The hand of the Lord was upon me,…. The Spirit of the Lord, a powerful impulse of his upon the prophet; the Targum interprets it a spirit of prophecy; See Gill on Eze_1:3,
and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord: out of the place where he was to another; not really, but visionally, as things appeared to him, and as they were represented to his mind by the Spirit of God:
and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones: of men, as the Targum adds: this valley, Kimchi thinks, was the same by the river Chebar, where the prophet had his visions at first. R. Jochanan says it was the valley of Dura, and these the bones of them that were slain by Nebuchadnezzar there, Dan_3:1. Rab says these were the children of Ephraim, slain by the men of Gath, 1Ch_7:20. Some of the Jewish Rabbins think there was a real resurrection at this time. R. Eliezer says, the dead Ezekiel quickened stood upon their feet, sung a song, and died. R. Eliezer, the son of R. Jose the Galilean, says, they went up into the land of Israel, married wives, and begat sons and daughters. R. Judah ben Bethira stood upon his feet, and said, I am of their children’s children, and these are the “tephillim” my father’s father left me (r); but these are all fabulous and romantic: others of them understand the whole in a parabolical way: these bones, and the quickening of them, were an emblem of the restoration of the Jews from their captivity, who were in a helpless and hopeless condition, as appears from Eze_37:11, and of the conversion of that people in the latter day, which will be as life from the dead; and of the revival of the interest and church of Christ, when the slain witnesses shall rise, and ascend to heaven; and of the resurrection of the dead at the last day; and may be applied unto and be used to illustrate the quickening of dead sinners, by the efficacious grace of the Spirit of God.
(r) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 92. 2. Vid. Kimchi & Abendana in loc.
Cambridge Bible Davidson
2. the often valley] lit. on the face of the valley. The bones were strewed over the valley in vast numbers, and they appeared bleached and dry. Their great number no doubt was suggested by the actual fact that vast multitudes of the people had been slain with the sword or had otherwise perished; and their “dryness” expresses at least the utter deadness of the nation and the apparent hopelessness of its revival, if not that it had been long dead (Eze_37:11).
Son of man, can these bones live? Whether or not this question was directed, as Plumptre surmises, to meet despairing thoughts which had arisen in the prophet’s own mind, it seems reasonable to hold, with Havernick, that the question was addressed to him as representing “ever against God the people, and certainly as to this point the natural and purely human consciousness of the same,” to which Israel’s restoration appeared as unlikely an occurrence as the reanimation of the withered bones that lay around. The extreme improbability, if not absolute impossibility, of the occurrence, at least to human reason and power, is perhaps pointed at in the designation “Son of man” here given to the prophet. The prophet’s answer, O Lord God, thou knowest, is not to be interpreted as proving that to the prophet hitherto the thought of a resurrection had been unfamiliar, if not completely absent, or as giving a direct reply either affirmative or negative to the question proposed to him, but merely as expressing the prophet’s sense of the greatness of the wonder suggested to his mind, with perhaps a latent acknowledgment that God alone had the power by which such a wonder could, and therefore alone also the knowledge whether it would, be accomplished (comp. Rev_7:14).
These bones are the whole house of Israel. On the principle that “God is his own best interpreter,” it should not be difficult to see that, whatever foreshadowings of the final resurrection of the just may be contained in the vision, its primary intention was to depict the political and national restoration of Israel (Ephraim and Judah) whose condition at the time the field of withered bones appropriately represented. That Hitzig errs in supposing the “bones” alluded to in this verse symbolized the portions of Ephraim and Judah then dead, instead of the portions still living (in exile), who considered themselves as practically dead, is apparent from the words that follow. Behold, they say. The complaint was manifestly taken from the popular sayings current among the people of the exile. Broken up, dispersed, expatriated, and despairing, the members of what had once been “the whole house of Israel” felt there was no hope more of recovering national life and unity. The cheerless character of the outlook they expressed by saying, Our bones (not the bones of the dead, but of the living) are dried—meaning, “The vital force of our nation is gone” (the bones being regarded in Scripture as the seat of the vital force comp. Psa_32:3)—our hope is lost—our hope, i.e; of ever again returning to our own land or regaining national existence—and we are out off for our parts; literally, we are cut off for ourselves; which Gesenius explains to mean, “We are lost,” taking לָנוּ as a dativus pleonastteus ; Hitzig, “We are reduced to ourselves;” Delitzsch and Keil, “We are cut off from the land of the living,” i.e. it is all over with us; Hengstenberg, “We are cut off—a sad fact for us;” Revised Version, “We are clean cut off;” any one of which renders the force of the words (scrap. Lam_3:54).
