God Resurrected a Nation
IN THE year 607 B.C.E. Jerusalem was destroyed and a great number of the surviving Jews were dragged off into Babylonian exile. The Jewish nation was practically dead. The majority of the exiles had no hope of living again as a united nation in their God-given land. The land of Babylon appeared to be the burial place of their nation. Would Jehovah God resurrect the dead nation?
Such a resurrection would not be too difficult for the Almighty God to perform. Earlier he had empowered the faithful prophets Elijah and Elisha to raise the dead to life. (1 Ki. 17:17-24; 2 Ki. 4:32-37; 8:4, 5; Heb. 11:35) So it should come as no surprise that Jehovah God, in a vision, revealed to the prophet Ezekiel that he would revive the dead nation.
After coming under the operation of God’s spirit, Ezekiel found himself in the midst of a valley plain filled with dry human bones. Then Ezekiel heard a voice, “Son of man, can these bones come to life?” “Sovereign Lord Jehovah,” answered Ezekiel, “you yourself well know.” It was not long before Ezekiel also knew the answer to that question. He was commanded to address those bones with the words: “O you dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah. This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said to these bones: ‘Here I am bringing into you breath, and you must come to life. And I will put upon you sinews and cause to come upon you flesh, and I will overlay upon you skin and put in you breath, and you must come to life; and you will have to know that I am Jehovah.’”—Ezek. 37:1-6.
A miracle! “A sound began to occur . . . and here there was a rattling, and bones began to approach, bone to its bone.” The dry bones became reclothed with sinews, flesh and skin. This is something that scientists even in the twentieth century cannot accomplish. Although knowing how to put human skeletons together, they cannot put sinews and flesh upon those reconstructed bones and the vital organs within the framework. But Jehovah God, in vision, represented himself as doing the humanly impossible.—Ezek. 37:7, 8.
Then came the most amazing thing of all. As divinely directed, Ezekiel called upon the wind to blow upon those reconstructed human bodies. At that “breath proceeded to come into them, and they began to live and stand upon their feet, a very, very great military force.”—Ezek. 37:9, 10.
How awe-inspiring this must have been to Ezekiel! As a “great military force” or army, those reanimated ones were no weaklings. They were able-bodied persons qualified for military service. Ezekiel was thus privileged to see in a visionary way the resurrection of the Jewish nation. This is confirmed by the explanation given to him right afterward. We read:
“As regards these bones, they are the whole house of Israel. Here they are saying, ‘Our bones have become dry, and our hope has perished. We have been severed off to ourselves.’ Therefore prophesy, and you must say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “Here I am opening your burial places, and I will bring you up out of your burial places, O my people, and bring you in upon the soil of Israel. And you will have to know that I am Jehovah when I open your burial places and when I bring you up out of your burial places, O my people.”’ ‘And I will put my spirit in you, and you must come to life, and I will settle you upon your soil; and you will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have spoken and I have done it,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Ezek. 37:11-14.
The exiled Jews, then inclined to hopelessness, were to become reanimated with new hope based upon the unbreakable word of Jehovah. As Jehovah’s mouthpiece, Ezekiel, by his prophesying, was to have a part in the enlivening of those depressed Israelites with hope of restoration to their beloved homeland, hundreds of miles away. But Jehovah was the One who, by putting his holy spirit in the repentant Israelites, would really organize them and make them alive with eagerness and willingness to be restored to their own soil. He was the One that would miraculously open the way for them to leave their “burial places” in the land of Babylon and go back to the “soil of Israel.” The “whole house of Israel” was to share in this, including members of the ten tribes that had been deported earlier by the Assyrians.
The prophetic vision was fulfilled. In 537 B.C.E., King Cyrus the conqueror of Babylon issued his decree freeing the Israelites to leave their exile in Babylon and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of their God. Cyrus gave the responsibility for this to Jehovah. The decree, as set forth at 2 Chronicles 36:23, reads:
“This is what Cyrus the king of Persia has said, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me, and he himself has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, Jehovah his God be with him. So let him go up.’”
The purpose for such ‘going up’ to Jerusalem is presented in the additional details provided in the book of Ezra:
“So let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the true God—which was in Jerusalem. As for anyone that is left from all the places where he is residing as an alien, let the men of his place assist him with silver and with gold and with goods and with domestic animals along with the voluntary offering for the house of the true God, which was in Jerusalem.”—Ezra 1:3, 4.
When Cyrus the Great thus associated Jehovah with this unexpected event, the Israelites knew that Jehovah was the One responsible for opening their burial places in Babylon and bringing them out alive for further activity in his service and worship in their desolated homeland. Assisted by sympathetic Israelites who could not then conveniently leave Babylon, 42,360 Israelites responded to Jehovah’s outpoured spirit and became alive to the opportunity to repeople the hills, mountains and valleys of the soil of Israel, rebuild Jerusalem and its temple and restore Jehovah’s worship there. More than 7,500 non-Israelite slaves and professional singers accepted the privilege to go with them for the united service of Jehovah. (Ezra 2:64-67) This was indeed like a “very, very great military force.”—Ezek. 37:10.
A MODERN-DAY RESURRECTION
The historic fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of the valley plain full of dry bones was as prophetic as the vision itself. This future fulfillment is pointed to in the book of Revelation, written more than seven centuries after Ezekiel’s vision. There the reviving of spiritual Israel is depicted as follows:
“When they have finished their witnessing, the wild beast that ascends out of the abyss will make war with them and conquer them and kill them. And their corpses will be on the broad way of the great city which is in a spiritual sense called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also impaled. And those of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their corpses for three and a half days, and they do not let their corpses be laid in a tomb. And those dwelling on the earth rejoice over them and enjoy themselves, and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those dwelling on the earth.
“And after the three and a half days spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon those beholding them. And they heard a loud voice out of heaven say to them: ‘Come on up here.’ And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them.”—Rev. 11:7-12.
In the modern outworking of this prophetic picture the remnant of Christian spiritual Israelites were killed, as far as their work of prophesying and witnessing publicly and freely was concerned. This came at the climax of the international persecution against them in the last year of World War I. They came into a spiritual condition just like that of the dry bones seen by Ezekiel in the valley plain, in Babylon. (Gen. 11:2-9) Their continuing in this condition was pictured as being for three and a half days, long enough for rigor mortis to take hold of a corpse. However, in the spring of the following year, 1919 C.E., “spirit of life from God” entered them and resurrected them to vigorous public activity again in preaching “this good news of the kingdom” internationally. (Matt. 24:14) The ‘going up to heaven in the cloud’ indicated that they were religiously separated from the “great city which is in a spiritual sense called Sodom and Egypt” (antitypical Jerusalem or Christendom, the predominant religious member of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion). They came to know very definitely that Jehovah had opened their “burial places” in Babylon the Great and brought them out spiritually alive, restoring them to their proper spiritual estate.
What Jehovah God did in resurrecting both natural and spiritual Israel forcefully illustrates that his promises are dependable. It is also noteworthy that the ancient Hebrews, including the forefather of the Israelites, Abraham, believed in the resurrection of the dead. Concerning Abraham’s faith in Jehovah’s power to make dead things live, we read: “(He [Abraham] is the father of us all, just as it is written: ‘I have appointed you a father of many nations.’) This was in the sight of the One in whom he had faith, even of God, who makes the dead alive and calls the things that are not as though they were.” (Rom. 4:16, 17) Though not to be viewed as depicting the resurrection of the human dead, Ezekiel’s vision of a valley plain full of dry bones is in agreement with belief in a resurrection. So the vision’s fulfillment provides additional confirmation of the resurrection hope.