The Vision of Dry Bones

Sep 14th, 2012 | By | Category: Booklets (click on booklet name), Prophetic Studies




EZEK. 37:1-14


“I will put my spirit within you.”—Ezek. 36:27


The passage of Scripture under consideration was addressed by the Lord through the Prophet to fleshlyIsrael, then in captivity inBabylon. The dry bones represented the Israelites themselves. As a people they had lost heart, lost hope, and said, “Our strength is dried, and our hope is lost, we are cut off from our parts”—from all tribal and national union. If they looked at their present condition, they were strangers in a strange land, foreigners, without opportunity for patriotic feelings; if they looked backward, and remembered divine intervention on their behalf, their deliverance from Egypt, their favor as a nation under David and Solomon, etc., they could think of these only as bygones, lost blessings and opportunities; if they looked forward, they could see no possible hope of their ever again becoming a nation; and as for all the great expectations which they had once entertained respecting their nation, as God’s favored people, and the heir of the promises made to Abraham, that they should rule and bless all the families of the earth— these hopes were dead, they were gone, they could have nothing of this kind in the future. The condition ofIsrael, scattered throughoutBabylonia, was indeed well illustrated by the dry bones of the vision.

The hand (power) of the Lord was upon Ezekiel, causing him to see this vision—he was not literally transported to any literal valley of dry bones. In the vision he was caused to pass amongst the dry bones, that he might get a full view of the situation, as they lay strewn all over the valley, very dry. Then the Lord’s explanation comes, that these dry bones are, or represent, the whole house of Israel. They did not represent merely the two tribes which went last into captivity, nor merely the ten tribes which went earlier, but the whole house of Israel, the twelve tribes. It was not until Jesus’ day that they were no longer thought of as two distinct nations, as they had considered themselves before the seventy years of desolation. To Ezekiel who was in captivity at this point in Babylon this vision gave him hope of the return of Israel, but piecing together “here a little, there a little and line upon line, and precept upon precept, we see that the main thrust of this vision was yet future from Ezekiel’s day. Zechariah chapter 9 verse 11, tells us about prisoners in a pit [valley] wherein is no water.  Zechariah was a prophet at the end of the seventy years of desolation and prophesied many End Times events.  Jesus tells a parable of a Rich man [nation of Israel, who had all the favor of God], who was cast into hell [sheol-hades-pit-grave], where he cried for some water because there was none Luke 16:22-24.

So when did this dry and desolate condition begin?

“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Mat 23:38


What is the Significance of Dry Bones?


When God asked Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” the prophet replied, “Thou knowest.” Ezekiel’s words show he had faith that if God wanted the bones to live, they would. He knew God had the answer. He also realized there was something behind this question, for it would take a miracle for very dry bones to live.

The Lord directed Ezekiel to prophesy, that is, to declare the divine message, and the divine message was a foretelling of the things which would, under divine providence, come to pass. The message to be declared was that God had the power and would exercise it, by which these who were dead, and dried as respected their national hopes, would be gradually revived, would gradually become one homogeneous people, a nation in their own land. It would not be done suddenly, but gradually, and that through attention to the divine message, which the Prophet was delivering. First the dried and hopeless ones would come together, then they would begin to unite one to the other, and gradually assume a national existence, and finally would be infused with the spirit of the Lord, as the breath or energy of national life, begotten of faith in the promises, and would stand again a nation.

The people’s hopes, which were thus dead, and the Lord sends the message, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves and bring you into the land of Israel, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” As a further part of this symbolic picture the Prophet is in vision shown the process by which the dry bones would be gathered, reorganized and revivified. He says there was “a noise and a shaking.” The Revised Version, apparently with propriety, renders this, “thunder and an earthquake.” Following this demonstration the bones came together.

