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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Ezekiel 37

 

 

Introduction

Resurrection of Israel and Reunion as One Nation

This chapter contains two revelations from God (Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Ezekiel 37:15-28). In the first, the prophet is shown in a vision the resurrection of Israel to a new life. In the second, he is commanded to exhibit, by means of a symbolical act, the reunion of the divided kingdoms into a single nation under one king. Both of these he is to announce to the children of Israel. The substantial connection between these two prophecies will be seen from the exposition. Ezekiel 37:1-14. Resurrection of Israel to New Life


Verses 1-14

Ezekiel 37:1. There came upon me the hand of Jehovah, and Jehovah led me out in the spirit, and set me down in the midst of the valley; this was full of bones. Ezekiel 37:2. And He led me past them round about; and, behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and, behold, they were very dry. Ezekiel 37:3. And He said to me, Son of man, will these bones come to life? and I said, Lord, Jehovah, thou knowest. Ezekiel 37:4. Then He said to me, Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Ye dry bones, hear ye the word of Jehovah. Ezekiel 37:5. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to these bones, Behold, I bring breath into you, that ye may come to life. Ezekiel 37:6. I will create sinews upon you, and cause flesh to grow upon you, and cover you with skin, and bring breath into you, so that ye shall live and know that I am Jehovah. Ezekiel 37:7. And I prophesied as I was commanded; and there was a noise as I prophesied, and behold a rumbling, and the bones came together, bone to bone. Ezekiel 37:8. And I saw, and behold sinews came over them, and flesh grew, and skin drew over it above; but there was no breath in them. Ezekiel 37:9. Then He said to me, Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Come from the four winds, thou breath, and blow upon these slain, that they may come to life. Ezekiel 37:10. And I prophesied as I was commanded; then the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood upon their feet, a very, very great army. Ezekiel 37:11. And He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, our bones are dried, and our hope has perished; we are destroyed! Ezekiel 37:12. Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will open you graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, my people, and bring you into the land of Israel. Ezekiel 37:13. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, my people. Ezekiel 37:14. And I will put my Spirit into you, and will place you in your land, and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken and do it, is the saying of Jehovah. - This revelation divides itself into two sections. Ezekiel 37:1-10 contain the vision, and Ezekiel 37:11-14 give the interpretation. There are no particular difficulties in the description of the vision, so far as the meaning of the words is concerned. By a supernatural intervention on the part of God, Ezekiel is taken from his own home in a state of spiritual ecstasy into a valley which was full of dead men's bones. For the expression ' היתה עלי יד יי , see the comm. on Ezekiel 1:3. In the second clause of Ezekiel 37:1 יהוה is the subject, and is not to be taken as a genitive in connection with בּרוּח , as it has been by the Vulgate and Hitzig in opposition to the accents. בּרוּח stands for בּרוּח אלהים (Ezekiel 11:24), and אלהים is omitted simply because יהוה follows immediately afterwards. הניח , to set down, here and Ezekiel 40:2; whereas in other cases the form הנּיח is usually employed in this sense. The article prefixed to הבּקעה appears to point back to Ezekiel 3:22, to the valley where Ezekiel received the first revelation concerning the fate of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. That עצמים are dead men's bones is evident from what follows. העבירני עליהם , not “He led me over them round about,” but past them, in order that Ezekiel might have a clear view of them, and see whether it were possible for them to come to life again. They were lying upon the surface of the valley, i.e., not under, but upon the ground, and not piled up in a heap, but scattered over the valley, and they were very dry. The question asked by God, whether these bones could live, or come to life again, prepares the way for the miracle; and Ezekiel's answer, “Lord, Thou knowest” (cf. Revelation 7:14), implies that, according to human judgment, it was inconceivable that they could come to life any more, and nothing but the omnipotence of God could effect this.

After this introduction there follows in Ezekiel 37:4. the miracle of the raising to life of these very dry bones, accomplished through the medium of the word of God, which the prophet addresses to them, to show to the people that the power to realize itself is inherent in the word of Jehovah proclaimed by Ezekiel; in other words, that Jehovah possesses the power to accomplish whatever He promises to His people. The word in Ezekiel 37:5, “Behold, I bring breath into you, that ye may come to life,” announces in general terms the raising of them to life, whilst the process itself is more minutely described in Ezekiel 37:6. God will put on them (clothe them with) sinews, flesh, and skin, and then put רוּח in them. רוּח is the animating spirit or breath = רוּח היּים (Genesis 6:17; Genesis 7:17). , קרם ἁπ. λεγ . in Syriac incrustare, obducere . When Ezekiel prophesied there arose or followed a sound ( קול ), and then a shaking ( רעשׁ ), and the bones approached one another, every bone to its own bone. Different explanations have been given of the words קול and רעשׁ . קול signifies a sound or voice, and רעשׁ a trembling, and earthquake, and also a rumbling or a loud noise (compare Ezekiel 3:12 and Isaiah 9:4). The relation between the two words as they stand here is certainly not that the sound ( קול ) passes at once into a loud noise, or is continued in that form; whilst רעשׁ denotes the rattling or rustling of bones in motion. The fact that the moving of the bones toward one another is represented by ותּקרבוּ (with Vav consec. ), as the sequel to רעשׁ , is decisive against this. Yet we cannot agree with Kliefoth, that by קול we are to understand the trumpet-blast, or voice of God, that wakes the dead from their graves, according to those passages of the New Testament which treat of the resurrection, and by רעשׁ the earthquake which opens the graves. This explanation is precluded, not only by the philological difficulty that קול without any further definition does not signify either the blast of a trumpet or the voice of God, but also by the circumstance that the קול is the result of the prophesying of Ezekiel; and we cannot suppose that God would make His almighty call dependent upon a prophet's prophesying. And even in the case of רעשׁ , the reference to Ezekiel 38:19 does not prove that the word must mean earthquake in this passage also, since Ezekiel uses the word in a different sense in Ezekiel 12:18 and Ezekiel 3:12. We therefore take קול in the general sense of a loud noise, and רעשׁ in the sense of shaking (sc., of the bones), which was occasioned by the loud noise, and produced, or was followed by, the movement of the bones to approach one another.

The coming together of the bones was followed by their being clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin; but there was not yet any breath in them (Ezekiel 37:8). To give them this the prophet is to prophesy again, and that to the breath, that it come from the four winds or quarters of the world and breathe into these slain (Ezekiel 37:9). Then, when he prophesied, the breath came into them, so that they received life, and stood upright upon their feet. In Ezekiel 37:9 and Ezekiel 37:10 רוּח is rendered by some “wind,” by others “spirit;” but neither of these is in conformity with what precedes it. רוּח does not mean anything else than the breath of life, which has indeed a substratum in the wind, perceptible to the senses, but it not identical with it. The wind itself brings no life into dead bodies. If, therefore, the dead bodies become living, receive life through the blowing of the רוּח into them, what enters into them by the blowing cannot be a symbol of the breath of life, but must be the breath of life itself - namely, that divine breath of life which pervades all nature, giving and sustaining the life of all creatures (cf. Psalms 104:29-30). The expression פּחי בּהרוּגים points back to Genesis 2:7. The representation of the bringing of the dead bones to life in two acts may also be explained from the fact that it is based upon the history of the creation of man in Gen 2, as Theodoret

(Note: “For as the body of our forefather Adam was first moulded, and then the soul was thus breathed into it; so here also both combined in fitting harmony.” - Theodoret.)

has observed, and serves plainly to depict the creative revivification here, like the first creation there, as a work of the almighty God. For a correct understanding of the vision, it is also necessary to observe that in Ezekiel 37:9 the dead bones, clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin, are called הרוּגים , slain, killed, and not merely dead. It is apparent at once from this that our vision is not intended to symbolize the resurrection of all the dead, but simply the raising up of the nation of Israel, which has been slain. This is borne out by the explanation of the vision which God gives to the prophet in Ezekiel 37:1-14, and directs him to repeat to the people. The dead bones are the “whole house of Israel” that has been given up to death; in other words, Judah and Ephraim. “These bones” in Ezekiel 37:11 are the same as in Ezekiel 37:3 and Ezekiel 37:5, and not the bodies brought to life in Ezekiel 37:10; though Hitzig maintains that they are the latter, and then draws the erroneous conclusion that Ezekiel 37:11-14 do not interpret the vision of the first ten verses, but that the bones in the valley are simply explained in these verses as signifying the dead of Israel. It is true that the further explanation in Ezekiel 37:12. of what is described in Ezekiel 37:5-10 as happening to the dead bones is not given in the form of an exposition of the separate details of that occurrence, but is summed up in the announcement that God will open their graves, bring them out of their graves, and transport them to their own land. But it does not follow from this that the announcement is merely an application of the vision to the restoration of Israel to new life, and therefore that something different is represented from what is announced in Ezekiel 37:12-14. Such a view is at variance with the words, “these bones are the whole house of Israel.” Even if these words are not to be taken so literally as that we are to understand that the prophet was shown in the vision of the bones of the slain and deceased Israelites, but simply mean: these dead bones represent the house of Israel, depict the nation of Israel in its state of death, - they express so much in the clearest terms concerning the relation in which the explanation in Ezekiel 37:12-14 stands to the visionary occurrence in Ezekiel 37:4-10, namely, that God has shown to Ezekiel in the vision what He commands him to announce concerning Israel in Ezekiel 37:12-14; in other words, that the bringing of the dead bones to life shown to him in the vision was intended to place visibly before him the raising of the whole nation of Israel to new life out of the death into which it had fallen. This is obvious enough from the words: these bones are the whole house of Israel. כּל־בּית ישׂראל points forward to the reunion of the tribes of Israel that are severed into two nations, as foretold in Ezekiel 37:15. It is they who speak in Ezekiel 37:11 . The subject to אמרים is neither the bones nor the dead of Israel (Hitzig), but the כּל־בּית ישׂראל already named, which is also addressed in Ezekiel 37:12. All Israel says: our bones are dried, i.e., our vital force is gone. The bones are the seat of the vital force, as in Psalms 32:3; and יבשׁ , to dry up, applied to the marrow, or vital sap of the bones, is substantially the same as בּלה in the psalm ( l.c. ). Our hope has perished (cf. Ezekiel 19:5). תּקוה is here the hope of rising into a nation once more. נגזרנוּ לנוּ . : literally, we are cut off for ourselves, sc. from the sphere of the living (cf. Lamentations 3:54; Isaiah 53:8), equivalent to “it is all over with us.”

