Sticks of Judah and Joseph

24 December

The Mormon quotes we’re using today are found in the Ensign and also used in an LDS Gem I received from the Church when I signed up for their daily scripture readings a few years ago.  

As I kept reading through their interpretation of the two biblical passages used in their article to support the Book of Mormon I knew it was time to tackle this subject matter of the two sticks.

Mormons believe the two sticks spoken of in Ezekiel is a prophecy about the Book of Mormon and the Bible.  They believe the significance of the name Joseph showing up on one of the sticks further goes to prove their point.  We’ll be exploring this subject again in the future, but for now let’s take a look at what the Church has to say here.

Ensign, Nov. 2007, 44; ““Isaiah wrote, ‘Thou shalt . . . speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust’ (Isaiah 29:4). Could any words be more descriptive of the Book of Mormon, coming as it did ‘out of the ground’ to ‘whisper out of the dust’ to people of our day?

“But Isaiah was not the only Old Testament prophet who foretold the Book of Mormon. Ezekiel wrote:

” ‘Take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel . . . : then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel. . . :

“‘And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand’ (Ezekiel 37:16 17).” – Russell M. Nelson, “Scriptural Witnesses”

Isaiah 29:1-5; “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. 2 Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel. 3 And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. 4 And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. 5 Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.”

Ezekiel 37:15-17; “The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, 16 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: 17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.”

Wow, where do we begin?  This is what makes me fall to my knees begging God to open the eyes of my people.  The deception of these people is so thick, but I know that if God could save me He can save anyone.  Please Abba, please open their eyes!

The passage in Isaiah has to be one of the scariest warnings in the Bible of what can happen to an entire nation when they don’t follow God.  Satan is blatant indeed.  He obviously doesn’t try to hide the lies and the words of Mr. Nelson are proof that Satan uses whomever he can to keep the lie going – he tricks even the elect.  While Isaiah was warning the Israelites of their impending distress because of their idolatry, here we have the Mormon Church listening to messages in the Book of Mormon via a dead person (aka Moroni, the angel of light).  Ironically, this is why Israel was in serious trouble.  They had prostituted themselves to a foreign god while listening to dead spirits and necromancers.  The website of www.dictionary.com defines necromancer this way:

a method of divination through alleged communication with the dead; black art

magic in general, especially that practiced by a witch or sorcerer; sorcery; witchcraft; conjuration

In Isaiah’s warning to the Israelites of the coming invasion of Jerusalem, he gives them a scathing report on their failures and unbelief.  And by the way, Ariel is nickname for Jerusalem which means Lion of God.

Isaiah warned his beloved countrymen in Jerusalem they were going to be held captive and humbled to the dust with the coming invasion of the Assyrians.  They had been disobedient for far too long and God was not about to let her sin go unpunished.  People would soon recognize and hear her voice as the spirit charmers or necromancers (Isaiah 8:19) and they would sound like the dead.  It was no coincidence they’d sound like the necromancers because that’s who the Israelites were prostituting themselves to and for.

The Hebrew word for the term “familiar spirit” in verse four is oòb.  It means a mumble or a hollow sound like from water in a bottle.  The word whisper in Hebrew is tsaòphaph meaning to coo or chirp, chatter, peep, whisper.

These sounds or familiar spirits were noises used by the spirit charmers to entice the Israelites to follow pagan gods and spirits who they believed could tell them their future or give them inside information for good luck in their futures.  Their voices would be as soft as the voices coming out of the dust that no one but Israel could hear.

It was a national pastime of Israel to visit the charmers giving them money to hear what they’d say.  They thought nothing of going to spend what they had to hear the lies and revere those who fed them the lies.  They had lowered themselves so far down and away from God nothing else would get their attention except for annihilation of their homes and way of life.

The misinterpretation of the Ezekiel passage is just as bad.

This prophecy from God through Ezekiel was telling God’s children there would be a re-uniting of the two kingdoms.  No more would there be any feuding as had been going on since the days of Jeraboam.  All the years of Judah’s jealousy over Ephraim and Ephraim’s taunting Judah were going to be done and over with.  They would come together in brotherly love.

The people took immediate notice of the writings on the two sticks.  They understood this was referring back to God’s words from Numbers 17:2;

Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man’s name upon his rod.

One of these two rods in Ezekiel’s hand said “For Judah” which included Benjamin as well as Levi and the other “For Joseph”.  The meaning of the two sticks is that “Judah and Israel should become one in the hand of God”.  See Matthew Henry and Charles Spurgeon as well as Jamieson, Fausset & Brown’s Commentaries for further insight in these two passages of Isaiah & Ezekiel.  I’ve also used Vine’s Expository, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Holman Bible Dictionary and Easton’s Bible Dictionary for transliterations and insight.

Children would play with sticks and being always inquisitive they’d naturally ask questions of everything.  Writing on these sticks caused the adults to ask Ezekiel what he was doing with those sticks and what was meant by it for them – they were inquisitive with a child’s heart.

They knew God had a message for them.  Remember during this time Jerusalem had been sacked by the Babylonians and the northern kingdom had already been devastated by the Assyrians during the time of Isaiah’s prophetic words some one hundred years earlier.

With our history lesson behind us let’s take a look at the text of Mr. Nelson’s original article in the Ensign.  Earlier this week we touched upon the importance of not taking things out of context when we read or use scripture for our personal lives.  This is another reminder to always follow that rule!

Mr. Nelson used the passage from Matthew 18:16 to prove the Book of Mormon is a scriptural witness for the Bible, but is this correct?  Let’s take a look at what he said in context and look at what the Bible was referring to in Matthew.

Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, November 2007, pg 44; “A dictionary defines the noun witness as an “attestation of a fact or event: [a] testimony.” The term witness bears special significance when applied to the word of God. In the Bible we read this important declaration: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”   This assures God’s children that divine doctrines are confirmed by more than one scriptural witness.

Matthew 18:15-17; “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

When we look at Mr. Nelson’s explanation and take his word for it there is nothing in his definition of a witness to bring up concerns about the verse in Matthew 18:16.  However, when you look at the passage in Matthew and the correlating verses in the Bible with this same topic you’ll find that each time this phrase was used is when sin was involved on the part of someone in the congregation.  Two to three witnesses were needed to confront someone for sinning if they wouldn’t take private advice from someone.  There are three other verses in the Bible that use this phrase; 2 Corinthians 13:1 and Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15.

Furthermore, there are many verses in the Bible that contradict Mr. Nelson’s teaching of other “witnesses” used to confirm the validity of the Bible.  The Bible doesn’t excuse itself nor is it subject to any outside verifications of its authenticity such as other writings or even archaeology.  The Bible itself tells us it is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword in Hebrews 4:12;

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Holman Bible Dictionary says this about outside evidences “proving” the Bible to be true;

One can demonstrate from archaeological materials that Sennacherib invaded Judah in the time of Hezekiah, but that he was a tool in the hand of the Lord can only be known from biblical assertion. That claim is not open to archaeological verification.

Paul also tells us in Galatians 1:6-9 that if he or an angel of light comes preaching another gospel then you aren’t to listen to them.  Again there is no subtlety with Satan as we see for ourselves the front cover of the Book of Mormon says;

“The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ”

It just doesn’t get much plainer than that folks.

With Love in Christ;

Michelle Grim

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