An Exegetical Look at Ezekiel 37:15ff
(Evaluating a Mormon View)
Dr. J. E. Rosscup
I. The Problem
Is the popular Mormon view acceptable, that the two sticks refer to the Book
of Mormon (Stick of Joseph) and the Bible (Stick of Judah)? The view is that the
sticks have parchment rolled around them containing books. For the Mormon view
cf. LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, (pp. 67-68), and other
sources in the next paragraph.
Mormons point in their Book of Mormon to II Nephi 29:6-14 to help prove
their view. That passage argues that God not only gave one book to the nation of
Jews, but another book to other nations. [But even here, it sounds like not two
books, but the Bible (v. 10) and many other books (v. 11) by various prophets (v.
12), and men are to be judged out of those books]. Mormons believe that the two
“sticks” (to them the two “books”) were joined in the early days of Mormonism
(1840’s). So they became one book “in the hands of Ephraim” (Ezek. 37:19).
They believe that the men who long ago engraved the plates of the Book of
Mormon were in the line of Ephraim and Manasseh (Alma 10:3, Book of Mormon).
So the Book of Mormon is the Book of Ephraim (cf. E. A. Smith, Restoration: A
Study in Prophecy, a Mormon source, (p. 165); cf. also J. E. Talmage, A Study of
the Articles of Faith,(p. 276); Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon.
One can see a Mormon’s rejection of this Mormon view and an assertion of the
correct view of Ezekiel 37:15ff.
In Heber C. Snell, “Roundtable: The Bible in the Church,” in Dialogue: A
Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring, 1967), pp. 61-62. Mormons
similarly hold that Isaiah 29:11-14 by its “book that is sealed” refers to the future
Book of Mormon as “a marvelous work and a wonder.” Mormons claim, as Richards
shows, that Isaiah 29:11-12 was realized when Joseph Smith received and
translated golden plates to write the Book of Mormon. For a refutation of such
Mormon contentions, cf. Marvin W. Cowan, Mormon Claims Answered, (36-38);
David A. Reed and John R. Farkas, Mormons Answered Verse by Verse, (58-59);
Bill McKeever, Answering Mormons’ Questions, (68-69).
II. Views on Ezekiel 37:15ff.
A. Mormon View (above)
B. Widespread View of Most Scholars. God shows Ezekiel in a vision in
which the prophet is to use two sticks he combines together the future joining of
Israel and Judah into a union again as part of the blessing in the Messianic
Kingdom. Cf. commentaries on Ezekiel by Ralph Alexander, Daniel Block, Paul
Enns, C. L. Feinberg, etc.; and cf. The MacArthur Study Bible notes at 37:15ff.
III. The Preferred View (II., B. above).
This appears correct due to the following hermeneutical supports
A. Near Context (many observations).
1. v. 12. God promises to bring people of Israel back into their
ancient land to inherit it in a day of national blessing. In Ezekiel 37, two portions
state this, first vv. 1-14 with the key in v. 12 precisely stating Israel’s return,
second in vv. 15ff with key verses such as 21-22 agreeing with v. 12.
2. v. 14. Again the claim is clear and definite.
3. v. 15. Observe “For Judah and for the children of Israel . . . .”
4. v. 18. In the context, Ezekiel’s audience, watching his dramatic
action, asks him to “show us what you mean by these.” Then Ezekiel gives the
direct answer, involving Israel and Judah which the people know about, not the
Book of Mormon and the Bible which they do not know about.
5. vv. 21-22. The “two nations . . . two kingdoms” in view are Israel
and Judah as in 35:10. In v. 22, the idea is not two scrolls, but two groups of
Israeli people that God makes into one unified people, together in “the land,”
denoting Palestine as earlier in Ezekiel’s context (cf. the land that Babylonians
remove Israelites from in chaps. 1-24, the land distinct from lands of neighboring
nations in chaps. 25-32, the land where Jerusalem receives devastation by
Babylonian invaders in chap. 33, the landfrom which Israelites are scattered as
sheep in chap. 34, the land which God judged but which He later will bless with
kingdom welfare in chap. 36, etc.).
In the Messianic day, one king will be over the two parts of Israel, which are
no longer “two nations” but one, “neither shall they be divide into two kingdoms
B. Wider Context (again, many statements)
1. Ezekiel 28:25-26. God pledges to restore Israel to its land, and it
has to be Palestine since it is “their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob” (v.
2. 34:11ff. God as a Shepherd will search for and regather His
people, as a shepherd seeks out his sheep, and bringss them back “to their own
land . . .on the mountains of Israel” (v. 13).
3. 36:1-15. God promises that “mountains of Israel” formerly
devastated will be blessed as He populates them again, even blesses hills, rivers
and valleys (v. 6) and restores cities (v. 10).