To the people speaking thus, Ezekiel is to announce that the Lord will open their graves, bring them out of them, put His breath of life into them, and lead them into their own land. If we observe the relation in which Ezekiel 37:12 and Ezekiel 37:13 stand to Ezekiel 37:14, namely, that the two halves of the 14th verse are parallel to the two Ezekiel 37:12 and Ezekiel 37:13, the clause ' וידאתּם כּי אני in Ezekiel 37:14 to the similar clause in Ezekiel 37:13, there can be no doubt that the contents of Ezekiel 37:14 also correspond to those of Ezekiel 37:12 - that is to say, that the words, “I put my breath (Spirit) into you, that ye may live, and place you in your own land” (bring you to rest therein), affirm essentially the same as the words, “I bring you out of your graves, and lead you into the land of Israel;” with this simple difference, that the bringing out of the graves is explained and rendered more emphatic by the more definite idea of causing them to live through the breath or Spirit of God put into them, and the הביא by הנּיח , the leading into the land by the transporting and bringing them to rest therein. Consequently we are not to understand by נתתּי רוּחי בכם either a divine act differing from the raising of the dead to life, or the communication of the Holy Spirit as distinguished from the imparting of the breath of life. רוּחי , the Spirit of Jehovah, is identical with the רוּח , which comes, according to Ezekiel 37:9 and Ezekiel 37:10, into the bones of the dead when clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin, i.e., is breathed into them. This spirit or breath of life is the creative principle both of the physical and of the ethical or spiritual life. Consequently there are not three things announced in these verses, but only two: (1) The raising to life from a state of death, by bringing out of the graves, and communicating the divine Spirit of life; (2) the leading back to their own land to rest quietly therein. When, therefore, Kliefoth explains these verses as signifying that for the consolation of Israel, which is mourning hopelessly in its existing state of death, “God directs the prophet to say - (1) That at some future time it will experience a resurrection in the literal sense, that its graves will be opened, and that all its dead, those deceased with those still alive, will be raised up out of their graves; (2) that God will place them in their own land; and (3) that when He has so placed them in their land, He will put His Spirit within them that they may live: in the first point the idea of the future resurrection, both of those deceased and of those still living, is interpolated into the text; and in the third point, placing them in their land before they are brought to life by the Spirit of God, would be at variance with the text, according to which the giving of the Spirit precedes the removal to their own land. The repetition of עמּי in Ezekiel 37:12 and Ezekiel 37:13 is also worthy of notice: you who are my people, which bases the comforting promise upon the fact that Israel is the people of Jehovah.

If, therefore, our vision does not set forth the resurrection of the dead in general, but simply the raising to life of the nation of Israel which is given up to death, it is only right that, in order still further to establish this view, we should briefly examine the other explanations that have been given. - The Fathers and most of the orthodox commentators, both of ancient and modern times, have found in Ezekiel 37:1-10 a locus classicus for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and that quite correctly. But their views differ widely as to the strict meaning and design of the vision itself; inasmuch as some regard the vision as a direct and immediate prophecy of the general resurrection of the dead at the last day, whilst others take the raising of the dead to life shown to the prophet in the vision to be merely a figure or type of the waking up to new life of the Israel which is now dead in its captivity. The first view is mentioned by Jerome; but in later times it has been more especially defended by Calov, and last of all most decidedly by Kliefoth. Yet the supporters of this view acknowledge that Ezekiel 37:11-14 predict the raising to life of the nation of Israel. The question arises, therefore, how this prediction is to be brought into harmony with such an explanation of the vision. The persons noticed by Jerome, who supported the view that in Ezekiel 37:4-10 it is the general resurrection that is spoken of, sought to remove the difficulties to which this explanation is exposed, by taking the words, “these bones are the whole house of Israel,” as referring to the resurrection of the saints, and connecting them with the first resurrection in Revelation 20:5, and by interpreting the leading of Israel back to their own land as equivalent to the inheriting of the earth mentioned in Matthew 5:5. Calov, on the other hand, gives the following explanation of the relation in which Ezekiel 37:11-14 stand to Ezekiel 37:1-10 : “in this striking vision there was shown by the Lord to the prophet the resurrection of the dead; but the occasion , the cause , and the scope of this vision were the resurrection of the Israelitish people , not so much into its earlier political form, as for the restoration of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the establishment of the worship of God, both of which were indeed restored in the time of Zerubbabel, but were first brought to perfection at the coming of Jesus Christ.” He also assumes that the raising of the dead is represented in the vision, “because God would have this representation exhibited for a figure and confirmation of the restitution of the people.” And lastly, according to Kliefoth, Ezekiel 37:11-14 do not furnish a literal exposition of the vision, but simply make an application of it to the bringing of Israel to life. - We cannot regard either of these views as correct, because neither of them does justice to the words of the text. The idea of the Fathers, that Ezekiel 37:11-14 treat of the resurrection of the saints (believers), cannot be reconciled either with the words or with the context of our prophecy, and has evidently originated in perplexity. And the assumption of Calov and Kliefoth, that Ezekiel 37:11-14 contain simply an application of the general resurrection of the dead exhibited in Ezekiel 37:1-10 to the resurrection of Israel, by no means exhausts the meaning of the words, “these bones are the whole house of Israel,” as we have already observed in our remarks on Ezekiel 37:11. Moreover, in the vision itself there are certain features to be found which do not apply to the general resurrection of the dead. In proof of this, we will not lay any stress upon the circumstance that Ezekiel sees the resurrection of the dead within certain limits; that it is only the dead men's bones lying about in one particular valley, and not the dead of the whole earth, though a very great army, that he sees come to life again; but, on the other hand, we must press the fact that in Ezekiel 37:9 those who are to be raised to life are called הרוּגים , a word which does not signify the dead of all kinds, but simply those who have been slain, or have perished by the sword, by famine, or by other violent deaths, and which indisputably proves that Ezekiel was not shown the resurrection of all the dead, but simply the raising to life of Israel, which had been swept away by a violent death. Kliefoth would account for this restriction from the purpose for which the vision was shown to the prophet. Because the design of the vision was to comfort Israel concerning the wretchedness of its existing condition, and that wretchedness consisted for the most part in the fact that the greater portion of Israel had perished by sword, famine, and pestilence, he was shown the resurrection of the dead generally and universally, as it would take place not in the case of the Israelites alone, but in that of all the dead, though here confined within the limits of one particular field of dead; and stress is laid upon the circumstance that the dead which Ezekiel saw raised to life instar omnium , were such as had met with a violent death. This explanation would be admissible, if only it had been indicated or expressed in any way whatever, that the bones of the dead which Ezekiel saw lying about in the בּקעה represented all the dead of the whole earth. But we find no such indication; and because in the whole vision there is not a single feature contained which would warrant any such generalization of the field of the dead which Ezekiel saw, we are constrained to affirm that the dead men's bones seen by Ezekiel in the valley represent the whole house of Israel alone, and not the deceased and slain of all mankind; and that the vision does not set forth the resurrection of all the dead, but only the raising to life of the nation of Israel which had been given up to death.

Consequently we can only regard the figurative view of the vision as the correct one, though this also has been adopted in very different ways. When Jerome says that Ezekiel “is prophesying of the restoration of Israel through the parable of the resurrection,” and in order to defend himself from the charge of denying the dogma of the resurrection of the dead, adds that “the similitude of a resurrection would never have been employed to exhibit the restoration of the Israelitish people, if that resurrection had been a delusion, and it had not been believed that it would really take place; because no one confirms uncertain things by means of things which have no existence;” - Hävernick very justly replies, that the resurrection of the dead is not to be so absolutely regarded as a dogma already completed and defined, or as one universally known and having its roots in the national belief; though Hävernick is wrong in affirming in support of this that the despair of the people described in Ezekiel 37:11 plainly shows that so general a belief cannot possibly be presupposed. For we find just the same despair at times when faith in the resurrection of the dead was a universally accepted dogma. The principal error connected with this view is the assumption that the vision was merely a parable formed by Ezekiel in accordance with the dogma of the resurrection of the dead. If, on the contrary, the vision was a spiritual intuition produced by God in the soul of the prophet, it might set forth the resurrection of the dead, even if the belief in this dogma had no existence as yet in the consciousness of the people, or at all events was not yet a living faith; and God might have shown to the prophet the raising of Israel to life under this figure, for the purpose of awakening this belief in Israel.

(Note: No conclusive evidence can be adduced that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was not only known to Ezekiel, but was regarded by the people as indisputably sure, as both Hengstenberg ( Christology , vol. III p. 51, transl.) and Pareau ( Comment. de immortal . p. 109) assume. Such passages as Isaiah 25:8 and Isaiah 26:19, even if Ezekiel referred to them, merely prove that the belief or hope of the resurrection of the dead could not be altogether unknown to the believers of Israel, because Isaiah had already declared it. But the obvious announcement of this dogma in Daniel 12:2 belongs to a later period than our vision; and even Daniel does not speak of it as a belief that prevailed throughout the nation, but simply communicates it as a consolation offered by the angel of the Lord in anticipation of the times of severe calamity awaiting the people of God.)

In that case, however, the vision was not merely a parable, but a symbolical representation of a real fact, which was to serve as a pledge to the nation of its restoration to life. Theodoret comes much nearer to the truth when he gives the following as his explanation of the vision: that “on account of the unbelief of the Jews in exile, who were despairing of their restoration, the almighty God makes known His might; and the resurrection of the dead bodies, which was much more difficult than their restoration, is shown to the prophet, in order that all the nation may be taught thereby that everything is easy to His will;”

(Note: His words are these: ἐπειδή γὰρ δι ̓ ἥν ἐνόσουν ἀπιστίαν τἀς χρηστοτέρας ἀπηγόρευσαν ἐλπίδας οἱ ἐκ τῆς ̓Ιουδαίας αἰχμάλωται γενόμενοι, τὴν οἰκείαν αὐτοῖς ὁ τῶν ὅλων Θεὸς ἐπιδείκνυσι δύναμιν, καὶ τὴν πολλῷ τῆς ἀνακλήσεως ἐκείνης δυσκολωτέραν τῶν νεκρῶν σωμάτων ἀνάστασιν ἐπιδείκνυσι τῷ προφήτῃ καὶ δι ̓ ἐκείνου πάντα διδάσκει τὸν λαὸν, ὡς πάντα αὐτῷ ῥᾴδια βουλομένῳ .)

and when, accordingly, he calls what occurs in the vision “a type not of the calling to life of the Jews only, but also of the resurrection of all men.” The only defect in this is, that Theodoret regards the dead bones which are brought to life too much as a figurative representation of any dead whatever, and thereby does justice neither to the words, “these bones are the whole house of Israel,” which he paraphrases by τύπος τοῦ ̓Ισραὴλ ταῦτα , nor to the designation applied to them as הרוּגים , though it may fairly be pleaded as a valid excuse so far as הרוגים is concerned, that the force of this word has been completely neutralized in the Septuagint, upon which he was commenting, by the rendering τοὺς νεκροὺς τούτους . - Hävernick has interpreted the vision in a much more abstract manner, and evaporated it into the general idea of a symbolizing of the creative, life-giving power of God, which can raise even the bones of the dead to life again. His exposition is the following: “There is no express prediction of the resurrection in these words, whether of a general resurrection or of the particular resurrection of Israel; but this is only though of here, inasmuch as it rests upon the creative activity of God, to which even such a conquest of death as this is possible.”

(Note: The view expressed by Hofmann ( Schriftbeweis , II 2, pp. 507ff.) is a kindred one, namely, that it is not the future resurrection of the dead, or the resurrection of the deceased Israelites, which is indicated in the vision, and that it does not even set forth to view the unconditioned power of God over death, or an idea which is intended as a pledge of the resurrection of the dead; but that by the revelation made manifest to the prophet in the state of ecstasy, the completeness of that state of death out of which Israel is to be restored is exhibited, and thus the truth is set before his eyes that the word of prophecy has the inherent power to ensure its own fulfilment, even when Israel is in a condition which bears precisely the same resemblance to a nation as the state of death to a human being.)

The calling to life of the thoroughly dried dead bones shown to the prophet in the vision, is a figure or visible representation of that which the Lord announces to him in Ezekiel 37:11-14, namely, that He will bring Israel out of its graves, give it life with His breath, and bring it into its own land; and consequently a figure of the raising of Israel to life from its existing state of death. The opening of the graves is also a figure; for those whom the Lord will bring out of their braves are they who say, “Our bones are dried,” etc. (Ezekiel 37:11), and therefore not those who are deceased, nor even the spiritually dead, but those who have lost all hope of life. We are not, however, to understand by this merely mors civilis and vita civilis , as Grotius has done. For Israel was destroyed, not only politically as a nation, but spiritually as a church of the Lord, through the destruction of its two kingdoms and its dispersion among the heathen; and in a very large number of its members it had also been given up to the power of physical death and sunk into the grave. Even then, if we keep out of sight those who were deceased, Israel, as the people of God was slain ( הרוּג ), without any hope of coming to life again, or a resurrection to new life. But the Lord now shows the prophet this resurrection under the figure of the raising to life of the very dry bones that lie scattered all around. This is fulfilled through the restoration of Israel as the people of Jehovah, to which the leading of the people back into the land of Israel essentially belongs. The way was opened and prepared for this fulfilment by the return of a portion of the people from the Babylonian captivity under Zerubbabel and Ezra, which was brought to pass by the Lord, by the rebuilding of the cities of Judah and the temple which had been destroyed, and by the restoration of political order. But all this was nothing more than a pledge of the future and complete restoration of Israel. For although the Lord still raised up prophets for those who had returned and furthered the building of His house, His glory did not enter the newly erected temple, and the people never attained to independence again, - that is to say, not to permanent independence, - but continued in subjection to the imperial power of the heathen. And even if, according to Ezra, very many more of the exiles may have returned to their native land, by whom, for example, Galilee was repopulated and brought into cultivation again, the greater portion of the nation remained dispersed among the heathen. The true restoration of Israel as the people of the Lord commenced with the founding of the new kingdom of God, the “kingdom of heaven,” through the appearing of Christ upon the earth. But inasmuch as the Jewish nation as such, or in its entirety, did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah foretold by the prophets and sent by God, but rejected its Saviour, there burst afresh upon Jerusalem and the Jewish nation the judgment of dispersion among the heathen; whereas the kingdom of God founded by Christ spread over the earth, through the entrance of believers from among the Gentiles. This judgment upon the Jewish people, which is hardened in unbelief, still continues, and will continue until the time when the full number of the Gentiles has entered into the kingdom of God, and Israel as a people shall also be converted to Christ, acknowledge the crucified One as its Saviour, and bow the knee before Him (Romans 11:25-26). Then will “all Israel” be raised up out of its graves, the graves of its political and spiritual death, and brought back into its own land, which will extend as far as the Israel of God inhabits the earth. Then also will the hour come in which all the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth out of their graves to the resurrection (Daniel 12:2; John 5:25-29); when the Lord shall appear in His glory, and descend from heaven with the trump of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16), to call all the dead to life, and through the judgment upon all the nations to perfect His kingdom in glory, and bring the righteous into the Canaan of the new earth, into the heavenly Jerusalem, to the imperishable life of everlasting blessedness.

All these several factors in the restoration of Israel, which has been given up to the death of exile on account of its sins, though far removed from one another, so far as the time of their occurrence is concerned, are grouped together as one in the vision of the coming to life of the dead bones of the whole house of Israel. The two features which are kept distinct in the visionary description - namely, (1) the coming together of the dry bones, and their being clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin; and (2) the bringing to life of the bones, which have now the form of corpses, through the divine breath of life - are not to be distinguished in the manner proposed by Hengstenberg, namely, that the first may be taken as referring to the restoration of the civil condition - the external restitutio in integrum ; the second, to the giving of new life through the outpouring of the Spirit of God. - Even according to our view, the vision contains a prophecy of the resurrection of the dead, only not in this sense, that the doctrine of the general resurrection of the dead is the premiss, or the design, or the direct meaning of the vision; but that the figurative meaning constitutes the foreground, and the full, literal meaning of the words the background of the prophetic vision, and that the fulfilment advances from the figurative to the literal meaning, - the raising up of the people of Israel out of the civil and spiritual death of exile being completed in the raising up of the dead out of their graves to everlasting life at the last day.


Verses 15-28

[continued from previous section]

This restoration of Israel Ezekiel describes, in harmony with Jer 31, though in a much more detailed picture, in the following way: - ”The condition of things in the future will differ from that in the past, simply in the fact that Israel will then have a heart converted to fidelity and obedience by the Spirit of God (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:27), and will live in good peace and prosperity under the shelter of its God, who is known and acknowledged by all the world (Ezekiel 36:23). The land to which it is restored, a land most decidedly represented by Ezekiel as the same as that in which its fathers lived (Ezekiel 37:25), appears throughout merely as a happy earthly dwelling-place, and the promise of its possession as an assurance given to a nation continuing to propagate itself in peace” (Hofmann, p. 576). This manner of depicting the condition of the Israel restored and glorified by the Messiah, as a peaceful settlement and a happy life in the land of the fathers, a life rich in earthly possessions, is not confined, however, to Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but stands out more or less conspicuously in the Messianic pictures of all the prophets. What follows, then, from this in relation to the mode in which these prophecies are to be fulfilled? Is it that the form assumed by the life of the people of Israel when restored will be only a heightened repetition of the conditions of its former life in Palestine, undisturbed by sin? By no means. On the contrary, it follows from this that the prophets have depicted the glorious restoration of Israel by the Messiah by means of figures borrowed from the past and present of the national life of Israel, and therefore that their picture is not to be taken literally, but symbolically or typically, and that we are not to expect it to be literally fulfilled.

We are forced to this conclusion by the fact that, through the coming of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven which began with Him, the idea of the people of God has been so expanded, that henceforth not the lineal descendants of Abraham, or the Jewish nation merely, but the church of confessors of Jesus Christ, gathered together out of Israel and the Gentiles, has become the people of God, and the economy of the Old Testament has ceased to constitute the divinely appointed from of the church of God. If, therefore, the Jewish people, who have rejected the Saviour, who appeared in Jesus Christ, and have hardened themselves against the grace and truth revealed in Him, are not cast off for ever, but, according to the promises of the Old Testament and the teaching of the Apostle Paul (Rom 11), will eventually repent, and as a people turn to the crucified One, and then also realize the fulfilment of the promises of God; there is still lacking, with the typical character of the prophetic announcement, any clear and unambiguous biblical evidence that all Israel, whose salvation is to be looked for in the future, will be brought back to Palestine, when eventually converted to Christ the crucified One, and continue there as a people separated from the rest of Christendom, and from the earthly centre of the church of the Lord gathered out of all nations and tongues. For, however well founded the remark of Hofmann ( ut sup . p. 88) may be, that “holy people and holy land are demanded by one another;” this proves nothing more than that the holy people, gathered out of all the families of the earth through the believing reception of the gospel, will also have a holy land for its dwelling-place; in other words, that, with the spread of the church of the Lord over all the quarters of the globe, the earth will become holy land or Canaan, so far as it is inhabited by the followers of Christ. The Apostle Paul teaches this in the same Epistle in which he foretells to Israel, hardened in unbelief, its eventual restoration and blessedness; when he explains in Romans 4:9-13 that to Abraham or his seed the promise that he was to be the heir of the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness of the faith, which Abraham had when still uncircumcised, that he might become a father of all those who believe, though they be not circumcised, and a father of the circumcision, not merely of those who are of the circumcision, but of those also who walk in the footsteps of his faith. And the apostle, when developing this thought, interprets the promise given to the patriarch in Genesis 12:7 and Genesis 15:18 : “to thy seed will I give this land” (i.e., the land of Canaan), by κληρονομεῖν κόσμον (inheriting the world), he regards Canaan as a type of the world or of the earth, which would be occupied by the children born of faith to the patriarch.

