Ezekiel 36-37 The Voice (VOICE)
36 Eternal One: Son of man, preach to Israel’s mountains. Tell them to heed the word of the Eternal.
2 Here is what the Eternal Lord has to say:
Eternal One: The enemy rejoiced over you and said, “Finally! The ancient highlands are ours.” 3 Because they rejoiced, I, the Eternal Lord, say, “Your enemies crushed you from every side and left you nothing but an empty wasteland. They have carried you off in pieces, divided you up, and made you a remnant among the nations; and you became the topic of everyone’s gossip and malicious attacks.”
4 Because of this, you mountains of Israel, heed the word of the Eternal Lord. The Eternal Lord says this to the ancient mountains and hills, to the riverbeds and valleys, and to the empty wasteland and deserted cities that have been plundered and mocked by every nation around you.
Eternal One: 5 With fiery passion I have spoken against the rest of the nations, but most especially to Edom, who with malicious joy took My precious land for themselves and divided it up as their spoil. 6 Therefore speak out about the land of Israel to the ancient mountains and hills and rivers and valleys.
The Eternal Lord gave this message to me.
Eternal One: Look! I have spoken with fiery anger and jealousy because you have been scoffed at by the nations. 7 Therefore, I, the Eternal Lord, lift My hand and swear to you that those nations around you will suffer as you have; they’ll be mocked and put to shame.
8 But you, Israel’s mountains, will shoot forth new branches and bear fruit for My people Israel. They will be home soon. 9 I, of course, care about you and will turn My attention on you. Therefore, your soil will be plowed and your fields sown. 10 I will increase the population and replenish the whole community of Israel. I will bring life back into the desolate cities, and heaps of rubble will be turned into grand structures. 11 I will increase the population of people and animals that live on your slopes once again; they will be more numerous, and you will become more productive than ever before! After all these things come to pass, you will know that I am the Eternal. 12 I will settle My people Israel on you, and they will possess you, and you will be the land they pass from one generation to the next. You will never again take their children.
13 This is what the Eternal Lord said.
Eternal One: Because some say, “The land of Israel is known for devouring its people and depriving them of their children,” 14 I declare that you will never devour any of My people again or deprive them of their children. 15 I will see to it that you do not have to listen to the other nations scoff at you anymore, and you will no longer suffer humiliation or be the cause of your own nation’s faltering.
So said the Eternal.
16 Again the word of the Eternal came to me.
Eternal One: 17 Son of man, when Israel’s people lived in their own land, they desecrated it with their foul lifestyles. Their actions were as impure as a woman’s menstrual cycle. 18 Because they infected the land, pouring out innocent blood and filling their hearts and homes with idols, I poured out My wrath upon them. 19 I scattered them among the nations and dispersed them through many lands. I judged them based on their lifestyles and actions. 20 Whenever they settled among the nations of their exile, they defiled My sacred name. Everywhere they went people were saying, “These are the Eternal’s people, yet they have been forced out of His land.” 21 I became concerned for My sacred name, for everywhere they went the people of Israel were giving Me a bad name.
22 Consequently, tell the people of Israel that the Eternal Lord says, “When I act, people of Israel, it won’t be for your own good, but for the sake of salvaging My own reputation, which you have slandered in front of those outside our covenant.[a] 23 I will restore My great name to its holy state which has been desecrated in every nation by you! After all these things come to pass and I reveal My holiness through you right before their eyes, then these nations will know that I am the Eternal. 24 I will take you away from the nations, gather you from all the foreign soils, and bring you back to your own land. 25 I will sprinkle you with clean water, and you will be clean. I will wash away all of your dirtiness, and you will be clean and pure, free from the taint of idols. 26 I will plant a new heart and new spirit inside of you. I will take out your stubborn, stony heart and give you a willing, tender heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My Spirit inside of you and inspire you to live by My statutes and follow My laws. 28 Then you will live in the same land I gave your ancestors; you will be My people, and I will be your God. 29-30 I will rescue you from your impurity. I will summon the grain to produce large harvests and never bring a famine upon you again. I will increase your harvests of fruit and grain, so that you will never have to face the disgrace of famine again among the nations. 31 Then you will recall your evil ways and wicked deeds. You will recognize how bad they were and hate yourselves for all the shocking and despicable things you did! 32 But I, the Eternal Lord, am not doing this for your own good. You should still feel shame and humiliation for all you’ve done, people of Israel!”
33 This is what the Eternal Lord has to say.
Eternal One: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will bring people back into your desolate cities, and heaps of rubble will be turned into grand structures. 34 The wasteland will be plowed and sown—a vast change from the emptiness those passing by are used to seeing. 35 They will be amazed, saying, “This place used to be an empty wasteland. Now it’s like the garden of Eden! The cities were demolished, lying in ruins and completely abandoned. Now they are all restored, strong and full of people!” 36 Then the nations near you will know that I, the Eternal, am the One who rebuilt and restored the ruined cities and replanted the empty wilderness. I, the Eternal One, promise to do exactly what I’ve said.
37 This is what the Eternal Lord has to say.
Eternal One: I will soothe Israel’s desire and do as they have asked Me to do: I will make their population grow like a flock of sheep. 38 Just as flocks of sheep fill Jerusalem before the sacrifices at the public feasts, the cities filled with rubble will be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Eternal One.
