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Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of Yahweh was on me and He brought me out in the Spirit of Yahweh, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones- The Spirit comes into these bones, thus continuing the teaching of Ez. 34:25 and chapter 36, that God will give a new heart to latter day Israel. "The valley" suggests a specific valley in view, and I suggest in the latter day fulfilment, it is the valley of Armageddon. Although initially it was the valley near the Chebar of Ez. 3:22, from where the exiles could have been revived. They were being offered a new deal, a new covenant seeing they had broken the old one, which would be eternal in that they would be given a new heart (Ez. 36) which would never again be able to sin: "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 their midst forevermore" (Ez. 37:26). As discussed on Ez. 36:8, that generation could have been revived and those of Rachel's children slain by the Babylonians (Jer. 31) could have been resurrected. Hence the connection with the valley / plain where the exiles were currently located as Ezekiel gave this prophecy. These are the bones in the pot of Ez. 24:1-14, boiled dry by the Babylonian invasions; they are specifically, initially, relevant to the exiles with whom Ezekiel was sitting in the Chebar valley. The bones are unburied, suggesting they had been slain in wartime and not the death of old age, and not given any burial rites. This was the curse for breaking the covenant in Dt. 28:26, specifically applied to those who went into exile in Jer. 34:20, that Israel's bodies would be left unburied on the open fields of the valleys. Jeremiah laments that many Jews were left unburied by the Babylonians. They had broken the covenant- but God was going to force through the fulfilment of the new covenant with them. The figure is reversed two chapters later, when Gog's army is left as unburied bones in a valley. This vision primarily concerns the exiles with whom Ezekiel was and the possibility of a reversal and resurrection at that time. After the news that Jerusalem has fallen arrives with the exiles in Ez. 33, the rest of the prophecy from Ez. 34-37 is full of positive new covenant blessing. The judgment for their sins had happened, as predicted by Ezekiel earlier in his prophecy. But it seems God was now going to force through the new covenant with them, even to the point of resurrecting and saving them. Hosea has said the same, speaking of how God will ransom Israel from the power of the grave (Hos. 13:14), and raise up Israel "on the third day" (Hos. 6:1-3).

Dan. 12:2 may appear to contradict this, by speaking of how although "your [Daniel's] people" would be delivered (Dan. 12:1), there would be a resurrection where some receive eternal life and others "shame and everlasting contempt". But those terms "shame" and "contempt" are often used of the Gentile nations around Israel and Judah; possibly those resurrected to shame are the Gentile abusers of God's people during their exile. It was those nations who had shamed and despised [s.w. "contempt"] Israel and Judah in exile (this is stated very often, s.w. Neh. 1:3; 2:17; 4:4; 5:9; Ps. 44:13; 79:4; Is. 4:1; 25:8; Jer. 24:9; 29:18; 44:12; 51:51;  Lam. 5:1; Ez. 5:14; 16:57; 21:28; 22:4; 36:15; Dan. 9:16;  "reproach" is s.w. "shame"). Those who had shamed and reproached God's people would be the ones who experience shame and reproach at the day of judgment at the resurrection. Thus Ps. 79:12 "Render unto our neighbours sevenfold their reproach wherewith they have reproached". This will come true at their judgment at the resurrection. Thus Egypt will finally have "shame and reproach" (Is. 30:5) as will Edom (Jer. 49:13), the very words here used of the shame and reproach given to those rejected after resurrection to judgment.

 But there can also be a specific latter day application of these things. The bones in that valley connect with the picture developed in chapters 34-36 of the final destruction of Israel and the people in the land just before the Lord's coming. The earthquake associated with their revival (:7) is that which brings down the cities of the nations in Revelation, and is perhaps also referred to in Zech. 14 as occurring when the Lord Jesus sets foot on earth. The significance of the earthquake is totally missed by those who misinterpret the vision as referring solely to the national revival of the state of Israel in the 20th century. I suggest that the vision of Ezekiel 37 speaks of their literal resurrection and a new heart being given them. Ezekiel 39 then speaks of a revived Israel burying the multitudes of their invaders in the valley- surely the same valley is in view. What they did to Israel shall be done to them, as the prophets frequently say will happen.

Elsewhere in these notes on Ezekiel I have commented that there are multiple allusions to the garden of Eden. This is to be restored on earth at the Lord's coming. The idea of bones becoming a living person very much alludes to the creation of Eve, the first Biblical reference to "bones" (Gen. 2:23). The symbology is appropriate to the restoration of Eden which is to come at the Lord's return, and not to the Zionist creation of the state of Israel in the middle of the 20th century. See on :6. The recreation of a body into which the spirit is breathed likewise alludes to Gen. 2:7.

