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By the resurrection of dry bones, the dead hope of Israel is revived. By the uniting of two sticks, is shewed the incorporation of Israel with Judah. The promises of Christ's kingdom.
Before Christ 587.
Ezekiel 37:1. The hand of the Lord was upon me— It is the general opinion of the best commentators, that all this passed in vision. The first and great object of this prophesy seems evidently to be, the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity. Bishop Warburton observes, that the messengers of God prophesying for the people's consolation in disastrous times, frequently promise a restoration to the former days of felicity; and, to obviate all distrust from unpromising appearances, they put the case even at the worst, and assure the people in metaphorical expressions, that though the community were as intirely dissolved as a dead body reduced to dust, yet God would raise up that community again to life. Though the generality of commentators, says Mr. Peters, regard this vision and prophesy as no other than a figurative representation and prediction of a return of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon, or some other of their captivities and dispersions; yet, perhaps, we shall find upon a more attentive consideration, that whatever hopes it might give them of a temporal and national deliverance or prosperity, yet there was evidently something farther designed; and that to comfort them in their distressed situation, with the prospect of a future resurrection in a proper sense, was at least as much intended by the Spirit of God, or rather more so than the other. See on Ezekiel 37:10.
Ezekiel 37:3. Can these bones live?— Shall these bones revive? Houbigant, who observes very justly, that the question is not concerning the possibility of the fact; for the prophet well knew that God could do all things. But the Lord, introductory to what follows, asks him whether these bones should now revive, or not. And though this be the right interpretation of the place, yet a resurrection from the dead is very justly collected from it: for, "A simile of the resurrection (says St. Jerome) would never have been used to signify the restoration of the people of Israel, unless such a future resurrection had been believed and known; because nobody ever confirms uncertain things by things which have no existence." See Houbigant's note.
Ezekiel 37:6. And I will lay, &c.— For, &c.
Ezekiel 37:9. Prophesy unto the wind, &c.— It is very remarkable, that our Saviour not only appeals to Moses and the prophets, in attestation of his own divine mission and character; but where he treats of the resurrection and a general judgment, so evidently alludes to the words of the prophets, which were read in their synagogues every sabbath-day, that his audience could not but perceive it, and make suitable reflections on it. Compare Luk 21:27 and Joh 5:27 with Dan 7:13-14 and Joh 5:28 with Daniel 7:2. So here the prophet is bid to prophesy unto the wind, or spirit; and accordingly, at the voice of the prophet, here called Son of man, as a type of another and greater person so called, the dry bones came together, and at length the breath or spirit came into them. Conformably with which, our Saviour tells us, that the hour is coming, in which all that are in the grave shall hear his voice, &c. See John 5:28-29. Mat 24:31 and Peters.
Ezekiel 37:10-11. An exceeding great army— This vision itself, in the first place, affords a very lively image of the resurrection; next, they who are raised to life again, are said to be an exceeding great army; the Hebrew is still more emphatical, and even labours for expression: מאד מאד meod meod, A very very great army; like that of all nations and kindreds and people, which no man could number, Revelation 7:9. It is yet farther observable, that these dry bones, so miraculously raised to life, are called, Ezekiel 37:11. The whole house of Israel; an expression to which the return from the captivity of Babylon can never wholly answer; for it is most certain, that the whole house of Israel did not return: no, nor yet the whole house of Judah, but only a small remnant of them. If some more glorious return of that people, and their conversion to the Christian faith, is still to be expected, (Romans 11:25-26.) yet it may be questioned whether even this will fully answer the intent of the prophesy: for, to have a right notion of this matter, it may behove us to consider carefully the complaint of the captive Jews, to which this prophetic message is applied as a remedy. The complaint we have in these words; Behold, say they, our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: We are cut off for our parts; that is to say, as to ourselves. Hebrew לנו lanu. Certainly there must be something meant by this expression; and if there be, let any one judge whether a deliverance of their sons and grandsons from the Babylonish captivity (for none can say that they were promised it before the end of seventy years, of which the far greater part was still behind,) could any way answer the complaint here made, of a lost hope, or a despair, as to themselves; much less a promise of a deliverance to their late posterity, at the distance of some hundreds or thousands of years, though we conceive it to be never so great and glorious. Take the words that follow, then, in their obvious sense, and as a promise of some personal happiness to those who faithfully adhere to God in all their straits and difficulties, and it affords a consolation highly worthy of the divine omnipotence and greatness to reach out to his creatures; and though we suppose them before acquainted with the doctrine of the resurrection, yet there is something in this plain and circumstantial account of it, delivered with such high authority, which could not but renew upon their minds a pleasing hope and expectation of it, sufficient to silence all complaints.
