Forum Class #14
Review: The Davidic Covenant
"A covenant is a sovereign pronouncement of God by which He establishes a relationship of responsibility (1) between himself and an individual, (2) between Himself and mankind in general, (3) between Himself and a nation, or (4) between Himself and a specific human family. A covenant in one category may overlap others...The covenants are normally unconditional in the sense that God obligates Himself in grace, by the unrestricted declaration, 'I will' to accomplish certain announced purposes, despite any failure on the part of the person or people with whom He covenants. The human response to the divinely announced purpose is always important, leading as it does to blessing for obedience and discipline for disobedience. But human failure is never permitted to abrogate the covenant or block its ultimate fulfillment." (C.I. Scofield)
The Covenant with David features (1) a temple in Israel, (2) a kingdom in perpetuity, (3) a throne, i.e., royal authority in the line of David, and (4) chastisement on sons for their disobedience. The promise of Messiah in the line of David is confirmed.
"Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David, `Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men; but I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you, And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'" (2 Sam. 7:8-16)
"Therefore the Lord says, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: 'Ah, I will vent my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes. I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.' Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness. But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed." (Isaiah 1:24-28)
"Thou hast said, 'I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: "I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations." I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him; so that my hand shall ever abide with him, my arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, the wicked shall not humble him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him. My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He shall cry to me, `Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.' And I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his line for ever and his throne as the days of the heavens. If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges; but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His line shall endure for ever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established for ever; it shall stand firm while the skies endure." (Psalm 89, excerpts)
"In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,' says the LORD who does this. 'Behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, 'when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land which I have given them,' says the LORD your God." (Amos 9:11-15)
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: 'Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. 'Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them--My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken. I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,' says the Lord GOD.'' You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,' says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 34:20-31)
"Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.' (Ezekiel 37:21-28)
See: The Mainline Covenants of God: http://ldolphin.org/Maincov.html
History of Israel Web Resources:
Ezekiel Chapters 35-39: The following notes are from Ralph Alexander, Ezekiel, Moody Press 1976.
JUDGMENT OF POSSESSORS OF THE LAND; ISRAEL AGAIN THE POSSESSOR (35:1-36:15)
The first development of the peace covenant in Ezekiel's six night messages concerned the removal of foreign possessors of the land (cf. 34:25-29). God was clearing the land of Israel of its continual invaders and possessors in preparation for the restoration of the people of Israel. Emphasis was placed particularly upon the nation of Edom, perhaps as a poignant representative of all nations who had sought to occupy Israel. The age-long conflict between Esau (Edom) and Jacob (Israel) (cf. Mal 1:2-5) was set forth as the most significant example of this principle. Though this passage tends to look upon the "continual" animosity of Edom for Israel throughout the ages, stress also lies upon the future dominance of the land of Israel by Edom and Edom's consequential judgment. This germinal concept had already been put forth by Ezekiel in 25:14 (cf. Num 24:15-19; Is 11:11-16; Dan 11:41). Following an introductory statement that Yahweh was against Edom in judgment (vv. 1-4), Ezekiel delivered a judgment speech against Edom in a series of two accusations (vv. 5, 10) and two verdicts (vv. 6-9, 11-15). Then, in 36:1-15, he followed a similar pattern in proclaiming yet a third judgment speech. This latter part of the message in 35:1-36:15 sets forth a prophecy of encouragement to the land of Israel The accusations and verdicts in 35:5.15 are summarized here now rather than treated separately. The reasons for judgment upon Edam were fivefold:
1. Edom had manifested continual enmity against Israel throughout her history (v. 5a; cf. Eze 25:12b).
2. Edom delivered Israel over to the execution of the sword by other nations in the time of Israel's past national calamities (cf. Ob 10-14). Edom also would hand Israel over to the sword during Israel's future iniquity of the end times (v. 5b; cf. 21:30-31; 25:14).
3. Edom had declared that she desired to possess the two nations, Israel and Judah (cf. 37:15-22). After Judah was taken captive to Babylon in 586 B.C., Edom moved into the Judean territory as far north as Hebron. It was John Hyrcanus, the Maccabean, who regained that area for the Jews (cf. 1 Mac 5:3, 65). It seems, from the passage under study, that Edom's desires for the land would continue until the end times.
4. Edom had blasphemed the mountains of Israel by saying, "they are laid desolate; they are given to us for food" (35:12, NASB; cf. Ob 16), yearning repeatedly to devour the people of Israel
5. Edom had spoken against Yahweh (v. 13), and He had heard them. The verdict of Yahweh was essentially that He would do to Edom as she had done to Israel (cf. Ob 15). It was retribution in kind. As the emphasis in the accusations was upon the incessant enmity of Edom against Israel, so the stress of Yahweh's judgment upon Edom (Mount Seir) would be to cause her to be a continual desolation and waste, never to be inhabited again 35:3,4,7-9, 14; cf. Ob 18; Eze 25:12-14; Jet 49:13, 18). When the whole earth is happy in the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom, Edom will be a desolation (v. 14). As Edom was happy when Israel was desolate, so Yahweh will be glad when Edom is desolate (v. 15). As Edom responded to Israel with hatred, anger, and jealousy, so Yahweh will respond to Edom in like manner (v. 11; cf. Ob 15). Though Edom hated bloodshed, it would pursue her, filling her land with the slain (v. 6; cf. Is 34:6-8; 63:1-6).
One resounding result of this verdict of judgment rings throughout the chapter. When all this occurred, then Edom would know that the Lord is Yahweh; they would recognize Him as Sovereign (35:4, 9, 15). The second segment of this message concerns a judgment speech which in reality was a statement of encouragement to the land of Israel (36:1-15). This message is divided also in a series of two accusations (vv. 2-3,13) and two verdicts (vv. 4-12,14-15). The emphasis upon the verdict is obvious.
The accusation was fourfold: (1) The enemy (Edom and the residue of the nations in v. 5) claimed possession of the mountains of Israel, especially the ancient high places (vv. 2-3). (2) The residue of the nations had crushed Judah and caused her to be desolate (v. 3). (3) Oral defamation (an evil report) against Israel had been upon the lips of the foreign people (v. 4b). (4) The land was accused of devouring mankind and being bereft of her nation (v. 13). Again, the emphasis was upon possession, with its resulting cruelty and anti-Semitism. The verdict was two-pronged, being introduced with the term "therefore" as it answered each of the accusations. The verdict began with a strong statement against Edom and the nations with her who joyously, and with despite, had possessed Israel for spoil. Yahweh, with fiery jealousy for His people, Israel, had announced judgment against these nations (v. 5). However, the keynote of this verdict lay in the encouragement to the land of Israel: (1) The land had borne the "shame of the nations" in the past, but she would no longer be known by that phrase nor bear the reproach of nations (vv. 5, 14-15). On the contrary, the nations would bear their own shame, their cruelty against Israel as described in the accusation (cf. vv. 2-3; Eze 35:11-15; Ob 15). (2) The land would once again be productive, because Yahweh would make it fruitful as He prepared it for the return of His people (vv. 89). (3) All the house of Israel (not just a portion) would multiply on the land so that it would have more inhabitants than ever before (vv. 10-11). The land would be Israel's inheritance as promised under the Abrahamic covenant (v. 12a; Gen 12:7). (4) The land of Israel would never again be bereft of her people, Israel (v. 12b).