Ezekiel 37:2 He caused me to pass by them all around: and, there were very many in the open valley; and, they were very dry- God as it were augmented the pile of firewood by adding the bones out of the boiled dry cauldron to it (Ez. 24:5). The resurrection and revival of these dry, charred bones in Ez. 37 is therefore all the more miraculous, just as in Ez. 15 the charred vine twigs were to be revived and used by God. The language of the restoration is used of us in the New Testament; this is how amazing is His ability to use we who were rendered worse than useless by sin. We see here the power of the Spirit and the prophetic word to revive that which was totally destroyed. They are later called "these slain" (:9); and so these "very many" bones are initially talking about those slain during the Babylonian invasion and capture of Jerusalem: "You have multiplied your slain in this city, and you have filled its streets with the slain" (Ez. 11:6).

Ezekiel 37:3 He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? I answered, Lord Yahweh, You know- This continues the idea of Ez. 33:10, where Israel pine away in their sins and ask "How should we then live?". The question is whether Israel can really be forgiven of the enormity of their sins. The revival of the bones therefore speaks of their forgiveness and spiritual restoration, rather than the faithless creation of a Zionist entity by a group of Jewish agnostics and Eastern European atheists which happened in the 20th century. God's response in Ez. 33:11 is to say that Israel must turn from their sins and "live". Beginning in Ez. 34 we saw however that God as it were gives up on the idea of Israel repenting and decides to send His Spirit into them, binding them into the new covenant- grace indeed. Here we see the same- the Spirit is sent into the bones and they are revived, made to live; rather than them coming to spiritual life themselves.

Over 45 times we read the word "life" in Ezekiel. Usually the context is that the repentant and righteous will live, but the disobedient will die and not live. And Israel were disobedient. Yet they would be made to live by God's grace shown through the work of His Spirit. That is what the new covenant is all about; the reversal of condemnation by grace and His Spirit. Paul in Romans develops this point- that God's grace works out through the work of His Spirit. His grace, charis, is the word used for the gift of His Spirit. This promise of life to dead bones is the answer to Israel's miserable complaint that they were dead in sins: "'Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we waste away because of them, how can we live?'" (Ez. 33:10-11). And the promise of the Spirit is likewise the answer to those who feel hopelessly dead in sins.  God didn't want them to die but to live, and so He had urged them to repentance (Ez. 18:32; 33:11; cp. 3:16-21). But they chose death over life. But by grace He still gives them life.

The revival is now, but it will come to full term at the resurrection of the body. The resurrection, future aspect to the promise is what helps us cope with the fact that our spiritual transformation now is clearly so incomplete and partial. Speaking of the same work of the Spirit, Paul can say that we see in a mirror in darkness, with just partial transformation of our image, just some parts changed and just seeing / knowing some parts of Him; but then in completion, face to face.

Ezekiel 37:4 Again He said to me, Prophesy over these bones, and tell them, you dry bones, hear the word of Yahweh- Note the parallel between God's Spirit and His word. Ezekiel appears to represent the latter day Elijah who will bring about this resurrection and revival through his latter day ministry; and again, this speaks of the latter days, not of Israel's political fortunes in the 20th century. The grace of it all is in the fact that dry bones can't hear God's word, neither can the dead exiles whom the bones represent. So obedience is not the basis for God's action- as so often stated, it is because of His Name, His essential love for Israel.

The idea of dryness has been used earlier in Ez. 17:9,10 for how Judah had been a healthy vine that was now dried up. The same figure is in Ez. 19:12 "it was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up its fruit. Its strong rods were broken off and withered". Likewise the idea that "our hope is lost" (:11) has been used in Ez. 19:5 of how the lioness of Judah "saw that she had waited and her hope was lost". Ezekiel is saying that his prophecies of condemnation and permanent destruction of God's people were going to be reversed. By the grace of the new covenant; and, as he labours, not because Israel had repented but because of the grace associated with God's Name. God's Name, as Hosea explains, involves a struggle between the pole of His grace and that of His judgment, with His love and grace finally winning out.