This typical interpretation of the promise, given in the Old Testament to the seed of Abraham, of the everlasting possession of the land of Canaan, which is thus taught by the Apostle Paul, and has been adopted by the church on his authority, corresponds also to the spirit and meaning of the Old Testament word of God. This is evident from Gen 17, where the Lord God, when instituting the covenant of circumcision, gives not to Abraham only, but expressly to Sarah also, the promise to make them into peoples ( לגּוים ), that king of nations ( מלכי עמּים ) shall come from them through the son, whom they are to receive (Genesis 17:6 and Genesis 17:16), and at the same time promises to give to the seed of Abraham, thus greatly to be multiplied, the land of his pilgrimage, the whole land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:8). This promise the Lord, as the “almighty God,” has not carried into effect by making Abraham and Sarah into nations through the lineal posterity of Isaac, but only through the spiritual seed of Abraham, believers out of all nations, who have become, and still will become, children of Abraham in Christ. It was only through these that Abraham became the father of a multitude of nations ( לאב המון , Genesis 17:5). For although two peoples sprang from Isaac, the Israelites through Jacob, and the Edomites through Esau, and Abraham also became the ancestor of several tribes through Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, the divine promise in question refers to the people of Israel alone, because Esau was separated from the seed of the promise by God Himself, and the other sons of Abraham were excluded by the fact that they were not born of Sarah. The twelve tribes, however, formed but one people; and although Ezekiel calls them two peoples (Ezekiel 35:10 and Ezekiel 37:22), having in view their division into two kingdoms, they are never designated or described in the Old or New Testament as המון גּוים . To this one people God did indeed give the land of Canaan for a possession, according to the boundaries described in Num 34, so that it dwelt therein until it was driven out and scattered among the heathen for its persistent unfaithfulness. But inasmuch as that portion of the promise which referred to the multiplication of the seed of Abraham into peoples was only to receive its complete fulfilment in Christ, according to the counsel and will of God, through the grafting of the believing Gentile nations into the family of Abraham, and has so received it, we are not at liberty to restrict the other portion of this promise, relating to the possession of the land of Canaan, to the lineal posterity of the patriarch, or the people of Israel by lineal descent, but must assume that in the promise of the land to be given to the seed of Abraham God even then spoke of Canaan as a type of the land which was to be possessed by the posterity of Abraham multiplied into nations.

This typical phraseology runs through all the prophetical writings of the Old Testament, and that both with regard to the promised seed, which Abraham received through Isaac (Genesis 21:12) in the people of Israel, and also with reference to the land promised to this seed for an inheritance, although, while the old covenant established at Sinai lasted, Israel according to the flesh was the people of God, and the earthly Canaan between the Euphrates and the river of Egypt was the dwelling-place of this people. For inasmuch as Abraham received the promise at the very time of his call, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, and the germs of the universal destination of the people and kingdom of God were deposited, according to Gen 17, in the subsequent patriarchal promises, the prophets continued to employ the names of Israel and Canaan more and more in their Messianic prophecies as symbolical terms for the two ideas of the people and kingdom of God. And from the time when the fortress of Jerusalem upon Mount Zion was exalted by David into the capital of his kingdom and the seat of his government over Israel, and was also made the site of the dwelling of Jehovah in the midst of His people, by the removal of the ark of the covenant to Zion, and the building of the temple which was planned by David, though only carried into execution by Solomon his son, they employed Zion and Jerusalem in the same typical manner as the seat and centre of the kingdom of God; so that, in the Messianic psalms and the writings of the prophets, Zion or Jerusalem is generally mentioned as the place from which the king (David-Messiah), anointed by Jehovah as prince over His people, extends His dominion over all the earth, and whither the nations pour to hear the law of the Lord, and to be instructed as to His ways and their walking in His paths.

Consequently neither the prominence expressly given to the land in the promises contained in Leviticus 26:42 and Deuteronomy 32:43, upon which such stress is laid by Auberlen ( die messianische Weissagungen , pp. 827 and 833), nor the fact that Mount Zion or the city of Jerusalem is named as the place of judgment upon the world of nations and the completion of the kingdom of God, to which both Hofmann and Auberlen appeal in the passages already quoted, furnishes any valid evidence that the Jewish people, on its eventual conversion to Christ, will be brought back to Palestine, and that the Lord, at His second coming, will establish the millennial kingdom in the earthly Jerusalem, and take up His abode on the material Mount Zion, in a temple built by human hands.

Even the supporters of the literal interpretation of the Messianic prophecies cannot deny the symbolico-typical character of the Old Testament revelation. Thus Auberlen, for example, observes ( die mess. Weiss . p. 821) that, “in their typical character, the sacrifices furnish us with an example of the true signification of all the institutions of the Old Testament kingdom of God, while the latter exhibit to us in external symbol and type the truly holy people and the Messianic kingdom in its perfection, just as the former set forth the sacrifice of the Messiah.” But among these institutions the Israelitish sanctuary (tabernacle or temple) undoubtedly occupied a leading place as a symbolico-typical embodiment of the kingdom of God established in Israel, as is now acknowledged by nearly all the expositors of Scripture who have any belief in revelation. It is not merely the institutions of the old covenant, however, which have a symbolico-typical signification, but this is also the case with the history of the covenant nation of the Old Testament, and the soil in which this history developed itself. This is so obvious, that Auberlen himself ( ut sup . p. 827) has said that “it is quite a common thing with the prophets to represent the approaching dispersion and enslaving of Israel among the heathen as a renewal of their condition in Egypt, and the eventual restoration of both the people and kingdom as a new exodus from Egypt and entrance into Canaan (Hosea 2:1-2 and Hosea 2:16, Hosea 2:17, Hosea 9:3 and Hosea 9:6, Hosea 11:5, Hosea 11:11; Micah 2:12-13; Micah 7:15-16; Isaiah 10:24, Isaiah 10:26; Isaiah 11:11; Jeremiah 16:14-15, and other passages).” And even Hofmann, who sets aside this typical phraseology of the prophets in Isaiah 11:11-15, where the restoration of Israel from its dispersion throughout all the world is depicted as a repetition of its deliverance from Egypt through the miraculous division of the Red Sea, with the simple remark, “that the names of the peoples mentioned in the 14th as well as in the 11th verse, and the obstacles described in the 15th verse, merely serve to elaborate the thought” ( Schriftbeweis , II 2, p. 548), cannot help admitting (at p. 561) “that in Isaiah 34:5 אדום is not to be understood as a special prophecy against the Edomitish people, but as a symbolical designation of the world of mankind in its enmity against God.” But if Edom is a type of the human race in its hostility to God in this threatening of judgment, “the ransomed of Jehovah” mentioned in the corresponding announcement of salvation in Isaiah 35:1-10, who are to “return to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads,” cannot be the rescued remnant of the Jewish people, or the Israel of the twelve tribes who will ultimately attain to blessedness, nor can the Zion to which they return be the capital of Palestine. If Edom in this eschatological prophecy denotes the world in its enmity against God, the ransomed of Jehovah who return to Zion are the people of God gathered from both Gentiles and Jews, who enter into the blessedness of the heavenly Jerusalem. By adopting this view of Edom , Hofmann has admitted the typical use of the ideas, both of the people of Jehovah (Israel) and of Zion, by the prophets, and has thereby withdrawn all firm foundation from his explanation of similar Messianic prophecies when the Jewish nation is concerned. The same rule which applies to Edom and Zion in Isa 34 and Isaiah 35:1-10 must also be applicable in Isa 40-56. The prophecy concerning Edom in Isa 34 has its side-piece in Isaiah 63:1-6; and, as Delitzsch has said, the announcement of the return of the ransomed of Jehovah to Zion in Ezekiel 36, “as a whole and in every particular, both in thought and language, is a prelude of this book of consolation for the exiles (i.e., the one which follows in Isa 40-66).” Ezekiel uses Edom in the same way, in the prediction of the everlasting devastation of Edom and the restoration of the devastated land of Israel, to be a lasting blessing for its inhabitants. As Edom in this case also represents the world in its hostility to God (see the comm. on Ezekiel 35:1-36:15), the land of Israel also is not Palestine, but the kingdom of the Messiah, the boundaries of which extend from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the world (Psalms 73:8 and Zechariah 9:10). It is true that in the case of our prophet there is no express mention made of the spread of the kingdom of God over the lands, inasmuch as he is watchman over the house of Israel, and therefore, for the most part, principally speaks of the restoration of Israel; but it is also obvious that this prophetic truth was not unknown to him, from the fact that, according to Ezekiel 47:22-23, in the fresh division of the land among the tribes by lot, the foreigners as well as the natives are to be reckoned among the children of Israel, and to receive their portion of the land as well, which plainly abolishes the difference in lineal descent existing under the old covenant. Still more clearly does he announce the reception of the heathen nations into the kingdom of God in Ezekiel 16:53., where he predicts the eventual turning of the captivity, not of Jerusalem only, but also of Samaria and Sodom, as the goal of the ways of God with His people. If, therefore, in His pictures of the restoration and glorification of the kingdom of God, he speaks of the land of Israel alone, the reason for this mode of description is probably also to be sought in the fact that he goes back to the fundamental prophecies of the Pentateuch more than other prophets do; and as, on the one hand, he unfolds the fulfilment of the threats in Lev 26 and Deut 28-32 in his threatenings of judgments, so, on the other hand, does he display the fulfilment of the promises of the law in his predictions of salvation. If we bear this in mind, we must not take his prophecy of the very numerous multiplication of Israel and of the eternal possession of Canaan and its blessings in any other sense than in that of the divine promise in Gen 17; that is to say, we must not restrict the numerous multiplication of Israel to the literal multiplication of the remnant of the twelve tribes, but must also understand thereby the multiplication of the seed of Abraham into peoples in the manner explained above, and interpret in the same way the restoration of Israel to the land promised to the fathers.

