezekiel 37:3. And He said to me, Son of man, will these bones come to life? and I said, Lord, Jehovah, thou knowest. Ezekiel 37:4. Then He said to me, Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Ye dry bones, hear ye the word of Jehovah. Ezekiel 37:5. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to these bones, Behold, I bring breath into you, that ye may come to life. Ezekiel 37:6. I will create sinews upon you, and cause flesh to grow upon you, and cover you with skin, and bring breath into you, so that ye shall live and know that I am Jehovah. Ezekiel 37:7. And I prophesied as I was commanded; and there was a noise as I prophesied, and behold a rumbling, and the bones came together, bone to bone. Ezekiel 37:8. And I saw, and behold sinews came over them, and flesh grew, and skin drew over it above; but there was no breath in them. Ezekiel 37:9. Then He said to me, Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Come from the four winds, thou breath, and blow upon these slain, that they may come to life. Ezekiel 37:10. And I prophesied as I was commanded; then the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood upon their feet, a very, very great army. Ezekiel 37:11. And He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, our bones are dried, and our hope has perished; we are destroyed! Ezekiel 37:12. Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will open you graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, my people, and bring you into the land of Israel. Ezekiel 37:13. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, my people. Ezekiel 37:14. And I will put my Spirit into you, and will place you in your land, and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken and do it, is the saying of Jehovah. - This revelation divides itself into two sections. Ezekiel 37:1-10 contain the vision, and Ezekiel 37:11-14 give the interpretation. There are no particular difficulties in the description of the vision, so far as the meaning of the words is concerned. By a supernatural intervention on the part of God, Ezekiel is taken from his own home in a state of spiritual ecstasy into a valley which was full of dead men's bones. For the expression 'היתה עלי יד יי, see the comm. on Ezekiel 1:3. In the second clause of Ezekiel 37:1 יהוה is the subject, and is not to be taken as a genitive in connection with בּרוּח, as it has been by the Vulgate and Hitzig in opposition to the accents. בּרוּח stands for בּרוּח אלהים (Ezekiel 11:24), and אלהים is omitted simply because יהוה follows immediately afterwards. הניח, to set down, here and Ezekiel 40:2; whereas in other cases the form הנּיח is usually employed in this sense. The article prefixed to הבּקעה appears to point back to Ezekiel 3:22, to the valley where Ezekiel received the first revelation concerning the fate of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. That עצמים are dead men's bones is evident from what follows. העבירני עליהם, not "He led me over them round about," but past them, in order that Ezekiel might have a clear view of them, and see whether it were possible for them to come to life again. They were lying upon the surface of the valley, i.e., not under, but upon the ground, and not piled up in a heap, but scattered over the valley, and they were very dry. The question asked by God, whether these bones could live, or come to life again, prepares the way for the miracle; and Ezekiel's answer, "Lord, Thou knowest" (cf. Revelation 7:14), implies that, according to human judgment, it was inconceivable that they could come to life any more, and nothing but the omnipotence of God could effect this.