Ezekiel 37:5 Thus says the Lord Yahweh to these bones: I will cause spirit to enter into you, and you shall live- God takes the initiative; He no longer awaits their revival on their own initiative (Ez. 33:11), now He causes His Spirit to enter and transform them; and this is the token of the new covenant which we too have entered by grace. Ezekiel 37 had its primary fulfilment in the return under Ezra. Then, Israel was given “a quickening” (Ezra 9:9 LXX), in fulfilment of how the dry bones in captivity were revived. At that time, Judah could have fully revived. But most of them chose to stay in Babylon. And so the prophecy was rescheduled and reapplied. But this gift of the Spirit is part of the promise of the new covenant, the new heart and spirit of Jer. 30,31; Ez. 20,36 etc. And God is willing to give that to all who enter it by baptism today.

We note that what happens here had been Ezekiel's personal experiencing at the time of his first calling (Ez. 2:2). The Spirit had entered him, and he stood upon his feet to serve Yahweh. All Israel were going to have the same experience- on a national level, they were to become Yahweh's servants as much as Ezekiel had been.

Ezekiel 37:6 I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am Yahweh- The language of creation; see on 37:1 bones. It could be that the literal resurrection of those slain by the Babylonians was in view. But this was transferred to refer to the spiritual enlivenment possible for those within the new covenant. The sinews of flesh are perhaps intended to contrast with how Israel had previously had "iron sinews" (Is. 48:4); the idea is that now they had been given a heart of flesh, a soft heart to God's ways, rather than a hard heart. Many times, Israel had been bidden "know Yahweh", to have relationship with Him- and they had refused. The work of the Spirit however is to make them "know Yahweh" (:13,14 too). This is part of the same theme of Ez. 36- a new heart and Spirit will be given to God's people, apparently without their requesting it. The vision clearly speaks of the bodily resurrection of the last day [if scripture interprets scripture, that conclusion is unavoidable], but also of spiritual revival now. This is exactly the position we are in. The resurrection to eternal life is related to our possession of the Spirit now-  "if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:11). Therefore those "who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for... the redemption of our bodies" at the resurrection (Rom. 8:23). Just as the Lord Jesus was put to death in the flesh but was made alive by "the Spirit of Christ" which He had in His life (1 Pet. 3:18).

Ezekiel 37:7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. As I prophesied, there was a noise-
This meant that the “whole house of Israel” was to stand up from their graves and return as a mighty army to the land. The “noise” is s.w. in Ezra 1:1 about the “proclamation” of Cyrus for Judah to return to the land. All of God’s people didn’t return; the majority preferred to stay in Babylon.

And an earthquake- Heb. 'a shaking'. The cherubim spoke of God's people. The sound of the cherubim Angels which Ezekiel heard was like the noise of an earthquake (Ez. 3:12 LXX). Now he hears the "noise" of "shaking" or earthquake as the bones of Israel in exile come together by the spirit / Angelic operation of Yahweh (Ez. 37:7). The same word is used about the latter day events in Israel when the latter day 'king of the north' invades (Is. 9:5; 29:6; Jer. 10:22; 47:3). And the same word is soon to be used in Ez. 38:19 for the earthquake which will happen when Gog is destroyed, and which will happen at Christ's return to save a Jerusalem which has fallen to her enemies (Zech. 14:5). They may well refer to the same event- for events will happen quickly at the time of the Lord's coming and the meaning of time may well be changed. See on :9.

And the bones came together, bone to its bone- There was to be a unity between the ten tribes and Judah, brought about by the experience of repentance, forgiveness and the work of God's Spirit. But this didn't happen at the restoration from Babylon; the nobles continued to oppress the people.

Ezekiel 37:8 I saw, and, there were sinews on them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them- See on :6. The Divine intention had been that the exiles repented, and then He would return them to Zion, having miraculously judged Babylon and also released the ten tribes from their captivity. But they wouldn't repent, and so God brought them back to their land anyway. This perhaps is the significance of the bodies being rebuilt but still lacking the Spirit / breath. Yet the allusion is clearly to the creation of Adam, who was likewise created and then given the Spirit. This is to be Eden restored, a new creation. But the exiles stubbornly refused all this. The whole prophetic scene here has been transferred to our days, when any man in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and filled with the Spirit within. And this is to happen nationally to Israel in the last days.

"No breath in them" references similar statements about idols. Israel had become like that which they worshipped, and yet even from that hopeless situation, God was able to revive them. Just as in Hosea, His people had refused His overtures and turned to idols, but still He wanted them as His own- and He would get them, through His Spirit.