Ezekiel 37:12-14. Behold, O my people— That is, you who are truly such: for this most gracious appellation seems evidently taken from the words of the covenant so often mentioned; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. There would be no difficulty in this passage, if we only take the land of Israel, Eze 37:12 and your own land, Eze 37:14 as meant of that land of promise, or that better country, which the faithful all along believed in, and hoped for, Heb 11:16 that land, in short, which the true Israel of God should inherit for ever, Isaiah 60:20-21. Such a prospect as this was exactly fitted to obviate their complaints, which I think no other sense of the words can do fully. I might add, that as the doctrines of the Messiah and the future state are constantly united in the views and declarations of the prophets, so this plain description of a resurrection is followed by as plain a prophesy of the Messiah in the latter part of the chapter; who, by the well-known appellation of David, from whom he was to descend, was to be the one shepherd, king, and prince, over Judah and Ephraim, or the converted Jews and Gentiles. See Ezekiel 37:24-25.
Ezekiel 37:16. Take thee one stick, &c.— Take—and write upon it, Judah, and the children of Israel, &c. Then—Joseph, the stick Ephraim, and of all the house, &c. The design of this metaphorical action was to mark out the reunion of the tribes, after the return from Babylon; but, in a more elevated sense, the assemblage, not only of the Jews of all the tribes, but also of the people of all nations, to the church of Jesus Christ. See Rom 11:17-18 the subsequent verses of this chapter, Numbers 17:2. 2 Chronicles 11:12; 2Ch 13:16 and Calmet.
Ezekiel 37:23. But I will save them, &c.— And I will save, or deliver them from all their transgressions. Houbigant after the LXX.
Ezekiel 37:26. A covenant of peace— Could this expression at all agree with the ancient covenant? When have we seen an age, half an age, of peace in Israel, except in the time of the Judges? 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 Testament, whereof Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is the Mediator, and who gives us that true peace which surpasses all conception. See Php 4:7 and Calmet. Instead of, I will place them, Houbigant reads, I will be their leader. The expression, my sanctuary or tabernacle, which refers to the tabernacle or temple placed among the Jews, is typical of Jesus Christ, who is the true tabernacle, pitched by God, and not man. See Psalms 89:3.Jeremiah 32:40; Jeremiah 32:40. Eze 34:25. 2 Corinthians 6:16. Revelation 21:3.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. The vision. Under the powerful impulse of the Spirit, the prophet is carried into the valley full of dry bones, disjointed and scattered in confusion; an emblem of the Jewish people now captives in Babylon, so dispersed that, to human view, their recovery was as much despaired of as the restoration of dry bones to life. Therefore, when asked, Can these bones live? he replies, O Lord, thou knowest. Nothing short of Omnipotence can effect the amazing miracle.
2. The prophet is commanded to prophesy upon or over these dry bones, and to call on them to attend; O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. And since, without a divine energy accompanying his word, their restoration to life could not be accomplished, he is ordered to pray unto the Spirit for his quickening influences; Come, O Breath, or Spirit, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live: and, though the work might seem strange and fruitless, the prophet obeyed. Note; While the ministers of the Gospel are crying aloud to sinners, they must be looking up to God, and pouring out their souls in prayer to him who quickeneth the dead.
