Harry Whittaker
The Time Of The End

5) Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37

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 for.


A careful re-examination of Ezekiel 37 reveals the following as the order in which the prophet saw things happen:

  1. The graves where Israel is buried are opened (v. 12).
  2. The skeletons are brought into the valley of vision (in the land of Israel), and are left scattered there vv. 2, 12).
  3. They say: “our bones are dried, our hope is lost” (v. 11).
  4. To this is added confession of their own unworthiness: “We are cut off for our parts” (v. 11).
  5. Ezekiel prophesies upon them.
  6. There is a noise like thunder, and an earthquake.
  7. The bones come together and re-form into skeletons.
  8. Flesh and sinews grow on them. They are now corpses.
  9. The call to the four winds (spirits) brings the breath (spirit) of life into them.
  10. They stand on their feet an exceeding great power.
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: 34-37.

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 ourselves.”


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 identifiable.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. The uniting of Israel to Christ (note the introduction of the name Joseph, the great prototype).
  4. The extension of the State of Israel to include all the territory of the ancient kingdom (see end of chapter 4).
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 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).

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