MBS158 The Sign of the Two Sticks: Ezekiel 37:15-28

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MBS158

THE SIGN OF THE TWO STICKS: EZEKIEL 37:15–28

By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. THE REUNIFICATON OF JUDAH AND ISRAEL—EZEKIEL 37:15–23

A. The Sign—Ezekiel 37:15–17

B. The Explanation—Ezekiel 37:18–20

C. The Application—Ezekiel 37:21–23

II. THE RESTORATION OF THE THRONE OF DAVID—EZEKIEL 37:24–25

A. The Offices of King and Shepherd—Ezekiel 37:24a

B. The Result of David’s Leadership—Ezekiel 37:24b

C. The Possession of the Land—Ezekiel 37:25a

D. The Office of Prince—Ezekiel 37:25b

III. THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE—EZEKIEL 37:26–28

A. The Basis of the Millennial Temple—Ezekiel 37:26a

B. The Provisions of the New Covenant—Ezekiel 37:26b

C. The Relationship Between God and Israel—Ezekiel 37:27

D. The Results for the Gentiles—Ezekiel 37:28

The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

Ezekiel 37:1

INTRODUCTION

Chapter 37 is a highly symbolic chapter of the Book of Ezekiel. In verses 1–14, Ezekiel deals with the symbol of the dry bones, which pictures Israel as a regathered nation in a state of unbelief. This section deals with the sign of the two sticks, which pictures the reunification of the divided kingdom.

This section is divided into three units: the reunification of Judah and Israel, the restoration of the throne of David, and the Millennial Temple.

I. THE REUNIFICATON OF JUDAH AND ISRAEL—EZEKIEL 37:15–23

The historical background to this passage is found in 1 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 10. After the death of King Solomon, his son, Rehoboam, became king. The ten northern tribes, led by Jeroboam, petitioned him to reduce the burden that Solomon had imposed upon them and, in return, they would remain loyal to him. However, Rehoboam took the advice of the younger men in his court and promised them even heavier burdens. The nation split into two separate kingdoms in 933 b.c. Jeroboam was made king of the northern kingdom, called the Kingdom of Israel. The southern kingdom, under the leadership of descendants of David, was called the Kingdom of Judah. They remained two separate nations until the Kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 b.c. The Kingdom of Judah was taken captive by the Babylonians, beginning in 605 b.c. The Prophet Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in the second deportation in 597 b.c. He lived by the River Chebar in the village of Tel abib (Ezek. 3:15). With the last deportation and the destruction of the City of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 b.c., the history of the nation came to an end until the modern State of Israel was born in 1948.

A. The Sign—Ezekiel 37:15–17

In verse 15, the word of Jehovah comes to Ezekiel and a new prophecy is announced in verse 16: The word of Jehovah came again unto me, saying, And you, son of man, take you 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 companion.

Ezekiel’s instructions are twofold: first, he is to take one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions. The phrase the children of Israel included the tribes that were allied with Judah: Benjamin and Simeon. Here, the words his companions refer to Judah’s companions. The first stick represents the Kingdom of Judah.

Next, Ezekiel is instructed to take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions. The phrase the stick of Ephraim refers to the most prominent son of Joseph, who fathered the Tribe of Ephraim, the most prominent tribe of the northern kingdom. The phrase all the house of Israel refers to the other nine tribes that were allies with Ephraim; these are his companions. The second stick represents the Kingdom of Israel.

The actual joining of the sticks is in verse 17: and join them for you one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.

Ezekiel is now instructed to join the sticks one to another into one stick. Of the two Hebrew words for one, the word used here is echad, which means “a compound one.” This is the same word that is used of God in Deuteronomy 6:4: God is one, for God is a compound unity. When Ezekiel joins the two sticks together, they appear to be one in his hand.

B. The Explanation—Ezekiel 37:18–20

Ezekiel’s actions caused the people to ask for an explanation of this symbolic act in verse 18: And when the children of your people shall speak unto you, saying, Will you not show us what you mean by these?

The question raised in the minds of Ezekiel’s people, the Jewish people, was “Will you not show us what you mean by these things?” This shows that there has been a change of attitude toward Ezekiel on the part of the people. Instead of poking fun at him or simply ignoring him, he is now taken quite seriously when he performs this symbolic act with the two sticks.

Ezekiel’s answer is in verse 19: say unto them, Thus says the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them with it, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in my hand.

Ezekiel answers that God declares: Behold, I, meaning that God Himself will bring Judah and Israel together so that they will once again be one nation. God then explains how they shall be one in my hand. Note that the expression in my hand means God’s hand; it is God who is going to bring this about, not Ezekiel.

As he is explaining the meaning of the symbolic act, Ezekiel is instructed to keep both sticks in his hand in the presence of the people in verse 20: And the sticks whereon you write shall be in your hand before their eyes.

The two sticks actually remain two separate sticks, for as yet, no miracle has occurred. The end of one stick is held against the end of the other stick. They are held together in Ezekiel’s hand so the people cannot see the break between the two sticks. But ultimately, the break will disappear, because it is God’s hand that will cause it to disappear.

C. The Application—Ezekiel 37:21–23

The application of the sign is specifically to the people of Israel and Ezekiel emphasizes three things. First, Ezekiel speaks about the regathering of the Jewish people in verse 21: And say unto them, Thus says the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land.

Ezekiel states that God Himself will regather the children of Israel from all the nations where they had gone and bring them into their own land, specifically, to the Land of Israel.

Secondly, the reunification of the people is emphasized in verse 22: and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.

This same promise is made in 1 Chronicles 17:21. The place where they will become one nation in the land is specifically upon the mountains of Israel, the central mountain ranges of Israel. Furthermore, they will have only one king. When the kingdom split after the reign of Solomon, there were two kings. However, in the final restoration, there will be only one king for both nations according to Ezekiel 27:24. Furthermore, according to Zechariah 14:9, they will have only one God over them; this will be Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah Himself. Once their reunification finally comes about, it will be an indivisible kingdom: they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. There will be but one kingdom, under one God, under one King. This is also taught in Jeremiah 3:17–18.

And thirdly, God promises a future cleansing in verse 23: neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.

There will be no more defilement from three sources: first, their idols, referring to their idolatry; secondly, their detestable things, which refers to specific violations of the Mosaic Law, such as the eating of unclean things; and thirdly, any of their transgressions, which refers other violations of the Mosaic Law. Instead, they will be characterized by salvation. This is brought out in two ways: first, I will save them out of all their dwelling places wherein they have sinned; and secondly, God will cleanse them. The result is: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.

II. THE RESTORATION OF THE THRONE OF DAVID—EZEKIEL 37:24–25

A. The Offices of King and Shepherd—Ezekiel 37:24a

And my servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd.

Two of David’s offices are revealed in this verse: king and shepherd. The first office is that of a king. In the governmental system of the Messianic or Millennial Kingdom, Jesus will rule as King over the whole world. Under Him, there will be two branches of government: the Gentile branch and the Jewish branch. The Gentile branch of government will be comprised of the Church saints and Tribulation saints, who are destined to co reign with the Messiah over the Gentile nations. The resurrected David is destined to co reign with Jesus over the Jewish branch. From the viewpoint of the Messiah, David is His servant; but from the viewpoint of Israel, David will be their king.

The second office of David is that of a shepherd. As a shepherd, he will guide Israel and he will feed Israel. Never again will Israel have a leader who will lead them astray.

B. The Result of David’s Leadership—Ezekiel 37:24b

they shall also walk in mine ordinances, and observe my statutes, and do them.

Under David’s leadership and shepherding as king, the Jewish nation will walk in the ordinances of God and they will observe God’s statutes in the Millennial Kingdom.

C. The Possession of the Land—Ezekiel 37:25a

And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever.

