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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Ezekiel 37

 

 

Verses 1-14

1-14. This is one of the most marvelous visions of the Old Testament. The companions of Ezekiel were in hopeless despair. Israel had been moldering in an Assyrian grave nearly one hundred and fifty years, and now all Judah, excepting a small and unworthy remnant, was buried in Babylon, without any hope of resurrection (Ezekiel 37:11),while Jerusalem and the holy temple had been totally destroyed. Ezekiel had tried to awaken his fellow-captives from their dull and voiceless stupor (Ezekiel 24:17; Ezekiel 24:22) by a bright vision of a future when they should return to their home land and enjoy the fullness of temporal and churchly prosperity (36), but all his hopeful prophecies had proved ineffectual. They could not believe. Then God lifted his prophet “by the power of the Spirit” into ecstatic vision, and he found himself alone in the midst of a deserted battlefield (Ezekiel 37:9-10) strewn with bones. He passed through this desolation and noticed that every vestige of life had disappeared from the dried-up remains. There was nothing left for even the vultures to feed upon. Long ago every skeleton had been cleaned by the jackals’ teeth and the broken parts scattered far and wide. The bones were many and they were very dry. The valley was a charnel house, visibly displaying the absolute victory of death over life. Then came the question from heaven, “Can these bones live?” and the humble answer, “O Adoni Jehovah, thou knowest.” Then the prophetic impulse came upon the prophet, and with faith that the Almighty was still able to breathe the breath of life into the lifeless (Ezekiel 37:5; Genesis 2:7) he cried unto the withered and dislocated skeletons, “O bones, hear the word of the Lord,” and even as he began to speak the words — which to any listener would have seemed a mere sound in the air — there came a mysterious noise followed by a groaning as of an “earthquake” (Ezekiel 37:7, R.V., Kautzsch), and the prophet saw a terrifying sight, for each bone was rushing toward its fellow; and when he dared to look again “lo, there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up and skin covered them” (Ezekiel 37:8, R.V.). They were no longer skeletons, for all the organs of life were there, but they were still dead bodies. Then the prophet once more took heart and finished the prophecy (compare Ezekiel 37:6; Ezekiel 37:9), crying to the universal life-giving divine Spirit to breathe life into these slain, and even as he spake, so was it done! It must be remembered that the same word in Hebrew may be translated either “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” Jehovah himself interpreted the vision. Israel and Judah were not only dead corpses, but their bones were “dried up” and they were “clean cut off,” as they themselves declared (Ezekiel 37:11); yet, since Jehovah still lived, the case was not entirely hopeless, for God could raise the dead. Out of the graves of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity those fragments of a people should surely come forth through his power (Ezekiel 37:12-13), and not only receive again the social and civil institutions, which were the organs of national life, but should be spiritually regenerated (Ezekiel 37:14; Ezekiel 36:26-27; compare Godet, Studies in the Old Testament; Maurice, The Prophets; Cornill, Das Buch Ezechiel). Cornill has called this “one of the noblest passages the Old Testament can show.” Its influence upon the national thought was incalculable. Darmesteter tells of the rabbi whom he met in India who referred to a village, named Gilead, which he had visited in an obscure part of Persia, the population of which he believed to be descended from the bones resurrected by Ezekiel! (Les Prophetes D’Israel, p. 107.) But the fact is that all Israel is descended from these bodies re-animated by prophecy. If it had not been for the resurrection trumpet-note of hope which Ezekiel blew it looks as if the whole nation would have perished in despair. It may be added that while this vision teaches a national, not an individual, resurrection (as Hosea 6:2; Hosea 13:14), yet the idea of a personal resurrection was even then not unknown. (Compare Isaiah 26:19; Job 14:13, etc.; and especially note Daniel 12:2.)


Verses 15-22

15-22. By this symbolic action, the last which is recorded of him, Ezekiel visibly pictures the reunion of Judah and Israel, the southern and northern kingdoms, into one nation. Judah with all the northerners who had settled in the south (2 Chronicles 11:12-16, etc.), together with the northern tribes who looked to Jerusalem as the spiritual capital (Benjamin, Levi, and a part of Simeon), was represented by one stick (compare Numbers 17:2), and Joseph (embracing the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, Ephraim being the more powerful) and the other less influential tribes of north Israel, were represented by another which he joined “with it” (R.V., Ezekiel 37:19), “even with the stick of Judah,” and these two sticks were united as one in the hand (Ezekiel 37:17) signifying the future recovery of both these branches of the house of Israel from their respective captivities and their reuniting into one kingdom in their old home land (Ezekiel 37:18-22). All the prophets sorrowed over the disruption of the unity of the people of God, and looked forward to the time when all schisms should be ended and Jehovah’s people should be one. (Compare 1 Corinthians 12:25; 1 Corinthians 12:27; John 17:21.) That this prophecy had only a very partial fulfillment in the return from Babylon is undoubted. All Israel never returned to Palestine. This prophecy can never be fulfilled excepting by the ingathering of God’s spiritual Israel into their permanent inheritance — the Christian Church and the heavenly Canaan. (Compare Ezekiel 34:22; Ezekiel 34:24.) It may not be that Ezekiel interpreted his vision as referring to the gospel dispensation, and a “better country” (Hebrews 11:16), but we know now that what he saw was only the “shadow” of the heavenly. (Hebrews 8:5.) Many seers have spoken better than they knew, and their sublime prophecies have been, not literally fulfilled, but very truly fulfilled, exceeding abundantly above all they were able to ask or think.

(See introduction chapter Ezekiel 40) Fairbairn says, “Thus, as the true David of the promise is Christ, so the covenant people are no longer the Jews distinctively but the faithful in Christ, and the territory of blessing no longer Canaan but the region of which Christ is King and Lord.”


Verses 23-28

23-28. The new Israel will not be defiled by idolatry, but God will cleanse them and save them from the temptations connected with their ancient dwelling places, and “from all their backslidings” (Ezekiel 37:23, R.V., margin), and a new David, who shall live forever (Ezekiel 37:25), shall be their shepherd-king (Ezekiel 37:24; compare Ezekiel 34:23-24), and they shall dwell in the land which was promised to Jacob and to Abraham before him, though he never made a sandal track in it (Acts 7:5); and it shall be to them and to their children an inheritance forever, according to the new “covenant of peace” (compare Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 16:60), and Jehovah will place them (or “give it them”) and set his sanctuary in the midst of them (Leviticus 26:11), and his “dwelling place” shall be with them (Ezekiel 37:27; Ezekiel 48:35), and the “nations” shall know that he is the Lord that doth sanctify Israel when his holy sanctuary is permitted to abide in the midst of the nation; which must therefore have been sanctified or separated unto himself as a holy possession. (Compare note Ezekiel 37:15-22; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:22.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ezekiel-37.html. 1874-1909.

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