Unity as a Prerequisite for Redemption

February 18, 2024

Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land (Ezekiel 37:21)

This verse in Ezekiel is taken from one of the longest and most elaborate prophecies of the redemption and ingathering of Israel.

“Gather”

What makes this verse particularly interesting is the three verbs used to describe what God will do:

  1. I will take them from among the nations
  2. and will gather them from every side
  3. and bring them into their own land

The Hebrew word in the second of these three phrases, translated as “will gather” is vekibatzti, “I will gather.” The verb root KBTz is quite common, appearing over one hundred times in the Bible. This verb means to gather people or objects together into one place. Here are a few examples:

And you shall gather all its plunder into the middle of the street, and completely burn with fire the city and all its plunder, (Deuteronomy 13:17)

Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, And listen to Israel your father. (Genesis 49:2)

Therefore, thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. (Ezekiel 22:19)

Gather before Bring?

What makes this verb interesting in our verse is the order of the three phrases in the verse. Since this verb means to gather things together in one place, it is strange that this phrase appears before the third phrase, “and bring them into their own land.” After all, the people of Israel, scattered in exile to all corners of the earth, were not gathered together in one place until they entered the land. On the contrary, they came back to the land from every direction. It would make more sense for the verse to describe the return to the land before using this word, which implies that they are being brought together in one place.

I’d like to suggest that there is a lesson in this order. The verses that precede ours describe the unification of the tribes of Israel into one nation again. This point is then emphasized in the verse immediately following ours. Clearly, the theme of this entire passage in Ezekiel is not only the return from exile, but more importantly, the rebuilding of the unity of the nation of Israel.

Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. – Ezekiel 37:21-22

A higher unity

By placing the “gathering” or unifying of Israel into one nation before the reentry to the land of Israel, the prophet is teaching us an important lesson. The unity of most nations is a function of the naturally shared concerns among people who live in the same place. People of a city or state must work together to have a safe and productive society. Without some measure of unity, there would be no law, no infrastructure, no safety. But this kind of unity is the result of people living in the same place.

The unity of the nation of Israel must be different. Their unity cannot be merely a result of the shared concerns that come with sharing a land. They must be unified in faith, purpose, and identity as a prerequisite to acquiring the land. In fact, Jewish sources from the late 2nd Temple period stress the fact that there was great disunity and in-fighting among the Jewish people in the generation leading to the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the long exile. So too, the redemption from exile requires a return to unity of purpose, of mission, and of faith.

By placing the “gathering” of Israel before the entry to the land, this verse in Ezekiel teaches us that the unity of Israel must be in place in order for us to merit the promised land.

The unity of people of faith must be more than a practical function of their shared worldly needs. Unity of purpose and mission are essential if we are to build the kingdom of God.

 

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Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

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By: Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

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