Ezekiel brings out two thoughts here: first, God will give them the Land of Israel; and secondly, they will occupy the Land for generations. The word they refers to the first generation that enters the Kingdom. The phrase their children, and their children’s children refers to the succeeding generations who are born in the Kingdom. The Hebrew word used here for for ever is ad olam, which means “until an age,” not “an eternity.” There is no classical Hebrew word that actually means “eternity.” The closest that Hebrew can come to that concept would be an expression like “without end.” That is, in fact, how God is described. Although the word for ever is very often found in English translations, the Hebrew word is either le olam, which means “unto an age,” or ad olam, which means “until an age.” In other words, once they are brought into the Land, they will continually possess the Land throughout the Kingdom Age. At no point during the thousand years of the Kingdom will they be dispossessed of the Land or scattered out of the Land again.

D. The Office of Prince—Ezekiel 37:25b

and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.

Whereas earlier he was called king and shepherd, now he is called prince. From the viewpoint of Israel, he will be their king; but from the viewpoint of the Messiah, he will be a prince, because He will be under authority of King Messiah. He will be their prince for ever, but again, the Hebrew word used here is ad olam, which means “until an age.” In other words, this will be David’s office throughout the Messianic Kingdom; he will not be deposed from this position whatsoever.

III. THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE—EZEKIEL 37:26–28

The Millennial Temple will be built in the Millennial Kingdom and will be the Fourth Temple spoken of in Scripture. Ezekiel later details this Millennial Temple that God will erect in the Messianic Kingdom in chapters 40–48.

A. The Basis of the Millennial Temple—Ezekiel 37:26a

Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them.

The basis of the Millennial Temple will be the New Covenant, a covenant of peace and it is an everlasting covenant. The New covenant is found in Jeremiah 31:31–34.

B. The Provisions of the New Covenant—Ezekiel 37:26b

and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

Here, Ezekiel makes three points. First, God Himself will place them in the Land; not only will they have the right of possession, they will actually be dwelling in the Land.

Secondly, once they have settled, God will multiply them; there will be an increase of the Jewish population.

Thirdly, God will set His sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. The Hebrew word for sanctuary means “My Holy Place,” emphasizing the holiness of the Temple of the Messianic Kingdom. The Hebrew word for evermore is le olam, which means “for an age.”

C. The Relationship Between God and Israel—Ezekiel 37:27

My tabernacle also shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In this relationship, God states: My tabernacle also shall be with them. The Hebrew word used here for tabernacle means “My Presence dwelling” or “My Shechinah Glory.” In verse 26, the emphasis on the word sanctuary was on the holiness of the Fourth Temple, but in this verse, the emphasis on the word tabernacle is that the new Temple will be the dwelling place of the Shechinah Glory. The Hebrew word for with literally means “over.” So the Shechinah Glory will serve as a canopy over the people of Israel. This is the same point made in Isaiah 4:5–6. The result of God’s Temple in the midst of them will be: I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

D. The Results for the Gentiles—Ezekiel 37:28

And the nations shall know that I am Jehovah that sanctifieth Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

When will the nations, meaning “the Gentiles,” know that Jehovah is the One who sanctifies Israel? God’s answer is: when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore. The Gentile nations will recognize that this restoration and reunification of Israel, with God’s Temple in the midst of them, means that Israel’s God is indeed the only true God. The Hebrew word for sanctuary means “My holy place,” emphasizing the holiness of it. The Hebrew word for evermore is le olam, which means “for an age.”

Ezekiel’s vision of the two sticks concludes with the promise that God will set up His Temple, His Tabernacle, His Sanctuary, His dwelling place, in the midst of the children of Israel.

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BIBLE STUDY, DR. FRUCHTENBAUM RECOMMENDS:

MBS002, 003, 005, 006, 007, 015, 018, 026, 027, 040, 062, 080, 087, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 122, 134, 155, 157, 176, 177, 178 and 179