Good morning! Today’s passage (Ezekiel 35-38) takes on a more hopeful tone, at least from the perspective of Israel. For those who neighbor on or threaten Israel (like Edom—symbolized by Mount Seir in chapter 35—or Gog in chapter 38), this is very bad news indeed because they will suffer in the shadow of a stronger Israel. But for those who follow the ways of God, Israel’s unforeseen and undeserved restoration will take the form of dry bones, resuscitated into living flesh again.
The most significant action happens in Ezekiel 36-37. The prophet proclaims good news to the natural world itself—to mountains, hills, watercourses, and valleys. He promises that they’ll be re-covered in gentle habitation, and restored to Israel. It was the case that concern for the divine name led God to drive the misbehaving people off the land. Now—Ezekiel says—it’s again the divine concern for reputation that has God recalling the refugees and reestablishing Israel. Note that the prophet makes clear this has nothing to do with virtue among the exiled people. It’s by divine choice alone. Indeed, the Hebrew people even in exile are so corrupt that they require a whole-heart transplant, replacing stone with living flesh and the inspiration of divine spirit.
Ezekiel 37 makes clear that God has given up on the idea of the people obeying on their own recognizance—they are simply a mass of dry, hopeless bones. Yet God has not given up the possibility of restoration even in the midst of this. The power of prophecy as a proxy for divine power brings the bones together, and God’s spirit reanimates humanity where there was once only barrenness. Ezekiel manifests the power of God to banish and to restore, all for the sake of God’s name.
A second sign-act in this chapter is Ezekiel’s combination of two sticks joined in one hand. The symbol communicates how God will restore the tribes of Israel and Judah into one again. God will bring healing to not just the condition of exile, but also to the original rift between Israel and Judah in the first place! All will be at peace, and the nations will regard the name of God with amazement. This is an idealized future—it hasn’t taken place in all the millennia since Ezekiel, but it tells us of the deep yearning of people then (and now) for peace. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Ezekiel 39-41. Thanks for reading!