The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, is from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. The text is Ezekiel 37:1-14 and is quite familiar to our ears. The text is found in the “apocalyptic” section of Ezekiel and describes the interesting vision of the dry bones being brought to life. This is an excellent text for Pentecost Sunday, especially as we consider the various uses of רוח(roo-akh) “spirit; breath; wind” in these verses.

The overall text is considered by most to be one of the few explicit bodily resurrection texts in the Old Testament. The idea of the dead and dry bones being brought to life, or having life restored to them, is very death and resurrection orientated. Some would argue this is more a vision of the restoration of Israel as a nation. Certainly, this should be considered. However, the Hebrews would not see the resurrection and restoration of Israel as being mutually exclusive. In fact, an excellent Jewish scholar, Jon Levenson, has written an intriguing book on this very topic: Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel. These two realities are so intertwined among the Hebrews that they cannot be separated!

As we read through the text, רוח (roo-akh), is used 10 times in the 14 verses. It appears that it is used in 5 different ways:

  1. Breath
  2. Spirit of life
  3. Spirit of Yahweh
  4. My Spirit (Holy Spirit)
  5. Wind

Obviously, there is some significant overlap of these terms.

Finally, as we look at verses12-14, we see this resurrection/restoration is connected to the Covenant which the LORD God made with Israel. Remember, there is no life when one is separated from the Promised Land because that will be the place where God will send His Messiah. The people to whom Ezekiel is prophesying are in exile, separated from the Holy Land. To return to the land of Israel is to be resurrected to new life, to be restored. Thus, we see the intertwining of resurrection and restoration.

To return to the land of Israel is to be resurrected to new life, to be restored.

37:1 וַיּוֹצִאֵנִי (vai-yo-tzi-E-ni) root: יצא (yaw-tsaw) Hiphil: “to cause to be brought out” The use of the Hiphil here and following shows the hand of God at work. The LORD is the causing agent. Notice it was by the “Spirit of the LORD” that Ezekiel was brought out.
וַיְנִיחֵנִי (vay-ni-Che-ni) root: נוח (noo-akh) Hiphil: “to set down; cause to be set down; cause to rest”
הַבִּקְעָה (hab-bik-Ah) “valley; plain”
מְלֵאָה (me-le-Ah) “full of; full”

37:2 וְהֶעֱבִירַנִי (ve-he-e-vi-Ra-ni) root: עבר (aw-bar) Hiphil: “to lead; cause to pass over” “He led me...”
סָבִיב סָבִיב (sa-Viv sa-Viv) “...around on all sides”
יְבֵשׁוֹת (ye-ve-Shot) “dry; dried up; dried” The point being conveyed is they were very dry—there was no life in them.

37:3 בֶּן־אָדָם (ben a-Dam) The “Son of Man” title is interesting. In Ezekiel, “Son of Man” is the title the LORD uses for Ezekiel the Prophet, but in Daniel “Son of Man” is a reference to the Divine. When Jesus refers to Himself as “The Son of Man” it must have been confusing as to what He meant—perhaps on purpose...

37:4 הִנָּבֵא (hin-na-Ve) Niphal, Imperative: “Prophesy”
שִׁמְעוּ (shim-U) Qal, Imperative: “Hear”

37:5 מֵבִיא (me-Vi) root: בוא (bo) Hiphil, Participle: “to come” However, used in this clause it should be translated as, “I am about to come.”

37:6 גִּדִים (gi-Dim) from: גִּיד (gheed) “tendon; sinew”
וְקָרַמְתִּי (ve-ka-ram-Ti) root: קרם (kaw-ram) Qal: “to cover; spread” This verb is used only twice in the Old Testament—both times in Ezekiel (37:8).
עוֹר (or) “skin (of a person)”

37:7 צֻוּיתִי (tzuv-Vei-ti) root: צוה (tsaw-vaw) Pual: “to be commanded”
כְּהִנָּבְאִי (ke-hin-na-ve-I) root: נבא (naw-baw) Niphal, Infinitive construct: “as I was prophesying”
רַעַשׁ (Ra-ash) “rustling; noise; sound; rattling” This is often a sound which is related to an earthquake.

37:8 מִלְמָעְלָה (mil-Ma-e-lah) Adverb: “above; from above”

37:9 וּפְחִי (u-fe-Chi) root: נפח (naw-fakh) Qal: “to breathe; blow”

37:10 וְהִנַּבֵּאתִי (ve-hin-nab-Be-ti) root: נבא (naw-baw) Hithpael: “to prophesy,” “so I prophesied” The expected ת (Taw) of the Hithpael form has been assimilated into the נ (Nun).

37:11 יָבְשׁוּ (ya-ve-Shu) root: יבשׁ (yaw-bashe) Qal: “to be dry; be dried up”
תִקְוָתֵנוּ (tik-va-Te-nu) “outcome; things hoped for; hope”
נִגְזַרְנוּ (nig-Zar-nu) root: גזר (gaw-zar) Niphal: “to be cut-off; destroyed” The language of “cut-off” reminds us of being cut-off from the Covenant—he who is not cut shall be cut-off. This sets up the covenantal language which follows.

37:12 פֹתֵחַ (fo-Te-ach) Qal, Participle: “to open”
קִבְרוֹתֵיכֶם (kiv-ro-tei-Chem) from: קבר () “grave; tomb; sepulcher”

37:14 וְהִנַּחְתִּי (ve-hin-nach-Ti) root: יָנַח (yaw-nakh) Hiphil: “to put, place; settle”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Ezekiel 37:1-14.

Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Ezekiel 37:1-14.

Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Walter A. Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Ezekiel 37:1-14.