The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (26)
Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper
- Some Preliminary Observations
- The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
- The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
- The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
- Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
- The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
- Prophecy and Idolatry
- Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
- The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
- God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
- The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
- Israel's Past and Future Experiences
- The Sword of Jehovah
- Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
- The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
- The Boiling Caldron
- Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
- The Oracle Concerning Tyre
- The Oracles Concerning Egypt
- The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
- The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
- The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
- The Judgment upon Edom
- The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
- Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
- The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
- The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
- The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
- The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
- The Millennial Jerusalem
- The Millennial Temple
- The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
- The Land of Israel in the Millennium
The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
In Ezekiel 37:1-14 we have a prediction concerning the gradual restoration of Israel to the land of the fathers. This is found in the first fourteen verses. Sometimes the prophets began their oracles by the regular formula, “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah,” or “Jehovah of hosts.” Sometimes the truth was communicated to them directly by a vision. Whenever this method of communication was employed, God made vivid and graphic before the spiritual vision of the messenger the truth to be received.
Several decades ago this passage was a favorite one for an evangelist to use when he began a series of revival services. Of course, when all of the facts of the context are studied, it is quite evident that this passage has nothing to do with the subject of revival in the Christian usage of the term.
The Restoration of Israel Presented
The prophet was shown in vision a great valley. In fact, he was set down in the midst of this valley, which was full of dry bones. Then the Lord caused him to pass around among these bones. As he did so, he looked at them very carefully and declared that they were very, very dry.
Then the Lord put this question to him: “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel in a straightforward manner and with the proper attitude replied: “0 Lord Jehovah, thou knowest.” Ezekiel had an unswerving faith in God, a personal Being, who is the Creator and Controller of the universe. He believed that all things are possible with God — even those things which seem most highly improbable. It is God who can call and make the dead alive, and who can change the night into day.
At this juncture of the revelation the Lord commanded the prophet to speak to the dry bones and to command them to hear the Word of Jehovah. The message which he delivered to them was: “Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.”
Ezekiel informs us in verse 7 that he prophesied exactly as he was commanded. There were no doubts nor questionings in his mind. To Him God was equal to the occasion and could carry out anything that He commanded. Let us remember this: “God's commandings are His enablings.” God never tells people to do anything that they themselves cannot do, assisted by His divine power.
When Ezekiel gave the command, doubtless he expected results, which certainly came. Thus, in the vision, as a direct result of his prophesying, there was a noise; or, as the marginal reading renders the word, thundering. “And, behold, there was an earthquake.” Remember, this was in Ezekiel's vision.
When these two things occurred, the bones, scattered all over the valley, as if they were alive, began to move together, each bone taking its position with relation to other bones so as to form skeletons. When these bones had thus taken their position, the prophet noticed that sinews began to appear, connecting each bone to its neighbor bone. Following this, flesh began to appear, and skin formed upon the flesh. At this stage of the process, instead of bones scattered all over the valley, there were bodies of dead men. But let us continue to bear in mind that this is a vision.
The prophet was commanded to speak to the wind, or spirit, and command it to breathe life into these bodies. This thing he did. When he gave the command, then the Spirit came, imparted life to them, and they arose (in vision) a mighty army of God.
From this Scripture it is clear that the narrative is intended to be understood as implying that there is the relation of cause and effect existing between the great noise and earthquake on the one hand and the movement of the dry bones, on the other. Moreover, it is self-evident that a process is indicated by that which follows the earthquake and the great noise. This quite obviously is a process.
