Ezekiel 37 Explained: On Bones, Earthquakes, Wind, Angels, Revival and the Second Coming
Ezekiel 37, The Reunification of Israel and The Return of the Messiah. Before we start studying this passage, let’s identify and define the key players who are mentioned in Ezekiel 37. They are:
- Judah: This name refers to both the tribe of Judah and to the southern kingdom. Scriptural context will determine which is meant.
- Children of Israel: This term is found 603 times in the Scriptures and is used 472 times from Genesis through Second Samuel in obvious reference to the united kingdom (prior to the split of the northern ten tribes from the southern two tribes [in addition to the Levites]). There are times, however, when, after the division of the kingdom, this term refers specifically to either the kingdom of Israel (i.e., the northern kingdom) or the kingdom of Judah (i.e., the southern kingdom), but not to both (e.g. in reference to the southern kingdom only see 1 Kgs 18:20; 19:10, 14; 20:15, 27, 29; and in reference to the northern kingdom only see 2 Kgs 17:7, 8, 9, 22, 24).
- Joseph: He was the eleventh son of Jacob and the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, who fathered two tribes of their own (i.e., the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh). These two tribes took the place of what might otherwise have been known as the “tribe of Joseph.”
- Ephraim: This name is used 180 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and is referring to this specific Israelite tribe or as a metaphor for the northern kingdom of which the tribe of Ephraim was the leading and largest tribe (Isa 7:9, 17; 9:9; 11:13; Ezek 37:19; Hos 4:17; 5:12, 13, 14; 6:4; 7:1; 10:11: Zech 9:13). When blessing the two sons of Joseph, Jacob placed his right hand of power and strength upon the head of Ephraim signifying the position of primogeniture for him and his descendants (Gen 48:17).
- House of Israel: This term is used 146 times in the Scriptures. Prior to the division of the united kingdom after the death of Solomon, this phrase referred to all twelve tribes of Israel. Afterwards (during the time of the prophets) it was used in contradistinction to the phrase “house of Judah” in reference to the northern kingdom. In the Testimony of Yeshua (the NT), Yeshua makes reference to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6; 15:54). In some references in the Testimony of Yeshua, this term refers to all twelve tribes of Israel (Acts 2:36; 7:42; Heb 8:10), while in some biblical passages it refers to just the northern kingdom (Heb 8:8). The context of the passage of the scriptures surrounding this phrase determines its meaning.
- Mountains of Israel: This is a poetic metaphor referring to the twelve tribes of Israel (Ezek 34:13, 14; 36:1, 4, 8; 37).
Ezekiel 37:1–14, The vision of the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel 37 continues where chapter 36 left off by giving us two prophetic visions focusing on the (spiritual) rebirth and reunification of the nation of Israel. The first part of the chapter recounts Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, while the second half of the chapter is his vision of two sticks or trees being reunited and becoming one tree.
Both prophetic visions concern the same people: the whole house of Israel comprised of Judah (the modern Jews, loosely speaking) and Ephraim (the modern Christians, loosely speaking). Both visions speak of the restoration of the nation of Israel, and both are for the end-times period (occurring just prior to and at the second coming of Yeshua).
In the first vision, the prophet sees a valley of dry bones representing the whole house of Israel (i.e., all twelve tribes). In verses 2 and 11, we learn that these bones have been there a long time; their hope is gone (NIV), they have been completely cut off (NAS) or doomed (ASET)—they are dead and in their graves (verses 12 and 13). YHVH then instructs Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones and to command the wind (Heb. ruach) to blow from the four corners of the earth and cause the breath of life to come back into these bones that they may live (verse 9).