The emphasis of this entire message had been on the possession of the land of Israel. Yahweh was declaring that those who had sought, and were seeking, to possess the land of Israel would be removed and judged. In turn, Israel would possess her land once again as her inheritance, never again to be removed from it. The result of this verdict is interestingly stated in 36:11. The land of Israel will know the sovereignty of Yahweh when He fulfills His covenant promises to Abraham and Moses by restoring His people, Israel, to her land in the end times.
RESTORATION OF THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL TO THEIR LAND (36:16-37:14)
The emphasis in 36:1-15 was upon the land of Israel prospering again in preparation for the return of her people, Israel That section provided a transitional bridge from the removal of foreign possessors of the land to the restoration of Israel to her rightful occupancy of Canaan. The salient feature of 36:16-37:14 is the restoration of the people of Israel as part of the peace covenant with Israel (cf. 34:26-29).
In order to grasp fully the magnificent goodness and grace of Yahweh in bringing Israel back to her land in the end times, Ezekiel initiated this message--typically begun with "And the word of Yahweh came unto me"--with a rehearsal of the past history of Israel which brought about her dispersion among the nations (36:16-21). In this setting, the gracious final restoration of Israel is described in verses 22-32, with the results of the restoration set forth in verses 33-38. Ezekiel concluded this message of restoration with an apocalyptic vision which he received as an encouragement to the exiles of his day. Yahweh would restore His people in the end times (37:1-14).
Ezekiel treated three factors in the discussion of Israel's past history which caused the dispersion. First, the reason for scattering the nation lay in her disobedience to God's will as revealed in the Mosaic covenant and the resulting defilement. These deeds specifically involved violent bloodshed and idolatry which rendered Israel as impure before God as an impure woman (36:17-18). After Yahweh dispersed His people in judgment, their very presence outside the land of Israel was then a pollution to the name of Yahweh. In the ancient Near East, each nation was closely associated with its own land. If they were driven from that land by other nations, the general understanding was that their god was insufficiently able to protect them. Therefore, Israel's presence in Babylon created the common opinion among the nations that Yahweh was not a strong God. It is in this sense that Israel profaned the name of Yahweh through her captivity (v. 20).
Second, Ezekiel clearly delineated that it was Yahweh who brought about the dispersion of Israel, judging them according to their deeds which violated the Mosaic covenant (vv. 18-19). In faithfulness to His covenant, Yahweh scattered the nation. (cf. Deut 29:1-30:10) and allowed His name to be profaned.
The third element of Israel's past brings the reader to the final restoration which is outlined in the subsequent verses. The basis for the future restoration, as foretold in Deuteronomy 29:1-30:10, is Yahweh's compassion for His holy name which has been polluted by Israel among the nations (v. 21; cf. vv. 22-23, 32). This then provides a transition to the description of the restoration which immediately follows.
The second part of this message in 36:16-37:14 is the description of the final restoration (compare Ezekiel's previous discussion in 11:14-21). Ezekiel began by reemphasizing the basis of restoration. Yahweh will not bring Israel back to the land because of anything she has done, for when she returns she will loathe her past sins and be ashamed of them (vv. 31-32b). Israel will be returned to her land because of Yahweh's holy name which He Himself will sanctify among the nations; He will no longer allow His name to be polluted among all peoples (36:22-23; cf. vv. 21, 32). This was the same basis fat the preliminary return of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, as set forth in Daniel 9:l6-19. The wonderful outcome of this work of restoration will be that all the nations, including Israel, will recognize Yahweh's sovereignty (know Him) (36:23; cf. vv. 36, 38).
Ezekiel then outlined several marvelous facets of Yahweh's work of restoration:
1. Israel will be taken from all nations and lands where she has been dispersed and will be returned to the land of Israel (v. 24; cf. v. 19).
2. Once Israel has returned to her land, Yahweh will cleanse her from her idolatry (v. 25, 29a; cf. v. 33; 37:23; Jet 33:6-26). Since Ezekiel was a priest, the cleansing aspect will probably be a ceremonial cleansing, somewhat along the line of the cleansing for leprosy as outlined in Leviticus 14:5-7. Verses 26 and 27 of chapter 36 show how the Lord will cleanse His people. He will remove their old heart of stone, which went after other gods, and give them a new heart of flesh. In addition, He also will put a new spirit within them, the Holy Spirit of God, who will be poured our upon Israel in that day of restoration (cf. Eze 11:19-20; 18:31; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; 2 Co 3:3). This will occur when Israel accepts the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34). With the ennoblement of a new heart and Spirit, Israel will desire to walk in the ways of God which are enumerated in the Mosaic covenant (v. 27; cf. Jer 31:33; Ro 8:4; 2 Co 3).
3. The land promises of the Abrahamic covenant finally will be fulfilled. Israel will dwell in the land promised to her forefathers (v. 28a; cf. Gen 12:7).
4. The covenant formula of the Mosaic covenant ("I shall be your God, and you shall be My people") will be realized (v. 28b). Though the new covenant has replaced the Mosaic covenant by this time, the new covenant has not obliterated the Mosaic covenant. The Law will be written upon their hearts (Jer 31:33), and they will walk in the stipulations of the Mosaic covenant (cf. v. 27). Finally Israel will live before God in that proper relationship designed in her constitution, the Mosaic covenant.
5. Yahweh will make abundant provisions for His people through the phenomenal production of the land (vv. 29-30; cf. v. 35; Eze 34:29; Is 35:1-2). Never again will Israel experience famine.
Ezekiel concludes this section of his message by summarizing the effects of Israel's restoration both upon the nations and upon Israel. The surrounding nations will realize that the work of restoration is the work of Yahweh alone when they see the land of Israel, which had lain desolate for so long, become like the Garden of Eden (vv. 33-36). Israel will be increased as a holy flock for the divine Shepherd (cf. chap. 34). The restoration will cause the inhabitants of Israel to recognize Yahweh's sovereignty over them as their great king (vv. 37-38).
