THE VISION OF THE DRY BONES REVIVIFIED A SYMBOL OF THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF ISRAEL. (Chap. 37.)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Eze . "The hand of the Lord was upon me." "The abrupt commencement without and, points out that the fact here related is extraordinary and out of connection with the usual prophetic activity. The hand of the Lord denotes the overruling Divine influence."—Hengstenberg. "The valley"—"the plain or valley near Tel Abib, familiar to Ezekiel as the scene of the vision of the cherubim. Now, however, to his horror, he found it full of dry, withering bones—the wreck of a vast host slain by the sword. Wandering over the wide expanse, the multitude of these ghastly relics of mortality and their bleached dryness, the very embodiment of death, filled him with awe."—Geikie.
Eze . "Can these bones live?" "Implying that, humanly speaking, they could not; but faith leaves the question of possibility to rest with God, with whom nothing is impossible (Deu 32:39). An image of Christian faith which believes in the coming resurrection of the dead, in spite of all appearances against it, because God has said it (Joh 5:21; Rom 4:17; 2Co 1:9)."—Fausset.
Eze . "Prophesy upon these bones"—prophesy over them; proclaim God's quickening word to them.
Eze . "Ye shall know that I am the Lord"—"by the actual proof of My Divinity which I will give in reviving Israel."—Fausset.
Eze . "And as I prophesied there was a noise." God's voice of power is followed by a rustling caused by the bones coming rustling up from the surface of the valley."—Lange.
Eze . "The sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them; but there was no breath in them." "So far, they were only co-hering in order as unsightly skeletons. The next step, that of covering them successively with sinews, skin, and flesh, gives them beauty; but still no breath of life in them. This may imply that Israel hereafter, as at the restoration from Babylon was the case in part, shall return to Judea unconverted at first (Zec 13:8-9). Spiritually a man may assume all the semblances of spiritual life, yet have none, and so be dead before God."—Fausset. "There is reference to the first creation of man. There also the lower element comes first into being, then the higher. The prophet is penetrated with the thought that the real misery of the people is the moral ruin. The remedy, therefore, cannot stop at the restoration of the civic state. The main thing is a renewed outpouring of the Spirit and the restoration of union with God thereby effected, which was originally accomplished by God breathing into man the breath of life."—Hengstenberg.
Eze . "Prophesy unto the wind"—the spirit of life, or life-breath. For it is distinct from "the four winds" from which it is summoned. Lange says what is here spoken of is—the universal spirituality which pervades all creation. The Spirit is evidently here referred to under the symbol of the wind. His influence is supreme and operates in all parts of the earth.
Eze . "So I prophesied, and the breath came into them"—such honour God gives to the Divine word even in the mouth of a man: how much more when in the mouth of the Son of God! (Joh 5:25-29). Though this chapter does not directly prove the resurrection of the dead, it does so indirectly, for it takes for granted the future fact as one recognised by believing Jews, and so made the image of their national restoration (Isa 25:8; Isa 26:10; Dan 12:2; Hos 6:2; Hos 13:14).
Eze . "Our bones are dried." "We are undone"—Gesenius. "Reduced to ourselves"—Hitzig. "It is over with us"—Delitzsch. "We are cut off for us. The for us points out how grievous the sad fact is for those concerned, how painfully they were affected by it"—Hengstenberg. There is nothing in us to give hope, like a withered branch cut off from a tree, or a limb from the body. The national state was as hopeless of revival as marrowless bones of reanimation. "Cut off," separated, shut out from God's help.
Eze . "I will open your graves"—the abodes of the exile, since the Jews who were in exile considered themselves like dead men.
Eze . "And shall put My Spirit in you, and ye shall live." "The inspiriting and quickening for a home system which is to have permanence, and especially in the case of a people like Israel, will of necessity be spiritual and religious (Isa 14:1; chap. Eze 17:24; Eze 22:14; Eze 36:36)."—Lange. "Wherever within the Christian Church a new state of death arises, there this prophecy always comes again into force, until at the end of days death be fully overcome."—Hengstenberg.
