Certain prophecies of Ezekiel are sometimes cited as lending support
to the idea of the future re-constitution and earthly dominion of the Jewish
nation. But on the contrary, they contain many clear warnings of judgments to
come upon the house of Israel and the city of Jerusalem; and they also contain
predictions - not so clear perhaps as threatened judgments, because they are
capable, like other O.T. prophecies, of being interpreted according to the
desires of the carnal Jewish mind - concerning the recovery that was to be
accomplished through the work of the coming Redeemer.
It must be borne in mind, while studying O.T. prophecies which relate
to the future of the Jewish people, that we have a sure guide as to their
interpretation in the way such prophecies are applied in the N.T., especially
by Paul. And specifically, we have these guiding facts: first, that all the
prophecies of mercy to that people that are cited in the N.T. are declared to
have their fulfilment in this present era of the Holy Spirit. For "all the
prophets from Samuel and those that follow after - have likewise [i.e. like
Moses, who had been mentioned previously] foretold of these days" (Ac. 3:24),
there being never an instance where the fulfilment is assigned to a future
dispensation; and second, that in the N.T. all promises of future blessing for
the Jews are applied to the true Israel, it being declared that "he is not a
Jew who is one outwardly; ...but he is a Jew who is one inwardly" (Rom.
2:28,29), and that "we [Christians] are the circumcision" (Phil. 3:3).
It is very easy indeed, for it requires no searching of the
Scriptures, or effort of the mind, or spiritual discernment, to say of every
prophecy, concerning the Jews that it must be taken "literally," that it has
not yet been fulfilled, and that it will be fulfilled to "Israel after the
flesh" in a coming dispensation. Those who habitually deal with O.T.
prophecies after this fashion, find the millennium a convenient, and indeed an
indispensable, receptacle for all passages whose meaning does not lie on the
surface. On the other hand, it generally requires both patient effort, and
also real spiritual understanding, to explain a prophecy according to the
intent thereof, and according to the true spiritual significance of the
symbols and figures employed therein.
Keeping these facts in mind, let us now take a rapid survey of those
prophecies of Ezekiel that have a bearing upon the subject of our present
In chapter XIV God declares through the prophet the fore sore
judgments (the sword, the famine, the noisome beast and the pestilence) He
purposed to bring upon Jerusalem, "to cut off from it man and beast" (v. 21).
But some of its inhabitants were to be saved. For He goes on to say: "Yet,
behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons
and daughters" (v. 22).
Inasmuch as Isaiah had previously foretold the salvation of "a
remnant" at the time when God's judgments should fall upon Israel and
Jerusalem, and as Paul had explained that Isaiah's prophecy referred to those
who were to be saved through the gospel, this part of Ezekiel's prophecy is
In chap. XV, God foreshows the complete rejection of Jerusalem, under
the figure of the branches of a vine, which, when broken off, are fit only for
the fire (cf. John 15:6). There is no hint of mercy or of recovery in this
In chap. XVI, the sins of Jerusalem are denounced as worse that those
of Sodom and Samaria; for God addresses Jerusalem, saying, "As I live, saith
the Lord God, Sodom thy sister *** hath not done as thou hast done. ** Neither
hath Samaria committed half thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine
abominations more than they all" (vv. 48-51). And then He pronounces the
irremediable doom of Jerusalem, saying: "When I shall bring again their
captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of
Samaria and her daughters, then I will bring again the captivity of thy
captives in the midst of them" (v. 53). And, "When thy sisters, Sodom and her
daughters shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters
shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return
to your former estate."
Manifestly this is just a strong way of saying that the overthrow of
Jerusalem was to be forever; since the cities of the plain, and the northern
kingdom, of which Samaria was the capitol city, had been completely
obliterated. God had already said to the people of Israel through Moses that
their overthrow would be "like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah... which
the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath" (Deut. 29:23). In fact,
Sodom and Gomorrah are in Scripture the very type of complete and
irrecoverable overthrow (See Isa. 1:8,9; Jer. 49:18; 50:40; Matt. 11:23). And
God had said through Hosea, concerning the northern kingdom (Samaria), that He
would "cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel," and would "no more
have mercy on the house of Israel" (Hos. 1:4,6).
And now God concludes His threat of judgment upon Jerusalem by saying:
"For thus saith the Lord God; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done,
which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant" (v. 59).
So there was to be a complete breach of the covenant, that had
subsisted between God and the earthly Jerusalem. And will God ever mend or
renew that broken covenant, and rehabilitate that doomed city and nation? Some
of our modern Bible teachers say He will; and, strangely enough, they cite
this very prophecy in support of that idea. But the prophecy itself goes on to
declare, as Jeremiah had already foretold, that God would work out His
purposes under a new and "everlasting covenant"; and that He would give to the
Jerusalem of that coming day those who should be saved out of Sodom and
Samaria (so to speak) "but not by thy covenant" (vv. 60,61).
It is easily to be seen, in the light of the New Testament Scriptures,
and of the way O.T. prophecies are interpreted by Christ and Peter and Paul,
that this latter part of Chap. XVI is a foretelling of the work of the gospel,
which was to be proclaimed "to the Jew first," and which would have the effect
of separating the true "Israel" (Rom. 9:6) from the mass of the apostate
nation. The words are: "Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with thee in
the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant"
(v. 60). And agreeably to this Paul declares that "as touching the election,
they are beloved for the fathers' sake" (Rom. 11:28). Thus does God remember
His covenant with that nation in the days of its youth, by preaching to them
first, of all the peoples of the earth, the unspeakable blessings of the new
Chapter XVII foretells, in the form of a parable, God's coming
judgments upon "the rebellious house" (v. 12); and it closes with a promise of
Christ's coming as a "Branch," to be planted "in the mountain of the height of
Israel." As this is clearly a promise concerning this gospel era (cf. Isa.
