By Bill Salus
In the 1950’s Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion stated “Ezekiel 37 has been fulfilled, and the nation Israel is hearing the footsteps of the Messiah.” A similar acknowledgement was recently echoed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this past January, 2010 during his Auschwitz speech. Both Prime Ministers insinuated that Ezekiel’s prophetic “Dry Bones Vision” had found fulfillment in the holocaust and subsequent restoration of the Jewish State.
Coincidence or providence, what prompted these last day’s Israeli leaders to stake exclusive claim of the Ezekiel 37 prophecies? Do they have the G-d given right to make such bold declarations?
Unfortunately, many Christian leaders teach G-d is done with the Jew and prophetic utterances like these above are entirely unfounded. They fail to see the prophetic significance of Israel today. To them, the Jewish State exists as the brainchild of the international community, rather than the miraculous working of G-d.
This heretical teaching in its truest form is called “Replacement Theology”. The derivative of this thinking permits the Church to hold end time’s Israel centered prophecies hostage. Ezekiel 37 is a case in point. Everything contained in this prophetic chapter is clearly Jewish. Both David Ben Gurion and Benjamin Netanyahu were fully justified in correlating the Ezekiel 37 prophecies with the Jewish people and their present Jewish State. Yet somehow, Replacement theologians find a way to substitute the Christian in place of the Jew.
For instance, Ezekiel 37:11-12 predicts the restoration of the nation Israel at a point in time whereby the Jewish people are dwelling outside of their homeland in a hopeless condition. Conversely, many Christians believe Ezekiel alludes to Christian resurrection rather than Jewish restoration. This is just one example of the Christian Church usurping itself in Israel’s stead.
Make no bones about it, the “Dry Bones Vision” described in Ezekiel 37 pertains to the end time’s Jew. In a nutshell this 2600 year old prophecy foretold the following:
1. The holocaust. (Ez. 37:1-2, 11)
2. Providential protection of the Jewish Race through the holocaust. (Ez. 37:4-9, 12-13)
3. The reestablishment of the Jewish State of Israel. (Ez. 37:12-13, 15-20,22)
4. The worldwide regathering of the Jews into Israel. (Ez. 37:4-8, 12-13,21))
5. The emergence of the Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.). (Ez. 37:9-10)
6. The national salvation of Israel. (Ez. 37:14, 23)
7. Israel's existence in the Messianic Kingdom. (Ez. 24-28)
Curiously, many eschatologist seldom mention Ezekiel’s apparent allusion to the I.D.F. in Ezekiel 37: 9-10. In light of serious present existential threats posed to Israel by Iran and its proxies, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, perhaps these passages deserve a closer look. Historically, Israeli posterity was often preserved through divine military empowerment. Current volatile Mideast events suggest the need for similar precedent.
The Dry Bones Vision opens with an extremely important discourse between the Lord and His prophet. It begins with the question; And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ez. 37:3a) Paraphrased, the question is perhaps better asked; “Ezekiel will the Jewish people survive the genocidal attempt of the holocaust?”
Promptly, the prophet diverts the question back to the Lord who, centuries prior, promised in Genesis 13:15, 22:17 and elsewhere that the Jews would exist eternally. So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” (Ez. 37:3b) In so doing, Ezekiel put God’s covenant making character in the limelight, which was obviously the Lord’s intention.
Ezekiel gets his answer several passages later; Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ez. 37:9-10, NKJV)
It appears these dry bones were destined to live and emerge into a powerful army. Reading between the prophetic lines this suggested that some event or sequence of events would occur during the regathering of the Jews into Israel transforming them from refugees into the I.D.F. These two Ezekiel passages in addition to numerous others found in Ezekiel 25:14, Obadiah 1:18, Jeremiah 49:2, Isaiah 11:14, Isaiah 19:16-17, Zephaniah 2:9 and Zechariah 12:6 appear to indentify the I.D.F. in fulfillment of bible prophecy. One Arab assault after another has necessitated their emergence.
Their prophetic role of the I.D.F. is detailed in my book Isralestine, The Ancient Blueprints of the Future Middle East and the supporting article; Ezekiel’s Dry Bones Can Fight. Thus, this article is not intended to discuss their end time’s role, rather to substantiate their potential existence in Ezekiel 37:9-10. Many eschatologists don’t believe Ezekiel refers to the I.D.F. in these passages. Some suggest he describes the return of a vast multitude of Jews into their homeland.
However, there are some important interpretive details to consider when deciphering Ezekiel 37:9-10. The Hebrew word Ezekiel uses in verse 10 for army is, "chayil," and it is used 12 times elsewhere by Ezekiel and over 225 times throughout the Old Testament. Most all of Ezekiel’s usages, and many Old Testament renderings, clearly depict it as either an army or riches acquired via the spoils obtained in the aftermath of a war. Ezekiel’s specific usages are as follows;
Ezek. 17:17 Pharaoh’s army
Ezek. 26:12 Babylonian army taking “riches” or spoil from victory over Tyre
Ezek. 27:10-11 armies of Tyre
Ezek. 28:4-5 riches acquired by the ruler of Tyre
Ezek. 29:18-19 Nebuchadnezzer’s army
Ezek. 32:31 Pharaoh’s army
Ezek. 37:10 Israel’s army
Ezek. 38:4, 15 armies of Gog of Magog
Further supporting the proper interpretation being an army, the following Bible translations interpret chayil to be an “army”: King James Version, New King James Version, American Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New Living Translation, New Century Version, and The Living Bible.
Conversely, the Revised Standard Version translates the word as “host”. The New Revised Standard Version calls it a “multitude”. Therefore two valid interpretations exist. Ezekiel was identifying either a great army, or great multitude emerging in the aftermath of the holocaust.
At the time of the holocaust approximately eleven million Jews lived in Europe and the surrounding areas. Hitler intended to eliminate them all. The Nazi’s successfully exterminated six million Jews before their genocidal efforts were thwarted by the allied forces. This poses the question; considering billions of Gentiles existed worldwide at that time compared to only several million surviving Jews, does this adequately constitute a vast host or great multitude of Jews?
The answer to this question is probably not, however, Dr. Mark Hitchcock draws an interesting conclusion suggesting this multitude could represent two groups of Jews returning in differing phases. He says;
“While I agree with Netanyahu’s statement that Ezekiel 37 is being fulfilled in the regathering of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, I don’t believe that prophecy has been completely fulfilled. Ezekiel 37 predicts a physical return of the people first to the land and then a spiritual return of the people to the Lord (37:9-10). The Jewish people have returned to their land, but their spiritual return to the Lord is still future (Zech 12:10). Their regathering to the land, however, is the first phase, and we are seeing it fulfilled before our eyes.”
Perhaps Dr. Hitchcock’s assessment encompassing a broader scope of returning Jews could be what Ezekiel foretold. Contextually, his interpretation of Ezekiel 37:9-10 flows well into Ezekiel 37:11-14, which speaks of the restoration of the Jews into the reestablished State of Israel in two phases, first in unbelief (v11-13) and then in belief (v14).
Correspondingly though, the Jews presently regather in unbelief and have been forced to form into an army as a result of their modern day Arab and Persian enemies. Thus the exceedingly great army interpretation also meets Ezekiel’s description.
As notated above, the I.D.F. is located in numerous passages enabling eschatologists, Israeli Prime Ministers, and other interested parties the ability to clearly identify their biblical whereabouts. Whether Ezekiel 37:9-10 should be included in the lengthy list or not is still debatable. However in my estimation, current Mideast events coupled with the reasons listed above tip the scale in favor of the great army over the vast multitude interpretation.