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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Ezekiel 37

 

 

Verse 1

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,

Three stages in Israel's revival present themselves to the prophet's eye:

(1) The new awakening of the people, the resurrection of the dead (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

(2) The re-union of the formerly hostile members of the community, whose contentions had affected the whole (Ezekiel 37:15-28).

(3) The community thus restored is strong enough to withstand the assault of Gog, etc. (Ezekiel 38:1-23; Ezekiel 39:1-29.) (Ewald.)

Carried ... in the Spirit. The matters transacted, therefore, were not literal, but in vision. The valley - probably "the plain" by the Chebar (Ezekiel 3:22); the valley represents Mesopotamia, the scene of Israel's sojourn in her state of national deadness.


Verse 2

And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.

Lo, they were very dry - bleached by long exposure to the atmosphere.


Verse 3

And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.

Can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest - implying that, humanly speaking, they could not; but faith leaves the question of possibility to rest with God, with whom nothing is impossible (Deuteronomy 32:39). An image of Christian faith, which believes in the coming general resurrection of the dead, in spite of all appearances against it, because God has said it (John 5:21; Romans 4:17; 2 Corinthians 1:9).


Verse 4

Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.

Prophesy upon these bones - i:e., prophesy over them; proclaim God's quickening word to them. On account of this innate power of the Divine Word to effect its end, prophets are said to do that which they prophesy as about to be done (Jeremiah 1:10).


Verse 5

Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:

I will cause breath to enter into you - so Isaiah 26:19, containing the same vision, refers primarily to Israel's restoration. Compare as to God's renovation of the earth and all its creatures hereafter by His breath, Psalms 104:30.

Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live - ye shall come to life again.


Verse 6

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 the LORD.

Ye shall know that I am the Lord - by the actual proof of my divinity which I will give in reviving Israel.


Verse 7

So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.

As I prophesied, there was a noise - the noise of the bones when coming in mutual collision. Perhaps referring, to the decree of Cyrus, or the noise of the Jews' exultation at their deliverance and return.

Bones came together - literally, 'ye bones came together;' as in Jeremiah 49:11 (Hebrew), 'ye widows of thine shall trust in me.' The second person puts the scene vividly before one's eyes. For the whole resurrection-scene is a prophecy in action, to render more palpably to the people the prophecy in word ( Ezekiel 37:21).


Verse 8

And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.

And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above - so far, they were only cohering 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 (Zechariah 13:8-9). Spiritually, a man may assume all the semblances of spiritual life, yet unconverted at first (Zechariah 13:8-9). Spiritually, a man may assume all the semblances of spiritual life, yet have none, and so be dead before God.


Verse 9

Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

Say to the wind - rather, 'say to the spirit of life' or life-breath, (margin) For it is distinct from "the four winds" from which it is summoned.

From the four winds - implying that Israel is to be gathered from the four quarters of the earth (Isaiah 43:5-6; Jeremiah 31:8), even as they were "scattered into all the winds" (Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 12:14; Ezekiel 17:21 : cf. Revelation 7:1; Revelation 7:4).


Verse 10

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.

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 - such honour God gives to the divine word, even in the month of a man; how much more when in the mouth of the Son of God! (John 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 recognized by believing Jews, and so made the image of their national restoration (so Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:10; Daniel 12:2; Hosea 6:2; Hosea 13:14 : cf. note, Ezekiel 37:12).


Verse 11

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

Our bones are dried - (Psalms 141:7) explained by "our hope is lost" (Isaiah 49:14); our national state is as hopeless of resuscitation as marrowless bones are of re-animation.

Cut off for our parts - i:e., so far as we are concerned. There is nothing in us to give hope, like a withered branch "cut off" from a tree, or a limb from the body.


