Without Cause: The Stick of Joseph and the Ancient Jewish Hebrew Matthew

By Ya’akov ben Y’hudah

In The Stick of Joseph in the Hand of Ephraim, at Yeshua’s Drash at Bountiful, we read:

You have heard that it has been said by them of old time, and it is also written before you, that you shall not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment of Elohim. But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council, and whosoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of Geyhinnom. (3 Nefi 5:24)

If we compare these words with the King James Version of their parallel passage of the Drash on the Mount (Mattitayhu 5:22) we see that the words “without cause” in the phrase “whoever is angry with his father without cause” (Mattitayahu 5:22) are lacking from the Stick of Joseph account. This is very significant, because the phrase “without cause” is also lacking in key Hebrew and Jewish witnesses to the text of Matthew 5:22—sources that could not have been known to Yosef Ben Yosef, and which, therefore testify to the authenticity of The Stick of Joseph.

Some thirty-six or more Greek manuscripts of Matthew contain subscriptions preserving readings of a Jewish version of Matthew called the Judaikon which is described as a standard version on Zion, the Holy Mount, in Jerusalem. 

One of these subscriptions is to the words “without cause” in Matthew 5:22 and reads:

Το εικη εν τισιν αντιγραφοις ου κεται ουδε εα τω Ιουδαικω

The words ‘without cause’ are not written in some copies, nor in the Judaikon.

These words are also lacking in many of the oldest Greek Manuscripts, including P64 (about 200 CE); Codex א; and Codex B. Likewise, the words “without cause” are also absent from the DuTillet Hebrew version of Matthew. 

The DuTillet version is a Hebrew manuscript of Matthew that was confiscated from Jews in Rome, in 1553. On August 12th, 1553, at the petition of Pietro, Cardinal Caraffa, (the Inquisitor General) Pope Julius III signed a decree banning the Talmud in Rome. The decree was executed on September 9th (Rosh HaShanna) and anything that looked like the Talmud, that is, anything written in Hebrew characters was confiscated as the Jewish homes and synagogues were ransacked. Jean DuTillet, Bishop of Brieu, France was visiting Rome at the time. DuTillet was astounded to take notice of a Hebrew manuscript of Matthew among the other Hebrew manuscripts. DuTillet acquired the manuscript and returned to France, depositing it in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. It remains there to this day as Hebrew Ms. No. 132.

This Hebrew text of Matthew was first published in an English translation by Hugh Schonfield in 1927, who wrote of this version:

….certain linguistic proofs … seem to show that the Hebrew text [DuTillet] underlies the Greek, and that certain renderings in the Greek, may be due to a misread Hebrew original. (An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew’s Gospel; 1927, p. 17)

The words “without cause” are also absent from the Munster Hebrew version of Matthew, which Sebastian Munster published in Hebrew in 1537, having obtained it from “among the Jews”. It has never been translated into English.

Finally, the words “without cause” do not appear in the Shem Tob Hebrew version of Matthew. This Hebrew version of Matthew was transcribed by Shem Tob Ben Yitzach Ben Shaprut, into his apologetic work Even Bohan, sometime around 1380 C.E. It was first published in an English translation by Dr. George Howard in 1987. George Howard writes of Shem Tob’s Hebrew Matthew:

…an old substratum to the Hebrew in Shem Tob is a prior composition, not a translation. The old substratum, however, has been exposed to a series of revisions so that the present text of Shem-Tob represents the original only in an impure form. (The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text; 1987; p. 223)

It may appear from the linguistic and sociological background to early Christianity, and the nature of some theological tendencies in Shem-Tob’s Matthew, that the Hebrew text served as a model for the Greek. The present writer is, in fact, inclined to that position. (ibid p. 225)

Shem-Tob’s Matthew… does not preserve the original in a pure form. It reflects contamination by Jewish scribes, during the Middle Ages. Considerable parts of the original, however, appear to remain…. (Hebrew Gospel of Matthew; 1995; p. 178)

All these sources testify to an original Hebrew Jewish version of Matthew that lacked the phrase “without cause” in Matthew 5:22. Yet none of these sources could have been available to Yosef ben Yosef in 1830. The fact that Yosef Ben Yosef’s translation of The Stick of Joseph also lacks the phrase “without cause” in 3 Nefi 5:24 is a testimony not only to the Jewishness of this record and its Hebrew original, but also to its authenticity. 

The Sealed Book and the Restoration of the House of Israel

By Ya’akov ben Y’hudah

This is a longer post, so I’ll start with a summary to help orient you to what follows. In this post, we’ll discuss the prophecy in Isaiah 29 concerning the house of Israel turning their hearts away from Elohim. We’ll look at the prophecy from several perspectives, then consider the expectation of a sealed book and the restoration of Israel to the knowledge of Elohim.

In my last post I wrote that Isaiah 29:10 is quoted in Romans 11, as follows: 

[1] I say then, Has Elohim cast away his people? Elohim forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Avraham, of the tribe of Benyamin.
[
2] Elohim has not cast away his people which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture says of Eliyahu? how he makes intercession to Elohim against Israel, saying,
[
3] YHWH, they have killed your prophets, and dug down your altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
[
4] But what says the answer of Elohim unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
[
5] Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
[
6] And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
[
7] What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded
[
8] (According as it is written, Elohim has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear) unto this day. [Is. 29:10] (Romans 11:1-8)

If we examine this quotation of Isaiah 29:10 in context, we learn a great deal about the apostasy and restoration of the House of Judah:

[10] For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered

[11] And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

[12] And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

[13] Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (Isaiah 29:11-13 KJV)

This particular passage in Isaiah is related to a halachic question that is considered in the Mishnah, as follows:

R. Elieazar says: they open a vow for a man by reference to the honor of his father or mother.
and the sages prohibit.
Said R. Tzadok: before they open a vow for him by reference to his father or mother let them open his vow by reference to the honor of HaMakom.  
If so there will be no vow.
But the sages concede to R. Elieazar, that in a matter that is between him and his mother or father they loose his vow by reference to his father or mother.” (m.Nedarim 9:1 see also b.Nedarim 64a-64b )

As you can see, the sages of the Talmud agreed that the type of vow that involves “a matter that is between him and his mother or father” is loosed (and therefore should not be kept) if it dishonors one’s mother or one’s father. In Matthew 15, Yeshua agrees with this Talmudic announcement by opposing the teaching of this particular group of Pharisees, calling their teaching “traditions of men” and referencing it to Isaiah 29:13, which reads as follows:

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men

In this example, Yeshua equates the “commandment of men” not with tradition or oral law in general, but specifically with false traditions that run contrary to the written Torah. He refers here to errant rulings from the sages.

