Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
This chapter treats of the same subject with the preceding, in a beautiful and significant vision. Under the emblem of the open valley being thickly strewed with very dry bones is represented the hopeless state of the Jews when dispersed throughout the provinces of the Chaldean empire. But God, contrary to every human probability, restores these bones to life, thereby prefiguring the restoration of that people from the Babylonish captivity, and their resettlement in the land of their forefathers, Eze 37:1-14. The prophet then makes an easy and elegant transition to the blessedness of the people of God under the Gospel dispensation, in the plenitude of its manifestation, when the genuine converts to Christianity, the spiritual Israel, shall be no longer under the domination of heathen and anti-christian rulers, but shall be collected together into one visible kingdom, and constitute but one flock under one Shepherd, Eze 37:15-28. The vision of the dry bones reviving is considered by some as having a remote view to the general resurrection.
The hand of the Lord was upon me - The prophetic influence was communicated.
And carried me out in the spirit - Or, And the Lord brought me out in the spirit; that is, a spiritual vision, in which all these things were doubtless transacted.
The valley which was full of bones - This vision of the dry bones was designed, first, as an emblem of the then wretched state of the Jews; secondly, of the general resurrection of the body.
Can these bones live? - Is it possible that the persons whose bones these are can return to life?
Prophesy upon these bones - Declare to your miserable countrymen the gracious designs of the Lord; show them that their state, however deplorable, is not hopeless.
Behold, I will cause breath - רוח ruach signifies both soul, breath, and wind; and sometimes the Spirit of God. Soul is its proper meaning in this vision, where it refers to the bones: "I will cause the Soul to enter into you."
I will lay sinews upon you - Observe the progress:
1. Here are the bones.
2. The ligaments, called here sinews, are to be added in order to unite the bones, that the skeleton might be complete.
3. The flesh (the whole muscular system, the subjacent and superjacent muscles, including the arterial and venous system) clothes this skeleton.
4. The skin (the dermis and epidermis, or cutis and cuticle) envelopes the whole of these muscles or flesh; and now these bodies are in the state that the body of Adam was before it received the animal and intellectual principle from God.
5. There was no breath in them - they had not yet received their souls.
6. The wind, רוח ruach, the soul, came into them. They were endued with animal and intellectual life; and they arose and evidenced a complete restoration to life, and began to perform its functions, Eze 37:10.
Prophesy unto the wind - רוח ruach. Address thyself to the soul, and command it to enter into these well-organized bodies, that they may live.
Come from the four winds - Souls, come frown all parts where ye are scattered; and reanimate these bodies from; which ye have been so long separated. The four winds signify all parts - in every direction. Literally it is, "Souls, come from the four souls;" "Breath, come from the four breaths;" or, "Wind, come from the four winds." But here רוח ruach has both of its most general meanings, wind or breath, and soul.
These bones are the whole house of Israel - That is, their state is represented by these bones; and their restoration to their own land is represented by the revivification of these bones.
I will open your graves - Here is a pointed allusion to the general resurrection; a doctrine properly credited and understood by the Jews, and to which our Lord refers, Joh 5:25, Joh 5:28, Joh 5:29 : "The hour is coming when they that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth."
And cause you to come up out of your graves - I am determined that ye shall be restored; so that were ye even in your graves, as mankind at the general resurrection, yet my all-powerful voice shall call you forth.
When I have opened your graves - When I shall have done for you what was beyond your hope, and deemed impossible, then shall ye know that I am Jehovah.
And shall put my Spirit - רוחי ruchi. Here רוח ruach is taken for the Holy Ghost. They were living souls, animal and intellectual beings, when they had received their souls, as mentioned above: but they could only become spiritual, holy, and obedient creatures by the Spirit of God actuating their spirits. See the notes on Eze 36:25-27 (note).
Three degrees or processes have been remarked in this mystic vision.
When the prophet was commanded to prophesy - to foretell, on the authority of God, that there should be a restoration to their own land: -
1. There was a noise, which was followed by a general shaking, during which the bones became arranged and united.
2. The flesh and skin came upon them, so that the dry bones were no longer seen.
3. The spirit or soul came into them, and they stood up perfectly vivified.
Perhaps these might be illustrated by three periods of time, which marked the regeneration of the Jewish polity.
1. The publication of the edict of Cyrus in behalf of the Jews, which caused a general shaking or stir among the people, so that the several families began to approach each other. and prepare for their return to Judea, Ezr 1:2, Ezr 1:3. But though partially restored, they were obliged to discontinue the rebuilding of their temple.
2. The edict published by Darius in the second year of his reign, Ezr 4:23, Ezr 4:24, which removed the impediments thrown in the way of the Jews. Ezr 6:6, Ezr 6:7, etc.
3. The mission of Nehemiah, with orders from Artaxerxes to complete the building of the temple and the city, Neh 2:7, etc. Then the Jews became a great army, and found themselves in sufficient force to defend themselves and city against all their enemies.
As to the spiritual uses of this curious vision, I must leave them to preachers. I have given the literal meaning, and what the different parts refer to; and if they found their observations on these, they may profit their hearers.
Son of man, take thee one stick - The two sticks mentioned in this symbolical transaction represented, as the text declares the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which were formed in the days of Rehoboam, and continued distinct till the time of the captivity. The kingdom of Judah was composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with the Levites; all the rest went off in the schism with Jeroboam, and formed the kingdom of Israel. Though some out of those tribes did rejoin themselves to Judah, yet no whole tribe ever returned to that kingdom. Common sufferings in their captivity became the means of reviving a kinder feeling; and to encourage this, God promises that he will reunite them, and restore them to their own land; and that there shall no more be any divisions or feuds among them. To represent this in such a way as would make it a subject of thought, reflection, and inquiry, the prophet is ordered to take the two sticks mentioned above, to write on them the distinguishing names of the divided kingdoms, and then by a notch, dovetail, glue, or some such method, to unite them both before the people. He did so, and on their inquiry, showed them the full meaning of this symbolical action.
The stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim - Jeroboam, the first king of the ten tribes, was an Ephraimite. Joseph represents the ten tribes in general; they were in the hand of Ephraim, that is, under the government of Jeroboam.
I will make them one nation - There was no distinction after the return from Babylon.
And one king shall be king to them all - Politically speaking they never had a king from that day to this; and the grand junction and government spoken of here must refer to another time - to that in which they shall be brought into the Christian Church with the fullness of the Gentiles; when Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, shall rule over all.
And David my servant shall be King - That this refers to Jesus Christ, see proved, Eze 34:23 (note).
The land that I have given unto Jacob my servant - Jacob means here the twelve tribes; and the land given to them was the whole land of Palestine; consequently, the promise states that, when they return, they are to possess the whole of the Promised Land.
Covenant of peace - See this explained Eze 34:25 (note).
By tabernacle - Jesus Christ, the true tabernacle, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.