Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 37

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3417. B.C. 587.

In this chapter,

(1,) By the vision of dry bones, quickened by prophecy, is represented that, however dispersed among enemies, destitute of human help, and dispirited in their own minds, the Jews were in their captivity, God would, by Cyrus’s proclamation, and his own influences, animate, help, and gather them to their own land, Ezekiel 37:1-14 .

(2,) By the uniting of two sticks in Ezekiel’s hand is represented, that notwithstanding the old enmity between them, the Jews and ten tribes would, after the captivity, and especially after the dispersion, happily unite, and renounce their idolatries, and under the Messiah enjoy the most comfortable relation to God, abundant peace and prosperity, and holy fellowship with him, Ezekiel 37:15-28 . But this shall have its more excellent fulfilment in the quickening influences of the Holy Spirit, in the erection of the gospel church, and entrance into the millennial blessedness; in the making of Jews and Gentiles one mystical body of Christ, and in the glorious resurrection and heavenly blessedness.

Verse 1

Ezekiel 37:1. The hand of the Lord was upon me I was actuated by a divine power; and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord Or, by the Spirit of the Lord. It is highly probable that all this passed in vision. And set me down in the midst of the valley full of bones The first and great object of this prophecy seems evidently to be the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity. A nation carried into captivity ceases to be a nation, and therefore may be fitly compared to bones, or dead bodies; so that by the valley of bones was first signified, the Babylonish dominions filled with captive Jews. Bishop Warburton observes, “that the messengers of God, prophesying for the people’s consolation in disastrous times, frequently promise a restoration to the former days of felicity; and, to obviate all distrust from unpromising appearances, they put the case even at the worst, and assure the people, in metaphorical expressions, that though the community were as entirely dissolved as a dead body reduced to dust, yet God would raise that community again to life.” But besides the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, this vision is a lively representation of a three- fold resurrection: 1st, Of the resurrection of souls, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, to a holy, heavenly, spiritual, and divine life, by the power of divine grace accompanying the word of Christ, John 5:24-25. 2d, The resurrection of the gospel church, or of any part of it, from an afflicted state to liberty and peace. 3d, The resurrection of the body at the great day, especially the bodies of believers, to life eternal. This last seems to be one thing particularly designed. “Though the generality of commentators,” says Mr. Peters, “regard this vision and prophecy as no other than a figurative representation and prediction of a return of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon, or some other of their captivities and dispersions, yet, perhaps, we shall find, upon a more attentive consideration, that whatever hopes it might give them of a temporal and national deliverance or prosperity, yet there was evidently something further designed; and that to comfort them in their distressed situation, with the prospect of a future resurrection in a proper sense, was as much intended by the Spirit of God, or rather more so, than the other.

Verses 2-3

Ezekiel 37:2-3. He caused me to pass by them round about To take an exact view of them; and behold, there were very many in the open valley As if it had been a place where a great battle had been fought, and a vast multitude slain, who had been left unburied till the flesh was all consumed, and the bones were divided and scattered about. And lo, they were very dry Having been long exposed to the sun and wind in the open valley, and the marrow within, as well as the flesh without, being utterly wasted. This circumstance was intended to show how unlikely it was, humanly speaking, that the Jews should ever be delivered from their dispersions and restored; should ever be brought together again, and formed into a body politic, or even into the skeleton of one. Still more unlikely it is that the dead in sin should be quickened, and raised up into living Christians; and most unlikely of all, that the dead bodies of men, after they have been turned into dust, and scattered to the four winds of heaven, should live again, and become bodies of light and glory. And he said, Son of man, can these bones live? Namely, immediately, and in your sight? Or, as Houbigant renders it, Shall these bones live? The question, as he justly observes, is not concerning the possibility of the fact, for the prophet well knew that God could do all things; but the Lord, introductory to what follows, asks him whether these bones should now revive or not. And though this be the right interpretation of the place, yet a resurrection from the dead is very justly collected from it: for “a simile of the resurrection,” says St. Jerome, “would never have been used to signify the restoration of the people of Israel, unless such a future resurrection had been believed and known; because nobody ever confirms uncertain things by things which have no existence.” And I answered, O Lord, thou knowest Raising the dead can only be an act of thy power and good pleasure. The prophet replies in a doubting manner, because he knew not the scope of the vision.

Verses 4-6

Ezekiel 37:4-6. Again he said, Prophesy upon these bones Here sense and understanding are attributed to the dry bones; and as these bones signified the captive Jews, they are with strict propriety called upon to hear the word of the Lord. But this is also to be considered, as has been intimated on Ezekiel 37:1, a prophetical representation of that voice of the Son of God which quickens and raises to spiritual life such as are dead in sin; and which all that are in their graves shall hear at the last day, and shall come forth out of them. Thus saith the Lord, I will cause breath to enter into you, &c. The breath of life, as it is expressed Genesis 2:7. And I will lay sinews upon you, &c. All the expressions made use of here are such as describe the resurrection of a dead body.