Ezekiel 37:9 Then He said to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy, son of man, and tell the wind-
God makes His Angels spirits / winds. Is this the command to Michael, Israel's Angel which comes into action for them in the last days (Dan. 12:1) to start  to revive Israel? He is called forth from his exalted place dwelling between the four  cherubim Angels. The language is reminiscent of that in Gen. 2:7, where the Angel breathed into man the breath of life, which caused him to stand up upon his feet (cp. Ez. 37:10)- and here the Angel is being asked to do the same, to Israel. Further connections between the "wind" and Israel's Angel are in Jer. 4:11-13.

But the meaning in reality is that the prophetic word was to be the source of the Spirit entering into the repentant exiles, if they repented. For the wind / spirit / breath is presented as under the control and bidding of Ezekiel the prophet.

Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Come from the four winds, breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live- The Spirit came from four places (Ez. 37:9)- just as there were four cherubim. As the sound of the cherubim was as of a great army (Ez. 1:24), so revived Israel stood up as a great army (Ez. 37:10).The Angel cherubim would work with God's disillusioned and broken people, to revive them, so that they would become like the guardian Angels of Israel above them. The point was that the Angel cherubim system which Ezekiel had seen at work amongst the captives was able to gather them together, and give life to the nation. And yet that didn't happen to those exiles- because they didn't walk in step with the spirit. The potential was that just as the exiles had been scattered to the four winds, so they would be spiritually revived wherever they were, and brought to Zion.

The revived bones represent those who had been "slain", the children of 'Rachel' for whom she wept because they were not. The slain Jews could have been resurrected then; but the whole program has been deferred to our last days.

Ezekiel 37:10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceedingly great army- See on :9. The potential was that God would have used them as an army to destroy Babylon; " You are my battle axe and weapons of war: and with you will I break in pieces the nations; and with you will I destroy kingdoms; and with you will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; and with you will I break in pieces the chariot and him who rides therein; and with you will I break in pieces man and woman; and with you will I break in pieces the old man and the youth; and with you will I break in pieces the young man and the virgin" (Jer. 51:20-22). The Jews who had been slain by the Babylonians would be resurrected and in turn become a mighty army who would judge Babylon. This is the meaning of the repeated "with you...". The strong emphasis upon 'breaking in pieces' recalls the little stone of Dan. 2 cut out from the great mountain (Babylon) which was to destroy the kingdoms of men then dominating Israel and become a great kingdom of God on earth. This potential didn't happen; but it shall do finally in the last days.

Ezekiel had experienced the same personally, in the same "valley" (see on :1). He had been as dead, and the Spirit came to him, revived him, and set him on his feet to do God's work (Ez. 2:2; 3:24). His physical revival was to be that of Israel. A literal resurrection is therefore in view here, regardless of what other dimensions there are to the revival. The two stage re-creation here, forming the dead body and then putting spirit into it, recalls man's creation in Gen. 2:7. Here we have a new creation, realized now when we are "in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:17); and yet clearly looking ahead to the "not yet" of literal resurrection and transformation at the Lord's return. Physical, literal resurrection is so clearly in view here; limiting it to some highly doubtful connection with Israel's becoming a state in 1948 seems to miss so much. The two stages are also seen in Ezekiel's personal experience; he fell on his face as dead, but then the Spirit of God entered him and he stood up as God's prophet and priest (Ez. 1:27; 2:2). He became representative of what God was to do to all Israel.

Ezekiel 37:11 Then He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are totally cut off- The valley of dry bones vision in Ez. 37 depicted Israel in captivity as bones waiting to come together and return to the land as a great army. Jer. 8:1 and other passages earlier in Ezekiel (Ez. 6:5; 24:4) had described both Judah and Israel as dry bones. The feeling of those bones was that "our bones are dried and our hope is lost" (Ez. 37:11). Judah in captivity felt that they had no "hope", that God had cast them off, and that they were unable to have a full relationship with Him outside the land. However, it seems that this was a rather convenient piece of theology for them- they were doing well in Babylon, and despite the opportunity to return to the land, they largely chose to remain in Babylon. "The whole house of Israel" repeats the great prophetic theme- that both Israel and Judah were to revive and return to Zion. But they would not (see on :22). The reason why this didn't happen is the same reason as to why people aren't revived today; the exiles thought they were just too far gone, they had lost their hope and were too lifeless to be revived, so they  may as well remain in Babylon and live their lives out there, for better or for worse. This is exactly the reason why people refuse to accept the work of the Spirit in their lives today; they lack the faith to believe that from an apparently hopeless human situation, God can revive.

