By Asher Intrater
In Ezekiel 37:15-23 the prophet
is instructed to take two sticks and write on one: "For Judah and the
sons of Israel, his companions" and on the other, "For Joseph, the
stick of Ephraim and the whole house of Israel". Then he is to join the
two sticks in his hand, symbolizing the healing of the separation between
the two. This parable originates in the split between the sons of Leah
(Judah) and Rachel (Joseph); then in the generation after Solomon, the
entire kingdom was divided. The southern half was called "Judah" and the
northern one "Israel".
There are many applications of this prophecy in our day. For example, in
1948 the modern state was named Israel, not Judah. Secular Israelis tend
to use the name "Israel", whereas the religious tend to use the name
"Jew" or "Judah." The Prime Minister often struggles to bring unity
between secular and religious, left wing and right.
The Hebrew for "stick" in this passage is HEBREW (ets), which is
the same word for "wood" or "tree". The passage could also be understood
as bringing "two trees into one". This provides a background for
Paul's description in Romans 11 of different types of branches being
grafted into one olive tree.
The Judah stick contained the "sons of Israel", while the Joseph
stick included the "whole house of Israel". This extended
"house of Israel" may also be the context for Paul's statement
in Ephesians 2:12 that Gentile believers from all the nations become part
of the greater "commonwealth of Israel".
Ezekiel 37:25 states that the unity between the two trees or sticks will
be fulfilled eternally in the Messianic kingdom on earth. The ultimate
fulfillment of this prophecy will be found in the millennial kingdom
after Yeshua returns.
The parable indicates God's desire for unity among His
people. It was Ezekiel's job as prophet to intercede on behalf of
that unity. There is an ongoing spiritual battle in which evil forces try
to divide the kingdom of God (Luke 11:17). Godly people in every
generation find themselves standing in the gap between two groups,
holding on to one in the right hand and one in the left.
The Two Sticks is an essential link in the end-times prophecies about the
Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37), Gog and Magog (38-39) and the Messianic Kingdom
(40-48). The intercession to hold on to seemingly contradictory
dimensions of the kingdom of God requires effort and perseverance in the
face of much opposition. Let us grasp the two sticks in our hands, as we
pray according to the spirit as Ezekiel did.