MBS157 The Valley of the Dry Bones: Ezekiel 37:1-14

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THE VALLEY OF THE DRY BONES: EZEKIEL 37:1–14

By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. THE VISION—EZEKIEL 37:1–10

A. The Prophecy—Ezekiel 37:1–6

1. The Prophetic Transport—Ezekiel 37:1

2. The State of the Bones—Ezekiel 37:2

3. The Inquiry—Ezekiel 37:3

4. God’s Answer—Ezekiel 37:4–6

B. The Fulfillment—Ezekiel 37:7–10

1. The First Stage—Ezekiel 37:7–8

2. The Second Stage—Ezekiel 37:9–10

II. THE INTERPRETATION—EZEKIEL 37:11–14

A. Israel’s Complaint—Ezekiel 37:11

B. God’s Response—Ezekiel 37:12–14

III. CONCLUSION

The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

Ezekiel 37:1

INTRODUCTION

By way of historical background to the vision, Ezekiel was among the captives of the second deportation to Babylonia in 597 b.c. At this time, he was twenty five years old. He settled by the river Chebar, in the village of Tel abib. He was called to be a prophet at the age of thirty years. Ezekiel was a prophet for approximately twenty two years.

I. THE VISION—EZEKIEL 37:1–10

A. The Prophecy—Ezekiel 37:1–6

1. The Prophetic Transport—Ezekiel 37:1

The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

The expression The hand of Jehovah was upon me is a figure of speech dealing with prophetic ecstasy. This happens when the Holy spirit takes total control of the Prophet and he speaks as if he were in a trance, while remaining in control of himself. This expression was always the sign of a prophetic vision and is used elsewhere in Ezekiel 1:3; 3:14, 22; 8:1; 33:22; and 40:1. Ezekiel says: and he brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah. Ezekiel was transported by the Holy Spirit for this special revelation. This does not mean that he was literally transported out from where he was in Babylonia to some other place. Rather, he was transported in vision; in vision, he is somewhere else.

Ezekiel describes what he is actually seeing in this vision. In this prophetic transport, God set him down in the midst of the valley. He does not say “a valley,” but the valley, a specific valley. It was the same valley he had seen before in chapter 3:22, where Ezekiel saw the Shechinah Glory of God. At that time, he was also transported by the hand of Jehovah. Whereas in chapter 3:22, when he came to this valley, he saw the Glory of Jehovah, this time he sees something different: it was full of bones. What these bones represent will be explained in verse 12. But for now, what he sees is a valley full of dry bones.

This prophecy is not dealing with a physical resurrection from the dead. Rather, God is using the dry bones as a figure to prophesy the coming restoration of Israel. It is a symbolic prophecy of restoration, not resurrection, and this comes out in seven ways.

First, in this vision the bones are not a picture of death, but a picture of dispersion, portraying the Jews as a dispersed people.

Secondly, the bones refer to the whole House of Israel, not just the righteous ones, as verse 11 will make quite clear.

Thirdly, if this were intended to be a physical resurrection, then these would be literal bones. However, these bones are able to talk to each other in verse 11. The fact that these bones speak to one another shows they are not literally dead men’s bones, but bones symbolizing the dispersion of Israel.

Fourthly, Israel is being pictured here as dried up and dead among the Gentiles in verses 12–14.

Fifth, nowhere else in Scripture is physical resurrection taught as occurring in stages. Yet the resurrection of these dry bones takes place in stages. This again shows it is not dealing with a resurrection from the dead, but with the restoration of the nation of Israel, coming in stages.

Sixth, the Bible does not teach a general resurrection. It makes a clear distinction between the resurrection of righteous ones at one point of time and the resurrection of unrighteous ones at different point of time. In this passage, all are raised up at the same time.

Seventh, the context emphasizes the symbolic, because in verses 15–20, a second symbol is used, the symbol of the two sticks. Contextually, this is a symbolic chapter. These bones do not represent a resurrection of the dead, but pictures the dispersion, the regathering, and the restoration of the nation of Israel back into the Land.

2. The State of the Bones—Ezekiel 37:2

And he caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.

Ezekiel was told to walk around the whole area in order to survey the situation very carefully. As he does so, he discovers two things: first, there were very many bones in the open valley, he sees numerous bones randomly strewn about; secondly, they were very dry, meaning they were bleached white.

3. The Inquiry—Ezekiel 37:3

And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord Jehovah, you knows.

After Ezekiel had made a careful survey of the situation, the question comes from God: Son of man, can these bones live? On the basis of mere human experience, Ezekiel would have to say, “No.” However, since God can work miracles, it is all up to God’s will. So Ezekiel’s response is: O Lord Jehovah, you know; only God knows whether they can live or not.

4. God’s Answer—Ezekiel 37:4–6

Again he said unto me, Prophesy over these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah. Thus says the Lord Jehovah unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. 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 Jehovah.

In verse 4, the Word of Jehovah comes to Ezekiel again, but this time it is followed by yet another command: Prophesy over these bones. Ezekiel is told to tell them to hear the word of Jehovah.

