Doctrinal · Interpretation · New Testament · Old Testament

Dem Dry Bones – Ezekiel 37

This past Sunday, our Sunday School Class was delving into the famous passage of Ezekiel 37. It was a real good class, but I came away with a few questions.

Let’s read the passage prior to getting into it.

1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. 11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” – Ezekiel 37:1-14 ESV

The questions I had, started a week previously, when during the same class, it appeared the teacher was implying this passage was fulfilled in the modern state of Israel. I reminded the teacher that Ezekiel was an exilic prophet, that is, that he lived during the 70 year captivity of Israel by the Babylonian nation. I asked him if he thought Ezekiel’s message was intended for the audience of his day, for the surviving Jewish population in Babylon.

After all, the nation of Israel was gutted. If Babylon hadn’t taken you into captivity, well, you were out of “luck”.

15 The sword is without; pestilence and famine are within. He who is in the field dies by the sword, and him who is in the city famine and pestilence devour. – Ezekiel 7:15 ESV

The sword of war would hunt you down. Famine and sickness were locked together in the capital city, with the inhabitants waiting for the end.

24 I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses. I will put an end to the pride of the strong, and their holy places shall be profaned. – Ezekiel 7:24 ESV

Israel was to become a wasteland, devoured by the Babylonians (the worst of the nations!), gutted of any hope. Totally hopeless!

19 And say to the people of the land, Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the land of Israel: They shall eat their bread with anxiety, and drink water in dismay. In this way her land will be stripped of all it contains, on account of the violence of all those who dwell in it. 20 And the inhabited cities shall be laid waste, and the land shall become a desolation; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” – Ezekiel 12:19-20 ESV

My point is that Israel was without any hope, they were devastated, and when Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones, this was an accurate representation of the nation of Israel. The Lord clearly identifies the bones in verse 11 as the whole house of Israel, and of their utter hopelessness.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ – Ezekiel 37:11 ESV

When the Lord asked …

Son of man, can these bones live?

Ezekiel must surely have connected this image with the current state of his beloved nation. The Lord was giving Ezekiel a vision of the resurrection of the nation of Israel in the midst of the most hopeless condition possible.

But as I was listening to the class discuss this fantastic passage, I kept thinking of one passage in the New Testament. One New Testament passage that kept niggling at the back of my mind. One New Testament passage was especially leveraged in my thoughts when I came upon verse 12.

12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. – Ezekiel 37:12 ESV

Oh my goodness. Can you hear the words of the Messiah, as He was on the earth, walking amongst us?

28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice – John 5:28 ESV

The Lord GOD will speak to those in the graves, and raise them from their graves. Jesus had the audacity to say that it was merely hours until the dead would hear His voice.

Now I am not going to get into a prolonged discussion on resurrection teaching, but it occurs to me that the general flow of Ezekiel’s prophecy may be fulfilled in the following manner.

As the bones join together, receive sinew and muscles and even stand up, even as a great army, could this not represent the return of the Jewish people back into the land after the first captivity?

Let’s pick up Ezekiel’s prophecy in verse 13

13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” – Ezekiel 37:13-14 ESV

Check out verse 14! When, pray tell, may that verse be considered as a historical occurrence? Might Pentecost be the fulfillment of this amazing prophecy? Might the birth of the church, the true Israel, be the fulfillment of this great prophecy, a prophecy of a great army (vs 10) energized to know the Lord!

As the prophet declared, “THEN you shall know that I am the LORD!”

Amazing. He is so good! Praise His name, for His many acts of grace and wonder for His creation!


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