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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Ezekiel 37

 

 

Verses 1-28

3. The Vision of the Resurrection and Revelation -quickening of the Dead Bones, and the Symbolical Action with the One Stick out of the Two Sticks, along with the Interpretation (Ch37)

1The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and [as] Jehovah took me out in the Spirit and made me rest [brought me, set me down] in the midst of the 2 valley, and it was full of bones. And He led me over by them round about, and behold, [there were] very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, 3[they were] very dry. And He said to me, Son of Prayer of Manasseh, will these bones 4 live [become alive]? And I said, Lord Jehovah, Thou knowest. And He said to me, Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Ye dry bones, hear the5 word of Jehovah, 5Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to these bones, Behold, I:6 bring spirit into you, and ye live. And I give sinews on you, and make flesh to come up over you, and cover you with skin, and give breath in you, and 7 ye live, and know that I am Jehovah. And I prophesied as I was commanded; and there came a voice as I prophesied, and behold, a rustling, and 8 the bones drew near, bone to his bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews and flesh came up on them, and skin covered them from above, yet breath9[was] not in them. And He said to me, Prophesy to the Spirit; prophesy, son of Prayer of Manasseh, and say to the Spirit, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Come from the four winds, thou Spirit, and breathe into these slain, that they may live10[become alive]. And I prophesied as He commanded me, and the Spirit came into them, and they lived [became alive], and stood upon their feet a very great 11 army. And He said to me, Son of Prayer of Manasseh, these bones [are] the whole house of Israel; Behold, they say, our bones were dried and our hope perished, for us, 12we are undone. Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I open your graves, and lead you up out of your graves, 13My people, and bring you to the land of Israel. And ye know that I am Jehovah, when I open your graves and lead you up out of your graves, My 14 people; And I give My Spirit in you, and ye live, and I bring you to rest upon your land, and ye know that I, Jehovah, spoke and did—sentence of15,16Jehovah. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, And thou, son of Prayer of Manasseh, take to thee a stick, and write on it, For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his associates; and take another stick, and write on it, For Joseph, the 17 stick of Ephraim, and of the whole house of Israel, his associates. And bring them near the one to the other for thee into one stick, that they may be18[become] one in thy hand. And when the sons of thy people shall speak to 19 thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what these [sticks] are to thee? Then say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his associates, and put them on it, that Isaiah, the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in My hand 20 And the sticks on which thou shalt write are 21 in thy hand before their eyes. And say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I take the sons of Israel out from among the heathen, whither they went, and gather them from round about, and bring them to 22 their land. And I make them one people in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they [there] shall no more be two peoples, and they shall never again be divided into two kingdoms 23 And they shall no more defile themselves with their foul idols, and with their detestable things, and with all their transgressions; and I help them from all their dwelling-places where they have sinned, and cleanse them, and they 24 shall be My people, and I will be their God. And My servant David shall be king over them, and one shepherd shall be to them all; and they shall 25 walk in My judgments, and shall keep My statutes, and do them. And they dwell upon the land which I gave to My servant Jacob, in which your fathers dwelt, and they dwell on it, they and their sons, and their sons’ sons, for ever, 26and David My servant [is] prince to them for ever. And I make for them a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant [covenant of eternity] shall be with them; and I give them and multiply them, and give My sanctuary in their 27 midst for ever. And My dwelling is over them, and I am their God and they shall be My people 28 And the heathen know that I, Jehovah, sanctify Israel, in that My sanctuary is in their midst for ever.

Ezekiel 37:1. Vulg.: … in spiritu domini

Ezekiel 37:5. Sept.: ... εἰς ὑμας πνευμα ζωης.

Eze 37:6. ... νευραπνευμα μου ἐφ̓ ὑμας—

Ezekiel 37:7. κκθως ἐνετειλατο μοι κυριος—(Another reading: כאשר צוני, Syr, Vulg, Arabs.)

Eze 37:9. ... κ. ἐμφυσησον εἰς τ. νεκρους τουτους κ. ζησατωσαν.

Eze 37:10. … συναγωγη μεγαλη σφοδρα.

Eze 37:11. … διαπεφωνκαμεν.

Eze 37:14. … κ. θησομαι ὑμας ἐξι τ. γην ὑμων—

Eze 37:16. … ῥαβδοντους προσχειμενους προς αὐτον.

Ezekiel 37:17. ... εἰς . μιας του δησαι αὐτχς χ. ἐσονται ἐν τ. χειρι σου. (Another reading: plur. בידיך.)

Ezekiel 37:19. Sept.: ... την φυλην Ἰωσηφ την δια κειρος Ἐφραιμἐκι τ. φυλην του Ἰουδαἐν τ. κειρι Ἰουδα. Vulg.: … et dabo eas pariter cum ligno J. … in manu ejus. (Anoth. reading: בידו.)

Ezekiel 37:21. Sept.: ... λαμβανω καντα οἰχον γην .

Eze 37:22. αὐτος εἰς ἐθνος ἐν τ. γη μου—

Ezekiel 37:23. ... ἱνα μηεν οἱς ἡμαρτοσαν ἐν αὐτοις, χ. ἐν τ. χροσοχθισμασιν αὐτων κ. … ἀπο πασων τ. ἀνομιων ὡν ἠμαρτοσαν ἐν αὐταις—(Another reading: פשעיהם et Arabs.)

Eze 37:24. ἀρχων ἐν μεσω αὐτωνὁτι ἐν—

Eze 37:25. … οἱ πατερες αὐτων—

Ezekiel 37:28. Sept.: ... ἁγιαζων αὐτους—

EXEGETICAL REMARKS

The two sections of the chapter, Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Ezekiel 37:15-28, are already distinguished by the introductory formula ( Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 37:15); still more decidedly by their difference of form,—first a vision, and then a symbolic action; as also by their contents, which, however, with all their diversity, show the most intimate connection—what in the first section is prophesied of the whole of Israel is in the second ratified by promise in relation to the parts. [Hengst.: “the restoration of Israel as a covenant-people, and the restoration of Israel as a brotherhood.”] The Revelation -quickening and reunion of Israel. The interpretation is connected with both prophetic sections of our chapter, appended ( Ezekiel 37:11-14) to the first, while in the second it is given along with the prophecy. The connection with Ezekiel 30. is apparent from the close of that chapter, Ezekiel 37:24 sq.

Ezekiel 37:1-10. The Quickening of the Bones in the Valley.

Ezekiel 37:1. הָיְחָה, comp. Ezekiel 1:3 (וַהְּהִי עָלָיו) and Ezekiel 33:22 (הָיְתָה אֵלַי). Although not the stronger introductory formula (as in Ezekiel 8:1), yet the description given of Ezekiel’s condition is sufficient simply to set aside a mere “product of poetical intuition” (Hitzig). “The abrupt commencement without andIsaiah, according to Hengstenberg, meant to point out that “the fact here related is extraordinary, and out of connection with the usual prophetic activity.” [“As the subject itself is a quite unusual one, so also the description is such as Ezekiel never elsewhere draws. Such a never-seen sight is seen by itself in a moment of higher inspiration, or never,” Ewald.] As the Vulgate, so also Hitzig, against the accent: “in the Spirit of Jehovah;” but יְהוָֹה is subject, and בְרוּחַ simply: ἐν τνευματι ( Matthew 22:43), in contrast to ἐν σωματι ( 2 Corinthians 12:2), to which it is easy to supply אֱלֹהִים ( Ezekiel 11:24), which (as Keil justly observes) was omitted because of the יְחוָֹה (comp. Ezekiel 8:3). Ecstatic state in which he was inwardly transported from the things around him.—The valley can only be the one mentioned in Ezekiel 3:22, when we consider that those who speak in Ezekiel 37:11 were settled there in the neighbourhood, and consequently could be represented as the bones in the valley. At all events, it is not a valley in general, but a certain valley; and if nothing else, that (וְהִיא) which was full of bones. Hengstenberg points out the contrast to the mountain ( Ezekiel 17:22), the “lowness of condition”! Hitzig: “The valley is fitted to represent a huge grave;” but the thought is less of graves than of their opposite (עַל־פְּנֵי, Ezekiel 37:2), namely, that the slain ( Ezekiel 37:9) have remained unburied, their bones bleach and dry there.—The bones are men’s bones ( Isaiah 66:14); in the connection here: the remains of the slain, abundance of which might be in the disturbed districts of Judah; according to the Talmudists: slain Ephraimites, 1 Chronicles 7:20 sq. Looking from the midst of the valley, he could warrant that it was full of bones.

[Ewald refers for “the rapid narration, with its constant fall into the present,” to his Grammar, § 342 b.]

The question in Ezekiel 37:3 is fitted to bring the prophet, and, through him, his hearers and readers, to the consciousness of the impossibility presented to human eyes (son of man); and considering the words uttered by Israel ( Ezekiel 37:11), its intention doubtless is to bring out the despair of the people, in order to make room in their hearts for the prophecy of salvation ( Ezekiel 37:12). Ezekiel’s answer refers the matter to God ( Revelation 7:14), for with God there is no impossibility, unless He wills it, and that God alone can know. Comp. on this point Isaiah 26:19.