Isaiah continues:

Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (Isaiah 29:14 KJV)

The Talmud ascribes a teaching from this verse taught by Rab (Abba Arikha: 175–247 CE):

…for Rab said: The Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, because it is said, Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful: (Dt. 28:59) now, I do not know what this wonder is, but when it is said, Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder [and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish], (Is. 29:14) it follows that this wonder refers to Torah. (b.Shabb. 138b)

Rab taught that this portion of Isaiah refers to an apostasy of Israel from the Torah. The Talmud goes on to comment upon Rab’s teaching:

Our Rabbis taught: When our Masters entered the vineyard at Yabneh, they said, The Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as it is said, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And it is said, And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. (Amos 8:11f) ‘The word of the Lord’ means halachah,’ ‘the word of the Lord’ means ‘The End’; ‘the word of the Lord’ means prophecy. And what does ‘they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord’ mean? Said they, A woman is destined  to take a loaf of terumah and go about in the synagogues and academies to know whether it is unclean or clean, and none will know whether it is clean or unclean. But that is explicitly stated, All food which may be eaten […shall be unclean]? (Lev. 11:34) Rather to know whether it is a first degree or a second degree [of uncleanness], and none will know. But that too is a Mishnah. For we learnt: If a [dead] creeping thing is found in an oven, the bread within it is a second, because the oven is a first? — They will be in doubt over what R. Adda b. Ahabah asked Raba: Let us regard this oven as though it were filled with uncleanness, and let the bread be a first? He replied, We do not say. Let us regard this oven as though it were filled with uncleanness. For it was taught: You might think that all utensils become unclean in the air space of an earthen vessel: therefore it is stated, whatsoever is in it shall be unclean… all food therein which may be eaten: food and liquids become unclean in the air space of an earthen vessel. It was taught. R. Simeon b. Yohai said: Heaven forfend that the Torah be forgotten in Israel, for it is said, for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed. Then how do I interpret, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it? They will not find a clear halachah or a clear Mishnah in any place. (b.Shabb. 138b)

So the Rabbis understood the apostasy of Isaiah 29 to be the same that is mentioned in Amos 8:11-12 which reads as follows:

[11] Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
[
12] And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

And the Rabbis understood this not to refer to the written Torah, but rather to the halacha derived by the sages of Israel from the written Torah. And this is exactly the way Yeshua taught Isaiah 29:13-14 as well!

The Talmud goes on to present a related teaching from Rabbi Jose ben Elisha:

It was taught. R. Jose b. Elisha said: If you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles, go forth and examine the judges of Israel, for all retribution that comes to the world comes only on account of the Judges of Israel, as it is said, Hear this, I pray you ye heads of the house of Jacob, and rulers of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord, etc. (Mic. 3:9-11) They are wicked, but they place their confidence in Him Who decreed, and the world came into existence. Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring three punishments upon them answering to the three sins which they cultivate, as it is said, Therefore shall Zion for your sake be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. (Mic. 3:12) And the Holy One, blessed be He, will not cause His Divine presence to rest upon Israel until the wicked judges and officers cease out of Israel, for it is said, And I will turn my hand upon thee, and thoroughly purge away thy dross, and will take away all thy tin. And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning, etc. (Isa. 1:25f) (Shabbat 139a)

So Rabbi Jose understood the apostasy of Isaiah 29:13-14 likewise as manifesting itself through apostate rabbinic sages, just as the Talmud and Yeshua both did. This passage refers to an apostasy of the Rabbinic sages from true and correct halacha—which apostasy Yeshua saw taking root in his day. It is also interesting to note that even the Talmud sees an eventual apostasy of Rabbinic Judaism.

Returning to Isaiah, the prophet continues saying:

[15] Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
[16] Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
[17] Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
[18] And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
[19] The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 29:15-19 KJV)

The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel has in verse 19:

And those that have suffered affliction on account of the Word of YHWH shall increase their joy, and the poor of the sons of men shall rejoice in the Word of the Holy One of Israel. (Targum Jonathan Isaiah 29:19)

The Targum teaches us that this apostasy of the Rabbinic sages causes affliction to those who follow the “Word of YHWH” but that its end will mean a rejoicing for those who follow the “Word.”

Isaiah continues:

[20] For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:
[21] That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought. (Isaiah 29:20-21 KJV)

The fourth Century writer Jerome quoted a lost ancient Nazarene Commentary (the Nazarenes were the original Jewish followers of Yeshua) on Isaiah, which comments on these verses as follows:

What we have understood to have been written about the devil and his angels, the Nazarenes believe to have been said against the Scribes and the Pharisees, (20)  because the deutrotai passed away, who earlier deceived the people with very vicious traditions (And they watch day and night to deceive the simple ones), (21)  who made men sin against the Word of God in order that they should deny that Messiah was the Son of God. (Ancient Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah 29:20-21 as cited by Jerome)

Jerome transliterates the Greek word “deutrotai” into his Latin text. This word comes from the Greek word “deutroseis” which means “that which is repeated” and has exactly the same meaning as the Hebrew word “Mishnah.”  This verifies the teaching we saw earlier in the Talmud that this very apostasy would be fulfilled when “They will not find a clear halacha or a clear Mishnah in any place.” (b.Shabb. 138b)

The Talmud, the Ancient Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah, and Yeshua all testify to us that Isaiah 29 is a prophecy of the apostasy of Rabbinic Judaism.

Now we learned in my last post, that restoration of Judah and the growing together of the two Houses of Israel and the two records, is the restoration from the apostasy spoken of in Isaiah 29:10 as quoted in Romans 11:8. The Stick of Joseph also gives us great insight on this apostasy and restoration as prophesied in Isaiah 29, in the form of a midrash on Isaiah 29. We will look at that below, but first, let’s review Isaiah 29:1-10:

[1] Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
[2] Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.
[3] And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.
[4] And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
[5] Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.
[6] Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.
[7] And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.
[8] It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.
[9] Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.
[10] For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. (Isaiah 29:1-10 KJV)

The Stick Joseph explains these verses as follows:

But behold, in the last days, or in the days of the Goyim, yes, behold, all the nations of the Goyim, and also the Y’hudim, both those who shall come upon this land and those who shall be upon other lands, yes, even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations. And when that day shall come, they shall be visited of YHWH Tzva’ot with thunder, and with earthquake, and with a great noise, and with storm and tempest, and with the flame of devouring fire. And all the nations that fight against Tziyon and that distress her shall be as a dream of a night vision. Yes, it shall be unto them even as unto a hungry man which dreams, and behold, he eats, but he awakes and his soul is empty. Or like unto a thirsty man which dreams, and behold, he drinks, but he awakes and behold, he is faint and his soul has appetite. Yes, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Tziyon. For behold, all you that do iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for you shall cry out and cry. Yes, you shall be drunken, but not with wine; you shall stagger, but not with strong drink.For behold, YHWH has poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, for behold, you have closed your eyes, and you have rejected the prophets, and your rulers and the seers has he covered because of your iniquity. (2 Nefi 11:18)

Isaiah continues:

[11] And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:
[12] And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. (Isaiah 29:11-12 KJV)

The Stick of Joseph gives us a great deal of understanding of these verses and this sealed book:

And it shall come to pass that Adonai YHWH shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered. And behold, the book shall be sealed, and in the book shall be a revelation from Elohim, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof. Wherefore, because of the things which are sealed up, the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations of the people; wherefore, the book shall be kept from them. But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another. But the words which are sealed he shall not deliver, neither shall he deliver the book, for the book shall be sealed by the power of Elohim, and the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of YHWH, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof. And the day comes that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the housetops, and they shall be read by the power of Mashiach. And all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be, even unto the end of the earth. Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it, except it be that three witnesses shall behold it by the power of Elohim, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein. And there is no other which shall view it, except it be a few according to the will of Elohim, to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men. For Adonai YHWH has said that the words of the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead. Wherefore, Adonai YHWH will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seems him good will he confirm his word; and woe be unto him that rejects the word of Elohim. 

But behold, it shall come to pass that Adonai YHWH shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book, Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying, Read this, I ask you. And the learned shall say, Bring here the book and I will read it. And now because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of Elohim. And the man shall say, I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed. Then shall the learned say, I cannot read it. Wherefore, it shall come to pass that Adonai YHWH will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say, I am not learned. Then shall Adonai YHWH say unto him, The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do my own work; wherefore, you shall read the words which I shall give unto you. Touch not the things which are sealed, for I will bring them forth in my own due time, for I will show unto the children of men that I am able to do my own work. Wherefore, when you have read the words which I have commanded you, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto you, then shall you seal up the book again and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which you have not read, until I shall see fit in my own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men. For behold, I am Elohim, and I am an Elohim of miracles, and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and for ever, and I work not among the children of men except it be according to their faith. (2 Nefi 11:19-20)

Isaiah then prophecies the restoration of the House of Judah saying:

[13] Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
[14] Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
[15] Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
[16] Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
[17] Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
[18] And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
[19] The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
[20] For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:
[21] That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
[22] Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.
[23] But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.
[24] They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine. (Isaiah 29:13-24 KJV)

And The Stick of Joseph further reveals to us:

And again it shall come to pass that YHWH shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him, Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men, therefore, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, yes, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid. And woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from YHWH, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who sees us? And who knows us? And they also say, Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay. But behold, I will show unto them, says YHWH Tzva’ot, that I know all their works. For shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? But behold, says YHWH Tzva’ot, I will show unto the children of men that it is not yet a very little while and L’vanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest. And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. And the meek also shall increase, and their joy shall be in YHWH, and the poor among men shall rejoice in HaKodesh of Isra’el. For assuredly as YHWH lives, they shall see that the terrible one is brought to nothing, and the scorner is consumed; and all that watch for iniquity are cut off, and they that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproves in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of no value. Therefore, thus says YHWH, who redeemed Avraham, concerning the house of Ya’akov: Ya’akov shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now grow pale. But when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify HaKodesh of Ya’akov, and shall fear the Elohim of Isra’el. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine. (2 Nefi 11:21)

When the Stick of Judah (in this case Isaiah 29) and the stick of Joseph (in this case 2 Nefi 11:18-21) are brought together, we see that the restoration of the House of Judah as prophesied in Isaiah 29:18 “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness” is, in fact, the coming forth of The Stick of Joseph. 

The apostasy of Rabbinic Judaism spoken of, not only by Yeshua and the ancient Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah, but even by the Talmud, comes to an end with the coming forth of the sealed book of Isaiah 29, The Stick of Joseph. 

It is therefore little wonder, then, that among the first words spoken by YHWH to Yosef ben Yosef we find reference to the current state of apostasy:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight, that those professors were all corrupt, that, They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. (Joseph Smith History Part 2, paragraph 5)

Yosef ben Yosef began the reversal of the apostasy when he rendered the first English-language translation of the Stick of Joseph text. The prophetic fulfillment has begun.

The Two Sticks, the Two Trees and the Sealed Book

By Ya’akov ben Y’hudah

In my last blog, we looked at the “Two Sticks” prophecy of Ezekiel 37 and learned that the Aramaic Targum Jonathan to this prophecy reveals that, on a drash level, the two sticks represent two sets of writing tablets, or plates, that grow together and become one. This agrees with the statement by Nefi in The Stick of Joseph:

Wherefore, the fruit of your loins shall write, and the fruit of the loins of Y’hudah shall write. And that which shall be written by the fruit of your loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Y’hudah, shall grow together unto the confounding of false doctrines, and laying down of contentions, and establishing shalom among the fruit of your loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, says YHWH. And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring you, O house of Isra’el, says YHWH. (2 Nefi 2:4 emphasis added)

However, there is much more we can learn about these two “sticks”. Let us look at this passage of Nefi on the Remez (hinted, implied) level. Notice that Nefi says that the two sticks will “grow together.” How do two “sticks” grow together? What does this imply?

At this point it is helpful to know that the Hebrew word for “stick” in Ezekiel 37 is etz (עץ) which can mean “stick” but can also mean “tree.” So here we have, to the Hebrew mind. Not only a prophecy of two “sticks” but also of two “trees.”

This brings us to Paul’s parable of the two trees—a tame, cultivated olive tree and a wild olive tree—found in Romans 11:

[1] I say then, Has Elohim cast away his people? Elohim forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Avraham, of the tribe of Benyamin.
[2] Elohim has not cast away his people which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture says of Eliyahu? how he makes intercession to Elohim against Israel, saying,
[3] YHWH, they have killed your prophets, and dug down your altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
[4] But what says the answer of Elohim unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
[5] Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
[6] And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
[7] What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded
[8] (According as it is written, Elohim has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear) unto this day. (Is. 29:10)
[9] And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompence unto them:
[10] Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.
[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? Elohim forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
[12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
[13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office:
[14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
[15] For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
[16] For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
[17] And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
[18] Boast not against the branches. But if you boast, you bear not the root, but the root thee.
[19] You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
[20] Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
[21] For if Elohim spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
[22] Behold therefore the goodness and severity of Elohim: on them which fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off.
[23] And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for Elohim is able to graft them in again.
[24] For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
[25] For I would not, brothers, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
[26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Tziyon the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Ya’akov:
[27] For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
(Romans 11:1-27 emphasis added)

To correctly understand this portion of Romans, and by extension, the parable of the Olive Trees, we must first understand, in context, what Paul means when he speaks here of “Gentiles” and what he means by “Israel.” So we begin earlier in Romans, where Paul writes the following: 

[23] And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
[24] Even us, whom he has called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
[25] As he says also in Hosea, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
[26] And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living El. [Hosea 2:1(1:10)]
[27] Isaiah also cries concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: (Romans 9:23-27 emphasis added)

Here, Paul quotes Hosea 2:1 (1:10) and applies it specifically to the “Gentiles.” So let’s look at this Hosea passage in context:

1:2 The beginning of the word of YHWH by Hosea. And YHWH said to Hosea, Go, take unto you a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land has committed great whoredom, departing from YHWH.
1:3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.
1:4 And YHWH said unto him, Call his name Yezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Yezreel upon the house of Yehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.
1:5 And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Yezreel.
1:6 And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And Elohim said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.
1:7 But I will have mercy upon the house of Y’hudah, and will save them by YHWH their Elohim, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.
1:8 Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.
1:9 Then said Elohim, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your Elohim.
2:1 (1:10) Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, You are the sons of the living El.
2:2 (1:11) Then shall the children of Y’hudah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Yezreel. (Hosea 1:2-11 emphasis added)

In this section of Hosea, the “House of Israel” and the “House of Judah” are treated as distinct groups, with different future expectations. This makes perfect sense, as Hosea lived in the divided kingdoms era, with the Northern Kingdom called “Israel” (or Ephraim) and the Southern Kingdom called “Judah.” Each kingdom had its own prophesied future.

Paul, on the other hand, lived after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, when the Southern Kingdom was all that remained of the House of Israel. This Southern Kingdom consequently often identified as “Israel” as opposed to non-Israelite “Gentiles.” The table below helps illustrate this difference in usage during the different eras:

From this we know that the Olive Tree parable’s “Gentiles” are actually “the House of Israel” (not Judah) and—here is where one could get confused—the Olive Tree parable’s “House of Israel” is actually the “House Judah” (not Israel). This agrees exactly with the two sticks prophecy in Ezekiel 37.

The meaning of “Gentiles” in Paul’s parable is also made apparent by his use of the phrase “fullness of the Gentiles” in Romans 11:25. This phrase in Hebrew is Milo HaGoyim and is actually drawn from the Torah:

[17] And when Yosef saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.
[18] And Yosef said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
[19] And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. [Milo HaGoyim- Fullness of the Gentiles]
[20] And he blessed them that day, saying, In you shall Israel bless, saying, Elohim make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. (Gen. 48:17-20 emphasis added) 

Thus we see that Ya’akov prophesied Ephraim’s future Gentile identity. But this is just one of several places where the House of Israel (Ephraim) are called “Gentiles.” Another is in Isaiah:

Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations [the word translated as “nations” is Goyim, or Gentiles]. (Isaiah 9:1 emphasis added)

Let us now return to the Olive Tree Parable of Romans 11, with the insight that these two “trees” correspond with the two “sticks” in Ezekiel 37. The wild olive tree represents the “House of Israel” who are scattered among the Gentiles, and the cultivated or tame olive tree represents the “House of Judah.” 

Romans 11 begins with the apostasy of Israel, saying:

[1] I say then, Has Elohim cast away his people? Elohim forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Avraham, of the tribe of Benyamin.
[2] Elohim has not cast away his people which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture says of Eliyahu? how he makes intercession to Elohim against Israel, saying,
[3] YHWH, they have killed your prophets, and dug down your altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
[4] But what says the answer of Elohim unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
[5] Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
[6] And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
[7] What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded
[8] (According as it is written, Elohim has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear) unto this day. [Is. 29:10]
[9] And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them:
[10] Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always.

In describing the apostasy of Israel, we see that Paul cites Isaiah 29:10. So let’s leave the parable for a brief detour to look at this Isaiah verse in context:

[1] Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.
[2] Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel.
[3] And I will camp against you round about, and will lay siege against you with a mount, and I will raise forts against you.
[4] And you shalt be brought down, and shall speak out of the ground, and your speech shall be low out of the dust, and your voice shall be, as of one that has a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
[5] Moreover the multitude of your strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passes away: yes, it shall be at an instant suddenly.
[6] You shalt be visited of YHWH of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.
[7] And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision.
[8] It shall even be as when an hungry man dreams, and, behold, he eats; but he awake, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreams, and, behold, he drinks; but he awakes, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Tziyon.
[9] Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry you out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.
[10] For YHWH has poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers has he covered.
[11] And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray you: and he says, I cannot; for it is sealed:
[12] And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray you: and he says, I am not learned.
[13] Wherefore YHWH said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
[14] Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
[15] Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from YHWH, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who sees us? and who knows us?
[16] Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
[17] Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?
[18] And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. (Isaiah 29:1-18 emphasis added)

Notice that in Isaiah 29 this apostasy of Judah is resolved when “the deaf shall hear the words of the book.” Now let’s return to Romans 11, as it describes the resolution to this apostasy of Judah in terms of the Parable of the Olive Tree:


[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? Elohim forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
[12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
[13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office:
[14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
[15] For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
[16] For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
[17] And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
[18] Boast not against the branches. But if you boast, you bear not the root, but the root thee.
[19] You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
[20] Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
[21] For if Elohim spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
[22] Behold therefore the goodness and severity of Elohim: on them which fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in his goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off.
[23] And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for Elohim is able to graft them in again.
[24] For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
[25] For I would not, brothers, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
[26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Tzion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Ya’akov:
[27] For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.(Romans 11:11-27 emphasis added)

Notice in Romans 11 the apostasy of Judah is resolved by the “fullness of the Gentiles” which must be connected with the coming forth of the book predicted in Isaiah 29.

Notice also that this parable talks about branches from the wild olive tree “Ephraim” being grafted into the natural olive tree “Judah.” These Ephraimite branches are told to be fed by the root of the natural olive tree, and not to boast against the natural branches. The primary thrust of this parable, is that it will be an even greater event when natural branches (Jews) are grafted back into their own, natural olive tree.

There is additional insight on the importance of being fed by the root of the tame tree, in the earliest (and much longer) version of this parable, as written in the Brass Plates of the Stick of Judah, by the prophet Zenos (and quoted at length in The Stick of Joseph in Ya’akov chapter 3). Zenos writes about the strength of this root saying:

And he said unto the servant, Behold, the branches of the wild tree have taken hold of the moisture of the root thereof, that the root thereof has brought forth much strength. And because of the much strength of the root thereof, the wild branches have brought forth tame fruit. Now, if we had not grafted in these branches, the tree thereof would have perished. And now behold, I shall lay up much fruit which the tree thereof has brought forth; and the fruit thereof I shall lay up against the season unto my own self. (Ya’akov 3:10 emphasis added)

Nevertheless, I know that the roots are good, and for my own purpose I have preserved them. And because of their much strength, they have previously brought forth from the wild branches good fruit. (Ya’akov 3:18 emphasis added)

And behold, the roots of the natural branches of the tree which I planted wherever I would are yet alive. Wherefore, that I may preserve them also for my own purpose, I will take of the branches of this tree, and I will graft them in unto them. Yes, I will graft in unto them the branches of their mother tree, that I may preserve the roots also unto my own self, that when they shall be sufficiently strong, perhaps they may bring forth good fruit unto me, and I may yet have glory in the fruit of my vineyard. (Ya’akov 3:23 emphasis added)

The prophet Lechi also recounted this parable as recorded in The Stick of Joseph, as Nefi writes:

Yes, even my father spoke much concerning the Goyim, and also concerning the house of Isra’el, that they should be compared like unto an olive tree whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth. Wherefore, he said it must necessarily be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of YHWH that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth. And after the house of Isra’el should be scattered, they should be gathered together again, or in short, after the Goyim had received the fulness of the besorah, the natural branches of the olive tree — or the remnants of the house of Isra’el — should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Mashiach, their Adon and their Redeemer. (1 Nefi 3:4 emphasis added)

And later, Nefi instructs his brothers as to the meaning of this parable:

And they said, Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father has spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Goyim. And I said unto them, Have you inquired of YHWH? And they said unto me, We have not, for YHWH makes no such thing known unto us. Behold, I said unto them, How is it that you do not keep the mitzvot of YHWH? How is it that you will perish because of the hardness of your hearts? Do you not remember the thing which YHWH has said, If you will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that you shall receive, with diligence in keeping my mitzvot, surely these things shall be made known unto you? 

Behold, I say unto you that the house of Isra’el was compared unto an olive tree by the spirit of YHWH which was in our father. And behold, are we not broken off from the house of Isra’el? And are we not a branch of the house of Isra’el? And now the thing which our father means concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the Milo HaGoyim is that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief — yes, for the space of many years and many generations after the Mashiach shall be manifested in body unto the children of men — then shall the fulness of the besorah of the Mashiach come unto the Goyim, and from the Goyim unto the remnant of our seed. And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Isra’el and that they are the covenant people of YHWH. And then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the besorah of their Redeemer, which was taught unto their fathers by him. Wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved. And then at that day, will they not rejoice and give praise unto their El Olam, their rock, and their salvation? Yes, at that day, will they not receive strength and nourishment from the true vine? Yes, will they not come unto the true fold of Elohim? Behold, I say unto you, yes, they shall be numbered again among the house of Isra’el; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive tree, into the true olive tree; and this is what our father means. And he means that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Goyim. And he means that it shall come by way of the Goyim, that YHWH may show his power unto the Goyim for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Y’hudim, or of the house of Isra’el. Wherefore, our father has not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Isra’el, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days, which covenant YHWH made to our father Avraham, saying, In your seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 

And it came to pass that I, Nefi, spoke much unto them concerning these things; yes, I spoke unto them concerning the restoration of the Y’hudim in the latter days. (1 Nefi 4:2-4 emphasis added)

Here again we see from the phrase Milo HaGoyim, (fullness of the Gentiles) that the Goyim (Gentiles) are Ephraim—remember, the phrase is drawn from Gen. 48:19 as shown earlier—and that the main thrust of this parable is concerning the restoration of the Y’hudim (Jews) in the latter days.

This phrase Milo HaGoyim (fullness of the Gentiles) also appears in 3 Nefi where Yeshua says:

And I command you that you shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Yerushalayim — they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry — do not ask the Father in my name that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Ruach HaKodesh, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which you shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Goyim; that through the Milo HaGoyim, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer. And then will I gather them in from the four quarters of the earth, and then will I fulfill the covenant which the Father has made unto all the people of the house of Isra’el. (3 Nefi 7:4)

And also in Yosef ben Yosef’s account of his visit by the angel who revealed the plates to him:

After telling me these things he commenced quoting the prophecies of the Old Testament. He first quoted part of the third chapter of Malachi, and he quoted also the fourth or last chapter of the same prophecy, though with a little variation from the way it reads in our Bibles. Instead of quoting the first verse as reads in our books, he quoted it thus: For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea and all that do wickedly, shall burn as stubble; for they that cometh shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. And again he quoted the fifth verse thus: Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood by the hand of Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. He also quoted the next verse differently: And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers; if it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. In addition to these he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ [Mashiach], but the day had not yet come when they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people, but soon would come. He also quoted the second chapter of Joel from the twenty-eighth to the last verse. He also said that this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be. And he further stated the fullness of the gentiles was soon to come in. He quoted many other passages of scripture and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here. (Joseph Smith History part 3, paragraph 4, emphasis added)

The time of the Fullness of the Gentiles has come, and has brought forth the prophesied book. The deaf shall hear the words of this book, the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and darkness, and the two sets of plates and two houses of Israel will soon begin to grow together to fulfill prophecy:

Wherefore, the fruit of your loins shall write, and the fruit of the loins of Y’hudah shall write. And that which shall be written by the fruit of your loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Y’hudah, shall grow togetherunto the confounding of false doctrines, and laying down of contentions, and establishing shalom among the fruit of your loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, says YHWH. And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring you, O house of Isra’el, says YHWH. (2 Nefi 2:4 emphasis added)

Ezekiel 37: The Secret of the Plates Revealed in the Targum

By Ya’akov ben Y’hudah

One of the most memorable prophecies in the Book of Ezekiel is the famous “Two Sticks” Prophecy of Ezekiel 37, which reads as follows in the Tanakh:


The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, 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. And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these? Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. (Ezek. 37:15-20, emphasis added)

We learn several things from these verses. In Judaism it is understood that there are four levels of understanding of the Scriptures. Each level is progressively deeper and more intense, like the layers of an onion. These layers are Pashat (literal); Remez (implied; hinted); Drash (allegorical; homiletical) and Sod (hidden, secret, mystical). If we take the first letter of each word to create a new word (a process known in Judaism as Notarikon) it spells PaRDeS (there were no written vowels in ancient Hebrew), a word meaning “paradise.”

To begin with, the obvious Pashat (plain, simple) meaning, is that of a promised reunion of the two divisions of Israel. But there is more. On the Remez level (implied, hinted), we see that the stick of Joseph, is “in the hand of Ephraim” but is also called the “stick of Ephraim” earlier in the passage. If the stick of Joseph simply represents Ephraim (The House of Israel), then how can Ephraim be in the hand of Ephraim? This implies that there must be a deeper meaning to the phrase “stick of Joseph” than simply a reference to the House of Israel (although that is its Pashat, or plain, simple meaning). 

So let us look deeper, into the next level of understanding, the Drash (allegorical, homiletical understanding). For that understanding, let us look to the Targum on Ezekiel 37.  

The Targums are Aramaic paraphrases of the books of the Tanakh that were anciently read in the Synagogues, alongside the Hebrew readings from the Torah and the Prophets. The Targums explained, in Aramaic, what the Hebrew was understood to mean. Therefore, the Targums were highly interpretive and “Midrashic.” 

So let’s look at how the Targum Jonathan paraphrases this prophecy in Ezekiel 37, and see what this reveals to us about how this prophecy was understood by the ancients:

וַהֲוָה פִתְגָם נְבוּאָה מִן קֳדָם יְיָ עִמִי לְמֵימָר: 

וְאַתְּ בַּר אָדָם סַב לָךְ לוּחָא חֲדָא וּכְתוֹב עֲלוֹהִי לְשִׁבְטָא דִיהוּדָה וְלִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אַחֵיהוֹן וְסַב לוּחָא חֲדָא וּכְתוֹב עֲלוֹהִי לְשִׁבְטָא דְיוֹסֵף דִי הוּא שִׁבְטָא דְאֶפְרַיִם וְכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲחֵיהוֹן: 

וְתַקְרֵיב יַתְהוֹן חַד לְוַת חַד לָךְ לְלוּחָא חַד וִיהוֹן לְחוֹד בִּידָךְ: 

וְכַד יֵימְרוּן לָךְ בְּנֵי עַמָךְ לְמֵימָר הֲלָא תְחַוֵי לָנָא מָה אִלֵין לָךְ: 

אִתְנַבֵּי לְהוֹן כִּדְנַן אֲמַר יְיָ אֱלֹהִים הָא אֲנָא מְקָרִיב יַת שִׁבְטָא דְיוֹסֵף דִי הוּא שִׁבְטָא דְאֶפְרַיִם וְשִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲחֵיהוֹן וַאֲחַבֵּיר יַתְהוֹן עֲלוֹהִי יַת שִׁבְטָא דִיהוּדָה וְאַעְבְּדִינוּן לְעַמָא חַד וִיהוֹן חַד קֳדָמָי: 

וִיהוֹן לוּחַיָא דִי תִכְתּוֹב עֲלֵיהוֹן בִּידָךְ לְעֵינֵיהוֹן:

And it came to pass a sentence came upon me from before YHWH saying: And you son of man, take you one plate and write upon it for the tribes of Judah, and to the sons of Israel, their brothers. And take one plate and write upon it for the tribe of Joseph which is the tribe of Ephraim, and all the House of Israel their brothers. And join the plates one to another, and they shall become one in your hand. And when the children of your people shall speak to you saying: “Will you not show us what these are?” I prophesied to them thus says YHWH Elohim, behold I shall join the tribe of Joseph which is the tribe of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel their brothers, and I will cause them to have fellowship with the tribe of Judah and I will make them one people and they shall be one before me. And the plates which were written upon will be in your hand to their eyes. (Ezek. 37:15-20 Targum Jonathan)

The Targum paraphrases the word eytz meaning “stick” with the Aramaic word lucha (lookh-ah), which means a plate or tablet that is inscribed or engraved. The same word in Hebrew is luach (לוח Strong’s 3871, plural luchot), which is the very word used in Exodus for the inscribed stone tablets of the Torah (see Ex. 24:12). The Targum reveals to us a deeper layer of meaning, said to be handed down from the prophets themselves, identifying the two “sticks” as two records, or two inscribed sets of plates, which are united into one record.

The official Targum of the Prophets was composed some 2000 years ago by Jonathan ben Uzziel, who was a talmid (student) of Hillel. (Hillel taught as an old man when Yeshua was a small child, so this was one or two generations before Yeshua). The Talmud describes this Targum as follows:

The Targum of the Prophets was composed by Jonathan ben Uzziel under the guidance of [traditions handed down from] Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, and the land of Israel [thereupon] quaked over an area of four hundred parasangs by four hundred parasangs, and a Bath Kol [voice from heaven] came forth and exclaimed, Who is this that has revealed My secrets to mankind? Jonathan b. Uzziel thereupon arose and said, It is I who have revealed Thy secrets to mankind. It is fully known to Thee that I have not done this for my own honour or for the honour of my father’s house, but for Thy honour l have done it, that dissension may not increase in Israel. (b.Megillah 3a)

So when Jonathan ben Uziel revealed (among other secrets) in his Targum, that the two “sticks” in Ezekiel 37 represented not only the two houses of Israel, but two records written on “plates”, he was recording a tradition handed down from the last of the prophets of the Great Assembly, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, and revealing Elohim’s secrets concerning Ezekiel 37 so that “dissension may not increase in Israel” but that our people might know that Ezekiel was foreseeing, not only the future reunion of the two houses of Israel, but the coming together of two records kept on “plates”: The Stick of Judah (the Tanakh) and the “Stick of Joseph” which is “in the hand of Ephraim” and brought together with the Tanakh.

This secret of Elohim, which has been passed from the last prophets of the Tanakh, through the Targum, to us today, is in total agreement with The Stick of Joseph, which alludes to Ezekiel’s prophecy saying:

Wherefore, the fruit of your loins shall write, and the fruit of the loins of Y’hudah shall write. And that which shall be written by the fruit of your loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Y’hudah, shall grow together unto the confounding of false doctrines, and laying down of contentions, and establishing shalom among the fruit of your loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, says YHWH. And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring you, oh house of Isra’el, says YHWH. (2 Nefi 2:4 emphasis added)

Notice that the Talmud recorded that the Targum Jonathan reveals (among other secrets) this secret of the two sets of plates so “that dissension may not increase in Israel,” while The Stick of Joseph tells us that the two sets of plates grow together for the purpose of “laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins.”

Nefi’s Name

Nefi is the originator and first author of The Stick of Joseph in the Hand of Ephraim. This remarkable prophet fled Jerusalem in 601 BCE, just prior to the Babylonian destruction, and began keeping sacred records at God’s command. In this post, we’ll consider more about Nefi, his prophetic role, and the purpose of the record he created, beginning with Nefi’s name.

Nefi was likely named from the ancient Egyptian word nefi which means “to breathe, to blow at; to give breath to, i.e. to set free (a prisoner)… compare Heb. נָפַח” (An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary; E.A. Wallis Budge; Dover Publications; New York; 1978; Volume 1, page 369, column b). This Egyptian word is actually derived from the Hebrew root Nafach (נָפַח) (Strong’s 5301) having the same meaning “to blow, to breathe.”  

The fact that Nefi’s name is an Egyptian form of a Hebrew word comes as no surprise, as he made clear in the very opening of his record: 

Yes, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Y’hudim [Jews] and the language of the Egyptians. (1 Nefi 1:1) 

A later author gives further clarification: 

And now behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large, we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew has been altered by us also. (M’raman 4:11) 

This clearly demonstrates the language of the text and those who wrote it was Hebrew, but they used an Egyptian writing system to save space on the plates. Therefore, the idea that Nefi’s name is an Egyptian form of a Hebrew word fits perfectly with the nature of the record Nefi created.

The same word is used in Genesis 2:7, when God breathed (nafach) into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

This is also the root used in Ezekiel 37:9, to prophesy that the spirit, or breath of life (ruach רוח Strong’s 3707), would breathe (nafach נפח Strong’s 5301) on the dry bones of Israel and bring them back to life: 

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

This is, of course, the same vision in which Ezekiel prophesied of The Stick of Joseph in the Hand of Ephraim—this very record. It therefore comes as no surprise that a form of Nefi’s actual name appears as the moving action to begin the restoration of Israel. The action that awakens Israel is clearly tied to Nefi’s name, and therefore his record.

Isaiah, likewise, prophesied of Israel’s restoration and future glory. In Isaiah 54, he speaks of Israel’s future redemption and gathering, establishment of righteousness, freedom from fear, and eventual triumph over all her enemies. He even alludes to the future glorious city of Zion and her temple. 

In the midst of this beautiful prophecy, we find a curious aside, as follows:

Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work (Isaiah 54:16).

This aside, in the midst of promises and prophecies of future glory, seems a bit out of place. There is no readily apparent connection between promised future glory and redemption, and this curious passage about a blacksmith. Or is there? 

Examining the underlying Hebrew, we find the word that is translated as “smith” or in other translations, “blacksmith” or “craftsman” is charash (חרש Strong’s 2796), which actually means “engraver, artificer.”

The next word, translated as the verb “blow” or “fan” is nafach (נפח Strong’s 5301)—Nefi’s name, which we’ve looked at above. 

These two words alone, when considered in Hebrew, bring tremendous new meaning to Isaiah’s aside, which seems so out of place. Rather than a “blacksmith” who “blows” the coals, we see an underlying allusion to the “engraver, Nefi” who brings forth “an instrument for his work.” 

In both Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s prophecies of the future restoration and gathering of Israel, we find the mention of Nefi—by name—as the operative force by which the work would begin. Nefi is, indeed, the engraver of the instrument by which YHWH’s work has begun again. In fact, Nefi was so integral to the record that throughout a thousand years of Nefite history, the posterity of Nefi and both sets of plates—large and small—bore Nefi’s name. 

In closing, we should note one, final, doubly delightful word play. The KJV, and several other translations give charash (engraver) as “smith,” thus equating the “engraver” of the instrument with Yosef ben Yosef, whose English name was Joseph Smith. In the Hebrew, we find Nefi, and in the English, we find Yosef—both named by name, and both vital to the fulfillment of YHWH’s covenants with Israel, set in motion by the record they produced.

The Stick of Joseph in the Hand of Ephraim now Available!

Happy Chanukah!

We are very pleased to make the following announcement: 

The Stick of Joseph in the Hand of Ephraim is now available for immediate order in print-on-demand paperback and hardback versions. The story of this text covers thousands of years, originating as a Hebraic record kept by a prophetic Israelite family for a thousand years, followed by 1400 years buried in the ground of upstate New York, USA, then miraculous discovery and translation by Yosef ben Yosef, 190 years of Gentile efforts to thwart, disguise and misuse the record, and finally restoration and publication in its current form. 

It’s an amazing story, about which much more will be written in upcoming blog posts on this site. 

Today is a symbolic and remarkable day of celebration. Consider the days leading up to it: 

  • Depending on your time zone, December 21 or 22 marked the Winter Solstice, and the return of light to the world. 
  • The evening of December 22 marked the beginning of Chanukah, and the lighting of the first candle for the Festival of Light.
  • Today, December 23, is the anniversary of the birth of Yosef ben Yosef (Joseph Smith, Jr.) who recovered and translated the hidden record, and set in motion the marvelous work that continues to bring light to a darkening world. 

Each of these three days marks increasing light, all symbolically pointing to this long-prophesied record, and ultimately to Mashiach, of whom the record testifies. 

The publication of this text is the result of thousands of hours of volunteer labor, as well as signifiant financial sacrifice by those who seek no reward other than to obey the God of Israel. Therefore, this book is offered for sale at publisher’s price, with the specific intent of eliminating any profit from its sale. Electronic versions will also be made available for download at no cost.

In the coming weeks and months, much more will be written here about this singular record. Until then, we hope you will read and consider the remarkable message it contains. The God of Israel speaks now, to all the world, and to all the House of Israel through the record He promised would come. Will you hear it?

Chanukah and The Stick of Joseph:
“A Great Miracle Happened There”

By Ya’akov ben Y’hudah

The central ceremony in celebrating Chanukah, is the lighting of the Chanukah menorah. Why do we light candles for eight nights? We read in the Talmud:

What is the reason for Chanukah? For our Rabbis taught: On the 25th of Kislev begin the days of Chanukah, which are eight, during which lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils in it, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they [the Maccabees] searched and found only one cruse of oil which possessed the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient oil for only one day’s lighting; yet a miracle occurred there and they lit [the lamp] for eight days. The following year these days were appointed a Festival with the recitation of Hallel and thanksgiving (b.Shabbat 21b).

One day’s supply of oil miraculously burned for eight days, giving sufficient time to prepare a greater supply and continue the lighting. Thus, we light candles for eight nights. 

But did you know that there is an important prophetic connection between the Feast of Chanukah and the coming forth of The Stick of Joseph? The connection lies in an earlier Chanukah “Miracle of the Oil” recorded in 2 Maccabees.

The Second Book of the Maccabees opens with two letters. The second of these is from Judas Maccabee and the “Senate” (the Council of Elders of the time) to Aristoblus, who was leader of the large Jewish community in Alexandria, explaining to them why they should keep the Feast of Chanukah. In this letter, Judas Maccabee writes:

18. Since on the twenty-fifth day of Chislev we shall celebrate the purification of the temple, we thought it necessary to notify you, in order that you also may celebrate the feast of booths and the feast of the fire given when Nehemiah, who built the temple and the altar, offered sacrifices.

19. For when our fathers were being led captive to Persia, the pious priests of that time took some of the fire of the altar and secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern, where they took such precautions that the place was unknown to any one.

20 . But after many years had passed, when it pleased God, Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to get it. And when they reported to us that they had not found fire but thick liquid, he ordered them to dip it out and bring it.

21. And when the materials for the sacrifices were presented, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle the liquid on the wood and what was laid upon it.

22. When this was done and some time had passed and the sun, which had been clouded over, shone out, a great fire blazed up, so that all marveled.

23. And while the sacrifice was being consumed, the priests offered prayer — the priests and every one. Jonathan led, and the rest responded, as did Nehemiah.

24. The prayer was to this effect: “O Lord, Lord God, Creator of all things, who art awe-inspiring and strong and just and merciful, who alone art King and art kind,

25. who alone art bountiful, who alone art just and almighty and eternal, who dost rescue Israel from every evil, who didst choose the fathers and consecrate them,

26. accept this sacrifice on behalf of all thy people Israel and preserve thy portion and make it holy.

27. Gather together our scattered people, set free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look upon those who are rejected and despised, and let the Gentiles know that thou art our God.

28. Afflict those who oppress and are insolent with pride.

29. Plant thy people in thy holy place, as Moses said.”

30. Then the priests sang the hymns.

31. And when the materials of the sacrifice were consumed, Nehemiah ordered that the liquid that was left should be poured upon large stones.

32. When this was done, a flame blazed up; but when the light from the altar shone back, it went out.

33. When this matter became known, and it was reported to the king of the Persians that, in the place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire, the liquid had appeared with which Nehemiah and his associates had burned the materials of the sacrifice,

34. the king investigated the matter, and enclosed the place and made it sacred.

35. And with those persons whom the king favored he exchanged many excellent gifts.

36. Nehemiah and his associates called this “nephthar,” which means purification, but by most people it is called “naphtha.”

(2 Maccabees 1:18-36 RSV)

In the passage above, 2 Maccabees refers to Chanukah as “the feast of booths and the feast of the fire” because, according to the books of the Maccabees, the first Chanukah was a belated Sukkot celebration (1 Macc. 4:36-61; 2 Macc. 10:1-9).

According to the KJV reading of 2 Maccabees 1:36, Nehemiah called this substance Naphtar but many people called it Nephi

In the Greek text of 2 Maccabees Naphtar is Nephthar and Nephi was rendered Nephthaei. In the Aramaic Peshitta text the two words are נפתר (Nephtar) and נפתי (Nephti). There is a Mishnaic Hebrew word נפט nephet which is used in the Talmud to refer to petroleum oil. 

So how does the Nephti present a type and shadow of the Nephites and their record? 

  • Like the Nephti (using the Peshitta Aramaic version of the word), the Nephites were removed from Jerusalem not long before the beginning of the Babylonian captivity, and taken to a place of safety.
  • And like the Nephti, the Nephite record (The Stick of Joseph) was buried in the earth, hidden away to be brought forth at a later time of restoration.
  • The story of the Nephti parallels the miracle of the oil at the time of the Maccabees. Likewise, The Stick of Joseph parallels the the Chanukah light. It is the Nephti, hidden away and brought forth in the last days as a light to the world.  

So when we say “Nes Gadol Haya Sham” (A Great Miracle Happened There) let us remember not only the miracle of the oil, let us also remember the miracle of the coming forth of The Stick of Joseph. As we light the Chanukah lights, let us remember this great light as well.