Ezekiel was a priest and a prophet of God during the Babylonian exile, when Judah was cast out of the land and Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. In chapter six, Ezekiel was told to prophecy to Israel, “Thus says the Lord Yahweh to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols. And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars.” Judah had become like the surrounding nations, worshiping at the feet of idols and so were caught up in the destruction that Yahweh poured out on these false gods.
In chapter 37, God brings Ezekiel to this valley of bones and asks him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Can these dried-up, idolatrous, scattered bones of the house of Israel live? Ezekiel is told to speak to the lost, hopeless bones so that they would hear the Word of God and be resurrected from this death in idolatry. The Word is spoken, a new creation, “Let us make man in our image.” Ezekiel sees the bones come together, a corporate body of Adam with sinews and flesh and skin, a man of dust with no breath. Again, Ezekiel prophecies, but this time to the Spirit Himself, “Come, breathe into these nostrils the breath of life,” and he sees the host of Israel rise, a people of Word and Spirit.
The near-fulfillment of this resurrected Israel is seen in the return from exile and the restoration of the city and temple with Zerubbabel, the prince of the line of David as their head. But the greater fulfillment came with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, again raising Israel to new life, with Jesus as King over His people.