The Divine Interpretation of the Vision
If the passage had stopped here, the entire revelation thus far would have been indeed an enigma, or a riddle. But the Lord was very gracious to give us the divine interpretation. At this point let us note that there is congruity and fitness between the symbol and the thing signified. God always chooses appropriate objects to set forth the truth which He has in mind. Thus He declared, in verse 11, “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 clean cut off.” Since the bones could not literally be the whole house of Israel, it is immediately evident that they here are used symbolically to signify the whole house of Israel. This language reminds one of the vision which was granted to Pharaoh and interpreted by Joseph. He saw seven fat kine coming up out of the river that were followed by seven lean ones. The latter devoured the former. The vision was doubled. There came up seven stalks of grain, full, and most promising. Following them there came up seven blasted stalks that devoured the first ones. Then Joseph interpreted these two symbols and said that they both signified the same thing, which was that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. He therefore said that the seven fat kine were the seven years of plenty; the seven lean kine the seven years of famine. It is clear that the bones in Ezekiel, chapter 37, are used symbolically of the nation of Israel.
Let us note that these bones represent the whole house of Israel — not a part of them, but the entire nation. Ezekiel knew nothing of “ten lost tribes.” In this vision he saw all of the bones together — and they represented the twelve tribes, which fact shows that the ten and the two tribes of Israel were associated together and could not be separated.
This is a vision of the twelve tribes of Israel at a certain stage of their career. It represents them at the time that they say, “Our hope is lost, we are clean cut off.” What is the hope of Israel? Instantly the Bible student will reply, “It is the hope of the coming of the Messiah, who is to be the Redeemer of the nation.” Thus the prophet looked forward to the time when the nation would give up all interest in and reliance upon the coming of the Messiah. We must remember that this vision does not represent the entire nation throughout the centuries, but only at the time when she has given up her national hope, which has been reposed in Messiah and His advent. Since the hope is trust in the coming of Messiah and His redemptive work, and since the nation of Israel has held tenaciously to this hope through the centuries up until modern times, we may be certain that this vision represents the nation only when it reaches the point that it has lost all faith in that hope and attempts to solve its own problems. When did the nation of Israel thus give up this hope? Those who are familiar with Jewish history know that it is only in these modem times after rationalism began to permeate the Jewish race as it has the Christian ranks. Thus it is quite evident that the prophet was carried forward in vision and saw the nation of Israel at the present time in her forlorn and despairing condition.
When Israel is thus in this state, that she has given up her national hope, then there is something that occurs and that affects the nation just as the earthquake in the vision occurred and caused the movement which brought the bones together. As stated above, there is congruity, fitness, and appropriateness in the Lord's selection of the symbol and His applying it to the thing signified. Earthquakes and tremendous noises that follow are always destructive. Thus we may be certain that this earthquake symbolized something destructive, something that affected the Jewish nation materially, causing them to come together.
Has anything occurred in the world since Israel has been in this forlorn condition, that has affected the nation of Israel causing her to come together? Everyone who is familiar with the events of World War I and its impact and effect upon the Jewish nation can understand what is here referred to. The great war and its aftermath affected the Jews to such an extent that they realized that they were unwelcome guests among the nations, and that their only hope of survival was by returning to the land of their fathers. Thus the Zionistic movement, which had been simply a little trickle of national hope and aspiration, was turned into a great stream that flooded world-Jewry.
As indicated by the coming together of the bones, the sinews appearing, the flesh growing, upon the bones, and the skin forming over the flesh, we have set forth in this passage of Scripture the thought that there would be a gradual development of a movement that would be quickened and accelerated by World War I with its aftermath, and that would eventuate in the restoration of Israel to the land of the fathers and her conversion. God uses men and means and natural occurrences to bring about the desired results.
Let us remember this: The human side of the situation and human efforts are set forth by the coming together of the bones, the binding of them together by the sinews, the appearance of the flesh, and the covering of the flesh with the skin. These are purely symbolic of efforts which Israel alone puts forth.
But the breathing into these lifeless bodies, by the Spirit of God, of life and vigor represents a supernatural event, the conversion of the nation. Thus there is implied in this passage the evangelization of the Jewish nation, her being brought under conviction of her need of a Saviour and of her final turning to the Messiah and accepting Him, at which time life and power are granted to the Jewish people.
To the end of Israel's conversion and restoration, let us labor and pray always.