Verse 12

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

O my people - in antithesis to "for our parts" (Ezekiel 37:11). The hope that is utterly gone, if looking at themselves, is sure for them in God, because He regards them as His people. Their covenant-relation to God ensures His not letting death permanently reign over them. Christ makes the same principle the ground on which the literal resurrection rests. God had said, "I am the God of Abraham," etc.; God, by taking the patriarchs as His, undertook to do for them all that Omnipotence can perform: He, being the ever-living God, is necessarily the God of, not dead, but living persons - i:e., of those whose bodies His covenant-love binds Him to raise again. He can, and, because he can, He will-He must (Fairbairn). (Matthew 22:31-32; Luke 20:37-38.) He calls them "my people" when receiving thorn into favour; but "thy people" in addressing His servant, as if He would put them away from Him (Ezekiel 13:17; Ezekiel 33:2; Exodus 32:7).

I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves - out of your politically dead state, primarily in Babylon, finally hereafter in all lands (cf. Ezekiel 6:8; Hosea 13:14). The Jews regarded the lands of their captivity and dispersion as their "graves;" their restoration was to be as "life from the dead" (Romans 11:15). Before, the bones were in the open plain (Ezekiel 37:1-2); now, in the graves - i:e., some of the Jews were in the graves of actual captivity, others at large, but dispersed. Both alike were nationally dead.


Verses 13-15

And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 16

Moreover, 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: Take thee one stick - alluding to Numbers 17:2, the tribal rod. The union of the two rods was a prophecy in action of the brotherly union which is to re-unite 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 to one another under the one covenant-King, Messiah-David.

And write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions - i:e., 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 (2 Chronicles 11:12-13; 2 Chronicles 11:16; 2 Chronicles 15:9; 2 Chronicles 30:11; 2 Chronicles 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 (cf. Ezekiel 37:19) but of the ton 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 (Genesis 48:19; 1 Chronicles 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 only attached as "companions" "the children of Israel" (i:e., some of them-namely, those who followed the fortunes of Judah), 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 with that tribe at the restoration.


Verse 17

And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 18

And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?

When the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these? God does not explain the symbolical prophecy until the Jews have been stimulated by the type to consult the prophet.


Verse 19

Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.

Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. The union, effected at the restoration from Babylon embraced but comparatively few of Israel; a future complete fulfillment must therefore be looked for.

Stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim. Ephraim, of the descendants of Joseph, had exercised the rule among the ten tribes: that rule, symbolized by the "stick," was now to be withdrawn from him, and to be made one with the other-Judah's rule-in God's hand.

And will put them. The "stick of Joseph" would strictly require "it;" but Ezekiel expresses the sense-namely, the ten tribes who were subject to it.

With him - i:e., with Judah; or "it," i:e., the stick of Judah.


Verse 20-21

And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 22

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:

And I will make them one nation - (Isaiah 11:13, "The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not, envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim;" Jeremiah 3:18; Hosea 1:11, "Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head").

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 forever. MESSIAH is meant (Ezekiel 34:23-24.) The union of Judah and Israel under King Messiah symbolizes the union of Jews and Gentiles under Him, partly now, perfectly hereafter (Ezekiel 37:24; John 10:16).


Verse 23

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 dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.

Neither shall they defile themselves anymore with their idols - (Ezekiel 36:25, "From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you").

I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned - (Ezekiel 36:28; Ezekiel 36:33). I will remove them from the scene of their idolatries, to dwell in their own land, and to serve idols no more.


Verse 24

And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.

And David my servant shall be king over them - Messiah (notes, Ezekiel 34:23-24.)


Verse 25

And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.

They shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children, forever - (Isaiah 60:21, "Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land forever;" Joel 3:20, "Judah shall dwell forever, and Jerusalem from, generation to generation;" Amos 9:15, "I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord God").


Verse 26

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.

Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them - better than the old legal covenant, because an unchangeable covenant of grace (Ezekiel 34:25; Isaiah 55:3; Jeremiah 32:40).

And I will place them - I will set them in an established position; no longer unsettled, as heretofore.

And will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore - the temple of God: spiritual in the heart of all true followers of Messiah (2 Corinthians 6:16); and, in some literal sense, in the restored Israel (Ezekiel 40:1-49; Ezekiel 41:1-26; Ezekiel 42:1-20; Ezekiel 43:1-27; Ezekiel 44:1-31.)


