Why does Sanhedrin 92b conclude that the bones in Yechezkel was Ephraim, when verse Yechezkel 37:11 states it is all the house of Israel?

11. Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are all the house of Israel.


Our Rabbis said (Sanh. 92b) that they were of the tribe of Ephraim, who left Egypt before the end [of the exile],

  • 1
    Maybe He was saying that in the upcoming prophecy they represent all of Israel
    – Double AA
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 12:05
  • 1
    Almost all commentators say that "are all the house of Israel" means "are an example and hint for all of Israel" (see Rashi there and in Sanhedrin, and Metzudat David and Radak etc.). Also in Sanhedrin there are many opinions of who's bones they were, not only the opinion of the Ephraim tribe.
    – Cauthon
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 17:37

3 Answers 3


There is no contradiction between one and another. Israel is also called Ephraim. See for example Vaycra Rabba 2:1 and elsewhere:

עשרה נקראו יקרים ואלו הן: התורה, והנבואה, והתבונה, והדעת, והסכלות, והעושר, והצדיקים, ומיתתן של חסידים, והחסד, וישראל. התורה מנין? שנאמר (משלי ג): יקרה היא מפנינים. הנבואה מנין? (ש"א ג'): ודבר ה' היה יקר בימים ההם. התבונה מנין? (משלי יז): יקר רוח איש תבונה. הדעת מנין? (שם כ): וכלי יקר שפתי דעת. הסכלות מנין? (קהלת י): יקר מחכמה ומכבוד סכלות מעט. העושר מנין? (משלי יב): והון אדם יקר חרוץ. צדיקים מנין? (תהלים קלט): ולי מה יקרו רעיך אל. מיתתן של חסידים מנין? (שם קיז): יקר בעיני ה' המותה לחסידיו. החסד מנין? (שם לו): מה יקר חסדך אלהים. ישראל מנין? (ירמיה לא) : הבן יקיר לי אפרים.

Seems that Sanhedrin 92a tries to connect the especific event of bnei Ephraim's bones (that were strewn in the road when they came out from egypt) with the bones in Yechezkel. See Shemos Rabba 20:11:

(דה"א ז, כ-כא): ובני אפרים שותלח והרגום אנשי גת, והיו עצמותיהם שטוחין בדרך חמרים חמרים, שכבר היה להם ל' שנה שיצאו, עד שלא יצאו אחיהם ממצרים.:

  • Is Yisrael referring to the whole nation or the Northern Kingdom?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 1:28
  • It seems to the first midrash I quote does not refer to the northern kingdom, but the whole nation. Commented May 11, 2016 at 0:12
  • Is that the same sense as Yisrael was used in the question?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 0:18
  • My answer would be: Yes, it is Commented May 11, 2016 at 0:29

If I am not mistaken, at the end of the reference to the story in sanhedrin 92, one of the rabbis confirms that he is a descendant of one of the dry bones people. He probably had a tradition that he is from Efraim.The rabbis aren't deducing that the dry bones people are Efraim, the story is already known amongst the Jewish people.


Eze37 must be read in context. The context of the dry bones is indeed the return of the lost tribes of the northern kingdom, that is the defunct kingdom will be restored. This is necessary on order for this kingdom, or in modern language:state, yup be reunited with the state of the then southern kingdom, that is Judah. The new covenant that eze37 concludes with and very clearly specifies being between both kingdom or houses does correspond clearly with Jeremiah ch. 30 and 31.

Indeed, two kingdoms cannot be reunited if one does not exist.

This principle escapes most commentators based on the practice of taking scriptures apart and out of context.

The background: 1ki11 at the death of Solomon God splits his kingdom, taking away the northern tribes from his descendent because of his idolatry caused by his love for his wives. The intent wads that they should remain United thru the priestly service add their legal and medical counsel in Jerusalem's temple. The fear of dissident and rebellion drove the new king of the north, Jeroboam, an Ephraimite and ex-governor of the region,to secede from Jerusalem and establish two temples where the Jerusalem priestly business was to be conducted. He further changed the fall feasts dates and caused a fortified border to be built between both kingdom, thereby starting a long term family feud between both houses. This separation from Jerusalem resulted in the northern kingdom to fall into idolatry against the efforts of many prophets such as Elijah and Elishah. soon enough God ,after sending more severe warnings than the prophecies, sends pit the Assyrian army which annihilated this kingdom and leaves only its rival,the southern state of Judah which later took on the name of Judea. The issue it's that Israel is made of 12 tribes and that the promise of the almighty was that all 12 will represent him in the land of Canaan. This implies that the northern kingdom people that were taken by the Assyrian must return to the land, they or rather their descendents, reestablishing therefore their territorial jurisdiction lead by a state,basically restoring that house. Then once back in the land and such stated in vigor, God would cause their reunification just as he caused their split, and there would be only one commonwealth with one leader as it wad at Sinai and as it wad intended from the beginning. So, the principle of this new reunion had for result intended the same as the covenant of Sinai which wad to create one nation under God of united tribes.in essence it is the renewal of the Sinai covenant for all intent and purpose. And so, just as Sinai, some sort of exodus from all the nations that the descendents of the northern kingdom had been cast out and spread into was to take place.

