Chapter 37:15-23 (ESV) - The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
Question to consider: What does the vision of the staff mean for the people of Israel?
When Jacob prophesied over his sons, he divided his inheritance between Judah and Joseph. Judah received the scepter which means that the line of kings for Israel would be his descendants. Joseph received the blessing so those who descended from him received wealth. It is interesting that when the promised king came through Judah, He was so poor that He was born in an animal trough and dedicated to God with a sacrifice of turtle doves rather than a lamb.
When the kingdom divided after Solomon, Jeroboam, a descendant of Joseph’s son, Ephraim, established the kingdom of Israel to the north, and they were known for their great wealth. The kingdom of Judah was ruled by Rehoboam. If you want to read more about Jacob’s prophecy over the line of kings that came from Judah, I’d encourage you to read my studies of Genesis 49. The way it worked out, Jesus couldn’t have come another time in history without breaking God’s word through Jacob.
Interestingly enough, the LDS look at this prophecy about the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph as being about the joining of the Bible with the Book of Mormon as scripture. They base it on a prophecy they say came from Joseph son of Jacob in which someone who was called after him (ie, Joseph Smith) would bring forth much scripture to bless his people. Of course this prophecy was from 2 Nephi which is in the Book of Mormon.
Just like I interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament scriptures, so the LDS interpret the Bible through the lens of the Book of Mormon. A key difference though is that unlike Joseph Smith, Jesus rose from the dead and is currently reigning from on high. If Christ was not raised, there would be no reason to listen to His teachings or those of His apostles.
If we want to understand the meaning of this vision of the divided staff being reunited, we need only to read to the end of today’s passage after the question the Lord said would be asked by the people, “Will you not tell us what you mean by these?” God would call His people back from their captivity in Babylon and Assyria to rejoin in the land of Israel as one nation, and God Himself would “...save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” The rest of this chapter will deal with how this would happen.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for fulfilling Your promise to reunite the two kingdoms of Israel. We ask that You will unite Your people today around Your word in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.