by Rabbi Jeffrey Adler
Studies of Ezekiel tend to focus on the 1st half, the “vision of the valley of dry bones”. That thrilling prophecy is wonderful and profound, of course, but, the 2nd half is also a wonderful demonstration of the Divine character and God’s love and faithfulness toward Israel.
Verse 15-17 reads, “The word of Adonai came to me saying: ‘You, son of man, take one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah’- for B’nei-Yisrael joined with him. Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph’- the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel joined with him. Join them one to another for yourself, as one stick, so they may become one in your hand.’”
This passage has at times wrongly be seen as referring to Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua. While Scripture clearly refers to the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles being torn down by the work of Yeshua, the context here clearly refers to the reversal of the split that occurred between the northern and southern tribes after the death of King Solomon, a split resulting from sin and leading to even greater spiritual dysfunction. The northern kingdom never had a single godly leader, and the southern one had evil rulers 40% of the time. The weakness that resulted led to the eventual defeat and exile of both kingdoms. Also, the promises of Elohim were to be applied to all 12 tribes, all of Jacob’s sons. How would this happen?
Verse 19 says, “Say to them (the children of ‘your’ people), thus says Adonai Elohim, ‘Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph- which is in the hand of Ephraim and the tribes of Israel joined with him- and I will put them together with the stick of Judah and make them one stick. They will be one in My hand…” God saw the northern tribes exiled by Assyria and determined to return them to their own land, alongside the southern ones. The northern tribes had never been specifically repatriated to the land of Israel, though there is clear evidence that some had returned, such as Anna from the tribe of Asher and Paul from Benjamin, God’s promises to Israel call for all 12 tribes to be included- tribes also scattered across the earth. “Behold, I will take B’nei-Yisrael from among the nations, where they have gone. I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be king to them all. They will no longer be two nations and never again be divided into two kingdoms.” Here we see an amazing political restoration, but, political reunification would not resolve the spiritual issues that had originally led to the problems. The sin issue has to be addressed. So, the hearts of the people are also addressed: “They will never again be defiled with their idols, their detestable things or with any of their transgressions…” The Hebrew word translated “transgressions” is the plural of “pesha”, the strongest word for sin in the Bible. It is a rebellious, flagrant defiance of Torah, for which there were no clearly defined sacrifices under the Mosaic sacrificial system. However, Psalm 103:12 and Isaiah 53:5 clearly include these as covered by Messiah’s ultimate atonement- “He will be crushed for our transgressions (“mipeshieynu”)…” Our text in Ezekiel 37 links on to this: “I will save them out of all their dwellings in which they sinned. I will purify them. Then they will be My people and I will be their God. My servant David (an eponymous name for Messiah) will be king over them. They will all have One Shepherd. They will walk in My ordinances and observe My rulings and do them. They will live in the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, where your ancestors lived. They will live there- they, their children and their children’s children, forever, and My servant David will be their prince forever. I will cut a covenant of shalom with them- it will be an everlasting covenant with them. I will give to them and multiply them. I will set up My Sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling-place will be over them. I will be their God and they will be My people…”In Exodus 25:8 Adonai states, “Shakhanti b’tokhem”, “I shall dwell among them”, as His intention for the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.
This demonstration of God’s heart for His Covenant People would not be lost on the nations, whom also He loves and wants to draw to Himself: Then the nations (Gentiles) will know that I am Adonai Who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever.”
The Lord is so faithful!
Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.