"Cut off" suggests they were cut off from their people through condemnation (Num. 9:13), cut off from the temple, from the holy space of Israel [as they understood it], cut off from God, cut off from Israel as a people, cut off from the covenant. They had no "hope" of the Kingdom, they had lost it. The idea is of salation through resurrection even for the condemned of Israel. This is the grace of the new covenant. The Old Testament clearly teaches the condemnation of those who leave the covenant, and the salvation of those who abide in it. But just as the wages of sin is death yet we are quite illegitimately saved from this by grace in Christ, so it seems the historical Israel, at least up to the time of the end of the old covenant in Christ, shall be resurrected. By grace alone. And so all Israel shall be saved, and we share Paul's marvel at the depth of God's grace and eternal love for Israel. And that love is for us too under the new covenant. 

There seems an allusion to Ps. 88:4-7, which implies that being cut off from God is permanent: "I am like a man who has no help, set apart among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more- they are cut off from Your hand... Your wrath lies heavily upon me". But the point is that apparently irreversible condemnation in death can be reversed. Just as their wound was "incurable" but was cured; or as Hosea puts it, they had been mauled to death and consumed by the Divine lion, but would be resurrected. The wonder of it all is that Israel themselves considered they were beyond salvation. But God didn't and the new covenant is about His grace in saving them despite their belief that they were beyond saving. This is grace in its most radical form.

"Behold, they say..." continues a theme in Ezekiel- that God knows the very words of the exiles and the sayings they have. Ez. 12:21 is an example: "What is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel: saying, 'The days grow long, and every vision comes to nought'". Likewise Ez. 18:2: "What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel,
'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you". See too Ez. 11:3; 33:24. The simple point is that the exiles, who felt forgotten by God, were to know that He looked carefully at their thoughts and heard all their words. And their depressive words were going to be mightily upended by His prophetic plan. This all provides comfort for those in depression and with the sense that God is distant.

Ezekiel 37:12 Therefore prophesy and tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel- God really would have done this at the restoration from Babylon, but the exiles lacked the faith in these simple words. For them to be addressed with these words, we can conclude that it is spiritual revival which is in view. Although a literal resurrection may also have been possible then.
The resurrection is presented here as happening before they enter the land of Israel. That resurrection would be by such grace that they would know Yahweh through it (:13); something which didn't happen in any figurative 'resurrection' of the state of Israel in the 1940s. Those Jews who emigrated to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s died without knowing Yahweh nor having any spiritual revival. "My people" is a hint that God has unilaterally accepted them again as His people. For during their great divorce, as explained in Hosea, God has called them lo-ammi, 'not My people'. But He is as it were forcing through His purpose with them here, by resurrecting them and calling them "My people" once again.

Ezekiel 37:13 You shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have opened your graves, My people, and caused you to come up out of your graves-
The opening of the graves precedes the coming into the land of Israel (:12). It cannot be that the opening of graves refers to a revival of Israel after the holocaust in Europe; for they did not then 'know Yahweh' before entering the land. Rather I suggest does this refer to the literal resurrection of Jews killed during the Babylonian invasions and perhaps also to those killed during the latter day desolation of the land. Radical Islam speaks of burying the bones of every Jew now alive in Israel. If this happens, then this prophecy will have a comfortable literal fulfillment. The way a revived Israel then bury the bones of their abusers in Ez. 39 would be a way of demonstrating that the judgments meted out upon Israel by her latter day enemies are then meted out to the invaders.

This whole section concludes with the comment that Israel would know Yahweh through being gathered back to the land through resurrection and spiritual transformation. This knowing of Yahweh means knowing His amazing grace. If indeed the historical Israel of the time are resurrected and transformed, they will spend eternity marvelling at His grace. Thus Ez. 39:28,29: "They shall know that I am Yahweh their God, in that I caused them to go into captivity among the nations, and have gathered them to their own land... neither will I hide My face any more from them; for I have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel". To have the Spirit is therefore to see God's face, to be in open relationship with Him because of the assurance that sin has been dealt with.

Ezekiel 37:14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; and you shall know that I, Yahweh, have spoken it and performed it, says Yahweh- This alludes directly back to the vision of the Angel-cherubim's spirit being placed in the "wheels" of natural Israel in Ez. 1:20,21. The placing of the Spirit within them was to be associated with their return to the land; being "placed" there suggests God's work. This isn't what happened in the 20th century revival of the state of Israel; although that was not without significance. For the prophecies require an invasion of the land in the last days and suffering of Jews within it, and so they had to be gathered there for this to happen. The phrase "place you in your own land" is used in Is. 14:1 of the time when the Gentiles "shall be joined with them and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob". This is yet future, but it was potentially possible at the time of the restoration from Babylon. But sadly the Gentiles mocked Judah for continuing serving their idols, and were hardly encouraged to connect with the hope of Israel.

