37:11–14 God interpreted the vision for Ezekiel. It was God’s response to the people’s expression of hopelessness, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off” (v. 11). These “bones” were “the whole house of Israel” (3:7; 5:4; 12:10; 20:40; 36:10; 37:16; 39:25; 45:6), meaning both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (v. 11). The question “Can these bones live?” was designed to show him the impotence of Israel during the exile.75 God made marvelous promises to the nation in chaps. 33–36, but the real issue was, “Can these bones live?” Can a dead and impotent nation in exile and under the control of a godless nation be resurrected and become a living, thriving kingdom once again?
Sin had brought about the death of the nation of Israel (cf. Rom 6:23). Sin’s destructive power is most apparent on a personal level, where it destroys human lives (37:1–3; cf. Eph 2:1–22; 1 Pet 1:3–12). Only God can produce life for those who are physically and/or spiritually dead (37:3). Nothing but a miracle will resurrect the dead (John 11:25; 1 Cor 15:1–58).
The Sovereign Lord, however, said, “I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them,” signifying all their places of exile (the “nations” and “all the countries” of 36:24). Stress was given in this promise to the revival of the nation as a manifestation of divine, not human, power (vv. 12–14).76
What a marvelous message of encouragement this was, both to Ezekiel and to the people in exile. If the prophet remained faithful to his call and proclaimed the word of God, the ultimate consequence would be a life-transforming experience that would result in a national resurrection. There is no finer illustration of the life-changing power of the preached word than what the prophet saw in his vision. It has the power to transform those who are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1–22) and make them new, living creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). God has always used the “foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21).
The enabling power of the Holy Spirit also is portrayed in this passage. The Spirit empowered the dead, dry bones and gave them life and animation. This was Paul’s testimony. He was unable to live the life of a believer (Rom 7:13–25), faithful to the commands of God, without the enabling power of God’s Spirit (Rom 8:1–17).
75 See Hals, Ezekiel, 271.
76 See Fisch, Ezekiel, 249.
Cooper, L. E. (1994). Ezekiel (Vol. 17, pp. 324–325). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.