An Article by Adam Larson. So often we hear a passage from the scripture it is explained to us and we accept it without any question. Then we read another explanation and it brings conflict in our hearts. We read more and more and we’re not sure which way to think or believe. The passage in Ezekeil 37 is one of these passages. Much has been written about this, much has been said. This is by no means meant to be an extensive study, but our goal is to try to demystify the confusion around this passage. To begin, let’s read Ezekiel 37:15-28
15 The word of Adonai came to me: 16 “You, human being, take one stick and write on it, ‘For Y’hudah and those joined with him [among] the people of Isra’el.’ Next, take another stick and write on it, ‘For Yosef, the stick of Efrayim, and all the house of Isra’el who are joined with him.’ 17 Finally, bring them together into a single stick, so that they become one in your hand. 18 When your people ask you what all this means, 19 tell them that Adonai Elohim says this: ‘I will take the stick of Yosef, which is in the hand of Efrayim, together with the tribes of Isra’el who are joined with him, and put them together with the stick of Y’hudah and make them a single stick, so that they become one in my hand.’ 20 The sticks on which you write are to be in your hand as they watch. 21 Then say to them that Adonai Elohim says: ‘I will take the people of Isra’el from among the nations where they have gone and gather them from every side and bring them back to their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Isra’el; and one king will be king for all of them. They will no longer be two nations, and they will never again be divided into two kingdoms. 23 “‘They will never again defile themselves with their idols, their detestable things, or any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the places where they have been living and sinning; and I will cleanse them, so that they will be my people, and I will be their God. 24 My servant David will be king over them, and all of them will have one shepherd; they will live by my rulings and keep and observe my regulations. 25 They will live in the land I gave to Ya‘akov my servant, where your ancestors lived; they will live there — they, their children, and their grandchildren, forever; and David my servant will be their leader forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I will give to them, increase their numbers, and set my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My home will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 The nations will know that I am Adonai, who sets Isra’el apart as holy, when my sanctuary is with them forever.’”**
So one question that comes to mind is why is Isra’el separated that it would need to be put back together. To understand this we need to have a quick history lesson. The kingdom was united under King David and lived in peace under King Solomon. After the death of King Solomon the kingdom was divided between Jeroboam and Rehoboam (see 1 Kings 11-12). Fast forward a few hundred years, around 732 BCE Assyrians conquer the northern tribes of Israel and take them away (see II Kings 17, II Chronicles 15). Finally around 586 BCE the Babylonians conquer the southern kingdom and destroy the temple (see II Kings 25). Now that we had a small history lesson, let’s cover some terms that we read in the passage from Ezekiel so we can have some context.
- Y’hudah: A son of Ya’cob. This name refers to both the tribe of Y’Hudah and to the Southern Kingdom. Scriptural context will determine which is meant.
- People of Israel or Children of Israel: This term is found 603 times in Scripture and is used 472 times from Genesis through Second Samuel in obvious reference to the united kingdom (prior to the split of the Northern ten tribes from the Southern two tribes [in addition to the Levites].
- Yosef: The eleventh son of Ya’cob and the father of Ephraim and Manasseh who fathered two tribes of their own. These two tribes took the place of what might otherwise have been known as the “Tribe of Joseph.”
- Ephraim: This name is used 180 times in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) and is specifically referring to this specific Israelite tribe or as a metaphor for the Northern Kingdom of which the tribe of Ephraim was the leading and largest tribe.
So another question we should ask is what have the Rabbis said about this subject to gain some perspective.