Ezekiel 37:4. When Ezekiel is summoned to prophesy over the bones, their future, asked ( Ezekiel 37:3) by Jehovah in relation to them, comes to view as an affair of Jehovah’s, of His counsel, will, and purpose; they may therefore be addressed (וְאָמ׳ אֲלֵיהֶם), however dry they are. Grotius observes: so much the more as the prisoners in the exile are to be understood.—The word of Jehovah ( Ezekiel 36:1; Ezekiel 36:4) mediates the salvation, the life to be prophesied. Hence not see, for then death, and nothing but death, will come to view. In Ezekiel’s vision all depends on “hearing;” recognise God’s word, and trust to it ( John 4:48; John 20:19). This, at the same time, legitimates as divine the word of Ezekiel’s prophetic announcement. The tenor, however, of the divine word—Jehovah announces what will take place, what He purposes to do ( Amos 3:7)—follows in Ezekiel 37:5. What is said to them Isaiah, from the certainty of its being accomplished, in reality said of them, as הִנֵּה already formally points to the accomplishment.—רוּחַ, although followed by וִחְיִיתֶם of the effect generally on the whole, is yet not exactly ר׳ חַיִים of Genesis 6:17, or נִשְׁמַח־ת׳ ח׳ of Genesis 7:22, “breath”; for it is just that which is in a living being that is here left out of view, and, in contrast to that which is dried up, above all, simply the creative divine power, hence spirit quite objectively and generally is contemplated. (“The Spirit of God is the principle of all real life in the creaturely existence,” Häv.) That we have here another order (Hengst.) than in the execution ( Ezekiel 37:7 sq.) is not the case, for the more detailed description which follows immediately in Ezekiel 37:6 presents the same order as the execution follows. The Spirit also does not press forward at the beginning as the (Hitzig) chief thing, without which the rest, the merely bodily resurrection, is of no importance (Hengst.), but as וִחְיִיתֶם implies: “to live” in genera], without separation for the present into political and spiritual, so אֲנִי מֵבִיא בָכֶם ר׳ introduces the divine causality simply as first, as conditio sine qua non. The more special is expressed

Ezekiel 37:6—by a parallel וְנָתַתִּי; and afterwards by נִּידִים, the “binding matter,” the sinews, and by the making of “flesh to come up,” and by the קרם (a word only found in Ezekiel), with skin, the outward form of life is completed, from which the spirit which enlivens the flesh is distinguished, but is as yet to be considered as natural, now as breath, the individual life, in consequence of which it certainly can be said: וִידַעְתֶּם׳. But the spiritual element, although intimated in this, is first expressly stated in the interpretation ( Ezekiel 37:14), with reference back to Ezekiel 36:27.

The prophecy, in accordance with the command given to Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 37:4), is not limited (as Hengst.) in Ezekiel 37:7 to the summons to the bones to “hear,” sq, but comprehends also what Jehovah says to these bones in Ezekiel 37:5-6; for that He is the speaker makes the saying a prophecy, although to prophesy in general may be said to mean the same as: “to speak in the Spirit.”—The voice which came was audible; its simplest interpretation is in accordance with Ezekiel 1:25. The prophet was to prophesy; what Jehovah purposed to say to the bones ( Ezekiel 37:4-6), the prophet now prophesies; and since he prophesies according to the command, Thus saith Jehovah, that which was prophesied to the bones is from God, and the voice is to be understood as Jehovah’s, from which the New Testament representation is perhaps coloured ( John 5:28), and neither a “noise” nor “sound” in general-anything like a thunder-clap would be out of place in this sublime and orderly connection—nor in particular: “the sound of a trumpet.” Keil’s position, that it cannot be supposed that God should bind His voice of power to the prophecy of the prophet, has in reality no significance. On the other hand, he is right in referring רַעַשׁ ( Ezekiel 3:12; Ezekiel 12:18) to the noise by which the effect of the word of Jehovah announced itself to the bones, now coming together in consequence thereof. [Hävernick makes the “sound” pass into a “mighty peal.” Hitzig, in order to have the “fitting impulse” from the ground, translates: “earthquake” ( Matthew 27:51), under reference to Ezekiel 38:19.] God’s voice of power is followed by a rustling, caused by the bones coming rustling up from the surface of the valley. Thereafter (וְ consecutive) “the bones come together,” which may be thus distinguished from what follows, that it refers to whatever belongs to one body, while עֶצֶם אֶל־עַצ׳ specializes a single bone in relation to another, e.g. the upper to the lower part of the arm (on the form חִּקְרְבוּ, see Ewald, Gr. p505). [“This may also be interpreted of the first movements of the scattered Israelites in the various settlements in Chaldea, and their assembling for quiet consultation, where the members of the people met again in secret,” Schmieder.]

[“May be interpreted of Israel’s first growth in hope, conscious strength, and vigour,” Schmieder.] The remark that yet breath was not in them may serve formally for the dramatic colouring of the event in the representation; as to actual fact, it sets forth the creative power of God in the action, which is in this way twofold. That thereby is shown that “the restoration is first pre-eminently an external, political one” (Hengst.), is not of necessity contained in the text, but the original creation of Prayer of Manasseh, as related in Genesis 2:7, forms a pattern for the text. ( John 7:39 makes the deepest application of the וְרוּחַ׳.)—Correspondingly, therefore, Ezekiel has in Ezekiel 37:9 to prophesy once more,—this time to the Spirit ( Ezekiel 37:5), that Isaiah, not to the “breath,” for that is רוּחַ only in a living person, as we have already said, and still less to the “wind,” which is the sensuous natural symbol of the Spirit. And from what follows it is still clearer that the “outpouring of the Spirit” cannot be spoken of here, but what is spoken of is the universal spirituality which pervades all creation. Hence the Spirit is to come from the four winds; not without reference, moreover, to Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 12:14; Ezekiel 17:21 ( Matthew 24:31; Revelation 7:1). מֵאַרְבַּע׳ makes clear the distinction between רוּחוֹת and הָרוּחַ. Our passage has nothing to do with the “breathing on” in John 20:22, and just as little is “the fulness and force of the Spirit’s operations, Acts 2:2” (Hengst.), indicated by the “wind from the four winds.” וּפְחִי makes a very plain allusion to Genesis 2:7. [“The quickening Spirit of God awakens the resolution to return to God’s covenant and to the land of their fathers,” Schmieder.]—Slain: killed, not deceased (Doct. Reflect5). The colouring is taken from those condemned and executed by the Chaldeans ( Ezekiel 37:11). Regarding וְיִחְיוּ, comp. on Ezekiel 37:5.

Ezekiel 37:10. Exchanging Hithp. וְהִנַּבְּאתִי (Ewald, Gr. p331) for Niphal of Ezekiel 37:7, and צִוָּנִי Piel in place of Pual in Ezekiel 37:7.

Ezekiel 37:9; Ezekiel 37:5. The Spirit, in order to become the breath of life in them (comp. Ezekiel 2:2; Ezekiel 3:24).— 2 Kings 13:21; Revelation 11:11.

Ezekiel 37:11-14.The Divine Interpretation of the Vision

The process in the vision Ezekiel 37:1-10 is symbolical, as shown by the phrase in Ezekiel 37:11 : these bones are, etc, which refers to the whole vision as it treated of the bones. Hence the bones, which lay there very dry, but at Jehovah’s word became alive, which were very many ( Ezekiel 37:2), a very great army ( Ezekiel 37:10), bear the sense of and signify the whole house of Israel; and this already prepares for the second section of our chapter. According to Hitzig, Judah and Israel combined denote the State broken up by the war, and also the generation cut off by it; against which view we observe that the dead cannot be “saying” here any more than the bones, but, as in Ezekiel 11:15 sq, the Israel in exile must be contemplated, who now indeed compared themselves to the dead, but to whom, on the contrary, life is immediately ( Ezekiel 37:12) to be proclaimed and promised. In what they say (comp. Ezekiel 33:10) is contained the so frequently overlooked tertium comparationis, and the cause for the vision in Ezekiel 37:1-10. Hence the divine interpretation does not primarily start from the outward condition of the people in general, and still less from that of a part of them, the dead of Israel, but from what the despair of those in exile says, hence from the frame of mind which thus found voice: our bones are dried, etc. The relation of יָבְשׁוּ and יְבֵשׁוֹת ( Ezekiel 37:2) to each other is evident.—נִגְזַרְנוּ, properly: “cut off,” separated, shut out from God’s help ( Psalm 88:6, 5], 31:23 22]; Isaiah 53:8).—לָנוּ, according to Gesenius, a superfluous pronominal dative, as much as to say: We are undone. Hitzig: Reduced to ourselves. [Delitzsch: It is over with us. Hengst.: We are cut off for us, referring the “for us” to the sadness of the fact for those concerned.] The language which they employ corresponds thoroughly to the question in Ezekiel 37:3. That which, believing themselves abandoned, without any hope ( Ezekiel 19:5) of again rising up to be a nation, they say of themselves, Ezekiel beheld in the valley,—merely very dry bones. So much the more, and the more literally, can what was done with these bones, a procedure which the prophet had to prophesy, and was afterwards permitted to behold, avail as a promise to them.