After this introduction there follows in Ezekiel 37:4. the miracle of the raising to life of these very dry bones, accomplished through the medium of the word of God, which the prophet addresses to them, to show to the people that the power to realize itself is inherent in the word of Jehovah proclaimed by Ezekiel; in other words, that Jehovah possesses the power to accomplish whatever He promises to His people. The word in Ezekiel 37:5, "Behold, I bring breath into you, that ye may come to life," announces in general terms the raising of them to life, whilst the process itself is more minutely described in Ezekiel 37:6. God will put on them (clothe them with) sinews, flesh, and skin, and then put רוּח in them. רוּח is the animating spirit or breath equals רוּח היּים (Genesis 6:17; Genesis 7:17). ,קרםἁπ. λεγ. in Syriac incrustare, obducere. When Ezekiel prophesied there arose or followed a sound (קול), and then a shaking (רעשׁ), and the bones approached one another, every bone to its own bone. Different explanations have been given of the words קול and רעשׁ. קול signifies a sound or voice, and רעשׁ a trembling, and earthquake, and also a rumbling or a loud noise (compare Ezekiel 3:12 and Isaiah 9:4). The relation between the two words as they stand here is certainly not that the sound (קול) passes at once into a loud noise, or is continued in that form; whilst רעשׁ denotes the rattling or rustling of bones in motion. The fact that the moving of the bones toward one another is represented by ותּקרבוּ (with Vav consec.), as the sequel to רעשׁ, is decisive against this. Yet we cannot agree with Kliefoth, that by קול we are to understand the trumpet-blast, or voice of God, that wakes the dead from their graves, according to those passages of the New Testament which treat of the resurrection, and by רעשׁ the earthquake which opens the graves. This explanation is precluded, not only by the philological difficulty that קול without any further definition does not signify either the blast of a trumpet or the voice of God, but also by the circumstance that the קול is the result of the prophesying of Ezekiel; and we cannot suppose that God would make His almighty call dependent upon a prophet's prophesying. And even in the case of רעשׁ, the reference to Ezekiel 38:19 does not prove that the word must mean earthquake in this passage also, since Ezekiel uses the word in a different sense in Ezekiel 12:18 and Ezekiel 3:12. We therefore take קול in the general sense of a loud noise, and רעשׁ in the sense of shaking (sc., of the bones), which was occasioned by the loud noise, and produced, or was followed by, the movement of the bones to approach one another.
The coming together of the bones was followed by their being clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin; but there was not yet any breath in them (Ezekiel 37:8). To give them this the prophet is to prophesy again, and that to the breath, that it come from the four winds or quarters of the world and breathe into these slain (Ezekiel 37:9). Then, when he prophesied, the breath came into them, so that they received life, and stood upright upon their feet. In Ezekiel 37:9 and Ezekiel 37:10 רוּח is rendered by some "wind," by others "spirit;" but neither of these is in conformity with what precedes it. רוּח does not mean anything else than the breath of life, which has indeed a substratum in the wind, perceptible to the senses, but it not identical with it. The wind itself brings no life into dead bodies. If, therefore, the dead bodies become living, receive life through the blowing of the רוּח into them, what enters into them by the blowing cannot be a symbol of the breath of life, but must be the breath of life itself - namely, that divine breath of life which pervades all nature, giving and sustaining the life of all creatures (cf. Psalm 104:29-30). The expression פּחי בּהרוּגים points back to Genesis 2:7. The representation of the bringing of the dead bones to life in two acts may also be explained from the fact that it is based upon the history of the creation of man in Genesis 2, as Theodoret
(Note: "For as the body of our forefather Adam was first moulded, and then the soul was thus breathed into it; so here also both combined in fitting harmony." - Theodoret.)
has observed, and serves plainly to depict the creative revivification here, like the first creation there, as a work of the almighty God. For a correct understanding of the vision, it is also necessary to observe that in Ezekiel 37:9 the dead bones, clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin, are called הרוּגים, slain, killed, and not merely dead. It is apparent at once from this that our vision is not intended to symbolize the resurrection of all the dead, but simply the raising up of the nation of Israel, which has been slain. This is borne out by the explanation of the vision which God gives to the prophet in Ezekiel 37:1-14, and directs him to repeat to the people. The dead bones are the "whole house of Israel" that has been given up to death; in other words, Judah and Ephraim. "These bones" in Ezekiel 37:11 are the same as in Ezekiel 37:3 and Ezekiel 37:5, and not the bodies brought to life in Ezekiel 37:10; though Hitzig maintains that they are the latter, and then draws the erroneous conclusion that Ezekiel 37:11-14 do not interpret the vision of the first ten verses, but that the bones in the valley are simply explained in these verses as signifying the dead of Israel. It is