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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 37

Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral EpistlesFairbairn's Commentaries

Verses 1-28

CHAPTER 37.

THE VISION OF THE DRY BONES RESTORED TO LIFE AGAIN, AS SYMBOLICAL OF ISRAEL’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION.

THE preceding prophecies have unfolded, in all essential particulars, the future salvation of Israel as God’s covenant-people on what conditions it was to proceed, and in what respects it was to develope itself. “The prophet’s eye,” however to use the words of Ewald” still dwells upon the manner in which it is to unfold itself, and beholds with rapture how it arises, how it grows, how it becomes insuperably great. Three stages here present themselves in vivid colours to the vision of the prophet: 1. The new awakening of the people, the resurrection of the dead (chap. Ezekiel 37:1-14); 2. Then the reunion of the formerly hostile members of the community, through whose contentions the whole had suffered (chap. Ezekiel 37:15-28); Finally, 3. The strength of the community thus again restored, so as to be able to meet the formidable danger which was to come from the hostile assault of Gog with all the inimical heathen forces of the earth” (chapters Ezekiel 38:1, Ezekiel 39:1). This is a brief outline of the leading subjects now immediately before us, and of the relations in which they stand to each other.

Ezekiel 37:1 . The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and carried me forth in the spirit of Jehovah (therefore, not a corporeal, but a spiritual transaction a thing done in the visions of God), and set me down in the midst of a valley, (It is literally the valley, הַבִּקְעָח , which was also used at Ezekiel 3:22. But as no particular valley was mentioned, we must use the indefinite article, for the Hebrews sometimes prefixed their definite article to nouns by way of emphasis, when these, though neither previously nor subsequently described, were viewed as definite in the mind of the writer. (Nordheimer, Gr. ii. § 720.)) and it was full of bones.

Ezekiel 37:2 . And he made me pass by them all around, and, lo, there were very many on the face of the valley, and, lo, they were very dry.

Ezekiel 37:3 . And he said to me, Son of man, shall these bones live? And I said, Lord Jehovah, thou knowest.

Ezekiel 37:4 . And he said to me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say to them, Ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah.

Ezekiel 37:5 . Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to these bones, Behold, I bring spirit into you, and ye shall live.

Ezekiel 37:6 . And I lay sinews on you, and I make flesh to come up on you, and I cover you with skin, and I put in you spirit, and ye shall live, and shall know that I am Jehovah.

Ezekiel 37:7 . And I prophesied as I was commanded, and, as I prophesied, there was a noise, and lo! a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.

Ezekiel 37:8 . And I looked, and lo! sinews and flesh came up on them, and skin covered them from above, yet no spirit in them.

Ezekiel 37:9 . And he said to me, Prophesy to the Spirit; prophesy, son of man, and say to the Spirit, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, From the four winds let the Spirit come and breathe in these slain, that they may live. (This passage plainly shows that the spirit, רוּח , here and throughout the section, is not to be identified with the wind, for the thing wanted was to be called from the four winds. It is the life-breath, the spirit of life, immediate eflux of God, as the source of animated life in the creature.)

Ezekiel 37:10 . And I prophesied as he commanded me, and the Spirit came into them, and they lived; and they stood upon their feet, an exceeding great force. (Ewald renders here, “with very, very great power.” But there is no preposition answering to the with, so that the clause is most naturally regarded as in apposition with what precedes. At the same time the idea of power is certainly indicated in the original, and the “great army” of our common version does not convey the exact meaning. Our word force, however, precisely corresponds to the Heb. חַיִל , and equally with it is used in the double sense of power, as connected either with numbers or with personal resources and energy. Both references are intended here; the now living skeletons presented the appearance of a vast multitude in full strength and vigour.)

11. And he said to me, Son of man, these bones are. the whole house of Israel; lo! they say,” Our bones are dried up, and our hope is perished; we are undone.” (The last clause is literally, “we are cut off to ourselves,” נִגְזַרְנוּ לָנוּ , that is, cut off from the source of power and influence, and abandoned to our selves. The “cut off for our parts” in the Authorized Version is scarcely intelligible.]] [1] 12. Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold I open your graves, and I make you come up out of your graves, my people, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13. And ye know that I am Jehovah, when I open your graves, and when I make you to come up out of your graves, my people. 14. And I put my Spirit within you, and ye shall live, and I will make you to rest upon your land; and ye shall know that I Jehovah speak and do, saith Jehovah.