In the first context, the subjects of resurrection are those who had died outside the land. Clearly the exiles are in view. The vision is in the valley / plain, the same as that of Ez. 3:22 where the exiles were. Those who were dying in exile would be resurrected and return to the land- that is the message. They would be 'placed in their own land', or "I will bring you home". We could argue that they failed to realize this amazing potential. Or that this whole plan was reapplied to spiritual Israel. Or that quite simply, they will be resurrected by pure grace alone at the last day.

Ezekiel 37:15 The word of Yahweh came again to me, saying- The unity of God's people was and remains a major concern with God. The common experience of grace and repentance was intended to unite Israel with the Gentiles (see on :14) and also to unite Judah with the ten tribes. 

Ezekiel 37:16 You, son of man, take one stick and write on it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions. Then take another stick and write on it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions- Unity between Israel and Judah was a major dimension of the new covenant. "Joseph" is used here to make the point- he was the one separate from his brethren and in this sign, he is now joined to his brethren. There are many links discernible between Ezekiel and Zechariah, as they both prophesy concerning the same scattering and restoration of Israel. Here, the connection is with Zech. 10:6 "The house of Judah... the house of Joseph... they of Ephraim". There was envisaged a unity between Judah and Israel [Ephraim] at the restoration, but it never came about. And finally Zechariah breaks his sticks, as if to say the potential prophesied by Ezekiel was not going to happen in the restored community; although it shall come finally true in the last days.

There is a massive stress upon the unity which would be achieved under the new covenant. "The whole house of Israel" were to experience unity through the resurrection (:11). And now the acted parable of the united sticks is used to preface the dramatic presentation of Israel's spiritual revival under the new covenant. The word ‘one’ is used 11 times in Ezekiel 37:15−28 (verses 16 [2 times], 17 [3 times], 19 [2 times], 22 [2 times], and 24 [2 times]). This is a huge emphasis. This unity is predicated upon the one King who reigns over them represented  by the one stick or ruling rod. This is the sceptre of Messiah, called "David" here in Ez. 37 because it suggests the resurrection of David, and the Messiah being his descendant: “there will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms” (Ez. 27:22). For those who have accepted the new covenant, unity under King Jesus is in fact a sign of being in the covenant. Whilst it is a case of "now but not yet", it is also so that actions of disunity with those in the covenant are actually a denial of that covenant.

Ezekiel 37:17 Join them yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand- The intention was that the prophetic word of Ezekiel would be the basis for the unity of God's people; this unity would happen through his hand. But they didn't take him seriously, and so this didn't happen at the time of the restoration. "Join" is the word used for the exiles joining or coming near to Yahweh (Ez. 44:16; Zeph. 3:2); as to this day, our connection with God becomes our connection with our brethren, and we cannot have one without the other. 'Becoming one' continues the allusions to the creation; it is the phrase used about "man" becoming one flesh through the union of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:24). The joining together of the sticks matches the coming together of the dry bones, bone to bone is marched by stick to stick. The stick is really a ruling scepter; the idea is that the unity of God's people is connected with His reigning over them, being accepted as their Lord. Unity between His people is required for His Kingdom reigning over them. But again, it is now but not yet. We are to live in unity with all others in the new covenant, and the cup of the covenant is to be the bond of that. But unity between persons eludes us in this life, and we will only experience it under the Lord's literal kingship at His return when "we shall be changed".

Ezekiel 37:18 When the children of your people shall speak to you saying, Will you not show us what you mean by these?- Ezekiel performed the miracle before their eyes. The message was obvious because the sticks were clearly marked (:16). Failure to understand God's word nearly always has a moral basis. They naturally recoiled at the idea of such unity with those whom they considered inferior. And so they make out that they don't understand, even though the explanation given in :19 is really only stating the obvious from what the miracle of the joined sticks had itself taught.

Ezekiel 37:19 Tell them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand- See on :18. Ezekiel's hand was to be seen as God's hand (:17 "in your hand"). The rods represented leadership and kingship; the hand of Ephraim was to no longer hold a stick, neither would Judah; God's hand would hold the united stick. There was to be a new, Divinely appointed kingship. ten tribes were all the same.

"I will take" is Heb. "I am about to take". We see here the huge potential that was available right then for the exiles. They wasted so much Divine potential; He so wanted to act to end the exile and resurrect those who had been "slain" (:9).

