Ezekiel addressed his prophecy in chapter 36 to the mountains of Israel. He also includes hills, rivers, valleys, desolate wastes, and cities. [Ezek. 36:4] This prophecy would make little sense, unless the mountains and hills were symbolic.
It seems possible this entire prophecy is allegorical; the mountains of Israel, being prominent parts of the promised land, represent the promises of God, and the covenants, and prophecies, that apply to the church. Rivers and valleys are also symbolic in scripture. David mentioned a mysterious river, which is also mentioned in later prophecies:
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
Over the centuries, many commentators have understood the river flowing from Jerusalem and the temple to represent the Spirit of God and the Gospel going to the world from the church.
In Joel's prophecy, which was given centuries after David, a fountain flows from the temple, and waters the valley of Shittim, which is located east of the Jordan River. This could hardly be a literal river! Shittim was where the Israelites camped before entering the promised land. It was where they sinned by committing whoredom with the daughters of Moab. [Num. 25:1]
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
In the New Testament, milk, as nourishment for infants, is symbolic of the basic truths of the Gospel, [Heb. 5:13, 1 Pet. 2:2] and new wine, which affects the mind, represents God's Spirit. [Luke 5:37-38; Acts 2:14-16]
Ezekiel's figurative river flows from the temple towards the Dead Sea, and heals its water, and every living thing where the waters come.
7 Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other.
8 Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed.
9 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.
Zechariah wrote of rivers of "living waters" flowing from Jerusalem. These were alluded to by Jesus, and John said they represent the holy Spirit. [John 7:37-39]
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.
The seasons of "summer" and "winter" here are probably symbolic; the summer comes before the harvest, and winter follows the harvest. The harvest represents the time of the resurrection of the saints at the end of the age. [Matt. 13:39]
In the prophecy of Ezek. 36, the mountains of Israel were desolate; they had been "swallowed up on every side;" they were "a possession unto the residue of the heathen;" they were "taken up on the lips of the talkers;" they were "an infamy of the people;" the heathen had "appointed my land for a possession," and they had "cast it out for a prey." The mountains had "borne the shame of the heathen;" the land "lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by;" its cities were ruined, the land "devourest up men, and hast bereaved thy nations."
A good example of how this prophecy applies today is evident when the "mountains" are interpreted as symbolic of the prophecies of scripture, which are indeed "swallowed up on every side." That is, they have been interpreted in many different ways.
Flawed, and often strange interpretations of Bible prophecy have led
some people to make fantastic predictions, and set dates for certain
events, such as the rapture, or the scond coming of Christ. Those
predictions usually fail. 
The failure of many misguided predictions have caused the prophecies of the Bible to become "an infamy of the people." Book sellers hurry to offer revisions of previously published works of notorious prophecy "experts" in which interpretations are adapted to changes in world events, all for profit.
Ezekiel said the heathen had "appointed my land for a possession," the land in this case representing the promises in the scriptures given to the saints. Critical scholars of the nineteenth century who were unbelievers were an example. Many of those scholars rejected the idea of the divine inspiration of the scriptures.
Because of all the flawed interpretations of prophecy, the whole subject has been discredited and brought into shame, as Ezekiel described in his prophecy, where the mountains are metaphors for the prophecies of the Bible. The prophecies of scripture have "borne the shame of the heathen." But Ezekiel's prophecy said the mountains would "shoot forth branches," and "yield fruit" to God's people. That would be like barren hills becoming places where fruit trees and vineyards flourish. An interpretation of this is that the Bible will begin to bear its intended fruit, which is that people will understand how God's purpose is working out in the world, and they will understand the Gospel, and turn from evil. Ezekiel's prophecy will enlighten the church, the true Israel.
The apostle Peter said the prophets foretold the salvation that was to come to the church. They wrote about the Gospel; and "prophesied of the grace that should come unto you." They ministered not to people of their own period, but "unto us." That is, to the church. And they wrote by "the Spirit of Christ which was in them." [1 Pet. 1:9-12]
Ezekiel's prophecy suggests, when the symbolism of mountains is interpreted as referring to the scriptures, that the scriptures will become meaningful to people, and their mysteries and puzzles will be understood, where they were previously obscure. The promises of God, and prophecies, represented by the mountains, will be possessed by the saints, rather than the "heathen."
Furthermore, Ezekiel's prophecy said that God would give the people a new heart and a new spirit, similar to the promise of the new covenant in Hebrews 8:8-12 and 10:15-17.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
Copyright © 2010, 2014 by Douglas E. Cox
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