There can be no reasonable doubt as to the leading scope and purpose of this remarkable vision. It is intended to counteract the feeling of despair which had now succeeded to the opposite one of carnal security and presumptuous confidence which, at an earlier period, had wrought so disastrously among the people. Now that they were reduced to so hapless and shattered a condition, the glowing delineations the prophet had been drawing of a happy future seemed as visionary to their minds as formerly had appeared his dark forebodings of impending distress and ruin. They felt as if they had become like bones dried and scattered at the grave’s mouth, and destitute of everything on which they could build any reasonable prospect of restored felicity. The prophet therefore meets them on their own ground. He admits that, as compared with the elevated prospects he had been unfolding, they were in themselves no better than lifeless skeletons; but at the same time shows that even this could raise no barrier against the realization of the better future, since they had to do with the word of him who is equally able to make alive as to kill. Carried in spirit into a valley of destruction, he there sees the whole ground covered with bones, the skeletons of slaughtered men, so thoroughly bleached and dried by long exposure to the atmosphere that all apparent capability of life had left them; and when asked whether such bones should live, he could only refer the matter to God, as one that exclusively belonged to his grace and power. But presently, on being commanded to prophesy to them, or to proclaim God’s purpose to endow them anew with the powers and properties of life, the word is no sooner uttered than it begins to take effect. The rushing sound of God’s mighty working is heard, bone is seen starting up and joining itself to its fellow; immediately they are clothed upon with sinews, and flesh, and skin; and then, in obedience to another word of God, the breath of life from his creative Spirit penetrates the whole mass, and transforms them into a host of valiant men, instinct with the animation and braced with the healthful freshness and energy of life. Such was the wonderful scene that took place in vision before the eyes of the prophet; and in the application that is made of it, he is told that these bones are ( i.e., represent) the whole house of Israel, who were then indeed, as to all that could be called life according to the covenant of God, in a lost condition in a manner dead and buried; but he is assured they should be again resuscitated by the word of God, brought up from their present temporary graves, and resettled in their own land to enjoy once more the blessings of the covenant.

Considered in this natural manner, there is no difficulty in the passage. It is merely intended, in the most lively and effectual way, to remove the despondency that hung over the minds of the people, by exhibiting before them an exercise of Divine power, similar to that which was needed to retrieve their ruined fortunes, and put them in a condition to inherit all the good of which Ezekiel had spoken. In the visions of God the proper region of the prophet’s activity he shows them an effect of the Divine Spirit adequate to the full wants and necessities of their state; so that they might the more readily reassure their hearts, and encourage themselves in God as to the issue. If we keep this one definite object of the vision in view, we are in little danger of misapprehending the particulars or doing violence to the representation. It was certainly doing a kind of violence to it when the Fathers, almost with one consent, appealed to it as furnishing in itself a direct and explicit proof of the resurrection (for example, Tertul. de Resur. Car. c. 30; Jerome, in loco; Augustine, de Genes, ad lit. x. 8), in which they have been followed by many distinguished modern divines. The greater part indeed hold, after the manner of Jerome, that the resurrection here is introduced only, by way of similitude, as an image of Israel’s restoration, which it could not have been unless the resurrection itself had been considered certain.[[|Text: “Nunquam enim poneretur similitudo resurrectionis ad restitutionem Israelitici populi signiticandam, nisi staret ipsa resurrectio, et futura crederetur; quia nemo de rebus non extantibus incerta confirmat.” Jerome.) Calov, however , maintains that, down to the close of Ezekiel 37:10, the passage treats distinctly of the resurrection from the dead in the literal sense, and that what follows is entirely another discourse, in which God’s promised goodness to Israel is presented under the analogy of that literal resurrection. This last view is manifestly untenable, as it breaks into two separate parts what is obviously but one discourse, and regards as an independent action what was done only with a view to its intended application. Even the other and more common view is not strictly tenable. For it is not properly a similitude that Ezekiel uses in the vision, as if from the certain fact of a general future resurrection he would fortify Israel in the belief and expectation of their own political resuscitation; but it is this resuscitation itself exhibited now in vision, that they might be prepared to look for it afterwards in the reality. The mere circumstance of such a resurrection-scene being thus employed by the prophet for such a specific purpose, could not of itself prove the doctrine of a future general resurrection of the dead, no more than his employing the machinery of cherubim and wheels of peculiar structure in his opening vision is a proof of the actual existence of such objects, either in the past or the future, in heaven or on earth. In both cases alike, what was exhibited in the vision was a representation in symbol of something corresponding that might be expected in the transactions of life and the events of providence; but whether that symbol might have any separate and substantial existence of its own was not determined by such an employment of it, and, in fact, was quite immaterial as regarded the end in view. The resurrection-scene here is simply a prophecy in action, to render more palpable to the view and more credible to the apprehension of the people the corresponding prophecy in word, and stands parallel to the prophetic actions of the sealing vision in Ezekiel 9:0, or the prophet’s going into exile in Ezekiel 12:0.