- According to the Bible, Tiglath-pileser (II Kgs xv. 29) or Shalmaneser (ib. xvii. 6, xviii. 11), after the defeat of Israel, transported the majority of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and Habor, on the stream of Gozan, and in the towns of Media. In their stead a mixed multitude was transported to the plains and mountains of Israel. As a large number of prophecies relate to the return of “Israel” to the Holy Land, Believers in the literal inspiration of the Scriptures have always labored under a difficulty in regard to the continued existence of the tribes of Israel, with the exception of those of Judah and Levi (or Benjamin), which returned with Ezra and Nehemiah. If the Ten Tribes have disappeared, the literal fulfillment of the prophecies would be impossible; if they have not disappeared, obviously they must exist under a different name. The numerous attempts at identification that have been made constitute some of the most remarkable curiosities of literature. In the Apocrypha, it is presumed that the Ten Tribes still exist as tribes. Thus Tobit is stated to be of the tribe of Naphtali, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs assume their continuous existence. In the Fourth Book of Ezra (xiii. 39-45) it is declared that the Ten Tribes were carried by Hosea, king in the time of Shalmaneser, to the Euphrates, at the narrow passages of the river, whence they went on for a journey of a year and a half to a place called Arzareth. Schiller-Szinessy pointed out that “Arzareth” is merely a contraction of “ere aretz,” the “other land” into which YHVH says He “will cast them [the people]as this day”; see Deut. xxix. 27, which verse is referred by R. Akiba to the Lost Ten Tribes (Sanh. x. 4; comp. “Journal of Philology,” iii. 114).
- “Ibn Ezra: Many nations will descend from him [Abraham] (i.e., the word TKN [melo], fullness, connotes abundance, the phrase meaning: And his seed will become the abundance of the nation [Neter; Karnei Or].) (ArtScroll Bereishis/Genesis Commentary, vol 2, p. 2121 on Gen 48:19).
- “R[abbi] Avraham b. HaRambam somewhat similarly: The expression denotes abundant profligacy to a point that they will have to inhabit lands of other nations it is an allusion to Ephraim’s expansive territory (Ibid.).
- And in the perspective of history, did not these exiled children of the Patriarchs enlighten the nations among whom they were scattered? They did so by teaching their conquerors the fundamental ideas of the knowledge and love of God, ideals they had never forsaken. Hence they too have a messianic vocation and their Messiah the … Messiah son of Joseph (Succah 52a), also called Messiah son of Ephraim (Targum Yonasan on Exodus 40:11), will play an essential role in humanity’s redemption, for he will be the precursor of the … Messiah Son of David … (Ibid. pp. 2121–2122).
It goes to show from the above quotes, that those who say there is only one position from the current Jewish establishment would be wrong. Now that we have gained some insight into the Rabbis, we should now look to scripture to see more about the sticks, trees, broken.
We will start with Jeremiah 11:10-17 which says:
10 They have returned to the sins of their ancestors, who refused to hear my words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Isra’el and the house of Y’hudah have broken my covenant which I made with their ancestors.” 11 Therefore Adonai says, “I am going to bring on them a disaster which they will not be able to escape; and even if they cry to me, I will not listen to them. 12 Then the cities of Y’hudah and the people living in Yerushalayim will go and cry to the gods to whom they are making offerings; but they will not save them at all in their time of trouble. 13 For you have as many gods, Y’hudah, as you have towns; and you have erected as many altars for sacrificing to that shameful thing, Ba‘al, as there are streets in Yerushalayim. 14 “So you, [Yirmeyahu,]don’t pray for this people! Don’t cry or pray on their behalf, because I won’t listen to them when they cry to me because of their troubles. 15 What right does my beloved have to be in my house, when she has behaved so shamelessly with so many? Offerings of consecrated meat can no longer help, because it is when you are doing evil that you are happy.” 16 Adonai once called you an olive tree, beautiful, full of leaves and good fruit. Now with the roar of a violent storm, he has set it on fire; and its branches will be consumed. 17 For Adonai-Tzva’ot, who planted you, has decreed evil for you. “It is because of the evil which the house of Isra’el and the house of Y’hudah did to themselves, provoking me with their offerings of incense to Ba‘al.”**
Scripture likens the nation of Israel to an olive tree (Jer 11:10). Because both houses of Israel have broken their covenants with YHVH (Jer 11:10) both will have their branches broken off from YHVH’s spiritual olive tree (Jer 11:17). At a latter time both will have to be grafted back into the olive tree through the redeeming work of Yeshua the Messiah (Rom 11:13–24).