true that the further explanation in Ezekiel 37:12. of what is described in Ezekiel 37:5-10 as happening to the dead bones is not given in the form of an exposition of the separate details of that occurrence, but is summed up in the announcement that God will open their graves, bring them out of their graves, and transport them to their own land. But it does not follow from this that the announcement is merely an application of the vision to the restoration of Israel to new life, and therefore that something different is represented from what is announced in Ezekiel 37:12-14. Such a view is at variance with the words, "these bones are the whole house of Israel." Even if these words are not to be taken so literally as that we are to understand that the prophet was shown in the vision of the bones of the slain and deceased Israelites, but simply mean: these dead bones represent the house of Israel, depict the nation of Israel in its state of death, - they express so much in the clearest terms concerning the relation in which the explanation in Ezekiel 37:12-14 stands to the visionary occurrence in Ezekiel 37:4-10, namely, that God has shown to Ezekiel in the vision what He commands him to announce concerning Israel in Ezekiel 37:12-14; in other words, that the bringing of the dead bones to life shown to him in the vision was intended to place visibly before him the raising of the whole nation of Israel to new life out of the death into which it had fallen. This is obvious enough from the words: these bones are the whole house of Israel. כּל־בּית ישׂראל points forward to the reunion of the tribes of Israel that are severed into two nations, as foretold in Ezekiel 37:15. It is they who speak in Ezekiel 37:11. The subject to אמרים is neither the bones nor the dead of Israel (Hitzig), but the כּל־בּית ישׂראל already named, which is also addressed in Ezekiel 37:12. All Israel says: our bones are dried, i.e., our vital force is gone. The bones are the seat of the vital force, as in Psalm 32:3; and יבשׁ, to dry up, applied to the marrow, or vital sap of the bones, is substantially the same as בּלה in the psalm (l.c.). Our hope has perished (cf. Ezekiel 19:5). תּקוה is here the hope of rising into a nation once more. נגזרנוּ לנוּ .: literally, we are cut off for ourselves, sc. from the sphere of the living (cf. Lamentations 3:54; Isaiah 53:8), equivalent to "it is all over with us."
To the people speaking thus, Ezekiel is to announce that the Lord will open their graves, bring them out of them, put His breath of life into them, and lead them into their own land. If we observe the relation in which Ezekiel 37:12 and Ezekiel 37:13 stand to Ezekiel 37:14, namely, that the two halves of the 14th verse are parallel to the two Ezekiel 37:12 and Ezekiel 37:13, the clause 'וידאתּם כּי אני in Ezekiel 37:14 to the similar clause in Ezekiel 37:13, there can be no doubt that the contents of Ezekiel 37:14 also correspond to those of Ezekiel 37:12 - that is to say, that the words, "I put my breath (Spirit) into you, that ye may live, and place you in your own land" (bring you to rest therein), affirm essentially the same as the words, "I bring you out of your graves, and lead you into the land of Israel;" with this simple difference, that the bringing out of the graves is explained and rendered more emphatic by the more definite idea of causing them to live through the breath or Spirit of God put into them, and the הביא by הנּיח, the leading into the land by the transporting and bringing them to rest therein. Consequently we are not to understand by נתתּי רוּחי בכם either a divine act differing from the raising of the dead to life, or the communication of the Holy Spirit as distinguished from the imparting of the breath of life. רוּחי, the Spirit of Jehovah, is identical with the רוּח, which comes, according to Ezekiel 37:9 and Ezekiel 37:10, into the bones of the dead when clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin, i.e., is breathed into them. This spirit or breath of life is the creative principle both of the physical and of the ethical or spiritual life. Consequently there are not three things announced in these verses, but only two: (1) The raising to life from a state of death, by bringing out of the graves, and communicating the divine Spirit of life; (2) the leading back to their own land to rest quietly therein. When, therefore, Kliefoth explains these verses as signifying that for the consolation of Israel, which is mourning hopelessly in its existing state of death, "God directs the prophet to say - (1) That at some future time it will experience a resurrection in the literal sense, that its graves will be opened, and that all its dead, those deceased with those still alive, will be raised up out of their graves; (2) that God will place them in their own land; and (3) that when He has so placed them in their land, He will put His Spirit within them that they may live: in the first point the idea of the future resurrection, both of those deceased and of those still living, is interpolated into the text; and in the third point, placing them in their land before they are brought to life by the Spirit of God, would be at variance with the text, according to which the giving of the Spirit precedes the removal to their own land. The repetition of עמּי in Ezekiel 37:12 and Ezekiel 37:13 is also worthy of notice: you who are my people, which bases the comforting promise upon the fact that Israel is the people of Jehovah.