Verses 7-10

Ezekiel 37:7-10. So I prophesied as I was commanded I declared these promises or gracious purposes of God concerning these bones. And as I prophesied there was a noise, &c. Such a noise as we may suppose would arise from the motion of the bones. And behold a shaking A trembling, or commotion among the bones, enough to manifest a divine presence working among them. And the bones came together, &c. Glided nearer and nearer, till each bone met the bone to which it was to be joined. Of all the bones of those numerous slain not one was wanting, not one missed its way, not one missed its place, but each knew and found its fellow. Thus, in the resurrection of the dead, the scattered atoms shall be ranged in their proper place and order, and every bone come to its bone By the same wisdom and power by which they were first formed in the womb of her that was with child. And lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them Gradually spreading themselves. And the skin covered them above Enveloped the bones, sinews, and flesh of each body; but there was no breath in them Or spirit, rather; no souls animated the bodies. Then said he, Prophesy unto the wind Or rather, unto the spirit, namely, the quickening spirit of God, or principle of life, issuing from him, and imparting life to every creature that possesses it. Come from the four winds, O breath, O spirit This signified the gathering of the Jewish people from the different quarters of the world where they were scattered; and breathe on the slain Animate these dead bodies; that they may live May awake into living men. So I prophesied, and the breath The spirit; came into them A soul animated each body; and they lived, &c., an exceeding great army Not only living men, but effective men, fit for service in war, and formidable to all that should give them any opposition. Applied to the Jews, released and returning from captivity, the words signify that they should amount to a great multitude, when they should be gathered from their several dispersions, and should be united in one body. Observe, reader, with God nothing is impossible: he can, out of stones, raise up children to Abraham, and out of dead and dry bones an exceeding great army, to fight his battles and plead his cause.

Verses 11-12

Ezekiel 37:11-12. These bones are the whole house of Israel These bones represent the forlorn and desperate condition to which the whole nation of Israel is reduced; they say, Our bones are dried, &c. Our affairs are in the most desperate condition; there is not so much as any hope left of their being retrieved. We are cut off for our parts We are separated and cut off from one another, like a limb that is cut off from the body. Therefore prophesy, &c. Inform these poor, dejected, desponding Israelites of their mistake, and revive their hope by a new promise and declaration of my purposes of mercy toward them. O my people, I will open your graves Though your captivity be as death, your prisons and places of confinement close as graves, yet will I open those graves. And cause you to come up out of your graves I will bring you out of your state of captivity, in which you are little better than dead persons, having no power or privileges of your own, nor enjoying any thing which can properly be called life. The Jewish nation, in their state of dispersion and captivity, are called the dead Israelites, by Baruch, chap. Ezekiel 3:4: and their restoration is described as a resurrection by Isaiah 26:19. In like manner St. Paul expresses their conversion, and the general restoration which shall accompany it, by life from the dead, Romans 11:15. And the foregoing similitude showed, in a strong and beautiful manner, that God, who could even raise the dead, had power to convert and restore them.

Verses 16-17

Ezekiel 37:16-17. Take thee one stick That is, one rod. The expression seems to allude to Numbers 17:2; where Moses was commanded to take twelve rods, one for each tribe, and to write the name of the tribe upon the rod; for Judah, and the children of Israel his companions That is, the tribe of Benjamin, and a part of that of Levi, who adhered to the tribe of Judah. Then take another stick A second, such as the first was; and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim Upon Reuben’s forfeiting his birthright, that privilege was conferred upon the sons of Joseph, of whom Ephraim had the precedence: see 1 Chronicles 5:1; Genesis 48:20; which made him to be reckoned the head of the ten tribes; Samaria, the seat of that kingdom, being likewise situate in the tribe of Ephraim. Upon these accounts the name of Ephraim, in the prophets, often signifies the whole kingdom of Israel, as distinct from that of Judah. All the rest of the tribes were the companions of Ephraim, as the tribes of Benjamin and Levi were the companions of Judah. And join them into one stick A rod was an emblem of power, (see Psalms 110:2,) so joining these two rods, or sticks, together, denoted uniting the two kingdoms under one prince, or governor.

