Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Resurrection of Israel and Reunion as One Nation
This chapter contains two revelations from God (Eze 37:1-14 and Eze 37:15-28). In the first, the prophet is shown in a vision the resurrection of Israel to a new life. In the second, he is commanded to exhibit, by means of a symbolical act, the reunion of the divided kingdoms into a single nation under one king. Both of these he is to announce to the children of Israel. The substantial connection between these two prophecies will be seen from the exposition. Eze 37:1-14. Resurrection of Israel to New Life
Eze 37:1. There came upon me the hand of Jehovah, and Jehovah led me out in the spirit, and set me down in the midst of the valley; this was full of bones. Eze 37:2. And He led me past them round about; and, behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and, behold, they were very dry. Eze 37:3. And He said to me, Son of man, will these bones come to life? and I said, Lord, Jehovah, thou knowest. Eze 37:4. Then He said to me, Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Ye dry bones, hear ye the word of Jehovah. Eze 37:5. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to these bones, Behold, I bring breath into you, that ye may come to life. Eze 37:6. I will create sinews upon you, and cause flesh to grow upon you, and cover you with skin, and bring breath into you, so that ye shall live and know that I am Jehovah. Eze 37:7. And I prophesied as I was commanded; and there was a noise as I prophesied, and behold a rumbling, and the bones came together, bone to bone. Eze 37:8. And I saw, and behold sinews came over them, and flesh grew, and skin drew over it above; but there was no breath in them. Eze 37:9. Then He said to me, Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Come from the four winds, thou breath, and blow upon these slain, that they may come to life. Eze 37:10. And I prophesied as I was commanded; then the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood upon their feet, a very, very great army. Eze 37:11. And He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, our bones are dried, and our hope has perished; we are destroyed! Eze 37:12. Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will open you graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, my people, and bring you into the land of Israel. Eze 37:13. And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, my people. Eze 37:14. And I will put my Spirit into you, and will place you in your land, and ye shall know that I, Jehovah, have spoken and do it, is the saying of Jehovah. - This revelation divides itself into two sections. Eze 37:1-10 contain the vision, and Eze 37:11-14 give the interpretation. There are no particular difficulties in the description of the vision, so far as the meaning of the words is concerned. By a supernatural intervention on the part of God, Ezekiel is taken from his own home in a state of spiritual ecstasy into a valley which was full of dead men's bones. For the expression 'היתה עלי יד יי, see the comm. on Eze 1:3. In the second clause of Eze 37:1 יהוה is the subject, and is not to be taken as a genitive in connection with בּרוּח, as it has been by the Vulgate and Hitzig in opposition to the accents. בּרוּח stands for בּרוּח אלהים (Eze 11:24), and אלהים is omitted simply because יהוה follows immediately afterwards. הניח, to set down, here and Eze 40:2; whereas in other cases the form הנּיח is usually employed in this sense. The article prefixed to הבּקעה appears to point back to Eze 3:22, to the valley where Ezekiel received the first revelation concerning the fate of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. That עצמים are dead men's bones is evident from what follows. העבירני עליהם, not "He led me over them round about," but past them, in order that Ezekiel might have a clear view of them, and see whether it were possible for them to come to life again. They were lying upon the surface of the valley, i.e., not under, but upon the ground, and not piled up in a heap, but scattered over the valley, and they were very dry. The question asked by God, whether these bones could live, or come to life again, prepares the way for the miracle; and Ezekiel's answer, "Lord, Thou knowest" (cf. Rev 7:14), implies that, according to human judgment, it was inconceivable that they could come to life any more, and nothing but the omnipotence of God could effect this.
After this introduction there follows in Eze 37:4. the miracle of the raising to life of these very dry bones, accomplished through the medium of the word of God, which the prophet addresses to them, to show to the people that the power to realize itself is inherent in the word of Jehovah proclaimed by Ezekiel; in other words, that Jehovah possesses the power to accomplish whatever He promises to His people. The word in Eze 37:5, "Behold, I bring breath into you, that ye may come to life," announces in general terms the raising of them to life, whilst the process itself is more minutely described in Eze 37:6. God will put on them (clothe them with) sinews, flesh, and skin, and then put רוּח in them. רוּח is the animating spirit or breath = רוּח היּים (Gen 6:17; Gen 7:17). ,קרםἁπ. λεγ. in Syriac incrustare, obducere. When Ezekiel prophesied there arose or followed a sound (קול), and then a shaking (רעשׁ), and the bones approached one another, every bone to its own bone. Different explanations have been given of the words קול and רעשׁ. קול signifies a sound or voice, and רעשׁ a trembling, and earthquake, and also a rumbling or a loud noise (compare Eze 3:12 and Isa 9:4). The relation between the two words as they stand here is certainly not that the sound (קול) passes at once into a loud noise, or is continued in that form; whilst רעשׁ denotes the rattling or rustling of bones in motion. The fact that the moving of the bones toward one another is represented by ותּקרבוּ (with Vav consec.), as the sequel to רעשׁ, is decisive against this. Yet we cannot agree with Kliefoth, that by קול we are to understand the trumpet-blast, or voice of God, that wakes the dead from their graves, according to those passages of the New Testament which treat of the resurrection, and by רעשׁ the earthquake which opens the graves. This explanation is precluded, not only by the philological difficulty that קול without any further definition does not signify either the blast of a trumpet or the voice of God, but also by the circumstance that the קול is the result of the prophesying of Ezekiel; and we cannot suppose that God would make His almighty call dependent upon a prophet's prophesying. And even in the case of רעשׁ, the reference to Eze 38:19 does not prove that the word must mean earthquake in this passage also, since Ezekiel uses the word in a different sense in Eze 12:18 and Eze 3:12. We therefore take קול in the general sense of a loud noise, and רעשׁ in the sense of shaking (sc., of the bones), which was occasioned by the loud noise, and produced, or was followed by, the movement of the bones to approach one another.
The coming together of the bones was followed by their being clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin; but there was not yet any breath in them (Eze 37:8). To give them this the prophet is to prophesy again, and that to the breath, that it come from the four winds or quarters of the world and breathe into these slain (Eze 37:9). Then, when he prophesied, the breath came into them, so that they received life, and stood upright upon their feet. In Eze 37:9 and Eze 37:10 רוּח is rendered by some "wind," by others "spirit;" but neither of these is in conformity with what precedes it. רוּח does not mean anything else than the breath of life, which has indeed a substratum in the wind, perceptible to the senses, but it not identical with it. The wind itself brings no life into dead bodies. If, therefore, the dead bodies become living, receive life through the blowing of the רוּח into them, what enters into them by the blowing cannot be a symbol of the breath of life, but must be the breath of life itself - namely, that divine breath of life which pervades all nature, giving and sustaining the life of all creatures (cf. Psa 104:29-30). The expression פּחי בּהרוּגים points back to Gen 2:7. The representation of the bringing of the dead bones to life in two acts may also be explained from the fact that it is based upon the history of the creation of man in Gen 2, as Theodoret
(Note: "For as the body of our forefather Adam was first moulded, and then the soul was thus breathed into it; so here also both combined in fitting harmony." - Theodoret.)
has observed, and serves plainly to depict the creative revivification here, like the first creation there, as a work of the almighty God. For a correct understanding of the vision, it is also necessary to observe that in Eze 37:9 the dead bones, clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin, are called הרוּגים, slain, killed, and not merely dead. It is apparent at once from this that our vision is not intended to symbolize the resurrection of all the dead, but simply the raising up of the nation of Israel, which has been slain. This is borne out by the explanation of the vision which God gives to the prophet in Eze 37:1-14, and directs him to repeat to the people. The dead bones are the "whole house of Israel" that has been given up to death; in other words, Judah and Ephraim. "These bones" in Eze 37:11 are the same as in Eze 37:3 and Eze 37:5, and not the bodies brought to life in Eze 37:10; though Hitzig maintains that they are the latter, and then draws the erroneous conclusion that Eze 37:11-14 do not interpret the vision of the first ten verses, but that the bones in the valley are simply explained in these verses as signifying the dead of Israel. It is true that the further explanation in Eze 37:12. of what is described in Eze 37:5-10 as happening to the dead bones is not given in the form of an exposition of the separate details of that occurrence, but is summed up in the announcement that God will open their graves, bring them out of their graves, and transport them to their own land. But it does not follow from this that the announcement is merely an application of the vision to the restoration of Israel to new life, and therefore that something different is represented from what is announced in Eze 37:12-14. Such a view is at variance with the words, "these bones are the whole house of Israel." Even if these words are not to be taken so literally as that we are to understand that the prophet was shown in the vision of the bones of the slain and deceased Israelites, but simply mean: these dead bones represent the house of Israel, depict the nation of Israel in its state of death, - they express so much in the clearest terms concerning the relation in which the explanation in Eze 37:12-14 stands to the visionary occurrence in Eze 37:4-10, namely, that God has shown to Ezekiel in the vision what He commands him to announce concerning Israel in Eze 37:12-14; in other words, that the bringing of the dead bones to life shown to him in the vision was intended to place visibly before him the raising of the whole nation of Israel to new life out of the death into which it had fallen. This is obvious enough from the words: these bones are the whole house of Israel. כּל־בּית ישׂראל points forward to the reunion of the tribes of Israel that are severed into two nations, as foretold in Eze 37:15. It is they who speak in Eze 37:11. The subject to אמרים is neither the bones nor the dead of Israel (Hitzig), but the כּל־בּית ישׂראל already named, which is also addressed in Eze 37:12. All Israel says: our bones are dried, i.e., our vital force is gone. The bones are the seat of the vital force, as in Psa 32:3; and יבשׁ, to dry up, applied to the marrow, or vital sap of the bones, is substantially the same as בּלה in the psalm (l.c.). Our hope has perished (cf. Eze 19:5). תּקוה is here the hope of rising into a nation once more. נגזרנוּ לנוּ .: literally, we are cut off for ourselves, sc. from the sphere of the living (cf. Lam 3:54; Isa 53:8), equivalent to "it is all over with us."