At the same time, while the mere employment of such a scene in a symbolical vision cannot justly be regarded as of itself establishing the doctrine of the resurrection, it should undoubtedly have a place assigned it among the collateral proofs of the doctrine. Its introduction in such a free and familiar manner clearly bespoke it to be one of the loftier anticipations with which the servants of God sought to accustom the minds of the people; which they would have them take, in a manner, for granted, as things destined one day to be actually realized. It may justly be classed with such brief and familiar allusions as those in Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death in victory;” and Isaiah 26:19, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust;” also Daniel 12:2, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” And then the principle on which, as its very basis, the whole vision rests, is one that carries in its bosom the hope of the resurrection to all the family of God. For it is the relation of the people, whom those bones represented, to God himself, securing for them an interest in the vital energy and omnipotent working of his hand, on which everything is made to hang. The resuscitation must take place, because the living God cannot let death work in those who are related to him as his own those in regard to whom he can say, my people. But this, of course, holds good of the literal resurrection from the dead, not less than of any temporary revival out of death-like bondage and degradation; and is, in truth, the very kernel of the argument used by our Lord against the Sadducees, when, from the declaration of God to Moses at the bush, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,” he showed that the dead are raised, because “God is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him.” An argument not so subtle and profound as many would represent it, but level to the apprehension even of the commonest believers! It is simply this: that God having owned himself the God of those patriarchs, their bodies cannot be lost, they must live again; because, by taking to himself the name of their God, he undertook to do for them whatever Omnipotence itself could perform. Just as if one were to adopt a helpless orphan into his family, and promise to be a father to it, should he not warrant the child to expect everything that paternal love or fidelity could do for it? So when God said to Abraham, “I am thy God,” he virtually said, Whatever a God can do for thee, that thou mayest look for at my hands. But cannot God he who at first formed Abraham of the dust of the ground, and afterwards breathed life into his dead soul cannot he also breathe the life of immortality into Abraham’s mouldering body? Doubtless he can, and because he can he will he must. He is the ever-living God, and life must be the property of all that are his. He who would have been ashamed to be called their God if he had not provided for them a city, would much more have been ashamed to be called their God if their very body, an essential part of their nature, were to be for ever left rotting in the dust. This would not have been to do to them the part of their God.

It is precisely this relation to God, so pregnant with blessing to those who possess it, on which the promise of good in the word before us is founded. And it must have been impossible for any thoughtful and pious Israelite to enter into the application made of it, to the temporal resuscitation of Israel’s prostrate condition, without perceiving how it also involved, for all true believers, the future resurrection of their bodies from the power of death. (We might have added, though this is not properly the place to discuss the subject, that many other portions, even the earlier portions of Old Testament Scripture, equally imply the doctrine of the resurrection; and so far from thinking with Hitzig, and Hävernick also, that the belief of that doctrine was not generally diffused among the older Jewish people, we are convinced it was always held by believers inseparable from a living faith in the Divine word. The first promise involved it; the earliest religion could have imparted no consolation, and inspired no hope, without presupposing it; all the leading promises and dispensations of God contained it, as the vital germ, with the unfolding of which their own final perfection was to be reached; so that the hope of the resurrection, rather than the simple belief of immortality, was the form which the ulterior expectations of God’s earlier worshippers took. See this investigated at some length in the Typology of Scripture, vol. i., pp. 173 and 425.) But along with this higher instruction enwrapped in the prophecy, let us not overlook the honour ascribed in it to the Divine word, at whose proclamation from the lips of a man of God the dead hear, the scattered bones move into their proper places, the spirit of life breathes and quickens. How does the Lord here show that he magnifies that word above all his name! It is his peculiar and chosen instrument of working. Where it alights, there darkness becomes light death itself is again turned into life. “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword.” When he really “speaks, it is done; when he commands, it stands fast.”

We turn now to the second part of the prophecy, which occupies the remaining verses of the chapter, and points especially to the reunion of the formerly hostile members of the community.

Ezekiel 37:15 . And the word of the Lord came to me saying,

Ezekiel 37:16 . And thou, son of man, take to thee one rod (literally, one wood, but a rod or staff is evidently meant, with allusion to Numbers 17:2 ), and write upon it, “For Judah, and for the children of Israel his associates” (not simply Benjamin, for considerable numbers also out of the other tribes adhered to Judah); and take another rod, and write upon it, “For Joseph the rod of Joseph, and all the house of Israel his associates.”

Ezekiel 37:17 . And join them one to another for one rod to thee, and they shall become one in thy hand.

Ezekiel 37:18 . And when the children of thy people speak to thee, saying, “Wilt thou not tell us what thou dost with these?”

Ezekiel 37:19 . Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I take the rod of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim and the tribes of Israel his associates, and I put them with it, even with the rod of Judah, and I make them one rod, and they become one in my hand. (There are two peculiarities in this verse. The first is the apparent anomaly of the rod of Joseph, which had been spoken of as being, along with the other, in the hand of the prophet, being said to be in the hand of Ephraim of which some far-fetched explanations have been given. The proper explanation evidently is, that the prophet here passes to the meaning of what had been said previously: the staff was the symbol of authority and rule; and this, in the case of Joseph, had been seized and exercised by Ephraim, but now was to be withdrawn from his hand, and united with the other staff into one in God’s hand. The two met in God. The other peculiarity is the use of the plural in the second clause: and I put them with it, though, properly, the rod of Joseph is the object referred to. It is a construction according to the sense the rod being identified in the prophet’s mind with the ten tribes, who owned its authority.)

Ezekiel 37:20 . So the rods, on which thou writest, are in thy hand before thine eyes.

Ezekiel 37:21 . And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they have gone, and gather them on every side, and I bring them into their own land:

Ezekiel 37:22 . And I make them to be one people in the land on the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be to them all a king; and they shall no more be two peoples, and shall never again be divided into two kingdoms:

Ezekiel 37:23 . And they will no more pollute themselves with their foul idols, and with their detestable things, and with all their transgressions; and I will redeem them from all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and purify them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 37:24 . And my servant David shall be king over them, and one shepherd shall be to them all; and they shall walk in my judgments, and keep my statutes and do them.

Ezekiel 37:25 . And they shall dwell in the land which I gave to my servant Jacob, wherein their fathers dwelt, and they shall dwell in it, they and their sons, and their sons’ sons for ever; and David my servant shall be prince to them for ever.

Ezekiel 37:26 . And I will conclude with them a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant shall be with them; and I will set them, (The expression here is certainly peculiar, though I see no need, with many, for either omitting the clause or emending the text. Hengstenberg follows Venema, who throws this and the following verb together, and renders: dabo eos multiplicatos, I will give them multiplied, and supposes there is a reference to the promise to Abraham, “I give thee for nations.” But for this reference the expression is greatly too abbreviated. I rather incline to take the verb נָתַן in the sense of appointing or setting, which it certainly often possesses; and understand it as importing that now God himself orders and determines everything concerning them sets them in opposition to their former fluctuating, because self-ordered, condition.) and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for ever.

