I wrote a draft on Ezekiel 37 not too long ago but I deleted it thinking that what I wrote was just too far out of the box to be accepted. However, true to my loose cannon nature, I will try to sink some boats after all, even if that means I may sink my own. What I write is certainly not infallible doctrine so I just may have Ezekiel 37 wrong.
I do not think the usual interpretation of Ezekiel 37 given by most premillennial Bible prophecy teachers adds up. I have read some Bible prophecy teachers that make an effort to make Ezekiel 34 thru Ezekiel 39 sequential or say the prophecies of chapters 34-37 are being fulfilled or have been fulfilled with the return of the Jews to Israel today. However, other than a few of the land passages in these chapters that really does not appear to be the case.
Two things are certain. You cannot have a restoration of the whole house of Israel before the 70 weeks (490 years) of transgression for Israel are fulfilled (Dan 9:24) and God is not going to deal with Israel again spiritually until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in (Rom 11:25).
With that in mind, if you read Ezekiel chapters 34 through 36 in proper context you should see that nothing about the end time restoration of Israel has been fulfilled other than some restoration of the land. It appears that God speaks to the mountains of Israel and allows the desert to bloom so that a portion of still unbelieving Jews can be supported in the land. This portion of Israel is allowed to come back to the land so they can fulfill the final seven years of transgression that must be fulfilled to complete the 490 years of transgression for Israel that was spoken about by the prophets. What we see today is not the return of Israel as described in Ezekiel 34-37. That return involves the whole house of Israel and that event is still in the future.
Some Jews are back in the land so we see land prosperity displayed in Israel today. Even so, other than Jewish effort to irrigate the desert and build in Israel, this partial return is not the start of the restoration of Israel described in Ezekiel 34-37. Most Israelites that returned to the land and the works of their hands will be destroyed in the time of Jacob’s trouble. This time is also called the Great tribulation and the 70th week in Daniel. This great future tragedy for the Jews must take place before God’s restoration of Israel takes place.
Other than some passages on land restoration that might apply, the other passages in Ezekiel 34-36 are either talking about God dealing with Israel’s enemies or they clearly occur as a result of the spiritual and physical restoration after the Great tribulation. None of that is happening yet, although it is not very far in the future.
The end time prophecies in Ezekiel 34 through 37 are not sequential they run very much in parallel to each other. Three of these four chapters have details that occur after the Great Tribulation. Ezekiel 35 is talking about a future destruction of Edom near or during the tribulation.
With that background let us look at Ezekiel 37.
1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
5 Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye 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 shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith 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 up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
12 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.
13 And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
15 ¶ The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
26 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.
27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
If you read the above chapter in a literal normal sense, the first half of the chapter is talking about a resurrection of Israel and the second half is talking about the return of Israelites from nations that they now dwell in. Both groups combined make up the whole house of Israel.
Most premillennial Bible prophecy teachers obviously want the valley of dry bones prophecy to be a metaphor about the return of Israel that we see today. The logical conclusion then is this. If this is happening now, the dry bones that take human form but remain in unbelief will be crushed in the Great tribulation when two-thirds of them are killed. We also have to believe that one-third of the dry bones that became spiritual people fled to the mountains to escape the Antichrist. Is that really raising up the whole house of Israel to be an exceedingly great army as is stated in Ezekiel 37 9-10? It seems to me that the metaphor theory fails.
Is it really too far-fetched to believe that God will literally resurrect the elect of Israel that are written in His book when we know that God said He will resurrect Israel in Dan 12 1-2? Even so, we know that this resurrection will not happen until after the final week of years mentioned by Daniel are completed. So if this is a literal resurrection of the Old Testament elect like I believe, it happens after the Great tribulation for Israel and not before.
Dan 12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
The above passage clearly says that many in Israel that are now in the dust of the earth shall awake. That will be all those found written in that book. Paul tells us that not all of Israel are of Israel (Rom 9:6). Only people descendent from Israel that by faith believe in the promise given to Abraham Isaac and Jacob by YHWH are written in the book. What is described in the above passage is one of the phases of the first resurrection. The last part of verse 2 is talking about those resurrected after the thousand-year reign. They will take part in the Great White Throne Judgment that determines the eternal destiny of those that did not take part in the first resurrection.
Some will say that the second half of Ezekiel 37 explains the first half. Does it really, or are these two separate prophecies? The first being the raising of the dead back to life and the second prophecy (starting with verse 15) being a return to Israel of all the Israelites alive on earth.