Ezekiel 37:12 therefore parallel to Ezekiel 37:4 sq, but still keeping primarily in view the despairing speech of the exiles: הִנָּבֵא וְאָמַרְתָּ, not yet, however, הנֵּה אֲנִימֵבִיא בָכֶם רוּחַ׳ ( Ezekiel 37:5), as Ezekiel 37:14 hereafter, but first: behold, I open your graves, meaning thereby the abodes of the exile, since the Jews who were in exile considered themselves like dead men. The accommodating interpretation changes the valley with the many bones on its surface into many graves, which have “to be opened,” etc. My people, here and in the following a very comforting title. Israel, however, ought always to be Song of Solomon, and therefore also to have constantly been so. Consequently we have at the same time prominence given to the contrast between Israel’s destiny and its deadly despair, and hence a notification of its unbelief and offences in general.—What in the vision the clothing with sinews, flesh, and skin was in relation to the bones ( Ezekiel 37:6 sq.), could in the interpretation applying to the living be regarded as political restoration, as this has to begin with leading out of Babylon and bringing back to Canaan.

Ezekiel 37:13. וִידַעְתֶּם reminds of וִידַעְתֶּם in Ezekiel 37:6.

Ezekiel 37:14 takes up וְנָתַתִּי בָכֶם רוּחַ of Ezekiel 37:6 and the rest of the vision, pointing, however, by רוּחִי to Ezekiel 36:27, as by וְהִנַּחְתִּי to לְעוֹלָם in the following, for which comp. Ezekiel 28:26, 34. The inspiriting and quickening for a home system which is to have permanence, and especially in the case of a people like Israel, will of necessity be spiritual and religious.— Isaiah 14:1.— Ezekiel 17:24; Ezekiel 22:14; Ezekiel 36:36.

Ezekiel 37:15-18. The Reunion of Israel and Judah

After the vision thus interpreted, there follows in Ezekiel 37:16—accompanied by an interpretation—a symbolic action, the outward reality of which there is no difficulty in admitting. Both the contents (comp. Ezekiel 37:11) and the transition with וְ connect what follows with the first section of the chapter, of which it forms the continuation and completion. Israel again become a nation, must, overcoming the separation which had taken place, also again become one nation. What follows draws the consequence from what has preceded.—עֵץ, “board” (tablet), or “staff,” or simply “wood,” stick.—For the “writing,” comp. Numbers 17.—The sons of Israel, his associates (while the text reads the singular for “association”), are, according to Hengstenberg, a “small” part of Benjamin, Simeon, and Levi, and the members of the kingdom of the ten tribes who had attached themselves to Judah; according to Keil: the “greater” part of Benjamin and Simeon, the tribe of Levi, and the pious Israelites who had at various times immigrated into Judah from the kingdom of the ten tribes, 2 Chronicles 11:13 sq, 15:9, 30:11, 18, 31:1.—Joseph is placed first, as Hengstenberg says, because Ephraim’s equality with Judah rests upon him in consequence of the blessing of Jacob; more simply, because it is the genealogical title of the patriarch. That the stick of Ephraim (comp. Ezekiel 37:19), which has been looked on as a later interpolation, is subjoined, is an addition taken from historical reality, for Ephraim was the head of the kingdom of the ten tribes.

Ezekiel 37:17. וְקָרַב אֹתָם אֶחָד אֶל־אִחָד reminds of וַתִּקְרְבוּ עֲצָמוֹת עֶצֶם אֶל־עַצְמוֹ in Ezekiel 37:7.—בְּיָדֶךָ illustrates לְךָ, corresponding to the symbolic action—here in the hand of Ezekiel, as hereafter in his word. In order to make them appear as one stick, they must hare been adapted for that, and could scarcely have been “staves.”

Ezekiel 37:18. Comp. Ezekiel 24:19. The purpose of the symbolic action, what it was meant to incite, on which account it is to be conceived of as externally real ( Ezekiel 37:20).—What (are) these sticks to thee? that is: what is their signification?

Ezekiel 37:19, the interpretation. Where Ezekiel 37:16 has the stick of Ephraim, we have now the stick of Joseph, which first of all implies exactly the same as the stick described “for Joseph.” In what respect it is designated the stick of Ephraim is then made plain by the Words: which is in the hand of Ephraim (the expression בְּיַד doubtless suggested by בְּיָדֶךָ, Ezekiel 37:17); and thereby, at the same time, the transition is made from the sign to the thing signified, for to be in the hand = to be in the possession, in the power, hence it denotes the supremacy of this tribe. Hence, too, instead of וְכָל־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, more expressly יְשִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל (“staves,” “sticks,” as “tribes”).—If the noun is anticipated by עָלָיִו, it would certainly be better to read, with Hitzig, אֶל, than אֶת: “to it, to the stick of Judah.” It lies away, however, from לֹקֵחַ, as Keil connects, to combine אוֹתָם, namely, the tribes, after they have been put on the stick of Joseph (עָלָיו), by אֶת with the stick of Judah; besides, one does not see why the tribes already joined to Joseph should still have to be united with him. The “taking” is ended with the tribes of Israel, his associates; the “giving” relates to those (אוֹתָם) taken together (וְ), that Isaiah, Joseph-Ephraim and his tribes, for the purpose of union (אֶחָדוַעֲשִׂיתִם לְעִץ) with Judah, and it is only to this that עָלָיו can refer. Hengstenberg explains אֶת: “the stick of Judah, I mean,” “to indicate that Judah is the proper stem of the people of God.” The interpretation still keeps a firm hold of the symbolic action (לְעֵץ אֶחָד), and אֶחָד בְּיָדִי evidently expresses an antithesis to Ephraim’s hand,—the union by and in God, as opposed to the separation by and in Ephraim (comp. Isaiah 11:13).

Ezekiel 37:20. The symbolic sign which the prophet is to perform ( Ezekiel 37:16) is expressly designed for the eyes of those concerned, and, with the repetition of the thing to be done, at the same time mediates the connection with what follows.

Ezekiel 37:21 sq. treats of the effecting of the reunion of the nation, after first glancing back to Ezekiel 37:12 sq. Comp. Ezekiel 36:24; Ezekiel 11:17; Ezekiel 20:34; Ezekiel 20:41; Ezekiel 34:13.

[According to Hävernick, the unity of the kingdom testifies to its truth, that it represents Jehovah.] Qeri יִהְיוּ, but גּוֹי might also serve as subject to יִהְיֶה. Strong and effective negation of the old, that has passed away for ever.—Since sin, and especially idolatry, had contributed to the separation spoken of, the discourse turns to that, Ezekiel 37:23. Comp. Ezekiel 14:11; Ezekiel 36:25; Ezekiel 5:11.—מוֹשְׁבֹתֵיהֶם ought not, after Ezekiel 6:6; Ezekiel 6:14, to cause so much difficulty to expositors. The worship of idols, which is the subject of discourse, is just localized “transgression.” The relief consists in this, that idolatry disappears, Ezekiel 36:29. To think with Hengstenberg of the places of abode in the exile, so that the earlier sins in Canaan did not come into account—that they, as it were, left their sins behind them in the foreign land, etc, neither suits the present connection,—is a thought here postponed, as Hitzig justly observes,—nor harmonizes with Ezekiel 37:12 sq, according to which the exile, on the contrary, localizes the wages of sin, i.e. death. Alteration of the text is equally unnecessary, just as Keil’s “preserving from,” and Kliefoth’s idea of leading out into the glorified Canaan, are imported into the text. Comp. besides, Ezekiel 34:13.— Ezekiel 36:25; Ezekiel 33:28; Ezekiel 34:24. The closing statement, recurring in Ezekiel 37:27, only in reverse order, seems to interrupt the consecution of the verses, so that the prophecy forms itself into two sections

Ezekiel 37:21-23 and Ezekiel 37:24-27—with one conclusion. What the first section contains more as to the thing done and generally, is given in the second Messianically and as to the individual, for the full completion of the thought.

Eze 37:24. See on Eze 34:23.

Eze 37:22.—Eze 11:20; Eze 36:27.