Ezekiel 37:27 . And my dwelling shall be over them, (The expression may possibly have some respect to the elevated position of the temple-mount, which seemed as if it overlooked the land generally; but if so, only to this as an emblem of God’s watchful and gracious oversight. His sanctuary was to be in their midst, but his dwelling all over them, for protection and blessing.) and I shall be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.

Ezekiel 37:28 . And the heathen shall know that I Jehovah sanctify Israel, by my sanctuary being in the midst of them for ever.

Here, precisely as in the resurrection-scene of the earlier part, the action with the rods, first writing on them the names of the two ancient divisions of the covenant-people, and then pressing them together into one, is employed merely as a symbol of what was to take place with the people themselves a prophecy in action, to give distinctness and credibility to the immediately following prophecy in word. And for the direct import of the communication, the close and brotherly union among the members of the covenant that forms the substance of it, is here presented to our view as an immediate and certain effect of the manifestation of God’s power to revive and bless them, and as the necessary condition to their complete and final establishment. The whole people of Israel had been represented as participating in the regenerating efficacy of the spirit of life, which was to be given from above; and as the direct result of this was to unite them to God, so its secondary operation could not fail to be to unite them in brotherly concord with each other. For the true covenant-people must form but one body, as they can only have one Head; and hence, as the necessary shell for preserving this great truth, it was so strictly enjoined of old that they should have but one temple, one high priest, one king, and one common-wealth. The breaking up of this united brotherhood by the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam, however needful at the time as a salutary chastisement to the house of David, is constantly represented as a sad dismemberment of the household of God, and the source, to a large extent, of the more overwhelming tide of evils which thenceforth set in upon the land, and at last laid it desolate. As soon, therefore, as there might be produced a revived and healthful condition among the covenant-people, there must be a return to brotherly union, and that in connection with the house of David; for to this house had been committed, by an irrevocable decree, the right to rule over the heritage of God; and to abide in separation from it was to continue in rebellion against Heaven. Nay, not only must the brotherly union find its centre in the house of David, but David himself must again preside over the united brotherhood; since he is pre-eminently that servant of God whose grand end in ruling was to do the will of God, and promote the ends of his righteous government. This God-honouring king must reign for ever; his rule shall be perpetuated through all generations; that the covenant of peace also may be perpetual, and that God’s sanctuary may constantly abide among the people, and his name be magnified through their pure and prosperous condition. Thus, the order of God being re-established and made sure, there should be nothing any more to interrupt the flow of the Divine blessing; God would be most really present with his people; and the inheritance of good promised in the covenant, hitherto found only in part, be fully and for ever realized.