Eze . "Take thee one stick."—alluding to Num 17:2, the tribal rod. The union of the two rods was a prophecy in action of the brotherly union which is to reunite the ten tribes and Judah. As their severance under Jeroboam was fraught with the greatest evil to the covenant people, so the first result of both being joined by the Spirit of life to God is, they become joined together under the one Covenant King, Messiah—David.—"Write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions"—his associates: i.e., For Judah and, besides Benjamin and Levi, those who had joined themselves to him of Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, Ashur, Zebulun, Issachar, as having the temple and lawful priesthood in his borders (2Ch 11:12-13; 2Ch 11:16; 2Ch 15:9; 2Ch 30:11; 2Ch 30:18). The latter became identified with Judah after the carrying away of the ten tribes, and returned with Judah from Babylon, and so shall be associated with that tribe at the future restoration. "Then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel his companions." "Ephraim's posterity took the lead, not only of the other descendants of Joseph, but of the ten tribes of Israel. For 400 years, during the period of the Judges, with Manasseh and Benjamin, its dependent tribes, it had formerly taken the lead: Shiloh was its religious capital, Shechem its civil capital. God had transferred the birthright from Reuben, for dishonouring his father's bed, to Joseph, whose representative his son Ephraim, though younger than his brother Manasseh, was made by his grandfather Jacob (Gen 48:19; 1Ch 5:1). From the pre-eminence of Ephraim, Israel is attached to him as companions. The ‘all' in this case, not in that of Judah, which has attached as companions only some of the children of Israel, implies that the bulk of the ten tribes did not return at the restoration from Babylon, but is and shall continue distinct from Judah until the coming union at the restoration."—Fausset.
Eze . "And they shall be one in mine hand." "The interpretation keeps firm hold of the symbolic action—the union by and in God, as opposed to the separation by and in Ephraim."—Lange.
Eze . "I will make them one nation." The now plainly expressed signification of the stick: the one nation will be one kingdom. "And one king shall be king to them all." "Not Zerubbabel, who was not a king either in fact or name, and who ruled over but a few Jews, and that only for a few years, whereas the king here reigns for ever. Messiah is meant (chap. Eze 34:23-24). The union of Judah and Israel under King Messiah symbolises the union of Jews and Gentiles under Him, partly now, perfectly hereafter (Eze 37:24; Joh 10:16)."—Fausset.
Eze . "Neither shall they defile themselves with idols." "Since sin, and especially idolatry, had contributed to the separation spoken of, the discourse turns to that. The worship of idols is localised transgression."—Lange.
Eze . "David My servant shall be king over them." See note on Eze 37:22.
Eze . "They shall dwell therein for ever" (Isa 60:21; Joe 3:20; Amo 9:15).
Eze . "I will make a covenant of peace"—better than the old legal covenant, because an unchangeable covenant of grace (chap. Eze 34:25; Isa 55:3; Jer 32:40). Will guarantee them security from all hostile enemies. "And I will place them." "God now Himself orders and determines everything concerning them—sets them, in opposition to their former fluctuating, because self-ordered, condition."—Fairbairn. "I will set My sanctuary in the midst of them." The essence of the sanctuary is the presence of God among them.
Eze . "The heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel." "This separation and preference, this marking-off from the profane world, which constitutes the idea of sanctification, follows from this, that God's sanctuary is in Israel, that He dwells among them with all the fulness of His blessings and gifts. The natural consequence of this recognition compelled by facts is, that the heathen seek for admittance among this people."—Hengstenberg.
THE RESUSCITATION OF AN EFFETE NATION
In this paragraph we have another example of the bold and startling imagery familiar to the genius of Ezekiel, and of his vivid insight into the possibilities of Divine power. To his realising faith, the bleached and desiccated skeletons of the valley are a formidable army of living and moving forces. The conception of the resurrection of the dead on so vast a scale indicates a remarkable advance in that age of the revelation of what God can do for His people. Observe—
I. That the resuscitation of an effete nation seems a physical impossibility.
1. The nation is lifeless and hopeless (Eze ). The skeletons are dislocated and scattered; the bones are very dry and crumbling into dust. Though not actually buried, they are slowly burying themselves in their progressive decay. The evidence of death is complete. It is beyond the power of any known physical law to breathe the ghastly fragments into life. A nation, or an individual, so utterly defunct seems beyond the possibility of recovery. Saith the proverb, "From privation to possession there is no return." Well might Israel say, "Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off from our parts" (Eze 37:11).
