The Stick of Judah and the Stick of Joseph
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: And you, son of man, take one stick, and write upon it: For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions; then take another stick, and write upon it: For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions; and join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.
Concerning Ezekiel 37:15-25, James E. Talmage writes:
. . . Ezekiel saw in vision the coming together of the stick of Judah, and the stick of Joseph, signifying the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The passage last referred to reads, in the words of Ezekiel: "The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand."
When we call to mind the ancient custom in the making of books--that of writing on long strips of parchment and rolling the same on rods or sticks, the use of the word "stick" as equivalent to "book" in the passage becomes apparent. At the time of this utterance, the Israelites had divided into two nations known as the kingdom of Judah and that of Israel, or Ephraim. Plainly the separate records of Judah and Joseph are here referred to. Now, as we have seen, the Nephite nation comprised the descendants of Lehi who belonged to the tribe of Manasseh, of Ishmael who was an Ephraimite, and of Zoram, whose tribal relation is not definitely stated. The Nephites were then of the tribes of Joseph; and their record or "stick" is as truly represented by the Book of Mormon as is the "stick" of Judah by the Bible.
That the bringing forth of the record of Joseph or Ephraim was to be accomplished through the direct power of God is evident from the Lord's exposition of the vision of Ezekiel, wherein He says: "Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph * * * and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah." That this union of the two records was to be a characteristic of the latter days is evident from the prediction of an event which was to follow immediately, viz., the gathering of the tribes from the nations among which they have been dispersed. Comparison with other prophecies relating to the gathering will conclusively prove that the great event was predicted to take place in the latter times, preparatory to the second coming of Christ.2
Latter-day Saints claim that because of the division of the tribes of Israel into two kingdoms, God provided that separate records should be kept for each. They allege that this passage contains two provisions--firstly, that a stick or record was to be kept for Judah, and that a stick or record was to be kept for Joseph; secondly, that the two records were to be symbolically joined together into "one stick," or record, that is, a scroll or a book, in the hands of the prophet. Having interpreted this passage to meet their theological needs they then ask: "Where is the fulfillment of this important commandment? Who claims to have the record of Joseph today?"3 The Latter-day Saints then answer their own questions based on their contrived interpretation of God's message to Ezekiel. However, a study of the biblical text reveals that no mention is made of the joining of two records together. The Latter- day Saint rendering of "stick" to mean a "record," "scroll," or "book" is incorrect. Yet upon this incorrect understanding is based the Latter-day Saint claim that God commanded Ezekiel to take the stick (incorrectly rendered "scroll") of Judah and then to take the stick (incorrectly rendered "scroll") of Joseph and symbolically join them together to become one stick of scripture. That is, it is supposedly a prophecy that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are to someday be joined together as one book of scripture.
There are several problems inherent in the Latter-day Saint interpretation. In ancient times a parchment scroll was written upon and then often attached to a length of wood around which it was rolled. Latter-day Saints interpret the phrase "take one stick and write upon it" to mean that a scroll is meant in this passage rather than that Ezekiel wrote directly on two pieces of wood. The Hebrew word 'aytz ("tree," "wood"), rendered "stick" in this passage, does not mean "scroll," the Hebrew for which is megillah (for example, Jeremiah 36:27ff). The biblical phraseology the Latter-day Saints seek is expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures by megillat-sefer, "roll of a book" (Jeremiah 36:2), "a scroll," that is, parchment skins sewn together and attached to wooden rollers. There is nothing in Ezekiel's prophecy to indicate that "stick" refers to anything but one piece of wood on which the prophet was commanded to write "for Judah" and a second piece of wood on which he was to write "for Joseph." The sticks were to be symbolic representations of the two kingdoms. The prophet is to take one of them in his right hand, concealing one end of it in his clenched fist. Then he is to take the other stick and join it to the first one, end to end. His clenched fist will grasp the place where the two sticks meet, giving the appearance that he is holding one long stick in the middle. Nothing in Ezekiel's pronouncement nor anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible suggests that God commanded that two separate records be kept for both kingdoms.
Even taking the Book of Mormon at its word, it is not a record of "Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions." It is supposedly a record of the descendants of a family of the tribe of Manasseh who along with a number of other individuals allegedly left Jerusalem circa 600 B.C.E. and were supposedly divinely led to the Americas. In addition, it supposedly contains a record of the Jaredites, a non-Israelite people. On the other hand, the Hebrew Scriptures contain a chronicle of events, which encompasses the utterances of prophets sent respectively to the northern kingdom of Israel (of which Ephraim was the leading tribe) and to the southern kingdom of Judah. There is no gap in the biblical record.
The greatest problem, however, for the Latter-day Saint interpretation of Ezekiel 37:15-17 is that its true meaning is explained in verses 18-22:
And when the children of your people shall speak to you, saying: Will you not tell us what you mean by these? say to them: Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them with him together with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand. And the sticks on which you write shall be in your hand before their eyes. And say to them: Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, where they have gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.
We are told that the two nations (Judah and Israel) will no longer be divided. The old divisions of north and south will be abolished and the nation will be united in God's hand. No mention is made of two separate records or scrolls being joined together but of Ephraim and the other tribes of Israel joining Judah to become one nation.
Ezekiel 37:15-7 does not refer to scrolls or books but to the eventual national unification of the children of Israel. Indeed, the claim of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refutes its own contention in a very basic way. The passage in Ezekiel can not apply to the Book of Mormon which, insofar as it claims to be the record of Israelites allegedly concentrates on the descendants of a family of the tribe of Manasseh and is not inclusive of all the northern tribes. In particular, the Book of Mormon is not an historical record of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but the alleged historical record of the ancestors of the American Indians. All said, neither the Latter-day Saints as a group nor the people depicted in the Book of Mormon can fulfill the biblically explained prophecy. No amount of genetic testing or DNA sampling will show the Jewish people and the Latter-day Saints to be of the same ancestry. The Latter-day Saints are simply not of Israelite origins.
The stick representing Judah and the stick representing the northern tribes of Israel become one when held end to end in the prophet's hand. Thus, will the tribes of Israel that the sticks represent become one in actuality. Ezekiel 37:15-17 makes no reference to two separate records being kept, one for Judah and one for Joseph. Furthermore, there is no promise made of a national unification of Jews and Latter-day Saints taking place in North America or anywhere else. For all their assertions and genealogical research, the Latter-day Saints are not descendants of Joseph and can never join Judah in fulfillment of a nonexistent prophecy.
1 LeGrand Richards, The Mormons and the Jewish People, Salt Lake City: Deseret Press (tract), 1976, p. 1.© Gerald Sigal
2 James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1962, pp. 276-277.
3 Ezra Taft Benson, A Message to Judah from Joseph, Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (tract), 1982, p. 9.
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