Here is one of the crazier stories of the bible (and that’s saying something!). Yahweh takes Zeke to a valley of bones, and tells him to talk to them. And he does, and whaddya know – they rise up and regroup themselves into bodies. And then the bodies come to life. Nope, not kidding. Apparently the whole thing is Yahweh’s way of demonstrating how the nation of Israel will rise again after all the destruction. We’ve all heard the old song about ‘Dem Bones’ as children (play the video and you’ll recognize it) – well this chapter is what inspired it. It’s such a cute song, I’m sorry I know the story behind it now.
Beginning in verse 15, Yahweh has another important message to deliver using a metaphor. He tells Zeke to take two pieces of wood, and write Ephraim on one and Judah on the other, and then hold them together in his hand. This represents the promise of re-unification of the tribes of Israel. The SAB bible points out here that the Stick of Ephraim has become significant to Mormons, so I looked it up, but it’s complicated so I won’t delve into it here. However this link from an apologist website may help if you’re curious.
From v 24 on, there is the promise/prophesy that the reunited tribes of Israel will forever live in peace and prosperity, under the reign of Kind David (how? he’s long dead!), on the land of their ancestors. Well, that certainly hasn’t happened, but I can see how this passage is just one more piece of ammunition fueling the land disputes in the Middle East.
Chapters 38 and 39
In these two chapters we meet Gog and Magog. Actually, we ran across a minor character named Magog once before in Genesis (he’s a descendent of Noah). But I couldn’t make head nor tail of these chapters and had to look up some interpretation/explanations. Wikipedia explains:
“In the Book of Ezekiel Gog is the name of an individual and Magog the name of his land, in Genesis 10 Magog is a person, and in Revelation both Gog and Magog are nations (“the hostile nations of the world“).
OMG I’m getting a headache already. And it doesn’t help that the key events of chapter 38 are related out of order.
So… in chapter 38, read v 8-12 first. Yahweh shows his character as an evil puppet-master – he sure doesn’t allow people free will here! He manipulates Magog just to prove his power. It goes like this: in the future, after the restoration and reunification of Israel, when the Jews are living in peace and quiet, Magog will have evil thoughts about Israel, and believe that it is vulnerable to attack. And so it will go ahead and attack Israel.
Now go back and read v 1-7. Yahweh tells Zeke to warn Magog that Israel will be ready to fight this battle in the future that no one even knows about yet, and that Magog will have no choice about participating in anyway. V 14-16 describe the battle developing. And then v 17-23 describe the horrors that Yahweh will create as retribution against Magog for invading Israel, even though he caused them to do it. And as usual the punishments affect way more than just those directly involved in the battle – Yahweh causes earthquakes, hail, burning sulphur, etc.
Chapter 39 describes the actual battle in gory detail. There will be so much carnage that it will take 7 months for the Jews to bury the bodies and clean up the land (v 12). And then – after that (v 17-20) – god tells the people to plan a feast where they will dine on the flesh of their victims and get drunk on their blood. What, months after the battle, after all the victims have been buried??? No kidding, read it for yourself, cannibalism and all. And the point of all of this is revealed in v 21-22 – to demonstrate Yahweh’s power. Did you ever doubt it?
It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that chapters 38 and 39 are associated with ‘end-times’ prophesy (covered more extensively in Revelation). Christian fundamentalists devote time and energy discussing which modern-day countries constitute Magog. Not surprisingly, Russia and Iran frequently make the list.