The withered hopes ofIsrael, scattered throughout the provinces of Babylonia in Ezekiel’s day, cut off from their parts, from one another, from tribal union and from national cohesion, was only a foreshadowing of the more general scattering of that nation among all the nations of the civilized world (mysticBabylon) during this Gospel age. With the vast majority all hopes of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise had died, had withered away, and had no more vitality than a dry bone. But now, in the end of this Gospel age, the due time has come for these dry bones, scattered all over mystic Babylon, to be gathered part to part, rehabilitated and revivified with hope in the promises made to the fathers. The great noise is the “seventh trumpet,” which has begun to sound; the earthquake is the coming great revolution in which mysticBabylonwill fall before the great Prince whom Cyrus in a measure prefigured. Meantime, as we look at the dry bones ofIsrael, we perceive that they already are in movement, that they are already drawing near one to another, and organizing as “Zionists,” with a view to national reorganization and a return to the land of promise. Probably the hopes of the Israelites began to revive as soon as they learned that the army of Cyrus had begun the conquest ofBabylon, and so now the hopes ofIsraelare reviving as they witness the march of events, and realize that a great day of trouble is coming upon the nations of Christendom. Their hopes will more and more go out toward Palestine and national reorganization and not disassembling the nation for the so called sake of peace with their Arab brothers, as the troubles of the day of wrath draw near.


Ezekiel’s Commission


God not only told Ezekiel to speak (prophesy) to the dry bones but gave him the exact words to say. Ezekiel had to address the bones with the authority of God and as if the bones could actually hear him. The prophet manifested faith and courage by speaking directly and loudly—as a trumpet. He spoke with authority: “O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Behold, I [God] will cause breath [wind, spirit, Hebrew ruach] to enter into you, and ye shall live.” Various phases of development are given in the next few verses, but God’s motive is seen here: to cause Israel to live. WhenIsrael lives, the nation will be endued with POWER.

Ezek. 37:6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

The order of development in giving “breath” to these bones is as follows: sinews, flesh, skin (epidermis), and breath (spirit). The breath, though mentioned first in verse 5, would be given last. In other words, the objective was the breath. Then verse 6 shows the stages of development, the sequence. Sinews hold the bones together; they draw the separate bones into one cohesive whole with flexibility, coordination, and locomotion. The flesh, the meat part of the body, is a symbol of material prosperity. The skin, which includes nerves, is a protection for the flesh from the air and irritants. Skin is a symbol ofIsrael’s external recognition as a nation or power, which occurred in 1948.

Ezek. 37:7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. 

As the process began to happen, Ezekiel first heard a noise, then a “shaking,” an earthquake—an ominous sound that showed the prophecy would be fulfilled under troublesome conditions (persecutions, pogroms, and hatred directed against the Jews that caused them to turn to Palestine/Israel). The migration toIsrael was something like the settlers who came toAmerica, an unknown land, under difficult conditions, leaving behind possessions in order to gain liberty.

The bones began to come together from 1878 on, contemporaneous with the Zionist movement and the preparation work preceding it, beginning with Petatikva (“Door of Hope”), established in 1878, the first Jewish colony in Palestine after almost 2,000 years. An organized, concentrated effort to return toIsrael and settle there is indicated by the bones’ forming into human skeletons.


Revitalization of a Lost Nation


Ezek. 37:8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. 

Next, sinews or ligaments covered the bones, followed by flesh or muscle, and then skin. Now Ezekiel saw many complete bodies, but no life, no breath.

1. Sinews go into the flesh like the roots of a tree. At first the sinews were just laid on the bones, but later they were attached to the flesh. The sinews picture organization, recolonization, and activities such as building houses and draining swamps for farmlands.

2. Flesh pictures temporal prosperity and increase.

3. Skin shows statehood, recognition as a nation from man’s standpoint (from 1948 on), UN membership.

When the “breath” or spirit enters, the earthly rulers of God’s government will be the Ancient Worthies (Old Testament Saints), the “princes in all the earth,” who will have their headquarters in Jerusalem (Psa. 45:16).

This process is analogous to Adam’s creation. He was perfectly formed step by step from the dust of the ground (given flesh, skin, etc.). The last step was when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living soul. (Life begins when the breath enters the organism.) Hence, althoughIsrael was formed earlier, the nation will not live until the “breath” is imparted, a stage still future.

When Israeldwells without walls in the near future, the seeming peace will be a false security, for God is the One who will give them breath in His due time.

In summary, then, Ezekiel saw many human bodies that had no breath, no life. What an impressive motion picture to see as the bones came together and the bodies formed!

Ezek. 37:9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. 

Ezek. 37:10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. 

Although God told Ezekiel what to do, it was actually God who caused the breath to come into the bodies. He instructed Ezekiel to address the invisible wind and prophesy, “O wind, O breath, come from the four winds [the four breaths come from the north eventually], and breathe into these slain bodies, breathe into the lungs of these corpses, so that they will live.”

As Ezekiel complied, the human bodies not only came alive but stood up on their feet. From a prone position, they stood up and constituted an “exceeding great army” in this big, open valley. What a very strange vision! Ezekiel would have wondered what was happening. A resuscitation was being implied—literally from the grave as well as figuratively as a nation. The Holy Remnant will hear earlier, but the nation must hear after Jacob’s Trouble.


God Explains the Vision


Ezek. 37:11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. 

Now God explained the vision to Ezekiel. The vision symbolically represented that in the Diaspora the people ofIsraelwould be scattered throughoutEuropeand elsewhere. Those Jews who returned toJerusalemafter the 70 years’ captivity thought this prophecy pertained to them, and the prophecy did include them, but a much greater dispersion occurred in AD 69–70. In fact, in this latter dispersion, Jews were even separated from their families and sold as slaves. (Incidentally, the Anglo-Israelite theory has some credibility in that there are evidences of Jewish names foreign to the native population. The Jewish people were so capable that some left an impression—such as their names. However, other parts of the Anglo-Israelite theory are erroneous.)

A popular saying among the Jews was, “We are without hope, and our bones are dry.” They likened themselves to dry bones because of their experiences. What hope did a separated family have of being reunited? None. As time went on, the Jews felt their national polity was forever lost. God used such statements to show that He will miraculously restore the Jews to their former condition.

In these verses the Hebrew ruach could just as appropriately have been translated “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” In verse 9 the King James translators probably wanted to emphasize the oxygen or air, so they used “wind.” The corpses needed to be oxygenated so that they would be rejuvenated and live. Wind, breath, and spirit all pertain to air in one form or another.

Ezek. 37:12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

 The prophecy continued: “O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” A “grave” can be either in the ground or on top of the ground, for the “grave” is the condition of death, and not necessarily a place. One who dies in an explosion and is blown to bits is still considered to be “in the grave.”

Ezek. 37:13 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 

Ezek. 37:14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD. 

The word “spirit” is the Hebrew ruach again. The variations in translation help to give meaning to the vision. “Spirit” is a good word here, for “breath” makes the organism live, but “spirit” indicates a consecrated life.

Verses 12–14 are proof that the infusion of breath is still future, as well as the opening of the graves (although the return from Diaspora has been a partial fulfillment). Israel will then know that Jehovah is the Lord—and that He has both prophesied and performed their revival as a nation.

There are two thoughts with regard to the opening of the graves:

1. The Jews were in various nations throughout the Diaspora, being prisoners without hope and cut off from God. They were (and are) called from these nations to go back to Israel. But this explanation is only part of the picture. The nation cannot fully come out from the grave until after Jacob’s Trouble when the breath of life is given. Even though Jews are back in the land, they are considered sojourners until they pass under the rod and a Holy Remnant survives (Isa. 4:3). The sinew, flesh, and skin developments came after they were back in Israel for a while, and the breath will come after Jacob’s Trouble. The point is that the nation does not come from the grave like Lazarus—in a moment. Israel’s coming out of the grave is a long process. The bones do not come out from the other nations as a whole organism but piecemeal.

2. Each bone represents one person. When collected, the bones represent people (plural), and eventually the people represent the nation.

Some would say the breath has already entered Israel, pointing out Israel’s recognition as a nation, winning wars, etc., but Israel has not yet been recognized in the sense of this prophecy. Not until God’s spirit enters Israel will the nation live, and the entering of God’s spirit will mean consecration. After Jacob’s Trouble, the Holy Remnant will consecrate, turn to the Lord. God will pour out His spirit (“the spirit of grace and of supplications”) upon the Holy Remnant (Zech. 12:10). The process will start with repentance and a mourning for Jesus as for an only son. At that time they will know that God is God, that He has opened their graves and saved them (Ezek. 37:13,14).


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