2. Its resurrection not impossible to God (Eze ). If Ezekiel had been asked the question by any other than Jehovah, "Can these bones live?" he would have promptly answered, "No; it is impossible." It is beyond the reach of human philosophy to put life into dry bones, and it passes the wit of human politics to restore a captive and scattered nation. But the prophet had already learned not to limit the power of God, and he reverently and falteringly answered, "Lord, Thou knowest:" if it can be done and is to be done, Thou alone must do it. All things are possible to God. His power is limited only by His will.
II. That the resuscitation of an effete nation is accomplished only by Divine power.
1. By Divine power working through authorised human agency (Eze ). The prophet was directed to prophesy over the bones; the terms of the message were put into his lips, and the results of his preaching were Divinely indicated to him. He obeyed the Divine mandate; he preached; the silent valley rustled and rattled with the noise of bone fitting into bone, and while he gazed there grew as from the soil an innumerable mass of perfected human forms. But here the limitation of human agency, even when acting under Divine supervision, is plainly indicated. The bodies were prone and lifeless: "there was no breath in them." While startled and terrified at the effect of his words, as if an army of Frankensteins had been summoned from the dust, the prophet felt his own utter helplessness. He was powerless to advance the development a single step further. It was an experience that is often familiar to the earnest preacher. He may sway his audience with his impassioned eloquence till they are roused into boisterous enthusiasm or dissolved in tears; but there his power ends. To create a moral and spiritual change is beyond his province. It is said that on one occasion, when Chrysostom was greeted by his congregation with a storm of delighted applause because of his overwhelming eloquence, he besought them with tears to forget the preacher and look to God, who alone can renew the heart and reform the life.
2. By the direct inspiration of the Divine breath (Eze ). Life is the breath of God. Still, under Divine direction, the prophet invokes the help of the life-giving Spirit. A mysterious breath passes over the prostrate forms; they move and leap to their feet, "an exceeding great army." The Spirit that renews the face of the earth, robing it with velvet verdure and decorating it with nodding flowers, can alone raise the dead to life and adorn the soul with spiritual beauty. A lady who recently visited the Fijian Archipelago writes:—"As I lived for two years in the midst of this kindly, courteous people, and marked the reverent devoutness of their lives and the simple earnestness of their bearing at the never-failing morning and evening family worship and frequent church services, I found it hard to believe the facts related to me by reliable eye-witnesses of the appalling scenes of carnage, fighting, human sacrifices, debasing idolatry, and loathsome cannibal feasts which five, ten, or fifteen years previously formed the incidents of daily life in districts where now English ladies and their children may travel or settle in perfect security." What had wrought this change? The breath of the Divine Spirit had blown through those lovely islands and transformed the moral wastes.
III. That the resuscitation of an effete nation is a suggestive revelation of the Divine character (Eze ).
1. That God alone has absolute power over life and death. It is the vanity of man to set too high a value upon his own works. He imagines he can work out his own regeneration; but when he touches the mysterious edge of life and death he is baffled and compelled to confess his helplessness. It is the solitary and incommunicable prerogative of the Godhead to educe life out of death. The supreme greatness of God is evidenced in the exercise of His resurrection power.
2. That the nations should learn to acknowledge and adore the true God. "Ye shall know that I am the Lord: that I the Lord have spoken it and performed it" (Eze ). The deities of the heathen could do nothing for their votaries, either to prevent their ruin or to rescue them from it. There is but one living and true God, and the only hope of moral revival and salvation for humanity is in Him. "Thou hast made us for Thyself," wrote Augustine, "and our hearts can have no rest until they rest in Thee."