The apocalyptic vision in 37:1-14 is not a separate message. Ezekiel's normal method for introducing a new message (by the phrase "And the word of Yahweh came unto me") is not presented here. Rather this vision is a visual illustration of how the restoration will be accomplished. Apocalyptic literature is symbolic visionary prophetic literature, composed during oppressive conditions, consisting of visions whose events are recorded exactly as they were seen by the author and explained through a divine interpreter, and whose theological content is primarily eschatological. These verses contain all of these necessary elements:(1) they employ symbols such as the dry bones; (2) this is the actual recounting of a vision seen by Ezekiel; (3) the passage, as part of the book of Ezekiel, is definitely prophetic; (4) Ezekiel composed this message during oppressive exilic conditions; (5) the vision contains a divine interpretation; and (6) the content is eschatological.
Apocalyptic literature has a very simple two-part form:(1) the setting of the vision; and (2) the vision per se with its divine interpretation. The vision is discussed with respect to these two elements.
The setting (vv. 1-2) was in the midst of the valley (or plain). This plain is not defined specifically anywhere in the passage. The only possible explanation might be that the article the, specifying a particular valley, may refer to the same valley in which Ezekiel saw his visions of God (cf. chap. 1). Ezekiel was the recipient of the vision; he was led through the valley--a valley full of many extremely dry bones--by the Spirit of Yahweh.
The vision which Ezekiel saw had two distinct sections: the vision per se in verses 3-10, and the interpretation in verses 11-14. These two aspects of the vision are discussed simultaneously to enable the reader to understand the vision correctly.
Yahweh asked Ezekiel if the dry bones could live. Ezekiel, in turn, replied that only the Lord knew (v. 3). Then Yahweh commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, declaring that the Lord would reunite them into skeletons, place flesh and skin upon them, and breathe into them in order that they would live (vv. 4-6). Ezekiel obeyed the Lord, and the bones reunited to form the prophesied human beings. But there was no spirit (breath) in them (vv. 7-8). Then Ezekiel was required to prophesy to the breath to breathe upon the slain ones so that they would live (v. 9). This Ezekiel did, and the skeletons came alive when the breath came upon them, resulting in a great army (v. 10).
Unfortunately many commentators have sought to identify every detail of apocalyptic visions. This is not in keeping with the interpretation of the divine interpreters throughout biblical apocalyptic literature. Rather, a central message is to be discovered, and the divine interpretation must be closely followed without adding extraneous opinions.
The interpretation segment of this vision is relatively simple. The bones were the only symbol definitely identified, specifically in verse 11 and indirectly in verse 9. They represented the "whole house of Israel," the slain ones. Verse 11 relates that the bones declared that they were dry (a normal condition of the bones of those who have been dead for a long rime) and their (Israel's) hope was perished. The bones (or members of the house of Israel) were separated from one another. The vision of the reunion of the separated bones into a great living army was simply the visual portrayal of the restoration of Israel which was discussed in 36:16-38. The divine interpreter declared this to be the case in verses 12-14 where he employed a new figure, that of resurrection from graves, to explain the regathering of the dry bones. The lesson is the same in both figures. Yahweh shall cause Israel to live again as a nation, physically (represented by the skeleton) and spiritually (represented by the breath, or Spirit--the same word [ruach] in the Hebrew). Yahweh will bring Israel to her land (v. 12). He will restore her spiritually by placing His Spirit within her (v. 14; cf. 36:26-27) with the result that Israel will recognize Yahweh as her sovereign Lord (vv. 13-14).
Apocalyptic visions are for encouragement. The discouraged exiles could know that there was hope (cf. v. 11). First, Yahweh will restore His people to the land physically and then cleanse them spiritually. Note the order of the vision in verses 4 through 10 and the same order in the interpretation section (vv. 11-14). This is identical to the order found in 36:22-27 which described the rebirth of the nation of Israel. Now the rebirth of the nation is being illustrated by this apocalyptic vision. Once more the necessary elements for the existence of a nation are provided by Yahweh: a people has come into being as a unity (chaps, 36-37), a homeland is once again provided (36:1-15), and a government will be given (chaps. 40-48) .
THE REUNION OF ISRAEL AND THE FULFILLMENT OF HER COVENANTS (37:15-28)
This message began like the others of Ezekiel, with the introductory phrase: "the word of [Yahweh] came again unto me." Ezekiel would perform a symbolic act, and then declare its meaning to his hearers. In interpreting the act, Ezekiel would summarize the restoration of Israel, demonstrating how all of her covenants will be fulfilled during this final regathering.
The symbolic act (vv. 16-17) was that of taking two sticks, writing the name of one of the formerly divided kingdoms of Israel on each: Joseph, Ephraim, and the house of Israel on one, representing the Northern Kingdom, and Judah on the other, representing the Southern Kingdom. The two sticks then became one in the hand of Ezekiel.
When asked the meaning of this symbolic act, Ezekiel was to respond as Yahweh had instructed him: This was the reuniting of the former kingdom of Israel and Judah into one nation (vv. 19-20, 22) restored to her promised homeland (vv. 21, 25) and cleansed from her idolatrous ways (v. 23a), with one King and Shepherd over the unified nation forever: "My servant David," the Messiah (vv. 22, 24a, 25b). The nation will be His vassal, walking in the requirements of the Mosaic covenant (v. 24b), and He shall be their great King according to the Mosaic covenant formula: "I will be your God, and you shall be My people" (cf. v. 23b). The people of Israel will dwell forever upon the land of Canaan (v. 25a; cf. Gen 17:8).
When all of Israel's covenants are fulfilled--the eternal land promises of the Abrahamic covenant realized (v. 25), the covenant formula of the Mosaic covenant operative as Israel walks in the stipulations of that covenant (vv. 23.24), cleansed under the new covenant (v. 23), and experiencing the eternal reign of her King, the greater Son of David, according to the Davidic covenant--then the peace covenant (v. 26; cf. 34:25-29) will have been fulfilled. All covenants to Israel will be accomplished at the time of her final restoration. At that time Yahweh will return to dwell in His sanctuary (cf. chaps. 40-48) in Israel as their God forever (cf. the departure of His glory from Israel in chap. 11 and its return in chap. 43), The final testimony (v. 28) is that all nations shall recognize Yahweh's sovereignty when He sanctifies Israel (sets her apart among the nations) by His presence in Israel forever.
THE FINAL ATTEMPT OF FOREIGNERS TO POSSESS THE LAND OF ISRAEL (38:1-39:29)
This was the final message in this series of six night oracles delivered by Ezekiel during the night preceding the arrival of the fugitive from Palestine with the news that the city of Jerusalem had fallen (33:21-22). A central concern throughout all these night messages had been the possession of the land of Israel. Foreign possessors had taken Jerusalem, the news of which would be reaching Ezekiel and the exiles by morning, This series of night oracles was given to encourage the exiles that ultimately God would remove these invaders and restore this land to Israel. Then He will enter into a covenant of peace with Israel, as described in 34:25-29 and 37:21-28.
