The Valley of Dry Bones

God Asks a Question and Ezekiel Answers

A desolate valley in California.In the Spirit, the Prophet Ezekiel is set down in a valley full of dried bones. Remains of hundreds, perhaps thousands of men litter the ground. After the prophet has time to take in the scene, the Lord asks Ezekiel,

“Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3 NIV)

God never seeks information when He asks us a question.

At this moment God’s prophet is in a real bind. The correct answer is “Of course these bones can live! You’re the Almighty Creator of the universe and I believe You can do anything!”

Skeletons of three people killed by the volcano Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.But as Ezekiel walks around the valley, he sees more and more dry bones scattered about. He knows he doesn’t have enough faith to believe life can flow once more.

Lying to his Master and faking a faith he doesn’t have would be stupid. The Lord knows his innermost thoughts. Telling God you don’t believe He’s capable of doing the miraculous is an honest answer—but insulting.

Ezekiel answers the “do you believe?” question in the best way I’ve ever heard:

2 I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.

He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Ezekiel 37:2-3 (NIV)

Ezekiel’s words are wonderfully tactful and yet true. Only God truly knows.

Ezekiel Prophesies and Yahweh Acts

A turbaned man speaking.Yahweh’s actions in the next few minutes remove all of Ezekiel’s doubt and fill him with genuine faith.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:4-6)

Ezekiel doesn’t have enough faith to believe. But he does have enough faith to obey. It’s a little silly to speak prophetically in a valley devoid of human life. Dry bones can’t hear or respond to his words—yet these do. Immediately.

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 

Ezekiel 37:7-8 (NIV)

Human sculpture.I think this whole experience feels very real to Ezekiel. He has a visceral reaction to seeing a valley full of human bones littering the ground. When the prophet starts to speak prophetically, the bones respond to his voice. Remember, the prophet is used to speaking Yahweh’s word to living people, who often resist God’s commands and hate His messenger. In contrast, each one of these dead bones promptly obeys.

There’s an eeriness present as Yahweh makes the impossible happen as Ezekiel speaks. Maybe it was a little unnerving when the skeletons formed, then flesh and muscle appeared. Suddenly, Ezekiel is surrounded by a valley of lifeless bodies, instead of fragmented bones.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. Ezekiel 37:9-10 (NIV)

The Meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones

The meaning of the prophet’s experience is revealed in verses 11-14.

Ezekiel saw his first vision as a exiled priest in Babylon, six years before King Nebuchadnezzar’s army A Babylonian lion mosaic found in Berlin's Art Museum.destroyed Jerusalem and the entire Jewish nation. Most of the people in Judah died. The survivors fled to Egypt and perished there. The Jews in exile grieved for their lost homeland and sat in bleak despair. They felt like their nation had died. The survivors were a people in name only, without hope or a home to go back to.

During this time, Yahweh gives Ezekiel this supernatural experience and then interprets it.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’

12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 

13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.

14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:11-14 (NIV)

In the midst of the darkest time in the Jew’s history, God shone a promise into the heart of His chief spokesman. Ezekiel believed Yahweh would one day restore the nation of Israel. He had found his faith in the valley of dry bones.

Source of the images:

With the exception of the skeletons, all images are from Pixabay.com

The featured image on the main page is from Flickr.com; these three skeletons were found in a boat house in Herculaneum. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, the volcano’s pyroclastic flows buried this town along with Pompeii, killing all the inhabitants who hadn’t evacuated.

Resources:

Mosaic: The lion artwork comes from an art museum in Berlin, Germany and is labeled as a Babylonian mosaic.

Bible Gateway: I mentioned Ezekiel saw his first vision in Babylon six years before Jerusalem and the nation of Judah was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar. I used the on-line resource, Bible Gateway.com to check a few scriptures and draw that conclusion.

In the 5th year of the exile of King Johoiachin, (Ezekiel 1) Ezekiel saw his first vision.

In 2 Kings 24, I learned that King Johoiachin reigned for three months and then his uncle Zedekiah, the last king, reigned for 11 years before Jerusalem fell. It’s simple math. The 5th year of Johoiachin’s captivity is also the 5th year of Zedekiah’s reign. There’s only six more years left before the Jewish nation is totally destroyed.

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