This view of the Old Testament prophecy concerning the eventual restoration of Israel on its conversion to Christ is confirmed as to its correctness by the New Testament also; if, for example, we consider the plain utterances of Christ and His apostles concerning the relation of the Israel according to the flesh, i.e., of the Jewish nation, to Christ and His kingdom, and do not adhere in a one-sided manner to the literal interpretation of the eschatological pictures contained in the language of the Old Testament prophecy. For since, as Hofmann has correctly observed in his Schriftbeweis (II 2, pp. 667, 668), “the apostolical doctrine of the end of the present condition of things, namely, of the reappearance of Christ, of the glorification of His church, and the resurrection of its dead, or even of the general resurrection of the dead, of the glorification of the material world, the destruction of the present and the creation of a new one, stands in this relation to the Old Testament prophecy of the end of things, that it is merely a repetition of it under the new point of view, which accompanied the appearing and glorification of Jesus and the establishment of His church of Jews and Gentiles;” these eschatological pictures are also clothed in the symbolico-typical form peculiar to the Old Testament prophecy, the doctrinal import of which can only be determined in accordance with the unambiguous doctrinal passages of the New Testament. Of these doctrinal passages the first which presents itself is Rom 11, where the Apostle Paul tells the Christians at Rome as a μυστήριον , that hardness in part has happened to Israel, till the pleroma of the Gentiles has entered into the kingdom of God, and so (i.e., after this has taken place) all Israel will be rescued or saved (Romans 11:25, Romans 11:26). He then supports this by a scriptural quotation formed from Isaiah 59:20 and Isaiah 27:9 (lxx), with an evident allusion to Jeremiah 31:34 (?33) also: “there shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” etc.; whilst he has already shown how, as the fall of Israel, or its ἀποβολή , is the riches of the Gentiles and reconciliation of the world, the πρόσληψις will not nothing else than life from the dead ( ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν , Romans 11:11-15). The apostle evidently teaches here that the partial hardening of Israel, in consequence of which the people rejected the Saviour, who appeared in Jesus, and were excluded from the salvation in Christ, is not an utter rejection of the old covenant nation; but that the hardening of Israel will cease after the entrance of the pleroma of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, and so all Israel ( πᾶς ̓Ισραήλ in contrast with ἐκ μέρους , i.e., the people of Israel as a whole) will attain to salvation, although this does not teach the salvation of every individual Jew.

(Note: “All Israel,” says Philippi in the 3rd ed. of his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (p. 537), “as contrasted with ἐκ μέρους (in part) in Romans 11:25, and also in the connection in which it stands with the train of thought in Romans 9-11, which, as the chapter before us more especially shows, has only to do with the bringing of the nations as a whole to the Messianic salvation, cannot be understood in any other sense than as signifying the people of Israel as a whole (see also Romans 11:28-32). The explanation of the words as denoting the spiritual Israel, the 'Israel of God' (Galatians 6:16), according to which all the true children of Abraham and of God are to be saved through the entrance of the chosen Gentiles, and at the same time also of the ἐκλογή of the Israel that has not been hardened, is just as arbitrary as it is to take 'all Israel' as referring merely to the believing portion of the Jews, the portion chosen by God, who have belonged in all ages to the λεῖμμα κατ ̓ἐκλογὴν χάριτος .” But in the appendix to the third edition he has not only give full expression to the opposite view, which Besser in his Bibelstunden has supported in the most decided manner, after the example of Luther and many of the Lutheran expositors, but is inclined to give preference, even above the view which he preciously upheld, to the idea that “ all Israel is the whole of the Israel intended by the prophetic word, and included in the divine word of promise, to which alone the name of Israel truly and justly belongs according to the correct understanding of the Old Testament word of God - that is to say, those lineal sons of Abraham who walk in the footsteps of his faith (Romans 4:12), those Jews who are so not merely outwardly in the flesh, but also inwardly in the spirit, through circumcision of heart (Romans 2:28-29);” and also to the following exposition which Calovius gives of the whole passage, namely, that “it does not relate to a simultaneous or universal conversion of the Israelites, or to the conversion of a great multitude, which is to take place at the last times of the world, and is to be looked forward to still, but rather to successive conversions continuing even to the end of the world.”)

But Auberlen ( die mess. Weissagungen , pp. 801ff.) puts too much into these words of the apostle when he combines them with Exodus 19:5-6, and from the fact that Israel in the earlier ages of the Old Testament was once a people and kingdom, but not really a holy and priestly one, and that in the first ages of the New Testament it was once holy and priestly, though not as a people and kingdom, draws the conclusion, not only that the Jewish nation must once more become holy as a people and kingdom, but also that the apostle of the Gentiles here declares “that the promise given to the people of Israel, that it is to be a holy people, will still be fulfilled in its experience, and that in connection with this, after the present period of the kingdom of God, there is a new period in prospect, when the converted and sanctified Israel, being called once for all to be a priestly kingdom, will become the channel of the blessing of fellowship with God to the nations in a totally different and far more glorious manner than before.” For if the apostle had intended to teach the eventual accomplishment of this promise in the case of the Israel according to the flesh, he would certainly have quoted it, or at all events have plainly hinted at it, and not merely have spoken of the σώζεσθαι of the Israel which was hardened then. There is nothing to show, even in the remotest way, that Israel will eventually be exalted into the holy and priestly people and kingdom for the nations, either in the assurance that “all Israel shall be saved,” or in the declaration that the “receiving” ( πρόσληψις ) of Israel will work, or be followed by, “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15); and the proposition from which Paul infers the future deliverance of the people of Israel - viz., “if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16) - shows plainly that it never entered the apostle's mind to predict for the branches that were broken off the olive tree for a time an exaltation to even greater holiness than that possessed by the root and beginning of Israel when they should be grafted in again.

There is also another way in which Hofmann ( Schriftbeweis , II 2, pp. 96 and 668) makes insertions in the words of the apostle, - namely, when he draws the conclusion from the prophetic quotation in Romans 11:25, Romans 11:26, that the apostle takes the thought from the prophetic writings, that Zion and Israel are the place where the final revelation of salvation will be made, and then argues in support of this geographical exposition of the words, “shall come out of Zion,” on the ground that in these words we have not to think of the first coming of the Saviour alone, but the apostle extends to the second coming with perfect propriety what the Old Testament prophecy generally affirms with regard to the coming of Christ, and what had already been verified at His first coming. This argument is extremely weak. Even if one would or could insist upon the fact that, when rendering the words וּבא (there will come for Zion a Redeemer), in Isaiah 59:20, by ἥξει ἐκ Σιὼν ὁ ῥυόμενος (the Redeemer will come out of Zion), the apostle designedly adopted the expression ἐκ Σιών , it would by no means follow “that he meant the material Zion or earthly Jerusalem to be regarded as the final site of the New Testament revelation.” For if the apostle used the expression “come out of Zion,” with reference to the second coming of the Lord, because it had been verified at the first coming of Jesus, although Jesus did not then come out of Zion, but out of Bethlehem, according to the prophecy of Micah 5:1 (cf. Matthew 1:5-6), he cannot have meant the material Mount Zion by ἐκ Σιών , but must have taken Zion on the prophetico-typical sense of the central seat of the kingdom of God; a meaning which it also has in such passages in the Psalms as Psalms 14:7; 53:7, and Psalms 110:2, which he appears to have had floating before his mind. It was only by taking this view of Zion that Paul could use ἐκ Σιών for the לציּון of Isaiah, without altering the meaning of the prophecy, that the promised Redeemer would come for Zion, i.e., for the citizens of Zion, the Israelites. The apostle, when making this quotation from the prophets, had no more intention of giving any information concerning the place where Christ would appear to the now hardened Israel, and prove Himself to be the Redeemer, than concerning the land in which the Israel scattered among the nations would be found at the second coming of our Lord. And there is nothing whatever in the New Testament to the effect that “the Lord will not appear again till He has prepared both Israel and Zion for the scene of His reappearing” (Hofmann, p. 97). All that Christ says is, that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a witness concerning all nations, and then will the end come (Matthew 24:14). And if, in addition to this, on His departing for ever from the temple, He exclaimed to the Jews who rejected Him, “Your house will be left unto you desolate; for I say unto you, Ye will not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:38-39), all that He means is, that He will not appear to them or come to them before they receive Him with faith, “greet Him as the object of their longing expectation;” and by no means that He will not come till they have been brought back from their dispersion to Palestine and Jerusalem.

Even Matthew 27:53 and Revelation 11:2, where Jerusalem is called the holy city, do not furnish any tenable proof of this, because it is so called, not with regard to any glorification to be looked for in the future, but as the city in which the holiest events in the world's history had taken place; just as Peter (2 Peter 1:18) designates the Mount of Transfiguration the holy mount, with reference to that event, and not with any anticipation of a future glorification of the mountain; and in 1 Kings 19:8 Horeb is called the Mount of God, because in the olden time God revealed Himself there. “The old Jerusalem is even now the holy city still to those who have directed their hopeful eyes to the new Jerusalem alone” (Hengstenberg). This also applies to the designation of the temple as the “holy place” in Matthew 24:15, by which Hofmann (p. 91) would also, though erroneously, understand Jerusalem.