There is nothing absolutely new in the prophecy. It is substantially a fresh exhibition of the prospect already unfolded in chapters Ezekiel 34:1 and Ezekiel 36:1; but rendering prominent what was there implied rather than broadly asserted, the formal union of the covenant-people, along with their sanctification and blessedness, under the presidency of David. That there has been no adequate fulfilment of the prophecy in what may be called the literal sense of its terms, is too plain to require any lengthened proof. Some advances were of old made towards it that is all that can be said. There was a return to some extent of the covenant-people, chiefly indeed of the house of Judah, though not without representatives from the other tribes; a visible display of union among such as did return; a partial repossession of the land of the covenant; and an external reconstruction of the temple and its worship, enough to show that God had not forgotten his word, and that he was ready to bless to the full, if his people had been willing to seek to him for the blessing. But still all, not excepting even the things connected with the temple (see on Ezekiel 21:26), were found in a very imperfect and mutilated condition not after the bright pattern furnished here by the hand of the prophet And the most characteristic part of the description the cementing, strengthening, benignant rule of David had not even the appearance of a literal fulfilment in the post-Babylonish history of Israel. The prophecy, therefore, has not been accomplished according to the letter in the past; and with so strong and prominent a feature of an ideal sort as the eternal presidency of David, it seems amazing that any one should expect it to be realized after that manner in the ages to come. For to that end it were indispensable that the literal David should be raised from the dead, and again set over the heritage of God, vested there even with perpetual sovereignty; notwithstanding that Christ has expressly received, by Divine appointment, the throne of his father David. The prophecy is a detailed picture of coming good, drawn, as such a picture must have been, under the form of the old covenant relations. It exhibits the prospective good, as a revival of Israel’s best periods, freed from their still remaining defects and oft-intermingling judgments; and a picture that could be realized only in part while the old covenant stood, both from its own inherent imperfections and from the wilful neglect and obstinacy of its people. Not till the new covenant enters does the comparatively perfect begin to develope itself. For with the coming of Messiah, the head and centre of the new, as David was of the old, everything connected with God’s kingdom takes a loftier flight and a wider range: the shadows vanish away, being supplanted by the substance; and that which before was partial and restricted presents now the aspect of an expansive freedom and a universal adaptation. The whole earth is as much Christ’s rightful heritage as the territory and people of Canaan were David’s; and only when it becomes his actual possession can the prophecy respecting him as the New Testament David reach its destined accomplishment. So that to speak now of the prophecy still requiring for its fulfilment a literal Israel, a literal Canaan, a literal tabernacle, with the many outward and fleshly conditions therewith connected, and that too in the face of the palpable incongruity in the heart of the prophecy of a non-literal David, is as if one were to reduce the lofty tree again to the puny dimensions of the plant, or send the man of full-grown stature back to his cradle as if, in short, against all the experience of the past, which is ever moving on to something higher and better, we should expect the chariot-wheels of God’s providence to return to their former courses, and keep within the ancient landmarks.

It was the peerless glory of Israel as a nation to give to the world the new David, who was to be for humanity the one child of hope, and to furnish to his hand the first builders of that spiritual house which was to be formed of renewed souls, and reared on the foundation of his perfected redemption. But there their distinctive honour ceases not as if their real privileges and blessings were lost, but because these must henceforth be shared in common by the household of faith. The very mother that bore Jesus, and his nearest kindred, could attain to no peculiar place in his kingdom by reason of their earthly connection with him: not these, he said, but every one that heareth the word, and doeth the will of my Father in heaven, is my mother and sister and brother. Thus the fleshly bond was broken at the centre, and it must vanish to the farthest circumference; everything founded on natural relationships and genealogical descent was, with the handwriting of ordinances, nailed to the cross of Christ and buried in his grave, as a part of that bondage to the elements of the world from which the Church had at length escaped, and which should never more be heard of in her borders. The one relationship to be accounted of is union to Christ, which renders all who possess it children of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise heirs, that is, of all that was given to Abraham in promise; more even, if more could be, for they are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ himself. Therefore it is folly to speak of robbing the Jew by putting him on a level with the believer in Christ; for to put him there is to raise him to the highest standing that a child of humanity can enjoy, and give him a share in that which, being large enough for all, is not diminished, but rather enhanced by the numbers who partake in it. And for the Church herself, seeing that her exalted Head is now at the right hand of the Majesty on high, with power and authority to make the whole earth his possession, instead of seeking to revive the old distinctions, which have served their day, or hanging her hopes on effete outward arrangements, it is alike her wisdom and her duty to press forward the spiritual conquest of the world plying with unwearied diligence the means of its regeneration, and withal waiting and praying for the time when, nature itself being regenerated, the earth shall become the fit abode of manifested Deity, and all shall be full of the knowledge, and resplendent with the glory, of the Lord. Then in the fullest sense shall the vision of our prophet be realized; for then the entire territory of the new covenant shall be reclaimed for righteousness, and the tabernacle of the Lord most truly be with men.