Ezekiel 38 and 39 view the entire nation of Israel (after the restoration) dwelling securely in Messianic security, at peace (cf. 38:8, 11, 14; 39:26). The phrase "dwell safely" is clearly delineated in the book of Ezekiel as a description of Messianic security after Israel's restoration. This is specifically observed in the context of these night messages (cf. 34:25-29; 28:26) as well as in other prophetic contexts concerned with the Messianic end times (cf. Zec 14:11; Jer 23:6; 32:37; 33:16), Israel has entered into the peace covenant described in 34:25-29, living without walls, bars, or doors (38:7), The time of the events in these two chapters is circumscribed by several chronological phrases and the general context. The end times are certainly in view. The phrase "after many days" (38:'8) normally has the indefinite meaning "for a long time," though it is employed at times to reach as far as the end times (cf. Jer 32:14; Ho 3:4; Dan 8:26), as is true in this context. The phrase "in the [last] days" (38:16) places these events at the end times, since this phrase is normally used to refer to the time of Israel's final restoration and the rule of the Messiah (cf. Is 2:2; Jer 23:20; 30:24; Ho 3:5; Mic 4:I; Dan l1:14). "In the latter years" (38:8) is mentioned only this once in the Old Testament, but since this phrase is in the same verse as "after many days," one should interpret its meaning in light of that verse with its specific context of restoration. Ezekiel also declared that the events of these two chapters arc to take place when the land of Israel is restored from the sword (38:8; cf. 36:1-15), and when the people of Israel have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel (38:8,12; cf. 36:22-37:14). All this, together with the whole emphasis in the series of night messages upon the final restoration of the people of Israel to their land, argues very strongly for these events to occur at the end times in conjunction with the restoration of Israel and her entrance into the peace covenant. A more specific discussion as to the exact place where these chapters fit into God's prophetic scheme of the end times is treated later.
The description in these chapters depicts a final attempt to possess the land of Israel, but without success, for Yahweh will defend Israel according to His eternal covenant of peace described fully in 34:25-37:28. Gog's defeat is a vindication of Yahweh's faithfulness to His covenant promises (34:29; cf. 37:22-28). Yahweh will not permit His holy name to be polluted any more by the dispersion of Israel (39:7; cf. 36:20). The content of these two chapters is relatively simple to understand. However, as one studies these chapters he must keep in mind that 39:1-24 is essentially a restatement and expansion of 38:1-23. Such a practice is common in judgment--speech literature toward the end of the history of Judah (i.e., sixth and fifth centuries B.C.).
Ezekiel 38:1-13 and 39:1-2 depict Yahweh bringing Gog and his great entourage from every part of the world (Persia from the east, Cush from the south, Put from the west, Gomer and Togarmah from the north, and the islands of the sea in the west) to the land of Israel. They all will enter the land together from the north after Israel is restored to her land and is dwelling in Messianic security (38:1-8; 39:6). The armies will come to spoil and plunder the land (38:9-13).
Ezekiel 38:14-17 is a brief portion not explicitly referred to in chapter 39. It declares that Yahweh will bring Gog upon the land in order that the nations may recognize His sovereignty ("know that I am Yahweh") when He is sanctified before them by destroying Gog. Yahweh asserts that this final invasion of Gog was mentioned through His prophets in former days. However, no explicit previous passage can be referred to as this former statement. Several prophets do make general mention of such an invasion at the end times (cf. Deut 30:7; Is 26:20.21; Jer 30:18-24).
Ezekiel 38:18-23 and 39:3-16 focus upon God's judgment against Gog and his hordes. The section may be divided into three aspects. In 38:18-22 (39:3) Yahweh's wrath against Gog is described. It will be accompanied by a shaking of the earth (38:19-20), a sword called for against Gog (38:21a), pestilence, bloodshed, fire, brimstone, and hailstones (38:22; 39:6). Yahweh will totally disarm the armies of Gog (39:3). Ezekiel 38:23 and 39:7, 21-24 set forth the results of this judgment:(1) The nations will recognize Yahweh's sovereignty and glory as He is magnified through His judgment against Gog and sanctified as the Holy One in Israel. (2) Israel will continue to recognize Yahweh's holy name in this event, for Yahweh will not permit His holy name to be polluted through the defeat and removal of Israel from her land by Gog, Then Israel will cleanse the land after Gog's defeat by burning the weapons of Gog's armies for seven years as fuel (39:8-10), spoiling those who spoil her (v. 10b), and burying the dead of Gog's hordes for seven months (vv. 11-16) in a valley east of the sea. Scholars differ as to the location of the valley east of the sea in 39:11, the valley of trespassers ("passengers," or "passers-by," NASB). Many seek to change the word "trespassers" to "Aravah," thereby identifying the valley with the Jordan rift (the Aravah) and the sea as the Dead Sea. This, however, would put the valley outside of the boundaries of Israel as they are normally understood. Others see the valley as any valley east of the Mediterranean Sea in a more general sense. Though the author prefers the latter, neither position greatly affects the interpretation of the passage.
Ezekiel 39:17-20 pictures a "supper" to which the birds of the air and the beasts of the field are called. They eat the flesh and drink the blood of the carnage of Gog's defeated armies, especially the leaders who came with him (v, 18; cf. the use of animals to describe people in Is 34:6; Rev 19:17-19; cf. similar imagery in Jer 46:10).
Ezekiel 39:25-29 concludes this division of the book which has been concerned primarily with Israel's peace covenant and the entire series of six night messages (33:21-39:29). These final verses are a summary of the whole:(1) Israel will be restored after she bears the judgment for her iniquity and rebellion, at which time she will dwell securely with no one to cause her to tremble (vv. 25-27). (2) At that time Israel will recognize Yahweh's sovereignty in her midst (v. 28). (3) Yahweh will pour out His Spirit upon Israel (v. 29; cf. 36:27; 37:1-14; chaps. 40-48), never again to hide His face from Israel, as demonstrated in His supernatural protection of her in chapters 38 and 39, The identification of Gog and the specific time of the events of these chapters are problems that have perplexed scholars for centuries. It is hoped that the arguments presented below will bring us closer to a more accurate solution.