To the people speaking thus, Ezekiel is to announce that the Lord will open their graves, bring them out of them, put His breath of life into them, and lead them into their own land. If we observe the relation in which Eze 37:12 and Eze 37:13 stand to Eze 37:14, namely, that the two halves of the 14th verse are parallel to the two Eze 37:12 and Eze 37:13, the clause 'וידאתּם כּי אני in Eze 37:14 to the similar clause in Eze 37:13, there can be no doubt that the contents of Eze 37:14 also correspond to those of Eze 37:12 - that is to say, that the words, "I put my breath (Spirit) into you, that ye may live, and place you in your own land" (bring you to rest therein), affirm essentially the same as the words, "I bring you out of your graves, and lead you into the land of Israel;" with this simple difference, that the bringing out of the graves is explained and rendered more emphatic by the more definite idea of causing them to live through the breath or Spirit of God put into them, and the הביא by הנּיח, the leading into the land by the transporting and bringing them to rest therein. Consequently we are not to understand by נתתּי רוּחי בכם either a divine act differing from the raising of the dead to life, or the communication of the Holy Spirit as distinguished from the imparting of the breath of life. רוּחי, the Spirit of Jehovah, is identical with the רוּח, which comes, according to Eze 37:9 and Eze 37:10, into the bones of the dead when clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin, i.e., is breathed into them. This spirit or breath of life is the creative principle both of the physical and of the ethical or spiritual life. Consequently there are not three things announced in these verses, but only two: (1) The raising to life from a state of death, by bringing out of the graves, and communicating the divine Spirit of life; (2) the leading back to their own land to rest quietly therein. When, therefore, Kliefoth explains these verses as signifying that for the consolation of Israel, which is mourning hopelessly in its existing state of death, "God directs the prophet to say - (1) That at some future time it will experience a resurrection in the literal sense, that its graves will be opened, and that all its dead, those deceased with those still alive, will be raised up out of their graves; (2) that God will place them in their own land; and (3) that when He has so placed them in their land, He will put His Spirit within them that they may live: in the first point the idea of the future resurrection, both of those deceased and of those still living, is interpolated into the text; and in the third point, placing them in their land before they are brought to life by the Spirit of God, would be at variance with the text, according to which the giving of the Spirit precedes the removal to their own land. The repetition of עמּי in Eze 37:12 and Eze 37:13 is also worthy of notice: you who are my people, which bases the comforting promise upon the fact that Israel is the people of Jehovah.
If, therefore, our vision does not set forth the resurrection of the dead in general, but simply the raising to life of the nation of Israel which is given up to death, it is only right that, in order still further to establish this view, we should briefly examine the other explanations that have been given. - The Fathers and most of the orthodox commentators, both of ancient and modern times, have found in Eze 37:1-10 a locus classicus for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and that quite correctly. But their views differ widely as to the strict meaning and design of the vision itself; inasmuch as some regard the vision as a direct and immediate prophecy of the general resurrection of the dead at the last day, whilst others take the raising of the dead to life shown to the prophet in the vision to be merely a figure or type of the waking up to new life of the Israel which is now dead in its captivity. The first view is mentioned by Jerome; but in later times it has been more especially defended by Calov, and last of all most decidedly by Kliefoth. Yet the supporters of this view acknowledge that Eze 37:11-14 predict the raising to life of the nation of Israel. The question arises, therefore, how this prediction is to be brought into harmony with such an explanation of the vision. The persons noticed by Jerome, who supported the view that in Eze 37:4-10 it is the general resurrection that is spoken of, sought to remove the difficulties to which this explanation is exposed, by taking the words, "these bones are the whole house of Israel," as referring to the resurrection of the saints, and connecting them with the first resurrection in Rev 20:5, and by interpreting the leading of Israel back to their own land as equivalent to the inheriting of the earth mentioned in Mat 5:5. Calov, on the other hand, gives the following explanation of the relation in which Eze 37:11-14 stand to Eze 37:1-10 : "in this striking vision there was shown by the Lord to the prophet the resurrection of the dead; but the occasion, the cause, and the scope of this vision were the resurrection of the Israelitish people, not so much into its earlier political form, as for the restoration of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the establishment of the worship of God, both of which were indeed restored in the time of Zerubbabel, but were first brought to perfection at the coming of Jesus Christ." He also assumes that the raising of the dead is represented in the vision, "because God would have this representation exhibited for a figure and confirmation of the restitution of the people." And lastly, according to Kliefoth, Eze 37:11-14 do not furnish a literal exposition of the vision, but simply make an application of it to the bringing of Israel to life. - We cannot regard either of these views as correct, because neither of them does justice to the words of the text. The idea of the Fathers, that Eze 37:11-14 treat of the resurrection of the saints (believers), cannot be reconciled either with the words or with the context of our prophecy, and has evidently originated in perplexity. And the assumption of Calov and Kliefoth, that Eze 37:11-14 contain simply an application of the general resurrection of the dead exhibited in Eze 37:1-10 to the resurrection of Israel, by no means exhausts the meaning of the words, "these bones are the whole house of Israel," as we have already observed in our remarks on Eze 37:11. Moreover, in the vision itself there are certain features to be found which do not apply to the general resurrection of the dead. In proof of this, we will not lay any stress upon the circumstance that Ezekiel sees the resurrection of the dead within certain limits; that it is only the dead men's bones lying about in one particular valley, and not the dead of the whole earth, though a very great army, that he sees come to life again; but, on the other hand, we must press the fact that in Eze 37:9 those who are to be raised to life are called הרוּגים, a word which does not signify the dead of all kinds, but simply those who have been slain, or have perished by the sword, by famine, or by other violent deaths, and which indisputably proves that Ezekiel was not shown the resurrection of all the dead, but simply the raising to life of Israel, which had been swept away by a violent death. Kliefoth would account for this restriction from the purpose for which the vision was shown to the prophet. Because the design of the vision was to comfort Israel concerning the wretchedness of its existing condition, and that wretchedness consisted for the most part in the fact that the greater portion of Israel had perished by sword, famine, and pestilence, he was shown the resurrection of the dead generally and universally, as it would take place not in the case of the Israelites alone, but in that of all the dead, though here confined within the limits of one particular field of dead; and stress is laid upon the circumstance that the dead which Ezekiel saw raised to life instar omnium, were such as had met with a violent death. This explanation would be admissible, if only it had been indicated or expressed in any way whatever, that the bones of the dead which Ezekiel saw lying about in the בּקעה represented all the dead of the whole earth. But we find no such indication; and because in the whole vision there is not a single feature contained which would warrant any such generalization of the field of the dead which Ezekiel saw, we are constrained to affirm that the dead men's bones seen by Ezekiel in the valley represent the whole house of Israel alone, and not the deceased and slain of all mankind; and that the vision does not set forth the resurrection of all the dead, but only the raising to life of the nation of Israel which had been given up to death.
Consequently we can only regard the figurative view of the vision as the correct one, though this also has been adopted in very different ways. When Jerome says that Ezekiel "is prophesying of the restoration of Israel through the parable of the resurrection," and in order to defend himself from the charge of denying the dogma of the resurrection of the dead, adds that "the similitude of a resurrection would never have been employed to exhibit the restoration of the Israelitish people, if that resurrection had been a delusion, and it had not been believed that it would really take place; because no one confirms uncertain things by means of things which have no existence;" - Hvernick very justly replies, that the resurrection of the dead is not to be so absolutely regarded as a dogma already completed and defined, or as one universally known and having its roots in the national belief; though Hvernick is wrong in affirming in support of this that the despair of the people described in Eze 37:11 plainly shows that so general a belief cannot possibly be presupposed. For we find just the same despair at times when faith in the resurrection of the dead was a universally accepted dogma. The principal error connected with this view is the assumption that the vision was merely a parable formed by Ezekiel in accordance with the dogma of the resurrection of the dead. If, on the contrary, the vision was a spiritual intuition produced by God in the soul of the prophet, it might set forth the resurrection of the dead, even if the belief in this dogma had no existence as yet in the consciousness of the people, or at all events was not yet a living faith; and God might have shown to the prophet the raising of Israel to life under this figure, for the purpose of awakening this belief in Israel.
(Note: No conclusive evidence can be adduced that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was not only known to Ezekiel, but was regarded by the people as indisputably sure, as both Hengstenberg (Christology, vol. III p. 51, transl.) and Pareau (Comment. de immortal. p. 109) assume. Such passages as Isa 25:8 and Isa 26:19, even if Ezekiel referred to them, merely prove that the belief or hope of the resurrection of the dead could not be altogether unknown to the believers of Israel, because Isaiah had already declared it. But the obvious announcement of this dogma in Dan 12:2 belongs to a later period than our vision; and even Daniel does not speak of it as a belief that prevailed throughout the nation, but simply communicates it as a consolation offered by the angel of the Lord in anticipation of the times of severe calamity awaiting the people of God.)
