Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies - Ezekiel, Israel and the End Times
Ezekiel 37 - Dem bones dem bones dem, dry bones - Hear the word of the Lord!
by I Gordon
The chapter before us today is very famous. So famous in
fact that it even has its own song! What little kid didn't grow up singing 'The
toe bone connected to the foot bone, foot bone connected to the heel bone, heel
bone connected to, um1,
some other bone, argh, Hear the word of the Lord!' 'Dem bones dem bones demo dry
bones' is an old spiritual song from the 1920's based on this chapter before us
- Ezekiel 37. Even if you aren't familiar with the song (where have you
been?), you will be familiar I'm sure with Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones.
Now the vision and passage are interesting on
several levels. They hold important thoughts for our own individual lives as
well as a key prophetic message for the time in which we live. We'll look at
both aspects as we move through this chapter. In verses 1-10 we'll explore
some of the practical and personal thoughts that can come out of the passage
and in we'll focus on the prophetic implication of verses 11-28. Got it?
Good. Let's go.
The valley of dry bones
37:1-4 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit
of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. (2)
He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the
floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. (3) He asked me, "Son
of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know."
(4) Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry
bones, hear the word of the LORD!
Have a good look at the image to the left so that
you can imagine something of the vision that Ezekiel saw. The Lord gives
Ezekiel a vision of a valley full of old dry bones and then the question
comes from the Lord - 'Can these bones live?' Well, the obvious answer is
no. Bones don't come back to life! You can ask a child that question and
they will be able to answer it! And yet Ezekiel is no so quick to answer for
He knows that he is giving an answer to the One who has a long history of
doing what seems impossible to man. So Ezekiel simply says 'Oh Lord, you
alone know.' There are lots of questions that we can't answer in this life.
Many times we can't answer why particular things happen on this planet or in
our own lives. Now as a Bible teacher I like to have answers! : ) I feel
like I'm meant to have an answer when people ask questions. But there is so
much that we do not know, and may never know until the Lord returns, so
often all we can do is, like Ezekiel, sit back in awe of the majesty and
sovereignty of God and say 'Oh Lord, you know'... and then rest there.
The second point that I'll draw your attention to in this passage is
what God asked Ezekiel to do. God instructs Ezekiel to speak to dry dead
bones! Now naturally speaking, that is a level of crazy somewhat on par with
God telling Moses to speak to a rock so that it would give up it's water for
all the Israelites to drink! But that's exactly what Moses did and drink they
did! (Numbers 20:8-9) And Ezekiel is equally obedient dispute the strange
command. What a strange thing this is... but God asks you to speak to some dry
bones as well! He asks you to share the word of the Lord with lives that are
dead and have no hope in themselves of experiencing true life. Yet "it
pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.' (1
Cor. 1:21) We often think that so and so won't ever get saved.
'Thingy-ma-jig is too hard, too dead in sins... he can't respond'. And yet
when God lays someone on your heart to pray for or witness to, believe!
Mary, the mother of Jesus, said something that is important at the wedding
at Cana. With the wedding out of wine early, she mentioned it to Jesus and
then said to the servants 'do whatever He (Jesus) tells you.' (John 2:5) It
might seem odd, it may seem strange, but do what Jesus tells you. That is
good advice. Ezekiel was asked to speak to dry bones. He may have thought it
sounded a little odd as well but he obeyed as he should. And we should do the
Whoa... what's happening?
Ezekiel 37:5-10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to
these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to
life. (6) I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you
and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come
to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' " (7) So I
prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise,
a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. (8) I looked,
and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was
no breath in them. (9) Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath;
prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they
may live.' " (10) So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered
them; they came to life and stood up on their feet--a vast army.
This valley of dry bones is going to be 'breathed'
upon by the Sovereign Lord. It is as this point that life will enter into
them. The word translated 'breath' is the word 'ruach' which can be
translated as 'breath' or 'spirit' or 'wind'. In fact in the King
James Version this word is translated spirit 227 times, wind or winds 93
times and breath 27 times. This passage obviously draws on the the creation
of man in Genesis 2 where man was first formed but life didn't enter into
man until God breathed on him.
Genesis 2:7 And the
LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Of course, Jesus did the same thing to His disciples
before He returned to the Father showing that spiritual life comes only from
God and through the Spirit of the living God:
John 20:21-22 So Jesus said to them again,
"Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." (22) And
when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
The takeaway from this for
you and me is that the Spirit of the Lord can give life
to dry bones. That is true for non-Christians, dry barren Christians, and
also this bunch of old dry bones before
Ezekiel. Without the Spirit of God we are nothing but dry dusty bones.