And the words of Christ in Luke 21:24, that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, ἄχρι πληρωθῶσιν καιροὶ ἐθνῶν , cannot be used as furnishing a proof that the earthly Jerusalem will be occupied by the converted Jews before or at the second coming of the Lord. For if stress be laid upon the omission of the article, and the appointed period be understood in such a manner as to lead to the following rendering, viz.: “till Gentile periods shall be fulfilled,” i.e., “till certain periods which have been appointed to Gentile nations for the accomplishment of this judgment of wrath from God shall have elapsed” (Meyer), we may assume, with Hengstenberg ( die Juden und die christl. Kirche , 3 art.), that these times come to an end when the overthrow of the might of the Gentiles is effected through the judgment of God, and the Christian church takes their place; and we may still further say with him, that “the treading down of Jerusalem by the heathen, among whom, according to the Christian view, the Mahometans also are to be reckoned, has ceased twice already, - namely, in the reign of Constantine, and in the time of the Crusades, when a Christian kingdom existed in Jerusalem. And what then happened, though only in a transient way, will eventually take place again, and that definitively, on the ground of this declaration of the Lord. Jerusalem will become the possession of the Israel of the Christian church.” If, on the other hand, we adopt Hofmann's view (pp. 642, 643), that by καιροὶ ἐθνῶν we are to understand the times of the nations, when the world belongs to them, in accordance with Daniel 8:14, in support of which Revelation 11:2 may also be adduced, these times “come to an end when the people of God obtain the supremacy;” and, according to this explanation, it is affirmed “that this treading down of the holy city will not come to an end till the filling up of the time, during which the world belongs to the nations, and therefore not till the end of the present course of this world.” But if the treading down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles lasts till then, even the converted Jews cannot recover possession of it at that time; for at the end of the present course of this world the new creation of the heaven and earth will take place, and the perfected church of Christ, gathered out of Israel and the Gentile nations, will dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem that has come down upon the new earth. - However, therefore, we may interpret these words of the Lord, we are not taught in Luke 21:24 any more than in Matthew 24:15 and Matthew 27:53, or Romans 11:26, that the earthly Jerusalem will come into the possession of the converted Jews after its liberation from the power of the Gentiles, that it will hold a central position in the world, or that the temple will be erected there again.

And lastly, a decisive objection to these Jewish, millenarian hopes, and at the same time to the literal interpretation of the prophetic announcements of the restoration of Israel, is to be found in the fact that the New Testament says nothing whatever concerning are building of the Jerusalem temple and a restoration of the Levitical worship; but that, on the contrary, it teaches in the most decided manner, that, with the completion of the reconciliation of men with God through the sacrifice of Christ upon Golgotha, the sacrificial and temple service of the Levitical law was fulfilled and abolished (Heb 7-10), on the ground of the declaration of Christ, that the hour cometh, and now is, when men shall worship neither upon Gerizim nor at Jerusalem; but the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24), in accordance with the direction given by the apostle in Romans 12:1. But the prophets of the Old Testament do not merely predict the return of the Israelites to their own land, and their everlasting abode in that land under the rule of the Messiah; but this prediction of theirs culminates in the promise that Jehovah will establish His sanctuary, i.e., His temple, in the midst of His redeemed people, and dwell there with them and above them for ever (Ezekiel 37:27-28), and that all nations will come to this sanctuary of the Lord upon Zion year by year, to worship before the King Jehovah of hosts, and keep the Feast of tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16; cf. Isaiah 66:23). If, then, the Jewish people should receive Palestine again for its possession either at or after its conversion to Christ, in accordance with the promise of God, the temple with the Levitical sacrificial worship would of necessity be also restored in Jerusalem. But if such a supposition is at variance with the teaching of Christ and the apostles, so that this essential feature in the prophetic picture of the future of the kingdom of God is not to be understood literally, but spiritually or typically, it is an unjustifiable inconsistency to adhere to the literal interpretation of the prophecy concerning the return of Israel to Canaan, and to look for the return of the Jewish people to Palestine, when it has come to believe in Jesus Christ.


Verses 15-28

[continued from previous section]

This restoration of Israel Ezekiel describes, in harmony with Jer 31, though in a much more detailed picture, in the following way: - ”The condition of things in the future will differ from that in the past, simply in the fact that Israel will then have a heart converted to fidelity and obedience by the Spirit of God (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:27), and will live in good peace and prosperity under the shelter of its God, who is known and acknowledged by all the world (Ezekiel 36:23). The land to which it is restored, a land most decidedly represented by Ezekiel as the same as that in which its fathers lived (Ezekiel 37:25), appears throughout merely as a happy earthly dwelling-place, and the promise of its possession as an assurance given to a nation continuing to propagate itself in peace” (Hofmann, p. 576). This manner of depicting the condition of the Israel restored and glorified by the Messiah, as a peaceful settlement and a happy life in the land of the fathers, a life rich in earthly possessions, is not confined, however, to Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but stands out more or less conspicuously in the Messianic pictures of all the prophets. What follows, then, from this in relation to the mode in which these prophecies are to be fulfilled? Is it that the form assumed by the life of the people of Israel when restored will be only a heightened repetition of the conditions of its former life in Palestine, undisturbed by sin? By no means. On the contrary, it follows from this that the prophets have depicted the glorious restoration of Israel by the Messiah by means of figures borrowed from the past and present of the national life of Israel, and therefore that their picture is not to be taken literally, but symbolically or typically, and that we are not to expect it to be literally fulfilled.

We are forced to this conclusion by the fact that, through the coming of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven which began with Him, the idea of the people of God has been so expanded, that henceforth not the lineal descendants of Abraham, or the Jewish nation merely, but the church of confessors of Jesus Christ, gathered together out of Israel and the Gentiles, has become the people of God, and the economy of the Old Testament has ceased to constitute the divinely appointed from of the church of God. If, therefore, the Jewish people, who have rejected the Saviour, who appeared in Jesus Christ, and have hardened themselves against the grace and truth revealed in Him, are not cast off for ever, but, according to the promises of the Old Testament and the teaching of the Apostle Paul (Rom 11), will eventually repent, and as a people turn to the crucified One, and then also realize the fulfilment of the promises of God; there is still lacking, with the typical character of the prophetic announcement, any clear and unambiguous biblical evidence that all Israel, whose salvation is to be looked for in the future, will be brought back to Palestine, when eventually converted to Christ the crucified One, and continue there as a people separated from the rest of Christendom, and from the earthly centre of the church of the Lord gathered out of all nations and tongues. For, however well founded the remark of Hofmann ( ut sup . p. 88) may be, that “holy people and holy land are demanded by one another;” this proves nothing more than that the holy people, gathered out of all the families of the earth through the believing reception of the gospel, will also have a holy land for its dwelling-place; in other words, that, with the spread of the church of the Lord over all the quarters of the globe, the earth will become holy land or Canaan, so far as it is inhabited by the followers of Christ. The Apostle Paul teaches this in the same Epistle in which he foretells to Israel, hardened in unbelief, its eventual restoration and blessedness; when he explains in Romans 4:9-13 that to Abraham or his seed the promise that he was to be the heir of the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness of the faith, which Abraham had when still uncircumcised, that he might become a father of all those who believe, though they be not circumcised, and a father of the circumcision, not merely of those who are of the circumcision, but of those also who walk in the footsteps of his faith. And the apostle, when developing this thought, interprets the promise given to the patriarch in Genesis 12:7 and Genesis 15:18 : “to thy seed will I give this land” (i.e., the land of Canaan), by κληρονομεῖν κόσμον (inheriting the world), he regards Canaan as a type of the world or of the earth, which would be occupied by the children born of faith to the patriarch.

This typical interpretation of the promise, given in the Old Testament to the seed of Abraham, of the everlasting possession of the land of Canaan, which is thus taught by the Apostle Paul, and has been adopted by the church on his authority, corresponds also to the spirit and meaning of the Old Testament word of God. This is evident from Gen 17, where the Lord God, when instituting the covenant of circumcision, gives not to Abraham only, but expressly to Sarah also, the promise to make them into peoples ( לגּוים ), that king of nations ( מלכי עמּים ) shall come from them through the son, whom they are to receive (Genesis 17:6 and Genesis 17:16), and at the same time promises to give to the seed of Abraham, thus greatly to be multiplied, the land of his pilgrimage, the whole land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:8). This promise the Lord, as the “almighty God,” has not carried into effect by making Abraham and Sarah into nations through the lineal posterity of Isaac, but only through the spiritual seed of Abraham, believers out of all nations, who have become, and still will become, children of Abraham in Christ. It was only through these that Abraham became the father of a multitude of nations ( לאב המון , Genesis 17:5). For although two peoples sprang from Isaac, the Israelites through Jacob, and the Edomites through Esau, and Abraham also became the ancestor of several tribes through Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, the divine promise in question refers to the people of Israel alone, because Esau was separated from the seed of the promise by God Himself, and the other sons of Abraham were excluded by the fact that they were not born of Sarah. The twelve tribes, however, formed but one people; and although Ezekiel calls them two peoples (Ezekiel 35:10 and Ezekiel 37:22), having in view their division into two kingdoms, they are never designated or described in the Old or New Testament as המון גּוים . To this one people God did indeed give the land of Canaan for a possession, according to the boundaries described in Num 34, so that it dwelt therein until it was driven out and scattered among the heathen for its persistent unfaithfulness. But inasmuch as that portion of the promise which referred to the multiplication of the seed of Abraham into peoples was only to receive its complete fulfilment in Christ, according to the counsel and will of God, through the grafting of the believing Gentile nations into the family of Abraham, and has so received it, we are not at liberty to restrict the other portion of this promise, relating to the possession of the land of Canaan, to the lineal posterity of the patriarch, or the people of Israel by lineal descent, but must assume that in the promise of the land to be given to the seed of Abraham God even then spoke of Canaan as a type of the land which was to be possessed by the posterity of Abraham multiplied into nations.

This typical phraseology runs through all the prophetical writings of the Old Testament, and that both with regard to the promised seed, which Abraham received through Isaac (Genesis 21:12) in the people of Israel, and also with reference to the land promised to this seed for an inheritance, although, while the old covenant established at Sinai lasted, Israel according to the flesh was the people of God, and the earthly Canaan between the Euphrates and the river of Egypt was the dwelling-place of this people. For inasmuch as Abraham received the promise at the very time of his call, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, and the germs of the universal destination of the people and kingdom of God were deposited, according to Gen 17, in the subsequent patriarchal promises, the prophets continued to employ the names of Israel and Canaan more and more in their Messianic prophecies as symbolical terms for the two ideas of the people and kingdom of God. And from the time when the fortress of Jerusalem upon Mount Zion was exalted by David into the capital of his kingdom and the seat of his government over Israel, and was also made the site of the dwelling of Jehovah in the midst of His people, by the removal of the ark of the covenant to Zion, and the building of the temple which was planned by David, though only carried into execution by Solomon his son, they employed Zion and Jerusalem in the same typical manner as the seat and centre of the kingdom of God; so that, in the Messianic psalms and the writings of the prophets, Zion or Jerusalem is generally mentioned as the place from which the king (David-Messiah), anointed by Jehovah as prince over His people, extends His dominion over all the earth, and whither the nations pour to hear the law of the Lord, and to be instructed as to His ways and their walking in His paths.

Consequently neither the prominence expressly given to the land in the promises contained in Leviticus 26:42 and Deuteronomy 32:43, upon which such stress is laid by Auberlen ( die messianische Weissagungen , pp. 827 and 833), nor the fact that Mount Zion or the city of Jerusalem is named as the place of judgment upon the world of nations and the completion of the kingdom of God, to which both Hofmann and Auberlen appeal in the passages already quoted, furnishes any valid evidence that the Jewish people, on its eventual conversion to Christ, will be brought back to Palestine, and that the Lord, at His second coming, will establish the millennial kingdom in the earthly Jerusalem, and take up His abode on the material Mount Zion, in a temple built by human hands.

Even the supporters of the literal interpretation of the Messianic prophecies cannot deny the symbolico-typical character of the Old Testament revelation. Thus Auberlen, for example, observes ( die mess. Weiss . p. 821) that, “in their typical character, the sacrifices furnish us with an example of the true signification of all the institutions of the Old Testament kingdom of God, while the latter exhibit to us in external symbol and type the truly holy people and the Messianic kingdom in its perfection, just as the former set forth the sacrifice of the Messiah.” But among these institutions the Israelitish sanctuary (tabernacle or temple) undoubtedly occupied a leading place as a symbolico-typical embodiment of the kingdom of God established in Israel, as is now acknowledged by nearly all the expositors of Scripture who have any belief in revelation. It is not merely the institutions of the old covenant, however, which have a symbolico-typical signification, but this is also the case with the history of the covenant nation of the Old Testament, and the soil in which this history developed itself. This is so obvious, that Auberlen himself ( ut sup . p. 827) has said that “it is quite a common thing with the prophets to represent the approaching dispersion and enslaving of Israel among the heathen as a renewal of their condition in Egypt, and the eventual restoration of both the people and kingdom as a new exodus from Egypt and entrance into Canaan (Hosea 2:1-2 and Hosea 2:16, Hosea 2:17, Hosea 9:3 and Hosea 9:6, Hosea 11:5, Hosea 11:11; Micah 2:12-13; Micah 7:15-16; Isaiah 10:24, Isaiah 10:26; Isaiah 11:11; Jeremiah 16:14-15, and other passages).” And even Hofmann, who sets aside this typical phraseology of the prophets in Isaiah 11:11-15, where the restoration of Israel from its dispersion throughout all the world is depicted as a repetition of its deliverance from Egypt through the miraculous division of the Red Sea, with the simple remark, “that the names of the peoples mentioned in the 14th as well as in the 11th verse, and the obstacles described in the 15th verse, merely serve to elaborate the thought” ( Schriftbeweis , II 2, p. 548), cannot help admitting (at p. 561) “that in Isaiah 34:5 אדום is not to be understood as a special prophecy against the Edomitish people, but as a symbolical designation of the world of mankind in its enmity against God.” But if Edom is a type of the human race in its hostility to God in this threatening of judgment, “the ransomed of Jehovah” mentioned in the corresponding announcement of salvation in Isaiah 35:1-10, who are to “return to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads,” cannot be the rescued remnant of the Jewish people, or the Israel of the twelve tribes who will ultimately attain to blessedness, nor can the Zion to which they return be the capital of Palestine. If Edom in this eschatological prophecy denotes the world in its enmity against God, the ransomed of Jehovah who return to Zion are the people of God gathered from both Gentiles and Jews, who enter into the blessedness of the heavenly Jerusalem. By adopting this view of Edom , Hofmann has admitted the typical use of the ideas, both of the people of Jehovah (Israel) and of Zion, by the prophets, and has thereby withdrawn all firm foundation from his explanation of similar Messianic prophecies when the Jewish nation is concerned. The same rule which applies to Edom and Zion in Isa 34 and Isaiah 35:1-10 must also be applicable in Isa 40-56. The prophecy concerning Edom in Isa 34 has its side-piece in Isaiah 63:1-6; and, as Delitzsch has said, the announcement of the return of the ransomed of Jehovah to Zion in Ezekiel 36, “as a whole and in every particular, both in thought and language, is a prelude of this book of consolation for the exiles (i.e., the one which follows in Isa 40-66).” Ezekiel uses Edom in the same way, in the prediction of the everlasting devastation of Edom and the restoration of the devastated land of Israel, to be a lasting blessing for its inhabitants. As Edom in this case also represents the world in its hostility to God (see the comm. on Ezekiel 35:1-36:15), the land of Israel also is not Palestine, but the kingdom of the Messiah, the boundaries of which extend from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the world (Psalms 73:8 and Zechariah 9:10). It is true that in the case of our prophet there is no express mention made of the spread of the kingdom of God over the lands, inasmuch as he is watchman over the house of Israel, and therefore, for the most part, principally speaks of the restoration of Israel; but it is also obvious that this prophetic truth was not unknown to him, from the fact that, according to Ezekiel 47:22-23, in the fresh division of the land among the tribes by lot, the foreigners as well as the natives are to be reckoned among the children of Israel, and to receive their portion of the land as well, which plainly abolishes the difference in lineal descent existing under the old covenant. Still more clearly does he announce the reception of the heathen nations into the kingdom of God in Ezekiel 16:53., where he predicts the eventual turning of the captivity, not of Jerusalem only, but also of Samaria and Sodom, as the goal of the ways of God with His people. If, therefore, in His pictures of the restoration and glorification of the kingdom of God, he speaks of the land of Israel alone, the reason for this mode of description is probably also to be sought in the fact that he goes back to the fundamental prophecies of the Pentateuch more than other prophets do; and as, on the one hand, he unfolds the fulfilment of the threats in Lev 26 and Deut 28-32 in his threatenings of judgments, so, on the other hand, does he display the fulfilment of the promises of the law in his predictions of salvation. If we bear this in mind, we must not take his prophecy of the very numerous multiplication of Israel and of the eternal possession of Canaan and its blessings in any other sense than in that of the divine promise in Gen 17; that is to say, we must not restrict the numerous multiplication of Israel to the literal multiplication of the remnant of the twelve tribes, but must also understand thereby the multiplication of the seed of Abraham into peoples in the manner explained above, and interpret in the same way the restoration of Israel to the land promised to the fathers.

This view of the Old Testament prophecy concerning the eventual restoration of Israel on its conversion to Christ is confirmed as to its correctness by the New Testament also; if, for example, we consider the plain utterances of Christ and His apostles concerning the relation of the Israel according to the flesh, i.e., of the Jewish nation, to Christ and His kingdom, and do not adhere in a one-sided manner to the literal interpretation of the eschatological pictures contained in the language of the Old Testament prophecy. For since, as Hofmann has correctly observed in his Schriftbeweis (II 2, pp. 667, 668), “the apostolical doctrine of the end of the present condition of things, namely, of the reappearance of Christ, of the glorification of His church, and the resurrection of its dead, or even of the general resurrection of the dead, of the glorification of the material world, the destruction of the present and the creation of a new one, stands in this relation to the Old Testament prophecy of the end of things, that it is merely a repetition of it under the new point of view, which accompanied the appearing and glorification of Jesus and the establishment of His church of Jews and Gentiles;” these eschatological pictures are also clothed in the symbolico-typical form peculiar to the Old Testament prophecy, the doctrinal import of which can only be determined in accordance with the unambiguous doctrinal passages of the New Testament. Of these doctrinal passages the first which presents itself is Rom 11, where the Apostle Paul tells the Christians at Rome as a μυστήριον , that hardness in part has happened to Israel, till the pleroma of the Gentiles has entered into the kingdom of God, and so (i.e., after this has taken place) all Israel will be rescued or saved (Romans 11:25, Romans 11:26). He then supports this by a scriptural quotation formed from Isaiah 59:20 and Isaiah 27:9 (lxx), with an evident allusion to Jeremiah 31:34 (?33) also: “there shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” etc.; whilst he has already shown how, as the fall of Israel, or its ἀποβολή , is the riches of the Gentiles and reconciliation of the world, the πρόσληψις will not nothing else than life from the dead ( ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν , Romans 11:11-15). The apostle evidently teaches here that the partial hardening of Israel, in consequence of which the people rejected the Saviour, who appeared in Jesus, and were excluded from the salvation in Christ, is not an utter rejection of the old covenant nation; but that the hardening of Israel will cease after the entrance of the pleroma of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, and so all Israel ( πᾶς ̓Ισραήλ in contrast with ἐκ μέρους , i.e., the people of Israel as a whole) will attain to salvation, although this does not teach the salvation of every individual Jew.

