Matthew Poole's 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,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.
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.Caused me; I was made to go round about them, in the same manner in which I was carried to see them.
Round about; round, round, perhaps twice or oftener, to view them well. Behold: he reports what he observed remarkable.
Very many; first for number, they were not only many, but very many, as Ezekiel 37:10, they made an exceeding great army.
In the open valley; next the place, the face or surface of the plain, exposed to wind, weather, and to violence.
Very dry; the quality of them, dry, very dry, in which could be nothing that might promise life.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.He said; the Lord, who brought Ezekiel hither, asks him what he thought.
Can these bones live? either, is it likely they should? or, is it a future thing that shall be, or possible, that they may live?
Thou knowest: the prophet’s answer refers all to God, to whom all things are possible which argue power in doing, and who knows all he will do in time to come. The prophet’s answer seems to own the possibility, and refers the futurity to the will of God.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.The prophet had spoken often to things that could as little hear as these bones could, yet when they are deaf to a prophet, they will hear the prophet’s God.
Ye dry bones, hear: alas, what, dry bones hear! no, not a syllable of this word.
The word of the Lord; but this they will hear, observe, and obey it; his voice who calls things that are not, and makes them to be gives being by his word.
Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:My prophet prophesied and spake, but I, saith the Lord, only can and I will surely give life to them. When God had formed Adam’s body, as lifeless as these bones, he created him a living soul, by breathing into his face the breath of life; by a creating power he brings breath into these bones too. The effect shall be sure and speedy, when God brings his power to work it.
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.Sinews tie the bones together.
Flesh fills up the hollownesses, and being full of muscles helps motion.
Skin, as the upper silken garment, covers all with a clear and blushing colour.
Breath lastly must be added. All this God declares he will do, and I suppose these promises are what the prophet is to declare to these bones that they may revive.
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.I prophesied; declared or pronounced these promises or gracious purposes of God concerning them.
As I was commanded: whether it was thus or some other way, the prophet was commanded it, and so he did it; he spake to them which could not but be deaf to him, and which could not but hear when God speaks.
As I prophesied; either according to the purport of my prophecy, or rather during the time, or while I was prophesying, or so soon as I prophesied.
A noise; thunder, say some; others, more likely, the noise was the rattling of the bones in their motion; such noise they could not but make, where multitudes of them heaped or laid together disperse, and roll themselves from one to other, till they meet their fellow bones.
A shaking; there was a trembling or commotion among these bones, enough to make this noise, and to manifest a Divine presence and word from God working among them.
Came together; crept, or with this shaking motion glided, nearer and nearer, till each bone met the bone to which it was to be tied.
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.The noise he heard would certainly make any one look, and consider what it was.
I beheld; looked carefully, and heedfully observed.
Came up upon them; came gradually, spreading itself, as what grows wider and longer.
Above; uppermost the skin covered them. So here were men in skin, with flesh, sinews, bones; but, like Adam before inspired with the breath of life, the spirit of life was yet wanting.
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.Then said he; the Lord God.
Unto me; to Ezekiel, viewing, and no doubt wondering at the sight.
Prophesy; declare to that what my will is.
Unto the wind, Heb. spirit; and it might be so rendered, but our version hath it wind, while the French hath it spirit, i.e. the soul, whose emblem here is wind; which, as it did gently blow upon these lifeless creatures, they received, each inspired with its own soul and spirit.
Come from the four winds; gather yourselves from all quarters of the earth under heaven, unite to your own bodies, inspire them.once more.
Slain by the sword of an enemy long since, some of them these seventy years.
May live; revive and rise.
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.I prophesied: see Ezekiel 37:7.
The breath, Heb. the spirit; the spirit of life, or the soul, Genesis 2:7.
Came; entered, took up its abode. They lived; presently discovered that they did live.
Stood up; rose with strength, able to support themselves.
Army; a power, so the Hebrew, or army of strong, courageous, and well-ordered soldiers. The phrase in the Hebrew is very full; a power, or great host, very, very great. Thus they rise, that the prophet and we might know how safe they would be in themselves, and how terrible to their enemies.
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.The whole house; the hieroglyphic or emblem of the house of Israel.
They say; think, discourse, and conclude.
Our bones are dried; their state as hopeless, as far from recovery, as dried bones scattered abroad, and, undistinguished, heaped up, are from life.
Our hope is lost; the hope, not that false prophets gave us, but that the true prophets proposed to us, is utterly lost, and we are out of all expectation of a recovery.