1. The nation that ignores God must perish.
2. One nation is Divinely favoured that other nations may be blessed.
3. God will be glorified either in the rise or fall of nations.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Eze . "Seized by the hand of the Spirit, Ezekiel is borne aloft. He is carried away through mid-air and set down in a lonely valley among the hills of a distant land. At some former period it appears to have been the scene of a great battle. There hosts had sustained the charge of hosts, and crowns perhaps were staked and won. The peace of these solitudes had been rudely broken by the shrieks of the wounded, the wild shouts of the victors, the clash of arms, and the savage roar of war. It was silent, calm now. The storm was down; but the tempest that swept over it had left it strewn with wrecks. The dead had been left unburied. They mouldered where they fell, the skull rattled in the cloven helmet, the sword of the warrior lay rusting beside his skeleton, and the handle was still in the relaxed grasp of the bony fingers. On these unsepulchred corpses the birds of the air had summered and the wild beasts of the field had wintered. The rain had washed and the sun had bleached the bones which the ravens had picked bare—they were white and dry. In these grim and ghastly skeletons a doleful picture of death was spread out before the prophet. In all the scene which he surveyed there was neither sign nor sound of life, but, it may be, the croak of the raven, the howl of the famished wolf, or the echo of his own solitary footfall. Here Ezekiel was standing, a lonely man, amid the mouldering dead, when a voice made him start. It came from the skies, charged with the strange question—‘Son of man, can these bones live?' So soon as, after addressing the bones, the prophet addresses his God, there came from heaven a living, life-giving breath. It blows down the valley, and as, in passing, it kisses the icy lips of the dead, and stirs their hair and fans their cheek, man after man springs to his feet, until the field which Ezekiel found covered with ghastly skeletons is crowded with a mighty army, all armed for battle and war—the marshalled host of God."—Guthrie.
—"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 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 realisation of the better future, since they had to do with the word of Him who is equally able to make alive as to kill. And it must have been impossible for any thoughtful and pious Israelite to enter into the application made of this vision 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."—Fairbairn.
—"Besides the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, this vision is a lively representation of a threefold resurrection.
1. Of the resurrection of souls from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, to a holy, heavenly, spiritual, and Divine life by the power of Divine grace accompanying the word of Christ (Joh ).
2. The resurrection of the Gospel Church, or any part of it, from an afflicted state to liberty and peace.
3. The resurrection of the body at the great day, especially the bodies of believers, to life eternal."—Benson.
Eze . Lessons from the Valley of Vision. "
1. The text presents us with a picture of the spiritual slate of our race—‘dead in trespasses and sins.'
2. With an illustration of the human instrumentality God generally employs in the work of quickening the dead in sin—the preaching of the Gospel.
3. With a view of the Divine agency employed in the work of quickening the dead in trespasses and sins—the power of the Holy Spirit."—T. D. Anderson, B.A.
—The Secret of Successful Preaching and True Revival. "
1. The first thing necessary is a Divinely appointed sphere. The prophet had to speak his message in a particular place. One reason why men are not successful to-day is because they are not where God designed them to be. Not ministers simply, but Christian men in business, for secular professions are as much in God's hands as religious ones.
2. A second requirement is contact with the misery to be removed. The prophet was not commanded to stand a great distance off and proclaim his message. ‘The Spirit of the Lord set him down in the midst of the valley and caused him to pass by them round about,' and thus he was brought into close contact with his work. We must not say, ‘The people must come up to us;' we must go down to them, sympathise with them, identify ourselves with them.
3. The next requirement is confidence in God (Eze ).
4. A fourth requirement is an inspired message (Eze ). We ought always to listen for what God says; and if the vision tarry we should agonise in prayer—‘Lord, tell us what to say and how to say it.'
5. There must be a willingness to declare the message given. ‘So I prophesied as I was commanded.'
6. When all these requirements are met, the result must be a manifestation of Divine power. We have, in the mode in which this power was manifested, the indication of a true revival. It is gradual. There was
(1.) an effect produced. ‘There was a noise.'
(2.) The effect became visible. ‘Behold a shaking.'
(3.) The visible effect took a particular form. ‘The bones came together,' &c.
(4.) The Holy Ghost came down and life is given. ‘The breath came into them, and they lived and stood up on their feet.'"—The Lay Preacher.
—Spiritual Resurrection. "
1. The condition of the world.
(1.) Spiritually dead—‘Bones.'
(2.) Hopelessly so—‘Dry bones.'
(3.) Universally so—‘A valley full.'
2. The means for its recovery.
(1.) A Divine appointment—preaching.
(2.) The claim of attention.
(3.) The offer of salvation.
3. The wonderful result.
(1.) The Gospel is accompanied by Divine power.
(2.) The Spirit is essential to complete success.
(3.) In the use of the means success is certain."—Pulpit Analyst.
Eze . In the Presence of Death.
1. A humbling spectacle.
2. A solemn reminder of our own mortality.
3. An occasion of sorrow.
4. We see the superficiality of all things earthly.
5. We are taught the necessity of a moral and spiritual preparedness.
6. Find our true consolation in the loving and eternal God.
Eze . "This valley is found indeed everywhere. In other words, Is there not plenty of dead bones? The best thing is, that God still cares even for such."—Lange.
