29 July 2011

"that they may be one in my hand" (end of v. 19)


While the first part of chapter 37 dramatised the restoration of Israel from exile as a miracle of resurrection from death, the second half of the chapter describes this restoration as a reunification of the two divided kingdoms into a single kingdom. Often these two kingdoms are referred to as the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel but here the latter is referred to as the kingdom of 'Joseph and all the house/tribes of Israel associated with it' (vv. 16, 19) and the sole name Israel refers to the reunified people.

The dramatic symbolic act, the word of God, and the realisation of the action are all of a piece. What God acts out through Ezekiel and what God speaks out are the means of achieving what God desires. Therefore the prophet appears before the people as the representative of God - it is as though God were appearing before them. The two sticks/staffs become one in the hand of the prophet conveying the divine desire/will for the two divided nations to become a single unity (verse 17). All this lies in the "hand" of God (v. 19).

The unification of the kingdom is part of the outcome of bringing back the exiled people: "I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from every quarter" (v. 21).

The unity of the people under one king has consequences for how the people are to behave (verse 23). Restoration has implications for behaviour.

To Ponder

In your opinion, what is it that God desires to bring into unity?

If unity lies in being held in the hand of God what do you think this might mean for denominations, local churches, and you?

In what ways do the 'house/tribes' loose/maintain their identity within the reunified people?

Bible notes author: The Revd Peter Barber

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