And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"
The question above was asked of the prophet Ezekiel more than 25 hundred years ago and it led to one of the most beautiful prophecies regarding the restoration to the Holy land as a people and a state. Chapters 37 and 38 of Ezekiel’s book together not only prophesied the resurrection of the nation of Israel from obscurity and death, but also tell us what will happen in the future. That’s why it is important to pay attention to them, the 37th chapter is already largely fulfilled and that fulfillment not only sets the stage for, but assures us that the 38th’s fulfillment can’t be far off. So let’s take a closer look.
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know."
That is the passage in context. We know that after Jerusalem fell in 70ad the Jews were scattered among the nations more thoroughly than ever before. For all intents and purposes they were dead as a nation, though they weren’t quite dead as a people. They were in effect the bones of the nation, disarticulated and strewn about in the dry valley as targets of hatred and persecution. No nation so treated before in the history of mankind ever came back from such a state, so the prospects where like a dry valley filled with bones indeed. But something happened.
Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 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."
So what we now see is a promise. God promised his people, the Jews, that they will be resurrected as a nation. Though they were scattered abroad that would not be a permanent state. As mentioned before, no nation ever destroyed and scattered abroad so thoroughly in human history ever came back from the dead as a nation. Some, as the Carthaginians, who were also destroyed as a nation by the Romans, remain dead to this day as peoples and their languages, if known at all, are mere curiosities for modern academicians. Thus was the State of Israel, even its language was reduced to the status of a liturgical language only used by Rabbis. But God promised his people they would be restored as a nation. But as if that weren’t enough:
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.
As if promising their resurrection as a nation weren’t enough Ezekiel is given a vision of the gathering of the people to the land and rebuilding the body of a nation. We already mentioned the beginning of that rebuilding in the first article of this series. It began with the Berlin Congress in 1878 where the Ottoman rulers agreed to allow Jews to own land in Palestine. In the same year the community of Petah Tikvah was founded and the return of the Jews began with a trickle of Jews making the journey from Eastern Europe to found and build other Jewish communities and begin the transformation of the Palestine landscape from desert conditions to the wonderful state it enjoys today.
In 1917 something else happened which laid the foundation for a Jewish state in Palestine, the UK agreed to the creation of a “Jewish homeland.” This was the next step toward the restoration of Jewish polity and the agreement defined the boundaries of that homeland to include what is now Jordan in addition to the territory Israel now has. That new homeland would be renamed Transjordan, though the Jews still continued to use the name of Palestine for their homeland. Few people realize that the Palestine Regiment which fought on behalf of the UK in WWII was Jewish, not Arab.
So all the pieces were in place for a Jewish nation, yet in the vision there was no life. Ezekiel tells us what happened next:
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 on these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
And that is exactly what happened. In 1948 the Jews in the Holy Land created a nation and war broke out immediately as the surrounding Arabs nations tried to destroy the fledgling Jewish state. But they won against all odds and became a mighty nation which over the decades won battle after battle against all comers in what amounts to an ongoing 65 year war as of this writing. Something most people don’t know is that between the Jewish “wars” with their neighbors the Arabs waged guerilla wars with Arabs sneaking into Jewish communities and murdering Jews, including children, in their beds at night as well as the constant bombardment by rockets lobbied at Jewish cities as terror weapons in the tradition of Nazi Germany’s rocket campaign against the United Kingdom in WWII.
The rest of the 37th Chapter of Ezekiel continues the thing of the resurrection of the nation of Israel and even proclaims that they will be governed by the Messiah, the Christ, in verse 24, calling him “My servant David.” But that is future yet, beyond the prophecy which appears in the 38th Chapter. Instead of going there, though, we’re first going to continue to look at some wonderful prophecies concerning both the gathering of the Jews, and the implacable hatred and war against them by the Arabs first. We will next look at what Jeremiah had to say on the subject of the restoration of the State of Israel.
*All scripture citations in this post are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Courtesy of the E-Sword bible Study program.