The identity of Gog and the more explicit time relation of these chapters are intertwined. The etymological data for the term "Gog" is extremely uncertain, Lacking such, several solutions have been proposed:(1) Gugu, one Gyges, king of Lydia who reigned a century before Ezekiel; (2) Gagu, a ruler of the land of Sakhi, an area north of Assyria; (3) Gaga, a mountainous land north of Melitene; (4) A term which is derived from the other associate word "Magog"; and (5) an official title, based on the Septuagint rendering of several kingly names in the Old Testament (cf. Num 24:7; Deut 3:1,13; 4:47; Amos 7:1), and perhaps employed as a general name for any enemy of God's people at the time of the composition of the Septuagint. None of the above solutions possess any significant support to warrant acceptance as the answer for Gog's identity. The most that can be said, perhaps, is that Gog is probably a personage, whether described by title or by name. Further speculations are not warranted on the basis of the Old Testament data presently available. Of necessity a final discussion of this issue must be delayed until after the treatment of the time element.
Other names in these chapters also attract the interest of the student who would seek to know their identification. "Magog," associated with the Japhetic line in the table of nations in Genesis 10, is referred to by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 1. 6. 1) as the Scythians who lived in an area around the Black and Caspian seas. This view is most generally accepted. The phrase "chief prince of Meshech and Tubal" has elicited a variety of confirms and identities. The term "chief" (or "Rosh") causes more trouble than any other word in this phrase. The Hebrew word is rosh. The normal meaning is "head" or "chief." Some, however, prefer to render the Hebrew term as a proper name of a geographical location called Rosh. Those arguing to the contrary would observe that no such country is ever mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament or in extrabiblical material. In addition, Meshech and Tubal, normally mentioned together in Scripture and generally accepted to be countries located in the general area of contemporary Turkey, are nor associated with the term rosh either within or outside of Scripture, whether or nor rosh is conceived as a proper name (cf. Gen 10:2; I Ch l:5, 17; Eze 27:13; 32:26). Some understand rosh to mean modern Russia, but this identity has no basis. Those holding such a view normally appeal to etymology based on similar sounds (to the hearing) between the two terms, bur such etymological procedure is nor linguistically sound at all. The term Russia is a late eleventh-century A.D. term.
The accepted Hebrew text with its accents and construction strongly points to an appositional relationship between the terms "prince" and "chief" (rosh). Both (chief and prince) would relate then to the terms "Meshech" and "Tubal" in the same manner. This type of construction is common in the Hebrew language (cf. Is 37:22; 23:12; Jer 14:17; 46:9; 1 Sa 28;7; etc., and Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, p. 422). Grammatically it would seem best co render the phrase as "the prince, the chief (or ruler) of Meshech and Tubal."
With these preliminary indemnifications understood, the more perplexing problem of the time of these events in the prophetic program of the end times must be treated. Enough has been said above to demonstrate that the general rime of these matters is most certainly the end times of history, especially that time which relates to Israel's restoration to her land. Therefore, only major futuristic positions should be considered. Each interpretation is briefly summarized along with its chief support. Since there are many variations within each position, only the basic concepts of each is treated. Then objections to each interpretation are set forth and evaluated. A correct solution should (1) follow a normal grammatical-historical hermeneutic, (2) fit the details of Ezekiel 38 and 39, not glossing over anything, (3) allow the primary time element to come from the Ezekiel passage, and (4) keep hypotheses to a minimum. The first view declares that the events of Gog and Magog will occur before the Tribulation. The major argument put forth in favor of this position is that the concept of "dwell securely" is only explicable if the insecurity of the Tribulation has not yet begun. With essentially little in favor of this position, critics quickly object as follows:
1. The phrase "dwell securely" is often employed, especially in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, to refer to millennial security.
2. The context of these two chapters is the complete restoration of Israel to her own land, an event which will nor transpire until Israel is freed "from the sword" at the end of the Tribulation.
3. The immanency of the rapture is ruled out if the event of Gog must precede the Tribulation, unless there is an adequate transition period.
4. Ezekiel 39:7, 22 declares that Yahweh's name will not be polluted again, a fact that is hardly possible in light of the forthcoming Tribulation.
5. The concept that the nations and Israel "know Yahweh" in the sense of recognizing His sovereignty would fit best in the context of the final universal knowledge of the Messiah by all nations when the Messiah has returned (38:16,22; 39:7,21,23-24), rather than prior to the Tribulation.
Each of these objections is argued strongly on a biblical basis. Therefore, the author rejects this position.
A second major answer to the time problem is that the events transpire in the middle of the Tribulation. In support of this position the proponents state that Gog's invasion is to be equated with the invasion by the king of the north (Dan 11:40-41), which precipitates the Antichrist's severance of his Covenant with Israel in the middle of the Tribulation period. The invasion occurs when Israel is dwelling in her own land, enjoying a false security of relative peace provided by her Covenant with the Antichrist. The proponents of this position state that the invasion and destruction of Gog become a sign to the nations and Israel, causing them to "know" Yahweh in the midst of the Tribulation, a fact which supposedly agrees with the book of Revelation, which declares that many are saved at that time. Likewise, since Gog is the king of the north, and since he is nor mentioned in Revelation 19:20 along with the demise of the beast and the false prophet, he must have been destroyed previously, that is, in the middle of the Tribulation.
In reply, expositors raise the following objections:
1. There is no biblical basis for the identification of Gog with the king of the north.
2. The concept of "false security" is both inconsistent with the purpose of the Tribulation (a time of Israel's chastisement and punishment) and contrary to the normal usage of the phrase "dwell securely" in Ezekiel. In addition, 39:26 (cf. 34:28 and Mic 4:4, employing the phrase in a millennial context) asserts that during the time of dwelling securely, there is no one causing terror, which is incongruous with the whole thrust of the Tribulation.
3. The burning of weapons and burying of bodies to cleanse the land, while the abomination of desolation (39:9-16) is occurring and judgment is at its peak, is inconceivable. Cleansing, in the immediate context of Ezekiel, is related to the national conversion of Israel (cf. chaps. 35-37).
4. Ezekiel 38:8, 16 seems to argue that the restoration from the sword has brought Israel into Kingdom blessing. That is certainly our of character with the Tribulation.
5. The declarations of 39:7, 22, 26 that Yahweh's name will never be polluted again and that there will be no one causing terror are antithetical with the Tribulation period.
6. The emphasis on Israel's prosperity in 38:11-12 is our of place in the time of her punishment during Daniel's seventieth week.
7. It is God, not the Antichrist, who destroys Gog.
Therefore, the author would acknowledge the overwhelming argument against this position as both biblical and also in keeping with normal hermeneutics and the details of the passage under consideration.
The third interpretation places the time of these events at the end of the Tribulation. Gog's armies are looked upon as included among those that gather together against Christ in Zechariah 12 and 14:1-4. Some holding this position identify Gog with the personage in Daniel 11:40, while others disassociate Gog from the Battle of Armageddon, postulating that these chapters describe a final battle at the end of the Tribulation prior to the judgment of Matthew 25 and the Millennium. These adherents maintain that the "dwelling safely" is a false security, based on Israel's wealth (cf. Eze 38:11-12).
