" '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.
(Eze 37:23 CJB)
THE MYSTERY OF THE TWO STICKS
Many interpretations have been proposed concerning the passage of the two sticks from Ezekiel 37. As usual, the Aftara enlightens us as to the meaning of the prophecy.
This Aftara was chosen to accompany Parasha Vayigash, the Torah portion where Judah (from the House of Leah) approaches Joseph (from the House of Rachel, who will later be addressed as the House of Ephraim after Joseph's second son), in order to resolve a conflict that they have concerning Benjamin, Rachel’s second son and Joseph’s brother.
Then Y'hudah approached (VAYIGASH) Yosef and said, "Please, my lord! Let your servant say something to you privately; and don't be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. (Gen 44:18)
From the day of Jacob’s surprise acquisition of both Leah and Rachel, the two women launched a child-bearing competition in order to secure Jacob’s affection. This contest between the two sisters became the portent of the future divided relationship of the nation of Israel becoming two separate kingdoms, sometimes even at war with each other. The prophets saw the reunification of the kingdom as it was under Kings David and Solomon as a sign of the preparatory initiation for the Messianic Age.
EZEKIEL, THE PROPHET OF THE RETURN
The prophecy of Ezekiel 37 doesn’t stand on its own. It comes at the heel of Ezekiel 34, introducing David (Yeshua) as the future good shepherd of Israel who will sincerely care for the people unlike the bad shepherds of His days. Ezekiel 35 prophecies the annihilation of the Kingdom of Seir (Edom) and Ezekiel 36 prophecies the return of the people of Israel to their ancestral lands, as is pictorialized in Ezekiel 37:1-13.
At the end of the dry bones prophecy, right before the prophecy of the two sticks, HaShem says:
Then you will know that I am Adonai -- when I have opened your graves and made you get up out of your graves, my people! (14) I will put my Spirit in you; and you will be alive. Then I will place you in your own land; and you will know that I, Adonai, have spoken, and that I have done it,' says Adonai."
(Eze 37:13-14 CJB)
Thus making the return of the people of Israel the signal that it is the time when they will acknowledge the Lord. This prophecy is being fulfilled in front of our very eyes. The six-Day War when Jerusalem returned into Jewish hands marked the time when many Jews started to understand Yeshua as their Messiah. That era launched the modern-day Messianic movement, as is written in:
. . . because it has been given to the Goyim, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months. (Rev 11:2 CJB)
Ezekiel's wording, “ Then you will know that I am Adonai . . . “ addressed to Israel continues throughout the next two chapters.
Ezekiel’s prophecy of the two sticks tells the story of Messianic Israel from its beginning. It follows:
- the introduction of Messiah in chapter 34
- the destruction of Edom in chapter 35
- the call for Israel to return, accomplished through Herzl’s zionist movement after the Dreyfuss Affair in the late 1800’s.
Ezekiel starts with the reunification of both kingdoms.
The word of Adonai came to me: "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.' Finally, bring them together into a single stick, so that they become one in your hand. When your people ask you what all this means, 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.' The sticks on which you write are to be in your hand as they watch.
This reunification started to happen some time after the prophecy was given, when in 538/537 BCE, Cyrus the Persian decreed that any captives of Israel disseminated throughout his kingdom from the beginning of the Assyrian Exile could return to Israel if they so desired to help rebuild the Jerusalem Temple.
In the first year of Koresh king of Persia, in order for the word of Adonai prophesied by Yirmeyahu to be fulfilled, Adonai stirred up the spirit of Koresh king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his whole kingdom, which he also put in writing, as follows: "Here is what Koresh king of Persia says: Adonai, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms on earth; and he has charged me to build him a house in Yerushalayim, in Y'hudah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! He may go up to Yerushalayim, in Y'hudah, and build the house of Adonai the God of Isra'el, the God who is in Yerushalayim.
(Ezr 1:1-3 CJB)
It is noted by historians that, by the time of Yeshua, the kingdom was not divided in 2 and that there were representatives of all the tribes in Israel proper.
Using the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles, the prophet alludes to the greater future Roman Exile.
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. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Isra'el; (Ezekiel 37:21)
This has happened through the Balfour Declaration at the end of WW1, and Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. The prophecy continues with the Messianic Age when Yeshua rules from Jerusalem in Israel.
...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. (Eze 37:15-22 CJB)
The prophecy then takes us further in the Messianic Age, a time as described by Jeremiah as a time when:
"No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, 'Know Adonai'; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickednesses and remember their sins no more." (Jer 31:33-34 CJB)
Of that time, Ezekiel says:
" '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.”
Indeed, Yeshua will rule as king over Israel as is written:
“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. 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.
At that time also, the Temple will be rebuilt…
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. My home will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.
It is at that time when Israel is restored as one nation under one king, with its own Temple that the powers of atheism, replacement theology, and antisemitism will be confounded and vanish. The existence of God and of His purpose for the nations though Israel will be an established fact, as Ezekiel continues:
The nations will know that I am Adonai, who sets Isra'el apart as holy, when my sanctuary is with them forever.' " (Eze 37:23-28 CJB)
May it be soon HaShem, even in our days.
AND WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?
- We need to realize that we are part of a cosmic reality that started even before the foundations of the world (Rev 13:8).
- As Jewish and Gentile believers, we also need to realize that we are the firstfruit and the spearhead of the soon-coming Messianic Age and that we need to live and act like it.
- We need to remember that we are not here to do as we please. We need to be true to our mandate as ambassadors of the coming Kingdom of God.
- As John did, and Paul exhorted, we must live a life worthy of our calling of telling people to repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand! As Paul said, "Therefore I, the prisoner united with the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Always be humble, gentle and patient, bearing with one another in love, and making every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit gives through the binding power of shalom. (Eph 4:1-3 CJB)
- We need to acknowledge what Yeshua said, "The Kingdom of God does not come with visible signs; Because, you see, the Kingdom of God is among you." (Luk 17:20-21 CJB)
- This all also means that the nations need to see the reinstatement of the State of Israel as a sign that the end is near and that He is with His people.
- That whereas peace will not come to the world until the Prince of Peace reigns in a peaceful Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God is already within us through the presence of His Spirit in us.
- And that we can have the peace of the Kingdom of Heaven with us right now by living according to the tenets of the Torah.
Just like it was told to certain shepherds on a certain night (probably around the time of Tabernacles),
כָּבוֹד בַּמְּרוֹמִים לֵאלׂהִים וּבָאָרֶץ שָׁלוֹם בְּאַנְשֵׁי רְצוֹנוֹ׃
"In the highest heaven, glory to God! And on earth, peace among people of good will!"
(Luk 2:14 CJB)
Don’t let that peace be stolen from you. Even Yeshua said that when we see all these things we are seeing now.
"What I am leaving with you is shalom -- I am giving you my shalom. I don't give the way the world gives. Don't let yourselves be upset or frightened. (Joh 14:27 CJB)
You will hear the noise of wars nearby and the news of wars far off; see to it that you don't become frightened. Such things must happen, but the end is yet to come. (Mat 24:6 CJB)