Let us not become proud or self sufficient but always see our
need of the Lord's Spirit in our lives.
The interpretation given
Ezekiel 37:11-14 Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the
whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is
gone; we are cut off.' (12) Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is
what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves
and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.
(13) Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your
graves and bring you up from them. (14) I will put my Spirit in you and you
will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I
the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "
valley of the dry bones is a very well known vision and passage and often it
is interpreted as giving hope to the Church. Well, we can certainly see
applications in the text for our own lives and that is fine but we shouldn't
do so at the expense of the original context and primary meaning. And what
is the context and primary meaning you ask? Well, it is quite simple for God explains
the vision for us. The bones are the house of Israel. They have lost all
hope thinking they are cut off and see no future. They are simply like dry
dead bones. So what time frame does this describe? It describes
the Israelites scattered amongst the nations before God drew them back to be
a nation again in 1948. This passage also describes the thoughts of the Jews
in Germany and other European countries in WWII who suffered terrible
persecution and death.
Speaking on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi
Auschwitz concentration camp, Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the
fulfillment of at least part of Ezekiel 372
'The Jewish people rose from ashes and
destruction, from a terrible pain that can never be healed. Armed with the
Jewish spirit, the justice of man, and the vision of the prophets, we
sprouted new branches and grew deep roots. Dry bones became covered with
flesh, a spirit filled them, and they lived and stood on their own feet, as
Ezekiel prophesied: 'Then He said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the
whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is
lost, and we ourselves are cut off!' Therefore prophesy and say to them,
thus says the Lord God, 'Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and
cause you to come up from your graves and bring you into the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My
people, and brought you up from your graves.'
Now it is important to note the order of this restoration in the
Ezekiel passage. The bones come back together and skin is formed on them. So
there is a physical restoration first. But there is no breath in them at
this stage. Then the Lord gets Ezekiel to prophecy a second time and this
time the breath of God breathed over these dead bodies and they were given
life. This act shows the order in the restoration of the nation of Israel.
J. Vernon McGee writes:
"What has happened to these bones has occurred in three stages: (1)
they were scattered bones, just as dead as they could be; (2) then they came
together, and flesh and skin came upon them - they were bodies, but dead
bodies; and finally (3) they were made alive. We will find in these three
stages a real key to understanding Bible prophecy concerning the nation
This explains some of the issues that people have with the modern day
nation of Israel being a fulfillment of prophecy. Some don't believe that the
modern state of Israel can be fulfilling prophecy because they remain largely secular
and have not come back to the Lord. But we see from this prophecy that there is a
physical restoration by the Lord BEFORE Ezekiel is called to prophesy again
which causes life (spiritual life through the Spirit) to enter them. Arnold Fructenbaum writes:
"The re-establishment of the Jewish State in 1948 has not only
thrown a wrench into amillennial thinking, but it has also put a chink into
much of premillennial thinking. Amazingly, some Dispensationalists conclude
that the present State of Israel has nothing to do with fulfillment of
prophecy. On what grounds do they so flagrantly dismiss the present State of
Israel? The issue bothering them is that not only do the returning Jews
reject Jesus, but the majority of the returnees are atheists or agnostics,
not Orthodox Jews. Certainly, Israel today does not fit biblical passages
speaking of its return as a regenerated nation. However, this reasoning
fails to see that the prophets spoke of two international returns. First,
Israel will regather in unbelief in preparation for tribulational judgment.
A second worldwide regathering in faith will then follow in preparation for
the blessings of the messianic age. Once recognized that the Bible speaks of
two distinct regatherings, the present State of Israel easily fits into
And let me just add one thing here. If the Jews have been gathered
from the nations as the prophecy foretold, and Israel is now back as a
nation as the scripture foretold, how long will it be before all these other
prophecies (including the coming of the King!) are fulfilled?
One nation under one King
Ezekiel 37:15-28 The word of the LORD came to me: (16) Son of man,
take a stick of wood and write on it, 'Belonging to Judah and the Israelites
associated with him.' Then take another stick of wood, and write on it,
'Ephraim's stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated
with him.' (17) Join them together into one stick so that they will become
one in your hand. (18) When your countrymen ask you, 'Won't you tell us what
you mean by this?' (19) say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign
LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph--which is in Ephraim's
hand--and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to
Judah's stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will
become one in my hand.' (20) Hold before their eyes the sticks you have
written on (21) and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD
says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I
will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.