Verses 18-20

Ezekiel 37:18-20. Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest Ezekiel foretold many things by signs; and the Jews were very inquisitive into the meaning of them: but sometimes their curiosity proceeded rather from a secret contempt of the prophet and his predictions, than a real desire of information. Say, I will take the stick of Joseph On which Joseph’s name was written, and which represents Joseph, that is, the kingdom of the ten tribes; which is in the hand of Ephraim Of which Ephraim is the head. They shall be one in my hand I will make them one nation, and appoint one king to rule over them, namely, Christ the Messiah. And the sticks, &c ., shall be before their eyes Thou shalt place the sticks, or rods, thus joined together, before their eyes, as a visible token or pledge of the truth of what I enjoin thee to speak to them in the following words.

Verses 21-25

Ezekiel 37:21-25. Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen See the margin. I will make them one nation They shall not be divided any more into separate kingdoms; the consequence of which was, their setting up separate ways of worship, and espousing separate interests: compare Isaiah 11:13. This promise was in a great degree fulfilled in the restoration of the Jews to their own land from their captivity in Babylon; for then many of the house of Israel returned with the house of Judah, and were united in one body with them, and were under one and the same governor, Zerubbabel; who, though he did not (lest it should give umbrage to the Persian kings) assume the title of king, yet executed the authority, and was looked upon as a king by the Jewish people: but the expressions here made use of seem to imply something further, and to refer, in their full sense, to the final restoration of the Jews, after their conversion to Christianity, when Christ, in a peculiar sense, shall be their king. The Messiah is described as King of the Jews in most of the prophecies in the Old Testament, beginning with that of Genesis 49:10, concerning Shiloh. From David’s time he is commonly spoken of as the person in whom the promises relating to the perpetuity of David’s kingdom were to be accomplished. This was a truth unanimously owned by the Jews: see John 1:49, to which our Saviour bore testimony before Pontius Pilate, when the question being put to him, Art thou a king? he made answer, Thou sayest [the truth] for I am a king: thus these words should be translated, for St. Paul, alluding to them, calls them a good confession, 1 Timothy 6:13. The same truth Pontius Pilate himself asserted, in that inscription which he providentially ordered to be written upon the cross; (see John 19:19-22;) so that the chief priests impiously renounced their own avowed principles, when they told Pilate that they had no king but Cesar, Ezekiel 37:15. Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols Or, abominations, as the word שׁקוצים is elsewhere translated, and generally signifies idols: see the margin. But I will save them out of all their dwelling-places I will bring them safe out of them; and will cleanse them Both justify and sanctify them. And David my servant That is, the son of David, who was also David’s Lord; shall be king over them Shall reign over their hearts and lives; and they shall all have one shepherd This king shall be their one chief shepherd; others that shall feed and rule the flock shall be shepherds by commission from him. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob A promise often repeated in this prophecy: see Ezekiel 37:12; Ezekiel 37:21, and the note on Ezekiel 28:25. Even they and their children for ever The Jews, converted to Christ, shall inherit Canaan till Christ come to judgment at the end of the world.

Verses 26-28

Ezekiel 37:26-28. I will make a covenant of peace with them I will grant them the blessing of peace and prosperity. Or rather, the words are to be understood in a spiritual sense, that God will be reconciled to them through Christ, and admit them into that covenant of peace of which Christ is the Mediator, and therefore is called our peace, Ephesians 2:14; and then the following words, It shall be an everlasting covenant with them, may fitly be explained of the gospel, being such a covenant as shall never be abolished, or give way to any new dispensation. It is certain that the expression, a covenant of peace, could not at all agree with the ancient covenant, for when was there an age, half an age, twenty years peace in Israel? The whole history of the Jewish nation is nothing more than a recital of wars and continual divisions. And if we understand it of peace between God and his people, where shall we find this people faithfully attached to the Lord during one century only? We have only to open the books of the prophets, and the other sacred records, to remark their infidelities and perpetual rebellions against God. This expression, therefore, can only respect the new covenant, whereof Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace, is the mediator, and who gives us that true peace which surpasses all conceptions: see Calmet. And I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them I will set up a spiritual, glorious temple and worship among them; for evermore Never to be altered or abolished on earth, but to be consummated in heaven. My tabernacle also shall be with them The tabernacle wherein I will show my presence among them, and my protection over them. God’s placing first his tabernacle, and then his temple among the Jews, was a pledge and token both of his presence and protection. And we may understand him as promising here new and more valuable tokens of his presence among them, by the graces of his Holy Spirit, and the efficacy of his word and ordinances, if not also some extraordinary appearances of the divine majesty. I will be their God, and they shall be my people By my grace I will make them holy, as the people of a holy God; and I will make them happy, as the people of the ever-blessed God. And the heathen shall know that I do sanctify Israel The conversion of the Jewish nation, and their being restored to a state of favour and acceptance with God, will be a work of providence, taken notice of by the heathen themselves, who shall join themselves to the Jews, as the church of God and temple of truth: see note on Ezekiel 36:23.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 37". Benson's Commentary. 1857.