Eze . "As Christ often improved His miracles by a spiritual turn of thought, so we may improve this astonishing restoration of the Jews to illustrate the conversion of sinners. Man in his fallen state is dead in trespasses and sins; he has lost the life of God. He is dry and parched, for in his flesh dwelleth no good thing. He has lain a long time in that most piteous situation, so that he is not only dry, but with man there is no hope of his conversion. The calamity is not solitary but universal—‘Behold there were very many in the open valley.' To raise and recover fallen man, ministers must not only be impelled with the spirit of faith and love, but they must mix among the wicked, as the physicians with the sick. We may stay in our closets learning our Master's wisdom till we neglect to do our Master's work. We must mix among the dry bones, watch their passions, trace their habits, and learn their evasions of conscience and of the Gospel. Ministers must not despair, though the cases may seem hopeless."—Sutcliffe.
Eze . "O Lord, Thou knowest." Human Perplexity—
1. Finds refuge in the Divine omniscience.
2. Reverently acknowledges the illimitableness of the Divine power.
3. Teaches the soul to render unquestioning obedience to the Divine command.
—"The Russians in a difficult question are accustomed to answer—‘God and our great Duke know all this.'"—Trapp.
—"Since God is omniscient and omnipotent, the resurrection of the dead is possible; but since He has also promised it and cannot break His word, it is also certain (Joh )."—Starke.
Eze . "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord." An Urgent Message. Addressed—
1. To a dead nationality.
2. To a dead Church. 3. To a dead faith.
4. To dead souls.
Eze . "Neither need the resurrection of the dead be held a thing incredible concerning God's power and truth (Act 26:8). The keeping green of Noah's olive-tree in the time of the flood, the blossoming of Aaron's dry rod, the flesh and sinews coming to these dry bones and the breath entering into them, what were they all but so many lively emblems of the resurrection?"—Trapp.
Eze . "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."—Pool.
Eze . The Successful Preacher—
1. Is Divinely commissioned.
2. Is careful to declare only the message God reveals to Him. "So I prophesied as I was commanded" (Eze ; Eze 37:10).
3. Recognises the necessity of prayer for the inspiration of the Spirit. "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain" (Eze ).
4. Is honoured in seeing the fruit of his labours. "The breath came into them, and they lived" (Eze ).
—"Three degrees or processes have been remarked in this mystic vision. When the prophet was commanded to prophesy, to foretell, on the authority of God, that there should be a restoration to their own land—
1. There was a noise, which was followed by a general shaking, during which the bones became arranged and united.
2. The flesh and skin came upon them, so that the dry bones were no longer seen.
3. The spirit or soul came into them, and they stood up perfectly vivified. Perhaps these might be illustrated by three periods of time which marked the regeneration of the Jewish polity:—
1. The publication of the edict of Cyrus in behalf of the Jews, which caused a general shaking or stir among the people, so that the several families began to approach each other and prepare for their return to Judea (Ezr ). But though partially restored, they were obliged to discontinue the rebuilding of the Temple.
2. The edict published by Darius in the second year of his reign (Ezr ), which removed the impediments thrown in the way of the Jews (Ezr 6:6-7).
3. The mission of Nehemiah with orders from Artaxerxes to complete the building of the Temple and the city (Neh ). Then the Jews became a great army, and found themselves in sufficient force to defend themselves and city from all their enemies."—A. Clarke.
—"The vision secondarily sets forth the spiritual resurrection of the people of God now through the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost; and then hereafter their literal resurrection also, through the same Spirit (Rom ; Php 3:20). It needs the same Almighty power to raise a sinner from his natural state of spiritual death as it does to raise a corpse to life. To man both alike are impossible. But faith believes in the power and will of God to quicken the dead where to sense the case would seem hopeless. The spiritual resurrection is not instantaneously complete, but is progressive. At first there is the outward and inward preparation for the reception of the Spirit of life, and then at last the breath of life enters the man, and he becomes truly born again of the Spirit. Let us never be satisfied with the outward semblances of spiritual life—the bones, sinews, flesh, and skin—which give the form of beauty and life, but which are not the life itself. None but living believers shall stand before the living God. Prayer is the means whereby to obtain the breath of spiritual life, both for ourselves and for others (Eze 37:9; Sol. Son 4:16)."—Fausset.