Many of the objections to the mid-Tribulation position are leveled also against this position. Rather than reiterate those objections at this point, the reader should review objections (2), (4), (5), and (6) listed against the mid-Tribulation position. The concept of a false security is even more difficult to accept during the time of Armageddon at the end of the Great Tribulation than in the middle of the Tribulation where it was deemed incongruous. This interpretation does not harmonize well with the millennial aspects which characterize the period prior to the invasion of Gog (Eze 38:8, 16) nor with the idea of the land being restored from the sword (38:8). The author finds the weight of these objections too heavy to accept this proposition for the solution of the time element. Too many of the details in Ezekiel 38 and 39 conflict with this position.
Some expositors maintain that this invasion of Gog transpires during a transition period which follows the second advent but precedes the establishment of the Millennium. The strongest argument in favor of this view is the formidable allusion in Revelation 19:17-18 to the "bird supper" in Ezekiel 39:17-20. It is certainly the habit of the apostle John to base his arguments and imagery upon salient events and figures in the Old Testament, especially in the Prophets. This mention of a "bird supper" in Revelation 19 is inexplicable apart from the reference in Ezekiel 39. Such a strong allusion must be considered by students of both passages.
Devotees also argue that the phrases "dwell securely" and "latter days" are perfectly in keeping with the Messianic peace and restoration of Israel in the land following the end of the Tribulation. No one is causing them terror at this time. Contextually, Ezekiel 38 and 39 record the climax of the events connected with Israel's restoration in 33:21-39:29. The covenants to Israel are fulfilled (cf. 36:24; 37:12, 14; 34:24; 37:24-25; 36:26-27; 37:26); she has been restored to her land in prosperity and wealth (38:11-12) which harmonizes with the Messiah's presence (cf. Is 61:6). This is the picture described in Ezekiel 38:1-13 and 39:1-2 when Gog invades the land. The transition period allows sufficient time for the burning of weapons and burial of bodies for the cleansing of the land.
Yahweh's judgment in Ezekiel 38-39 corresponds to the treading of the winepress of wrath in Revelation 19:15. The sword which the Lord calls for against Gog in Ezekiel and the sword coming forth out of the Lord's mouth in Revelation both strike the nations coming against Yahweh and the land (cf. Eze 38:21 and Rev 19:15,20). Revelation 19:19.21 states that it is the "beast" and his armies who attack the Lord at His second coming. Therefore Revelation 19:17-21 would imply that the "beast" and his armies of the Revelation should be identified with Gog and his hordes in direct fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 and 39 (cI. 38:4-7,9, 15,22; 39:4, 11 with Rev 19:15, 18, 19,21). The demise of the "beast" in Revelation is the fulfillment of the fall of Gog in Ezekiel 38 and 39. John only summarizes the details given in the Ezekiel passage.
Objections brought forth against this position are relatively few. Many would argue that the biblical data to describe a transition period between the Tribulation and the Millennium is practically nonexistent. Therefore, much of the support for this position is based on hypotheses which can neither be proved, nor necessarily disproved. This is admittedly a weakness. Also, some would raise the question of how Gog escapes from the Battle of Armageddon. What nations would be present to observe the destruction of Gog described in Ezekiel 38:16, 22-23; 39:5-7, 21-24? How could Israel be dwelling securely in the land so quickly?
Plausible solutions are available to answer the objections:(1) nowhere is it stated that "the beast" is at the Battle of Armageddon; (2) the Battle of Armageddon does not require all the nations of the earth to be present, so that other nations would remain to observe Gog's fall; and (3) nothing requires that all these events transpire immediately. A transition period is most probable (cf. Mt 25). The formidable allusion of Revelation 19:17.21 to Ezekiel 39:17-20 cannot be thrust aside. The comparative study of these two passages seems to give strong support for acceptance of this position. It is hard to argue against this interpretation.
A final solution is put forth for the problem of the time of the events in Ezekiel 38 and 39; these events occur after the Millennium. The strong basis for this position is the explicit reference to Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8. Such an explicit reference cannot be dismissed lightly, as is often the case. The terms employed in Revelation 20:8 are the same as those in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Normal hermeneutics would require the identification of the two passages (since the terms Gog and Magog are used nowhere else in the Scriptures) unless strong reasons can be brought forth to deny such an equation. The phrase "dwell safely" is certainly satisfied by this position since Ezekiel's normal use of the phrase is millennial in nature and this event of Revelation 20 is at the end of the Millennium. Nations from among those in the Millennium would be present to observe the destruction of Gog in fulfillment of Ezekiel 38:16,21-23; 39:7,21. There would be sufficient time for the burning of weapons and burial of bodies to cleanse the land; nothing argues against the cleansing of the land at this time. Certainly prosperity would be Israel's part in the millennial Kingdom (cf. Is 11, 35) .
Many expositors quickly cast aside this possible equation of Ezekiel 38 and 39 with Revelation 20:8 and then struggle to explain the use of Gog by John. The major objections against this solution are:(1) Gog, in Ezekiel, is a northern coalition; in Revelation the armies come from the four corners of the earth. (2) Ezekiel says nothing of Jerusalem, whereas John declares that the nations encompassed the beloved city. (3) Disposal of the bodies and weapons seems to militate against this equation, since the Great White Throne judgment immediately follows the Millennium. Other lesser arguments are also asserted. These objections are not impressive. For instance, the relation of the "four corners of the earth" in Revelation to the "northern coalition" in Ezekiel is answered in Ezekiel 38:5-6 by kingdoms from the east (Persia), south (Cush), west (Put and the islands of the sea) , and the north (Togarmah and Gomer) gathered by Gog to invade Israel from the north. John's mention of the "beloved city" does not disagree with Ezekiel, who declares that Gog comes upon the mountains of Israel, which most certainly would include Jerusalem (39:4.5). The argument against the disposal of the bodies and the burning of weapons due to the great white throne judgment immediately following the Millennium carries little weight. There is no demand in Scripture for an immediate sequence of events. A transition period is equally plausible. Therefore, the author finds no sufficient argument against this position.
The reader is perhaps a bit puzzled at this point. Two positions have been recognized as being fulfillments of the Ezekiel 38 and 39 passage. This is exactly what the author proposes. The hermeneutical principle of double fulfillment declares that a given prophecy may have both a near and a far fulfillment, two near fulfillments, or two far fulfillments. It is the latter that is proposed. Ezekiel 38 and 39 have a double fulfillment in Revelation 19:17-21 and 20:8. Revelation 19 finds the fulfillment in the demise of the beast, the chief instrument of Satan (similar to Eze 28:1.10). Revelation 20 finds the fulfillment in Satan, the Gog (similar to Eze 28:11.19), the enemy of Israel who makes the final attempt to regain the land of Israel from God's chosen people. The double fulfillment is found in two similar events with the last and greatest enemies of the people of Gog. The former, in one sense, prefigures the latter.