In that case, however, the vision was not merely a parable, but a symbolical representation of a real fact, which was to serve as a pledge to the nation of its restoration to life. Theodoret comes much nearer to the truth when he gives the following as his explanation of the vision: that "on account of the unbelief of the Jews in exile, who were despairing of their restoration, the almighty God makes known His might; and the resurrection of the dead bodies, which was much more difficult than their restoration, is shown to the prophet, in order that all the nation may be taught thereby that everything is easy to His will;"
(Note: His words are these: ἐπειδή γὰρ δι ̓ ἥν ἐνόσουν ἀπιστίαν τἀς χρηστοτέρας ἀπηγόρευσαν ἐλπίδας οἱ ἐκ τῆς ̓Ιουδαίας αἰχμάλωται γενόμενοι, τὴν οἰκείαν αὐτοῖς ὁ τῶν ὅλων Θεὸς ἐπιδείκνυσι δύναμιν, καὶ τὴν πολλῷ τῆς ἀνακλήσεως ἐκείνης δυσκολωτέραν τῶν νεκρῶν σωμάτων ἀνάστασιν ἐπιδείκνυσι τῷ προφήτῃ καὶ δι ̓ ἐκείνου πάντα διδάσκει τὸν λαὸν, ὡς πάντα αὐτῷ ῥᾴδια βουλομένῳ.)
and when, accordingly, he calls what occurs in the vision "a type not of the calling to life of the Jews only, but also of the resurrection of all men." The only defect in this is, that Theodoret regards the dead bones which are brought to life too much as a figurative representation of any dead whatever, and thereby does justice neither to the words, "these bones are the whole house of Israel," which he paraphrases by τύπος τοῦ ̓Ισραὴλ ταῦτα, nor to the designation applied to them as הרוּגים, though it may fairly be pleaded as a valid excuse so far as הרוגים is concerned, that the force of this word has been completely neutralized in the Septuagint, upon which he was commenting, by the rendering τοὺς νεκροὺς τούτους. - Hvernick has interpreted the vision in a much more abstract manner, and evaporated it into the general idea of a symbolizing of the creative, life-giving power of God, which can raise even the bones of the dead to life again. His exposition is the following: "There is no express prediction of the resurrection in these words, whether of a general resurrection or of the particular resurrection of Israel; but this is only though of here, inasmuch as it rests upon the creative activity of God, to which even such a conquest of death as this is possible."
(Note: The view expressed by Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, II 2, pp. 507ff.) is a kindred one, namely, that it is not the future resurrection of the dead, or the resurrection of the deceased Israelites, which is indicated in the vision, and that it does not even set forth to view the unconditioned power of God over death, or an idea which is intended as a pledge of the resurrection of the dead; but that by the revelation made manifest to the prophet in the state of ecstasy, the completeness of that state of death out of which Israel is to be restored is exhibited, and thus the truth is set before his eyes that the word of prophecy has the inherent power to ensure its own fulfilment, even when Israel is in a condition which bears precisely the same resemblance to a nation as the state of death to a human being.)
The calling to life of the thoroughly dried dead bones shown to the prophet in the vision, is a figure or visible representation of that which the Lord announces to him in Eze 37:11-14, namely, that He will bring Israel out of its graves, give it life with His breath, and bring it into its own land; and consequently a figure of the raising of Israel to life from its existing state of death. The opening of the graves is also a figure; for those whom the Lord will bring out of their braves are they who say, "Our bones are dried," etc. (Eze 37:11), and therefore not those who are deceased, nor even the spiritually dead, but those who have lost all hope of life. We are not, however, to understand by this merely mors civilis and vita civilis, as Grotius has done. For Israel was destroyed, not only politically as a nation, but spiritually as a church of the Lord, through the destruction of its two kingdoms and its dispersion among the heathen; and in a very large number of its members it had also been given up to the power of physical death and sunk into the grave. Even then, if we keep out of sight those who were deceased, Israel, as the people of God was slain (הרוּג), without any hope of coming to life again, or a resurrection to new life. But the Lord now shows the prophet this resurrection under the figure of the raising to life of the very dry bones that lie scattered all around. This is fulfilled through the restoration of Israel as the people of Jehovah, to which the leading of the people back into the land of Israel essentially belongs. The way was opened and prepared for this fulfilment by the return of a portion of the people from the Babylonian captivity under Zerubbabel and Ezra, which was brought to pass by the Lord, by the rebuilding of the cities of Judah and the temple which had been destroyed, and by the restoration of political order. But all this was nothing more than a pledge of the future and complete restoration of Israel. For although the Lord still raised up prophets for those who had returned and furthered the building of His house, His glory did not enter the newly erected temple, and the people never attained to independence again, - that is to say, not to permanent independence, - but continued in subjection to the imperial power of the heathen. And even if, according to Ezra, very many more of the exiles may have returned to their native land, by whom, for example, Galilee was repopulated and brought into cultivation again, the greater portion of the nation remained dispersed among the heathen. The true restoration of Israel as the people of the Lord commenced with the founding of the new kingdom of God, the "kingdom of heaven," through the appearing of Christ upon the earth. But inasmuch as the Jewish nation as such, or in its entirety, did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah foretold by the prophets and sent by God, but rejected its Saviour, there burst afresh upon Jerusalem and the Jewish nation the judgment of dispersion among the heathen; whereas the kingdom of God founded by Christ spread over the earth, through the entrance of believers from among the Gentiles. This judgment upon the Jewish people, which is hardened in unbelief, still continues, and will continue until the time when the full number of the Gentiles has entered into the kingdom of God, and Israel as a people shall also be converted to Christ, acknowledge the crucified One as its Saviour, and bow the knee before Him (Rom 11:25-26). Then will "all Israel" be raised up out of its graves, the graves of its political and spiritual death, and brought back into its own land, which will extend as far as the Israel of God inhabits the earth. Then also will the hour come in which all the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth out of their graves to the resurrection (Dan 12:2; Joh 5:25-29); when the Lord shall appear in His glory, and descend from heaven with the trump of God (Th1 4:16), to call all the dead to life, and through the judgment upon all the nations to perfect His kingdom in glory, and bring the righteous into the Canaan of the new earth, into the heavenly Jerusalem, to the imperishable life of everlasting blessedness.
All these several factors in the restoration of Israel, which has been given up to the death of exile on account of its sins, though far removed from one another, so far as the time of their occurrence is concerned, are grouped together as one in the vision of the coming to life of the dead bones of the whole house of Israel. The two features which are kept distinct in the visionary description - namely, (1) the coming together of the dry bones, and their being clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin; and (2) the bringing to life of the bones, which have now the form of corpses, through the divine breath of life - are not to be distinguished in the manner proposed by Hengstenberg, namely, that the first may be taken as referring to the restoration of the civil condition - the external restitutio in integrum; the second, to the giving of new life through the outpouring of the Spirit of God. - Even according to our view, the vision contains a prophecy of the resurrection of the dead, only not in this sense, that the doctrine of the general resurrection of the dead is the premiss, or the design, or the direct meaning of the vision; but that the figurative meaning constitutes the foreground, and the full, literal meaning of the words the background of the prophetic vision, and that the fulfilment advances from the figurative to the literal meaning, - the raising up of the people of Israel out of the civil and spiritual death of exile being completed in the raising up of the dead out of their graves to everlasting life at the last day.
Reunion of Israel as One Nation under the Future King David
This word of God directs the prophet to represent by a sign the reunion of the tribes of Israel, which have been divided into two kingdoms (Eze 37:15-17), and to explain this sign to the people (Eze 37:18-21), and predict its sanctification and blessedness under the reign of the future David (Eze 37:22-28). What is new in this word of God is the express prediction embodied in a symbolical action, of the reunion of the divided tribes of Israel into one single people of God, which has been already hinted at in the promise of the raising to life of "the whole house of Israel" (Eze 37:11). This brief indication is here plainly expressed and more fully developed.
Eze 37:15. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Eze 37:16. And thou, son of man, take to thyself a piece of wood, and write upon it: Of Judah, and the sons of Israel, his associates; and take another piece of wood, and write upon it: Of Joseph, the wood of Ephraim, and the whole house of Israel, his associates; Eze 37:17. And put them together, one to the other, into one piece of wood to thee, that they may be united in thy hand. Eze 37:18. And when the sons of thy people say to thee, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by this? Eze 37:19. Say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will take the wood of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his associates, which I put thereon, with the wood of Judah, and will make them into one stick, that they may be one in my hand. Eze 37:20. And the pieces of wood upon which thou hast written shall be in thy hand before their eyes. Eze 37:21. And say to them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will take the sons of Israel out of the nations among whom they walk, and will gather them from round about, and lead them into their land. Eze 37:22. I will make them into one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king over them all; and it shall not become two nations any more, and they shall not henceforth be divided into two kingdoms any more; Eze 37:23. And shall not defile themselves by their idols and their abominations, and by all their transgressions; but I will help them from all their dwelling-places, in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; so that they shall be my people, and I will be their God. Eze 37:24. And my servant David will be king over them, and be a shepherd for them all; and they will walk in my rights, and keep my statutes and do them. Eze 37:25. And they will dwell in the land which I gave to my servant Jacob, in which their fathers dwelt; there will they dwell, and their children's children for ever; and my servant David will be a prince to them for ever. Eze 37:26. And I make a covenant of peace with them for ever, an everlasting covenant shall be with them; and I will place them, and multiply them, and put my sanctuary in the midst of them for ever. Eze 37:27. And my dwelling will be over them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Eze 37:28. And the nation shall know that I am Jehovah, who sanctifieth Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever.
The symbolical action commanded in Eze 37:16 and Eze 37:17, which the prophet no doubt performed in all its external reality (cf. Eze 37:19 and Eze 37:20), is easily understood, and expresses the thing to be represented in the the clearest manner. The writing of the names of the tribes composing the two kingdoms recalls to mind the similar act on the part of Moses (Num 17:1-13 :17ff.). But the act itself is a different one here, and neither the passage referred to nor Eze 21:15 furnishes any proof that עץ signifies a staff or rod. Ezekiel would undoubtedly have used מטּה for a staff. Nor have we even to think of flat boards, but simply of pieces of wood upon which a few words could be written, and which could be held in one hand. The ל before the names to be written upon each piece of wood is the sign of the genitive, indicating to whom it belongs, as in the case of the heading to David's psalms (לדוד). This is evident from the fact that in אץ אפרים the construct state is used instead. The name is to indicate that the piece of wood belongs to Judah or Ephraim, and represents it. The command to Ezekiel to write upon one piece of wood, not only Judah, but "the sons of Israel, his associates," arose from the circumstance that the kingdom of Judah included, in addition to the tribe of Judah, the greater portion of Benjamin and Simeon, the tribe of Levi and those pious Israelites who emigrated at different times from the kingdom of the ten tribes into that of Judah, who either were or became associates of Judah (Ch2 11:12., Ch2 15:9; Ch2 30:11, Ch2 30:18; Ch2 31:1). In the writing upon the second piece of wood, אץ אפרים is an explanatory apposition to ליוסף, and an accusative governed by כּתב. But the command is not to be understood as signifying that Ezekiel was to write the words עץ אפרים upon the piece of wood; all that he was to write was, "Joseph and the whole house of Israel, his associates." The name of Joseph is chosen, in all probability, not as the more honourable name, as Hvernick supposes, but because the house of Joseph, consisting of the two powerful tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, formed the trunk of the kingdom of the ten tribes (Kliefoth). The "whole house of Israel, his associates," are the rest of the tribes belonging to that kingdom. The two pieces of wood, with these inscriptions upon them, Ezekiel is to put together, and hold in his hand bound together in one. מה־אלּה לּך, what these (two pieces of wood) are to thee, is equivalent to, what thou meanest to indicate by them. For the rest, compare Eze 24:19. In the word of God explaining the action (Eze 37:19), the wood of Joseph is not the piece of wood with Joseph's name written upon it, but the kingdom represented by this piece of wood which was in Ephraim's hand, inasmuch as the hegemony was with the tribe of Ephraim. Instead of the wood, therefore, the tribes (not staffs) of Israel, i.e., the Israelites who constituted these tribes, are mentioned as his associates. God will put these upon the wood of Joseph (עליו), i.e., will join them together, and then place them with the wood of Judah, i.e., the kingdom of Judah, and unite them into one wood (or nation). את־עץ , the construction of which has been misunderstood by Hitzig, is neither in apposition to עליו, nor governed by נתתּי: "and will put them thereupon, upon the wood of Judah" (Hitzig and Kliefoth), or, "I add them to it, (namely) with the wood of Judah" (De Wette); but it is dependent upon לקח, "I take the wood of Joseph...and the tribes of Israel, his associates, which I put thereon, along with the wood of Judah, and make them into one wood." The construction is rendered obscure simply by the fact that the relative clause, "which I put thereon," is attached to the principal clause 'אני לקח וגו by Vav consec. In בּידי, "they shall be one in my hand," there is probably an antithesis to בּיד אפרים, those who have come into Ephraim's hand, the tribes severed by Ephraim from the kingdom of God, will God once more bring together with Judah, and hold in His hand as an undivided nation. - In Eze 37:20 the description of the sign is completed by the additional statement, that the pieces of wood on which the prophet has written are to be in his hand before their eyes, and consequently that the prophet is to perform the act in such a way that his countrymen may see it; from which it follows that he performed it in its outward reality. The fulfilment of the instructions is not specially mentioned, as being self-evident; but in Eze 37:21-28 the further explanation of the symbolical action is given at once; and the interpretation goes beyond the symbol, inasmuch as it not only describes the manner in which God will effect the union of the divided tribes, but also what He will do for the preservation of the unity of the reunited people, and for the promotion of their blessedness. This explanation is arranged in two strophes through the repetition of the concluding thought: "they will be my people," etc., in Eze 37:23 and Eze 37:27. Each of these strophes contains a twofold promise.
The first (Eze 37:21-23) promises (a) the gathering of the Israelites out of their dispersion, their restoration to their own land, and their union as one nation under the rule of David (Eze 37:21, Eze 37:22); (b) their purification from all sins, and sanctification as the true people of the Lord (Eze 37:23). The second strophe (Eze 37:24-27) promises (a) their undisturbed eternal abode in the land, under David their prince (Eze 37:25); (b) the blessedness conferred upon them through the conclusion of an everlasting covenant of peace (Eze 37:26 and Eze 37:27). This second promise, therefore, constitutes the completion of the first, securing to the nation of Israel its restoration and sanctification for all time. The whole promise, however, is merely a repetition of that contained in Ezekiel 34:11-31 and Eze 36:22-30. - The three factors - the gathering out of the nations, restoration to the land of Israel, and reunion as one people - form the first act of divine grace. The union of the Israelites, when brought back to their land, is accomplished by God giving them in David a king who will so rule the reunited people that they will not be divided any more into two peoples and two kingdoms. The Chetib יהיה is not to be altered into the plural יהיוּ, as in the Keri; but גּוי is to be supplied in thought, from the preceding clause, as the subject to the verb. The division of the nation into two kingdoms had its roots, no doubt, in the ancient jealousy existing between the two tribes Ephraim and Judah; but it was primarily brought to pass through the falling away of Solomon from the Lord. Consequently it could only be completely and for ever terminated through the righteous government of the second David, and the purification of the people from their sins. This is the way in which Eze 36:23 is attached to Eze 36:22. For Eze 36:23 compare Eze 14:11 and Eze 36:25. Different interpretations have been given of the words, "I help them from all their dwelling-places, in which they have sinned." They recall to mind Eze 36:29, "I help them from all their uncleannesses." As הושׁע מן signifies, in that case, "to preserve therefrom," so in the present instance the thought can only be, "God will preserve them from all the dwelling-places in which they have sinned." Hengstenberg is of opinion that the redemption from the dwelling-places does not take place locally, but spiritually, through the cleansing away of all traces of sin, first from the hearts, and then, in consequence, from all around. In this way is the land changed, through the power of the Lord, into another land, from a sinful to a holy one; just as before it had been changed from a holy to a sinful one through the guilt of the people. But if this were the only thought which the words contained, Ezekiel would certainly have placed the וטהרתּי אותם before 'והושׁעתּי וגו. As the words read, the deliverance of the people from their sinful dwelling-places is to precede their purification, to prepare the way for it and bring it to pass, and not to follow after it. The dwelling-places, at or in which they have sinned, cannot be the settlements in foreign lands, as Hitzig supposes, but only the dwelling-places in Canaan, to which the Lord would bring them after gathering them from their dispersion. הושׁע does not signify, "leading out from these dwelling-places," which is the explanation given by Kliefoth, who consequently thinks that we must understand the words as denoting the leading over of Israel from the present Canaan, or the Canaan of this life, to which its sins adhere, to the glorified, new, and eternal Canaan. This view is utterly irreconcilable both with the words themselves and also with the context. Even if הושׁע meant to lead out, it would not be allowable to transform the "leading out" from the sinful Canaan into a "leading in" to the glorified and heavenly Canaan. Moreover, the further development of this promise in Eze 37:25 also shows that it is not in the glorified, eternal Canaan that Israel is to dwell, but in the earthly Canaan in which its fathers dwelt. It is obvious from this, that in all the promise here given there is no allusion to a transformation and glorification of Canaan itself. The helping or saving from all dwelling-places in which they have sinned would rather consist in the fact, therefore, that God would remove from their dwelling-places everything that could offer them an inducement to sin. For although sin has its seat, not in the things without us, but in the heart, the external circumstances of a man do offer various inducements to sin. Before the captivity, Canaan offered such an inducement to the Israelites through the idolatry and moral corruption of the Canaanites who were left in the land. And with reference to this the Lord promises that in future, when His people are brought back to Canaan, He will preserve them from the sinful influence of their dwelling-places. But this preservation will only be effected with complete success when God purifies Israel itself, and, by means of its renovation, eradicates all sinful desire from the heart (cf. Eze 36:26-27). In this way וטהרתּי is appended in the most fitting way to 'והושׁעתּי . - Through the removal of all sinful influences from around them, and the purifying of the heart, Israel will then become in truth the people of God, and Jehovah the God of Israel (Eze 37:23).
Israel, when thus renewed, will walk in the rights of the Lord and fulfil His commandments, under the protection of its one shepherd David, i.e., of the Messiah (Eze 37:24, cf. Eze 36:27, and Eze 34:23); and its children and children's children will dwell for ever in its own land, David being its prince for ever (Eze 37:25, and cf. Eze 36:28 and Eze 34:24). What is new in this promise, which is repeated from Ezekiel 34 and 36, is contained in לעולם, which is to be taken in the strict sense of the word. Neither the dwelling of Israel in Canaan, nor the government of the David-Messiah, will ever have an end. לעולם is therefore repeated in Eze 37:26 in the promise of the covenant which the Lord will make with His people. The thought itself has already been expressed in Eze 34:25, and בּרית שׁלוּם is to be understood, both here and there, as comprehending all the saving good which the Lord will bestow upon all His sanctified people. There are only two factors of this salvation mentioned here in Eze 37:26 and Eze 37:27, namely, the multiplication of the people, as the earthly side of the divine blessing, and the establishing of His eternal sanctuary in the midst of them as the spiritual side. These two points refer back to the former acts of God, and hold up to view the certain and full realization in the future of what has hitherto been neither perfectly nor permanently accomplished on account of the sins of the people. וּנתתּים, in Eze 37:26, is not to be taken in connection with והרבּיתּי אותם, so as to form one idea in the sense of dabo eos multiplicatos (Venema and Hengstenberg), for we have no analogies of such a mode of combination; but נתתּים, I make, or place them, is to be taken by itself, and completed from the context, "I make them into a nation, and I multiply them (cf. Eze 36:10-11, Eze 36:37). Ezekiel has here Lev 26:9 and Lev 26:11 in his mind, as we may see from the fact that the words, "I give my sanctuary in the midst of them for ever," are obviously formed after Lev 26:11, "I give my dwelling in the midst of them;" in such a manner, however, that by the substitution of מקדּשׁי for משׁכּני, and the addition of לעולם, the promise is both deepened and strengthened. In the change of משׁכּני into מקדּשׁי, he may indeed have had the words of Exo 25:8 floating before his mind, "they shall make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them;" nevertheless he deliberately selected the expression "my sanctuary," to indicate that the Lord would dwell in the midst of Israel as the Holy One, and the Sanctifier of His people. Moreover, the words are not, "my dwelling will be in the midst of them, or among them" (בּתוכם), but עליהם, over them. This expression is transferred from the site of the temple, towering above the city (Psa 68:30), to the dwelling of God among His people, to give prominence to the protective power and saving grace of the God who rules in Israel (cf. Hengstenberg on Psa 68:30). The sanctuary which Jehovah will give in Israel for ever, i.e., will found and cause to endure, that He may dwelling the midst of it to shelter and bless, is the temple, but not the temple built by Zerubbabel. As an objection to this Jewish interpretation, Jerome has justly said: "but how could it be said to stand 'for ever,' when that temple which was built in the time of Zerubbabel, and afterwards restored by many others, was consumed by Roman fire? All these things are to be taken as referring to the church in the time of the Saviour, when His tabernacle was placed in the church." There is no reference whatever here to the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel; not because that temple did not stand for ever and was destroyed by the Romans, but chiefly because God did not make it His abode, or fill this temple with His gracious presence (Shechinah). The sanctuary which God will place for ever among His people is the sanctuary seen by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 40ff.; and this is merely a figurative representation of the "dwelling of God in the midst of His people through His Son and Holy Spirit" (cf. Vitringa, Observv. I. p. 161), which began to be realized in the incarnation of the Logos, who is set forth in Joh 1:14 as the true משׁכּן, in the words ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, and is continued in the spiritual dwelling of God in the heart of believers (Co1 3:16; Co1 6:19), and will be completed at the second coming of our Lord in the "tabernacle (σκηνή) of God with men" of the new Jerusalem, of which the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple, since Israel will then first have become in truth the people of God, and Jehovah (God with them) their God (Rev 21:3, Rev 21:22). - The promise concludes in Eze 37:28 with an allusion to the impression which these acts of God in Israel will make upon the heathen (cf. Eze 36:36). From the fact that Jehovah erects His sanctuary in the midst of Israel for ever, they will learn that it is He who sanctifieth Israel. קדּשׁ, to sanctify, means, "to remove from all connection either with sin or with its consequences. Here the reference is to the latter, because these alone strike the eyes of the heathen; but the former is presupposed as the necessary foundation" (Hengstenberg). The words rest upon the promises of the Pentateuch, where God describes Himself as He who will and does sanctify Israel (compare Exo 31:13; Lev 22:31-33). This promise, which has hitherto been only imperfectly fulfilled on account of Israel's guilt, will be perfectly realized in the future, when Israel will walk in the ways of the Lord, renewed by the Spirit of God.
Thus does this prophecy of Ezekiel span the whole future of the people of God even to eternity. But the promise in which it culminates, namely, that the Lord will erect His sanctuary in the midst of His restored people, and there take up His abode above them for ever (Eze 37:26.), is of importance as helping to decide the question, how we are to understand the fulfilment of the restoration to Canaan into the land given to the fathers, which is promised to all Israel; whether, in a literal manner, by the restoration of the Israelites to Palestine; or spiritually, by the gathering together of the Israelites converted to the Lord their God and Saviour, and their introduction into the kingdom of God founded by Christ, in which case Canaan, as the site of the Old Testament kingdom of God, would be a symbolical or typical designation of the earthly soil of the heavenly kingdom, which has appeared in the Christian church. - These two different views have stood opposed to one another from time immemorial, inasmuch as the Jews expect from the Messiah, for whose advent they still hope, not only their restoration to Palestine, but the erection of the kingdom of David and the rebuilding of the temple upon Mount Zion, together with the sacrificial worship of the Levitical law; whereas in the Christian church, on the ground of the New Testament doctrine, that the old covenant has been abolished along with the Levitical temple-worship through the perfect fulfilment of the law by Christ and the perpetual efficacy of His atoning sacrifice, the view has prevailed that, with the abolition of the Old Testament form of the kingdom of God, even Palestine has ceased to be the chosen land of the revelation of the saving grace of God, and under the new covenant Canaan extends as far as the Israel of the new covenant, the church of Jesus Christ, is spread abroad over the earth, and that Zion or Jerusalem is to be sought wherever Christendom worships God in spirit and in truth, wherever Christ is with His people, and dwells in the hearts of believers through the Holy Spirit. It was by J. A. Bengel and C. F. Oetinger that the so-called "realistic" interpretation of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament - according to which, after the future conversion to Christ of the Jewish people who are hardened still, the establishment of the kingdom of God in Palestine and its capital Jerusalem is to be expected - has been revived and made into one of the leading articles of Christian hope. By means of this "realistic" exposition of the prophetic word the chiliastic dogma of the establishment of a kingdom of glory before the last judgment and the end of the world is then deduced from the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse; and many of the theologians of our day regard this as the certain resultant of a deeper study of the Scriptures. In the more precise definition of the dogma itself, the several supporters diverge very widely from one another; but they all agree in this, that they base the doctrine chiefly upon the prophetic announcement of the eventual conversion and glorification of all Israel. - As Ezekiel then stands out among all the prophets as the one who gives the most elaborate prediction of the restoration of Israel under the government of the Messiah, and he not only draws in Ezekiel 40-48 a detailed picture of the new form of the kingdom of God, but also in Ezekiel 38 and 39, in the prophecy concerning Gog and Magog, foretells an attack on the part of the heathen world upon the restored kingdom of God, which appears, according to Rev 20:7-9, to constitute the close of the thousand years' reign; we must look somewhat more closely at this view, and by examining the arguments pro and con, endeavour to decide the question as to the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the future of Israel. In doing this, however, we shall fix our attention exclusively upon the exegetical arguments adduced in support of the chiliastic view by its latest supporters.
(Note: These are, C. A. Auberlen, "The Prophet Daniel and the Revelation of John;" also in a treastise on the Messianic Prophecies of the Mosaic times, in the Jahrbb.f. deutsche Theologie, IV pp. 778ff.; J. C. K. Hofmann, in his Weissagung und Erfllung im A. u. N. Testamente, and in the Schriftbeweis, vol. II p. 2; Mich. Baumgarten, article "Ezekiel" in Herzog's Cyclopaedia, and here and there in his commentary on the Old Testament; C. E. Luthardt, The Doctrine of the Last Things in Treatises and Expositions of Scripture (1851); and Dr. Volck, in the Dorpater Zeitschfit fr Theologie und Kirche, IX pp. 142ff.; and others.)
The prophetic announcement, that the Lord will one day gather together again the people of Israel, which has been thrust out among the heathen for its unfaithfulness, will bring it back into the land given to the fathers, and there bless and greatly multiply it, has its roots in the promises of the law. If the stiff-necked transgressors of the commandments of God - these are the words of Lev 26:40-45 - bear the punishment of their iniquity in the land of their enemies, and confess their sins, and their uncircumcised heart is humbled, then will the Lord remember His covenant with the patriarchs, and not cast them off even in the land of their enemies, to destroy them, and to break His covenant with them; but will remember the covenant which He made with their ancestors, when He brought them out of Egypt before the eyes of the nations to be their God. He will, as this is more precisely defined in Deu 30:3., gather them together again out of the heathen nations, lead them back into the land which their fathers possessed, and multiply Israel more than its fathers. On the ground of this promise, of which Moses gives a still further pledge to the people in his dying song (Deu 32:36-43), all the prophets announce the restoration and ultimate glorification of Israel. This song, which closes with the promise, "Rejoice, ye nations, over His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and repay vengeance to His adversaries, and expiate His land, His people," continues to resound - to use the words of Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, II 2, pp. 89, 90) - "through all the Old Testament prophecy. Not only when Obadiah (Oba 1:17) and Joel (Joe 3:5) promise good to their nation do they call Mount Zion and the city of Jerusalem the place where there is protection from the judgment upon the nations of the world; but Micah also, who foretells the destruction of the temple and the carrying away of his people to Babylon, beholds Mount Zion exalted at last above all the seats of worldly power, and his people brought back to the land of their fathers (Eze 4:1; Eze 7:14). The same Isaiah, who was sent to harden his people with the word of his prophecy, is nevertheless certain that at last a holy nation will dwell in Jerusalem, a remnant of Israel (Isa 4:3; Isa 10:21); and the holy mountain of Jehovah, to which His scattered people return from all the ends of the world, is that abode of peace where even wild beasts do no more harm under the rule of the second David (Isa 11:9, Isa 11:11). After all the calamities which it was the mournful lot of Jeremiah to foretell and also to witness, Jehovah showed this prophet the days when He would restore His people, and bring them back to the land which He gave to their fathers (Jer 30:3).... And the same promise is adhered to even after the return. In every way is the assurance given by Zechariah, that Judah shall be God's holy possession in God's holy land."