Ezekiel 37:20 The sticks whereon you write shall be in your hand before their eyes- The idea is that Ezekiel's hand was to be seen as representing God's hand (:17,19). They were to see with their eyes that in a miraculous way, God through Ezekiel's word could unite Israel and Judah with Him as king, holding the rod or stick which represented rulership. But as ever, petty parochialism meant that this great potential didn't happen at that time.

Ezekiel 37:21 Say to them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations where they are gone, and will gather them on every side and bring them into their own land- "Take... gather... bring" suggests they were to be assembled and then brought together back to Zion. This never happened with the exiles; the gathering together by the river Ahava (Ezra 8:15,21,31) was a very small fulfilment, but the majority weren't interested. The fulfilment therefore has to be in the last days. The same words "take... gather... bring" are found in Ez. 36:24, where this is to happen before they are sprinkled and given a new heart by the work of God's Spirit (Ez. 36:25,26). It is this new heart which would empower the exiles from whatever background to become "one nation" (:22). Unity is a gift of the Spirit, beyond our human achievement- but we must be open to receive it.

Ezekiel 37:22 I will make them one nation in the land on 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-
 "Make them one nation" suggests that unity is brought about by the work of God on men's' hearts; see on :21. This is the interpretation of how God made the two one stick (:19 s.w.). It was a psychological miracle of the spirit that He was willing to perform, just as the two sticks had  miraculously become joined in Ezekiel's hand. Remnants of the 10 tribes had been taken into captivity along with the two tribes; it could have been that at the restoration, the difference between Israel and Judah was ended and one Messianic King reigned over them. This was likewise in view in Is. 11:13; Jer. 3:18; Hos. 1:11 etc.. But they refused. The majestic prophecy of Jer. 23:5-7 had prophesied that when Israel returned from Babylon, “the branch” would rise and save them “and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth”, i.e. establish the Messianic Kingdom (cp. Ps. 72:2; Is. 9:7). But Zerubbabel, the “branch-from-Babylon”, lead the people back from Babylon, half heartedly built a temple- which faithful men wept at, when they saw how feeble it was compared to that which should have been (Ezra 3:12). And then he beat it back to Babylon. Significantly, Neh. 7:7 describes Zerubbabel as being at the head of twelve leaders of the returning exiles, who are called “the people of Israel” (cp. Ezra 2:2).

Some of the ten tribes did return with Judah. Thus “the Jews” is used synonymously with “Israelite” (Neh. 2:10; 4:1; 5:1,8; 7:73; 12:47). 12 he-goats and 12 bulls were offered for “all Israel” in Ezra 6:17; 8:35. But still Judah and Israel remained divided; and no “prince” arose to fulfil the prophecies. The intended unity between God's people will only happen in the last days when they are bound together by their repentance and experience of forgiveness.

Ezekiel 37:23 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 dwelling places in which they have sinned and will cleanse them. So shall they be My people, and I will be their God- Not serving idols is paralleled with no longer being divided (:22). Idolatry in whatever form leads to division amongst God's people. The existence of only one God is therefore a demand for total unity between His worshippers- for their whole hearts will be for Him and not for anything else.
Paul, writing to those who thought they believed in the unity of God, had to remind them that this simple fact implies the need for unity amongst us His children, seeing He treats us all equally as a truly good Father: "If so be that God is one... he shall justify the circumcision by faith, and [likewise] the uncircumcision through faith" (Rom. 3:30 RV).

"Their dwelling places" are the places in exile to where they had been scattered. But they were the places in which they had sinned by idolatry. This supports the impression that the exiles whom Ezekiel was addressing were idolaters still at that time. LXX "out of all their backslidings", as in Hos. 14. Those slipping back hopelessly can be stopped from that by the power of God's reviving Spirit.

"They will be my people, and I will be their God" repeats the promise to Abraham of Gen. 17:7,8. Being God's people [through being made not to sin any more and to be faithful to Him] and Yahweh being their God is therefore a fulfilment of the promises to Abraham- which are the basis of the new or renewed covenant. Thus Peter perceives that those promises imply being "turned away" from our sins (Acts 3:25,26).

We must be aware that the idolatry mentioned here is the idolatry of the exiles with whom Ezekiel was living and working. For they were the ones 'defiling' themselves with idols, as Ez. 20:30,31, spoken to the elders of the Jewish exiles, is explicit: "Tell the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Do you defile yourselves in the way of your fathers? and do you play the prostitute after their abominations? Shall I be inquired of by you, house of Israel? As I live says the Lord Yahweh, I will not be inquired of by you".