The full description of the events is recorded in Ezekiel. In the book of Revelation, John only summarized the events in each case since his readers would have been familiar with Ezekiel 38 and 39. The allusion to the "bird supper" is employed in Revelation 19 in order not to confuse the identity of the beast's demise by changing terminology from his readers' familiarity with the term "beast" to "Gog." Otherwise they may not have identified the "beast" with the "Gog" invasion, but might have perceived them as two separate events, since the last previous reference to the "beast" was in Revelation 17. However, in Revelation 20, the explicit reference is made by saying that "the Gog" is Satan. Therefore, "Gog" refers both to the "beast" of Revelation (chap. 19) and to Satan (chap. 20). These events occur between the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the Millennium (Rev 19), and after the Millennium (Rev 20), respectively. This, then, is a double fulfillment! It is regrettable that neither the position with a strong allusion nor the position with an explicit reference have ever been given much attention by evangelical scholars.
Note Added: A great earthquake in Israel is associated with the invasion of the land by the armies of Gog and Magog as described in Ezekiel. This invasion from the North occurs during the tribulation period. Some Bible commentators believe this invasion occurs during the first half of the seven-year tribulation period, however I believe (as did my mentor Ray C. Stedman) that this massive earthquake is the anchor point that places this Northern invasion as one facet of the general campaign of Armageddon.
"For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. I will summon every kind of terror against Gog, says the Lord GOD; every man's sword will be against his brother. With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples that are with him, torrential rains and hailstones, fire and brimstone. So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 38:19-23)
That is, one great world-wide earthquake marks the end of the seven-year tribulation period and it will occur at the time the feet of Jesus land upon the Mt. of Olives as described in Zechariah:
"For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, [a very great earthquake] Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You. It shall come to pass in that day That there will be no light; The lights will diminish. It shall be one day Which is known to the LORD-- Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen That it will be light. And in that day it shall be That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be-- 'The LORD is one,' And His name one. All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be raised up [major geological upheavals in the entire land] and inhabited in her place from Benjamin's Gate to the place of the First Gate and the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananeel to the king's winepresses." (Zechariah 14:2-10)
There are four specific mentions of violent earthquakes in the book of the Revelation. For the moment let us consider the possibility that we are given in Revelation a description of but one earthquake at the very end of the tribulation when Christ returns. Ray Stedman has suggested that this single earthquake forms an anchor point marking the end of what is a series of parallel judgments. (For a synchronization of this one great earthquake with the various passages in the Bible which mention it see The Coming Cosmic Shake Down, http://ldolphin.org/shakedown.html].
From J. Vernon McGee:
In this chapter we have the vision of the valley of dead bones which served as the basis for a Negro spiritual written some years ago, entitled, "Dem Bones." The interpretation of this chapter concerns the future restoration of Israel. That restoration has to do both with the national entity of Israel as well as the spiritual revival or restoration which the Lord announced in the preceding chapter. We have here a remarkable vision, and I would like to make it very clear that this vision does not have to do with the resurrection of the dead saints of the church. That is the giant leap in interpretation made by the many who spiritualize the prophetic section of the Old Testament. My friend, when we take prophecy literally, it will make sense. We are talking here about the nation Israel, and we are not talking about a spiritual or physical resurrection of individuals. In my notes I have labeled this chapter, "The Resurrection of Israel," and I think that is a good title, but it is sometimes misunderstood. Some think that I am referring to the raising of the dead from Abraham on. It has no reference to that, but it definitely refers to the nation of Israel. God gives to Ezekiel a real living parable and to do so He takes him to the valley of dead bones:
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 [Ezek. 37:1].
Before Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, Ezekiel was transported to Jerusalem (see chapter. 8), and I do not believe God had any difficulty doing that. If man today can make a jet plane which can carry him halfway around the world in half a day, I see no reason why God cannot do something which is commensurate with who He is. So I don't think that God had any difficulty getting Ezekiel up and taking him to Jerusalem. Here again, I believe God literally moves Ezekiel. When Ezekiel says that He "carried me out in the spirit of the LORD," he is saying that the Spirit of the Lord carried him out to the valley which was full of bones.
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, 10, they were very dry [Ezek. 37:2].
Back in 1849, Lewis Manly and his partner by the name of John Rogers crossed Death Valley in California to bring back supplies to the stranded Bennett-Arcane party. The Bennett-Arcane group had mistakenly wandered into Death Valley and would have perished if these two men had not crossed the valley to rescue them. They were actually the first white men to cross this valley and gaze upon its grand scene of death and desolation. Few men have seen such sights, but what Ezekiel saw some twenty-five hundred years earlier must have been even more bleak. He saw a vision of another "death valley," more desolate, more fearsome, and more awesome than Death V alley, California.
The valley which Ezekiel saw was filled with dead bones, and the thing which characterized them is that they were very dry and they were scattered.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, 0 Lord GOD, thou knowest [Ezek. 37:3].
These bones scattered all over the place are human bones, and the question that is put to Ezekiel is, "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel answers, "O Lord GOD, thou knowest." In other words, he said, "I don't see how they could. It's beyond me--You alone know whether these dead bones can live or not!"
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 0 ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD [Ezek. 37:4].
This is something rather ironical and even humorous. I have always insisted that God has a sense of humor, and here is an illustration of that. If you can't see where it's funny, that's all right--just pass it by. But imagine Ezekiel now as God says to him, "Prophesy on these bones. Start out by saying, 'O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.'" I have a notion Ezekiel said, "Now, Lord, you really don't mean for me to start talking to these dry bones here! The man with the white coat and the net will be out looking for me if I do that!" Really, that isn't a very good sermon introduction is it? No preacher would begin by saying to his Sunday morning congregation, "Oh, you dry bones!" A friend of mine (who also has a good sense of humor) said to me, "You know, I have a congregation with which I'd like to begin as Ezekiel did--the bones I speak to are as dry as Ezekiel's--but I don't dare do that."
Ezekiel is looking out on this valley filled with dry bones, and he's to speak to them. Every congregation that a preacher speaks to includes those who are saved and those who are unsaved. Those who are saved may have ears to hear, but not hear. And the ones who are not saved are dead in trespasses and sins--they haven't been redeemed yet. The preacher is just as helpless as Ezekiel, for any preacher who understands the real state and condition of those who are lost recognizes his own helplessness in speaking to them. Ezekiel is to say to these bones, "I want you to hear what God has to say."
Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones, Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.
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 [Ezek. 37:5-6].