If, therefore, our vision does not set forth the resurrection of the dead in general, but simply the raising to life of the nation of Israel which is given up to death, it is only right that, in order still further to establish this view, we should briefly examine the other explanations that have been given. - The Fathers and most of the orthodox commentators, both of ancient and modern times, have found in Ezekiel 37:1-10 a locus classicus for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and that quite correctly. But their views differ widely as to the strict meaning and design of the vision itself; inasmuch as some regard the vision as a direct and immediate prophecy of the general resurrection of the dead at the last day, whilst others take the raising of the dead to life shown to the prophet in the vision to be merely a figure or type of the waking up to new life of the Israel which is now dead in its captivity. The first view is mentioned by Jerome; but in later times it has been more especially defended by Calov, and last of all most decidedly by Kliefoth. Yet the supporters of this view acknowledge that Ezekiel 37:11-14 predict the raising to life of the nation of Israel. The question arises, therefore, how this prediction is to be brought into harmony with such an explanation of the vision. The persons noticed by Jerome, who supported the view that in Ezekiel 37:4-10 it is the general resurrection that is spoken of, sought to remove the difficulties to which this explanation is exposed, by taking the words, "these bones are the whole house of Israel," as referring to the resurrection of the saints, and connecting them with the first resurrection in Revelation 20:5, and by interpreting the leading of Israel back to their own land as equivalent to the inheriting of the earth mentioned in Matthew 5:5. Calov, on the other hand, gives the following explanation of the relation in which Ezekiel 37:11-14 stand to Ezekiel 37:1-10 : "in this striking vision there was shown by the Lord to the prophet the resurrection of the dead; but the occasion, the cause, and the scope of this vision were the resurrection of the Israelitish people, not so much into its earlier political form, as for the restoration of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the establishment of the worship of God, both of which were indeed restored in the time of Zerubbabel, but were first brought to perfection at the coming of Jesus Christ." He also assumes that the raising of the dead is represented in the vision, "because God would have this representation exhibited for a figure and confirmation of the restitution of the people." And lastly, according to Kliefoth, Ezekiel 37:11-14 do not furnish a literal exposition of the vision, but simply make an application of it to the bringing of Israel to life. - We cannot regard either of these views as correct, because neither of them does justice to the words of the text. The idea of the Fathers, that Ezekiel 37:11-14 treat of the resurrection of the saints (believers), cannot be reconciled either with the words or with the context of our prophecy, and has evidently originated in perplexity. And the assumption of Calov and Kliefoth, that Ezekiel 37:11-14 contain simply an application of the general resurrection of the dead exhibited in Ezekiel 37:1-10 to the resurrection of Israel, by no means exhausts the meaning of the words, "these bones are the whole house of Israel," as we have already observed in our remarks on Ezekiel 37:11. Moreover, in the vision itself there are certain features to be found which do not apply to the general resurrection of the dead. In proof of this, we will not lay any stress upon the circumstance that Ezekiel sees the resurrection of the dead within certain limits; that it is only the dead men's bones lying about in one particular valley, and not the dead of the whole earth, though a very great army, that he sees come to life again; but, on the other hand, we must press the fact that in Ezekiel 37:9 those who are to be raised to life are called הרוּגים, a word which does not signify the dead of all kinds, but simply those who have been slain, or have perished by the sword, by famine, or by other violent deaths, and which indisputably proves that Ezekiel was not shown the resurrection of all the dead, but simply the raising to life of Israel, which had been swept away by a violent death. Kliefoth would account for this restriction from the purpose for which the vision was shown to the prophet. Because the design of the vision was to comfort Israel concerning the wretchedness of its existing condition, and that wretchedness consisted for the most part in the fact that the greater portion of Israel had perished by sword, famine, and pestilence, he was shown the resurrection of the dead generally and universally, as it would take place not in the case of the Israelites alone, but in that of all the dead, though here confined within the limits of one particular field of dead; and stress is laid upon the circumstance that the dead which Ezekiel saw raised to life instar omnium, were such as had met with a violent death. This explanation would be admissible, if only it had been indicated or expressed in any way whatever, that the bones of the dead which Ezekiel saw lying about in the בּקעה represented all the dead of the whole earth. But we find no such indication; and because in the whole vision there is not a single feature contained which would warrant any such generalization of the field of the dead which Ezekiel saw, we are constrained to affirm that the dead men's bones seen by Ezekiel in the valley represent the whole house of Israel alone, and not the deceased and slain of all mankind; and that the vision does not set forth the resurrection of all the dead, but only the raising to life of the nation of Israel which had been given up to death.