Ezekiel 37:25. Ezekiel 36:28; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 34:24.—עַד־עוֹלָם, so that the terminus ad quem is “concealed,” cannot be seen; hence for an interminable future, is to be understood Messianically, that Isaiah, in Christ, as shown by the immediately following לְעוֹלם, and all that comes after. As we find expressed here without interruption (this is the peculiarity of the whole prophecy here, in distinction to that repeated from Ezekiel 34, 36) the unity of the nation, its continued possession of Canaan, and that very plainly of the earthly Canaan, so just as plainly is all conceived of under the dominion of the King Messiah. Israel’s nationality in Canaan is bound up ( Ezekiel 37:22) with this one kingdom. As to the moral and spiritual condition of the people, their position towards God ( Ezekiel 37:23), Ezekiel 37:24 connects likewise with the one shepherd, the King David = Messiah, the “walking in, sq,” “keeping,” and “doing.” And in the same connection occurs Ezekiel 37:26 (likewise לְעוֹלָם, and also בְּרִית עוֹלָם), for which comp. Ezekiel 34:25 ( Isaiah 55:3; Jeremiah 32:40). As shown by comparing Ezekiel 34:25, and confirmed by the connection with Ezekiel 37:21-23, especially Ezekiel 37:23, as that is the peculiar, the leading idea of the divine covenant, to which the לָהֶם corresponds, and by the whole mode of expression here, including the repeated “giving,” the making of the covenant proceeds from God in the most manifest exhibition of grace. The fact that בְּרִית שָׁלוֹם is alike explained and completed by בְּרִית עוֹלָם, expresses the Messianic character of this covenant; for the terminus ad quem (עוֹלָם) of Israel, still hid to appearance, is just the Messiah. In the “salvation” (שָׁלוֹם), when it embraces time and eternity, eternity in time, alongside of the ideal reference in the whole, the real side in the particular cannot be wanting; hence what is the daily bread for a nation, namely, putting them in the position of increase, cannot be wanting; therefore: And I give them [Keil: to be a nation] and multiply them, Ezekiel 36:10-11; Ezekiel 36:37. But with the giving of the sanctuary of Jehovah in their midst for ever, another Messianic type, now in close preparation for Ezekiel 40 sq, is presented to us in the text, in addition to the one king and shepherd for all, the servant of Jehovah, David. Comp. on Ezekiel 11:16. The reference to Leviticus 26:9; Leviticus 26:11 is shown by the harmony of the prophecy with the promise given by Moses. And although the מִשְׁכָּן there in Ezekiel 37:11 (as שָׁכַן is said of the symbol of Jehovah’s presence in the wilderness) does not so much signify the outward building, and in Ezekiel too ( Ezekiel 37:27) it is regarded as עֲלֵיהֶם, yet בְּתוֹכָם, which stands beside מִקְדָּשׁ, points to the midst of the people; comp. Exodus 25:8. Hitzig is right in this, and also as to what distinguishes this passage from Ezekiel 11:16. But he overlooks the express reference to each other of מִקְדָּשִׁי בְּתוֹכָם לְעוֹלָם and מְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵי, Ezekiel 37:28. There Isaiah, at all events, expressed a visible national unity in Canaan as formerly, one political government, which, however, as mediated by the one King Messiah, exhibits itself as a national life purified from idolatry and conformed to law, hence moral, so also an outward serving of God by Israel is here prophesied, the sanctuary of Jehovah in the midst of Israel—that this cannot be Zerubbabel’s temple is triumphantly proved to the Jews by Keil, from the fact conceded by themselves, that the Shechinah was wanting to it;—but the heathen see therein (בִּהְיוֹת, Ezekiel 37:28) something yet different, namely, the continuing (particip.) sanctification of Israel by God, hence religious-moral conditions. [Not merely gratiosa Dei habitatio in cordibus eorum, as Piscator.] We remember here, where what is prophesied of the sanctuary is so evidently connected with the promised servant David as king and prince, that the kingship is specially prominent in Ezekiel’s figure of the Messiah (Introd. § 9); and besides this, the passage here shows that, as likewise observed in the Introduction, § 9, with Ezekiel the main point of view continues to be the Messianic nation, the Messianic salvation of the nation. And so the phrase: My sanctuary in their midst for ever, לְעוֹלָם explaining itself in מְקַדֵּשׁ ( Ezekiel 37:28), appears essentially as prophesied of the future church of salvation, the realized kingdom of priests (Introd. § 9). (Comp. Zechariah 2:14 [ Zechariah 2:10]; John 1:14; Revelation 21:3; Revelation 7:15; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16.) [“This promise has, at all events, come to be gloriously fulfilled in the election which forms the stem of the Christian Church. It is again taken up in the saying of Christ: ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,’ ” Hengst.]

At this point of the understanding of our prophecy—and herein its most important advance, in distinction to Ezekiel 11:16, is perhaps announced—the certainly not unintentional exchange of: My sanctuary in their midst, of Ezekiel 37:26, for: My dwelling over them, in Ezekiel 37:27, must decidedly be taken more spiritually than is done when Hengstenberg refers it to the “protecting power” which is afforded in the house of God ( Psalm 68:29, 30]), or Keil, to the “position of the temple towering up over the city.” Hitzig comes nearer the truth when he directs attention to God’s dwelling in heaven, directly (?) over the temple of Jerusalem ( Isaiah 33:5; Psalm 29:9; Psalm 104:3; 1 Kings 8:33-34; Genesis 28:17; Psalm 7:7, 8]). The sanctification of Israel before the world, as connected with the Kingship of the Messiah, and the establishing of the eternal sanctuary of God in Israel’s midst, as effected by the founding of the Church of Christ, serve for illustration and fulfilment of the עֲלֵיהֶם in Ezekiel here, as is very clear from Acts Ezekiel 2, to which is prefixed a repeated (comp. Luke 24:50 sq.) and circumstantial account of the exaltation of the Son of Prayer of Manasseh,, Ezekiel 1

Eze 37:23. Eze 11:20; Gen 17:7.—Eze 34:30.

Ezekiel 37:28 ( Ezekiel 36:23; Ezekiel 36:36). Although the mention of the heathen is still confined to the “knowing” of the sanctification of Israel, yet such knowledge cannot remain without result, without fruit; comp. Isaiah 44:5.—“Indication of the participation of the heathen in the promised salvation” (Hengst.).— Ezekiel 20:12. “To sanctify” is to purge from sin as well as to consecrate, hence embracing forgiveness of sin, and quickening. The former must become clear to the heathen from the latter, and so much the clearer as they have seen the judgment of God executed on His people—have even executed it themselves. Comp. for the harmony with the promises in the Pentateuch, Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 22:32.

ADDITIONAL NOTE ON Ezekiel 37

[“In closing this section, we present a brief outline of the view that has been taken of the prophecies contained in the three closely related chapters, 34, 36, 37, and which in substance applies equally to many other portions of the prophetical Scriptures1. They were originally given to revive and animate the hearts of God’s covenant-people, by holding out to them the assured prospect of a reversion from the present evil, and their still certain destination in God’s purpose to the highest and most honourable place on the earth2. It was the duty of those to whom such prophecies were delivered at once to believe the word spoken to them, and apply themselves in earnest to do what was needed to secure its accomplishment; and had they only done this, a far larger measure of the promised good would have been reaped than they actually experienced: this later prospect of blessing, like the earlier, given before entering Canaan, greatly failed through their own sinful unbelief3. But there being manifestly ideal features introduced into the delineation, especially the good spoken of being so peculiarly connected with the rule and presidency of David, clearly betokens a kind and degree of blessing which could not have been completely fulfilled under the Old Covenant, nor intended to be altogether fulfilled any time according to the letter. It shows the prophecies in question to be, like several of an earlier kind in Ezekiel, descriptions of the future under the form and image of the past—not as if the past were actually to return again, but that its general spirit and character were to revive4. The new things thus to be looked for in the future could only meet with their full and adequate accomplishment in Christ, who is certainly the David of the promise. They are consequently of a higher and more comprehensive nature than any that could be enjoyed under the Old Covenant, when the kingdom of God was so straitened in its dimensions, and so outward and earthly in its visible constitution. But still they were of necessity described under the hue and aspect of the things belonging to the Old Covenant—as if it were these only returning again, or these with certain alterations and improvements, such as might give the future a pre-eminence in glory over the past. For only by means of what belonged to existing or previous dispensations of God could the prophet have given any detailed exhibition of what might be expected under another and higher dispensation. The details of the future must have been cast into the mould of things already perceived or known5. Therefore, in forming one’s conceptions now of the real import of such prophecies—now that the transition has been made into the new and higher dispensation—we must throw ourselves back upon the narrower and more imperfect relations amid which they were written, and thence judge of what is still to come. Thus, as the David of the promise is Christ, so the covenant-people are no longer the Jews distinctively, but the faithful in Christ; and the territory of blessing no longer Canaan, but the region of which Christ is king and lord. What was spoken immediately of the one class of personages and relations, may most fully be applied to the other; and by such a method of interpretation alone do we get a uniform and consistent principle to carry us through the whole. While those, on the other hand, who would find a literal Israel, and a non-literal David, or a literal restoration in Christian times, and a non-literal tabernacle and ritual of worship, arbitrarily confound together things dissimilar and incongruous, and render certainty of interpretation absolutely impossible6. Sixthly, the view thus given is confirmed by the reproduction of some of these prophecies in the field of the New Testament Church, set free, as was to be expected, from the outward distinctions and limits of the Old. Thus, in particular, the resurrection-scene of this 37 th chapter substantially recurs in the 20 th chapter of Revelation, and is followed precisely as here by the attack from the embattled forces of Gog and Magog; while not a word is said which would confine the things spoken to the land of Canaan, or the literal Israel; it is the Church and people of Christ at large that are discoursed of. We say nothing respecting the probable time and nature of the events there referred to, but simply point to the identity in character of what is written with the prophecies before us. In those visions of the Apocalypse, the inspired evangelist stretches out the hand to Ezekiel, and shows how the word spoken so long before by that servant of God, freed from the peculiarities of its Jewish form, is to find its application to the Christian Church. The shell has gone, but the substance remains7. We may add, lastly, that the common interpretation, which understands Christ by David, and takes all the rest literally, must inevitably tend to justify the Jew in his unbelief. For he naturally says, Your Messiah has not done the thing you yourselves hold must be done—to fulfil the prophecy; He has not set up His throne in Canaan, and gathered Israel there, and Revelation -established the old worship in its purity; this was the very purpose for which He was to appear, and we must wait till He comes to do it. On the basis of the literal interpretation, there seems no satisfactory answer to this; and it is well known that since it has become prevalent, many Jews believe that Christians are coming over to their view of the matter. We are not surprised to hear, as we have heard, of converted Jews declaring that such a mode of interpretation would carry them back to Judaism.”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp412–414.—W. F.]

