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Relationship to Ezekiel. The relationship of Chapters 34-47 to Ezekiel as a whole is discussed at Ezekiel.
Story. Chapters 34-37 describe
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 34-37 include:
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- Ezek 37:16-17. The difficulty of translation in this verse has long been a subject of discussion amongst Latter-day Saints, because this verse has so often been read as a prophecy of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The "stick" is, according to such a reading, to be read as a record (as in D&C 27:5: "the record of the stick of Ephraim"). As some have pointed out, the word translated stick here, 'tz, means quite literally "tree," but can be translated "wood," "stick," "tablet," and even "scroll." Latter-day Saints often claim that this last reading is best (the "wood" being the wooden stick upon which the scroll is rolled), and that Ezekiel is therefore talking about joining two records together. Hugh Nibley has offered a rather creative interpretation of these verses that seems, in the end, to amount to the same thing: he finds traces of an ancient covenant ceremony in the text. To make a (secular) covenant official, the ancient would take a stick and cut it into two pieces with a design that somehow showed the conditions of the covenant. When the covenant was fulfilled, the two pieces would be brought together in a perfect fit, marking the perfect fulfillment of the covenantal obligations on both sides. If the two pieces did not fit, it betrayed the fact that one party or the other had tried to alter the conditions of the covenant and was thus unfaithful. Nibley thus reads the two sticks as two parts of a single stick that have been separated in a covenant ceremony that, once together again, become one in the hand and symbolize the perfect reunion under covenant of Judah and Joseph (through the gathering that combines the Book of Mormon and the Bible).
- These interpretations are certainly justified (Nibley's is quite ingenious, and it certainly stands as the best published explanation of the verses from an LDS perspective). However, it must be admitted that they require some creative lexical work, since the basic meaning of 'tz is, for the most part, ignored in such interpretations. The word means, quite simply, "tree." If the revelation is taken in the most straightforward terms, Ezekiel is told to take two trees, to mark one as the tree of Judah and to mark the other as the tree of Joseph/Ephraim. The difficulty that seems to have forced so many alternative translations (and not, it must be remarked, simply by Latter-day Saints: the KJV itself translates the word "stick") is the question of the "trees" being "one in thine hand." Since Ezekiel can't hold two trees in his hand, there seems to be reason to reinterpret the terms here. But if that difficulty is ignored (or simply taken as a difficult prophetic image as so many others in the Old Testament), then the vision may perhaps make more sense if the word is translated more simply as "trees": Ezekiel has a vision of two trees and how they eventually become one. Stated quite simply like this, there is suggested a connection between this vision and, say, Zenos' allegory of the olive tree (recorded in Jacob 5), or even Lehi's visions in the Book of Mormon (1 Ne 8 and 1 Ne 10 record two visions Lehi had in succession about two different trees, one clearly representing Israel and the other apparently more directly tied to the Nephites/Lamanites--notice that Nephi subsequent revelation of 1 Nephi 11-15 mentions two trees as well). There may even be a hint of a connection between this vision and the most ancient stories of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where the Fall itself was built on the "opposition" of two trees, "the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life" (2 Ne 2:15). All in all, there may be reason to read this chapter of Ezekiel in terms of trees.
- But, it must be admitted, all of this does not get the specifics of interpretation underway, though it opens the possibility of doing careful work on the details.
- Also see "Ezekiel's Sticks" by Kevin Barney at the BCC blog. Of particular interest is Barney's note that the Aramaic targums render the word stick here as "writing tablet."
- Ezek 37:27: Tabernacle. The Hebrew word mishkan (tabernacle) can also be translated tent. The allusion here seems to be the tabernacle/tent that housed the ark of the covenant. The tent connotation of this word here in the context of the reunification of Israel is similar to the tent metaphor upon which modern LDS phrases such as "stakes of Zion" rely. Also, the LXX translates mishkan as skenoo from which the verb "to dwell" comes and is used in the New Testament in passages such as John 1:12 which describe the Word dwelling in us. In this phrase the, an interesting relationship is established between the reunification of Joseph and Judah, and the reunification of God and all of Israel.
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Prompts for further study
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