Let’s take a moment to discuss the prophetic implications of the four winds of verse nine compared to some other biblical passages that seem to speak of the same thing. The Hebrew word for wind, breath and spirit in this chapter (Ezek 37:9, 10, 14) are all the same word: ruach. The four winds indicate the Spirit or Ruach of Elohim blowing across the face of the earth like a spiritual wind waking people up from spiritual slumber and deadness. In verse seven as the bones are waking up, the prophet hears a noise and a sudden rattling or shaking. The Hebrew word rattling can also mean “earthquake.” We find a related prophecy in Revelation 6:12 (the sixth seal) where an earthquake takes place. In the poetic prophetic literature of the Bible, an earthquake can be a metaphor or Hebraism for political, economic and religious upheaval occurring on the earth. In Revelation 7:1, John sees four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds until YHVH has sealed the saints, so they won’t be harmed during the soon-coming wrath of Elohim. The end times saints will go through tribulation, and even great tribulation, but they will not experience the wrath of Elohim(1 Thess 1:10; 4:9). At this same time, the 144,00 are sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel, and after the earthquake and sealing, we see a great and innumerable multitude that has come out of great tribulation (Rev 7:9–14).
In regards to his second coming, Yeshua talks about a great earthquake occurring and the four angels and four winds as well. In Matthew 24:20, he refers to the great tribulation. After the great tribulation, the signs of Yeshua’s appearing begin to occur (Matt 24:9). One of those signs is a great shaking to occur in the heavens (verse 29). Similarly, Ezekiel talks about a shaking among the dry bones as they’re coming together, while Yeshua speaks about a shaking in the heavens. EzekielYeshua and John speak about four winds, while the last two add the component of the four angels. Yeshua combines the idea of the four winds, along with four angels with the regathering of the elect (Matt 24:31). This event, according to Yeshua, occurs at the sound of a great trumpets, which also involves the blowing of air, wind or breath. The blowing of a trumpet can be linked to the righteous dead at Yeshua’s second coming. We believe this occurs on Yom Teruah or the Day of Trumpets (1 Thess 4:15–18 and 1 Cor 15:51–53). John sees the four angels and four winds, the sealing of the saints, and the great and innumerable multitude all occurring in proximity to each other. Together, the sixth seal and the seventh seal announce the wrath of Elohim and the upcoming seven trumpets judgments. The last or seventh trumpet is the resurrection of the righteous dead (Rev 11:15–18).
When we combine the information from the Valley of Dry Bones prophecy and relate it to what Yeshua says in Matthew 24 along with what John writes in Revelation, it all relates to the second coming of Yeshua, an end times spiritual revival and awakening, while at the same time, a great spiritual shaking is occurring on the earth and in the heavens. At the same time, YHVH is awakening his people spiritually through the preaching of his prophets and the breath of his Ruach blowing across the earth. It is at this time that YHVH regathers his people, the lost sheep of Israel, by the angels to meet Yeshua in the air, while the final wrath of Elohim is poured out.
These resurrected and spiritually revitalized saints appear to be the bones that come back to life to become a great army, company or force of people in the last days prior to Yeshua’s second coming. These are the people of Elohim (Ezek 37:12) and the whole house of Israel (verse 11). YHVH promises that he will open their graves and cause them to come up out of their graves and that he will put his Spirit in them and that they shall live in their own land of Israel (verses 12–14).
Let’s make several observations about this passage. Judging by the prophet’s response in verse three as to whether these bones could ever live again, it appears that in man’s estimation this seemed an impossible thing, and only something that could be accomplished through the divine intervention of an omnipotent Elohim.
Next, let us note that what caused the bones to come to life was the Word of Elohim as spoken by the prophet of Elohim (verse 4). Malachi prophesied that the spirit of Elijah would go forth in the last days to prepare the way for Yeshua, and to wake people up spiritually by bringing them back to their Torah roots (Mal 4:1–6). Yeshua links this end times Elijah to John the Baptist who prepared the way for Yeshua’s first coming (Matt 11:11–15). Today, this same Elijah and John the Baptist spirit is going forth to call people to repentance by returning to the Torah roots of their faith.
It is interesting to note that Keil and Delitzsch in their commentary on these verses state that not only is it obvious that these bones represent Judah and Ephraim, but that this prophecy points to the reunion of the tribes of Israel that have been severed into two nations, as foretold in verses 15–28 (the vision of the two trees reuniting). They further note, that when Scripture says that the bones are dried, this means that their vital force is gone, since the bones are the seat of the vital force of the human body (Ps 32:3). These Christian commentators (along with Adam Clarke in his commentary on these passages) believe that this resurrection is to be viewed both literally (as pertaining to the end-time general resurrection of the dead at Yeshua’s coming), but also figuratively (political and spiritual). Keil and Delitzsch view the return of the Jews from Babylon at the time of Zerubabbel as “nothing more than a pledge of the future and complete restoration of Israel. Noted rabbinic Jewish sages see this prophecy in light of an end-time Messianic era (millennial) fulfillment as well in what they term as the “concept of a gradually developing redemption” pointing to the “ultimate redemption” of the nation of Israel.
