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Ezekiel 37:1-14 - Bible Commentary for Preaching

Ezekiel 37:1-14 - Bible Commentary for Preaching

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Published by Jacob D. Gerber
Ezekiel 37:1-14: And You Shall Live!
The hand of YHWH was [Qal Perf 3FS hayah) upon me, and YHWH brought me out [Hiph 3MS WCPret yatsah with 1CS suff] in the Spirit and set me down [Hiph 3MS WC-Pret nuach with 1CS suff] in the midst of the valley, and it [the valley] full of bones. 2And he caused me to pass by [Hiph 3MS WC-Pret µabar with 1CS suff] them, round about, round about [sabib sabib]; and behold, there were exceedingly many on the face of the valley; and behold, they were exceedingly dr
Ezekiel 37:1-14: And You Shall Live!
The hand of YHWH was [Qal Perf 3FS hayah) upon me, and YHWH brought me out [Hiph 3MS WCPret yatsah with 1CS suff] in the Spirit and set me down [Hiph 3MS WC-Pret nuach with 1CS suff] in the midst of the valley, and it [the valley] full of bones. 2And he caused me to pass by [Hiph 3MS WC-Pret µabar with 1CS suff] them, round about, round about [sabib sabib]; and behold, there were exceedingly many on the face of the valley; and behold, they were exceedingly dr

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Published by: Jacob D. Gerber on Feb 05, 2012
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Ezekiel 37:1-14: And You Shall Live!
1
The hand of YHWH was [Qal Perf 3FS
hayah
) upon me, and YHWH brought me out [Hiph 3MS WC-Pret
 yatsah
with 1CS suff] in the Spirit and set me down [Hiph 3MS WC-Pret
nuach
with 1CS suff] in themidst of the valley, and it [the valley] full of bones.
2
And he caused me to pass by [Hiph 3MS WC-Pret
µabar 
with 1CS suff] them, round about, round about [
 sabib sabib
]; and behold, there
were
exceedinglymany on the face of the valley; and behold, they were exceedingly dry.
3
And he said [Qal 3MS WC-Pret
µamar 
] to me, ³Son of man, will they live [Qal 3FP Impf 
chayah
] these bones?´ And I said [Qal 1CSWC-Pret
µamar 
], ³Lord YHWH, you know [Qal 2MS Perf 
 yada¶ 
].´
4
And he said [Qal 3MS WC-Pret
µamar 
] to me, ³Prophesy [Niphal MS Impv
naba¶ 
] over these bones, and say [Qal 2MS WC-Perf 
µamar 
]to them, ³O dry bones, hear [Qal MS Impv
 shama¶ 
] the word of YHWH.´
5
Thus says [Qal 3MS Perf 
µamar 
] the Lord YHWH to these bones: ³Behold, I am causing to enter [HiphilMS Part
bo¶ 
] into you Spirit, and you shall live [Qal 2MS WC-Perf 
chayah
].
6
And I will give [Qal 1CSWC-Perf 
natan
] upon you sinews, and I will bring up [Hiphil 1CS WC-Perf 
µalah
] upon you flesh andcover [Qal 1CS WC-Perf 
qaram
] upon you skin, and I will give [Qal 1CS WC-Perf 
natan
] in you Spiritand you shall live [Qal 2MS WC-Perf 
chayah
], and you shall know [Qal 2MS WC-Perf 
yada¶ 
] that I
am
 YHWH.
7
And I prophesied [Niphal 1CS Perf 
naba¶ 
] like as I was commanded [Pual 1CS Perf 
tsawah
]. And therewas [Qal 3MS WC-Pret
hayah
] a voice as I prophesied [Niphal 1CS Perf 
naba¶ 
+
participle], and behold a shaking, and they drew near [Qal 3FP WC-Pret
qarab
] the bones, bone to its bone.
8
And I saw[Qal 1CS WC-Pret
ra¶ah
] and behold to them sinews and flesh came up [Qal 3MS Perf 
µalah
], and itcovered [Qal 3MS WC-Pret
qaram
] on them skin from above; but [
waw
disjunctive] Spirit there was notin them.
9
And he said [Qal 3MS WC-Pret
µamar 
] to me, ³Prophesy [Niphal MS Impv
naba¶ 
] to the Spirit.Prophesy [Niphal MS Impv
naba¶ 
], son of man, and say [Qal 2MS WC-Perf 
µamar 
] to the Spirit, µThussays [Qal 3MS Perf 
µamar 
] the Lord YHWH, from four the four winds/spirits come [Qal FS Impv
bo¶ 
], OSpirit, and breathe [Qal FS Impv
naphach
] on these slain [Qal MP Pass Part
harag 
] that they may live[Qal 3MP Juss
chayah
].
10
And I prophesied [Hithpael 1CS Perf 
naba¶ 
] like as he commanded me [Piel3MS Perf 
tsawah
with 1CS suffix], and it came [Qal 3FS WC-Pret
bo¶ 
] on them, the Spirit, and they lived[Qal 3MP WC-Pret
chayah
] and they stood [Qal 3MP WC-Pret
µamad 
] upon their feet an army greatexceedingly exceedingly [
me¶od me¶od 
].
11
And he said [Qal 3MS WC-Pret
µamar 
] to me, ³Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel,they [the
hemah
appears to have no translation value in English, but refers to the army standing beforehim]. Behold, they are saying [Qal MS Act Part
µamar 
], µOur bones are dried [Qal 3MP Perf 
 yabesh
], andour hope is lost [Qal 3FS WC-Perf 
µabad 
]; we are cut off [Niphal 1CS Perf 
 gazar 
] from ourselves.¶
12
Therefore, prophesy [Niphal MS Impv
naba¶ 
] and say [Qal 2MS WC-Perf 
µamar 
] to them, µThus says[Qal 3MS Perf 
µamar 
] the Lord YHWH, ³Behold, I am opening [Qal MS Act Part
 patach
] your graves,and I will cause to go up [Hiphil 1CS Perf 
µamar 
] you from your graves, O my people. And I will causeto enter [Hiphil 1CS WC-Perf 
bo¶ 
] you in the land of Israel.
13
And you shall know [Qal 2MP WC-Perf 
 yada¶ 
] that I am YHWH in the opening [Qal Inf Cons
 patach
+
b
prep] of your graves and in the causingto go up [Hiphil Inf Cons
µalah
+
b
prep] you from you graves, O my people.
14
And I will give [Qal 1CSWC-Perf 
natan
] my Spirit in you, and you shall live [Qal 2MP WC-Perf 
chayah
], and I will place [Hiphil1CS WC-Perf 
 yanach
] you in your land. And you shall know [Qal 2MP WC-Perf 
 yada¶ 
] that I, YHWH,have spoken
it 
[Piel 1CS Perf 
dabar 
] and performed
it 
[Qal 1CS WC-Perf 
µasah
], says [Qal MS Pass Part
ne¶um
] YHWH.´¶´
 