DOCTRINAL REFLECTIONS

1. What has Jehovah caused, Ezekiel 37:1-10, to be prophesied for comfort to His people ( Ezekiel 37:12-13)? The resurrection of the dead in the literal sense Kliefoth still maintains, a view which is the older ecclesiastical one, shared by Jews and Christians, so that Jerome, when expressing a different opinion regarding famosam hanc visionen, omnium ecclesiarum Christi lectione celebratam, thought it necessary to state that he did not therefore by any means wish to deny the doctrine of the resurrection. How little the connection in Ezekiel says in favour of the dogma of the general resurrection of the dead is best seen from the artificial way in which Ezekiel 37:11 sq. is disposed of. Kliefoth interprets the prophesied bringing of Israel into their own land (as already, Ezekiel 36:28) of the “final introduction of the people of God into the eternal Canaan,” and the quickening in Ezekiel 37:14, of “inward renewal by the Spirit of God;” an interpretation which he has also put upon Ezekiel 36:25 sq. From similar perplexity, Ezekiel 37:11 has been combined with the “first resurrection” of Revelation 20, and the bringing of Israel into their own land understood in accordance with Matthew 5:5. Hengstenberg, holding that “all the other comforting words of the prophet relate to things of this world,” insists upon this connection in general, and singles out in particular Ezekiel 36:8, “which was soon to take its beginning,” and the connection of Ezekiel 37:15 sq. and the vision. If the relation is this, that the house of Israel of the vision, reanimated by the Spirit of God, is “the whole” ( Ezekiel 37:11), and hence is to experience the reunion symbolized ( Ezekiel 37:15 sq.), then this union, which cannot be sought for among “the last things,” will also not suppose the Revelation -quickening of Israel past. But in addition to the contradiction between the wider and the narrower connection, comes also the contrariety of the picture drawn here to the doctrine laid down in 1 Corinthians15; those who rise again in Ezekiel’s vision simply return into earthly existence, with skin and flesh and bones. If the doctrine of the general resurrection is maintained in Ezekiel 37:1 sq, then Ezekiel 37:11 sq. must more or less, as also Kliefoth gives to understand, he denied to be “in the proper sense an interpretation and explanation of the significant occurence:” we must content ourselves with an application for an express purpose, namely, in order to comfort and raise up the hope of Israel with the prospect in question (see above, Ezekiel 37:1). Against this Hengstenberg, appealing at the same, time to analogies in Daniel,, Zechariah, and Ezekiel himself, justly observes: “Whosoever feels himself constrained to take Ezekiel 37:11-14 not as an interpretation, even thereby expresses judgment concerning his view of Ezekiel 37:1-10.” Ezekiel 37:11 begins expressly with an explanation of the signification of “these bones,” which formed the subject of discourse, Ezekiel 37:1-10.

2. A question which, unless one dismisses entirely the doctrine of the resurrectio mortuorum from the text before us, comes into consideration Isaiah, whether this dogma already existed in the time of Ezekiel? Hengstenberg, for example, denies indeed the express application of the doctrine to our passage, but makes the dogma serve as “figure.” Hence he must answer the question put in the affirmative. It is a necessary supposition, not only—as already Tertullian, de resurr. carnis, points out to the Gnostics, and Jerome expresses himself—that the typical application of the resurrection of the dead by Ezekiel implies the actual taking place of that resurrection, and consequently its truth must be beyond doubt, but also that the doctrine of the resurrection was already at that time a common property of religious popular knowledge in Israel, if it could thus be figuratively applied in Ezekiel. Hengstenberg (Christology, vol3 p51, Clark’s trans.) cites Pareau’s Comment. de Immortal. p109, and refers to Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2. The raising of the dead ( 1 Kings 17:22; 2 Kings 4:35; 2 Kings 13:21) can, as isolated cases, prove nothing in its behalf; and passages like Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6, attest only the omnipotence of the living God. Comp. Hävern. Vorles. über die Theol. des A. T. p109, and his Comment, p581; Oehler, V. T. sententia de rebus p. mort. fut. p37 sq, 42sq. Furthermore, Ezekiel 37:3 of our vision, where the prophet leaves to the Lord the answering of the question put to him, says nothing in favour of the consciousness of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. If there was such a consciousness, we should certainly expect a corresponding answer from the prophet. Comp. John 11:23-24. (Hävernick: “If the prophet could have supposed such a general belief, he would necessarily (?) have appealed to it in order to establish thereon the restoration of the people, etc. But in such a hopeless case as Ezekiel 37:11 the prophet cannot make suppositions, nor will he; he will just build anew—establish firmly anew hope in the heart.”)

3. Hengstenberg says: “The prophet, however, does not merely set out from this doctrine and use it as a means of representation; his primarily figurative representation, and the historical confirmation which it received, must also have served to awaken powerfully the belief in the resurrection. If God proves Himself the master of death in the figurative sense, if He redeems His people from outward and the spiritual misery into which they had fallen during the exile, how should the death of the body set a limit to His grace?” And again: “The salvation announced here under the figure of the resurrection is completed in the resurrection; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:19.”

4. But the text protests also against this merely typical acceptation of the doctrine of the resurrection. There are indeed ( Ezekiel 37:2) “very many,” according to Ezekiel 37:10 “a very great army,” sufficient to suggest all the dead, at any rate sufficient for the interpretation in Ezekiel 37:11 of the “whole” house of Israel. They are, however, not the bones of deceased men, but of slain men, as expressly stated in Ezekiel 37:9. The open surface of the valley, moreover, hardly corresponds to the situation of the resurrection of the dead; the graves in the interpretation, still closed and yet to be opened, would be more suitable. Finally, the twofold transaction in regard to the Revelation -quickening in the vision ( Ezekiel 37:7 sq, Ezekiel 37:9 sq.) can hardly set before the eye the representation of the awakening of the dead; but as the direct design of the vision is to make prominent the creative in what is prophesied, the thing that is possible with God alone ( Ezekiel 37:3), so the first and the second Acts, especially the observation after the first in Ezekiel 37:8, that “yet breath was not in them,” serves from the outset to make prominent the point of the interpretation, namely, God’s putting His Spirit in them, Ezekiel 37:14.

5. Hitzig’s view of the vision takes more account of the noteworthy circumstance that it treats of slain men. But how? He makes (as already in Ezekiel 34, King David) the Israelites slain in the destruction of the two kingdoms be called upon by the prophet to rise again. Thus the vision is a vision of a partial resurrection. There was already a similar opinion among the Talmudists (Sanhedr. xcii2)—comp. on Ezekiel 37:1; and it is also maintained that such a resurrection did actually take place, and even that those who rose again begot offspring in Canaan; thus one Talmudist expressly declares his descent from one of them.[FN1] To say nothing of the strangeness of such a view,—for which certainly the “supernatural character of the Hebrew system” offers, as Hitzig must grant, no sufficient support,—“the idea itself of the resurrection” proves nothing, but it must be maintained in Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25, in order that it may be referred to for the vision before us; moreover, as to the context, such a resurrection prophecy does not fit in excellently before and after, as Hitzig supposes. For the multiplication of the people promised in Ezekiel 36:37-38 (comp. Ezekiel 36:10) surely points to something else than specially a multiplication by resurrection of the slain; and the combination of the vision in the chapter here with Ezekiel 38, however ingenious and plausible, is by no means the necessary combination imperatively required by the text. Comp. the exegesis in loc.

