A dead nation restored to life – Friday, 20th week – Ezekiel 37:1-14
The passage summarises Ezekiel’s mission to the exiles. He is to preach the word of God thus bringing new life to a dead Israel symbolised by the very, very dry and bleached bones scattered in the valley. Ezekiel was brought out in the Spirit of the Lord, that is, in vision, and set down in the valley which was full of human bones. These bones represented the total destruction of Israel by the attacking army of Babylon.
The people represented by these bones were not only dead; they were also disgraced. In the thinking of ancient Israel (and the ancient Near East), an unburied corpse with exposed remains was a shocking disgrace to the dead. These bones were obviously denied proper burial.
After this grisly tour, the God who knows how long these bodies have been exposed asks Ezekiel a straightforward but stupefying question: “Can these bones live?” (verse 3a). Clearly, all the evidence is to the contrary; after all, these bones have been dead for so long that they are now so dry, so brittle. Ezekiel responded to God’s question with the only hope that could be found, saying “O Lord GOD, You know.” Ezekiel had no hope in the bones, but he did have hope in God.
God now asks Ezekiel to speak life to these dead bones. By all outward observation this was a foolish act. But God promised to fill the dry bones with breath. He promised to bring flesh upon those bones and cover them with skin. God would make the once dead and dry bones live. Ezekiel was not asked to create life from nothing; it was the restoration of life to something that had been long dead. Ezekiel obeyed the Lord and the bones came together, bone to bone and began to assemble themselves into skeletons.
The previous instruction of the Lord left the valley full of revived, activated bodies. The bones were full of activity, yet they lacked breath. The second prophecy to the bones brings life and strength. Ezekiel was told to call upon the spirit, that these bones may live. The breath of God came into the reanimated bodies, and they stood upon their feet.
The bones were not revived to become a group of spectators or to live for their own comfort. They became an army, and an exceedingly great one. They lived to act under the orders of the one who gave them life.
God then explained what he done through Ezekiel. These bones are the whole house of Israel not only those from the kingdom of Judah. The restoration would include those from the northern kingdom of Israel that fell to the Assyrians some 150 years earlier. This restoration was meant for a dispirited people who had lost hope and felt cut off. God promises to bring them back to their land. This was a promise God made to Ezekiel in 36:24 and 36:28.