3. A wonderful effect followed his prophesying; for they who go forth in dependence on the divine power, shall see the wonders of God's grace. A noise and shaking ensued, each bone joined his fellow, and flesh and sinews grew upon them; and, at the prophet's invocation, life entered into them, according to the promise, and they stood up, an exceeding great army. Thus, by the proclamation of Cyrus, the captives were assembled; and, by the divine Spirit animated, they were enabled to overcome all the difficulties in their way. And we have here also a representation, [1.] Of our spiritual resurrection from the death of sin; by the preaching of the word a shaking is occasioned among the souls dead in trespasses and sins; deep convictions make them tremble; and to those souls which yield to those convictions, spiritual life is communicated by the power of the Holy Ghost through faith in Christ. [2.] Of the resurrection of the body in the last day, when all our scattered atoms shall be reunited, and the same body be raised by the power of God to life eternal.
4. The application of the whole to the house of Israel. They were these dry bones; reduced to the lowest state of abject misery, and abandoning themselves to despair. But in the time of our deeper distress God will make his power and grace more eminently known, if we turn to him; therefore the prophet is commanded to assure them, that God will deliver them from their captivity, which was like opening the graves to the dead, and give them life, in their restoration to the comfortable and peaceable possession of their own land. God hath spoken, and will perform it; they may confidently trust him. Note; (1.) In times of sore temptation, and long continued distress, our faith is too often ready to faint, and unbelief to prevail. (2.) Though we despair of ourselves, our state is not therefore desperate; God can do for us more than we can think.
2nd, For the encouragement of the faithful among the captives, great things are promised which God will do for them.
1. The two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, so long separated, and so often vexatious to each other, shall be reunited, and become one people; and this is represented by the joining of two sticks in the prophet's hand; on one of which was inscribed the name of Judah and his companions, the tribe of Benjamin and those of the other tribes who on the revolt cleaved to the house of David; on the other the name of Ephraim, and his companions the house of Israel, of which Samaria, that lay in the lot of Ephraim, was the capital. The people who saw the sign would naturally be inquisitive, and desire to know the meaning; and he must inform them, that as these sticks became one in his hand, so should they become one people in God's hand; no mutual jealousies, no jarring discord, shall remain; but, returning together from their captivity, they shall become one nation, under one king: which was primarily fulfilled on their return from Babylon; but seems principally to refer to Gospel times, when, under the king Messiah, Jews and Gentiles shall become one people, the partition wall being broken down, and they shall have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and be one fold under one Shepherd.
2. All their idolatries shall be for ever done away. After their return from Babylon they never more relapsed into idolatry: God, having saved them from the places of temptation, delivered them also from all inclination to their former idolatrous abominations. Note; (1.) It is a singular mercy when God saves us from the places and persons who have been a temptation to us, and by his gracious providence removes us from the evil. (2.) God will save all sincere believers from their sins; not only from their actual prevalence, but he will mortify also their desire after them; and indeed, unless the heart be cleansed, it would signify little to have the temptation merely removed.
3. They shall be taken into covenant with God: They shall be his people, his grace will cause the glorious change in their repentant souls; and he will be their God, to bless, preserve, and protect them. David, the Messiah, the Son of David, shall be their king and shepherd, to guard them from their enemies, to feed them under his care, making all his believing people obedient in all things to his blessed will, if they simply, fully, and constantly cleave to him.
4. They shall enjoy in peace the inheritance of their ancestors, transmitting it to children's children; and shall be safe and happy under the rule of their anointed king Messiah. And this seems to direct us, for the full accomplishment of the prophesy, to future times; when this unhappy people, now so dispersed, shall receive the Lord's Christ, and to the end of time enjoy the blessings of his government. Note; Christ's subjects, the children of Zion, may well be joyful in their king.
5. God himself will dwell in the midst of them in a glorious manner in those last days. They shall not only be increased and established, but enjoy the special tokens of his presence. His sanctuary and tabernacle, erected among them, shall never more be destroyed; Jesus, the true tabernacle, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the God-head bodily, shall be in the midst of them; and in his church they shall see his glory, and maintain communion with him in the ordinances of his service, and find, to their unspeakable comfort, God to be their god, while they share in all the blessings of his people.
6. God will be glorified among the heathen in such his dispensations of mercy toward his Israel; They shall know that he doth sanctify Israel, by such evident marks of his love, by such powerful operations of his grace upon them, and by the erection of his sanctuary among them. Note; They who enjoy the privileges of the sanctuary, must shew the influence it has upon them in the sanctification of their hearts and lives.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13