6. Thus the dogma of the resurrection of the dead, as well as the announcement of a “first resurrection” of Israel, or of his slain, literally understood, must be dismissed from our chapter. So also the parabolical application of that dogma is not the sense of the text. If the view is put forward that the whole is figurative, then a mere poetical figure excogitated by Ezekiel cannot certainly be harmonized with the express character of Ezekiel 37:1-10; comp. on Ezekiel 37:1. We have before us a divine vision, which the Lord in express revelation gave His prophet to behold. Hence there must be more to find in this vision than the clothing of an idea, “well conceived and carried out with dramatic effect” (Philipps.). The objection raised by Hävernick against the view of only outward liberation of the people and the flourishing of the State anew already under Zerubbabel (Grotius, Vatablus, Ammon’s Bibl. Theol.), and also against Ewald’s deeper penetration into the matter, the objection, namely, that it is not permissible to repeat this idea from Ezekiel 36, cannot be maintained. But we have first to deal with the form, and then we will have to remember that the conformation of the thought as contained in the vision cannot be suggested by what is known and suitable for restoration of any kind, as is coming to life again out of a state of death, but on the contrary will have to be accounted for on other grounds. The vision—and this is the reason why it proceeds in the form before us—is intended to afford to Israel a strong ground for what is already prophesied to him, a specially strong encouragement against his hopelessness. The ground on which what is promised to the people is based is the creative power of God (comp. on Ezekiel 37:5; Ezekiel 37:8). “God Himself appears to the prophet as the quickener of the bones,” as Hävernick justly observes. “A thoroughly real relation is treated of, namely, the relation of God to death.” Then, as regards the encouragement to Israel on this ground, it must speak so much the more powerfully to their hearts, when, taking them at their word, it borrows from their despairing words the answer against all doubts. The vision ( Ezekiel 37:1-10) is such a thorough answer in a matter-of-fact form, because He who answers, the Promiser, is the Almighty God of Israel, who “speaks and does,” Ezekiel 37:14. Comp. how very near Calvin (Inst. ii10) came to this understanding. Only because Kliefoth is so confused in the exposition of our chapter does it appear that he could gather nothing from Hävernick’s remarks, which so often hit the sense, and who refers with far better right than the expositors of the literal resurrection of the dead to Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Hosea 13:14, etc.

7. The vision of Ezekiel in our chapter takes, as has been said, the discouraged of the Israelites at their word. Already in Ezekiel 37:3, where the question put to the prophet tends in this direction, the way is opened up for the after interpretation. At the very outset in Ezekiel 37:2, where the bones filling the valley ( Ezekiel 37:1), which are very many, are described as “very dry,” the whole house of Israel lies before us, namely, those who say, “Our bones were dried,” as the interpretation ( Ezekiel 37:11) puts beyond all doubt. By their speaking thus—since their “perished hope” was Jerusalem and the people in the land of Judah—the exiles in their despondency compare themselves to those who had perished in their native land; and this explains the designation “slain” given in the vision, which takes them for what they give themselves out to be, as, on the other hand, from the close interweaving of Ezekiel 37:1-10 and Ezekiel 37:11-14, the interpretation speaks of their places of residence in exile as their “graves.” At the same time, by the bones which He places before the prophet in the valley, the judgment formerly (comp. Ezekiel 6) threatened by Jehovah is conceded to have taken place. Since this judgment was executed as killing,[FN2] to which death what of Israel still exists has given itself up ( Ezekiel 37:11) with full sympathy, if there is still prospect of salvation after the judgment and arising out of the judgment, this salvation can only be life, God’s act of salvation, and consequently nothing but Revelation -quickening.[FN3] And because the slain, to whom Israel in exile compare themselves, are to be supposed in Canaan, the bringing back of Israel to their own land is connected repeatedly ( Ezekiel 37:12 sq.) with the Revelation -quickening of the nation. Thus the salvation to be prophesied is externally restoration of the nation—Israel is again in his own land. There is one element which the vision could not set forth (unless, perhaps, it is hinted at by the expression: “and stood upon their feet,” Ezekiel 37:10), but which the interpretation brings in felicitously through the dead bones of the vision, by the bringing of them “out of the graves.” The vision has chiefly in view the inward side, namely, the quickening by the Spirit, in general the national life as such, although, as is clear from the interpretation ( Ezekiel 37:14), not without spiritual reference back to Ezekiel 36; comp. the exposition.

8. “The faith of Israel in his redemption was to rest not so much on the belief in a resurrection of the dead, as on belief in God the Creator, who brings being out of nothing, who awakens life out of death, even in its most fearful form, the annihilation of all existence” (Hävern.). It may be said more generally regarding the significance of hope for faith, that hope demonstrates the blessedness of faith, yet is not the ground of its knowledge or certainty, but as certainly as I believe, so certainly shall I also behold—the future, which hope expectantly anticipates.

9. As has been above remarked, Revelation 20 was early introduced into the discussion. Kliefoth recently, while making “the resurrection of the dead generally, limited, however, to a single definitely bounded field of dead” (בִּקְעָה), be shown to the prophet ( Ezekiel 37:1-10), “because it is afterwards to be referred to the appointed resurrection of the people of God,” borrows from Revelation 22 a very peculiar confirmation of this exposition of his. The ἀναστασις πρωτη in Ezekiel 37:5 there, namely, is based on our passage, and the proof of this he makes to be that the souls of the πεπελεχισμενων there (who are the הֲרוּגִים here) are seen, and that both here and there Gog and Magog follow on the resurrection. He who is constrained to recognise in the first section of our chapter the Revelation -quickening of Israel as a nation, will not be thereby hindered from conceding that it will be followed by the Revelation -quickening of all Israel, that Isaiah, as Paul expresses it in 1 Corinthians 15:23, of οἱ χριστου ἐν τη παρουσια αὐτου. If this ζωοποιησις is likewise meant in Revelation 20:4 (ἐζησαν), then the reference of our passage to it can as little be denied as that the βασιλευειν μετα χριστου may be prefigured in Ezekiel 37:23 sq, the repeated לְעוֹלָם here can be interpreted by χιλια ἑτη there, the ἱνκ μη πλανηση τα ἐθνη ἑτι in Revelation 20:3 compared with Ezekiel 37:28 here, and that the κριμα, Revelation 20:4, refers to Ezekiel 38. But the beheaded witnesses of the Apocalypse of John by no means harmonize with the slain of Ezekiel; and although Gog and Magog make their appearance in Revelation 20:8 sq, as here in Ezekiel 38, yet already Revelation 19:17 sq. makes reference to Ezekiel 39, 38 in Ezekiel. Moreover, Revelation 20:6 also can be compared to the so often used לְעוֹלָם of our chapter.

10. “Since God as the self-existent life in itself is Spirit, all life in its various grades and forms originates and subsists only through the Spirit, which proceeds from God; the possession of spirit forms the universal ground of life, connecting the whole creation with God” (Beck.).

11. We have here ἐγειρειν and ζωοποιειν together, the full and entire conception of the sovereignty of the Father and of the working of the Son in the Holy Ghost; comp. John 5:21 sq.

12. In regard to the religious spirit which animated the returned exiles, reference has been rightly made to the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, and also to the psalms belonging to this period.

13. The truth of the section Ezekiel 37:1-14 is not so well expressed by saying with Ewald, “that the individual or the nation that does not despair of the Divine Spirit is never in any situation forsaken by that Spirit, but is always borne onward to new life,” as by saying that it has its expression in the eternity of the Church of God. “We need not,” says Hengstenberg, “extend our prophecy to the unbelieving Jewish people and their future conversion. As expressly stated in Ezekiel 37:12-13, it applies only to Israel as the people of God, and the dispensation of grace grows out of this relation.”

14. “It is doubtless the power of his people which the prophet sees in this vision rising up to new life; it is the sons of Israel, held in captivity and scattered, who are destined to return to the soil of their beloved heritage. But on the ground of the deep word of typical representation we read the joyous announcement: I live, and ye shall live also” (Umbreit).

15. The reunion of Israel and Judah has, in consequence of the pronounced heathenizing character (still continuing in the Samaritans) or the former (Doct. Reflec 4 on Ezekiel 20.), a co-reference to the heathen; and this is more to be thought of than “the separation between believers and unbelievers,” which Hengstenberg makes ensue “after the coming of Christ,” as “a still worse” separation. Yea, the less Israel-Judah has become one in the Messiah, who is Christ, the more has the heathen world come into consideration for the fulfilling of the prophesied union, Romans 11:26 : κ. οὑτω πας Ἰσραηλ.

16. As the exile of the Jews ceases in Christ, so the alienship of the heathen ends in Christ, Ephesians 2.

17. “A continued separate existence of the ten tribes in some unknown region is a fable” (Hengst. ).

