Bible Answer

What does the “dry bones” in Ezekiel mean?

Would you consider the soldiers in Ezekiel (the dry bones) the first resurrection?

The passage in Ezekiel concerning the dry bones is not a literal resurrection but a picture of Israel being returned to her land:

Ezek. 37:1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.
Ezek. 37:2 He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry.
Ezek. 37:3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.”
Ezek. 37:4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’
Ezek. 37:5 “Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.
Ezek. 37:6 ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.’”
Ezek. 37:7  So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
Ezek. 37:8 And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.
Ezek. 37:9 Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’”
Ezek. 37:10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Ezek. 37:11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’
Ezek. 37:12 “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.

Notice in v.11 the Lord explains that these dry bones are representative of something that would happen to the entire nation of Israel. They represent Israel being brought into the land of Israel (v.12) after spending centuries in exile. That promise began to be fulfilled in the early part of the 20th Century when Jews began to return to Palestine to establish the Jewish state. 

Therefore, this is not a literal reference to any human resurrection. It is a metaphor symbolizing the nation of Israel coming back to life, so to speak, as it returns from exile into her land.