Ezekiel 37: Dry Bones Revived
When was Ezekiel taken to Babylon? How many years later did his call to office come? That was about the year 592 B.C. Thus, the first section of the prophecy, chapters 1-24, which points to the destruction of Jerusalem, belongs to the years 592-586 B.C. The second section, chapters 25-37, contains the group of prophecies on foreign nations. Section three includes chapters 33-39, which consist chiefly of a series of addresses to the exiles. And the last section of the book, chapters 40-47, written in 572 B.C. (Ezek. 40:1), describes the vision of the temple.
This lesson is taken from the third section, which was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The exiles were doubtless in a most despondent state. In their despair, they doubt the Lord's providence. They say, "The way of the Lord is not equal." (Ezek. 33:17, 20) But Ezekiel points out that each individual is responsible for his or her own deeds. If the righteous turn from righteousness and do evil, they shall die for it. But if the wicked turn from wickedness and do good, they shall live. This is the same doctrine which he has already taught them at great length in the clearest language. (Ezek. 18) Then he prophesies the desolation and destruction that awaits those left in the land. There is hope for those in captivity but none for those in the land. (Ezek. 33:23) He reproves the leaders of the people, but promises the advent of the Shepherd of Israel who will bring blessings to His people. (Ezek. 34) Edom shall be punished for his hatred and envy of Israel. (Ezek. 33. See also Obadiah.) For the same reason, the heathen shall be punished, but the house of Israel shall be cleansed and purified and return to the land. (Ezek. 36) Then follows the vision in the valley of dry bones. Israel, in captivity, has lost hope of ever being restored. (Ezek. 37:11. See also Ps. 137.) This vision is most full of encouragement for the disheartened captives. It assures them of the restoration not only of Judah but also of Israel. The entire house of Israel shall be brought into their own land, "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. David My servant shall rule over them: and they all shall have one shepherd." The closing verses of this chapter are exceedingly beautiful.
The two closing chapters in this section - 38 and 39 - deal with the destruction of the forces of Gog, and the restoration of Israel.
The prophet was placed by the Lord in the midst of a valley full of bones. The hones represent "the whole house of Israel." The valley signifies the state of dark despair—"our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts." Humanity is then in an exterior natural state in which the truths of heaven do not appear in clear light. The bones represent the people, or rather the truths which they possess. These are "truths in the ultimate of order upon which spiritual truths are founded." (E. 659) They are basal or foundation truths of Christian life. The bones are very dry: there is no moisture in them. The truths are lifeless without good. They are disjointed and unconnected, being separated from each other by the perverted state of life in which humanity is. The facts of being are severed and rendered powerless to support and sustain spiritual life owing to the overpowering influence of evil. "Can these bones live? O Lord God thou knowest." Ezekiel is to prophesy unto them to hear the Word of the Lord. Upon the application of the Word, the bones come together, they are covered with flesh, and the breath or spirit imparts life to them. The truths that were disjointed are put together, the fundamental truths are brought into orderly relation to each other, the perfect system of faith is established and furnishes a sufficient basis for receiving new life from the Lord. The bones are then bound together and covered with living tissue. The sinews or ligaments are connecting truths of a higher order, a more living type. The flesh is the love which gives motion or power of activity to humanity. And the skin is the outward expression of this truth and love, its form varying according to the individuality of the recipient. Finally, the breath from the four winds enters this form and it lives. The four winds signify the spirit of the Lord in the four quarters of heaven. (R. 343; F. 418) Through heaven, the Divine life is imparted to humanity. "No one can be conjoined with the Lord as He is in Himself." The Lord, however, is "in the whole angelic heaven like the soul in man." Life through the angelic heaven is thus the Divine life tempered according to humanity’s power of reception. These steps describe the process by which a person is brought out of a state of despair to one of life. This subject is now treated from a different standpoint. First comes the revivification through the truth; now follows the conjunction effected through "the good of charity and thence of works." This is what is signified by the piece of wood. (A. 5354) When the Lord implants His love in the heart and humanity receives it, acknowledging its source, then it reunites all that had been severed by evil. The church is made one from the Lord and is henceforth protected from all evil infestations.
The closing verses in this chapter are full of beauty and comfort and encouragement. The child, when rebuked for telling a lie, has little consciousness of the extent of wrong done. As it grows up, it learns more fully how the world regards insincerity. If it is well instructed in the precepts of the Word, the knowledge about this evil becomes still greater. In later life, if it follows the path of regeneration, the perception of the wrongfulness of insincerity increases as regeneration advances. When the attacks of the evil spirits in stirring up hidden tendencies to it are at their worst, and hope is nigh gone, then is the promise of permanent relief near at hand, even at the door. "I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone on every side, and bring then into their own land. Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Compare Rev. 21:3.)