18. Why could not the Jews, like other nations of the sinking world-dominion of Rome, preserve their nationality in a distinct state? Think of the Maccabees. Not only their exclusive national habits, but still more the Messianic hope in the heart of the nation, fitted the Jews for this above other nations. From within and from without everything was here conjoined for building up a strong and important nationality among the fluctuating nations and gods of the Old World. In both respects there was given with the return from exile a new tone to their history. (On the characteristic peculiarities of Israel, their particular national disposition, comp. the Doct. Reflec. on Ezekiel 34) Their greater zeal for the law of Jehovah, the more decided antithesis of the national life to the heathen world-form after the exile, has been often remarked on; and also that a more definite expectation of the Messiah is clear consciousness of the pious of the land, and not of the prophetic circle alone. The Jewish people have, in the great part of them scattered through all nations, served to prepare the heathen for Christianity. Consider the importance of Jewish Hellenism; think of the net of the proselytism “of the gate” drawn through the heathen world; and do not overlook the Septuagint. How much might their gathering together in Christ into a Christian people and state have contributed to the ingathering of the heathen! When the kingdom of priests which Israel should have been became contracted to the number twelve of the apostles ( Matthew 19:28), still the effect of this mission into the world is the fulness of the Gentiles. What the emphasizing of Judah ( Ezekiel 37:19) already signifies, is expressly uttered in a Messianic sense by the repeated naming of the “one king” ( Ezekiel 37:22) as David the servant of Jehovah ( Ezekiel 37:24-25). Our promise can relate only to Christian Israel, for the Jewish nation either completed itself in the Messiah by receiving Christ, or deprived itself of Him, as may be read in John 19:15. Then with the perishing of its spirit, its flesh also perished; what still remained in form of Israel was therefore broken up by the false Messiahs, the Romans, etc. It is a fundamental mistake still to seek at the present day to see in the Jews a nation, especially when the remains of nationality—the offspring of pride—which still manifested themselves in the Middle Ages in the individual members of the race, are being ever more and more spiritualized, or even materialized, by the spirit of indifference, into cosmopolitanism. Because they are “My people” ( Ezekiel 37:12-13), Jehovah makes the leading out of exile and the return to Canaan to he prophesied to them. In view of the Messiah, He promises them a united nationality ( Ezekiel 37:21 sq.), and the inhabiting of Canaan for ever, the peaceable possession of the land. The promise here has nothing to do with “individuals,” and what Hengstenberg says of its conditionality in this respect is superfluous. After the people of Israel relinquished their claim to nationality in presence of the manifested Messiah, there can he no further talk of their conversion as a nation to Christ (Keil); and so much the less as the kingdom of God over Israel as a nation has passed over for fulfilment to the idea of humanity given in Israel. In this last and at the same time highest respect, the unity and eternity, kingly and priestly, under the one shepherd, here prophesied, have in Christianity—alike as regards the kingship and as regards the sanctuary ( Ezekiel 37:26 sq.)—their universal and also their progressive realization ( John 10:16; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 21:3; Revelation 21:22 sq, 22:3 sq.).

19. The literally verbal interpretation of our prophet has been repeatedly spoken against. For in whatever way the prophets may prophesy the glorious future of Israel, the popular form of their discourse, expressed in accordance with the times, must not keep out of view the eternal hope of Israel, the Spirit-anointed One. Since the beginning and the end of God’s march in history through the world is Prayer of Manasseh, is humanity, it must seem childish to believe that the “millennial kingdom” will be centralized at Jerusalem, that this will be its capital under the Jews brought back to Palestine, that the Lord will at His coming again dwell in a real temple, and that the law of Moses, and even the ceremonial and the civil law of Moses, will be the law of the kingdom, etc. This is “realistic” exposition indeed; and while people cross and bless themselves with it against “spiritualism,” the thought never troubles them that they are borne along by the materialistic current of the age. The New Testament has not thus understood, not thus expounded the Old. Comp. moreover, the penetrating and partially conclusive arguments of Keil in loc. against the Chiliasm of the modern Apocalyptic. From God’s covenant with Abraham onward, the development of Israel moves in the direction of the formation of a nation and the possession of a land, the land of Canaan. The prophets would have been unintelligible to Israel had they prophesied to it a future without regard to these two particulars. How far that which after the judgment of the exile was prophesied, as restitution of people, land, and cultus, had to serve the purpose of affording the historical nexus and point of departure for the Messiah—to what extent what was prophesied on these points would have political earthly reality, could be discerned from the very character of the coming Messianic kingdom. A kingdom which, according to the confession before Pilate, is not of this world, could not fail to show that the apparent, sensuousness of the prophecies portraying the future of the people and land of Israel is in reality spiritual allegory. In the history of the nation, in its institutions, etc, the vessels were sufficiently well placed for types and symbols, in order in due time to change the water in them into the wine of Christ.

[See additional note above, at the close of the Exegetical Remarks.—W. F.]

20. “The New Testament,” says Hengstenberg, “knows nothing of a future possession of the land of Canaan.” “If the fulfilment is sought in this, then the interruption of two thousand years is inconceivable, since a constant possession is here placed in prospect. With respect to the perpetual possession, we must rather look to Matthew 23:37,” etc. “For supplementing Ezekiel we have Zechariah, one of his immediate successors, who soon after the return from the exile predicts ( Ezekiel 11.) a desolation of the land in consequence of the rejection of the Good Shepherd.”

21. The two powers which in the second section of our chapter ( Ezekiel 37:15 sq.) are destined to. realize the idea of the symbolized unity of the nation, are the royal power ( Ezekiel 37:22) and the sanctuary ( Ezekiel 37:26). As these express that which from the commencement Israel was appointed to be ( Exodus 19:6), Israel’s destiny as a nation, they are the two pillars of its unity. When the kingdom was divided, and the sanctuary was no longer the one sanctuary for all, then there came an end, first to Israel, and then to Judah. As without the raising up again of the kingdom of David, and without the restoration of the sanctuary of Jehovah, there can be no Revelation -quickening, so there can be no reunion of Israel. That which the last destruction of the temple, on the one hand, gives to the Jews to ponder to this very hour, Pilate on the other, by his question ( John 19:15), laid on the consciences of their national representatives of that time, and in such a manner that we feel reminded of verses like Ezekiel 37:22 and others here.

22. In relation to Ezekiel 11:16 it has to be observed, 1st, that where מְעַט occurs there we find here לְעוֹלָם—in contrast to the temporary the completion appears in a permanent form; 2d, that where we have there וָאֱהִי לָהֶם לְמִקְדָּשׁ, we have here וְנָתַתִּי מִקְדָּשִי בְּתוֹכָם; hence, instead of the “I, the temple” of the exile, which also appeared in Christ ( John 2.), the perfect and also the final will be ( Revelation 21:22)—as Paul says—“the temple of God are ye.” As the latter will be an enduring, an eternal one, inasmuch as it forms the other side of the final tabernacle ( Revelation 21:3), so it is explained in Ezekiel 37:27 by this, that the presence of the Eternal, formerly represented by the angel of the covenant in the cloud, will now as our flesh be exalted to heaven, in consequence of which Christ “by His Holy Spirit pours out the heavenly gifts into us, His members, as He also protects and preserves us by His power against all enemies” (Heidelb. Cat. Question51).

HOMILETIC HINTS

Ezekiel 37:1 sq. “The hope of the Israelites lay quite prostrate; but the hope of the people of God shall never cease, because God will assuredly reveal and glorify His grace on us. Therefore God by His word always furnishes fresh courage in every affliction,” etc. (Diedrich.)—“This valley is found indeed everywhere. In other words, is there not plenty of dead bones? The best thing Isaiah, that God still cares even for such” (Berl. Bib.).

Ezekiel 37:2. “When our state seems to us so extremely miserable that none of God’s promises will apply to it, then we should remember these bones” (Starck).—The Church of Christ, too, may at times look like such a field of the dead.—“What else are we, too, through our corrupt nature, than dry bones, empty and alienated from the life of God and from the righteousness of Jesus Christ, until the Lord gives us His Spirit of life ?” (Berl. Bib.)—“It is the Lord who makes the dead to live, who visits His people in grace and raises them again from the dust, who redeems us by His Spirit from spiritual bondage, yea, who will also in the last days awaken the dead,” etc. (Tüb. Bib.)

Ezekiel 37:3. “God asks counsel of us, that we may learn to acknowledge our ignorance, John 6:6-7” (Cr.).—“Would that all theologians had thus confessed their ignorance, and not sought to cover it with a semblance of knowledge!” (Schmieder.)—“It is God Himself who gives in us the first presentiments of regeneration and resurrection” (Diedrich).—Not only, however, in that which is impossible with men, but in all things should we look to God.—The recourse of faith when assailed to the divine omnipotence.—“Since God is omniscient and omnipotent, the resurrection of the dead is possible; but since He has also promised it, and cannot break His word, it is also certain, John 5:25” (Starke).

Ezekiel 37:1-3. Faith in the field of the dead world and of the dead church; what it sees (death, and with men the impossibility of life); on what it trusts (on the Lord alone).

