Vision of the Dry Bones.* 1The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the broad valley. It was filled with bones. 2He made me walk among them in every direction. So many lay on the surface of the valley! How dry they were! 3He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come back to life? “Lord GOD,” I answered, “you alone know that.”a 4Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Listen! I will make breath enter you so you may come to life. 6I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put breath into you so you may come to life. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. 7I prophesied as I had been commanded. A sound started up, as I was prophesying, rattling like thunder. The bones came together, bone joining to bone. 8As I watched, sinews appeared on them, flesh grew over them, skin covered them on top, but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me: Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man! Say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O breath, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.* b 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath entered them; they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.c 11He said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel! They are saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.” 12Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I am going to open your graves; I will make you come up out of your graves, my people, and bring you back to the land of Israel.d 13You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! 14I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the LORD.e
The Two Sticks. 15* Thus the word of the LORD came to me: 16As for you, son of man, take one stick and write on it, “Judah and those Israelites associated with it.” Then take another stick and write on it: “Joseph, Ephraim’s stick, and the whole house of Israel associated with it.” 17Join the two sticks together so they become one stick in your hand. 18When your people ask you, “Will you not tell us what you mean by all this?” 19answer them: Thus says the Lord GOD: I will take the stick of Joseph, now in Ephraim’s hand, and the tribes of Israel associated with it, and join to it the stick of Judah, making them one stick; they shall become one in my hand.f 20The sticks on which you write, you must hold in your hand in their sight. 21Say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: I will soon take the Israelites from among the nations to which they have gone and gather them from all around to bring them back to their land. 22I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one king for them all. They shall never again be two nations, never again be divided into two kingdoms.g
23No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols, their abominations, and all their transgressions. I will deliver them from all their apostasy through which they sinned. I will cleanse them so that they will be my people, and I will be their God.h 24i David my servant shall be king over them; they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my ordinances, observe my statutes, and keep them. 25They shall live on the land I gave to Jacob my servant, the land where their ancestors lived; they shall live on it always, they, their children, and their children’s children, with David my servant as their prince forever. 26j I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them. I will multiply them and put my sanctuary among them forever. 27My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.k 28Then the nations shall know that I, the LORD, make Israel holy, by putting my sanctuary among them forever.
* [37:1–14] This account is a figurative description of God’s creation of a new Israel. Even though that creation begins with the remains of the old Israel, the exiles under the image of dry bones, depicting a totally hopeless situation, the new Israel is radically different: it is an ideal people, shaped by God’s spirit to live the covenant faithfully, something the old Israel, exiles included, were unable to do. While this passage in its present context is not about the doctrine of individual or communal resurrection, many Jewish and Christian commentators suggest that the doctrine is foreshadowed here.
* [37:9] The Hebrew word rûah has multiple related meanings expressed by different English words: wind, spirit, breath. In this translation, rûah is rendered “spirit,” a powerful force that creates vision and insight (v. 1); “breath,” physical energy that quickens and enlivens (vv. 5–6); “wind,” invisible physical energy, sometimes destructive, sometimes invigorating (e.g., the rain-bearing winter winds), also a metaphor for restoration and new life (vv. 9–10); “my spirit,” a share in God’s power so the people observe the law that assures them life in the land (v. 14).