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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
In Ezekiel 37:1-14, Ezekiel sees in a vision dead men raised to life; its meaning is given Ezekiel 37:11-14. In it, the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body is at least implied. Such a figure would only have force with those who were familiar with this idea (compare 1 Samuel 2:6; Job 19:25-27; Psalm 16:10-11; Daniel 12:1-13). The vision was intended not only to comfort the despairing children of Israel - prefiguring the reinstatement of Israel now scattered and lifeless, as a community restored to their home, and rein-vigorated with spiritual life - but also to impress upon them the great truth of the Resurrection, which was greatly developed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, but found its clear and unambiguous enunciation in the New. The prophecy concerns not only the Israel after the flesh but also the Israel of God; it points to a home in heaven and to a life of immortality.
1The 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,
The valley - The same word as "the plain" Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 8:4. The "dry bones" represented the Israelites dispersed abroad, destitute of life national and spiritual.
2And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
4Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
Prophesy - Not in the sense of predicting what was to come to pass, but simply in that of speaking under the inspiration of God. In Ezekiel 37:5, not "I will cause," but I cause or am causing.
5Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
6And 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.
7So 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.
Bone to his bone - i. e., to its proper place in the frame.
8And 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.
9Then 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 wind - Rather, as in the margin and as in Ezekiel 37:5. The bones are the bones of the "slain," because the scene was one which was likely to occur in the time of the Chaldaean invasion, and the fact of violent death reminded the prophet of the miserable condition of the people.
10So 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.
11Then 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.
We are cut off for our parts - That is, "as for us, we are cut off." The people had fallen into despair.
12Therefore 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.
13And 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,
14And 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.
15The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
16Moreover, 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:
A prophecy of the reunion of Israel and Judah, the incorporation of Israel under one Ruler, the kingdom of Messiah upon earth and in heaven.
One stick - So in the marginal reference the names of the tribes had been written on rods or sticks.
For Judah ... - To the house of David had remained faithful, not only Judah, but also Benjamin, Levi, and part of Simeon, and individual members of various tribes 2 Chronicles 11:12-16. Compare the marginal references.
Joseph ... Ephraim - Compare Psalm 78:67; Hosea 5:5 ff "Joseph" is the general name here for the ten tribes, including "Ephraim," the chief tribe, and his companions. Omit "for" before "all." "All the house of Israel" is here the ten tribes.
17And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19Say 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.
In the hand of Ephraim - Because Ephraim was the ruling tribe; the words are contrasted with "in mine hand."
20And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
This sign was literally enacted in the presence of the people, not, like some signs, merely in vision (see the Ezekiel 3:1 note).
21And 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:
The gathering together of the children of Israel was to take effect in the first place in the return from Babylon, when the distinction of Israel and Judah should cease. The full completion concerns times still future, when all Israel shall come in to acknowledge the rule of Christ.
22And 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:
One king - The restoration of Israel to their native soil will lead the way to the coming of the promised King, the Son of David, who will gather into His kingdom the true Israel, all who shall by faith be acknowledged as the Israel of God. The reign of the One King David is the reign of Christ in His kingdom, the Church.
23Neither 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.
24And 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.
25And 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.
An enlargement of the promises. The kingdom is to be "forever," the covenant "everlasting." This looks forward to the consummation of all God's promises 1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Corinthians 15:28.
26Moreover 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.
27My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
This gives a final blessing reserved for God's accepted servants. The tabernacle and temple were outward symbols of His presence. The re-erection of the temple by Zerubbabel was the first step to a restoration of the presence of God. The second step was the presence of Christ, first in the flesh, then in His Church, and finally the eternal presence of God and of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem Revelation 21.
28And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.