In summary, the dry bones prophecy pertains to the political and spiritual restoration of both nations or houses of Israel (Ephraim and Judah) and will be fulfilled in its fullest sense at the end of the age during what the Jews refer to as the Messianic Era and the Christians refer to as the Millennium. Both Christian and Jewish commentators see this prophecy not only as pertaining to the symbolic resurrection of the nation of Israel, but as referring to the literal end-time bodily resurrection of the people of Elohim as well.
Ezekiel 37:14–28, The vision of the two sticks (trees). The second vision Ezekiel records in chapter 37 involves YHVH commanding him to take two sticks (or trees) and writing upon one stick “for Judah and for the children of Israel and his companions [i.e., those who have knit themselves together with or joined to the tribe of Judah],” and upon the other stick, write “for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel and his companions [i.e., those who have knit themselves together with or joined to the tribe of Ephraim].” Ezekiel was to told to then join the two sticks together, so that they would become one stick (or tree) in his hand (verses 15–17).
How were these two nations, which separated from each other some three thousand years ago, to be rejoined into one nation? That has been the subject of much debate between both Jewish and Christian commentators for years. Some modern historical revisionists view this prophecy as having been fulfilled when the Jews returned to the land of Israel in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah after their Babylonian captivity ended. But this interpretation leaves some unanswered questions. The book of Ezra, which chronicles the return of a remnant of Jews from Babylon to the land of Israel, lists the numbers and tribes of those who returned. All the tribes listed were originally from Jerusalem and Judah and were from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi (Ezra 2:1; 4:1; 8:18; 10:9), and there is no mention made that any of the ten northern Israelite tribes joined the Jews in resettling the land of Israel (except for some of Levi, which was scattered throughout all the tribes of Israel). So far as the returning Jews were concerned, it is likely that they considered their northern brothers lost and assimilated among their Assyrian captors and that only they were left of all the twelve tribes to resettle the Promised Land after their captivity. If this were so, this may explain why they viewed themselves to be “all Israel” (Ezra 2:70; 6:17), since they considered themselves to be the only remaining representative remnant of all the twelve tribes in the land of Israel, even though their numbers did not consist of all the twelve tribes of Israel.
Furthermore, how do those who teach that the prophecy of the two sticks has already been fulfilled explain how anytime in Israel’s past history the two sticks became one nation, and how the once scattered twelve tribes of Israel were regathered from the nations of the world, and how all were resettled in their own land (Ezek 37:21)? Whenever in the past did all the twelve tribes of Israel completely disassociate themselves from the pollution and defilement of paganism and start serving Elohim in perfect righteousness (Ezek 37:23)? If the tribe of Judah is all that remains along with a few of their companions (i.e., Benjamin and Levi), then why does the Book of Revelation speak of twelve thousand saints being gathered from the each of twelve tribes in the end times (Rev 21:12)? There is no Gentile gate! Why does Yeshua state that this twelve disciples will be ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel after his second coming (Matt 19:28)? Why do we read in the Book of Revelation that the New Jerusalem has twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev 21:12)? Moreover, has David ever been resurrected from the grave to rule over the regathered and reunited Israel as this prophecy declares will happen (Ezek 37:24–25)? After all, the Scriptures tells us that David is dead and buried to this day (Acts 2:29), and awaits the resurrection of the saints at the second coming of Yeshua. Therefore, this prophecy obviously hasn’t been fulfilled yet.
Ezekiel 37:23 also clearly states that, once reunited, the Israelites—the twelve tribes of Israel, will be obeying YHVH’s Torah commandments—something that the majority of Jews, with the exception, perhaps, a few of the Orthodox—have failed to do to this day. Even then, if all the Jews (who the Jewish sages believe to be descendants of the southern kingdom of Judah) were assiduously following the Torah, this does not address who the other tribes are, nor how they are fulfilling this prophecy regarding Torah obedience.
