This vision dates to the period of Israel's history known as the Babylonian Exile.
In 597 BC, the armies of Babylon overtook Jerusalem/Judah
Modern Middle East Countries
deported the Judean king and many Judean leaders to Babylon
During Jehoiachin’s reign, the officers of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up against Jerusalem and besieged it. Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived at the city during the siege. Then King Jehoiachin, along with the queen mother, his advisers, his commanders, and his officials, surrendered to the Babylonians. In the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. As the Lord had said beforehand, Nebuchadnezzar carried away all the treasures from the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace. He stripped away all the gold objects that King Solomon of Israel had placed in the Temple. King Nebuchadnezzar took all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans—10,000 in all. Only the poorest people were left in the land. Nebuchadnezzar led King Jehoiachin away as a captive to Babylon, along with the queen mother, his wives and officials, and all Jerusalem’s elite. He also exiled 7,000 of the best troops and 1,000 craftsmen and artisans, all of whom were strong and fit for war.
Ten years later, in 587, after Jerusalem had rebelled again,
the Babylonians razed Jerusalem and its temple and deported a second wave of Judean leaders.
Among the first wave of the deported was the young Ezekiel,
Daniel was also taken during this time
For those deportees forced to live in Babylon, the future seemed a black hole into which the people were destined to disappear.
150 years before this:
Judah's sister kingdom Israel had been similarly deported, by the Assyrians
Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and for three years he besieged the city of Samaria. Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. They were settled in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
They faded into the mists of history--
the so-called lost tribes of Israel. (never came back)
God had warned the Jews before they came into the promised land
For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy. “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.
The exile was a crisis of faith for Judah.
The key symbols of Judean faith--
Jerusalem, its temple, its people, and the Davidic monarchy--had been destroyed
Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of poplar trees. For our captors demanded a song from us. Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!” But how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a pagan land?
According to the theological rationality of the ancient world,
Judeans assumed that their deity had been defeated by a stronger deity from Babylon .
The people wondered if the Lord was truly lord and truly faithful.
It was during this situation that God sent a message to Ezekiel & Judah
The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
What was God showing Ezekiel?
Verse 11 tells us:
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’
Ezekiel was being shown a situation that had:
A situation that only a miracle could change
Ezekiel knew it was serious enough that only God could bring it back to life.
Next week we will look at the principles of revival/renewal that happened when God spoke.