Eze . "If the voice of the Holy Ghost is heard in the heart, then there is a movement of the heart, and blessed is he who obeys the impulse."—Starck.
Eze . "The spirit and not the uniform is that which truly unifies, and the consciences of men are not to be dealt with as the regimental tailor deals with soldiers."—Lange.
Eze . "When ministers succeed in promoting a law-work on the mind, always in due time mixing comfort with terror, they must turn their eyes to heaven and become advocates and intercessors for the promised Comforter. Our sermons have too much of the didactic; we divide, explain, and teach. We dwell on words and truths already understood. But after setting good things before an audience, why may we not assist piety in uttering the wishes of their hearts to obtain them? The frequent prayers which St. Paul mixes with his discourses are the most pathetic and touching parts of his writings."—Sutcliffe.
—"Vision of the Dry Bones—a theme for a missionary sermon.
1. A striking description of the religious state of the heathen world.
(1.) The persons made the subject of this prophetic vision are represented as dead.
(2.) The number of the dead forms another part of the picture—‘the valley was full of bones.'
(3.) They were unburied. The destructive effects of sin, the sad ravages of death, lay exposed and open to the sun.
(4.) The state of the dead—‘the bones were very dry.' Under this strong figure the hopelessness of their condition is represented.
2. The means by which its mystical resurrection is to be effected.
(1.) The ministry of the Word is the grand means appointed by God for the salvation of the world.
(2.) The words may be considered as an injunction on the preachers of the Gospel—‘Prophesy unto these dry bones.'
(3.) The injunction ‘Prophesy' respects not only ministers, but you also who have a private station in the Church. 3. The certain success which should follow the application of the appointed means.
(1.) Our confidence rests on the power of the Gospel.
(2) Our confidence in the certain success of the Gospel rests also on experience.
(3.) Prophecy confirms the certainty of success."—R. Watson.
Eze . "‘An exceeding great army.' A power, 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."—Pool.
Eze . National Life—
1. Dependent on God for its worth and permanence.
2. Sinks into decay and oblivion when it ignores God.
3. Indebted for its revival to the goodness and power of God.
Eze . "‘Our hope is lost.' Let them hope as hope can: we have hanged up all our hopes now that the city and Temple are destroyed. Thus carnal confidence, as it riseth up into a corky, frothy hope when it seeth sufficient help, so it sitteth down into a faithless, sullen discontent and despair when it can see no second causes."—Trapp.
—The language of unbelief makes the calamity great, and God's power to help little.
Eze . "Though your captivity be as death, your prisons 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. When your restitution to your own land and your prosperity in it, 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."—Pool.
THE UNITY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
I. Promoted by the blending of hostile nationalities into a universal brotherhood (Eze ). We have here another example of the realism of Ezekiel's method of teaching. By the bringing together of two separate rods, or sceptres, till they appeared as one in the hand of the prophet, he illustrated the approaching union of the rival kingdoms of Judah and Israel. The misfortunes of the past had been intensified by the rupture of the kingdom of David. Internecine wars had weakened both North and South and left the exhausted tribes an easy prey to the heathen invaders. The removal of the ten tribes into Assyrian exile more than a century and a half before toned down the bitterness of ancient animosities in the breasts of the two tribes still left in the land; and when they, in their turn, suffered the miseries of exile, a spirit of brotherhood was awakened among all the tribes, and they yearned for the time when they should again become a united nation. The prophets no less than the people looked forward to this desirable consummation. They saw that the fires of affliction were already fusing the broken and scattered elements into a strongly welded national unity. But in the wider scope of the prophetic vision, the union of Israel and Judah was regarded as a type of the future union of all nations in the universal kingdom of Messiah. In the march of the centuries and the advancement of knowledge the nations are being drawn closer to each other; war, hatred, and jealousy will ultimately disappear, and peace and righteousness everywhere prevail:—
"O scenes surpassing fable, and yet true,
Scenes of accomplished bliss! Which who can see,
Though but in distant prospect, and not feel
His soul refreshed with foretaste of the joy?
Antipathies are none. In the heart
No passion touches a discordant string,
But all is harmony and love."—Cowper.