Olive Branches, two:
For this section let us read Zechariah 4:3, 11-14,
“3 Next to it are two olive trees, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left.”… 11 I replied by asking him, “What are those two olive trees on the right and left sides of the menorah?” 12 Then I asked the question again: “What are those two olive branches discharging gold[-colored oil]through the two gold spouts?” 13 He replied, “Don’t you know what they are?” I answered, “No, my Lord.” 14 He said, “Those are the two who have been anointed with oil; they are standing with the Lord of all the land.”**
Now let’s follow a quick rabbit trail. We will read Matthew 17: 1-8 and then Revelation 11: 3-10.
17 Six days later, Yeshua took Kefa, Ya‘akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately. 2 As they watched, he began to change form — his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became as white as light. 3 Then they looked and saw Moshe and Eliyahu speaking with him. 4 Kefa said to Yeshua, “It’s good that we’re here, Lord. I’ll put up three shelters if you want — one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the talmidim heard this, they were so frightened that they fell face down on the ground. 7 But Yeshua came and touched them. “Get up!” he said, “Don’t be afraid.” 8 So they opened their eyes, looked up and saw only Yeshua by himself.**
Revelation 11: 3-10:
3 “Also I will give power to my two witnesses; and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two menorahs standing before the Lord of the earth. 5 If anyone tries to do them harm, fire comes out of their mouth and consumes their enemies — yes, if anyone tries to harm them, that is how he must die. 6 They have the authority to shut up the sky, so that no rain falls during the period of their prophesying; also they have the authority to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want. 7 When they finish their witnessing, the beast coming up out of the Abyss will fight against them, overcome them and kill them; 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the main street of the great city whose name, to reflect its spiritual condition, is “S’dom” and “Egypt” — the city where their Lord was executed on a stake. 9 Some from the nations, tribes, languages and peoples see their bodies for three-and-a-half days and do not permit the corpses to be placed in a tomb. 10 The people living in the Land rejoice over them, they celebrate and send each other gifts, because these two prophets tormented them so.**
Do you see the connection between these? I hope so. However that’s a study for another day. We see in the passage from Zechariah that the nation of Israel was split into two branches (Zech 4:3, 11–14) but will be joined back together to become one nation or a single olive tree again (Ezek 37:15–28).
Olive Branch, wild
For this section, we will read Romans 11:17-24:
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you — a wild olive — were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree, 18 then don’t boast as if you were better than the branches! However, if you do boast, remember that you are not supporting the root, the root is supporting you. 19 So you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 True, but so what? They were broken off because of their lack of trust. However, you keep your place only because of your trust. So don’t be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified! 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly won’t spare you! 22 So take a good look at God’s kindness and his severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off; but, on the other hand, God’s kindness toward you — provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise, you too will be cut off! 23 Moreover, the others, if they do not persist in their lack of trust, will be grafted in; because God is able to graft them back in. 24 For if you were cut out of what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree!**
Paul uses this term as a reference to the Gentiles (people of the nations, Rom 11:17, 24) and describes how they must be grafted into the spiritual olive tree, which represents the nation of Israel. So after we have read this, I have some questions for you:
- Has this tree been totally joined back together again with King David ruling over them (Ezek 37:24–25)?
- If not when will this happen?
- Are all twelve tribes back in their own land of Israel yet as this prophecy foretells will happen (Ezek 37:22)? If not when will this happen?
- Have all twelve tribes of Israel completely disassociated themselves from the pollution and defilement of paganism and are they now serving Elohim in perfect righteousness (Ezek 37:23)? If not when will this happen?
Just in case the scripture has not made this clear, clear let’s cover the blessing Jacob gave to Ephriam and Manassah:
Gensis 48:12-22: 12 Yosef brought them out from between his legs and prostrated himself on the ground. 13 Then Yosef took them both, Efrayim in his right hand toward Isra’el’s left hand and M’nasheh in his left hand toward Isra’el’s right hand, and brought them near to him. 14 But Isra’el put out his right hand and laid it on the head of the younger one, Efrayim, and put his left hand on the head of M’nasheh — he intentionally crossed his hands, even though M’nasheh was the firstborn. 15 Then he blessed Yosef: “The God in whose presence my fathers Avraham and Yitz’chak lived, the God who has been my own shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the angel who has rescued me from all harm, bless these boys. May they remember who I am and what I stand for, and likewise my fathers Avraham and Yitz’chak, who they were and what they stood for. And may they grow into teeming multitudes on the earth.” 17 When Yosef saw that his father was laying his right hand on Efrayim’s head, it displeased him, and he lifted up his father’s hand to remove it from Efrayim’s head and place it instead on M’nasheh’s head. 18 Yosef said to his father, “Don’t do it that way, my father; for this one is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know that, my son, I know it. He too will become a people, and he too will be great; nevertheless his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will grow into many nations.” 20 Then he added this blessing on them that day: “Isra’el will speak of you in their own blessings by saying, ‘May God make you like Efrayim and M’nasheh.’” Thus he put Efrayim ahead of M’nasheh. 21 Isra’el then said to Yosef, “You see that I am dying, but God will be with you and will bring you back to the land of your ancestors. 22 Moreover, I am giving to you a sh’khem [shoulder, ridge, share, city of Sh’khem]more than to your brothers; I captured it from the Emori with my sword and bow.”**
Its pretty clear that Elohim had something great in store for the descendents of Ephrayim. There is much that could be said, but let’s read a segment from a article by Ya’acov Natan Lawrence of Hoshana Raba:
“In Genesis 48 while prophesying over Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob crossed his hands over their heads making the symbol of the paleo-Hebrew letter tav (like our letter t or x in our English alphabet), which resembles a cross and pictographically means in that ancient Hebraic script “sign of the covenant.”3 Jacob then spoke of the Heavenly Messenger of YHVH (the Hebrew word malak being mistranslated as “angel” in most Bibles), understood to be the preincarnate Yeshua, who had redeemed him from all evil and who would bless the lads (see Gen 31:11–13). Jacob then prophesied that the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would become like “fish in the midst of the land.” In light of this prophetic symbolism, which religious group on earth today fulfills the religious symbolisms in Jacob’s prophecy as to who the descendents of Ephraim and Manasseh would be? Which religion on earth today uses the fish as their symbol, speaks of a Messenger from YHVH as their Redeemer, and has the sign of the paleo- Hebrew letter tav, which looks like a cross? The Buddhists? The Moslems? The Hindus? Even the Jews? No! Only Christianity fits this enigmatic criteria. Many Christians are without a doubt the literal descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. Those who are not, according to the Apostle Paul, in some unique sense become the descendants of Abraham once they come to saving faith in Yeshua (e.g., Gal 3:7,29).” –
Natan Lawrence “Joseph and Judah: Two Brothers and the Two Houses of Israel in End-Time Prophecy” http://hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/joseph_judah.pdf
It is clear that this is yet to occur. Whoever the House of Ephraim and his companions are, Scripture says that YHVH knows who they are, that they will be regathered to the land of their inheritance in the last days, and reunited with their brother, Judah. It should be obvious that these events have yet to occur. We know from the Book of Revelation that it is clear that the twelve tribes of Israel and all their grafted-in companions will be regathered at this time, for the only way into that city will be through twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of Israel. There is no “Gentile Gate” (Rev 21:12). So through which gate will you enter the New Jerusalem?