Verse 5 is a declaration: Thus says the Lord Jehovah unto these bones. This is followed by a decree or a divine promise: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you. The result is: and ye shall live.

Having made that general statement in verse 5 that these bones will live again, in verse 6 he gives the details. First, he points out the four stages of Israel’s restoration: stage one, God decrees that He will lay sinews upon you; stage two, that He will bring up flesh upon you; stage three, that He will cover you with skin; and stage four, that He will put breath in you. This is one reason it cannot be the resurrection, which will be instantaneous, but a restoration of the nation of Israel, which, according to Ezekiel and the prophets, will occur in stages. Secondly, the results will be twofold: they will live as a nation; and they will know He is Jehovah.

In this vision, both world wide regatherings of Israel that the Bible speaks of are blended together in symbolic form. First, there is to be a world wide regathering of Israel in unbelief in preparation for the judgment of the Great Tribulation. This is to be followed by a second world wide regathering in faith in preparation for the blessing of the Messianic Kingdom. These verses summarize and speak of both world wide regatherings, for one is a prerequisite to the other.

B. The Fulfillment—Ezekiel 37:7–10

1. The First Stage—Ezekiel 37:7–8

So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and, behold, an earthquake; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I beheld, and, lo, there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.

In verse 7, in obedience to God’s command in verses 1–6, Ezekiel states: So I prophesied as I was commanded. There were certain accompaniments to the prophecy. As he was prophesying to the bones, two specific things happened. First, there was a noise. The Hebrew word for noise means “a sound” or “a voice.” Secondly, behold, an earthquake. The Hebrew word for earthquake means “trembling” or “shaking.” Suddenly, There was a sound or a voice and a trembling or shaking of the earth.

This led to the first four steps of the restoration. First, the bones came together, bone to its bone. Ezekiel saw the earthquake shaking these bones of the Dispersion and bringing them together so that one bone was attached to the next bone. Secondly, And I beheld, and, lo, there were sinews upon them. Sinew or tendon is what ties bones and muscle together. For instance, as two arm bones or two leg bones came together, sinews formed. Thirdly, then the flesh came up; this refers to the muscle. Fourthly, skin covered them above. As muscle and tendon formed around the bone, skin formed to cover them.

In verse 8, Ezekiel saw complete bodies, bones, sinews, muscle, and skin. However, he noticed a problem: there was no breath in them. While the bodies were restored, bone to bone, sinews, muscle, and skin, yet they were not breathing; at this point, all he saw were lifeless bodies. This describes an unregenerate state, an unbelieving state, an unsaved state.

Verses 7–8 picture the first stage of world wide regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment, specifically, the judgment of the Great Tribulation. Ezekiel spoke of the first world wide regathering twice, in chapters 20:33–38 and 22:17–22. Two events spurred this first regathering: the noise and the earthquake. This corresponds to two events that set the world stage for the restoration of Israel in 1948, which is the first world wide regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment. The first event that brought about the restoration was the noise or sound of a voice; this was fulfilled by World War I. This gave the impetus for growth of the Zionist movement. Zionism is not racism, as the United Nations has labeled it, through communist and Arab influence. Rather, Zionism implies the belief that the Jewish people have a right to a state of their own, and the only state for the Jews is within the Land of Israel. That is why Jewish believers in general are all Zionist. And the second event that brought about the restoration was the earthquake, the shaking and trembling; this was fulfilled by World War II. This is what set the stage for the nations of the world to vote on behalf of a Jewish state. It was the noise of World War I and the earthquake of World War II that brought these bones together. The result was the first world wide regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment, specifically, the judgment of the Great Tribulation.

2. The Second Stage—Ezekiel 37:9–10

Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus says the Lord Jehovah: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. 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.

In verse 9, Ezekiel receives another command: Prophesy unto the wind. In this verse, the Hebrew word rauch is used in two different ways: wind and breath. God next calls upon the wind, a common symbol of the Holy Spirit, to blow upon these lifeless bodies. It should be noted that these lifeless bodies are referred to as slain, which means that they had been killed. Throughout Jewish history, most Jews died of causes other than being killed. This again shows that it cannot refer to a resurrection from the dead per se. This refers to a national restoration; Israel was slain as a nation. She ceased to be a nation, but now, Israel is to be restored as a nation. The wind is to breathe upon them for the purpose that they may live.

In verse 10, Ezekiel states his obedience: So I prophesied as he commanded me. The second stage occurs in three steps. First, breath came into them. Secondly, they lived; these lifeless bodies now took on life form, symbolizing their spiritual resurrection. Thirdly, stood up upon their feet. The fact that they were able to stand up again was the evidence of their restoration.

The result was that they became an exceeding great army. This refers to Israel’s regeneration. With the wind representing the Holy Spirit, regenerating and indwelling Israel, Israel becomes spiritually alive. Israel is regenerated.

This is the same event Ezekiel spoke about in chapter 36:24–27, where he gave the stages of Israel’s regathering or restoration as follows: first, Israel is regathered; secondly, she is regenerated; and thirdly, she is restored to the Land. The same order is found here: first, they are gathered together in verses 7–8; secondly, they were regenerated in verses 9–10; and thirdly, they were now also restored. This vision follows the same basic order found in Genesis 2:7, where God first formed the body of Adam and then made him into a living spirit by breathing into him.

Verses 9–10 deal with the second world wide regathering in faith in preparation for blessing, the blessing of the Messianic Kingdom.

II. THE INTERPRETATION—EZEKIEL 37:11–14

A. Israel’s Complaint—Ezekiel 37:11

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.

In this complaint, the state of the bones as described in verses 1–6 is interpreted by God Himself that these bones represent the whole house of Israel as a unit; this shows once again that He is not dealing with individual resurrection, but with a national restoration. That is the point of this prophecy. Furthermore, the verse states: behold, they say. The fact that these bones are communicating with each other while in the dry state again shows that this passage is not dealing with individual resurrection.

Israel’s complaint is spelled out in three statements. First: Our bones are dried up; secondly: our hope is lost; and thirdly: we are clean cut off. Actually, the first statement is explained by the second and third statements. The dry bones represent the dried up hope of Israel, the belief in the coming of the Messiah. The hope of Israel has been lost, has been dried up; so now they are saying: we are clean cut off. This became especially true after the First and Second World Wars, represented by the noise and earthquake of verse 7. As a result of the two World Wars, there was a massive departure among the Jews away from Orthodoxy into more liberal forms of Judaism. One of the things they gave up when they abandoned Orthodoxy was the Messianic hope, the belief in an individual Messiah who would come one day and return them to the Land. In fact, the majority of the Jewish people lost their faith in the coming of the Messiah as a direct result of the two World Wars.

B. God’s Response—Ezekiel 37:12–14

God responds to Israel’s complaint in three points. First, Ezekiel prophesies the return to the Land in verse 12: Therefore prophesy, and say unto them, Thus says the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.

Therefore, because Israel has felt that their hope is lost forever, God commands Ezekiel to: prophesy, and say unto them, Thus says the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will open your graves. Once the graves have been opened, He states: and cause you to come up out of your graves. The expression O my people is an expression of endearment. With this statement of endearment, it is pointed out that their hope is not clean cut off. Their hope is going to be restored; there will be a restoration: I will bring you into the land of Israel. This is a one sentence summary of the first stage of restoration in verses 7–8, the regathering in unbelief in preparation for the judgment of the Great Tribulation.

The second point is that there will be a recognition of who God is on the part of Israel in verse 13: And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O my people.

This verse gives the timing and the cause of knowing that God is Jehovah. The timing is: when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up and out of your graves, O my people. In other words, Israel will come to know Jehovah after being returned to the Land. Again, the regathering spoken of in the preceding verse is the regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment. It is some time after this regathering, after they suffer the judgment of the Tribulation, that they will finally come to see that Jehovah is indeed the God of Israel. At that point, they will know that this Jehovah has revealed himself by means of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth.

And the third point speaks of Israel’s regeneration in verse 14: And I will put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I will place you in your own land: and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken it and performed it, saith Jehovah.

When they come to recognize who God is, He says to them: I will put my Spirit in you. The Hebrew word for Spirit is ruach and this is the third way this word is used. At that time, the Holy Spirit will take up His residence within the people of Israel. Next, He says: and ye shall live. The life described here is not physical life, but spiritual life, which comes as a result of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The principle is that in whomsoever the Holy Spirit dwells, that person has spiritual life. Then He states: I will place you in your own land. In this case, the placing in the Land comes after Israel’s regeneration. This verse speaks of the second world wide regathering, the world wide regathering in faith in preparation for blessing, specifically, the blessing of the Messianic Kingdom. The result is that Israel will know that God has spoken it and performed it. Not only has He spoken it through the Prophet Ezekiel, but He will have performed it in the future.

Again, in these verses there is the blending of the two world wide regatherings: first, the world wide regathering in unbelief in preparation for the judgment of the Great Tribulation; and secondly, the world wide regathering in faith in preparation for the blessing of the Messianic Kingdom.

III. CONCLUSION

In conclusion, this vision can be summarized in four points: first, Israel is to be regathered in a state of unbelief; secondly, Israel will eventually come to recognize her God and turn to Him in faith; thirdly, Israel will be regenerated and saved as a nation, for this prophecy deals with the spiritual restoration of the nation; and fourthly, Israel will have a final restoration in faith and be brought into the Land to enjoy her millennial blessings.

It should be noted that the Great Tribulation will come between the first and second points of this summary. It will be by means of these judgments that Israel will come to recognize her God, be regenerated, and finally be brought back into the Land permanently.

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BIBLE STUDY, DR. FRUCHTENBAUM RECOMMENDS:

MBS002, 003, 005, 006, 007, 015, 018, 026, 027, 040, 062, 080, 087, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 122, 134, 155, 158, 176, 177, 178 and 179.