II. Acknowledges the supreme authority of the one Divine King. "I will make them one nation, and one king shall be king to them all. David My servant shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd. My servant David shall be their prince for ever" (Eze ). It was plainly revealed that the coming Messiah-King was to be a descendant of David, the Jewish hero, and both prophets and people expected that he would restore the kingdom on the lines of its ancient constitution, for they knew nothing higher. The conception of a purely spiritual kingdom was altogether beyond the range of human thought, and was not dreamed of till proclaimed by the lips of our Lord. Even then the idea was but slowly comprehended by the best-instructed Jewish minds; and the rejection of the true Messiah by the bulk of the Jewish nation shows how unwilling or incapable they were to take in the sublime notion. It is only by the light of the New Testament that a later age has been able to realise the far-reaching significance of the prophetic vision. The true Israel is not a political but a spiritual community, gathered out of all nations under heaven, compacted and unified into a spiritual kingdom, acknowledging and serving one Divine Ruler, who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
III. Established by the Divinely imparted righteousness of its subjects (Eze ). Sin disintegrates and scatters, as the chequered history of the Jewish nation proves. But the stability and permanent unity of the Messianic kingdom will be ensured in the fact that it is built up and established in righteousness. It is composed of sanctified natures from which the enfeebling defilement of iniquity will be cleansed, and the changed lives of its subjects will be evidenced in practical holiness. "They shall walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes and do them." It is:—
"The kingdom of established peace,
Which can no more remove;
The perfect power of godliness,
The omnipotence of love."
IV. Confirmed by a perpetual covenant (Eze ). The terms of the covenant have a Divine origin and sanction—"I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Here is the guarantee of its inviolability. Had it rested on political or any human considerations, it would have been insecure. God is ever faithful to His part of the covenant, notwithstanding the infidelity and ingratitude of His people. It is, moreover, a covenant of peace—the moral breach occasioned by sin is healed by pardon and reconciliation through the intervention of Messiah, who by His offered and accepted sacrifice has made it possible to subdue the inveterate enmity of the human heart and bring man into spiritual union with God. The reality and perpetuity of the covenant are assured by the abiding presence of God with His people. "I will set up My sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore." The unity of the Divine kingdom will be maintained by incessant worship and the loftiest spiritual fellowship.
V. Demonstrates the Divine faithfulness (Eze ). Israel had sinned and had defamed the reputation of Jehovah, and in their sufferings, which rendered them a spectacle of wonder and a theme of derision, their enemies entertained false and distorted views of the God of Israel. But in the moral reform of Israel and the unmistakable evidence of God's presence and working amongst them, the heathen are compelled to own that He is the only true God, and unalterably faithful in word and deed. The growing unity of the kingdom of righteousness is an ever-present object-lesson to the universe, teaching the indefectible faithfulness of Jehovah.
1. The unity of the kingdom of God is founded in spiritual affinity to the Divine.
2. Is in process of organisation wherever Christ is embraced and worshipped.
3. Will one day be a grand reality.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Eze . "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 commonwealth. 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 the right to rule over the heritage of God, and to abide in separation from it was to continue in rebellion against Heaven. That there has been no adequate fulfilment of this prophecy in what may be called the literal sense of its terms is too plain to require any lengthened proof. 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; 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 realised after that manner in the ages to come."—Fairbairn.
Eze . Joining the Sticks. "
1. Learn the sad condition of the people of Israel at the time the prophet wrote.
(1.) It was contrary to nature.
(2.) Displeasing to God.
(3.) Disastrous to themselves.
2. The happy condition to which the people of Israel were about to be restored. That of unity, harmony, oneness.
(1.) Union is of great importance to the Church itself.
(2.) It is an immense advantage to the surrounding community.
(3.) It is well-pleasing and highly honouring to God.
3. The agency by which this delightful change was to be effected.
(1.) God breathed into them a principle of spiritual life.
(2.) He sent them wise advisers and earnest intercessors.
(3.) He visited them with a sore trial—captivity.
(4.) He appointed them a common work—the rebuilding of the city and Temple of Jerusalem.
(5.) He makes His residence in their midst. Christ in the midst of a Church acts like a magnet in the midst of steel particles: He attracts all to Himself."—Pulpit Analyst.
