The Valley Of Dry Bones
This vision brings before us the spiritual condition of Israel nationally during all the long centuries of the dispersion. Having turned away from God they are characterized no longer, as a people, by divine life. Not only has blindness in part happened to them so that they find it difficult, even when reading their own Scriptures, to discern the mind of God, but also they are actually dead in trespasses and in sins, as are the Gentiles whom once they despised, because of their ignorance of the law and of the true God.
In vision Ezekiel found himself set down in a deep valley filled with dry bones. He says:
“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. 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. And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord Jehovah, Thou knowest. Again He said unto me, Prophesy over these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah. Thus saith 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”-vers. 1-6.
Commanded by Jehovah to look all about him, he noticed that in every part of the valley these bones were seen, and they were very many and very dry; in other words, there was not the slightest evidence of spiritual life. Then came the question, asked by God Himself, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Surely none but He who asked the question could answer it. So far as human power is concerned it must have seemed impossible that they would ever be revived. As we come in contact with individual Israelites today we find that the most discouraging work in the world is that of trying to bring them to a saving knowledge of their own Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. So utterly dead are they to the great truths of their own Scriptures that it is only as the Spirit of God moves upon them that they can apprehend in any sense these tremendous verities. We are told in the New Testament, “It pleased God by the foolishness” (or the simplicity) “of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). And so Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy over these bones: that is, to proclaim the message of God, saying to them, “O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah.” He Himself declared that the day would come when He would cause breath to enter into them and they should live, for He would put sinews upon them and bring flesh upon them, and cover them with skin, and put breath in them, that they might once more respond to His love and know that He is Jehovah. We are reminded of the prayer of David in Psalms 119:25, “Quicken Thou me according to Thy word”; and the Lord Jesus has told us, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). So when the life-giving Word goes forth in the energy of the Holy Spirit even poor, dead, dry Israelites will be revived and will know that God has spoken.
Immediately upon hearing the divine command Ezekiel began to prophesy or preach to the bones, and the results were manifest at once.
“So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and, behold, an earthquake; and the hones 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. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith 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”-vers. 7-10.
As Ezekiel proclaimed the word there was a noise as of thunder and a tremendous shaking of the earth; and then, before the prophet’s startled eyes, the bones came together, each one fitted to the other, until they formed complete human skeletons. In another moment sinews and flesh came upon them and skin covered them, and they became perfect human bodies, but there was no breath or life in them. Again the word of the Lord came to the prophet, saying, “Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” So far as I have been able to discern this is the only place in sacred Scripture where we have prayer addressed directly to the Holy Spirit. Ordinarily, as we see in Ephesians 2:18, prayer is by or in the energy of the Spirit to the Father in the name of the Son; but here we have a definite case where one was commanded to speak directly to the Holy Spirit, for the term “wind” here can mean no other than He who is the blessed life-giving Spirit of God. It is He who quickens the dead; and in answer to this prayer, breath came into these resurrected bodies, and they stood up upon their feet an exceeding great army.
We need to remember that all this was in vision and is not to be taken as referring to a literal physical res- urrection of the dead. That Scripture does teach such a resurrection-in fact, two resurrections: one of the just, and the other of the unjust-is perfectly clear; but that is not what is contemplated here. This is rather a fulfilment in vision of what is predicted in Daniel 12:2, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” These words might be applied to the two resurrections just referred to: the one before, and the other after the millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, but the connection in which they are found in Daniel 12 makes it evident, in my judgment, that the resurrection there depicted is a national resuscitation, such as we have in our present chapter.
For long centuries Israel has been a dead nation, sleeping among the Gentiles. In the day of Jehovah’s power, they will be brought out from their graves, gathered from the countries into which they have been dispersed, and appear as an exceeding great host: those in whose hearts faith is found entering into everlasting life, and those who refuse to believe the message of that day given over to shame and everlasting contempt.
The explanation of Ezekiel’s vision is given very clearly in the next few verses:
“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. Therefore prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith 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. 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. 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”-vers. 11-14.
The identification is complete. These bones are the whole house of Israel. In their distress they have said, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.” But they are yet to learn that Jehovah has better things in store for them: He is going to open their graves; that is, cause them to come up out of the condition in which they have been for so long as scattered over the world, suffering under the hand of the Gentiles, and He will bring them into the land of Israel. Then indeed they shall know that they have to do with Jehovah when He has renewed them as a nation and delivered them from the hopeless condition that has been theirs for so long. At that time, as we have seen in the previous chapter, they will be regenerated as a people. God will put His own Spirit within them, and they shall live, and He will place them securely in their own land, thus fulfilling all that He has spoken concerning them.
“The word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, And 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: and join them for thee one to another into one stick, that they may become one in thy hand. And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these? say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them with it, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thy hand before their eyes. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are 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; 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 dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be My people, and I will be their God”-vers. 15-23.
Following the death of Solomon the nation had been divided into two parts, the northern kingdom going by the name of Israel, and the southern kingdom by the name of Judah. That difference continued until the dispersion of both peoples, but when God restores them to Himself again the two houses of Israel will be united in one, nevermore to be separated. So the prophet was commanded to take sticks, or pilgrim rods, and to write upon one the name Judah, and upon the other the name Israel. These were to be joined one to another so that both could be held with a single hand; and in this way he was to picture the union of the two kingdoms in the coming day. When the people of the captivity inquired of him what was meant by his carrying the two sticks in one hand thus united to each other, he was to declare the truth that God had revealed to him, and tell them that Jehovah had said He would take the children of Israel from among the nations whither they had gone, and gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land, and make them one nation in that land upon the mountains of Israel, and set one king over them all. Moreover, they would be divided no more into two kingdoms; nor should they be denied by idolatry and other detestable things, but they would be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, and cleansed from their sins, and openly acknowledged by God as His people, even as they would own Him as their God.
This is the glorious future which, according to the universal testimony of the Prophets, is yet in store for Israel. In that day Messiah, the Son of David, will be recognized as their King and Shepherd.
“And My servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in Mine ordinances, and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever: and David My servant shall be their prince for ever. 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. My tabernacle also shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the nations shall know that I am Jehovah that sanctifieth Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore”-vers. 24-28.
“My servant David,” God says, “shall be king over them.” I do not understand this to mean that David himself will be raised and caused to dwell on the earth as king. Some have thought this. It may be true, but it seems to me as one considers other scriptures, that the implication is that He who was David’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, is to be the King, and thus David’s throne will be re-established. The Lord Jesus, when here on earth, declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, and spoke of the gathering together of the children of God scattered abroad, and said there should be one flock. This is true now concerning Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in Him; it will be true also in millennial days when He will feed His flock like a shepherd, and those of Israel and those from among the Gentiles will together own His righteous sway and rejoice in His shepherd care. No man will then rebel against the law of God, but they will walk in obedience to His ordinances and observe His statutes, glorying in the fact that they belong to Him. Nor shall they ever again be driven out of the land which God gave by covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They shall dwell in the land with none to make them afraid, and under the benign sway of Messiah, the Son of David, who will be their Prince forever, they will delight in obedience to God. At that time a covenant of peace will be made with the people in accordance with God’s promise through Jeremiah, to confirm a new covenant with Israel and Judah; this will be an everlasting covenant with no possibility of its ever being broken because of the fact that it will be a covenant of pure grace. The blood of that covenant has been shed already on Calvary’s cross, but not until the time of the end will Israel come into the good of it. Then after restoration to God and to their land, Jehovah will set His sanctuary in the midst of them. When He brought them out of Egypt He put into their hearts the desire to make a dwelling-place for Him that He might live among them. The tabernacle in the wilderness was such a dwelling-place but only for a short time. Solomon’s temple was owned of God in this way but soon became defiled. When the day of restoration comes the tabernacle of the Lord will again be set up in the midst of Israel, and He will be their God, and they shall be His people. Then they will understand that He is Jehovah the Sanctifier who shall set Israel apart for Himself and dwell in the sanctuary which will be rebuilt in Palestine, never to be destroyed so long as the world lasts.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany