Q. In Ezekiel 37:16-28 God has the prophet take two sticks and join them together into one. What it the passage really about?
A. The two sticks are actually scepters, ornately carved wooden instruments that Kings held as a symbol of authority. Sometimes they were covered in gold and jewels. By putting Joseph’s scepter that’s in Ephraim’s hands and Judah’s scepter together, God will make them into one scepter.
Israel split into two kingdoms about 900BC, one called Ephraim and the other called Judah. In the passage God is talking about re-uniting the divided Kingdom in the Last Days after He has re-gathered them, making them back into one kingdom with one king. According to Ezekiel 37:24-25 a descendant of David’s (the Messiah) will be King over the whole nation and they will live in the Promised Land.
Some Mormons incorrectly call themselves the descendants of Ephraim. They also make the false claim that the sticks are really scrolls. They say that one stick represents the Book of Mormon (Joseph’s stick which they say refers to Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon that he wrote) and the other is the Bible (Judah’s stick). They teach that God will join the two books into one at the End of the Age.
Mormon Missionaries sometimes use this verse to teach that Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, is mentioned in the Bible and that Mormonism is closely related to Biblical Christianity.
But the context of the passage is clearly about the reunion of the 12 tribes of Israel in the Kingdom Age, and therefore the Joseph of Ezekiel 37 is clearly the son of Jacob and father of Ephraim. Also, the Hebrew word translated stick in Ezekiel 37 is never translated scroll anywhere in the Bible.