Eze . "A cleft stick is a poor business in itself, but if God please to make use of so slender a thing, it may serve for a very great purpose; as here by the uniting of two sorry sticks in the hands of the prophet is prefigured the uniting of Judah and Israel, yea, of Jews and Gentiles, in the hand of the Lord—that is, in Christ Jesus, who is the hand, the right hand and the arm of God the Father."—Trapp.
Eze . "‘Join them one to another.' 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."—Pool.
Eze . The Unity of the People of God—
1. Has its basis in their united love of God.
2. Strengthened by Divinely ordered events. "I will make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand" (Eze ).
3. Admits of great diversity of individual character. Each tribe had its distinctive peculiarity.
4. Shall be openly recognised. "The sticks shall be in thine hand before their eyes" (Eze ).
Eze . "I will once more bring them all under one King and make them of one mind. Religion is the only best bond of affection. The very heathens honoured the primitive Christians for their unanimity. As the curtains of the Tabernacle were joined by loops, so were they by love; and as the stones of the Temple were so closely cemented together that they seemed to be but one stone, so was it among them. Neither need we wonder, since Christ's Church is but one; neither is there any such oneness or entireness anywhere as among the saints. Other societies are but as the clay in the toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image: they may cleave together, but not incorporate one into another."—Trapp.
Eze . "As the separation of Judah and Ephraim was the punishment of apostasy, and led to still further evils, religious and political, so hereafter, when both are one with God, through the spirit of life uniting them to the one Covenant-Head, Messiah-David, they shall be united to one another as no longer two but one people. In respect to the spiritual Israel, the Church, nothing has more impeded the progress of the Gospel than the mutual divisions of professing Christians. Let us pray for the blessed time when all Christians shall be one inwardly and outwardly, as the Lord Jesus prayed (Joh 17:21). Meanwhile, if in non-essentials we differ for a time, let us endeavour at least to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."—Fausset.
Eze . National Unity—
1. Conditioned by geographical environment "I will gather them on every side, and make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel" (Eze ).
2. Confirmed by the suppression of tribal feuds and animosities. "They shall be no more two nations" (Eze ).
3. Cemented by good government. "One king shall be king to them all. David, my servant, shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd" (Eze ; Eze 37:24).
4. Has a solid foundation in practical piety. "Neither shall they defile themselves any more with idols: they shall walk in My judgments, and do them" (Eze ).
5. Secures permanency of national life. "They shall dwell in the land, they and their children's children for ever" (Eze ).
Eze . "Politically speaking, they never had a king from that day to this, and the grand junction and government spoken of here must refer to another time—to that in which they shall be brought into the Christian Church with the fulness of the Gentiles, when Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, shall rule over them."—A. Clarke.
Eze . "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 nowhere that they fell into idolatry."—Pool.
Eze . "No Christian is a bad man, unless he be a counterfeit."—Athenagoras.
Eze . The Presence of God with His People—
1. Guaranteed by covenant relationship. "I will make a covenant of peace with them: I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Eze ).
2. An assurance of stability and increase. "I will place them and multiply them" (Eze ).
3. A motive fur loftiest worship. "I will set My sanctuary in the midst of them: My tabernacle shall be with them" (Eze ).
4. A testimony to the Divine faithfulness. "The heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel" (Eze ).
Eze . "‘It shall be an everlasting covenant with them,' may be fitly explained of the Gospel, being such a covenant as shall never be abolished or give way to any new dispensation. It is certain that the expression, ‘a covenant of peace,' could not at all agree with the ancient covenant; for when was there an age, half an age, or twenty years' peace in Israel? The whole history of the Jewish nation is nothing more than a recital of wars and continual divisions. And if we understand it of peace between God and His people, where shall we find this people faithfully attached to the Lord during one century only? We have only to open the books of the prophets and the other sacred records to remark their infidelities and perpetual rebellions against God. This expression, therefore, can only respect the new covenant whereof Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is the Mediator, and who gives us that true peace which surpasses all conceptions."—Benson.
—"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, 34, 35, 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.
3. But there being manifestly ideal features introduced into the delineation, clearly betokens a kind and degree of blessing which could not have been completely fulfilled under the old covenant.
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.
5. Therefore, in forming one's conceptions now of the real import of such prophecies, 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. Those 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. 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 expected, from the outward distinctions and limits of the Old.
7. The common interpretation which understands Christ by David, and takes all the rest literally, must inevitably tend to justify the Jew in his unbelief."—Fairbairn.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany