God used a dramatic illustration of dead bones being brought back to life to show Ezekiel the miraculous nature of the resurrection the LORD planned for his people. Ezekiel started the recount of his vision by saying, “The hand of the LORD was upon me and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones.” Ezekiel did not give us the name of the valley, but it can be assumed that it was an actual location where bones existed, most likely the valley of the son of Hinnom which was renamed the valley of slaughter in Jeremiah 7:32. Hinnom was the site of child sacrifice during the days of kings Ahaz and Manasseh. Jeremiah proclaimed that this place of human sacrifice would become their cemetery when the people  of Judah were slaughtered by the Babylonian invaders (notes on Jeremiah 7:31-32).

Jeremiah declared, “At that time, saith the LORD, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of the princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves: and they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth” (Jeremiah 8:1-2). Although it is uncertain whether or not these were the bodies brought back to life in Ezekiel’s vision, it seems to be a fitting illustration of the rebirth that takes place when a sinner is saved by grace.

Ezekiel’s description of the resurrection of the bones included the restoration of life through the spirit of God. He said, “And I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:8-10). The Hebrew word translated both wind and breath in this passage is ruwach (roo´ – akh). “It is clear that the wind is regarded in scripture as a fitting emblem of the mighty penetrating power of the invisible God. Moreover, the breath is suppose to symbolize not only the deep feelings that are generated within man, such as sorrow and anger: but also kindred feelings in the Divine nature” (7307).

The apostle John taught that in the resurrection, Jesus will bring everyone back to life. He said, “Marvel not of this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29). The Greek term resurrection, anastasis literally means “to cause to stand up on one’s feet again” (386). The resurrection is associated with the millennial reign of Christ, which will take place sometime in the future. Ezekiel was told, “Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel, and ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves” (Ezekiel 37:12-13).



Ezekiel’s prophecy to Israel contained “new covenant” terminology similar to that which was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah before the nation of Judah was destroyed. Jeremiah said specifically, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). The basis or foundation of the new covenant was forgiveness of sins. God said through Jeremiah, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Ezekiel used the term sanctify to identify the process whereby God’s people would be set apart to do his work on earth (Ezekiel 36:23). Ezekiel described four stages of restoration (Ezekiel 36:24-30) that would lead to God’s people being sanctified and specifically detailed a point of regeneration that was necessary for them to be saved. He said:

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Jeremiah 36:26-27).

Jesus referred to regeneration as being “born again” (John 3:7) and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The idea that a person could be born a second time confused the religious leader, Nicodemus. He asked Jesus, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to understand heavenly things in order to enter into God’s kingdom and revealed that the only way he could do that was by believing in him (John 3:15-16).

A key to understanding the concept of regeneration was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Before Jesus’ birth, God used Israel’s return from captivity and restoration of the Promised Land as an illustration of what was yet to be done by his Messiah. Ezekiel recorded, ” Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities, I will cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 36:33-36).

The good shepherd

The leaders of Israel, kings as well as prophets and priests, were sometimes referred to as shepherds because they were responsible for the safety and well-being of God’s people. God condemned the shepherds of Israel and said, “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flock? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock” (Ezekiel 34:2-3). King Zedekiah in particular proved to be a worthless shepherd. When Jerusalem was attacked by Nebuchadnezzar, the desperate king fled by night with his army into the desert and left the people of Jerusalem to starve to death (Destruction of Jerusalem 586 B.C.).

Using the metaphor of sheep that were scattered (Ezekiel 34:5), Ezekiel blamed the exile and dispersion of the Jews on a lack of leadership in God’s kingdom. He said, “because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock…Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock” (Ezekiel 34:8-10). God promised to seek out his flock and to himself become their shepherd (Ezekiel 34:11-12). He said of the Messiah, “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them, I the LORD have spoken it” (Ezekiel 34:23-24).

Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd and talked about entering in by the door of the sheepfold (John 10). In order to differentiate himself from the leaders of the Old Testament, Jesus said, “But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:2-3). Jesus’ reference to calling his own by name implied the existence of a relationship, a personal relationship in which a recognition of his voice was possible. The leaders of the Old Testament did not associate with the common or average people with the exception of king David who was himself a shepherd before he became king. It is possible God chose David to be the king of Israel for that very reason.

Jesus’ explanation of his role as the good shepherd pointed to the salvation of his people. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:7-9). Although Jesus’ reference to being saved included both Jews and Gentiles, his primary concern was the nation of Israel which had been lost due to mismanagement of God’s kingdom. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Ultimately, Jesus’ death served the purpose of setting God’s people free from the political and religious influences that blinded them to God’s love. Ezekiel concluded, “Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 34:30).

Israel’s watchman

Ezekiel was identified as a watchman for Israel. In that role, he was expected to keep a close watch on events leading up to the fall of Jerusalem. For seven years, from 593 B.C. to 586 B.C., Ezekiel delivered numerous messages from the Lord indicating that the end was near. In his final warning, Ezekiel’s role as Israel’s watchman was emphasized so that there would be no misunderstanding as to what was happening. He was told:

Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: if when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. (Ezekiel 33:2-5).

God’s attempt to warn his people showed that he still cared about them, even though they had abandoned him. He told Ezekiel, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:11). God’s plea for repentance was a sign that he still wanted to have a relationship with his people. His motive in bringing judgment was to restore, not to severe his ties with Israel. The only way God could reconnect with his people was through conversion. “The process called conversion or turning to God is in reality a re-turning or a turning back again to Him from whom sin has separated us, but whose we are by virtue of creation, preservation and redemption” (7725).

