This is a strange chapter about a valley full of dry bones and death and yet it carries the promise of a blessing for the Nation of Israel that God will fulfill in the end times.
Judah was in captivity for disobeying God. They were to observe a sabbath year every seven years, to plant no crops and harvest no yield that seventh year. For 490 years they had merrily ignored God and greedily planted and harvested crops until God said enough. 490 divided by seven equals 70, so God sent Judah into captivity into Babylon for seventy years.
Around 597 B.C. Ezekiel was among the people of Judah that were carried away into Babylon. He wrote most of his prophecy there, and as might be expected, it wasn’t well received by his fellow Jews because it pointed out that they had been and still were disobedient to God.
This story is a vision only. God often used visions to inform His people. Sometime after Ezekiel’s dry bones vision, Daniel interpreted a vision of a statue of a man made of gold, silver, bronze and iron that portrayed four Gentile nations who would rule the Jews in succession.
These dry bones portray the spiritual condition of the nation Israel at the time of their captivity in Babylon and that condition will continue until they accept Christ as their Messiah near the end of the coming Tribulation period.
Ezekiel records the vision, in verses 1-10, and then interprets it in verses 11-14. The rest of the chapter has to do with the re-unification of the twelve tribes as one nation after they’re restored to spiritual life.
That being said, let’s see what God is telling Israel and us through this vision.
Ezekiel 37:1-10. “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 was full of bones,
2: And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3: And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
4: Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
5: Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; 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 the LORD.
7: 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.
8: And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
9: 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.
10: 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."
God used this illustration to show the dead condition of the nation spiritually. The Israelites were scattered among the Gentile nations just like these bones were scattered. They had little hope of restoration as a nation nor as God’s chosen people.
In verses 1-2 the Holy Spirit took Ezekiel to this valley full of dry bones and set him in the midst of them. They had obviously been that way a long time because they were very dry.
Verse 3: "And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest."
Why did God ask a man a question like that? Was there any way humanly possible that these lifeless bones could live again? Ezekiel knew it was humanly impossible, so his answer was something like “it’s beyond me, Lord.” He knew that only God can give life to the dead, be it physical or spiritual.
Verse 4; "Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD."
Ezekiel is probably thinking, "Lord, are You sure You want me to start talking to these dry bones?! What if somebody hears me? Here in Babylon they think I’m sort of odd anyhow.” [People who obey God and do as He asks are looked on by the world as sort of odd.]
It would do no good to prophesy to dead people or to bones so we know that these bones are symbolic and don’t represent a physically dead group of people. They picture a spiritually dead nation.
God wanted to show just how far the nation of Israel had strayed spiritually. Even though many of the Children of Israel were physically alive, God looked on them as being dead. They were like skeletal remains scattered in a dry valley.
The valley is a picture of the world with Israel scattered throughout. The bones represent the nation’s political position as well as their spiritual condition. They were spiritually dead and without a place to worship, politically dead and ruled by Gentiles, and without a homeland, exiled from their own land.
Verses 5-6; "Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: 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 the LORD.”
Here God promises to restore the nation. “I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.” “Breath” could be translated "spirit," in fact, in verse 14 it is "Spirit." The results were that these bones came to life. God can do that. He’s done it before.
In Genesis 2:7, God made Adam into a living human being by breathing "the breath of life" into his nostrils. Before that he was dead, just as dead as the lump of dirt he was made of.
Verse 7-8; “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."
God does a thorough job, each bone connected to his bone in proper order.
8: "And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.”
I wonder if Ezekiel didn’t get a funny feeling when he saw all these disjointed bones squirming around and re-arranging until they came together in their proper order.
Instead of scattered bones there was a valley full of actual dead human bodies! Then the bones began to move and shake and come together, the sinews and flesh came on them, right before Ezekiel’s eyes. But still, all he could see was a bunch of corpses. They were complete bodies in the flesh, human beings with no life in them. If we came on a scene like that today we would probably try to give them CPR!!
In verse 9, God told Ezekiel to prophesy more, calling on the wind. I believe the wind is the omnipresent Holy Spirit, coming from everywhere to bring the breath of life.
Verses 9-10; “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, 0 breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10: 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.”
There are three stages in prophecy here concerning the spiritual condition of the nation Israel from before the Babylonian captivity and without interruption on into the final stages of their earthly history.
These scattered bones were just as dead as they could be. In stage one they formed into complete skeletons. Then, in stage two, flesh and skin came on them and there were complete dead bodies laying all over that valley. Finally, in stage three, verse 10, this huge number of corpses came to life.
Stage one pictures the revival of Israel as a nation. Stage two she is a nation but spiritually dead. In stage three she will return to God and He will breathe life into her and she will become spiritually alive.
Some stages of this prophecy are already fulfilled. The nation Israel has been scattered and buried among the Gentile nations of the world and alienated from God for over twenty eight centuries and God considers them dead, dead to the things of God.
Since 1948 Israel has come back as a nation, but it’s really a corpse over there today. They have a flag, they have a constitution, they have a prime minister and they have a parliament. They have a police force and an army. They are a nation, and they even have Jerusalem in part. They have everything except spiritual life.
Today Jerusalem is shared with the Gentile Moslems who have a huge Mosque there. The Moslems are now and always have been spiritually dead, they don’t worship God or recognize Christ as His Son. The Jewish nation is just as spiritually dead as the Moslems. Both groups practice religious rituals but there is no true spiritual life in either group.
