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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Ezekiel 37

Verses 1-10

Introduction

Israel will experience a two-fold restoration:
1. There will be a national restoration, a people’s own existence with its own government.
2. There will also be a spiritual restoration, a new inner self, a new heart and a new spirit wrought by the Spirit.

We see these two sides of restoration in this chapter and also that these two sides will take place in chronological order: first national restoration and then spiritual restoration.

This chapter is the answer to all who see no restoration for Israel, not in Ezekiel’s day and not in our day. In Ezekiel’s time, the destruction of the temple means the loss of their faith. The people are absolutely convinced of the final end of the nation and that there will be no restoration (Ezekiel 37:11; cf. Ezekiel 11:17-Proverbs :). The LORD responds to their hopelessness through a vision (Ezekiel 37:1-2 Chronicles :), a symbolic act (Ezekiel 37:15-Lamentations :), and a covenant (Ezekiel 37:26-Hosea :).

The Vision of the Bones

Ezekiel is shown a special vision (Ezekiel 37:1). Therefore, the hand of the LORD comes upon him (cf. Ezekiel 1:3; Ezekiel 3:14Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:1Ezekiel 33:22; Ezekiel 40:1). The LORD takes him up in the spirit and brings him outside his house and residence and sets him down, in the middle of a valley (cf. Ezekiel 3:22). The valley is covered with bones of men. The valley is not a burial ground, but a battlefield (cf. Ezekiel 37:10). The battlefield is filled with bones of the slain who have been left unburied. It is a great reproach not to be buried (cf. 2 Samuel 21:12-2 Chronicles :; Psalms 141:7; Jeremiah 8:1-Exodus :; Jeremiah 22:19; Ezekiel 6:5). That reproach has come upon Israel.

The LORD makes him go around about the bones in the spirit on all sides (Ezekiel 37:2). This allows him to take in the whole spectacle. He notes that there are very many of them and also that they are very dry. It has been a massacre done thoroughly. All life has long since disappeared from them.

Then the LORD asks Ezekiel if these bones will come back to life (Ezekiel 37:3). The only answer Ezekiel can give is that the LORD knows. His answer indicates that he does not know the answer to the question or even holds it to be impossible to know, for the scene really offers no hope of life. At the same time his answer indicates that he is convinced that the LORD does know the answer and is also able to give life where the situation is so hopeless (cf. Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17-Job :). He, like every Old Testament believer, believes in the resurrection as an act of the LORD’s power (Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Hosea 6:2).

After his answer, which shows confidence in the LORD, he is commanded to prophesy over the bones (Ezekiel 37:4). He is to address the dry bones and command them to hear the word of the LORD. Humanly speaking, it is foolishness to speak to dry dead bones as if they could hear and obey as living beings. But to God, that is no problem. It shows His Godhead. He calls things that are not, as if they were, and He brings life where death reigns (Romans 4:17). It is the same in a spiritual sense. We were dead in trespasses and sins, but when the voice of the Son of God sounded to us, there came a passing out of death into life (John 5:25).

The Lord GOD speaks through Ezekiel to the bones that He will give breath, or spirit, of life in them, by which they will come to life (Ezekiel 37:5; cf. Genesis 2:7; Numbers 16:22; Psalms 104:29; Ecclesiastes 3:21). To accomplish this, He will give the bones everything they need to form a body, such as sinews, flesh and a skin (Ezekiel 37:6; cf. Job 10:11). He will also give them breath, or spirit, so that the bones will be able to come to life. By this act of the LORD, the bones will know that He is the LORD. The glory of this event is for Him.

Ezekiel does as he is commanded (Ezekiel 37:7; cf. Ezekiel 12:7; Ezekiel 24:18). His prophesying has immediate results. First there is the noise, a rattling. That rattling is heard because the bones begin to move. They each take their own place in relation to the other bones. Thus they join together to form ordered skeletons. Then Ezekiel sees how the sinews and flesh come on them and how the LORD covered them with the skin (Ezekiel 37:8). But there is no breath, or spirit, in the bodies yet. They still remain corpses.

To bring the breath, or the spirit, of life into the bodies, the LORD uses Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:9). Ezekiel must prophesy to the breath, or the spirit, to get into the dead. He is to call the breath, or the spirit, to “come from the four winds”, which is a reference to the fact that the Israelites are scattered to all corners of the earth and must be gathered together from there (cf. Jeremiah 31:8; Isaiah 43:5-Joshua :). This breath, or this spirit, of life comes from God and blows through all nature and gives life to all creatures.

Ezekiel again does as commanded by the LORD (Ezekiel 37:10). Then the breath, or the spirit, comes into them and the bodies come to life. A great army thus arises. Ezekiel is visibly impressed by the size of that army and speaks of “an exceedingly great army”.

Verses 11-14

Explanation of the Vision

Then the LORD gives Ezekiel the explanation of the vision (Ezekiel 37:11). The dead bones are not just a picture of Judah, but of “the whole house of Israel”. The whole people have given up hope of a national existence. They see themselves as cut off from God’s land and God’s blessings. This is indeed their situation as a result of their sins. They lead a dry and dead existence (cf. Psalms 31:12; Psalms 32:4).

After the battlefield as a picture of death, we now get the graves as a picture of death. The valley of dry bones speaks of the totality of defeat. There is no one left to bury the bones. The grave speaks of the impossibility of returning to life. The people are buried, as it were, in Babylon and other lands. Therefore, Ezekiel must prophesy that the Lord GOD will open the graves to come up out of their graves and bring them “into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:12).

He calls them “My people” here. He will raise them from the grave because Israel is His people. That prophecy does not refer to the apostate multitude, but to the remnant whom He, according to the election of His grace, always preserves for Himself (Romans 11:5).

This prophecy is a wonderful promise of the restoration of Israel as a nation on their land. The return from Babylon is like a resurrection from the grave and death. But that is only a partial and also a temporary resurrection. In the future, that resurrection will be expressly for the whole people.

They will know that He is the LORD when He has done this mighty life-giving work to His people by opening their graves and raising them up from their graves (Ezekiel 37:13). Then He will also give them His Spirit and they, after their national restoration, will also be restored inwardly and receive new life (Ezekiel 37:14). They will see that what the LORD has spoken has also been fulfilled by Him. The Spirit is yet to come (Joel 2:28-Jonah :). He is coming in a converted Israel. It is, as has already been said, a restoration in two stages: first nationally, then spiritually.

Verses 15-28

God Will Reunite Judah and Israel

The word of the LORD comes to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:15). He is to perform another signifying act (Ezekiel 37:16; cf. Ezekiel 4:1; Ezekiel 4:9Ezekiel 5:1; Ezekiel 6:11Ezekiel 12:3; Ezekiel 24:16). He is to take one stick. On it he is to write “for Judah”, which is the two tribes realm. He must also write on it “for the sons of Israel”. This does not mean the entire ten tribes realm, but refers to the “companions” of Judah among the Israelites. By these companions we can think of the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:1-1 Samuel :) and of the tribe of Benjamin. We can also think of those who joined the two tribes realm over time from the ten tribes realm because they wanted to remain faithful to the LORD’s service in the temple at Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 11:13-:; 2 Chronicles 15:92 Chronicles 30:11; 2 Chronicles 30:182 Chronicles 31:1).

Ezekiel must then take another stick and write on it “for Joseph”. It is “the stick of Ephraim” – the name often used to designate the whole of the ten tribes – “and all the house of Israel, his companions”. “His companions” are all who belong to the ten tribes.

Ezekiel is then to bring those two sticks together and join them “one to another into one stick”, so that in his hand they become one (Ezekiel 37:17). The symbolism of the act is clear. Yet the LORD expects the exiles to ask questions about what Ezekiel is doing (Ezekiel 37:18). The symbolism is that the two houses of Israel will become one again. But there is no belief in this among the people who were taken away. So they ask not so much what it means to them, but what it means to Ezekiel, what he wants to do with it.

The LORD tells Ezekiel what to answer (Ezekiel 37:19). Then it appears that what Ezekiel is to do are the actions of the LORD Himself. He, the LORD, takes Ephraim as a stick and adds it to the stick that represents Judah. Thus He makes them one stick. The place where that happens is His hand. In His hand they become one. The joining together is His work. As Ezekiel passes on what the LORD says, he is to hold the stick, on which he has written the names, in his hand before the eyes of his audience (Ezekiel 37:20).

Next, the LORD tells Ezekiel to tell his fellow people how He will make the two sticks one stick (Ezekiel 37:21). He will take the sons of Israel from among the nations to which they have been scattered and bring them into their own land. Then He will make them one nation on the mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 37:22). They will then have one King over them, that is the Messiah, and will no longer be divided into two kingdom. This prophecy was not fulfilled at the return from the Babylonian exile, but will be fulfilled in the future.

Then, when they live in their land and enjoy the blessing of the Messiah’s rule, they will no longer fall into idolatry (Ezekiel 37:23). Their return will be accompanied by a cleansing work of the LORD. He can only recognize a cleansed and pure people as His people and of that people be their God. His Servant David is the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 30:9Jeremiah 33:17; Amos 9:11; Micah 5:2-Numbers :). He will be both King and Shepherd (Ezekiel 37:24). The Lord Jesus, Who is already our Shepherd, will then also be the Shepherd of His people. Under such a leadership of loving care and beneficent authority, they will walk in the LORD’s provisions and observe His ordinances. They will not want to do otherwise.

The land they live on is the land that the LORD promised to His servant Jacob many centuries ago (Ezekiel 37:25; Genesis 28:13). In that land his descendants have lived. In that land future descendants will also live, forever. The guarantee for this is that the Messiah will be their Prince forever. By “forever” is meant the coming age of the realm of peace, when the Lord Jesus will reign.

An additional confirmation of this continued blessing is the “covenant of peace” that the LORD will make with them (Ezekiel 37:26; Numbers 25:12; Ezekiel 34:25). This covenant is also an “everlasting covenant” (cf. Genesis 9:16; Genesis 17:7; Genesis 17:13Genesis 17:19; Exodus 31:16; Leviticus 24:8; Numbers 18:19; 2 Samuel 23:5; 1 Chronicles 16:17; Psalms 105:10; Isaiah 24:5; Isaiah 55:3; Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 32:40; Jeremiah 50:5; Ezekiel 16:60), which can only be made on the basis of the blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:20).

The LORD gives them a place of blessing where He will also make them numerous. This numerous posterity will be devoted to Him, so that He can put His sanctuary in their midst. That sanctuary will also be there forever. Since the exodus of the people from Egypt, the LORD has longed to dwell with a redeemed people. This will then be the case in a perfect way, because the people will be completely in tune with Him.

Thus there is a threefold assurance that the blessing will last for all eternity, that is throughout the period of the realm of peace:
1. Their Prince will reign forever.
2. The covenant is an everlasting covenant.
3. The sanctuary of the LORD will be in their midst forever.

His tabernacle, His dwelling place, is then with them (Ezekiel 37:27). Then that perfect fellowship between God and His people can be enjoyed, to the joy of His heart and to the good of His people. By the presence of His sanctuary in the midst of His people, the nations will know that He is the LORD, Who sanctifies Israel (Ezekiel 37:28).

It is clear that Israel does not owe it to themselves to be back in the land and enjoy abundant blessing. Their return and the blessing they may experience are a testimony to the glory of the Name of the LORD. All honor will be given to Him. He will receive that honor both from His people and from the nations.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ezekiel 37". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/ezekiel-37.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.