On August 14, 586 B.C., Ezekiel received word from someone that escaped that Jerusalem had fallen (Ezekiel 33:21). The news not only vindicated Ezekiel, but also validated him as being Israel’s watchman and a true prophet of God. At the start of Ezekiel’s ministry, when he was first commissioned as Israel’s watchman, God made him dumb, or unable to speak, except for the messages he received from God. In connection with the news of Jerusalem’s fall, Ezekiel said, “Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb” (Ezekiel 33:22). Ezekiel’s ability to speak indicated that he was no longer Israel’s watchman. From that point forward, Ezekiel would have a new mission, pastoral comfort or the job of a shepherd.


Jerusalem was more than just a city. As the capital of Israel, it represented the ideal of what God’s kingdom was supposed to be like and was symbolic of a way of life that was consistent with God’s character. When God decided to destroy the city of Jerusalem, it must have been as a last resort. There was so much of Israel’s history linked to Jerusalem that its destruction would have been perceived as the end of much more than just a 50 mi² piece of land.

Ezekiel was instructed to deliver an indictment of Jerusalem as if the city were responsible for all the failures that had taken place within her walls (Ezekiel 22:2). Among the many crimes that were listed was oppressing strangers, as well as, violence against the fatherless and widows. Particular attention was paid to sexual crimes including incest and rape. God said of Jerusalem, “In thee have they discovered their father’s nakedness; in thee have they humbled her that was set apart for pollution. And one hath committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife; and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter in law; and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his father’s daughter” (Ezekiel 22:10-11).

Although the term culture is not used in the Bible, the idea of a collective mindset or way of life was evident in God’s judgment of Jerusalem and other cities such as Sodom and Nineveh. What appears to have been the problem with Jerusalem was it had become so corrupt there was no hope of reform. God said, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). When God sought to destroy Sodom, Abraham interceded on behalf of his nephew Lot. God agreed that if there were but ten righteous men in the city of Sodom, he would not destroy it for their sake (Genesis 18:32).

The lack of an intercessor for Jerusalem meant that it would be left to God to determine the city’s fate. The grievous crimes that had been committed within Jerusalem made it impossible for God to look the other way. God’s displeasure with sin was just as much evident in his condemnation of Jerusalem as it was with other wicked cities, if not more so. God told Ezekiel, “Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 22:31).

Too late

On August 14, 591 B.C., “certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD” (Ezekiel 20:1). At that time, the fall of Jerusalem was inevitable and king Zedekiah’s plan to escape into the desert was most likely already in place. The elders of Israel may have been hoping that Ezekiel would give them an alternative to what they had already heard from the prophet Jeremiah. The fact that they went to see Ezekiel while he was being held captive in Babylon suggests that the elders of Israel were expecting Ezekiel to be aware of the current situation in Jerusalem and was able to tell them what to do even though he had been in captivity for more that seven years. Otherwise, there would have been no point for the elders to travel such a long distance to get his advice.

Unfortunately, the elders of Israel were disappointed when they arrived. Instead of receiving the latest news from God’s appointed messenger, the elders of Israel were told it was too late for them to seek God’s counsel, their judgment was already sealed and God would not reconsider his sentence against them (Ezekiel 20:31). Ezekiel was instructed to pronounce sentence against them and was told exactly what to say so that the elders of Israel would realize time had run out and Jerusalem would soon be destroyed.

The seriousness of Israel’s wrongdoing was such that God had Ezekiel recite the history of their idolatry from its beginning in the desert outside of Egypt before the people ever entered the Promised Land. Several times, God wanted to pour out his fury, but spared the people for his own name’s sake. Eventually, God gave up on his effort to change the Israelites’ behavior and let them have their own way. He explained to Ezekiel, “Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols. Wherefore, I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; and I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 20:24-26). In other words, God let them do what they wanted to so that they would become aware of their own sinful way of life.

Second chances

God’s system of justice is based on his willingness to give second chances. Although God judges us and punishes us when we do something wrong, he does not expect perfection or condemn us because we can’t stop doing what is wrong. Even when we intentionally break God’s commandments, all we have to do is repent and God will give us a second chance to do things right.

God’s exception to his rule of judgment was explained to Ezekiel this way. He said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from his sin that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezekiel 18:20-21).

The Hebrew word translated turn in Ezekiel 18:20 is shuwb (shoob). Typically, shuwb is used to describe a situation in which one must go back to a previous location. “The basic meaning of the verb is movement back to a point of departure,” (7725) but it does not necessarily mean that you have to return to the starting point. In the context of a journey, shuwb means that you go back to the point where you got off track or departed from the prescribed pathway you were supposed to follow.

Although some people may think God wants to punish us and is glad when we get into trouble, God’s intention in establishing the Mosaic Law was to prevent his people from doing things that offended him. God asked Ezekiel two rhetorical questions to point out the absurdity of believing God wanted to destroy his people. He said, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

In an attempt to set the record straight once and for all, God said plainly, “I will judge you,” but added that it would be on an individual basis that he would make his call. He said, “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30).

In his plea for repentance, God explained that it was necessary for a change to take place that involved the inner being of man. As if it were possible to become an entirely different person, God said that heart and spirit must be transformed in order to truly have a second chance at life. He said to his people, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed:  and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye” (Ezekiel 18:31-32).