(Note: “All Israel,” says Philippi in the 3rd ed. of his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (p. 537), “as contrasted with ἐκ μέρους (in part) in Romans 11:25, and also in the connection in which it stands with the train of thought in Romans 9-11, which, as the chapter before us more especially shows, has only to do with the bringing of the nations as a whole to the Messianic salvation, cannot be understood in any other sense than as signifying the people of Israel as a whole (see also Romans 11:28-32). The explanation of the words as denoting the spiritual Israel, the 'Israel of God' (Galatians 6:16), according to which all the true children of Abraham and of God are to be saved through the entrance of the chosen Gentiles, and at the same time also of the ἐκλογή of the Israel that has not been hardened, is just as arbitrary as it is to take 'all Israel' as referring merely to the believing portion of the Jews, the portion chosen by God, who have belonged in all ages to the λεῖμμα κατ ̓ἐκλογὴν χάριτος .” But in the appendix to the third edition he has not only give full expression to the opposite view, which Besser in his Bibelstunden has supported in the most decided manner, after the example of Luther and many of the Lutheran expositors, but is inclined to give preference, even above the view which he preciously upheld, to the idea that “ all Israel is the whole of the Israel intended by the prophetic word, and included in the divine word of promise, to which alone the name of Israel truly and justly belongs according to the correct understanding of the Old Testament word of God - that is to say, those lineal sons of Abraham who walk in the footsteps of his faith (Romans 4:12), those Jews who are so not merely outwardly in the flesh, but also inwardly in the spirit, through circumcision of heart (Romans 2:28-29);” and also to the following exposition which Calovius gives of the whole passage, namely, that “it does not relate to a simultaneous or universal conversion of the Israelites, or to the conversion of a great multitude, which is to take place at the last times of the world, and is to be looked forward to still, but rather to successive conversions continuing even to the end of the world.”)

But Auberlen ( die mess. Weissagungen , pp. 801ff.) puts too much into these words of the apostle when he combines them with Exodus 19:5-6, and from the fact that Israel in the earlier ages of the Old Testament was once a people and kingdom, but not really a holy and priestly one, and that in the first ages of the New Testament it was once holy and priestly, though not as a people and kingdom, draws the conclusion, not only that the Jewish nation must once more become holy as a people and kingdom, but also that the apostle of the Gentiles here declares “that the promise given to the people of Israel, that it is to be a holy people, will still be fulfilled in its experience, and that in connection with this, after the present period of the kingdom of God, there is a new period in prospect, when the converted and sanctified Israel, being called once for all to be a priestly kingdom, will become the channel of the blessing of fellowship with God to the nations in a totally different and far more glorious manner than before.” For if the apostle had intended to teach the eventual accomplishment of this promise in the case of the Israel according to the flesh, he would certainly have quoted it, or at all events have plainly hinted at it, and not merely have spoken of the σώζεσθαι of the Israel which was hardened then. There is nothing to show, even in the remotest way, that Israel will eventually be exalted into the holy and priestly people and kingdom for the nations, either in the assurance that “all Israel shall be saved,” or in the declaration that the “receiving” ( πρόσληψις ) of Israel will work, or be followed by, “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15); and the proposition from which Paul infers the future deliverance of the people of Israel - viz., “if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16) - shows plainly that it never entered the apostle's mind to predict for the branches that were broken off the olive tree for a time an exaltation to even greater holiness than that possessed by the root and beginning of Israel when they should be grafted in again.

There is also another way in which Hofmann ( Schriftbeweis , II 2, pp. 96 and 668) makes insertions in the words of the apostle, - namely, when he draws the conclusion from the prophetic quotation in Romans 11:25, Romans 11:26, that the apostle takes the thought from the prophetic writings, that Zion and Israel are the place where the final revelation of salvation will be made, and then argues in support of this geographical exposition of the words, “shall come out of Zion,” on the ground that in these words we have not to think of the first coming of the Saviour alone, but the apostle extends to the second coming with perfect propriety what the Old Testament prophecy generally affirms with regard to the coming of Christ, and what had already been verified at His first coming. This argument is extremely weak. Even if one would or could insist upon the fact that, when rendering the words וּבא (there will come for Zion a Redeemer), in Isaiah 59:20, by ἥξει ἐκ Σιὼν ὁ ῥυόμενος (the Redeemer will come out of Zion), the apostle designedly adopted the expression ἐκ Σιών , it would by no means follow “that he meant the material Zion or earthly Jerusalem to be regarded as the final site of the New Testament revelation.” For if the apostle used the expression “come out of Zion,” with reference to the second coming of the Lord, because it had been verified at the first coming of Jesus, although Jesus did not then come out of Zion, but out of Bethlehem, according to the prophecy of Micah 5:1 (cf. Matthew 1:5-6), he cannot have meant the material Mount Zion by ἐκ Σιών , but must have taken Zion on the prophetico-typical sense of the central seat of the kingdom of God; a meaning which it also has in such passages in the Psalms as Psalms 14:7; 53:7, and Psalms 110:2, which he appears to have had floating before his mind. It was only by taking this view of Zion that Paul could use ἐκ Σιών for the לציּון of Isaiah, without altering the meaning of the prophecy, that the promised Redeemer would come for Zion, i.e., for the citizens of Zion, the Israelites. The apostle, when making this quotation from the prophets, had no more intention of giving any information concerning the place where Christ would appear to the now hardened Israel, and prove Himself to be the Redeemer, than concerning the land in which the Israel scattered among the nations would be found at the second coming of our Lord. And there is nothing whatever in the New Testament to the effect that “the Lord will not appear again till He has prepared both Israel and Zion for the scene of His reappearing” (Hofmann, p. 97). All that Christ says is, that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a witness concerning all nations, and then will the end come (Matthew 24:14). And if, in addition to this, on His departing for ever from the temple, He exclaimed to the Jews who rejected Him, “Your house will be left unto you desolate; for I say unto you, Ye will not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:38-39), all that He means is, that He will not appear to them or come to them before they receive Him with faith, “greet Him as the object of their longing expectation;” and by no means that He will not come till they have been brought back from their dispersion to Palestine and Jerusalem.

Even Matthew 27:53 and Revelation 11:2, where Jerusalem is called the holy city, do not furnish any tenable proof of this, because it is so called, not with regard to any glorification to be looked for in the future, but as the city in which the holiest events in the world's history had taken place; just as Peter (2 Peter 1:18) designates the Mount of Transfiguration the holy mount, with reference to that event, and not with any anticipation of a future glorification of the mountain; and in 1 Kings 19:8 Horeb is called the Mount of God, because in the olden time God revealed Himself there. “The old Jerusalem is even now the holy city still to those who have directed their hopeful eyes to the new Jerusalem alone” (Hengstenberg). This also applies to the designation of the temple as the “holy place” in Matthew 24:15, by which Hofmann (p. 91) would also, though erroneously, understand Jerusalem.

And the words of Christ in Luke 21:24, that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, ἄχρι πληρωθῶσιν καιροὶ ἐθνῶν , cannot be used as furnishing a proof that the earthly Jerusalem will be occupied by the converted Jews before or at the second coming of the Lord. For if stress be laid upon the omission of the article, and the appointed period be understood in such a manner as to lead to the following rendering, viz.: “till Gentile periods shall be fulfilled,” i.e., “till certain periods which have been appointed to Gentile nations for the accomplishment of this judgment of wrath from God shall have elapsed” (Meyer), we may assume, with Hengstenberg ( die Juden und die christl. Kirche , 3 art.), that these times come to an end when the overthrow of the might of the Gentiles is effected through the judgment of God, and the Christian church takes their place; and we may still further say with him, that “the treading down of Jerusalem by the heathen, among whom, according to the Christian view, the Mahometans also are to be reckoned, has ceased twice already, - namely, in the reign of Constantine, and in the time of the Crusades, when a Christian kingdom existed in Jerusalem. And what then happened, though only in a transient way, will eventually take place again, and that definitively, on the ground of this declaration of the Lord. Jerusalem will become the possession of the Israel of the Christian church.” If, on the other hand, we adopt Hofmann's view (pp. 642, 643), that by καιροὶ ἐθνῶν we are to understand the times of the nations, when the world belongs to them, in accordance with Daniel 8:14, in support of which Revelation 11:2 may also be adduced, these times “come to an end when the people of God obtain the supremacy;” and, according to this explanation, it is affirmed “that this treading down of the holy city will not come to an end till the filling up of the time, during which the world belongs to the nations, and therefore not till the end of the present course of this world.” But if the treading down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles lasts till then, even the converted Jews cannot recover possession of it at that time; for at the end of the present course of this world the new creation of the heaven and earth will take place, and the perfected church of Christ, gathered out of Israel and the Gentile nations, will dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem that has come down upon the new earth. - However, therefore, we may interpret these words of the Lord, we are not taught in Luke 21:24 any more than in Matthew 24:15 and Matthew 27:53, or Romans 11:26, that the earthly Jerusalem will come into the possession of the converted Jews after its liberation from the power of the Gentiles, that it will hold a central position in the world, or that the temple will be erected there again.

And lastly, a decisive objection to these Jewish, millenarian hopes, and at the same time to the literal interpretation of the prophetic announcements of the restoration of Israel, is to be found in the fact that the New Testament says nothing whatever concerning are building of the Jerusalem temple and a restoration of the Levitical worship; but that, on the contrary, it teaches in the most decided manner, that, with the completion of the reconciliation of men with God through the sacrifice of Christ upon Golgotha, the sacrificial and temple service of the Levitical law was fulfilled and abolished (Heb 7-10), on the ground of the declaration of Christ, that the hour cometh, and now is, when men shall worship neither upon Gerizim nor at Jerusalem; but the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24), in accordance with the direction given by the apostle in Romans 12:1. But the prophets of the Old Testament do not merely predict the return of the Israelites to their own land, and their everlasting abode in that land under the rule of the Messiah; but this prediction of theirs culminates in the promise that Jehovah will establish His sanctuary, i.e., His temple, in the midst of His redeemed people, and dwell there with them and above them for ever (Ezekiel 37:27-28), and that all nations will come to this sanctuary of the Lord upon Zion year by year, to worship before the King Jehovah of hosts, and keep the Feast of tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16; cf. Isaiah 66:23). If, then, the Jewish people should receive Palestine again for its possession either at or after its conversion to Christ, in accordance with the promise of God, the temple with the Levitical sacrificial worship would of necessity be also restored in Jerusalem. But if such a supposition is at variance with the teaching of Christ and the apostles, so that this essential feature in the prophetic picture of the future of the kingdom of God is not to be understood literally, but spiritually or typically, it is an unjustifiable inconsistency to adhere to the literal interpretation of the prophecy concerning the return of Israel to Canaan, and to look for the return of the Jewish people to Palestine, when it has come to believe in Jesus Christ.

 


Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37:4". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/ezekiel-37.html. 1854-1889.

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