Verse 27

My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

My tabernacle also shall be with them - as foretold (Genesis 9:27, "He (God) shall dwell in the tents of Shem;" John 1:14, "The Word ... dwelt among us" (literally, tabernacled, eskeenoosen (Greek #4637)); first in humiliation, hereafter in manifested glory, Revelation 21:3).


Verse 28

And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

The heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel - (Ezekiel 36:23, "The pagan shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes").

Sanctify Israel - i:e., set it apart at holy unto myself and inviolable (Exodus 30:5-6).

Remarks:

(1) This vision is designed primarily to cheer up the desponding Jews in their captivity. They compared themselves, in response to national vitality, to dry bones scattered at the grave's month (Psalms 141:7). There seemed to them no hope of restoration to their former political and religious life as a people (Ezekiel 37:11); like bones in a valley, bleached by long exposure to the atmosphere, they sojourned in the Mesopotamian plain, helpless and hopeless, so far as human power is concerned. But faith leaves the question of possibilities with God, believing that nothing is impossible which He declares shall be done, however impossible it may seem to the eye of sense and human reason (Ezekiel 37:3). In this chapter God gives His promise of the resurrection of Israel, and faith accepts it accordingly (Ezekiel 37:5-6). The first step in their restoration is, the prophet, is directed "Prophesy upon these dry bones." As yet they were utterly senseless; therefore the prophet was to prophesy over them, not unto them.

But they were to be called on to "hear" the quickening word of the Lord. Ezekiel was so to prophesy that the word of the Lord should fall "upon" them. The result immediately followed: "There was a noise, and a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone" (Ezekiel 37:7). Then "the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above" (Ezekiel 37:8). As yet there was no breath in them. But this also was presently added, the Lord God by His prophet summoning the breath of life from the four quarters where they were scattered, and causing the vivifying spirit to "breathe upon the slain." So they came to life, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army (Ezekiel 37:10). Such is the life, national and spiritual, which is before Israel When she shall be restored to her own land (Ezekiel 37:12-14). God hath said it, and He will perform it (Ezekiel 37:14). Let us therefore not be faithless, but believing. Let the Jew occupy in our mind, and in our efforts, the prominent place which he does in the purposes of God.

(2) The vision secondarily also sets forth the spiritual resurrection of the people of God now through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit; and then, hereafter, their literal resurrection also, through the same Spirit of Jesus (Romans 8:11), which raised Him from the dead, "according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:21). 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 (Ezekiel 37:3). It is in the hearing of the word of God (Ezekiel 37:4) that the Spirit moves: for "faith cometh, by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

The spiritual resurrection, however, 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 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. Let us, then, often pray, "Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south: blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof (the spiritual graces of the Church) may flow out" (Song of Solomon 4:16). "Come, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live" (Ezekiel 37:9). No case is too desperate for the grace of God. So long as life lasts, "hope" need, never be "lost" (Ezekiel 37:11),: for though we men be "cut off for our parts," God is not cut short in power for His part. Then as to the literal resurrection of the body hereafter, we have the sure warrant of the word of Jesus, however 'incredible' it seem to reason (Acts 26:8), that "the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have dons evil, to the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29).

(3) God's covenant-relation to Israel as His people (Ezekiel 37:12) is the ground of assurance that He will not allow death permanently to reign over them. Such, too, is the principle on which rests the future deliverance by Christ of all His elect people from the bondage of corruption at the general resurrection (Luke 20:37-38).

(4) As the separation of Judah and Ephraim (that is, the kingdom of the ten tribes) was the punishment of apostasy, and led to still further evils, religions 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 (Ezekiel 37:15-19; Ezekiel 37:22). 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, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 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.

(5) God makes with all His elect, as with Israel, "a covenant of peace," and this "an everlasting covenant." He dwells in them now, as His earthly sanctuary, by His Spirit (Ezekiel 37:26). He will hereafter dwell among them visibly, with the fall manifestation of His glory, when "the tabernacle of God shall be with men" (Revelation 21:3); and "God Himself shall be with them, and shall be their God" (Ezekiel 37:27). Let us, therefore, as the redeemed of the Lord, live conformably to our high calling, and to such glorious hopes!

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-37.html. 1871-8.

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Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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