What are the two sticks in Ezekiel 37:15-17? By Jack Kettler
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. (Ezekiel 37:15-17)
What are these two sticks? What is its significance? As will be seen, there is nothing mysterious about Ezekiel’s prophecy. Saying this is because an unnamed religious group that is well known makes an outlandish claim about the two sticks of Ezekiel. The group that promotes this outlandish interpretation that it is not worthy of being interacted with.
Consulting the Strong’s Lexicon will be valuable:
Noun - masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 6086: 1) tree, wood, timber, stock, plank, stalk, stick, gallows 1a) tree, trees 1b) wood, pieces of wood, gallows, firewood, cedar-wood, woody flax.
Barnes' Notes on the Bible sets forth the easy to grasp and clear meaning of the Ezekiel text:
“A prophecy of the reunion of Israel and Judah, the incorporation of Israel under one Ruler, the kingdom of Messiah upon earth and in heaven.
One stick - So in the marginal reference the names of the tribes had been written on rods or sticks.
For Judah ... - To the house of David had remained faithful, not only Judah, but also Benjamin, Levi, and part of Simeon, and individual members of various tribes 2 Chronicles 11:12-16. Compare the marginal references.
Joseph ... Ephraim - Compare Psalm 78:67; Hosea 5:5 ff “Joseph” is the general name here for the ten tribes, including “Ephraim,” the chief tribe, and his companions. Omit “for” before “all.” “All the house of Israel” is here the ten tribes.”
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary concurs with Barnes and is also helpful:
“16. stick—alluding to Nu 17:2, the tribal rod. The union of the two rods was a prophecy in action of the brotherly union which is to reunite the ten tribes and Judah. As their severance under Jeroboam was fraught with the greatest evil to the covenant-people, so the first result of both being joined by the spirit of life to God is that they become joined to one another under the one covenant King, Messiah-David.
Judah, and … children of Israel his companions—that is, Judah and, besides Benjamin and Levi, those who had joined themselves to him of Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, Asher, Zebulun, Issachar, as having the temple and lawful priesthood in his borders (2Ch 11:12, 13, 16; 15:9; 30:11, 18). The latter became identified with Judah after the carrying away of the ten tribes, and returned with Judah from Babylon, and so shall be associated with that tribe at the future restoration.
For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim—Ephraim's posterity took the lead, not only of the other descendants of Joseph (compare Eze 37:19), but of the ten tribes of Israel. For four hundred years, during the period of the judges, with Manasseh and Benjamin, its dependent tribes, it had formerly taken the lead: Shiloh was its religious capital; Shechem, its civil capital. God had transferred the birthright from Reuben (for dishonoring his father's bed) to Joseph, whose representative, Ephraim, though the younger, was made (Ge 48:19; 1Ch 5:1). From its pre-eminence “Israel” is attached to it as “companions.” The “all” in this case, not in that of Judah, which has only attached as “companions” “the children of Israel” (that is, some of them, namely, those who followed the fortunes of Judah), implies that the bulk of the ten tribes did not return at the restoration from Babylon, but are distinct from Judah, until the coming union with it at the restoration.”
There is nothing mysterious about Ezekiel’s prophecy. It is a beautiful picture of the reunification of Israel the Northern Kingdom, and Judah, the Southern Kingdom, during the time of the Babylonian return. The sticks represent Judah, and Israel, and their joining represent the reunification of the nation. It is a faith-building case of fulfilled prophecy during the time of the Old Covenant. God did not forget His people whom He had sent into captivity for their unrepentant sins. When His time was right, He delivered them from their enemies and brought them home. The wall was rebuilt around Jerusalem, the temple was built again, and redemptive history continued to unfold with the Advent of the Messiah.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
1. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Ezekiel, Vol. 8 p. 357-358.
2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 720.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com