(22) I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.
There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two
nations or be divided into two kingdoms. (23) They will no longer
defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their
offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will
cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
This section sees the Lord getting Ezekiel to take
two sticks and join them together. And then he had to carry them around so
that everyone could see them! Sounds a little odd but there is a very good
object lesson in these two merged sticks. The two sticks stand for the two
kingdoms of Judah and Israel which will come together as one people under
one King. Judah was the southern kingdom and Ephraim, or Joseph, represents
the northern kingdom. The Bible Knowledge Commentary gives us some of the
background to this prophecy:
"After Solomon died the nation of Israel split
asunder, in 931 b.c. The Southern Kingdom was known as Judah because Judah
was its larger tribe and because the country was ruled by a king from that
tribe (cf. 1Ki_12:22-24). The Northern Kingdom was called Israel, or
sometimes Ephraim (e.g., Hos_5:3, Hos_5:5, Hos_5:11-14) either because
Ephraim was the strongest and most influential tribe or because the first
king of Israel, Jeroboam I, was an Ephraimite (1Ki_11:26). Israel was taken
into captivity by Assyria in 722 b.c., and Judah was taken into exile by
Babylon in 605, 597, and 586 b.c."
The first aspect of this prophecy which states that
the Lord will 'take them out of the nations and gather them back to the
land' has been partially fulfilled. All of the scattered Jewish tribes have
been gathered (in part) and dwell in the land of Israel today as one nation.
There is still however, a further gathering of the exiled Israelites to
occur when the Messiah Jesus returns. It is only then that they shall be one
nation under one King. At that time all enmity and jealousy between the
northern and southern kingdoms will be gone as seen in the following passage
Isaiah 11:10-13 In that day the Root of Jesse
(Jesus) will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to
him, and his place of rest will be glorious. (11) In that day the
Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is
left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper
Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the
islands of the sea. (12) He will raise a banner for the nations and
gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
from the four quarters of the earth. (13) Ephraim's jealousy will vanish,
and Judah's enemies will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.
One glorious forever
(24) 'My servant David will be king over them, and they
will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful
to keep my decrees. (25) They will live in the land I gave to my servant
Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children
and their children's children will live there forever, and David my servant
will be their prince forever. (26) I will make a covenant
of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will
establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among
them forever. (27) My dwelling place will be with them; I will be
their God, and they will be my people. (28) Then the nations will know that
I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.' "
The final part of Ezekiel 37 touches on the great thought (as seen also
in previous chapters) that after the breath of spiritual life is breathed
back in the nation of Israel, they shall finally live with their One King
and One shepherd. In this passage it mentions 'David' as that king but
as seen previously, this is alluding to 'the son of David' the Messiah. Some
scholars believe that the actual David will also be very prominent at this
time, ruling and reigning under King Jesus during the Millennial reign. I
would agree with that. If you read the passage above you will quickly note a
word that is repeated 5 times. I'm sure it jumped out to you and I have no
need to mention it, but just in case... That is the word 'forever' (well,
there are 4 'forever's' and 1 'everlasting' but it is the same Hebrew word 'olam').
I like that. I like that the troubles that we go through as believers are
for a season only and then comes the 'forever' when things are made right. I
like that Israel's grand story which has seen tremendous blessings and
judgments right down through the ages, ends with a glorious 'forever'. Look
and think about some of these forever's for while in context it is speaking
of Israel's future, they also apply to believers today as well:
children and their children's
children will live in the Promised Land FOREVER (just as believers will
live in the New Jerusalem forever)
The Messiah will be their prince and king FOREVER (believers today
are betrothed to King Jesus as a bride to be wed forever!)
There will be a new covenant of peace made with Israel that is
everlasting or FOREVER (believers today have already come into this new
covenant and its peace with God truly lasts forever!)
The Lord's sanctuary or dwelling place is among His people FOREVER
(believers today await the rapture of the church where it is said 'so
shall we always be with the Lord.' - forever!)
Praise God that He can... no scrub that... Praise
God that He WILL
bring an 'out of this world' ending to this whole story. Do you know that
hope? Are you looking forward to it? If you don't know the Lord then realise
that you are currently as dead, spiritually speaking, as Ezekiel's valley of
dry bones. But through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, He
can breath new spiritual life into you. He said 'You must be born again'.
There is no other option but praise God that He is the One who gives life to
the dead and He can do it for you. If you are a believer then i simply
encourage you to press on to the higher calling of our Lord. He is worth it
and you will never be disappointed that you did when you enter the FOREVER!