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
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.
O my people – in antithesis to “for our parts” (Eze_37:11). The hope that is utterly gone, if looking at themselves, is sure for them in God, because He regards them as His people. Their covenant-relation to God ensures His not letting death permanently reign over them. Christ makes the same principle the ground on which the literal resurrection rests. God had said, “I am the God of Abraham,” etc.; God, by taking the patriarchs as His, undertook to do for them all that Omnipotence can perform: He, being the ever-living God, is necessarily the God of, not dead, but living persons – i:e., of those whose bodies His covenant-love binds Him to raise again. He can, and, because he can, He will-He must (Fairbairn). (Mat_22:31-32; Luk_20:37-38.) He calls them “my people” when receiving thorn into favour; but “thy people” in addressing His servant, as if He would put them away from Him (Eze_13:17; Eze_33:2; Exo_32:7).
I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves – out of your politically dead state, primarily in Babylon, finally hereafter in all lands (cf. Eze_6:8; Hos_13:14). The Jews regarded the lands of their captivity and dispersion as their “graves;” their restoration was to be as “life from the dead” (Rom_11:15). Before, the bones were in the open plain (Eze_37:1-2); now, in the graves – i:e., some of the Jews were in the graves of actual captivity, others at large, but dispersed. Both alike were nationally dead.
When I have opened your graves – When I shall have done for you what was beyond your hope, and deemed impossible, then shall ye know that I am Jehovah.
I will open your graves. That this is not exact interpretation of the foregoing symbol may be argued from the fact that in the vision no mention is made of graves; yet the discrepancy to which it is supposed to point is more apparent than real. If the prophet was to see the bones, it was requisite that these should be above ground rather than beneath. On the other hand, when one speaks of a grave, it is not needful to always think of an underground tomb. To all intents and purposes a person is in his grave when, life being extinct, his body has returned to the dust. So, the opening of graves promised in Scripture is not so much, or always, the cleaving asunder of material sepulchers, as the bringing back to life of those whose bodies have returned to the dust. Hence the opening of Israel’s graves could only signify the reawakening of the politically and religiously dead people to national and spiritual life. This was the first step in the restoration of the future held up before the minds of the despairing people. The second, indicated by the clause, and allah put my Spirit in you, pointed, as in Eze_36:26, Eze_36:27, to their future endowment with higher moral and spiritual life than they had previously possessed, and not merely, as in Eze_36:5, Eze_36:6, to their political and national resuscitation (Smend). The last step, the re-establishment of the reconstructed nation in Palestine, was guaranteed by the word, I will place you in your own land. The circumstance that this is twice repeated (Eze_36:12, Eze_36:14) shows that whatever view be entertained of the ultimate occupation of Canaan by Israel, this was the goal towards which the vision looked. That it received partial, limited, and temporary fulfillment of a literal kind in the restoration under Zerubbabel and Ezra, is undeniable; that it will ever obtain historical realization of a permanent sort is doubtful; that it will eventually find its highest significance when God’s spiritual Israel, the Church of Christ, takes possession of the heavenly Canaan, is one of the clearest and surest announcements of Scripture.
NOTE.—On the above nine verses (6-14) Plumptre writes, “We can scarcely fail to find, in our Lord’s words in Joh_5:1-47; something like an echo of Ezekiel’s teaching. There also, though the truth of the general resurrection is declared more clearly, the primary thought is that of a spiritual resurrection. Further, we may note that the complement of Ezekiel’s message is found in the language of Dan_12:2. Taking the two together, we find both reproduced in the teaching of Joh_5:1-47.” (manuscript notes).
The dwelling-places wherein they have sinned, from which Jehovah premises to save them, are in accordance with the views expressed above, not, as Hengstenberg and Hitzig conjecture, the dwelling-places of the exile in which the people then were, but the dwelling-places in Canaan in which they had formerly transgressed, but would in future be preserved from transgressing. The idea is, as Schroder suggests, the localization of transgression which is viewed as proceeding from the dwelling-places in which it is committed; or, according to Plumptre, the conception is that, as their habitations had formerly been contaminated by their detestable things, “the worship of teraphim and such like, if not worse,” so Jehovah would save them from that contamination. The proposal to alter the text by the transposition of a letter, converting moshbhothehem, “dwelling-places,” into meshubhothehem,” defections,” as in Jer_3:22 (comp. Eze_36:29), though adopted by some ancient versions and favored by Ewald and Smend, is not necessary.
