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Song of Solomon
Ezekiel 37 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which
full of bones,
The hand of the Lord was upon me
. The absence of the customary "and" (comp.
Ezekiel 1:1, 3
Ezekiel 3:14, 22
), wanting only once again (
), appears to indicate something extraordinary and unusual in the prophet's experience. In the words of Ewald, such a never-beheld sight one sees freely (by itself) in a moment of higher inspiration or never;" and that in this whole vision the prophet was the subject of a special and intensified inspiration is evident, not alone from the contents of the vision, but also from the language in which it is recorded.
And carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord.
So the Vulgate and Hitzig - a translation which Smend thinks might be justified by an appeal to
, in which the similar phrase, "Spirit of God (
)," occurs; though, with Grotius, Havernick, Keil, and others, he prefers the rendering of the LXX., "And Jehovah carried me out in the Spirit." The Revised Version combines the two thus: "And he carried me out in the Spirit of the
." Keil suggests that the words, "of God," in
, were omitted here because of the word "Jehovah" immediately following.
And set me down in the midst of the valley.
As the article indicates, the valley in the neighborhood of Tel-Abib, where the prophet received his first instructions concerning his mission (
); although Hengstenberg holds, wrongly we think, that "the valley here has nothing to do with the valley in
was full of bones
of men who had been slaughtered there (ver. 9; comp.
), and whose corpses had been left unburied upon the face of the plain (ver. 3), so that they were seen by the prophet. Whether these bones were actually in the valley, or merely formed part of the vision, can only be conjectured, though the latter opinion seems the more probable. At the same time, such a plain as is here depicted may well have been a battle-ground on which Assyrian and Chaldean armies had often met.
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold,
very many in the open valley; and, lo,
And he caused me to pass by them round about
. Not over, as Keil, Klie-foth, and Plumptre translate, but round about them, so as to view them from every side. The result of the prophet's inspection of the bones was to excite within him a feeling of surprise which expressed itself in a twofold behold; the first occasioned by a contemplation of their number,
, and their situation,
in the open valley
upon the face of the valley; i.e.
not underground, where they could not have been seen, but upon the surface of the soil, and not piled up in heaps, but scattered over the ground; and the second by a discernment of their condition as
, so bleached and withered as to foreclose, not the possibility alone, but also the thought of their resuscitation.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Son of man, can these bones live?
Whether or not this question was directed, as Plumptre surmises, to meet despairing thoughts which had arisen in the prophet's own mind, it seems reasonable to hold, with Havernick, that the question was addressed to him as representing "ever against God the people, and certainly as to this point the natural and purely human consciousness of the same," to which Israel's restoration appeared as unlikely an occurrence as the reanimation of the withered bones that lay around. The extreme improbability, if not absolute impossibility, of the occurrence, at least to human reason and power, is perhaps pointed at in the designation "Son of man" here given to the prophet. The prophet's answer,
O Lord God, thou knowest
, is not to be interpreted as proving that to the prophet hitherto the thought of a resurrection had been unfamiliar, if not completely absent, or as giving a direct reply either affirmative or negative to the question proposed to him, but merely as expressing the prophet's sense of the greatness of the wonder suggested to his mind, with perhaps a latent acknowledgment that God alone had the power by which such a wonder could, and therefore alone also the knowledge whether it would, be accomplished (comp.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
. This instruction - which shows Jehovah regarded the prophet's answer as equivalent to an admission that the revivification of the bones lay within his (Jehovah's) power - was not a mere command to predict, as in
and Ezekiel 11:4, but an injunction to utter the Divine word through which the miracle (of creation, as it really was) should be performed. "The significance of the command lies in the fact that it taught the prophet that he was himself to be instrumental in the great work of resuscitation. He who had been so often troubled with the sense of impotence and failure, who had heard the people say of him, 'Both he not speak parables?' who had been to them as the lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and nothing more than that, was at last to learn that the word of the Lord,' spoken by his lips, was mighty, and would not return to him void" (Plumptre).
Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
I will cause breath to eater into you
I am causing breath
to enter into you
. The real agent, therefore, in the resuscitation of the bones was to be, not the prophet or the word, but Jehovah himself; and that the end aimed at by the Divine activity was "life" shows the breath spoken of (ruach) was not to be the wind, as in ver. 9, or the Spirit, but the breath of life, as in
and Genesis 7:22 (comp.