(Note: Compare with this the words of Auberlen (der Prophet Daniel, p. 399, ed. 2): "The doctrine of the glorious restoration of Israel to Canaan, after severe chastisement and humiliation, is so essential and fundamental a thought of all prophecy, that the difficulty is not so much to find passages to support it, as to make a selection from them. By way of example, let us notice Isa 2:2-4; Isa 4:2-6; Isa 9:1-6, Isa 9:11 and Isa 9:12; more especially Isa 11:11., 24ff., 60ff.; Jer 30-33; Eze 34:23-31, 36-37; Hos 2:16 -25; Hos 3:4-5; Hos 11:8-11; Hos 14:2.; Joe 3:1-5; 4:16-21; Amo 9:8-15; Oba 1:17; Mic 2:12-13; Mic 4:1-13; Mic 5:1-15; Mic 7:11-20); Zep 3:14-20; Zac 2:4., Zac 8:7., Zac 9:9., Zac 10:8-12; 12:2-13:6; Zac 14:8." Auberlen (pp. 400f.) then gives the following as the substance of these prophetic descriptions: "Israel having been brought back to its own land, will be the people of God in a much higher and deeper sense than before; inasmuch as sin will be averted, the knowledge of God will fill the land, and the Lord will dwell again in the midst of His people at Jerusalem. A new period of revelation is thus commenced, the Spirit of God is richly poured out, and with this a plenitude of such gifts of grace as were possessed in a typical manner by the apostolic church. And this rich spiritual life has also its perfect external manifestation both in a priestly and a regal form. The priesthood of Israel was more especially seen by Ezekiel, the son of a priest, in his mysterious vision in ch. 40-48; the monarchy by Daniel, the statesman; while Jeremiah, for example, unites the two (Jer 33:17-22). What took place only in an outward way, i.e., in the letter, during the Old Testament times, and withdrew, on the other hand, into the inward and hidden spirit-life during the time of the Christian church, will then manifest itself outwardly also, and assume an external though pneumatic form. In the Old Testament the whole of the national life of Israel in its several forms of manifestation, domestic and political life, labour and art, literature and culture, was regulated by religion, though only at first in an outward and legal way. The church, on the other hand, has, above all, to urge a renewal of the heart, and must give freedom to the outward forms which life assumes, enjoining upon the conscience of individual men, in these also to glorify Christ. In the thousand years' reign all these departments of life will be truly Christianized, and that from within. Looked at in this light, there will be nothing left to give offence, if we bear in mind that the ceremonial law of Moses corresponds to the priesthood of Israel, and the civil law to the monarchy. The Gentile church has only been able to adopt the moral law, however certainly it has been directed merely to the inwardly working means of the word, or of the prophetic office. But when once the priesthood and the kingly office have been restored, then, without doing violence to the Epistle to the Hebrews, the ceremonial and civil law of Moses will unfold its spiritual depths in the worship and constitution of the thousand years' reign.")
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This restoration of Israel Ezekiel describes, in harmony with Jer 31, though in a much more detailed picture, in the following way: - "The condition of things in the future will differ from that in the past, simply in the fact that Israel will then have a heart converted to fidelity and obedience by the Spirit of God (Eze 11:19; Eze 36:27), and will live in good peace and prosperity under the shelter of its God, who is known and acknowledged by all the world (Eze 36:23). The land to which it is restored, a land most decidedly represented by Ezekiel as the same as that in which its fathers lived (Eze 37:25), appears throughout merely as a happy earthly dwelling-place, and the promise of its possession as an assurance given to a nation continuing to propagate itself in peace" (Hofmann, p. 576). This manner of depicting the condition of the Israel restored and glorified by the Messiah, as a peaceful settlement and a happy life in the land of the fathers, a life rich in earthly possessions, is not confined, however, to Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but stands out more or less conspicuously in the Messianic pictures of all the prophets. What follows, then, from this in relation to the mode in which these prophecies are to be fulfilled? Is it that the form assumed by the life of the people of Israel when restored will be only a heightened repetition of the conditions of its former life in Palestine, undisturbed by sin? By no means. On the contrary, it follows from this that the prophets have depicted the glorious restoration of Israel by the Messiah by means of figures borrowed from the past and present of the national life of Israel, and therefore that their picture is not to be taken literally, but symbolically or typically, and that we are not to expect it to be literally fulfilled.
We are forced to this conclusion by the fact that, through the coming of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven which began with Him, the idea of the people of God has been so expanded, that henceforth not the lineal descendants of Abraham, or the Jewish nation merely, but the church of confessors of Jesus Christ, gathered together out of Israel and the Gentiles, has become the people of God, and the economy of the Old Testament has ceased to constitute the divinely appointed from of the church of God. If, therefore, the Jewish people, who have rejected the Saviour, who appeared in Jesus Christ, and have hardened themselves against the grace and truth revealed in Him, are not cast off for ever, but, according to the promises of the Old Testament and the teaching of the Apostle Paul (Rom 11), will eventually repent, and as a people turn to the crucified One, and then also realize the fulfilment of the promises of God; there is still lacking, with the typical character of the prophetic announcement, any clear and unambiguous biblical evidence that all Israel, whose salvation is to be looked for in the future, will be brought back to Palestine, when eventually converted to Christ the crucified One, and continue there as a people separated from the rest of Christendom, and from the earthly centre of the church of the Lord gathered out of all nations and tongues. For, however well founded the remark of Hofmann (ut sup. p. 88) may be, that "holy people and holy land are demanded by one another;" this proves nothing more than that the holy people, gathered out of all the families of the earth through the believing reception of the gospel, will also have a holy land for its dwelling-place; in other words, that, with the spread of the church of the Lord over all the quarters of the globe, the earth will become holy land or Canaan, so far as it is inhabited by the followers of Christ. The Apostle Paul teaches this in the same Epistle in which he foretells to Israel, hardened in unbelief, its eventual restoration and blessedness; when he explains in Rom 4:9-13 that to Abraham or his seed the promise that he was to be the heir of the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness of the faith, which Abraham had when still uncircumcised, that he might become a father of all those who believe, though they be not circumcised, and a father of the circumcision, not merely of those who are of the circumcision, but of those also who walk in the footsteps of his faith. And the apostle, when developing this thought, interprets the promise given to the patriarch in Gen 12:7 and Gen 15:18 : "to thy seed will I give this land" (i.e., the land of Canaan), by κληρονομεῖν κόσμον (inheriting the world), he regards Canaan as a type of the world or of the earth, which would be occupied by the children born of faith to the patriarch.
This typical interpretation of the promise, given in the Old Testament to the seed of Abraham, of the everlasting possession of the land of Canaan, which is thus taught by the Apostle Paul, and has been adopted by the church on his authority, corresponds also to the spirit and meaning of the Old Testament word of God. This is evident from Gen 17, where the Lord God, when instituting the covenant of circumcision, gives not to Abraham only, but expressly to Sarah also, the promise to make them into peoples (לגּוים), that king of nations (מלכי עמּים) shall come from them through the son, whom they are to receive (Gen 17:6 and Gen 17:16), and at the same time promises to give to the seed of Abraham, thus greatly to be multiplied, the land of his pilgrimage, the whole land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession (Gen 17:8). This promise the Lord, as the "almighty God," has not carried into effect by making Abraham and Sarah into nations through the lineal posterity of Isaac, but only through the spiritual seed of Abraham, believers out of all nations, who have become, and still will become, children of Abraham in Christ. It was only through these that Abraham became the father of a multitude of nations (לאב המון, Gen 17:5). For although two peoples sprang from Isaac, the Israelites through Jacob, and the Edomites through Esau, and Abraham also became the ancestor of several tribes through Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, the divine promise in question refers to the people of Israel alone, because Esau was separated from the seed of the promise by God Himself, and the other sons of Abraham were excluded by the fact that they were not born of Sarah. The twelve tribes, however, formed but one people; and although Ezekiel calls them two peoples (Eze 35:10 and Eze 37:22), having in view their division into two kingdoms, they are never designated or described in the Old or New Testament as המון גּוים. To this one people God did indeed give the land of Canaan for a possession, according to the boundaries described in Num 34, so that it dwelt therein until it was driven out and scattered among the heathen for its persistent unfaithfulness. But inasmuch as that portion of the promise which referred to the multiplication of the seed of Abraham into peoples was only to receive its complete fulfilment in Christ, according to the counsel and will of God, through the grafting of the believing Gentile nations into the family of Abraham, and has so received it, we are not at liberty to restrict the other portion of this promise, relating to the possession of the land of Canaan, to the lineal posterity of the patriarch, or the people of Israel by lineal descent, but must assume that in the promise of the land to be given to the seed of Abraham God even then spoke of Canaan as a type of the land which was to be possessed by the posterity of Abraham multiplied into nations.
This typical phraseology runs through all the prophetical writings of the Old Testament, and that both with regard to the promised seed, which Abraham received through Isaac (Gen 21:12) in the people of Israel, and also with reference to the land promised to this seed for an inheritance, although, while the old covenant established at Sinai lasted, Israel according to the flesh was the people of God, and the earthly Canaan between the Euphrates and the river of Egypt was the dwelling-place of this people. For inasmuch as Abraham received the promise at the very time of his call, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, and the germs of the universal destination of the people and kingdom of God were deposited, according to Gen 17, in the subsequent patriarchal promises, the prophets continued to employ the names of Israel and Canaan more and more in their Messianic prophecies as symbolical terms for the two ideas of the people and kingdom of God. And from the time when the fortress of Jerusalem upon Mount Zion was exalted by David into the capital of his kingdom and the seat of his government over Israel, and was also made the site of the dwelling of Jehovah in the midst of His people, by the removal of the ark of the covenant to Zion, and the building of the temple which was planned by David, though only carried into execution by Solomon his son, they employed Zion and Jerusalem in the same typical manner as the seat and centre of the kingdom of God; so that, in the Messianic psalms and the writings of the prophets, Zion or Jerusalem is generally mentioned as the place from which the king (David-Messiah), anointed by Jehovah as prince over His people, extends His dominion over all the earth, and whither the nations pour to hear the law of the Lord, and to be instructed as to His ways and their walking in His paths.
Consequently neither the prominence expressly given to the land in the promises contained in Lev 26:42 and Deu 32:43, upon which such stress is laid by Auberlen (die messianische Weissagungen, pp. 827 and 833), nor the fact that Mount Zion or the city of Jerusalem is named as the place of judgment upon the world of nations and the completion of the kingdom of God, to which both Hofmann and Auberlen appeal in the passages already quoted, furnishes any valid evidence that the Jewish people, on its eventual conversion to Christ, will be brought back to Palestine, and that the Lord, at His second coming, will establish the millennial kingdom in the earthly Jerusalem, and take up His abode on the material Mount Zion, in a temple built by human hands.
Even the supporters of the literal interpretation of the Messianic prophecies cannot deny the symbolico-typical character of the Old Testament revelation. Thus Auberlen, for example, observes (die mess. Weiss. p. 821) that, "in their typical character, the sacrifices furnish us with an example of the true signification of all the institutions of the Old Testament kingdom of God, while the latter exhibit to us in external symbol and type the truly holy people and the Messianic kingdom in its perfection, just as the former set forth the sacrifice of the Messiah." But among these institutions the Israelitish sanctuary (tabernacle or temple) undoubtedly occupied a leading place as a symbolico-typical embodiment of the kingdom of God established in Israel, as is now acknowledged by nearly all the expositors of Scripture who have any belief in revelation. It is not merely the institutions of the old covenant, however, which have a symbolico-typical signification, but this is also the case with the history of the covenant nation of the Old Testament, and the soil in which this history developed itself. This is so obvious, that Auberlen himself (ut sup. p. 827) has said that "it is quite a common thing with the prophets to represent the approaching dispersion and enslaving of Israel among the heathen as a renewal of their condition in Egypt, and the eventual restoration of both the people and kingdom as a new exodus from Egypt and entrance into Canaan (Hos 2:1-2 and Hos 2:16, Hos 2:17, Hos 9:3 and Hos 9:6, Hos 11:5, Hos 11:11; Mic 2:12-13; Mic 7:15-16; Isa 10:24, Isa 10:26; Isa 11:11; Jer 16:14-15, and other passages)." And even Hofmann, who sets aside this typical phraseology of the prophets in Isa 11:11-15, where the restoration of Israel from its dispersion throughout all the world is depicted as a repetition of its deliverance from Egypt through the miraculous division of the Red Sea, with the simple remark, "that the names of the peoples mentioned in the 14th as well as in the 11th verse, and the obstacles described in the 15th verse, merely serve to elaborate the thought" (Schriftbeweis, II 2, p. 548), cannot help admitting (at p. 561) "that in Isa 34:5 אדום is not to be understood as a special prophecy against the Edomitish people, but as a symbolical designation of the world of mankind in its enmity against God." But if Edom is a type of the human race in its hostility to God in this threatening of judgment, "the ransomed of Jehovah" mentioned in the corresponding announcement of salvation in Isa 35:1-10, who are to "return to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads," cannot be the rescued remnant of the Jewish people, or the Israel of the twelve tribes who will ultimately attain to blessedness, nor can the Zion to which they return be the capital of Palestine. If Edom in this eschatological prophecy denotes the world in its enmity against God, the ransomed of Jehovah who return to Zion are the people of God gathered from both Gentiles and Jews, who enter into the blessedness of the heavenly Jerusalem. By adopting this view of Edom, Hofmann has admitted the typical use of the ideas, both of the people of Jehovah (Israel) and of Zion, by the prophets, and has thereby withdrawn all firm foundation from his explanation of similar Messianic prophecies when the Jewish nation is concerned. The same rule which applies to Edom and Zion in Isa 34 and Isa 35:1-10 must also be applicable in Isa 40-56. The prophecy concerning Edom in Isa 34 has its side-piece in Isa 63:1-6; and, as Delitzsch has said, the announcement of the return of the ransomed of Jehovah to Zion in Ezekiel 36, "as a whole and in every particular, both in thought and language, is a prelude of this book of consolation for the exiles (i.e., the one which follows in Isa 40-66)." Ezekiel uses Edom in the same way, in the prediction of the everlasting devastation of Edom and the restoration of the devastated land of Israel, to be a lasting blessing for its inhabitants. As Edom in this case also represents the world in its hostility to God (see the comm. on Ezekiel 35:1-36:15), the land of Israel also is not Palestine, but the kingdom of the Messiah, the boundaries of which extend from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the world (Psa 73:8 and Zac 9:10). It is true that in the case of our prophet there is no express mention made of the spread of the kingdom of God over the lands, inasmuch as he is watchman over the house of Israel, and therefore, for the most part, principally speaks of the restoration of Israel; but it is also obvious that this prophetic truth was not unknown to him, from the fact that, according to Eze 47:22-23, in the fresh division of the land among the tribes by lot, the foreigners as well as the natives are to be reckoned among the children of Israel, and to receive their portion of the land as well, which plainly abolishes the difference in lineal descent existing under the old covenant. Still more clearly does he announce the reception of the heathen nations into the kingdom of God in Eze 16:53., where he predicts the eventual turning of the captivity, not of Jerusalem only, but also of Samaria and Sodom, as the goal of the ways of God with His people. If, therefore, in His pictures of the restoration and glorification of the kingdom of God, he speaks of the land of Israel alone, the reason for this mode of description is probably also to be sought in the fact that he goes back to the fundamental prophecies of the Pentateuch more than other prophets do; and as, on the one hand, he unfolds the fulfilment of the threats in Lev 26 and Deut 28-32 in his threatenings of judgments, so, on the other hand, does he display the fulfilment of the promises of the law in his predictions of salvation. If we bear this in mind, we must not take his prophecy of the very numerous multiplication of Israel and of the eternal possession of Canaan and its blessings in any other sense than in that of the divine promise in Gen 17; that is to say, we must not restrict the numerous multiplication of Israel to the literal multiplication of the remnant of the twelve tribes, but must also understand thereby the multiplication of the seed of Abraham into peoples in the manner explained above, and interpret in the same way the restoration of Israel to the land promised to the fathers.
This view of the Old Testament prophecy concerning the eventual restoration of Israel on its conversion to Christ is confirmed as to its correctness by the New Testament also; if, for example, we consider the plain utterances of Christ and His apostles concerning the relation of the Israel according to the flesh, i.e., of the Jewish nation, to Christ and His kingdom, and do not adhere in a one-sided manner to the literal interpretation of the eschatological pictures contained in the language of the Old Testament prophecy. For since, as Hofmann has correctly observed in his Schriftbeweis (II 2, pp. 667, 668), "the apostolical doctrine of the end of the present condition of things, namely, of the reappearance of Christ, of the glorification of His church, and the resurrection of its dead, or even of the general resurrection of the dead, of the glorification of the material world, the destruction of the present and the creation of a new one, stands in this relation to the Old Testament prophecy of the end of things, that it is merely a repetition of it under the new point of view, which accompanied the appearing and glorification of Jesus and the establishment of His church of Jews and Gentiles;" these eschatological pictures are also clothed in the symbolico-typical form peculiar to the Old Testament prophecy, the doctrinal import of which can only be determined in accordance with the unambiguous doctrinal passages of the New Testament. Of these doctrinal passages the first which presents itself is Rom 11, where the Apostle Paul tells the Christians at Rome as a μυστήριον, that hardness in part has happened to Israel, till the pleroma of the Gentiles has entered into the kingdom of God, and so (i.e., after this has taken place) all Israel will be rescued or saved (Rom 11:25, Rom 11:26). He then supports this by a scriptural quotation formed from Isa 59:20 and Isa 27:9 (lxx), with an evident allusion to Jer 31:34 (?33) also: "there shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob," etc.; whilst he has already shown how, as the fall of Israel, or its ἀποβολή, is the riches of the Gentiles and reconciliation of the world, the πρόσληψις will not nothing else than life from the dead (ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν, Rom 11:11-15). The apostle evidently teaches here that the partial hardening of Israel, in consequence of which the people rejected the Saviour, who appeared in Jesus, and were excluded from the salvation in Christ, is not an utter rejection of the old covenant nation; but that the hardening of Israel will cease after the entrance of the pleroma of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God, and so all Israel (πᾶς ̓Ισραήλ in contrast with ἐκ μέρους, i.e., the people of Israel as a whole) will attain to salvation, although this does not teach the salvation of every individual Jew.
(Note: "All Israel," says Philippi in the 3rd ed. of his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (p. 537), "as contrasted with ἐκ μέρους (in part) in Rom 11:25, and also in the connection in which it stands with the train of thought in Romans 9-11, which, as the chapter before us more especially shows, has only to do with the bringing of the nations as a whole to the Messianic salvation, cannot be understood in any other sense than as signifying the people of Israel as a whole (see also Rom 11:28-32). The explanation of the words as denoting the spiritual Israel, the 'Israel of God' (Gal 6:16), according to which all the true children of Abraham and of God are to be saved through the entrance of the chosen Gentiles, and at the same time also of the ἐκλογή of the Israel that has not been hardened, is just as arbitrary as it is to take 'all Israel' as referring merely to the believing portion of the Jews, the portion chosen by God, who have belonged in all ages to the λεῖμμα κατ ̓ἐκλογὴν χάριτος." But in the appendix to the third edition he has not only give full expression to the opposite view, which Besser in his Bibelstunden has supported in the most decided manner, after the example of Luther and many of the Lutheran expositors, but is inclined to give preference, even above the view which he preciously upheld, to the idea that "all Israel is the whole of the Israel intended by the prophetic word, and included in the divine word of promise, to which alone the name of Israel truly and justly belongs according to the correct understanding of the Old Testament word of God - that is to say, those lineal sons of Abraham who walk in the footsteps of his faith (Rom 4:12), those Jews who are so not merely outwardly in the flesh, but also inwardly in the spirit, through circumcision of heart (Rom 2:28-29);" and also to the following exposition which Calovius gives of the whole passage, namely, that "it does not relate to a simultaneous or universal conversion of the Israelites, or to the conversion of a great multitude, which is to take place at the last times of the world, and is to be looked forward to still, but rather to successive conversions continuing even to the end of the world.")
But Auberlen (die mess. Weissagungen, pp. 801ff.) puts too much into these words of the apostle when he combines them with Exo 19:5-6, and from the fact that Israel in the earlier ages of the Old Testament was once a people and kingdom, but not really a holy and priestly one, and that in the first ages of the New Testament it was once holy and priestly, though not as a people and kingdom, draws the conclusion, not only that the Jewish nation must once more become holy as a people and kingdom, but also that the apostle of the Gentiles here declares "that the promise given to the people of Israel, that it is to be a holy people, will still be fulfilled in its experience, and that in connection with this, after the present period of the kingdom of God, there is a new period in prospect, when the converted and sanctified Israel, being called once for all to be a priestly kingdom, will become the channel of the blessing of fellowship with God to the nations in a totally different and far more glorious manner than before." For if the apostle had intended to teach the eventual accomplishment of this promise in the case of the Israel according to the flesh, he would certainly have quoted it, or at all events have plainly hinted at it, and not merely have spoken of the σώζεσθαι of the Israel which was hardened then. There is nothing to show, even in the remotest way, that Israel will eventually be exalted into the holy and priestly people and kingdom for the nations, either in the assurance that "all Israel shall be saved," or in the declaration that the "receiving" (πρόσληψις) of Israel will work, or be followed by, "life from the dead" (Rom 11:15); and the proposition from which Paul infers the future deliverance of the people of Israel - viz., "if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches" (Rom 11:16) - shows plainly that it never entered the apostle's mind to predict for the branches that were broken off the olive tree for a time an exaltation to even greater holiness than that possessed by the root and beginning of Israel when they should be grafted in again.
There is also another way in which Hofmann (Schriftbeweis, II 2, pp. 96 and 668) makes insertions in the words of the apostle, - namely, when he draws the conclusion from the prophetic quotation in Rom 11:25, Rom 11:26, that the apostle takes the thought from the prophetic writings, that Zion and Israel are the place where the final revelation of salvation will be made, and then argues in support of this geographical exposition of the words, "shall come out of Zion," on the ground that in these words we have not to think of the first coming of the Saviour alone, but the apostle extends to the second coming with perfect propriety what the Old Testament prophecy generally affirms with regard to the coming of Christ, and what had already been verified at His first coming. This argument is extremely weak. Even if one would or could insist upon the fact that, when rendering the words וּבא (there will come for Zion a Redeemer), in Isa 59:20, by ἥξει ἐκ Σιὼν ὁ ῥυόμενος (the Redeemer will come out of Zion), the apostle designedly adopted the expression ἐκ Σιών, it would by no means follow "that he meant the material Zion or earthly Jerusalem to be regarded as the final site of the New Testament revelation." For if the apostle used the expression "come out of Zion," with reference to the second coming of the Lord, because it had been verified at the first coming of Jesus, although Jesus did not then come out of Zion, but out of Bethlehem, according to the prophecy of Mic 5:1 (cf. Mat 1:5-6), he cannot have meant the material Mount Zion by ἐκ Σιών, but must have taken Zion on the prophetico-typical sense of the central seat of the kingdom of God; a meaning which it also has in such passages in the Psalms as Psa 14:7; 53:7, and Psa 110:2, which he appears to have had floating before his mind. It was only by taking this view of Zion that Paul could use ἐκ Σιών for the לציּון of Isaiah, without altering the meaning of the prophecy, that the promised Redeemer would come for Zion, i.e., for the citizens of Zion, the Israelites. The apostle, when making this quotation from the prophets, had no more intention of giving any information concerning the place where Christ would appear to the now hardened Israel, and prove Himself to be the Redeemer, than concerning the land in which the Israel scattered among the nations would be found at the second coming of our Lord. And there is nothing whatever in the New Testament to the effect that "the Lord will not appear again till He has prepared both Israel and Zion for the scene of His reappearing" (Hofmann, p. 97). All that Christ says is, that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a witness concerning all nations, and then will the end come (Mat 24:14). And if, in addition to this, on His departing for ever from the temple, He exclaimed to the Jews who rejected Him, "Your house will be left unto you desolate; for I say unto you, Ye will not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Mat 23:38-39), all that He means is, that He will not appear to them or come to them before they receive Him with faith, "greet Him as the object of their longing expectation;" and by no means that He will not come till they have been brought back from their dispersion to Palestine and Jerusalem.
Even Mat 27:53 and Rev 11:2, where Jerusalem is called the holy city, do not furnish any tenable proof of this, because it is so called, not with regard to any glorification to be looked for in the future, but as the city in which the holiest events in the world's history had taken place; just as Peter (Pe2 1:18) designates the Mount of Transfiguration the holy mount, with reference to that event, and not with any anticipation of a future glorification of the mountain; and in Kg1 19:8 Horeb is called the Mount of God, because in the olden time God revealed Himself there. "The old Jerusalem is even now the holy city still to those who have directed their hopeful eyes to the new Jerusalem alone" (Hengstenberg). This also applies to the designation of the temple as the "holy place" in Mat 24:15, by which Hofmann (p. 91) would also, though erroneously, understand Jerusalem.
And the words of Christ in Luk 21:24, that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, ἄχρι πληρωθῶσιν καιροὶ ἐθνῶν, cannot be used as furnishing a proof that the earthly Jerusalem will be occupied by the converted Jews before or at the second coming of the Lord. For if stress be laid upon the omission of the article, and the appointed period be understood in such a manner as to lead to the following rendering, viz.: "till Gentile periods shall be fulfilled," i.e., "till certain periods which have been appointed to Gentile nations for the accomplishment of this judgment of wrath from God shall have elapsed" (Meyer), we may assume, with Hengstenberg (die Juden und die christl. Kirche, 3 art.), that these times come to an end when the overthrow of the might of the Gentiles is effected through the judgment of God, and the Christian church takes their place; and we may still further say with him, that "the treading down of Jerusalem by the heathen, among whom, according to the Christian view, the Mahometans also are to be reckoned, has ceased twice already, - namely, in the reign of Constantine, and in the time of the Crusades, when a Christian kingdom existed in Jerusalem. And what then happened, though only in a transient way, will eventually take place again, and that definitively, on the ground of this declaration of the Lord. Jerusalem will become the possession of the Israel of the Christian church." If, on the other hand, we adopt Hofmann's view (pp. 642, 643), that by καιροὶ ἐθνῶν we are to understand the times of the nations, when the world belongs to them, in accordance with Dan 8:14, in support of which Rev 11:2 may also be adduced, these times "come to an end when the people of God obtain the supremacy;" and, according to this explanation, it is affirmed "that this treading down of the holy city will not come to an end till the filling up of the time, during which the world belongs to the nations, and therefore not till the end of the present course of this world." But if the treading down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles lasts till then, even the converted Jews cannot recover possession of it at that time; for at the end of the present course of this world the new creation of the heaven and earth will take place, and the perfected church of Christ, gathered out of Israel and the Gentile nations, will dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem that has come down upon the new earth. - However, therefore, we may interpret these words of the Lord, we are not taught in Luk 21:24 any more than in Mat 24:15 and Mat 27:53, or Rom 11:26, that the earthly Jerusalem will come into the possession of the converted Jews after its liberation from the power of the Gentiles, that it will hold a central position in the world, or that the temple will be erected there again.
And lastly, a decisive objection to these Jewish, millenarian hopes, and at the same time to the literal interpretation of the prophetic announcements of the restoration of Israel, is to be found in the fact that the New Testament says nothing whatever concerning are building of the Jerusalem temple and a restoration of the Levitical worship; but that, on the contrary, it teaches in the most decided manner, that, with the completion of the reconciliation of men with God through the sacrifice of Christ upon Golgotha, the sacrificial and temple service of the Levitical law was fulfilled and abolished (Heb 7-10), on the ground of the declaration of Christ, that the hour cometh, and now is, when men shall worship neither upon Gerizim nor at Jerusalem; but the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth (Joh 4:21-24), in accordance with the direction given by the apostle in Rom 12:1. But the prophets of the Old Testament do not merely predict the return of the Israelites to their own land, and their everlasting abode in that land under the rule of the Messiah; but this prediction of theirs culminates in the promise that Jehovah will establish His sanctuary, i.e., His temple, in the midst of His redeemed people, and dwell there with them and above them for ever (Eze 37:27-28), and that all nations will come to this sanctuary of the Lord upon Zion year by year, to worship before the King Jehovah of hosts, and keep the Feast of tabernacles (Zac 14:16; cf. Isa 66:23). If, then, the Jewish people should receive Palestine again for its possession either at or after its conversion to Christ, in accordance with the promise of God, the temple with the Levitical sacrificial worship would of necessity be also restored in Jerusalem. But if such a supposition is at variance with the teaching of Christ and the apostles, so that this essential feature in the prophetic picture of the future of the kingdom of God is not to be understood literally, but spiritually or typically, it is an unjustifiable inconsistency to adhere to the literal interpretation of the prophecy concerning the return of Israel to Canaan, and to look for the return of the Jewish people to Palestine, when it has come to believe in Jesus Christ.