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The valley of dry bones

What a strange subject to be found in a religious broadsheet, you may be thinking! What has a valley of dry bones to do with the Christian religion? Well, it is a prophecy told in graphic form by Ezekiel in chapter 37:1-10, and the explanation of it is given in plain terms in verses 11-14.

The prophecy

When reading the first part of the chapter we learn that Ezekiel saw a valley full of very dry bones. When the word of the Lord was spoken to these bones there was a noise, followed by a shaking, and the coming together of the bones to form human skeletons. Afterwards, the sinews and the flesh came upon the bones and eventually they were covered with skin and appeared as slain humans. After commanding the winds to breathe upon these lifeless beings, the breath of life entered into them, and they stood upon their feet as an exceeding great host of living people.

The explanation

After seeing the prophetic vision, Ezekiel was told by God what it was all about. He gave precise indications as to what the bones represented. "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel." Their dry condition resulted from a lost hope and being severed one from another. The gathering together of the bones results from God opening their graves to "Cause you to come up out of your graves", to bring them "into the land of Israel". Before this occurs, God said that He would put His spirit within the people of the Jews and by this they would come to recognise that their saviour is the Lord from heaven.

What does it mean?

The key to a correct understanding of the prophecy is, first of all, the explanation that the bones are representative of the whole house of Israel (that is, the nation of the Jews), and that the outcome of the prophecy is that they are taken out of their existing parlous situation into the land of Israel. It thus speaks of the Jewish people being driven out of their land into a hopeless situation, but yet being rescued by divine power and brought back to occupy the land for ever. The use of "bones" to describe this situation is an apt figure, as can be seen from Jeremiah 50:17, where the nation's conquerors are spoken of as having broken their bones. Thus the valley of dry bones, spoken of by God as Israel's graves, represents the desperate position the nation will be in after they have been invaded by Russia (see our leaflet "Russia in Bible prophecy"), and driven out of the land of Israel, as clearly depicted in Ezekiel 38.

The fact that they will, even after this catastrophe, be brought to life to regain possession of their land, demonstrates the hand of God is in all these events. The God of heaven declares Himself to be the God of Israel, and the Old Testament is rich with prophecies of the divine favour being ultimately bestowed on the nation of Israel, with them becoming permanently settled in the land of Israel as the kingdom of God on earth. See Ezekiel 39:25-29 for an excellent explanation of how the very dry bones become alive again.

What does it mean for you?

When writing to the Romans, the apostle Paul indicated that it was because of the fall of the Jews that "salvation is come unto the Gentiles" - that is, the promise of salvation vouchsafed to the fathers of the Jewish race have now passed, by faith and obedience, to Gentiles. But this salvation, being essentially Jewish in origin, is bound up with the restoration to divine favour of the whole house of Israel. So, as Paul said, "the receiving of them" (which the prophecy of the valley of dry bones depicts) shall be "life from the dead" for all believers (see Romans 11).

Truly, the "Hope of Israel" is also the hope of true Christians.


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