Comment
V. 1
: The word
ruach
, which can mean either ³s/Spirit,´ ³wind,´ or ³breath,´ shows up in the first verseof this passage. At first I thought that
ruach
was in construct to the name YHWH (³Spirit of YHWH´), but Keil has corrected my exegesis: ³In the second clause of ver. 1
Yahweh
is the subject, and is not to betaken as a genitive in connection with
beruach
, as it has been by the Vulgate and Hitzig in opposition tothe accents.
 Beruach
stands for 
beruach elohim
(ch. xi. 24), and
elohim
is admitted simply because
Yahweh
follows immediately afterward.´
1
I am inclined to think that defining the
ruach
right away asYHWH¶s Spirit should give us direction as we come across
ruach
through the rest of the passage.Daniel Block, on the other hand, writes, ³The present phrase,
Spirit of Yahweh
, occurs elsewhere in the book only in 11:5, where the falling of the Spirit of Yahweh upon Ezekiel is followed by a command to prophesy. But one should distinguish the role of the
ruach
as agency of prophetic inspiration from its roleas agency of conveyance.´
2
 Christopher J. H. Wright points out that the beginning of the story is very familiar within Ezekiel, but for ominous reasons: ³It was day-trip time again for Ezekiel. The last time
The hand of the Lord 
had liftedhim up and set him somewhere, it was to witness the awful abominations going on in the temple inJerusalem (chs. 8-11). The last time he had gone out to the
valley
he had been confronted with the visionof the glory of Yahweh for the second time (3:22-23), and came home unable to speak or leave his housefor nearly five years. What atrocious vision or fate awaited him this time? he may have wondered«´
3
 Iain Duguid points out the significance of the landscape: ³In light of 3:22-23, it becomes clear that thevalley was not just a random geographical location by a valley in exile. Yet, viewing the vision in thelight of chapters 40-48 suggests the significance of the fact that it is a
valley
.: The valley in exile formsthe ultimate contrast to the µvery high mountain¶ within the land of Israel (40:2). It is the place of death,from which Israel must be delivered before they can be brought into the land of life.´
4
 
V. 2
: Presumably, it is still
 R
uach
 
YHWH 
who leads Ezekiel through this extremely careful survey of allthe bones with a thoroughness that is captured by the repetition of 
 sabib
(³round about, round about´).Moreover, we are meant to get a sense of the immensity of the bones through the use of 
me¶od 
 (³exceedingly´) to modify the plural form of many (
rabbot 
). Finally, all the exceedingly many bones, of which Ezekiel makes an extremely thorough search, are all exceedingly (
me¶od 
) dry.Wright reminds us that, ³As a priest he was not allowed to touch a human corpse.´
5
Furthermore, Wrightnotes that for the bones to be unburied suggested not merely death, but death under a curse: ³To beunburied meant the perpetuation of suffering into the afterlife. It was a destiny fit only for the trulycursed. Indeed, it was one aspect of the fate decreed for Israel under the covenant curses [Deut. 28:25-26;cf. Jer. 34:17-20].´
6
 