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.Prophesy; tell them their mistake, and revive their hope by a new promise and declaration of my purposes of mercy towards them.
Say unto them; these poor desponding, dejected Israelites.
Behold; consider what my prophet assures you he hath seen, dry bones miraculously revived, and standing up in power as a mighty host, so shall you.
I will open your graves; though your captivity be as death, your persons and confinements close as the grave, yet I will open those graves. I will lift you out, lend you a hand to bring you out with life and strength. And I will be your guide, that you may know the way; be your support, that you may be able to go; and your guard and defence against dangers of the way, that you may certainly come into your own land.
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,When your restitution to your own land, and your prosperity in your land, when your growth to strength and power, shall be so miraculously effected, then you shall acknowledge and publish the glory of my power, faithfulness, goodness, and wisdom.
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.My spirit: see Ezekiel 11:19 36:27.
Ye shall live, joyful in, thankful for, and contented with the blessings I give.
I shall place you; quietly and in rest settle you in your own habitations, and in your ancient possessions.
I the Lord have spoken it: this shall demonstrate the truth of my promises. the fullness and punctualness of my performances.
The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
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:One stick; tablet, i.e. a writing tablet or a tally, such as is fitted to be written upon, or a rod, or staff, on which thou mayst write; the Hebrew calls it wood, without describing its form and fashion; but whatever its fashion was, it must be but one.
Write upon it; the inscription is not only commanded, but the words also in which it is to be written.
For Judah; the tribe, or possibly the kingdom; if the latter, then the companions mentioned will be such as in process of time fell off from the ten tribes, and united with the kingdom of the house of David; if the former, which is most likely, then
the children of Israel, his companions, are Benjamin and Levi in part, who kept, with the tribe of Judah, their obedience to David’s seed.
Then; when thou hast written on the first stick, then take
another stick; a second stick, such as the first was.
For Joseph; he was father of two tribes, one of which was chief of the ten tribes, and is therefore mentioned here.
The stick of Ephraim; Ephraim was the son of Joseph, whom his grandfather blessed, and by prophetic Spirit foretold and promised that he should be one of the chief of all the tribes; and Ephraim was most considerable in the kingdom of Israel when divided from the other two.
All the house of Israel; the other nine tribes.
His companions; who did at first side, and have continued still, with Ephraim. Some say Ephraim was the whole kingdom of the ten tribes, and that his companions were the Gentiles converted to the faith of Christ, which I wish were well proved.
And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.Join them: some would have this done miraculously, but I do not think God bade the prophet work a miracle; were it so, God would rather have said, I will make them one, for he can do miracles. It was enough if glued together, or but held in his hand, so that in his hand they were one.
And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?When; so soon as.
The children of thy people; to whom thou art watchman by office, and near of kin by natural descent.
Wilt thou not? there was some reason why they might doubt whether he would, because they had carried it so, frowardly toward him; therefore they request it by an interrogatory, Wilt thou not? We shall never know the meaning unless thou unfold it; wilt thou not do it then?
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.The stick of Joseph; on which Joseph’s name is written, and which represents Joseph.
Which is in the hand of Ephraim; which was under the government of Ephraim; or thus, which is the tribe of Ephraim, the latter explaining the former.
His fellows: Ezekiel 37:16.
Put them with him; Judah and his companions. One stick; one kingdom, one people, whereas these have been divided and enemies a great while.
They shall be one; real, cordial in their union.
In mine hand; under my government, care, and blessing. This is the meaning, God will make the two divided kingdoms one in his hand, as I make these two sticks one in my hand.
And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.To affect them the more, and to assure them the more fully, let them see these two divided sticks made one in thy hand.
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:See this explained Ezekiel 36:24.
The children of Israel; the ten tribes, as well as Judah and Benjamin; at least, many of the ten tribes.
Whither they be gone: the expression seems to look to them that were gone among the heathen by a voluntary peregrination, whether before the captivity or after it I will not conjecture; but it is likely enough to me, that among the Jews carried away, and among their children, there were some that were uneasy where they were against their wills, who would ramble and range over countries, hoping to fare better; and perhaps these wanderers may be the persons meant by this gone, where they are who walked thither, as the Hebrew.
On every side; the wind was to come from the four coasts of heaven, Ezekiel 37:9, thereby telling us they should, as here, be gathered on every side.
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:I will make them one nation: they were one in David’s time, who was type of the Messiah, and continued so to the end of Solomon’s time, whose name includes peace. So when the Beloved, the Peace-maker, the Messiah shall be King, and on his throne exercising his kingly power, they shall be once more one again.