Ezekiel 37:24 My servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd. They shall also walk in My ordinances and observe My statutes and do them- This is clearly the same “prince” as referred to in Ezekiel 45-48. The restoration prophecy of Jer. 30:9 speaks of a returned Judah serving “David their king, whom I shall raise up unto them”- implying that David would have been resurrected at the restoration, if all had gone according to what was possible? But Zech. 6 offers other potential fulfilments for the prince in Zerubbabel and Joshua; but these also didn't come about. And so the final fulfilment will be in the Lord Jesus. Likewise Cyrus could have been Yahweh's shepherd at the restoration (Is. 44:28). There were so many potentials possible, just as there are in our lives and those of so many. God's enthusiasm and interest in us given our failures as a race and His people... is so wonderful. He must be so thrilled when we at least try to respond and allow His plans to progress in us.

Ezekiel 37:25 They shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they shall dwell therein, they and their children and their children’s children, forever: and David My servant shall be their prince for ever- Had Judah repented at the time of the restoration, a Davidic ruler would have been raised up, Zerubbabel is the most obvious candidate (see on Zech. 6). He would have reigned "for ever", perhaps for an age. But he dropped the baton, or at least Judah were unwilling for this scenario. And so the prophecies were reinterpreted and rescheduled for total and eternal fulfilment in the Lord Jesus. "The prince" of the envisaged restored temple in Ez. 40-48 refers to this same individual. “The prince” of Ezekiel 40-48 is hard to understand as an immortal being such as the Lord Jesus. “The prince” of Ez. 21:27 was Judah’s last ruler- so “the prince” later in Ezekiel would appear to be a promise of a restored monarchy. Yet tragically, the royal family chose to remain in Babylon.

The restoration was to be associated with the appearance of a potential Messiah figure. This is a point repeatedly made in so many prophecies of the restoration. Take Is. 61:1-4: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison [Babylon] to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion [the “poor of the land” allowed to remain after the Babylonian invasion], to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness [cp. how they sat and wept by the rivers of Babylon]...And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations”. And there are many other such prophecies which connect the appearance of a Messiah with the rebuilding of Zion. Haggai prophesied to encourage the people to get on with building the temple (Ezra 5:1), and yet he spoke of the desire of all nations (Messiah) coming with an earthquake and glory filling the temple (Hag. 2:7). I submit that this is a prophecy of what could have happened at that time, but it has been deferred to the second coming of the Lord Jesus.   The cherubim visions of Ez. 1,9 and 10 are applied in the New Testament to the glorified Christ (Rev. 2:18; 1 Pet. 4:17; 2 Pet. 2:4-9). This surely implies that they were ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah; and perhaps we are to understand that they could have had fulfilment in a Messiah figure at the time of the restoration.

Ezekiel 37:26 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 their midst forevermore- They had broken the old covenant, and so a new covenant was offered- which would last eternally and would achieve peace with God. It could only last eternally because the possibility of Israel breaking their side of it would be removed, through the work of the Spirit in their hearts. This would be the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham, for it was those promises which spoke of their 'multiplication'. The promises to Abraham are to this day the basis of the new covenant, which we too can enter, although the exiles refused it. "My sanctuary" appears parallel with "my tent" (:27,28). The essence of this will finally come true as described at the end of Revelation- God will Himself dwell with men. In the context of the possible scenario at the exile, they could have witnessed this dwelling of God with them by building the temple system of Ez. 40-48, into which the shekinah glory of God would have entered to represent His dwelling with them. But they didn't build it as commanded, and so they precluded the possibility of all this.

Ezekiel 37:27 My tent also shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people- Although the exiles were commanded to build the temple of Ez. 40-48, they were to be aware that essentially God doesn't dwell in temples made with hands. He had always made that point by dwelling in a tent. And this is therefore brought to view again here.

Ezekiel 37:28 The nations shall know that I am Yahweh who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in their midst forevermore- The sanctuary God envisioned originally was one which His hands made (Ex. 15:17; Ps. 78:69). The permission to  build a temple with human hands was a concession to human weakness; although the word is used many times in Ez. 40-48 of the temple Israel were to build. But they refused to do so as commanded.  The essence of the sanctuary was to be Messiah; He was to be a sanctuary for God's people (Is. 8:14). And this was and is how Yahweh shall eternally tabernacle with His people.