The Valley of the Dry Bones

Ezequiel 37:1-14

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The Bible text of the prophecy

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“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. (2) And he led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. (3) And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” (4) Again, he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. (5)Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. (6) And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

(7) So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. (8) And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. (9) Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon

these slain, that they may live.” (10) So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.

(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 clean cut off.’ (12) Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. (13) And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. (14) And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord.”

Analysis of the prophecy

A. The most important clue for understanding this prophetic vision is that given by Jehovah God himself in Ezequiel 37:11. He says to the prophet Ezequiel:

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.” 

What do these bones represent? God’s simple and unequivocable answer: “...the whole house of ISRAEL” 

The scenario is of the literal, earthly, physical whole house of Israel” taken into literal, physical slavery to the earthly country of Babylon. The subject, then, is the earthly nation of Israel, God’s elect people during the Mosaic Age. Distorting the scenario by spiritualizing it and applying it to the church of the Common Era (Christian Age) is an

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exegesis totaling lacking in contextual support.

B. The place of the prophecy on the timeline.

Ezequiel “was the son of a priest named Buzi, and was taken captive in the captivity of Jehoiachin, eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem. He was a member of a community of Jewish exiles who settled on the banks of the Chebar, a river or stream of Babylonia. He began prophesying B.C. 595, and continued until B.C. 573, a period of more than twenty-two years.” http://thekingsbible.com/Dictionary/Ezekiel

The “destruction of Jerusalem” referred to is that by the Babylonians in the year 586 BCE (Before Christ) and the “captivity” is the seventy years captivity in Babylon. While Ezequiel was captive in Babylon, God revealed to him the revelations that compose the book of the Old Testament identified by his name.

C. Given these basic, unmistakable facts, we confidently affirm that…

1. The prophecy about the dry bones…

Is not for the present time.

Nor is it for the Jews scattered throughout the world today.

Neither is it applicable to the political-secular state of Israel formalized in 1949.

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2. The prophecy was given between 573 and 595 years before Christ for the people of Israel scattered throughout the world of that time, and, particularly, for the Israelites captive in Babylon.

D. Why would God represent earthly Israel captive in Babylon as a "valley... full of dry bones?”

According to the explanation given by God, this rhetorical language reflects the description the oppressed Israelites themselves made of their physical state and the circumstances of their daily existence as slaves.

“Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’” Ezequiel 37:11

Physically, they continued to be alive. However, their condition as slaves in a foreign country far from their own land led them to compare themselves to dry bones, for they had lost all hope, feeling themselves “clean cut off. Only a cold, indifferent soul would not be moved by such a deeply felt lamentation.

"…the valleywas full of bones.

there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry.

“…as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them.” And the phenomenal description continues.

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Naturally, one’s power of imagination attempts to visualize, literally, those mesmerising scenes.

The apostle John had a similar experience, at least in some respects, when he was “in the spirit on the Lord’s Day,” on the island of Patmos, as he began to receive the fantastic visions and prophecies that make up the book of Revelation. Revelation 1:10

E. Let us focus on the “the valley that “was full of bones.

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“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valleyit was full of bones.” Ezequiel 37:1

 “...he brought me out by the Spirit” means that God communicated a prophetical vision to Ezequiel. In this case, by the use of symbolical elements.

Since the places and objects referred to belong to the realm of visions, they should not be necessarily taken as tangible and visible on planet Earth.

That is to say, in this vision of the dry bones, the valley does not have to be understood as literal, literally full of literal human bones that, actually hearing the voice of God, begin to come together literally and visibly, “bone to its bone,” literal tendons forming to hold them together and literal human flesh taken shape on them. Then, literal skin covering the whole body. All in such a way that when the spirit enters, each new human being can incorporate itself, literally standing on his/her feet.

Although the “valley” of the vision does not have to be interpreted as literal, it seems logical to me to think it alludes, metaphorically, to the valley of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, for that is where the Babylonian Kingdom was centered, and it was to there that Ezequiel was exiled, together with multitudes of Israelites.

F. Let us focus again on the dry bones. What do they represent?

Reiterating: The divine answer is presented, clearly and unmistakably, in the text of Ezequiel 37. Jehovah God says to Ezequiel:

“These bones are the WHOLE HOUSE of ISRAEL.

So then, let us not lose sight of this transparently clear explanation nor simply disregard it.

G. When Ezequiel prophesies to the dry bones in obedience to Jehovah’s command, “there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them… and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host.” Ezequiel 37:7-10

This is what Ezequiel sees in a vision.

However, dear reader, this event did not literally take place on the earth! That “exceedingly great host” never set foot on earth! All of this is definitely symbolical. Of What? Of the restoration of the Israelites, who had been scattered to different lands and trodden under foot by pagan nations, to Jerusalem and other cities and villages of THEIR OWN LAND!

While they were in captivity, the Israelite people lamented: “Our bones are dried up.” Through the medium of the vision given to Ezequiel, Jehovah God effectively and graphically says to them: “You shall live.”

The entire chapter 36 of Ezequiel centers on this very purpose of God to restore his elect people, bringing back to the promised land the dispersed Israelites from among the nations, with the following clarification on his part.

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“It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.” Ezequiel 36:22

a) This same restoration of Israel is presented symbolically in Ezequiel 37:12.

“Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel

Where would he take them? HOME into the LAND of ISRAEL.

Not to the present-day land of Israel, constituted a political-secular state in 1949, but to the land of Israel in those times of Ezequiel.

“Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves.” This language is absolutely rhetorical, not to be interpreted as some literal resurrection of Israel’s dead, but rather as a promise to give new life to a people prostrated as if dead on the hard, dry ground of a suffocating captivity.

Let us attentively observe: Jehovah God directs his words to those who were saying “Our bones are dried up,” that is, to Israelites physically alive, in flesh and blood, but who said of themselves “all hope is lost.” Ezequiel 37:11

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To these who thought of themselves as dead and buried because they were slaves, but who, in reality, continued physically alive, God says: “Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel.

Let it be noted: He does not say this to Israelites literally dead and buried but to those alive in their physical bodies.

He does not speak to souls in Sheol, nor to cadavers in tombs. When he says: “I will… raise you from your graves,” he is talking to breathing,

living people who thought of themselves as dead.

b) The language of Ezequiel 37:14 is also rhetorical.

“And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord.”

…and you shall live.” Where? “…in YOUR OWN LAND.” That is, in the land of Canaan, the same promised land given originally to Israel after their forty years in the desert. The very same land from which they had been exiled because of the multiplicity and gravity of their sins and their obstinate rebellion against God.

The language of Ezequiel 36:26-28 is similar. “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you… I will put my spirit within youYou shall dwell in the LAND which I gave to YOUR FATHERS.”

H. When were these visions, prophecies, and promises fulfilled? When did those dry bones come together and revive? When did God open the graves, giving new life to the people of Israel and taking them back to land of their fathers?

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The logical reply: The fulfillment began when Cyrus, king of Persia, authorized the return of Israel to their lands, the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem, of the temple, of the cities, etc., and the restoration of their religion in the temple according to the law of Moses.

After the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, a great number of Israelites, guided by leaders such as Esdras,

Ezra addresses the Israelites
returned from exile and reads
the law of Moses to them.

Nehemias, and Zorobabel, left for their native land. Their notable works of restoration are recorded in the books of Esdras and Nehemias, of the Old Testament.

I. Conclusion. The prophetical vision of the “dry bones,” as well as the prophecy regarding God’s opening of the graves of Israel, were fulfilled more than 2,500 years ago.

They definitely are not for the Millennium.

Nor do they have anything to do with events programmed by God for the end of the world.

To take these prophecies out of their original context and apply them to future times would be, in my humble estimation, to commit a grave error of exegesis. This type of error brings discredit to anyone guilty of it, disorients those who believe it, and gives cause to the critical skeptic to scoff at the mentality of those who misapply Scriptures in their zeal to force Old Testament prophecies into the framework of the end-time prophecies of the New Testament.

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A fulfilled vision-prophecy is a powerful “lamp shining in a dark place. In the dark places of the mind and spirit where there is not yet enough light for sufficient knowledge and correct understanding. It can penetrate the thick shadows and fogs of the forests of doubt, skepticism, misconceptions, false hopes, and erroneous doctrines, showing the way out to life-enlightening, soul-saving bright clarity. 2 Peter 1:19-21

The vision-prophecy of the Valley of the Dry Bones is most certainly a fulfilled

one. Just as prophesied, multitudes of Israelites enslaved in Babylon are set free after 70 years of captivity and return to the “land of their fathers” in Canaan. Read all about it beginning with Ezra, chapter 1. Incredibly, Cyrus the king of Persia sent them to Jerusalem and Judah, loaded “with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.” Cyrus, “stirred up” in his “spirit” by the Lord, did this voluntarily. No plagues needed to persuade him, contrary to the intransigent Pharoah of Egypt who, about ten centuries earlier, obstinately refused to let the enslaved Israelites there go, not giving in until the 10th plague of the death of the firstborn, and even then, chasing after them to the Red Sea, whose waters drowned his pursuing army. Exodus 12.

Fulfilled vision-prophecies, “shining” in dark places, form a large section of the foundation on which rests my personal faith in the existence of God and the credibility of the Bible. What about you? As a visible witness to my faith, I was baptized (immersed) in water “for the forgiveness of sins,” and was added by Jesus Christ to his church as a blessed consequence of that act. Acts 2:36-47. Here, I remain, still endeavoring to share the good news of salvation with any who will listen. What about you?

Esteemed reader, if you have any doubt or question about this subject, please feel free to send me an E-mail to hshappley@yahoo.com. If you have found it helpful, a “Like” from you would be most appreciated.

Category: Additional prophecies.