This return is in line with the Torah in which God promises to the patriarch that their descendents will spread out around the four corners of the earth and that HE will bring them back to the promised land.

Now the terminology applied to this northern kingdom is what gets people confused ad much as the interpretation of this verse referring to the WHOLE house of Israel.

In genesis, Jacobs confers the firstborn rights to Ephraim from Reuben. He also confirms his name upon him that he should therefore be the leading tribe as firstborn and therefore carry on the name of Israel. Later on, in the distribution of the land by Joshua, the territory of Judah is established first, perhaps because the tribe had been given the sacrificial leadership order since Judah had been given the guardianship of the priestly service by Jacob as a blessing. The territory being vast,the tribes of Benjamin and Shimeon were allocated their parcels in it. This can be related to Judah's having taken personal responsibility for his half brother in the matter of Joseph when this latter asked for him to be brought. we,as the rabbits have, will notice that Shimeon was the one picked by Joseph and put in jail. This guides us to deduct that he wad the one behind the plot to kill Joseph in Dothan, near shechem, just as he had been the leader of the mass murder of shechem which had caused them to run for their lives in front of a possible avenger of blood. This in the fear that Shimeon would do another one of his murderous acts Joseph neutralized him and asked for his brother to be brought in exchange.Joseph's intent wad to protect Benjamin out of the rivalry between the children of Leah and those of Rachel which Jacob was very aware of and for which reason he had not let Ben out of his control. This Judah's taking responsibility for Benjamin and convincing Jacob of his worthiness and righteousness of heart (he is the one who caused Joseph to be sold so as to save his life as well- the only way to protect him from the murderous hands of Shimeon and Levi),caused him to hey Shimeon released from prison and as well Joseph, who remembered very well their evil nature and the looting of shechem that accompanied the mass murder and which caused him to receive then with spyiing accusations, began to trust them anew. Therefore Benjamin and Shimeon were placed under the jurisdiction of Judah.This left the other tribes to spread out into their own territories.

Still the leader of all the tribes is the firstborn, Ephraim, who took central territories between Benjamin his uncle from the same mother, ready to defend him, and Menasseh,his older brother.

At the split between the kingdoms, the territory of Judah and all those in it was separated from all three other tribes. This caused Benjamin and Ephraim to be split. Then when the northern tribes, who took on the name of Israel from the title of their leading tribes Ephraim, got kicked out of the land by the Assyrian,the prophets who had announced their demise also announced their eventual return. The entire book of Hosea is dedicated to that subject.

One of the cheat way to even grasp that is to understand in the language used by the compiler of the chronicles how the citizens of each kingdom is addressed.Judah the Yehudim,Jews are different from those from the northern kingdom whose name is Israel, the Israelites, Yisraelim.

It's only by the end of the 2d temple era that there's a huge confusion between the titles,especially because of the rivalry between both areas, Judea and the rest, that is Samaria and Galilee, both of whom also were disputing the title of Israel. Some early post Judea destruction rabbis did recognise the Samaritans as Israelites though not Jews.The Galileans eventually got reunited with the Judeans which over time got the confusion of title even greater and thereby the understanding of the prophetic writings.

This phenomenon is further compounded by the various hypotheses that pervaded all of the 2d temple era in regard to these lost tribes' return. Some argued they had returned during Hezekiah's time, others sustained it wad after the Babylonian exodus sometimes and gradually, others maintained that were to come back in the days of the messiah,which opens up an array of where when and how, others denied their return. This return of that dead kingdom got further into theological arguments yuoon the validity of Israelites as mere human to represent the heavens on earth in such abominable and weak body and have rise to the idea that the new brand of Israelite would have bodies that would not be subject to the weaknesses of the flesh which is what caused them to fail as a commonwealth in the first place. The concept that the Torah was the heart of its designer, that is the Eternal, gave rise to its name as the word thru which the entire universe functions by and is, therefore, The founding principles of the supernatural realm which Israel wad supposed to manifest. For such endeavor, the weak human flesh would be replaced by an eternal body that could fully manifest on earth the eternal values of unity that the heavens live by. This gave rise to the doctrine of resurrection which wad based upon those verses of Ezekiel and others at large.

