Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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,
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.
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.
2. dry—bleached by long exposure to the atmosphere.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
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 (De 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 (Joh 5:21; Ro 4:17; 2Co 1:9).
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
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 (Jer 1:10).
Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
5. I … cause breath to enter into you—So Isa 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, Ps 104:30.
ye shall live—come to life again.
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.
6. ye shall know that I am the Lord—by the actual proof of My divinity which I will give in reviving Israel.
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.
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 Jer 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 (Eze 37:21).
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.
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 (Zec 13:8, 9). Spiritually: a man may assume all the semblances of spiritual life, yet have none, and so be dead before God.
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.
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 (Isa 43:5, 6; Jer 31:8), even as they were "scattered into all the winds" (Eze 5:10; 12:14; 17:21; compare Re 7:1, 4).
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.
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! (Joh 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 Isa 25:8; 26:19; Da 12:2; Ho 6:2; 13:14; compare Note, see on Eze 37:12).
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.
11. Our bones are dried—(Ps 141:7), explained by "our hope is lost" (Isa 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.
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.
12. my people—in antithesis to "for our parts" (Eze 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 (Eze 13:17; 33:2; Ex 32:7).
out of your graves—out of your politically dead state, primarily in Babylon, finally hereafter in all lands (compare Eze 6:8; Ho 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" (Ro 11:15). Before, the bones were in the open plain (Eze 37:1, 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.
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,
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.
The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
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:
16. stick—alluding to Nu 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 (2Ch 11:12, 13, 16; 15:9; 30:11, 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 Eze 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 (Ge 48:19; 1Ch 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.
And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
18. God does not explain the symbolical prophecy until the Jews have been stimulated by the type to consult the prophet.
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.
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.
And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
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:
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:
22. one nation—(Isa 11:13; Jer 3:18; Ho 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 (Eze 34:23, 24). The union of Judah and Israel under King Messiah symbolizes the union of Jews and Gentiles under Him, partly now, perfectly hereafter (Eze 37:24; Joh 10:16).
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: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
23. (Eze 36:25).
out of … their dwelling-places—(Eze 36:28, 33). I will remove them from the scene of their idolatries to dwell in their own land, and to serve idols no more.
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.
24. David—Messiah (See on Eze 34:23, 24).
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.
25. for ever—(Isa 60:21; Joe 3:20; Am 9:15).
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, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
26. covenant of peace—better than the old legal covenant, because an unchangeable covenant of grace (Eze 34:25; Isa 55:3; Jer 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 (2Co 6:16); and, in some literal sense, in the restored Israel (Eze 40:1-44:31).
My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
27. My tabernacle … with them—as foretold (Ge 9:27); Joh 1:14, "The Word … dwelt among us" (literally, "tabernacled"); first, in humiliation; hereafter, in manifested glory (Re 21:3).
And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
28. (Eze 36:23).
sanctify Israel—set it apart as holy unto Myself and inviolable (Ex 19:5, 6).