Consequently we can only regard the figurative view of the vision as the correct one, though this also has been adopted in very different ways. When Jerome says that Ezekiel "is prophesying of the restoration of Israel through the parable of the resurrection," and in order to defend himself from the charge of denying the dogma of the resurrection of the dead, adds that "the similitude of a resurrection would never have been employed to exhibit the restoration of the Israelitish people, if that resurrection had been a delusion, and it had not been believed that it would really take place; because no one confirms uncertain things by means of things which have no existence;" - Hvernick very justly replies, that the resurrection of the dead is not to be so absolutely regarded as a dogma already completed and defined, or as one universally known and having its roots in the national belief; though Hvernick is wrong in affirming in support of this that the despair of the people described in Ezekiel 37:11 plainly shows that so general a belief cannot possibly be presupposed. For we find just the same despair at times when faith in the resurrection of the dead was a universally accepted dogma. The principal error connected with this view is the assumption that the vision was merely a parable formed by Ezekiel in accordance with the dogma of the resurrection of the dead. If, on the contrary, the vision was a spiritual intuition produced by God in the soul of the prophet, it might set forth the resurrection of the dead, even if the belief in this dogma had no existence as yet in the consciousness of the people, or at all events was not yet a living faith; and God might have shown to the prophet the raising of Israel to life under this figure, for the purpose of awakening this belief in Israel.
(Note: No conclusive evidence can be adduced that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was not only known to Ezekiel, but was regarded by the people as indisputably sure, as both Hengstenberg (Christology, vol. III p. 51, transl.) and Pareau (Comment. de immortal. p. 109) assume. Such passages as Isaiah 25:8 and Isaiah 26:19, even if Ezekiel referred to them, merely prove that the belief or hope of the resurrection of the dead could not be altogether unknown to the believers of Israel, because Isaiah had already declared it. But the obvious announcement of this dogma in Daniel 12:2 belongs to a later period than our vision; and even Daniel does not speak of it as a belief that prevailed throughout the nation, but simply communicates it as a consolation offered by the angel of the Lord in anticipation of the times of severe calamity awaiting the people of God.)
In that case, however, the vision was not merely a parable, but a symbolical representation of a real fact, which was to serve as a pledge to the nation of its restoration to life. Theodoret comes much nearer to the truth when he gives the following as his explanation of the vision: that "on account of the unbelief of the Jews in exile, who were despairing of their restoration, the almighty God makes known His might; and the resurrection of the dead bodies, which was much more difficult than their restoration, is shown to the prophet, in order that all the nation may be taught thereby that everything is easy to His will;"
(Note: His words are these: ἐπειδή γὰρ δι ̓ ἥν ἐνόσουν ἀπιστίαν τἀς χρηστοτέρας ἀπηγόρευσαν ἐλπίδας οἱ ἐκ τῆς ̓Ιουδαίας αἰχμάλωται γενόμενοι, τὴν οἰκείαν αὐτοῖς ὁ τῶν ὅλων Θεὸς ἐπιδείκνυσι δύναμιν, καὶ τὴν πολλῷ τῆς ἀνακλήσεως ἐκείνης δυσκολωτέραν τῶν νεκρῶν σωμάτων ἀνάσ
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