5) Dry Bones
To the readers of these words there are few Bible
prophecies more familiar than Ezekiel’s vision of the resurrection of
Israel. The bones of the nation, which have remained dry, despised, and without
decent sepulture over the centuries have been gathered back to the land of their
fathers; flesh and sinews have grown on them as the new state of Israel has
taken on increasing vigour and efficiency; and today they stand upon their feet
an exceeding great army, bursting with confidence after winning the three
swiftest wars in all history.
This interpretation, which is so familiar as to
have become almost dogma, ignores several significant details and fails to take
account of the correct order of development in the vision. The mistake is easily
made (it was made repeatedly by the present writer for over thirty years!)
because Ezekiel’s record of the vision and prophecy is not given with the
tidy logical chronological sequence, which the western mind normally looks
THE SEQUENCE IN THE
A careful re-examination of Ezekiel 37 reveals
the following as the order in which the prophet saw things
If this sequence has been assembled correctly
then the parable is a prophecy of Israel being brought, in a spiritually dead
condition, from their Gentile dispersion back to the land of their fathers.
There they become disintegrated and helpless. It is a process, which
takes place in the Land. This part of the prophecy has not yet happened.
It would seem to correspond to the prophecies in Zechariah 14: 1, 2; Ezekiel 35:
5 and 36: 13-15; Joel 2, 3; Psalm 83; and especially Ezekiel 20:
- The graves where Israel is buried are opened (v.
- The skeletons are brought into the valley of vision
(in the land of Israel), and are left scattered there vv. 2,
- They say: “our bones are dried, our hope is
lost” (v. 11).
- To this is added confession of
their own unworthiness: “We are cut off for our parts” (v.
- Ezekiel prophesies upon
- There is a noise like thunder, and an
- The bones come together and re-form into
- Flesh and sinews grow on them. They are now
- The call to the four winds (spirits) brings the
breath (spirit) of life into them.
- They stand on their
feet an exceeding great power.
Another prophecy which comes in appropriately
here is the familiar Ezekiel 21: 26, 27: “I will overturn, overturn,
overturn it: and it shall be on more until he come whose right it is (both
mitre and crown: v. 26); and I will give it him.” There must
be yet another overturning to be added to that by Nebuchadnezzar and by the
Romans in A.D. 70.
The evil plight to which Israel is reduced causes
them to abandon all hope of help or rescue: “our hope is lost.”
Through all their chequered history this has never yet happened. Amid all
the dire calamities that have come on them, at each Passover they have always
said: “Next year in Jerusalem.” But this and other prophecies speak
of a time, now achieved in part (by the war of June 1967), when they are in
Jerusalem but not yet in a state of utter destitution and despair, with no one
but God to turn to for aid.
Because of the calamitous hopelessness of their
evil situation, for the first time since they crucified Jesus there will also be
a willingness to recognize their own unworthiness and the justice of God’s
discipline: “we are cut off for our parts.” Literally this rather
mysterious phrase is: “We are cut off for us (or, to us).” Most
probably the meaning is: “we are cut off because of
It is a noteworthy principle of Bible teaching
that only when a man honestly acknowledges his own unworthiness and sin before
God can he be forgiven. Concerning Israel this truth is enunciated over and over
again: “When thou art in tribulation, and all these things come upon thee,
even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient
unto his voice: (for the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake
thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he
sware unto them”; Deuteronomy 4:30, 31 (compare also Psalm 81: 13, 14;
Jeremiah 3: 14-18 and 4:1, 2; Deuteronomy 30:I-3; Leviticus 26: 41; Zechariah 6:
15; there are many others—see chapter 2 hereof).
Next comes a great thundering (RVm). It is the
voice of God (John 12:28, 29) addressed to His repentant people (through the
Elijah prophet?). There is also an earthquake. Like that which took place at the
crucifixion of His Son, it is the manifestation of the anger of the Almighty at
the despoiling of His Land and People (Psalm 18: 7). The result is that the
bones move together to become skeletons once again. Flesh and tissue grow on
them, so that now they are corpses.
When Ezekiel prophesies to the four spirits of
the heavens, the Spirit of God comes into this corpse-like Israel so that the
spiritually dead come to life and stand up on their feet “an exceeding
great company” (the Hebrew here is very emphatic). These four winds or
spirits are the manifestation of divine power in the fourfold cherubim chariot,
with its fourfold symbol of Israel, which Ezekiel saw: “whither the spirit
(wind) was to go, they went ... the spirit of life was in the wheels” (1:
20; compare also Zechariah 6: 1-8).
Interpreted in this way, the vision harmonizes
very readily with the various other prophecies of Israel’s experiences in
the Last Days. But at first sight the next vision of the two sticks, joined into
one, appears to have little connection with this. It has to be borne in mind
that the political split between Israel and Judah had become final and complete
about a hundred and fifty years before the time of Ezekiel, in the days when
Shalmanezer V destroyed Sarnaria and took the northern people captive. Since
that time Israel (as distinct from Judah) ceased to be
It would seem, then, that with reference to the
Last Days one must look for a meaning of the joining of the two sticks into one
other than that of the re-uniting of the northern and southern kingdoms. Three
possibilities present themselves:
The second and third of these are very close in
idea, and for this reason one of these is probably to be preferred. But there
seems to be little in the context, which is decisive.
- The uniting of Jewry into one community—the Dispersion
actively and wholeheartedly joining with the Yishuv, those who have returned.
Hosea 1:11 supports this suggestion.
- The union of the
saints in Christ with that section of the Jews who turn to God in faith in the
time of their calamity, thus themselves becoming saints in the higher sense of
the term (compare John 10:16).
- The uniting of Israel to
Christ (note the introduction of the name Joseph, the great
- The extension of the State of Israel to
include all the territory of the ancient kingdom (see end of chapter
The prophecy proceeds to a heart-warming climax.
Messiah’s kingdom is now in being. Israel cleansed of sin, dwell happily
in their land, ruled over by “David my servant” (the phrase is from
the Messianic Psalm 89:20). The land is now theirs forever. In it they
“walk in God’s judgements, and observe his statutes, and do
them” (v. 24). God’s “covenant of peace” (v. 26 and 34:
25) is now ratified with them for all time. The “evil beasts” and
“the beast of the earth” (34: 25, 28; Revelation 13: 11) cease out
of the land. God’s tabernacle is now in the midst of His people, a fact
that is known (though not yet finally acknowledged and accepted) by all the
nations of the world (vv. 27, 28).