Q&A: Valley of Dry Bones

Valley of Dry Bones

Question

Regarding Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones where the dry bones represented Israel, I have the following questions: 1) Was there such a place similar to what Ezekiel saw in his vision? If so where was it and how did all the bones get there? 2) If there wasn't such a place, why weren't Ezekiel and/or the people to whom he prophesied appalled by this vision of dead bodies?

Answer

Ezekiel's vision probably does not describe a real valley of dry bones, nor does it probably correspond to any real valley with which Ezekiel or his contemporaries were familiar. The ancient Hebrew practice was not to leave dead bodies exposed to the elements, but rather to bury them. Also, we have no historical record of such a valley. Finally, many of the things that Ezekiel saw in his other visions were not depictions of actual things in the world.

The text itself does not seem to indicate that Ezekiel was appalled by this vision, but then again it does not relate every important feature of his reception of the vision. Rather, it relates primarily those details that are important to its interpretation. Certainly, reading the vivid description of the valley and the regeneration of the bodies is somewhat odd, perhaps even appalling in some sense. But the ultimate point of the passage is not just to horrify us with gruesome details, but to give us hope in the new life that God brings to these dead bones.

I suspect that the most appalling thing in the passage as far as Ezekiel and his audience were concerned was the fact that God's own people were these abandoned bones. They had died, and no one had cared for them. And their revitalization required significant intervention by God and his prophet. But still, God renewed them and breathed new life into them. Though it might sound gross if we visualize it taking place as it might be depicted by a modern science fiction movie, the fact is that the gross process had a wonderful end. Of course, there is a significant element of speculation in this -- the text itself does not tell us how Ezekiel's audience responded to the telling or writing of this vision.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.