Finally, if this prophecy were already fulfilled, then we also have to explain how YHVH has formulated his everlasting covenant of peace with the regathered and reunited Israel and how he has set his sanctuary or tabernacle in the midst of them forevermore (Ezek 37:26–28).
Has this prophecy already been fulfilled? The biblical evidence above would indicate not. Christian commentator, Adam Clarke commenting on this prophecy agrees. He writes that though some out of the northern ten tribes did rejoin themselves to Judah, yet no whole tribe ever returned to that kingdom, and that united they never had a king over them from that day until now. Keil and Delitzsch view this prophecy as not having been fulfilled at some time in ancient Israel’s past, but as one spanning the whole future of the people of Elohim—even to eternity culminating with the New Jerusalem. These Christian commentators view these prophecies of Ezekiel to be parallel to those of Moses (Deut 32:36–43), Obadiah (verse 17), Joel (3:5), Micah (4:1; 10:21), Isaiah (4:3; 10:21; 11:9), Jeremiah (30:3), and in many other places, all of which prophesy a literal return of the people of Israel to the literal land of Israel in line with the promises of YHVH. And the fulfillment of these prophecies corresponds with the rule of Yeshua the Messiah not only over his people Israel, but over the whole earth. Christian scholars are not alone in seeing the two-stick prophecy of Ezekiel as having a future fulfillment.
The Orthodox rabbinic commentators similarly believe that the uniting of the divided kingdoms of Israel is a future Messianic era (millennial) event. We must admit that the ancient Jewish sages were in disagreement as to whether all the twelve tribes would actually return to take their rightful place along side the Jews of the tribe of Judah, or whether, over the years, enough members of the twelve tribes had assimilated into and joined with Judah to constitute a quorum representing all the twelve tribes. Some Jewish sages took the position that Judah represented all Israel, and that the ten northern tribes would not return, while other Jewish sages viewed in a literal sense the biblical prophecies concerning the regathering and reunification of Israel. This debate continued for some time and is recorded in the Jewish writings of the Mishnah, the Tosefta and into the Talmud where it was settled in favor of a literal return of all twelve tribes from the nations to where they had been scattered.
What do the Jewish sages say about this prophecy? Do the Jewish sages of the common era believe that they are the only ones to fulfill the Ezekiel 37, two-sticks prophecy? What do they teach about this subject?
According Ibn Ezra,
Many nations will descend from him [Abraham] (i.e., the word TKN [melo], fullness, connotes abundance, the phrase meaning: And his seed will become the abundance of the nation [Neter; Karnei Or].) (The ArtScrollBereishis/Genesis Commentary p. 2121 on Gen 48:19). (The ArtScroll Bereishis/Genesis Commentary p. 2121 on Gen 48:19).
R. Avraham b. HaRambam somewhat similarly states,
The expression denotes abundant profligacy to a point that they will have to inhabit lands of other nations it is an allusion to Ephraim’s expansive territory (Ibid.).
On the same passage in Genesis 48, the Radak declares,
This refers to the Exile when the lands of others will be filled with his scattered descendants … See also Hos. 7:8: “Ephraim shall be mingled among the nations.” (Ibid.)
The ArtScroll Bereishis/Genesis Commentary continues,
What kind of blessing was this prediction that one day [Jacob’s] descendants—the Ten Tribes—would be scattered among the nations? R. Munk explains: while it is true that the dispersion was caused by the unfaithfulness and sinfulness of Ephraim’s descendants (Hos. 7:8ff), Jacob’s blessing was not in vain for “they will return to God” and will have their share in the world to come ([Talmud] Sanhedrin 110b). And R. Eliezer adds: ‘Even the darkness in which the Ten Tribes were lost will one day become as radiant as the day’ (according to the version of Avos d’Rabbi Nosson 36). And in the perspective of history, did not these exiled children of the Patriarchs enlighten the nations among whom they were scattered? They did so by teaching their conquerors the fundamental ideas of the knowledge and love of God, ideals they had never forsaken. Hence they too have a messianic vocation and their Messiah the … Messiah son of Joseph (Succah 52a), also called Messiah son of Ephraim (Targum Yonasan on Exodus 40:11), will play an essential role in humanity’s redemption, for he will be the precursor of the … Messiah Son of David … (pp. 2121-2122).