This the valley of the dead bones' whole house of Israel concept developed into this understanding that there will be such a time when Israel will exist on earth in a supernatural way. In this context, whether the whole house applies to Ephraim that had died (Hos13:1) only or whether it applies to both house finally reunited is virtually irrelevant since, although Judah cannot function without Ephraim, Judah as it is is, that is in this weak flesh, not better off as if it were dead like Ephraim. So the doctrines developed that there will be such a time, a world to come, when both Judah and Ephraim, that is the whole house of Israel, will be restored and will function as one man, in new bodies,that they should serve the almighty day and night, and in which Jerusalem will be the centre of Israel and the light of justice and righteousness to the world, as promised in the Torah and the prophets, see Isa2 for example.

Some disputed the idea of supernatural resurrection into immortal bodies,others preached it as symbolical as Israel itself being an eternal nation that will never again disappear from the earth rather than the individual human being.

At this point we are still during the 2d temple era. And the many sects were therefore argueing the various meanings and methods that all of this should come to pass. Yet they all had in common this understanding that Israel was to be restored and replace Rome as the world leader. But for that they had to unite. And their doctrines were in the way.

Each sect tried to impose its set of values and scriptural interpretations, sometimes thru civil wars, coercion, etc until Rome leveled the field and dispossessed and dispersed the remnants of Judea. They reunited under the leadership of the Pharisaic sect, while others joined the other and newer sect called Christianity.

Both claimed being that whole house of Israel that Ezekiel speaks about that comes alive from the dead bones' valley. both maintain that they are constituted of Ephraim and Judah and are the true heirs of the prophetic promises.

Then came Islam who inherited that confusion and, in an attempt to solve it, took over that claim, sowing more into the fire.

And this is how we got to have inherited of the dilemma that we experience when we read these verses.

In essence then, the whole house of Israel can be either simply the northern kingdom that needs be restored as an entity in its own land (which right now is the west bank- a clue? ), or it can be both houses reunited, which indeed includes the northern house in the west bank and the southern house in Jerusalem.

Yes indeed, it's a two state solution that must happen in order to reunite both into one.

The northern kingdom was never until now restored as such, as an independent entity. Today's state of Israel is lead by the descendents of Judea, the southern house, in which citizen of the northern house did mingle historically.

But the issue that had kept the doctrines confused was between the identity of that northern house being solely applied to the citizens or to a state with a government and a capital, just as it once was.

The prophets point out to a government, not simply some groups of people. And this is what the theologians miss, since their research is theology and not politics.Thus the theological descriptions of this whole house of Ezekiel that had torn lives for over 2.5 millennia had been based upon the ignorance of the basic Principle that a house exists in function of its governing body's existence, not theological or theoretical imagery.

The eventual separation of church and state has lead us further into this theological debate, ignoring this previous principle that Moses mandate wad to establish a commonwealth of tribes and not a religious institution. Therefore the split of such commonwealth would compromise the validity of its constitution, just as the American confederacy undermined the Union by splitting from it. This the disappearance of Israel as a confederation while its territories remained for the most part foreign to the Judean control,although it wasn't supposed to be at all until the restoration of all things,caused therefore the ineffectiveness of any lone Israelite entity to reach their potential as world leaders.

Thus a certain government must be reestablished in the place where it wad first established, that is in Shechem, or Nablus,the same place where Abraham received that promise, then this government will then be able to reunite with Jerusalem into a homogenous works leading squad.

Since shechem is at the entrance of a valley, between mount Gerizim,where the Samaritan maintain their temple until today, and mount Ebal,there's a chance that this is the valley that Ezekiel refers to where Israel died: the valley of the dead bones.

There's more to say about this city and its scriptural importance, but for the purpose of this answer it would lead to another thousand lines,and the material herein is sufficient for this purpose.

Hope you enjoyed. Blessings.

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    Sources would greatly improve the credibility of this fascinating answer. Commented May 21, 2018 at 7:26

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