God says, "I want you to speak to them and . tell them I'll be the One who will give them life." That is our condition today-if God . doesn't move, no one has spiritual life. I receive letters from people who say, "You saved me." My friend, I save no one. I just speak to dry bones, giving them the Word of God that's all I do. The Spirit of God is the One who has to bring life. That is the only way life can come. This is the application of these verses; we are going to see that they also have a tremendous interpretation.
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 [Ezek. 37:7].
"So I prophesied as I was commanded"--this man Ezekiel obeys God.
"There was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone." This is the point where that Negro spiritual, "Dem Bones," is really accurate when the bones start coming together. I'm of the opinion Ezekiel had a rather funny feeling when in his vision he saw all these bones come together!
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 [Ezek. 37:8].
We have here a method which I want you to notice. The first state of the bones is that they are scattered, dry, and dead. Then gradually they come together, and the sinews and flesh come upon them. This is a process--it is not instantaneous at all. At this point in the vision all you have is a bunch of bodies, actually corpses; it is just an undertaking establishment down in that valley. They are no longer bones, but bodies with flesh upon them. They are human beings even, but they do not have any life in them.
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.
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, am' they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army [Ezek. 37:9-10].
Ezekiel spoke, and life came into those bodies. What happened here resembles the creation of man at the very beginning. God took man of the dust of the earth; Ezekiel started with bones, but God didn't. God started with just the dirt of the earth, and then He breathed life into man. Now what has happened to these bones has occurred in three stages:(I) they were scattered bones, just as dead as they could be; (2) then they came together, and flesh and skin came upon them--they were bodies, but dead bodies; and finally (3) they were made alive.
We will find in these three stages a real key to understanding Bible prophecy concerning the nation Israel. Now this verse explains the meaning of the vision:
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 [Ezek. 37:11].
"Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel." We are not talking here about the church; we are talking about the house of Israel.
"Behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts." You see, the people in captivity had gone from one extreme to another. As long as Jerusalem had stood and the false prophets continued to say they would return, they maintained a false hope. Now that Jerusalem has been destroyed, they go to the other extreme-they have what psychologists call manic depressive psychosis. They are in a bad state: they were high up one day, but now they have hit the very depths. They say, "We have no hope." This vision is being given to them to let them know they do have a hope, and it is for the whole house of Israel.
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 [Ezek. 37:12].
After reading this verse, someone is apt to say, "Wait a minute. You said this vision was not concerning physical resurrection." I still insist upon that. Let's drop down to verse 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 I their own land [Ezek. 37:21].
This is what God meant in verse 12 when He said, "I will cause you to come up out of your graves." Israel is buried in the nations of the world, and they are to be brought back and become a nation again. I want to say something very carefully now concerning the three stages of the bones Ezekiel saw. I have said they are the key to understanding the future of the nation Israel, and I now want to add that if there is any place we have fulfilled prophecy it is in these three stages. I don't go much for finding prophecy being fulfilled on every hand, but I do see it here. Follow me carefully: The nation Israel was buried and scattered in the nations of the world, and was dead to God, dead to the things of God--that's the first stage of the bones that we saw. Now since 1948 they have come back as a nation, but it is really a corpse over there today. They have a flag, they have a constitution, they have a prime minister, and they have a parliament. They have a police force and an army. They have a nation, and they even have Jerusalem. They have everything except spiritual life. If you walk from the old Arab section of Jerusalem where Islam dominates and come over into the Israeli section, there is no spiritual life. I want to say this kindly, but, as far as I am concerned, there is as much spiritual deadness on the one side as the other. There is a great deal more of that which is materialistic, which is intellectual, and which denotes civilization on the Israeli side, but there is no spiritual life whatsoever. This is symbolized by the second stage of the bones--bodies, but without life. That is where Israel stands today.
In verses 15-28 Ezekiel mentions two sticks. I will not go into any detail here other than to say that they typify the northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms which will again become one nation. This means, my friend, that there must not be any "ten lost tribes of Israel"--at least, if there are, God knows where they are, and I am confident that it is not Great Britain which will be joined to them in that land!
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 [Ezek. 37:22].
God will make them one nation.
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 [Ezek. 37:24].
That one Shepherd is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. When He came, He was born in the line of David. Read Matthew I; Luke 1-2--both very carefully record that He came in the line of David. The One that came in that line is the Shepherd, and He will rule over them. I personally believe that God will raise up David to reign over Israel, either in the Millennium or in the eternal kingdom which will be ushered in immediately following the Millennium. Some commentators say he will reign in the Millennium; others say it will be the eternal kingdom. I believe he will reign during both, that he will serve as the vice-regent of the Lord Jesus Christ down here on this earth.
And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore [Ezek. 37:28].
This is going to come to pass--it has not yet come to pass. "When my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore." There will be a millennial temple and an eternal temple down here on the earth. In Revelation where it speaks of there not being a temple, it is referring to the New Jerusalem, which is where the church will be and which is not to be upon this earth. The eternal home of the children of Israel will be upon this earth, and God's temple will be in their midst. Although there is no doubt that Israel is the subject of Ezekiel, and especially of chapters 37-39, we can certainly make an application of it for our personal lives. The world that you and I live in today is a death valley, full of dead bones, dead people, if you please. Oh, people talk about being alive and say they are where the action is, but they are really dead in trespasses and sins. They have no spiritual life. That is the reason they have to have a drink or two, or take some sort of drugs, or do something to liven up the old corpse.
God has made it very clear that "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (I John 5:12). If you have the Son of God, you have life. If you do not have the Son, you are dead. There are two kinds of people: live people and dead people. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). That means that the person without the Son is dead.
God is saying to you today that you are dead if you are not a Christian. Ye dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord. You can come to life. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. This is the application we can draw from this portion of Scripture, but the subject of the prophecy is the nation Israel. (Through the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Pasadena 1982)
Note Added: At the Rapture all those who are "in
Christ," i.e., the entire church will be caught up to be
with Jesus. This includes all true Christians--all believers who
have died since the day of Pentecost to the present time. Those
Christians who are alive at the time of the parousia will be caught
up together with these newly resurrected saints. (I Thess. 4:13-5:11.
See Aspects of the Return of the Lord Jesus Christ, http://ldolphin.org/Return.html).
The seven-year tribulation period will follow. All of those believers
who are part of Israel and who died prior to the birth of the
Church will be raised from the dead near the end of the Tribulation
period. They will each be evaluated and assessed by the Lord and
then brought with Him back into the land when He comes to the
Mount of Olives to take up Kingship over Israel and the nations
from Jerusalem. These Old Testament believers have always anticipated
living in peace in the promised land under Messiah's rule. Therefore
the fulfillment of God's promises to the nation of Israel (separate
from his promises to the church) will go into effect immediately
after the Second Advent.
Lambert's web site resources: http://ldolphin/ezekiel/