Ezekiel 37:4 sq. “As God here addresses the bones by the prophet, so He also by the gospel speaks to the dead in sin. He says, namely, that He can quicken from death in sin; and commands the dead to hear, and to arise from the dead, or to repent, that Isaiah, to believe that they are dead in sins, and in want of divine illumination and sanctification, and to lift up their eyes to the truth which is in Christ,” etc.; Romans 4:17; John 5:28-29; Ephesians 5:14 (Cocc.).—“Even the dead must hear the word of God from the lips of men; the man of God speaks to them” (Diedrich).—We are in our whole life and in death directed above all to the word of the Lord—entirely to the Lord who is the Word, John 1.—“The wretched state of sin dominant in a man cannot be more forcibly typified than by the state of the dead, 1 Timothy 5:6” (Lange).—“From this we may draw an important lesson both for ourselves and others, namely, that however worn out, however unconscious and dead to our Condition we may be, yet God is able to redeem us from it, and to impart a life so much the greater the less hope of life there is apparent. This makes the soul still hope against all hope, Romans 4:18. The worse and the more hopeless the prospect around the soul, the more is it aware that it is well with it, and that God is able of stones to raise up children to Abraham, Matthew 3:9. Although the soul esteems all as lost, yet it troubles not itself about that, and does not say, I am lost and shall never come back, which is the language of self-love,” etc. (Berl. Bib.)—“Without God there is only death, whether natural or spiritual, whereas God’s Spirit is able to quicken all and everything” (Starck).—“We have, however, chiefly to see to it that we ourselves are alive, and Song of Solomon, above all, may have part in the first resurrection. For blessed and holy,” etc. (Berl. Bib.)

Ezekiel 37:4-5. The word of God over the dead bones, how it is spirit, and promises life.

Ezekiel 37:6. In the resurrection of the dead it will not, however, be as the hymn says: “Then shall this very skin, as I believe, surround me.”—“As this spiritual resurrection here is a gradual process, so also in conversion and renewal, the man proceeds from glory to glory, until he stands fast in the Lord, and in the power of His might, in order to walk henceforth in the ways of the Lord” (Starck).

Ezekiel 37:7 sq.: When it is prophesied according to God’s word, there are still always voices, noise, movement, and things that belong to one another come together.—“If the voice of the Holy Ghost is heard in the heart, then there is a movement of the heart, and blessed is he who obeys the impulse” (Starck).—The wonderful experiences on the field of the dead in the churches.—But what do bones, sinews, flesh, and skin, all brought together and fitted to one another, avail without the spirit? This remark applies not so much to the confessions of the churches, as to the attempts at revival through constitutions and liturgies. Certainly the coming together of members of each body—if the passage is made to apply to “reunion” (as by Richter)—is God’s work; but not when the bodies, taken from different bodies, are as a matter of compulsion bound together promiscuously. The spirit, and not the uniform, is that which truly unifies; and the consciences of men are not to be dealt with as the regimental tailor deals with soldiers. The fact that an “army” is spoken of, Ezekiel 37:10, cannot certainly give the tone to our view of the Church of Christ.—Pure doctrine is not skin and bones, flesh and sinews, but spirit, which has and brings life. But those who teach their own wisdom and holiness still seek life where it cannot be found.

Ezekiel 37:9. Thou mayest prophesy to the wind, provided thou prophesiest only God’s word: “Thus saith the Lord,” and not: Thus must ye do.

Ezekiel 37:10. Richter suggests of this “very great army,” that, consisting of those drawn “from restored Israel,” it “will serve for the spiritual conquest of all the Gentile nations, and especially for the gaining over of the Mohammedans to the kingdom of Christ.”—“All (?) Scripture announces that the children of Israel, once converted, will be full of zeal to subject to the gentle rule of Jesus Christ and His grace those nations which will not be extirpated as anti-Christian (!) by divine justice. These dry bones, still scattered at present upon the earth, shall be changed into preachers and apostles,” etc. (Where is it said that the “army” has to conquer the world?)—“One needs no power or army when there is nothing to fight with and conquer, and no enemy to overcome. But this conversion of the world will first take place in the kingdom of the Lord when, Revelation 20, the devil shall be bound in the bottomless pit, etc. The spirit of grace and of supplication will, however, make them invincible; and the blood of the New Covenant, which their fathers shed with blind fury, will so inspire them, that they would, if necessary, drink even the cup which their Saviour drank ( Matthew 20:22). By the confession of their sin, above all, will they work to procure entrance for His name and His mysteries into the remotest lands, etc. In this the natural ability, warmth, and activity of this people will be exceedingly useful, especially, however, through the Spirit of God, Zechariah 9:15; Zechariah 9:13-14.”—The Berleburg Bible subjoins to Ezekiel 37:9 sq. the prayer: “Would that it might also please our great prophet Jesus Christ to prophesy with power, and by His intercession and mission compel the Spirit to come! Oh, what a great army will then come forth to do battle against the beast and the whore!”

Ezekiel 37:11 sq. These bones are, that Isaiah, signify, sq., and yet: “this bread is my body,” etc, is held not to signify!—“We see the foolishness of our flesh when we are pressed by afflictions which go quite contrary to our expectations; we then either forget the divine promises, or accord to them scarcely a half faith” (Luther).—The language of unbelief makes the calamity great, and God’s power to help little.

Ezekiel 37:12 sq. “But He opens the graves of despair, and makes the light of a better state arise to the house of Israel, to which all the elect belong. As the spirit of life is given to the bones from all the four corners of the world, so must the true Israelites be brought together by the same spirit out of the four corners of the world, from all places, to the unity of the faith, and these obtain the inheritance that passeth not away” (Heim-Hoffmann).

Ezekiel 37:14. Only let us not forget that heaven is our fatherland, and that we should delight to be with Christ.—“The Lord has always shown Himself such a God in His people. His people remain for ever, and have already often experienced resurrection” (Diedrich).

Ezekiel 37:15 sq. “How often does God repeat His promises! how many seals does He append to them! Is it not wonderful that men doubt not withstanding? Isaiah 11:12; Hosea 1:11” (Starke).—(We may mention here the wooden alphabets of the ancient Britons, e.g. the runes written or engraved upon wood.)

Ezekiel 37:19 sq. “That was a type of the union of all believers in the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, through one spirit and faith, under one Head, King, and Saviour, the promised Messiah” (Tossanus).—“Thus the kingdom of Israel was to cease entirely, and not to rise up again” (Starke).—“Unity is a mark of the Spirit” (Heim-Hoffmann).

Ezekiel 37:22-23. The union which is not merely two sticks in one hand (above all in a secular hand): (1) That which is preceded by separation from the State, it is a purely ecclesiastical, and e.g. not a military one; (2) Where the unifying Head in everything is seen ever more and more to be Christ, and not the king, as bishop of the country; (3) Where the essential thing is: to be God’s people, and not so much a German Established Church.—“The separation arose from the worship of idols, and the earthly-minded never ask after unity and purity of doctrine”(Diedrich).

Ezekiel 37:24. Comp. on Ezekiel 34.—The royal dominion of the Anointed One as the fulfilment of God’s promises, as the pledge rich in promise of eternity.—“Of the kingdom of Christ there shall be no end” (Starck).

Ezekiel 37:26 sq. “Jesus is the temple of the Godhead, through which we obtain what we ask” (Heim-Hoffmann).—The covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant and a holy covenant.—The everlasting priestly kingdom of the Messiah ( Psalm 110:4), the revelation for the heathen.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - It may be remarked in passing, that Hävernick misapprehends the dealings between Pharisees and Sadducees in the Talmud regarding the resurrection, for the Sadducees there do not, when appealing to Ezekiel 37, claim the figurative as the received explanation of our passage, but only suppose in the passage not the resurrectio futuri sæculi, but on the contrary a merely particular, and not the general resurrection.

FN#2 - “It is from the beginning a fundamental law for all human development, that death is decreed for the transgression of the divine commandment; holding good in the first instance for the individual life, but also for the national domain, where the law lays hold of Jehovah’s Israel as an individual personality, and sets in view before it life and death, particularly the latter, for the decision of the nation from the beginning onward takes always more plainly the similitude of Adam’s decision. Captivity, or the separation of Israel from their land, announced as the last and worst punishment, Isaiah, according to the law, to be conceived of as the death of the nation. This the Old Testament consciousness looks upon as death, for the individual is related to his body as the nation to its land, and the land separated from the nation is subjected to the most fearful desolation and devastation ( Ezekiel 36), like the human body bereft of the soul. Or, as death dissolves into dust, so the captivity of Israel is its dissolution into the primal elements out of which it was at first formed, etc.”—Baumgarten.

FN#3 - Hofmann rightly observes, that what is illustrated in Ezekiel is “not so much the newness of the life into which, as rather the completeness of the state of death out of which Israel is to be restored.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/ezekiel-37.html. 1857-84.

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