The phrase, my servant David (comp. Eze_34:23, Eze_34:24; Jer_33:21, Jer_33:22, Jer_33:26; Psa_78:70; Psa_89:3, Psa_89:20; Psa_144:10), goes back to the Messianic promise of 2Sa_7:12-16, and cannot be satisfactorily explained as signifying the Davidic house (Smend), or as pointing to “a line of true rulers, each faithfully representing the ideal David as the faithful Ruler, the true Shepherd of his people” (Plumptre, on Eze_34:23), inasmuch as Israel, after Ezekiel’s day, never possessed any such line of rulers, and certainly no such line continued forever. The only feasible exegesis is that which understands Jehovah’s servant David to be Messiah, or Jesus Christ, of whom the writer to the Hebrews (Eze_1:8) says. “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.”
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
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 the midst of them for evermore.
Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them – better than the old legal covenant, because an unchangeable covenant of grace (Eze_34:25; Isa_55:3; Jer_32:40).
And I will place them – I will set them in an established position; no longer unsettled, as heretofore.
And will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore – the temple of God: spiritual in the heart of all true followers of Messiah (2Co_6:16); and, in some literal sense, in the restored Israel (Eze_40:1-49; Eze_41:1-26; Eze_42:1-20; Eze_43:1-27; Eze_44:1-31.)
With the people thus gathered (Eze_37:21), united (Eze_37:22), purified (Eze_37:23), and established under the rule of Messiah (Eze_37:25), Jehovah makes a covenant of peace (see on Eze_34:25; and comp. Psa_89:3), further characterized as an everlasting covenant; or, covenant of eternity (see on Eze_16:60; and comp. Gen_17:7; Isa_55:3; Jer_32:40); which guarantees the continuance between him and them of undying friendship, conjoined with the bestowment on his part and the enjoyment on theirs of the highest social and religious blessings. First, national existence and secure possession of the soil. I will place (literally, give) them, either to their land, as in Eze_17:22 (Smend), or to be a nation (Keil), or perhaps both (Kliefoth). Next, steady increase of population—I will multiply them (comp. Eze_36:37; Le Eze_26:9). Thirdly, perpetual residence of Jehovah amongst them, I will set (or, give) my sanctuary (mikdashi, conveying the idea of sanctity) in the midst of them for evermore (comp. Le Eze_26:11); my tabernacle (mishkani, the idea being that of residence or dwelling) also shall be with them; or, over them—the figure being derived from the elevated site of the temple, which overhung the city (Psa_69:29), and intended to suggest the idea of Jehovah’s protecting grace. That this promise was in part implemented by the erection of the second temple in the days of Zerubbabel may be conceded, and also that Ezekiel himself may have looked forward to a literal restoration of the sanctuary; but its highest realization must be sought for, first in the Incarnation (Joh_1:14), next in God’s inhabitation of the Church through the Spirit (2Co_6:16), and finally in his tabernacling with redeemed men in the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev_21:3, Rev_21:22). The last blessing specified is the intimate communion of God with his people, and of them with him—Yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. This, which formed the kernel of the old covenant with Israel (Le Eze_26:12), became the essence of the new covenant with the Israel of the restoration (Eze_11:20; Eze_36:28; Jer_30:22; Jer_31:33; Jer_32:38; Zec_8:8; Zec_13:9), but only attained to complete realization in the relation of Christian believers to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (2Co_6:16).
Cambridge Bible Davidson
28. The presence of Jehovah makes the house wherein he dwells a sanctuary (holy place), and the presence of his sanctuary (he being there, Eze_48:35) among the people sanctifies them or makes them “holy”—a term which expresses two things: being the possession of Jehovah, and being in disposition and life all that the people of Jehovah must be. The idea that Jehovah’s presence “sanctifies” the people is common. Jehovah’s dwelling-place being among the people for ever the nations shall know that he “sanctifies” them. To sanctify is not to protect, it is to make the people his own and worthy of him, but this implies protection. Jer_2:3, “Israel was a holy thing to the Lord, the first fruit of his increase, all that ate him up incurred guilt.” The ideas in this verse lead naturally over to the episode of Gog’s invasion, the issues of which so remarkably illustrate them.
The restoration of Israel includes the tribes of the north as well as Judah. All the prophets of this age regard the northern exiles as still existing, cf. Jer_3:12-15 : Isa_49:5-6, and the strong passage Isa_43:5-7 “every one called by my name,” i.e. every member of the people of the Lord. Cf. the present prophet’s disposition of all the tribes in the holy land, ch. 48.