posted on Jun, 22 2018 @ 05:01 PM
Ezekiel is the prophet of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians..
Once Jerusalem has fallen, his work is nearly complete.
But the relationship between God and his people has not lapsed, and his final task is to explain the new conditions of that relationship.
He has talked about finding fresh leadership and recovering the land.
But that leaves the fundamental problem that the nation is dead. The people have been scattered to such an extent that the corporate body has been
How, then, can there be an ongoing relationship?
That is the subject of Ezekiel’s vision in “the valley of bones” (ch37), where the Spirit of the Lord has taken him.
The valley is crammed full of bones, which is a symbol of the death of the community, combined with a memory of the literal deaths which have taken
place in the late catastrophe and the events leading up to it.
The bones are very dry. That is, they are very dead.
This reflects what the house of Israel are saying about themselves as a nation; “Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are clean cut
The Lord says to Ezekiel “Can these bones live?”
Ezekiel doesn’t have the confidence to say they can, but he doesn’t have the boldness to tell God what’s impossible.
“O lord God, thou knowest”.
Ezekiel is then told to prophesy to the bones, so that life may return to them in four stages.
God will bring the bones back together, and re-attach them with sinews.
He will cover the bones and the sinews with flesh.
He will cover the flesh, bones, and sinews with skin.
Then he will breathe life back into the bodies.
All this happens when Ezekiel obeys the Lord and prophesies. It is the response to his prophecy.
I find it notable that even in a vision, even in a vision depicting a miraculous event, God does not bring about his purpose instantly. The
process develops in stages, mimicking the gradual progress of natural growth.
That seems appropriate, because the Biblical God, in general, prefers to work in this gradual way, frequently bending the natural process to his
Once the first three stages have been completed and the bodies are restored, Ezekiel is instructed to summon the breath or wind.
When he obeys, the breath or wind comes in and gives life to the bodies; “They lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host”.
This repeats what happened when God first breathed life into Adam. Translators have to make difficult choices here, because one and the same word, in
Hebrew (and in Greek) may mean wind, or breath, or spirit. Life seems to depend on the movement of air, so they all come down to the same thing.
In fact, this is the Holy Spirit at work.
The first meaning behind the metaphor of the vision is that God will bring up his people “from their graves”, bring them back into the land, and
bring the nation back to life.
“And you shall know that I am the Lord”.
In that sense, the prophecy was fulfilled by the return from exile.
From a later perspective, however, we can see an implied promise of a more general imparting of the Holy Spirit, and the suggestion of a more literal
resurrection, and these did not begin to find fulfilment until the New Testament period.
A further word of the Lord talks about the restoration of unity between the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which broke apart after the death of
There is a physical image to be acted out. Ezekiel is to mark two sticks with the names of “Judah” and “Joseph”, adding “house of Israel”
to both labels. He is then to “join them together into one stick, that they may become one in your hand”.
Of course the people will ask him what he means by this action.
The answer is that the Lord intends to bring back the whole people from exile, from both kingdoms, and restore them to the land as one kingdom under
“And they shall be their people, and I will be their God”.
The return from exile after the fall of Babylon did not, in fact, include the tribes of the former northern kingdom. Indeed, the returned inhabitants
of Jerusalem fell out with the remnants of the northern tribes, who became the Samaritans. So this prophecy was not fulfilled in the Old Testament
From a later perspective, however, we might see it as partly fulfilled in the New Testament period, when the division between Jews and Gentiles should
have been overcome in the unity of the church.
The single kingdom implies a single ruler (vv24-28).
“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall have one shepherd”.
The old relation between God and his people will be restored.
They shall follow his ordinances, they will dwell securely in the land.
He will make an everlasting “covenant of peace” with them.
“I will bless them and multiply them, and will set up my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
My dwelling-place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”.
This, too, did not find immediate fulfilment on the return from Babylon.
When the people were living under their own leaders, their own leaders were not “my servant David”.
From a later perspective, however, the Christian looks to find a partial fulfilment, at least, in the arrival of Christ and the establishment of a new