In closing this section, we present a brief outline of the view that has been taken of the prophecies contained in the three closely related chapters, Ezekiel 34:1, Ezekiel 36:37; and which in substance applies equally to many other portions of the prophetical Scriptures. 1. They were originally given to revive and animate the hearts of God’s covenant-people, by holding out to them the assured prospect of a reversion from the present evil, and their still certain destination in God’s purpose to the highest and most honourable place on the earth. 2. It was the duty of those to whom such prophecies were delivered, at once to believe the word spoken to them, and apply themselves in earnest to do what was needed to secure its accomplishment; and had they only done this, a far larger measure of the promised good would have been reaped than they actually experienced: this later prospect of blessing, like the earlier, given before entering Canaan, greatly failed through their own sinful unbelief. 3. But there being manifestly ideal features introduced into the delineation, especially the good spoken of being so peculiarly connected with the rule and presidency of David, clearly betokens a kind and degree of blessing which could not have been completely fulfilled under the old covenant, nor intended to be altogether fulfilled any time according to the letter. It shows the prophecies in question to be, like several of an earlier kind in Ezekiel, descriptions of the future under the form and image of the past not as if the past were actually to return again, but that its general spirit and character were to revive. 4. The new things thus to be looked for in the future could only meet with their full and adequate accomplishment in Christ, who is certainly the David of the promise. They are consequently of a higher and more comprehensive nature than any that could be enjoyed under the old covenant, when the kingdom of God was so straitened in its dimensions and so outward and earthly in its visible constitution. But still, they were of necessity described under the hue and aspect of the things belonging to the old covenant as if it were these only returning again, or these with certain alterations and improvements, such as might give the future a pre-eminence in glory over the past. For only by means of what belonged to existing or previous dispensations of God could the prophet have given any detailed exhibition of what might be expected under another and higher dispensation. The details of the future must have been cast into the mould of things already perceived or known. 5. Therefore in. forming one’s conceptions now of the real import of such prophecies, now that the transition has been made into the new and higher dispensation, we must throw ourselves back upon the narrower and more imperfect relations amid which they were written, and thence judge of what is still to come. Thus, as the David of the promise is Christ, so the covenant-people are no longer the Jews distinctively, but the faithful in Christ; and the territory of blessing no longer Canaan, but the region of which Christ is king and lord. What was spoken immediately of the one class of personages and relations, may most fully be applied to the other; and by such a method of interpretation alone do we get a uniform and consistent principle to carry us through the whole. While those, on the other hand, who would find a literal Israel and a non-literal David, or a literal restoration in Christian times and a non-literal tabernacle and ritual of worship, arbitrarily confound together things dissimilar and incongruous, and render certainty of interpretation absolutely impossible. 6. Sixthly, the view thus given is confirmed by the reproduction of some of these prophecies in the field of the New Testament Church, set free, as was to be expected, from the outward distinctions and limits of the Old. Thus, in particular, the resurrection-scene of this 37th chapter substantially recurs in the 20th chapter of Revelation, and is followed precisely as here by the attack from the embattled forces of Gog and Magog; while not a word is said which would confine the things spoken to the land of Canaan or the literal Israel: it is the Church and people of Christ at large that are discoursed of. We say nothing respecting the probable time and nature of the events there referred to, but simply point to the identity in character of what is written with the prophecies before us. In those visions of the Apocalypse the inspired Evangelist stretches out the hand to Ezekiel, and shows how the word spoken so long before by that servant of God, freed from the peculiarities of its Jewish form, is to find its application to the Christian Church. The shell has gone, but the substance remains. 7. We may add, lastly, that the common interpretation, which understands Christ by David, and takes all the rest literally, must inevitably tend to justify the Jew in his unbelief. For he naturally says, Your Messiah has not done the thing you yourselves hold must be done, to fulfil the prophecy: he has not set up his throne in Canaan, and gathered Israel there, and re-established the old worship in its purity; this was the very purpose for which he was to appear, and we must wait till he comes to do it. On the basis of the literal interpretation, there seems no satisfactory answer to this; and it is well-known that since it has become prevalent, many Jews believe that Christians are coming over to their view of the matter. We are not surprised to hear, as we have heard, of converted Jews declaring that such a mode of interpretation would carry them back to Judaism.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezekiel 37". "Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral Epistles". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbn/ezekiel-37.html.
 
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