In the land of Canaan, called here, as elsewhere,
the mountains of Israel. One king; Messiah; the most and best, if not the learnedest, interpreters understand not Zerubbabel, nor Nehemiah, nor Judas Maccabeus.
No more two nations; the union under the Messiah’s visible and actual exercise of his regal power shall be perpetual. From this place, so full and express for a firm, lasting union between the two nations Ephraim and Judah, and their being of two kingdoms made one in the land whence they were scattered, some take occasion to inquire whether it be fulfilled already, or remaineth yet to be accomplished; the discussion whereof, as it would be very alien to a literal paraphrase, and too prolix, I pass over, saying no more of it in the affirmative or negative.
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.Defile themselves: idolatry is a very defiling sin, and the Jews in both kingdoms were exceedingly addicted to it, pertinacious in it, to the utter ruin of both kingdoms; but after the return from Babylonish captivity, we find no where that they fell to idolatry.
Their idols: it may refer to the heathen, and then it means, they shall not defile themselves with the idols the heathen did worship; or to the idols of the Jews, their own idols, with which they shall no more be defiled.
Their detestable things; the same with idols, and added to set out the loathsomeness of the sin. Their transgressions; the former obstinate, bold, daring transgressors did that which these shall not defile themselves with: see Ezekiel 36:25,33 11:17,18. I will save them; whilst there I preserved them, and now I will bring them safe out of the places.
Wherein they have sinned; where out of a bad fear, or worse choice, they sinned, as did the heathen with whom they dwelt.
Will cleanse them; both sanctify and make them holy, and justify and give them pardon, Ezekiel 36:29. My people: see Ezekiel 11:20 36:28.
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.David: see Ezekiel 34:23,24. It is the Son of David, who was also his Lord, that is here intended. My servant: the Messiah, in his mediatory office, is God’s servant and our Saviour.
Over them; over their hearts, and rule there in spiritual manner.
One shepherd; this King shall be a Shepherd, that feeds, not fleeceth, the flock; there is but one chief Shepherd, others that feed and rule the flock are so by commission from him.
They shall also walk, & c.: it is both declaratory of duty, predictive of the event, and promissory of ability and assistance to keep the holy commandments of God. Christ’s kingdom is that which by law and precept commandeth righteousness, and which by grace and power strengthens its subjects to this, and so the event is sure, and freest grace makes holiest lives.
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.They; the ten tribes and the two tribes. That I have given: see Ezekiel 28:25.
Your fathers, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, whose memory you venerate, and greatly affect to be heirs more of their lands and houses than of their virtues and piety. Their children’s children for ever: if this prophecy or promise be to be understood with the precedent verses in the letter of it, and not mystically and only spiritually, I doubt not but to the end of the world, till Christ’s coming to judgment, the Jews converted to Christ, and professing the gospel, shall, they and their seed after them, inherit this land of Canaan in much peace and glory. But I speak on supposition, not asserting any thing herein.
My servant David; typically understood it asserts the everlasting kingdom of our Messiah, and the everlasting happiness of all the faithful subjects of this King: see Ezekiel 34:23,24.
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.I will make; as it was my kindness to your fathers to give them, so shall it be to you to give you, my blessings on the sure and inviolable security of a covenant.
A covenant of peace; comprehending all blessings that may give a people content, and render them happy; peace with God in heaven? peace in your conscience with yourselves, with your brethren in the church, with the beasts of the field, and with your enemies, who shall for fear, though not of love, keep peace with you, while your ways please your God.
An everlasting covenant; the spiritual part is absolutely endless, the external part shall be for a long time, as it is always to be interpreted where temporals seem promised for ever.
My sanctuary; both temple and worship; not such as is typical of the Messiah to come, but such as may assert he is come, such as bring to the knowledge, love, and obedience of him. I will set up a spiritually glorious temple and worship amidst you. For evermore; never to be altered or abolished on earth, but to be consummated in heaven.
My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.My tabernacle; the tabernacle of my presence, or wherein I will show my presence among them. Their fathers had a tabernacle of witness, so shall they; that was brought by Joshua into Canaan, but the Messiah shall bring with him a better, a spiritual and heavenly.
I will be their God: see Ezekiel 11:20 Revelation 21:1-3.
They shall be my people; by my grace I will make them holy, as the people of a holy God ought to be, and I will make them happy, as the people of the ever-blessed God expect and hope to be.
And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.When Christ by his Spirit in gospel ordinances is among them, it shall appear they are a consecrated and a sanctified people.