Ezekiel 37:1-3: Very Dry

Now descend and shake the earth,
Wake us into second birth;
Now Thy quickening influence give,
Blow—and these dry bones shall live!
—Charles Wesley (Hymns and Sacred Poems)

Ezekiel 37:1-14 is the best known passage in the book. The vision of dry bones is understood even by people who have no idea it was recorded in Ezekiel—let alone the Bible!

I wonder what gives these 14 verses such enduring power? The narrative is quite bare—almost simplistic. The imagery is particularly gruesome: talk about bones, sinews, and flesh all blown together by a strong wind. The metaphor is even militaristic: the bodies come together as a vast army.

I suppose its enduring power rests in the promise: no matter how dry, God can blow on our sin-bleached bodies and bring new life.

Since this passage is so famous, I would like to take it in smaller chunks (“chunks” being the technical term) than other passages. Let’s travel together with Ezekiel as God grabs him and transports him to the middle of a valley covered with bones.

. . .

There are three things that Ezekiel (the priest-turned-prophet) notices:

  1. The high number of bones. Whatever happened in this valley was a catastrophe on an almost incomprehensible scale. In order for Ezekiel to grasp the magnitude of the tragedy, the Spirit of God—God’s wind or breath—leads him back and forth through the bones. This scene could be lifted straight out of a horror movie! Imagine wandering for hours back and forth through a field of human bones, stumbling over the skulls that are so dry they break and turn to powder as you move.
  2. The bones rest on the surface of the valley. As a former priest, Ezekiel would have been painfully aware of the necessity of proper burial. Contact with dead bodies made an Israelite ritually unclean, and therefore unable to worship in the Temple. Now Ezekiel is stumbling in horror through a field of bones, experiencing uncleanness on an unbelievable level.
  3. The extreme dryness of the bones. The carrion birds have had time to pick the carcasses clean. The rain had time to wash the flesh and even sinew off the bones. The sun had time to bleach them white. It was as if God was saying, “not only are these people dead, they have been gone for so long, there is no natural chance for them to return from Sheol to the land of the living.”

. . .

God: “Can these bones live?”

Ezekiel: “Only you know.”

Good answer. Ezekiel’s gut would have told him no. He was probably too shell-shocked to string cogent thought together. He took the only option available to him: to submit himself to the wisdom of Yahweh. We would do well to follow his example.

. . .

Almighty God, the violence and depravity of our sin-soaked world can overwhelm us at times. Grant us enough wisdom to throw ourselves on your understanding. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 36:33-38 | Even More

Ezekiel 37:4-6 | Your Ball >

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2 Responses to Ezekiel 37:1-3: Very Dry

  1. Ehi January 27, 2007 at 8:16 pm #

    I need to read you more. thanks for your failthfulness. He comes soon. in 3 days we cross the jordan

  2. Robin October 16, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

    Funny, I just wrote about a similar spiritual situation in my own life…all while listening to “Make a Way” by Desperation Band.

    As a believer called into the “valley” of dry bones, sometimes I can feel overwhelmed at the sheer enormity of the state of “way beyond decay.” God has called me to this? Where to begin? I am only one alive and the valley is so full of bones.

    That’s what’s so awesome about God. He purposely plunks us into the middle of the impossible so we cannot possibly make the mistake of thinking there is anything we can do in or of ourselves to remedy the situation.

    What does God repeat over and over throughout Ezekiel, throughout his Word?: “That the nations may know that I am the LORD,” “For the sake of my Name.”

    As I watch the Lord rattle the bones, clothe them in flesh and breathe his life into the lifeless, my heart is filled with awe and joy.

    “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)?

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