1
C.F. Keil,
 Biblical commentary on the prophecies of Ezekiel 
, trans. James Martin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960),115.
2
Daniel Block,
The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25 - 48. (NICOT)
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 373.
3
Christopher Wright,
The message of Ezekiel : a new heart and a new spirit 
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press,2001), 303.
4
Iain Duguid,
 Ezekiel 
 
(NIVAC)
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 426.
5
Christopher Wright,
The message of Ezekiel : a new heart and a new spirit 
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press,2001), 304.
6
Christopher Wright,
The message of Ezekiel : a new heart and a new spirit 
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press,2001), 304.
 
V. 3
: YHWH addresses Ezekiel as ³Son of man,´ a phrase used throughout the whole book. The question posed, ³Can these bones live?´ becomes the central question that the passage addresses²there are fiveother statements asserting that the bones would live in v. 5, 6, 9, 10, and 14. Moreover, Ezekiel¶s responseto the question is important: ³O Lord YHWH, you know.´ In v. 6, 13, and 14, YHWH asserts that all this(the resurrection of the bones, the opening of the graves, etc.) will happen so ³that you shall know that Iam YHWH.´
YHWH gives life in order that we might know him
.
 
Keil points out
7
an interesting cross-reference to Revelation 7:14: ³Then one of the elders addressed me,saying, µWho are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?¶ I said to him, µSir youknow.¶ And he said to me, µThese are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washedtheir robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb¶´ (Rev. 7:13-14). I am not entirely sure whatconclusions to draw from this cross-reference, but I wanted to note it for future thought.
V. 4
: YHWH gives Ezekiel the first of the four imperatives to prophesy (v. 4, 9x2 to the
ruach
, and 12 tothe whole house of Israel), and this time Ezekiel is to prophesy to the dry bones, that they must hear theword of YHWH. Of course, this is an absurd idea. Ezekiel should prophesy to dead, dry bones? What possible response could inanimate objects make?
 
V. 5
: The message, at least, is pertinent. YHWH vows to cause
ruach
to come into them, ³and you shalllive.´ The most pressing issue for dead bones is the hope of life²unless the bones come to life, no further instructions matter. And how will they come to life?²through YHWH¶s causing
ruach
to enter them.As mentioned in v. 1, there is some ambiguity about what
ruach
means here. Is it the Spirit of YHWH?Although the story of creating Adam from dust in Genesis 2 has very clear parallels to this story inEzekiel 37, Genesis 2:7 (³God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life´) does not use the word
ruach
 for breath or breathe, but the words related to
naphach
, a word used in Eze. 37:9.On this question, Wright writes, ³At the beginning and end of the section it [the word
ruach
] refersunmistakeably to the Spirit of Yahweh which had lifted Ezekiel and
 set 
him in the valley (1), and wouldeventually also lift the whole people and
 settle
(same word) them back in their own land (14). But theword also means µbreath¶ in a literal, straightforward sense, and this is its meaning in verses 5, 6, 8, and10.
 R
uach
also means µwind¶ ± powerfully moving air ± and this too is found in verse 9, where
 from the four winds
means µfrom all directions of the earth¶. The central use, in verse 9,
O breath
, which Ezekiel iscommanded to summon by prophetic word, has the ambiguity that it doubtless means the Spirit of theliving God, but also accomplishes the miraculous act of artificial respiration by which the corpses beginliterally to breathe again and stand up alive and vigorous as an army. The whole scene, then, is permeated by the various activities of 
ruach
± human, natural, and divine: breath, wine, and Spirit. And the singletotal effect of all this activity of 
ruach
is life, life out of utter deadness.´
8
 Duguid reminds us that Ezekiel also has experienced the entrance (
bo¶ 
) of the Spirit in his own life:³Twice, confronted with the awesome majesty of God, he was reduced to prostration (1:28; 3:23); eachtime the Spirit entered (
bo¶ 
) him, raising him to his feet (2:2; 3:24). This is exactly what happens to thedry bones [page] after they have been re-formed into bodies: The Spirit enters (
bo¶ 
) them, raising them totheir feet (37:10). What had first happened in his own life now happens to the renewed Israel through themeans of the powerful prophetic word.´
9
 
7
C.F. Keil,
 Biblical commentary on the prophecies of Ezekiel 
, trans. James Martin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960),116.
8
Christopher Wright,
The message of Ezekiel : a new heart and a new spirit 
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press,2001), 307.
9
Iain Duguid,
 Ezekiel 
 
(NIVAC)
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 427-28.

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