Does Ezekiel 37 Predict the Book of Mormon?
According to the Mormon Church, Ezekiel 37:16-17 predicts the coming of the Book of Mormon. These verses read as follows:
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: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
The Mormon Church claims that the “sticks” mentioned in this passage refer to scrolls, which in ancient times were wrapped around sticks. They then say that the “stick of Judah” refers to the Bible, and the “stick of Joseph” refers to the Book of Mormon. The two sticks becoming one symbolizes the Bible and Book of Mormon coming together as complimentary scriptures.
A careful examination of this passage reveals serious problems with this interpretation. First of all, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) the Hebrew word translated “stick” always refers to wood and is never used, even figuratively, to mean a scroll or book. Therefore, nothing in these verses even suggests a book or scroll.
Secondly, the Mormon Church’s interpretation ignores the historical background of Ezekiel’s message. At the time of the prophet Ezekiel (6th century B.C.), the nation of Israel was in turmoil. Since shortly after the time of Solomon, it had been divided into two kingdoms. The ten northern tribes, henceforth called Israel, had earlier been taken captive by the nation of Assyria in 723/722 B.C. Then the two southern tribes (the Kingdom of Judah), were taken into captivity by the Babylonians (606 – 583 B.C.). The dissolution of God’s covenant people was extremely distressing for the remnant of faithful Hebrew believers. It appeared that God’s promises had failed. This is the setting for chapter 37.
So what is Ezekiel’s message to the beleaguered Hebrew believers? In the midst of their despair and pain, Ezekiel gives a two-part message of comfort and hope from God. The first part (verses 1-14) contains the well-known vision of the valley of dry bones. Through that vision, Israel’s God pledges to breathe new life into the dry and scattered nation of Israel and bring the people back into the land. For those who have read this passage it is quite a picture with those dry bones being miraculously brought to life.
Then, in verses 15-22, God promises a future restoration for the whole nation, and announces that some day the northern kingdom, called “Joseph,” and the southern kingdom, called “Judah,” would once again be a united Israel.
It is here that we find the meaning of the “sticks” that are joined together in Ezekiel 37:15-22. In verse 16 Ezekiel is told to write on one stick “For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions.” This first stick represented the southern kingdom, or Judah. On a second stick, or piece of wood, Ezekiel was to write, “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.” This represented the northern kingdom, called Israel.
God then tells Ezekiel, in verse 17, to join the two sticks into one stick and have them become one in Ezekiel's hand. In doing so, God is saying that He will bring back together His divided and decimated people. That this is the meaning of the two sticks and their being joined together is stated very explicitly in verses 21-22.
And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 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.
The prophecy of Ezekiel 37:16-17 has a specific historical context. It is a prediction of the future unity of God’s divided covenant people. The attempt by the Mormon Church to make this passage a prediction regarding the Book of Mormon violates the clear historical, grammatical context of the passage, and is thus a fallacious interpretation of this Biblical passage.