In the Encyclopedia Judaica, in an article entitled “Tribes, Lost Ten” we read the following (written by: Executive Committee of the Editorial Board, Joseph Jacobs),
According to the Bible, Tiglath-pileser (II Kgs. xv. 29) or Shalmaneser (ib. xvii. 6, xviii. 11), after the defeat of Israel, transported the majority of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and Habor, on the stream of Gozan, and in the towns of Media. In their stead a mixed multitude was transported to the plains and mountains of Israel. As a large number of prophecies relate to the return of “Israel” to the Holy Land, Believers in the literal inspiration of the Scriptures have always labored under a difficulty in regard to the continued existence of the tribes of Israel, with the exception of those of Judah and Levi (or Benjamin), which returned with Ezra and Nehemiah. If the Ten Tribes have disappeared, the literal fulfillment of the prophecies would be impossible; if they have not disappeared, obviously they must exist under a different name. The numerous attempts at identification that have been made constitute some of the most remarkable curiosities of literature.
In the Apocrypha it is presumed that the ten tribes still exist as tribes. Thus Tobit is stated to be of the tribe of Naphtali, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs assume their continuous existence. In the Fourth Book of Ezra (xiii 39-45) it is declared that the Ten Tribes were carried by Hosea, king in the time of Shalmaneser, to the Euphrates, at the narrow passages of the river, whence they went on for a journey of a year and a half to a place called Arzareth. Schiller-Szinessy pointed out that “Arzareth” is merely a contraction of “ere aretz,” the “other land” into which YHVH says He “will cast them [the people] as this day”; see Deut xxix. 27, which verse is referred by R. Akiba to the Lost Ten Tribes (Sanh. x. 4; comp. “Journal of Philology,” iii. 114).
The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash in regards to Deuteronomy 32:26 which says, “I said, I would scatter them into the corners …” (KJV) comments,
This refers to the exile of the Ten Tribes, who were scattered to an unknown place where they have never been heard from again (p. 1105).
On the phrase of the same verse, “I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men …” the same Chumash states, “This is a reference to the exile of Judah and Benjamin, the Davidic kingdom from which today’s known Jews are descended.” It goes on to say that though nations would seek to destroy Israel entirely YHVH would never allow Israel to become extinct or disappear. Israel’s perpetual existence is constant reminder of YHVH’s plan and eventually Israel will thrive and fulfill YHVH’s intention for it” (pp. 1105–1106).
S.R. Hirsch in his commentary on the Pentateuch on the same verse translates the phrase, “I would scatter them into the corners …” as, “I would relegate them into a corner … ” and then says that the Hebrew here refers to the “extreme end of a surface, the side or corner …” He, too, relates this fate to the ten tribes who would be scattered “to some distant corner of the world, where, left entirely to themselves, they could mature towards serious reflection and ultimate return to Me, …” (The Pentateuch/Deuteronomy, p. 650).
In conclusion, it is hopefully clear from this study that the two-sticks prophecy of Ezekiel 37 is yet to be fulfilled. This is obvious from the passage itself, since many of the events it predicts are yet to occur, and this has been the interpretation of the leading Jewish sages and sage over the millennia.
Whoever the house of Ephraim and his companions may be (and the Scriptures says that YHVH knows who they are) they will be regathered to the land of their inheritance in the last days, and reunited with their brother, Judah. As a single national entity, they will then be ruled by an obviously resurrected King David (Ezek 37:24–25), and YHVH will make a new covenant with them and YHVH’s tabernacle or dwelling place will be with them (37:26–28). It should be obvious that these events have yet to occur.
Furthermore, we know from the Book of Revelation that eventually the heavenly New Jerusalem will descend to this earth and will become the habitation of the resurrected and glorified saints of YHVH-Yeshua. It is clear that the twelve tribes of Israel and all their grafted-in companions will be regathered at this time, for the only way into that city will be through twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel. There is no “Gentile Gate” (Rev 21:12). So to which tribe of Israel do you belong?