Sometimes I think that Premillennial Eschatology has been unduly influenced by Jews in Israel whom deceive Christian Zionists that really should know better, into believing their Jewish views. Many of the religious Jews think the restoration is now being fulfilled and there will be no Antichrist and no Great tribulation in their future. For many religious Jews the next event will be the Ezekiel 38-39 Gog Magog war when there will be a divine intervention from YHWH against the armies followed by their restored kingdom. There is no provision for the religious Jews to ever accept Jesus as the true Messiah within their eschatology. They will not even hear of it.
The wording in the second half of Ezekiel chapter 37 is clearly after Israel’s transgression is over; obviously that has not been fulfilled yet. Therefore, going back to the first half of Ezekiel 37, what makes us think that any of that has been fulfilled yet either? The end of the chapter clearly indicates that this coming back to Israel is fulfilled after the Great Tribulation.
The dry bones were people who were slain and they come out of graves and the passage says they will also be brought into the land of Israel. Many Jews were killed outside of Israel with just the last great slaying of Jews being the World War II era holocaust. Do you realize that in the entire history of Israel there were more people slain than that died a natural death? In early Israel almost all able bodied men eventually died in warfare. Why were they willing to give up their life for God and the King? Perhaps ancient Israelites knew more about the future resurrection of the righteous than we tend to think.
How in our time can Israel have an exceedingly great army when the total number of Jews in Israel are only 6 million people and there is only another ten million known Jews in the whole rest of the world? But, throw in a resurrection of the elect of Israel resurrected from the past like Lazarus and you will have an exceedingly great army. Can you even image if David and his mighty men came alive again with the ancient armies of Israel?
There are plenty of passages that speak of David ruling in the millennium but most say these passages are talking about Jesus. Yet, Jesus comes back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There are passages about the Prince in the millennium, who is he? There are separate land areas allotted for the Lord and the priests that serve Him and the Prince and his family. So they are not the same. That does not mean the Prince is David, but it does not rule it out either.
The scriptures clearly say that those that died in the Great tribulation and did not take the Mark of the Beast will be resurrected. The question arises, will they be resurrected immortal beings like the Bride of Christ or mortal beings like Lazarus? We know that people will have great life spans in the millennium, so it is possible that the dead will came out of their grave like Lazarus and will live through the entire thousand-year reign. They could be translated at the end of the millennial age to immortality to witness the creation of the New Heaven and Earth. We really do not know.
You might say that the scripture teaches that humans only die once? However, we also know from scripture that certain people did die and were resurrected only to die again. The first death is the death of the natural body. As long as God determines to resurrect someone’s natural body their soul can live in it again. For example, we know from scripture that Lazarus died but he lived again only to die again. I think we also can know what will happen to the millennial saints if they do die again in the millennium. I think we see that with the death of the two prophets. God raised them up incorruptible and they went up to the Holy City. They become immortals like the Bride of Christ.
Why can’t the first half of Ezekiel 37 be talking about a literal opening of the graves and a resurrection of the slain like it says? How can the Israelites that have returned become an EXCEEDINGLY GREAT army when they do not have enough people to be an exceedingly great army? In fact, we know that Israel is rather powerless at the Gog Magog invasion and so are delivered by God. They also flee from the Antichrist? That hardly sounds like an exceeding great army to me. Therefore, a truly exceedingly great army could only occur after the whole house of Israel is saved after the 490 years of transgression are completed
Ez 37:13 says that after God opens their graves that Israel will know that YHWH is the Lord. If this is talking about the partial return that we see today, I would like to know where their witnesses for YHWH is?
Is there anything else in scripture that says that God will resurrect Israel. I think there is and this is just what I could dig up in a brief period. I would think that there is more.
Zec 12:8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
9 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. Rom 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: Rom 11:30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. Re 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Dan 12:13 “But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days. (NKJV)
I do not see how Daniel 12:2 could be much clearer? All written in the book in Israel will be resurrected in one form or another, but could the resurrection of Lazarus be a “type” of calling Israel out of the grave at the Lord’s second coming? And will these people who populate the Kingdom retain natural bodies in the millennium? Perhaps they will.
Like I said, I might not be correct on my view that Ezekiel 37 is describing a literal resurrection of Israel at the end of the tribulation, but if you think I have it wrong, I would expect a more detailed argument than the usual statement that the resurrection described in Ezekiel 37 is just a metaphor for Jews returning to Israel.
Don Koenig founded www.thepropheticyears.com website in 1999 after almost thirty years of independent study on the Bible and learning from many astute teachers within Christendom. Don created his website to write about Bible prophecy, biblical discernment and his Christian worldviews. Don wrote a free Revelation commentary ebook in 2004 named "The Revelation of Jesus Christ Through The Ages". The World and Church and Bible Prophecy section of this website was started in 2007.