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
- The process of revivification is now divided into two stages - a preliminary stage which should effect the reconstruction of the external skeleton, by bringing together its different parts and clothing them with
sinews, flesh, and skin
); and a finishing stage, which should consist in animating, or "putting breath in" the reconstructed skeleton; corresponding so the two stages into which the process of man's original creation was divided (
). The result would be that the resurrected and reanimated bones, like newly made man, would know the Lord.
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
Verses 7, 8.
So I prophesied as I was commanded
. The words uttered were without doubt those of vers. 4-6. The effect produced is depicted in its various steps. First, there resulted a noise - literally, a
- which the Revisers take to have been "a thundering;" and Havernick, Keil, Smend, and others, "a sound" in general; but which Ewald, Hengstenberg, and Schroder, with more propriety, regard as having been an audible voice, if not, as Kliefoth supposes, the trumpet-blast or "voice of God," which, according to certain New Testament passages, shall precede the resurrection and awaken the dead (
John 5:25, 28
1 Corinthians 15:52
1 Thessalonians 4:16
); perhaps, as Plumptre suggests, the "counterpart" thereof.
Next, a shaking
(LXX.); which the Revisers, following Klie-foth, understand to have been an earthquake, as in
1 Kings 19:11
), and Ewald explains as "a peal of thunder running through the entire announcement," as in
Ezekiel 3:12, 13
and Ezekiel 38:19, 20; but which is better interpreted by Keil, Smend, and others as a rustling proceeding from a movement among the bones. Thirdly,
the bones came together
in the body as a whole, and in particular bone to his bone;
bone to the bone
with which it was designed to be united, as e.g. "the upper to the lower part of the arm" (Schroder).
Lastly, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above
; or, as in the Revised Version,
there were sinews upon them
and flesh came up and skin covered them above
; precisely as Jehovah had announced to the prophet would take place (ver. 6). Yet, though the external framework of the bodies was finished, there was
no breath in them
having still the same import as in ver. 5. With this the preliminary stage in the reanimating process terminated.
And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but
no breath in them.
Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
- The finishing stage began by the prophet receiving a command to
prophesy unto the wind
), and to summon it from the four "breaths," or "winds" (in this case the preferable rendering), that it might breathe upon the slain. "Four winds" are mentioned, as in
, to indicate the four quarters of heaven (comp.
Ezekiel 5:10, 12
), and perhaps also to suggest the immense quantity of vitalizing force demanded by the multitude of the dead (Smend), "the fullness and force of the Spirit's operations" (Hengstenberg), or the notion that the Spirit, in resuscitating Israel, would make use of all the varied forces that were then working in the world (Plumptre). The designation of the dead as slain reveals that the resurrection intended was not that of men in general, but of the nation of Israel.
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
An exceeding great army
. This harmonizes with the feature in the vision which describes the bones as those of slain men, while also it may be viewed as foreshadowing the future destiny of Israel. "The bones of the slain on the field of battle, having been brought together, clothed with flesh, and a new life breathed into them, now they stand up, not as 'a mixed multitude,' but as 'an exceeding great army' prepared to take their part in the wars of Jehovah under new and happier conditions" (Plumptre). (On the phrase, "to stand upon the feet," comp.
Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
contain, according to most commentators, the Divine interpretation of the vision, Kliefoth alone contending that they furnish, not so much an exposition of the vision - which, he thinks, must be explained independently, and which he regards as teaching the future resurrection of God's people - as an application to Israel's ease of the doctrine contained in the vision.
These bones are the whole house of Israel
. On the principle that "God is his own best interpreter," it should not be difficult to see that, whatever foreshadowings of the final resurrection of the just may be contained in the vision, its primary intention was to depict the political and national restoration of Israel (Ephraim and Judah) whose condition at the time the field of withered bones appropriately represented. That Hitzig errs in supposing the "bones" alluded to in this verse symbolized the portions of Ephraim and Judah then dead, instead of the portions still living (in exile), who considered themselves as practically dead, is apparent from the words that follow.
Behold, they say
. The complaint was manifestly taken from the popular sayings current among the people of the exile. Broken up, dispersed, expatriated, and despairing, the members of what had once been "the whole house of Israel" felt there was no hope more of recovering national life and unity. The cheerless character of the outlook they expressed by saying, Our bones (not the bones of the dead, but of the living) are dried - meaning, "The vital force of our nation is gone" (the bones being regarded in Scripture as the seat of the vital force comp.
our hope is lost
- our hope,
, of ever again returning to our own land or regaining national existence - and
we are out off for our parts
we are cut off for ourselves
; which Gesenius explains to mean, "We are
סעךתתסאנוךלפ סעשׁלתאד א סא לָנוּ
; Hitzig, "We are reduced to ourselves;" Delitzsch and Keil, "We are cut off from the land of the living,"
it is all over with us; Hengstenberg, "We are cut off - a sad fact for us;" Revised Version, "We are clean cut off;" any one of which renders the force of the words (scrap.
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
I will open your graves
. That this is not exact interpretation of the foregoing symbol may be argued from the fact that in the vision no mention is made of graves; yet the discrepancy to which it is supposed to point is more apparent than real. If the prophet was to see the bones, it was requisite that these should be above ground rather than beneath. On the other hand, when one speaks of a grave, it is not needful to always think of an underground tomb. To all intents and purposes a person is in his grave when, life being extinct, his body has returned to the dust. So, the opening of graves promised in Scripture is not so much, or always, the cleaving asunder of material sepulchers, as the bringing back to life of those whose bodies have returned to the dust. Hence the opening of Israel's graves could only signify the reawakening of the politically and religiously dead people to national and spiritual life. This was the first step in the restoration of the future held up before the minds of the despairing people. The second, indicated by the clause, and allah put my Spirit in you, pointed, as in
Ezekiel 36:26, 27
, to their future endowment with higher moral and spiritual life than they had previously possessed, and not merely, as in vers. 5, 6, to their political and national resuscitation (Smend). The last step, the re-establishment of the reconstructed nation in Palestine, was guaranteed by the word,
I will place you in your own land.
The circumstance that this is twice repeated (vers. 12, 14) shows that whatever view be entertained of the ultimate occupation of Canaan by Israel, this was the goal towards which the vision looked. That it received partial, limited, and temporary fulfillment of a literal kind in the restoration under Zerubbabel and Ezra, is undeniable; that it will ever obtain historical realization of a permanent sort is doubtful; that it will eventually find its highest significance when God's spiritual Israel, the Church of Christ, takes possession of the heavenly Canaan, is one of the clearest and surest announcements of Scripture.
. - On the above nine verses (6-14) Plumptre writes, "We can scarcely fail to find, in our Lord's words in
, something like an echo of Ezekiel's teaching. There also, though the truth of the general resurrection is declared more clearly, the primary thought is that of a spiritual resurrection. Further, we may note that the complement of Ezekiel's message is found in the language of
. Taking the two together, we find both reproduced in the teaching of
." (manuscript notes).
And ye shall know that I
the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken
, and performed
, saith the LORD.
The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
- The "word" embodied in this section was probably communicated to the prophet at the close of the preceding vision. Its connection with this is apparent, treating as it does of the union of the then severed branches of the house of Israel, and of the subsequent prosperity which should attend united Israel under the rule of the Messianic King of the future. That this oracle, like the former, had only a temporary and partial accomplishment in the return from captivity is so obvious as to stand in no need of demonstration. Its true fulfillment must be sought in the future ingathering of Israel to the Christian Church.
Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and
all the house of Israel his companions:
Take thee one stick, and write
. The symbolic action thus prescribed to the prophet was manifestly based on the well-known historical fact that the tribes of Israel, in Mosaic times, had been represented by a rod, on which was inscribed the name of the tribe (
); but whether the stick Ezekiel was instructed to take was a staff,
(LXX., Hirernick, Hitzig, Kliefoth, and Smend), or a block (Ewald), or simply a piece (Keil, Schroder) of wood on which a few words might be traced, cannot be decided. On the first stick the prophet was directed to write,
For Judah, and the house of his companions
for the southern kingdom and those of the northern tribes who adhered to it, as
, Benjamin, Levi, and part of Simeon, with those devout Jehovah-worshippers who from time to time emigrated from other tribes and settled in the land of Judah (
2 Chronicles 11:12-16
2 Chronicles 15:9
2 Chronicles 30:11, 18
, 31; 31:1; though by Wellhausen, Smend, and others, such passages are pronounced unhistorical). On the second stick also the prophet was directed to write; but whether
For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and
all the house of Israel his companions
(Authorized and Revised Versions), or "For Joseph and the whole house of Israel" (Keil), or simply "For Joseph" (Ewald, Havernick, Smend), cannot be determined. Each interpretation can be supported by quite reasonable considerations. For the first may be pleaded that it best accords with the natural sense of the text; for the second, that the phrase,
the stick of Ephraim
, appears to be explanatory of and in opposition to "For Joseph;" for the third, that
all the house of Israel
stands, like "Ephraim," under the regimen of "stick." The introduction of Joseph as the representative of the northern kingdom rests, not on the fact that Joseph's was the most honorable name among the ten tribes (Havernick), but on the circumstance that the tribe of Joseph, as represented by Ephraim and Manasseh, constituted the main body of the northern kingdom. The addition of Ephraim's name is best accounted for by remembering that in his hand lay the hegemony of the kingdom. "All the house of Israel his companions" signified the rest of the ten tribes. That the two sticks, when joined together in the prophet's hand, were to become one cannot signify that they were then and there to be miraculously united.
And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou
Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these
? literally, what these (two pieces of wood)
are to thee
. The suggestion that such a request would be preferred to Ezekiel makes it clear he was meant to perform the symbolic action in public. That his countrymen should fail to understand this action accorded with their proverbial dullness of apprehension (comp.
). In explanation, the prophet was enjoined to
say unto them
, while holding the sticks in his hand, that just as he had made the sticks one in his hand, so would God make one in his hand the two kingdoms symbolized by the sticks. The union of the sticks was to be Ezekiel's work (ver. 17, "in thy hand"); the union of the kingdoms should be Jehovah's (ver. 19, "in my hand"). The separation of the kingdoms had been Ephraim's doing ("in the hand of Ephraim"); their combination should be God's ("in my hand"). Their severance had been effected, on the part of Ephraim, by an unlawful breaking off from the house of Judah, and the establishment of an independent kingdom; their unification should be brought about by the putting down of Ephraim, and the confirming of the crown rights of Judah. The translation,
And will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah
, signifying "And will put the tribes of Israel with him."
the tribe of Judah, supported by the LXX., and preferred by Ewald, Smend, and others, is superior to that of the Revised Version margin, "And will put them together with it, unto [or, ' to be'] the stick of Judah." Keil s rendering, "I will take the stick of Joseph... and the tribes of Israel his companions, which I put thereon [literally, 'and I put them,' viz. the tribes, 'upon
the stick of Joseph] with the stick of Judah," is too involved.
Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which
in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him,
with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
explain how the unification of the two kingdoms should be brought about. The first step should be the bringing of the people home to their own land (vers. 21, 22); the second, their purification from idolatry (ver. 23); the third, the installation over them, thus united and purified, of one King, the ideal David of the future, or the Messiah (vers. 24, 25); the fourth, the establishment with them of Jehovah's covenant of peace (ver. 26), and the permanent erection amongst them of Jehovah's temple (vers. 27, 28).
Verses 21, 22.
I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen
. That tills promise was intended to find an initial and partial fulfillment in the return from Babylon is undoubted. That it was also designed to look across the centuries towards the final ingathering of God's spiritual Israel into their permanent inheritance, the heavenly Canaan, an examination of its terms shows. These clearly presuppose a wider dispersion of Israel than had then,
in Ezekiel's day, taken place; and that Israel has never yet been made
one nation upon the mountains of Israel
, is incontestable. Nor is there ground for expecting she ever will be. Not even after the exile closed did all Israel return to Palestine. Nor did it ever come true in their experience that one king was king to them all, since, in point of fact, they never afterwards had an earthly sore-reign at all who was properly independent. If, therefore, the prince who in the future should shepherd them was not to be a temporal monarch, but the Messiah, the probability is that the Israel he should shepherd was designed to be, not Israel after the flesh, but Israel after the spirit, who should walk in his judgments and observe his statutes, and
, in the fullness of the times, should develop out into the Christian Church. Hence it seems reasonable to conclude that
their own land
, into which they should eventually be brought, would be not so much the veritable soil from which their ancestors had been expelled, as the country or region in which the new, rejuvenated, reunited, and reformed Israel should dwell, which, again, should be n territory cleansed from sin and idolatry, so as to render it a fit abode for a people devoted to righteousness. Viewed in this light,
their own land
was first Canaan, in so far as after the exile it was cleansed from idolatry; now it is those portions of the earth in which the Christian Church has been planted, so far as these are influenced by the holy principles of religion; finally, it will be the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (scrap.
And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
The dwelling-places wherein they have sinned
, from which Jehovah premises to save them, are in accordance with the views expressed above, not, as Hengstenberg and Hitzig conjecture, the dwelling-places of the exile in which the people then were, but the dwelling-places in Canaan in which they had formerly transgressed, but would in future be preserved from transgressing. The idea is, as Schroder suggests, the localization of transgression which is viewed as proceeding from the dwelling-places in which it is committed; or, according to Plumptre, the conception is that, as their habitations had formerly been contaminated by their detestable things, "the worship of teraphim and such like, if not worse," so Jehovah would save them from that contamination. The proposal to alter the text by the transposition of a letter, converting
, "dwelling-places," into
," defections," as in
), though adopted by some ancient versions and favored by Ewald and Smend, is not necessary.
And David my servant
king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein,
they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David
their prince for ever.
- The phrase,
my servant David
Ezekiel 34:23, 24
Jeremiah 33:21, 22, 26
Psalm 89:3, 20
), goes back to the Messianic promise of
2 Samuel 7:12-16
, and cannot be satisfactorily explained as signifying the Davidic house (Smend), or as pointing to "a line of true rulers, each faithfully representing the ideal David as the faithful Ruler, the true Shepherd of his people" (Plumptre, on Ezekiel 34:23), inasmuch as Israel, after Ezekiel's day, never possessed any such line of rulers, and certainly no such line continued
. The only feasible exegesis is that which understands Jehovah's servant David to be Messiah, or Jesus Christ, of whom the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:8) says. "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever."
Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
Verses 26, 27.
- With the people thus gathered (ver. 21), united (ver. 22), purified (ver. 23), and established under the rule of Messiah (ver. 25), Jehovah makes a
covenant of peace
(see on Ezekiel 34:25; and comp.
), further characterized as
an everlasting covenant
covenant of eternity
(see on Ezekiel 16:60; and comp.
); which guarantees the continuance between him and them of undying friendship, conjoined with the bestowment on his part and the enjoyment on theirs of the highest social and religious blessings. First, national existence and secure possession of the soil.
I will place
, either to their land, as in
(Smend), or to be a nation (Keil), or perhaps both (Kliefoth). Next, steady increase of population -
I will multiply them
). Thirdly, perpetual residence of Jehovah amongst them, I will set (or,
, conveying the idea of sanctity)
in the midst of them for evermore
idea being that of residence or dwelling)
also shall be with them
them - the figure being derived from the elevated site of the temple, which overhung the city (
), and intended to suggest the idea of Jehovah's protecting grace. That this promise was in part implemented by the erection of the second temple in the days of Zerubbabel may be conceded, and also that Ezekiel himself may have looked forward to a literal restoration of the sanctuary; but its highest realization must be sought for, first in the Incarnation (
), next in God's inhabitation of the Church through the Spirit (
2 Corinthians 6:16
), and finally in his tabernacling with redeemed men in the heavenly Jerusalem (
Revelation 21:3, 22
). The last blessing specified is the intimate communion of God with his people, and of them with him -
Yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
This, which formed the kernel of the old covenant with Israel (
), became the essence of the new covenant with the Israel of the restoration (
), but only attained to complete realization in the relation of Christian believers to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (
2 Corinthians 6:16
My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
describes the effect which such a glorious transformation of Israel's character and condition, should produce upon the heathen world. They should recognize from his presence amongst his people, symbolized by the establishment in their midst of his sanctuary, that he had both the power and the will to sanctify them, by making them inwardly as well as outwardly holy; and, recognizing this, they would seek admittance to the congregation and fellowship of God's spiritual Israel.
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