On Ezekiel 37: Dry Bones Living Again.

Ezekiel 37 is a well-known “revival text” in the Christian world. It is not strange to see Christians asked to pray that they (as dry bones) come to live again. What is meant by this is fervency in the things of God. However, reading the text contextually, reveals its original intent.

The prophet Ezekiel is shown a vision of a valley full of dry bones. The “dry” condition of these bones was to emphasize the fact that they had been long dead and the impossibility of them coming to life again:

Ezekiel 37:1-2 (NKJV)

1 The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was FULL OF BONES. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were VERY DRY. 

The Lord asks Ezekiel the possibility of life returning to bones once more. This is important, since He would instruct Ezekiel to prophesy life into these bones again:

Ezekiel 37:3-6 (NKJV)

3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” 4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and YOU SHALL LIVE. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and YOU SHALL LIVE. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”’”

As Ezekiel carries out God’s instruction in obedience, the bones do reattach and revive, in a miraculous resurrection:

Ezekiel 37:7-10 (NKJV)

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. 9 Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and THEY LIVED, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

The reader must now note that visions usually employ highly figurative verbiage (i.e. symbols). Therefore every vision must not be taken literally. An interpretation/explanation of the symbols used should be sought.

Now, as touching Ezekiel 37, the pertinent question the interpreter must ask is: Was Ezekiel 37 referring to the believer/Christian today? The answer would be found in succedent verse:

Ezekiel 37:11 (NKJV)

11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, THESE BONES ARE THE WHOLE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are DRY, our hope is LOST, and we ourselves are CUT OFF!’

So the dry, dead bones here are hieroglyphic for Israel. Israel’s hope was dead, just like these bones! The people of Israel were in bondage when Ezekiel ministered as prophet, and they were discouraged due to their captivity; they felt all hope was lost! This is what the dry bones represent—an impossible situation. Just like dry bones cannot live again, the Jews believed they could not be set free ever again (see Psalm 141:7, Isa 49:14). But God promises a future deliverance:

Ezekiel 37:12 (NKJV)

12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I WILL OPEN YOUR GRAVES…

The “grave” here is used FIGURATIVELY for their prison cells in captivity, where they had lost all hope. The Jews believed they would DIE in those cells; so they likened them to their “graves.” He continues:

…and cause you to come up from your graves (the prison cells), and BRING YOU INTO THE LAND OF ISRAEL.

It is therefore clear that this refers to ISRAEL ALONE, not the Christian today!

Ezekiel 37:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have OPENED YOUR GRAVES (the prison doors), O My people (i.e. Israel), and brought you up from your graves (the cells in captivity). 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live.

When He says “I will put My SPIRIT in you and you shall live” (in vs. 14), this refers not to salvation (i.e. the indwelling of the Spirit, and quickening from spiritual death). He is referring to the DOWNCAST people of Israel; their downcast HEARTS will live again (i.e. be cheerful once more).

The word “spirit” (“ruach” in the Hebrew) can also mean “mind.” So “My spirit” HERE is A SPIRIT (or mind) of courage, encouragement and moral resurrection. The people will be hopeful again. This is what God is saying: He will put His Spirit or mind of hope in them again. He continues;

“…and I WILL PLACE YOU IN YOUR OWN LAND (that is, the land of Israel). Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’”

So the “revival” or “coming alive” of dry bones (Ezekiel 37) describes Israel’s HEART receiving encouragement AGAIN, as the Lord does the seemingly impossible and DELIVERS her from bondage—she will become a mighty people again.

The believer in Christ is NOT and CANNOT be found in this text. We cannot ask God to “breathe life” into our “dry bones” today, as a prayer for revival. This would be a poor contextual reading of Ezekiel 37.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


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