37 The Eternal had a hold on me, and I couldn’t escape it. The divine wind of the Eternal One picked me up and set me down in the middle of the valley, but this time it was full of bones. 2 God led me through the bones. There were piles of bones everywhere in the valley—dry bones left unburied.
This oracle may be one of the best known in Ezekiel’s prophecy. God’s promise of a new heart and a new spirit echoes Jeremiah’s new covenant prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34). What God’s people need more than anything is for God to do a work of grace within them. Like other prophets of his day, Ezekiel is convinced that heaven must intervene in order to fix what is wrong on earth. It is not enough for people to try harder and do better. This work of grace begins with God cleansing His people with fresh water. Idolatry and various sins have made them impure and unclean, so before they can be restored, they must be made pure by the washing of water. Then, once God gives them a new heart, His people will become willing covenant partners; they will give up on their rebellious, hurtful ways and embrace God’s designs for their lives. With a new spirit—which seems to be nothing other than God’s Spirit living in and among them—they will have the desire and ability to live out God’s reasonable demands on them.
God insists that all He intends to do to save and redeem His people is not for their good; He is working to restore His good name. God’s covenant people have given Him a bad reputation among the nations, so God must act in His own interest to make sure His name is given the honor it is due.
Eternal One (to Ezekiel): 3 Son of man, do you think these bones can live?
Ezekiel: Eternal Lord, certainly You know the answer better than I do.
Eternal One: 4-5 Actually, I do. Prophesy to these bones. Tell them to listen to what the Eternal Lord says to them: “Dry bones, I will breathe breath into you, and you will come alive. 6 I will attach muscles and tendons to you, cause flesh to grow over them, and cover you with skin. I will breathe breath into you, and you will come alive. After this happens, you will know that I am the Eternal.”
God is not only the Creator of life, but He is also the Restorer of life.
7 So I did what God told me to do: I prophesied to the bones. As I was speaking, I heard a loud noise—a rattling sound—and all the bones began to come together and form complete skeletons. 8 I watched and saw muscles and tendons attach to the bones, flesh grow over them, and skin wrap itself around the reforming bodies. But there was still no breath in them.
Eternal One: 9 Prophesy to the breath. Speak, son of man, and tell them what the Eternal Lord has to say: “O sweet breath, come from the four winds and breathe into these who have been killed. Make these corpses come alive.”
10 So I did what God told me to do: I prophesied to the breath. As I was speaking, breath invaded the lifeless. The bodies came alive and stood on their feet. I realized then I was looking at a great army.
Eternal One: 11 Son of man, these bones are the entire community of Israel. They keep saying, “Our bones are dry now, picked clean by scavengers. All hope is gone. Our nation is lost.”
12-13 He told me to prophesy and tell them what He said.
Eternal One: Pay attention, My people! I am going to open your graves and bring you back to life! I will carry you straight back to the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Eternal One. 14 I will breathe My Spirit into you, and you will be alive once again. I will place you back in your own land. After that you will know I, the Eternal, have done what I said I would do.
So said the Eternal One.
15 Again the word of the Eternal came to me.
Eternal One: 16 Son of man, find a stick and write these words on it: “For Judah and the people of Israel associated with him.” Then go find another stick, and write these words on it: “For Joseph—the stick of Ephraim—and the entire community of Israel associated with him.” 17 Now take both sticks and join them together in your hand as if they are one. 18 When your compatriots question you about what you are doing, asking, “Will you not tell us plainly what these actions mean?” 19 tell them I say, “Watch as I take Joseph’s stick (the one held by Ephraim) and the ten Israelite tribes of the North, your compatriots, and put it end to end with Judah’s stick. The two sticks will become one in My hand.” 20 Make sure the people are able to see what you have written on each stick. 21 Then tell them what I say: “Look! I’m gathering the Israelites up from the countries where they’ve been scattered and putting them back in their own land.” 22 I will form them into one nation upon Israel’s mountains, and they will live under the reign of one king. They will no longer live as two separate peoples, split into two different kingdoms. 23 From then on, they will not defile themselves with idols and abhorrent images and strange perversions. I will rescue them from all the places where they’ve lived and sinned. I will make them pure and clean again! They will be My people, and I will be their God.
24 My beloved servant, David, will be their king. They will all live peaceably under one shepherd. They will live according to My laws and obey My statutes and do them. 25 My people will dwell in the same land I gave to Jacob, My servant.
How could David be the king of Israel’s new nation? He died 500 years earlier! Certainly God does not mean that David comes back from the dead to reign; He means that David is the archetype for the eternal king. This new king will carry David’s name because He will be a descendant of David. He will rule a united kingdom just as David ruled a united Israel in his day. He, too, will be a shepherd of God’s people.
These hopes and aspirations will remain in the psyche of God’s people for hundreds of years. When Jesus begins His ministry, His followers will be certain they have found the good shepherd.
Eternal One: It will be the same land where your ancestors dwelled, but their past wickedness will be forgotten there. They, their children, and their children’s children will live there forever; and My servant David will be their prince forever. 26 I will establish a covenant of peace—an everlasting promise—with them. I will make them strong and numerous in the land I gave them. My sanctuary will be at the heart of their community forever. 27 I will make My home with them. I will be their God, and they will be My people.[b] 28 After all these things come to pass and My sanctuary is at the heart of their community forever, all the nations will know that I, the Eternal, am the One who makes Israel holy.