11:1; 2:2, Zech. 3:8,9; and like passages), it supplies us with a further
indication that the prophets were always looking to "these days" (Acts 3:24)
when they foresaw mercies in the future for the people of Israel.
Chapter XX contains a withering indictment of the nation of ISrael for
its persistent sins and rebellions, first in Egypt (5-9), secondly in the
wilderness (10-27), and thirdly in the land of Canaan (28-32). Therefore God
says, "I will purge you out from among the rebels, and them that transgress
against Me" (v. 38). This chapter also closes with a view of the true Israel
on God's "holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel" (v. 40);
which corresponds with "the heavenly places" mentioned in the Epistle to the
Chapters XXI, XXII, XXIII foretell further judgments that were to fall
upon Jerusalem, and give details of the general corruption of priests,
prophets and people; and chapter XXIV again foretells the approaching "woe to
the bloody city."
Likewise the prophecy of chapter 36:21-38 is a foretelling of the
present era; for the blessings of the New Covenant are distinctly foretold.
The first step in the fulfilment of this prophecy was the return from Babylon
(v. 24); then the preaching of Christ (v. 25, cf. John 15:3 and Heb. 10:22);
then the gift of the Holy Spirit (vv. 26,27, cf. John 20:22). We have seen
that His disciples are the true "Israel" and their land ("the heavenly
places") is the true "Zion."
In chapter XXXVI God promises that He will gather His people out of
all countries, will bring them into their own land, will sprinkle clean water
upon them; will cleanse them from all their filthiness; will put a new heart
and a new spirit within them, and will put His Spirit in them (vv. 24-27).
Manifestly these are promises of gospel-blessings, with which God has now
blessed His people in heavenly places - the true Zion, "their own land." For
He gives them a new heart and a new spirit; with the blood of Christ He
cleanses them from all sin; and He puts His own Holy Spirit in them. We have
seen that the land God gave their fathers, and which they were looking for,
was "a better country, even an heavenly" (Heb. 11:16; 12:22).
THE VALLEY OF THE DRY BONES
Here the same prophecy of salvation to the true Israel, the sheep who
knows their Shepherd's voice, is given in the form of an allegorical vision.
The Spirit of Jehovah transports the prophet from Jerusalem and sets him down
in a low lying place, a "valley" which was full of bones. "And" says the
prophet, "He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live?" (v. 3).
This question gives the clue to the significance of the vision. God is
bringing to mind that He is the God of Abraham, who quickens the dead (Rom.
4:17). That valley represents the dominion of sin and death (Rom. 6), and the
dry bones represent the state by nature of all the Israel of God; for we were
all "dead in trespasses and sin" ere He "quickened us together with Christ"
(Eph. 2:1,5). This was the condition of the whole "commonwealth of Israel"
By this prophecy God makes known that He would employ, in the mighty
work of regeneration and recreation, the same agencies He used in the old
creation - the Word ("prophecy to these bones") and the Spirit ("Breath"); for
the salvation of all those who compose "the Israel of God," that "holy
nation," is effected by the word of the gospel, preached with the Holy Ghost
sent down from heaven (I Peter 1:12).
The chapter foretells the gospel era beginning with the ministry of
John the Baptist (who prophesied unto the dry bones of Israel). In verse 4
mention is made of the Word and in verse 9 of the Spirit. In verse 11 is
foreseen "the whole house of Israel" (the true Israel), a people quickened
together with Christ, baptized into His death, and made partakers of His
resurrection (See John 5:25; Eph. 1:1-4; 2:5-6).
Historically, in the fulfilment of this wonderful prophecy, "when the
fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son" - not to set up the
Davidic kingdom, for which the Jews were looking, but - "to redeem them that
were under the law" - Jews (Gal. 4:4); and He spake unto them the word of life
(prophesied unto the bones), the result being that there was a great stir
among the Jews, "a shaking" of the bones; and that a company was formed; the
bones coming together "bone to his bone." But there was as yet no live body
(v. 7). But at Pentecost there came the mighty Breath of God. God began then
to breath upon those who had been dead in their sins; and they lived, and
"stood upon their feet." And the work begun that day has been going on ever
since, until the company of the regenerated ones has become "an exceeding
great army," an innumerable multitude (Rev. 7:9).
It is not to be wondered at that the Jewish rabbis should have
interpreted this vision as a prophecy of the revival of their nation; for they
were grossly carnal in their thoughts (God's thoughts were not their thoughts,
Isa. 55:8), and they were, moreover, narrowly selfish and exclusive as regards
their expectations of Divine blessing. And furthermore, they were ignorant of
the "mystery" of the true "Israel" (Eph. 2:12,12; 3:1-6), namely, "That the
Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His
promise in Christ, by (means of) the gospel."
But it is a cause of wonderment that any of those to whom that
"mystery" has been revealed, and who have learned moreover, how the O.T.
prophecies are fulfilled in these days of the Holy Spirit's presence on earth,
should discard what has been the accepted Christian interpretation of the
prophecies for nineteen centuries, in favor of that held by those "blind
leaders of the blind," whose leadership brought about the ruin of the Jewish