During the Tribulation, most if not all the Jews from all over the world will return to Israel. Until those Jews individually and as a nation accept Jesus as their Messiah, they will have physical and political life but will still be spiritually dead. When they return and obey God, spiritual life will be “breathed” into them by the Holy Spirit.
The vision of dry bones coming to life is not a picture of the resurrection of the Old Testament saints at the beginning of the thousand year reign of Christ on this earth, nor is it one of the rapture of the church. It is a picture of the physically alive but spiritually dead Israelites living on earth when Christ returns to etablish His kingdom.
Verse 11. “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.” The bones represent the hopeless and helpless spiritual condition of all Israel. They had all been cut off from their homeland for disobedience to God.
Verses 12-14; "Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, 0 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. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14: 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 it, and performed it, saith the Lord.”
The graves speak of her political demise but God promises to restore them as a nation.
The spirit that God will put in them is the Holy Spirit who will enable them to accept the Lord as the Messiah and again worship Him. Then, God is going to fulfill another promise and place them in the land He promised Abraham centuries ago and they will know He is God.
Ezekiel had a graphic vision picturing the destiny of the nation Israel in the end times. This doesn’t portray the physical resurrection of any individual or group. Those involved will be physically alive, living in Israel, but spiritually dead when this takes place.
It’s a picture of the restoration of Israel as a nation before the second coming of Christ and the spiritual revival of Israel that will take place at the second coming of Christ.
The Israelites residing in Palestine today are only partial fulfillment of this prophecy. It will be totally fulfilled when God gathers all of the living believing Israelites into their land. When Christ returns to establish His kingdom, Israel will be restored as a righteous nation.
Jeremiah 31:33; But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jeremiah 33:16; In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness."
The vision shows that Israel's national restoration and renewed spiritual life depend on God's power, not outward circumstances: Verse 14; “I will open your graves, I will bring you back to the land of Israel.”
Today, even though Israel is a nation, a lot of Israelis are still living among the Gentile nations of the world. In spite of war like conditions in Israel, individual Jews from all over the world are returning daily. This will continue until all, or nearly all, of those with Israeli blood will be living in Israel in the end time.
There is no doubt that Israel is the subject of Ezekiel chapter 37, but we can certainly apply it to our personal lives today. Our world is a valley full of dead and dry bones; Gentiles and Jews alike who are physically alive but spiritually dead in trespasses and sin.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t go to church or give to the poor or obey the laws, It means that they aren’t saved. They have never confessed their sins to God and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Forgiveness is free because of the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross in our behalf.
God has made it very clear that there are only two kinds of people: live people and dead people.
1 John 5:12; "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
John 3:36; "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
The principle explained in Ezekiel 37 can be applied to anyone today who is outside of Christ. You will remain spiritually dead until you accept Christ as your Savior. Then the Holy Spirit will breathe the breath of eternal life into you.
Now we come to Ezekiel's second vision in this chapter. It pictures God's restoration of the divided Israelis into one nation as it was under King David and King Solomon.
After King Solomon died, in 931 B.C., the nation of Israel split into two nations.
The Southern Kingdom became known as Judah because Judah was its largest tribe and the country was ruled by a king from that tribe. It was mostly south of Jerusalem.
The land north of Jerusalem was called Israel or Ephraim, either because Ephraim was the largest tribe or because the first king, Jeroboam I, was an Ephraimite.
Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was taken into captivity by Assyria in 722 B.C. and later Assyria was conquered by Babylon. Judah was taken captive in three different conquests by Babylon between 605and 586 B.C. All the Jews from both Jewish Nations were scattered all over the Middle East and under the rule of Babylon when Ezekiel wrote this.
Verses 15-22; The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
16: 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 for all the house of Israel his companions:
17: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18: And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19: Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
20: And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
21: 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:
22: 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:"
Then in verses 23-28, God records the blessings to be bestowed on the people when He returns them to the land He has promised them.
God's covenant of peace which we read from Jeremiah 31:33 will be established with them, and His presence will be with them forever.
The united Israel will become a righteous nation and they will have an eternal inheritance with David as their prince and Christ will be their King. This also is the fulfillment of the promises of God in Psalm 24.
Verses 23-28: 23: "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.
24: And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
25: 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, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
26: 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.
27: My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28: And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore."
God’s presence will be with them in His Sanctuary, His dwelling place. This will be the temple that will be built in the Millennial Reign of Christ. The details of how that temple is to be construction are described in Ezekiel 40-43. Then God added, “I will be their God, and they will be My people.” Israel will be restored to her rightful place as God’s chosen earthly people and all the world will recognize that fact.
I want to emphasize again that the prophecy in Ezekiel chapter 37 is to the nation Israel, however, we can apply it in principle to anyone today who is outside of Christ. You will remain spiritually dead until you accept Christ as your Savior. Then the Holy Spirit will put the breath of eternal life in you.
Our world is a valley full of dead and dry bones; Gentiles and Jews alike who are physically alive but spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. This means that they aren’t saved.
John 3:36; "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life;
but the wrath of God abideth on him."
If you haven’t already,
won’t you accept Christ as your Savior today?
John 3:36; "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: