180 Years Ago: The Shepherd of Israel and the Tribe of Joseph

Each month, I plan to feature an extended summary of an article, story, or document of interest that was published 180 years ago that same month in a Mormon periodical. There are some fascinating gems in the early newspapers, and interesting developments in thought can be traced throughout them. Last month’s entry, representing October 1832, is found here: 180 Years Ago In Church Periodicals: The Ten Tribes.


The Evening and the Morning Star 1.6 (November 1832) – “The Tribe of Joseph”

Picking up where he left off with the previous month’s article on the Ten Tribes, editor W. W. Phelps begins the November 1832 issue of the Star with the history of Joseph of Egypt, recounting his dream visions, and noting that “much of his life was a type of future events in relation to his seed.” In fact, Phelps indicates that one can look at the words of blessing pronounced upon Joseph by his father Jacob (Genesis 49:22-26 ) as something to be looked upon “without the fear of contradiction, and with a great deal of pleasure, as well as satisfaction, knowing that the very days have arrived for the fulfillment of that prophecy.

This,” writes Phelps, “is one of the greatest prophecies in the bible, and contains more of the economy of the Lord than will be seen till the Redeemer comes to dwell on the earth.” While Jacob’s reference to having Joseph’s ‘branches run over the wall’ (Genesis 49:22) is,  “plain as to have said, some of his seed shall cross the ocean”, the reference to the coming of the “Shepherd, the Stone of Israel” (Genesis 49:24) in the blessing cannot , as is normally interpreted, expresses Phelps, coherently mean the birth of Jesus, but rather the coming of Christ the Delivererin the end days to gather his people (“There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer…”, see Romans 11:26), out of which the Josephites will be the first (as is the meaning seen in the glory of Ephraim – son and representative of Joseph –  being “the firstling of his [the Lord’s] bullock”, as attributed to Moses in Deuteronomy 33:17).

Furthermore, the blessing of Moses on Joseph’s land (Deuteronomy 33:13-17) , writes Phelps, makes reference to the great latter-day gathering to commence there. “It is the land on which the saints of the living God shall gather in the Last days, to receive the Savior at his second coming. It is blessed of the Lord, too, for the precious things of heaven: the fullness of the Gospel in the Book of Mormon.” And Lehi’s extended Josephite prophecy from that book is used to show support (2 Nephi 3:4-21).

Lehi (2 Nephi 3), the Patriarch Jacob (Genesis 49), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:16) are all called upon to show their support of a coherent and persistent prophetic message of the importance of the house of Joseph in the Last Days.

Phelps sums up, “So, then, it appears, that Ephraim, besides becoming a multitude of nations, writes and keeps one of the sticks or books of the Lord.” The first stick is attributed to Judah, because the Savior was born through Judah, and was kept by the Jews. But then, “the Redeemed shall come the second time, to the tribe of Joseph; and they have also written and kept a record, called the book of Mormon, for, from thence is the Shepherd the Stone of Israel: who can mistake what Ezekiel meant by the Two Sticks?” 300px-Leah-Rachel-Laban-Jacob

The circumstances of the marriages of Jacob to Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29) is also seen as a prophetic type – the story of  how Jacob/Israel first served seven years to obtain the desirable Rachel, only to obtain, with disappointment, Leah (Judah’s eventual mother, Genesis 29:35), and how he then promised to serve another seven years to finally obtain beloved Rachel (Joseph’s eventual mother, Genesis 30:24). And now, in the end, it is beloved Joseph – the late-coming, but first desired – that is blessed and tasked to “push the people to Zion.”

Further prophetic references to the struggle and promises to befall the Josephite house of Ephraim are cited. “How plain the Lord has told the world, that he would do great things for the house of Joseph,” with the plea of Psalm 80 used to give utterance to the applicable latter-day plans of the great Shepherd.

Here,” writes Phelps, “let us pause. The Lord is great and his words fail not. The shepherd of Israel, which comes leading Joseph like a flock, stir up thy strength before Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh. Ah what precious words! Judah is to be gathered at old Jerusalem; the lost tribes, with the half tribe of Manasseh, will be restored by Elijah, which leaves Ephraim, the remaining half tribe of Manasseh, and Benjamin to be stirred up by the good shepherd. What a consolation!

unjustjudgeLargeJesus’ parables of the petitioning of the unjust judge, and the prayer of the publican ( Luke 18) are illustratively applied to the role of Ephraim. “Now,” explains Phelps, “when the Son of man comes shall he find faith on the earth? He will find some with Ephraim, if Hosea’s words are true, that –‘From me is thy fruit found [Hosea 14:8]’. Again, taking this parable for a sample, will he come to those that pray in fine houses and fast by states and nations, as it were, giving bountifully of their wealth, to Bible societies, and temperance societies, while the poor, forgotten by them, or will he come to them that humble themselves and cry mightily, Not our will, but thine, O God be done?(cf Luke 22:42).

Joseph of Egypt’s life as a type of “coming events unto his seed” is again rehearsed, this time wit Chief Captain Moroni being called as a witness. (Alma 46:23-24) The later Moroni son of Mormon’s prophetic witness of the Josephite connection to the New Jerusalem is added (Ether 3:4-8).

josephNow,” comments Phelps, “ as Joseph caused all the Egyptians to leave the room when he made himself known to his brethren: So the branch of his seed, which was lead to this continent by the hand of the Lord, to prepare the land of their inheritance, and the other branches which are wandering among the nations, may be brought from the east, and gathered from the west, ready to meet the Redeemer when he brings again Zion.”

According to Phelps, the coming promised day of millennial glory was known long before Joseph’s symbolic entrance into Egypt. In reference to the immediate post-diluvians, Phelps asks, “What started a party of high-min[d]ed men to build a Tower to go to heaven?” The flood and removal of the Enochic Zion was in very sharp memory, so that to not once again risk such great losses, the ignorant and “evil generation sat out to force themselves into heaven, without coming in as the Lord had appointed.” On the other hand, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were “filled with the Holy Ghost, and knew many things in relation to the last days, which they taught to their posterity.”

While the remnant of Joseph are physically scattered and mixed in with the peoples over all the earth, many will eventually feel the call to come to the Ensign in the designated Land of Joseph.

To close…Judah would not receive the Savior at his first coming, and he was crucified. He then manifested himself to the other tribes and remnants. The word was, whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. The Jews fell upon that stone and were broken: and, O ye inhabitants of the earth, beware! For if that stone falls upon you, it will grind you to powder. Remember that Joseph’s glory, is the firstling of his bullock [see Deuteronomy 33:17] , & also, that with his horns, he is to push the people together from the ends of the earth…The Lord has now begun to feed the flock of his heritage with the rod, or word of truth, as in days of old, and according to the days of his coming out of the land of Egypt, will he show marvelous things.

“The oceans have to roll back into one place; the valleys have to be exalted; the mountains have to flow down at his presence, the sun has to be darkened, and the moon turned into blood, and the stars have to fall, then behold, he will come to return-of-christreign on the earth with power and great glory, and all the holy angels with him; yea, with the church of the first born, even Zion which was received up to the bosom of the Father, in the days of Enoch, before the flood; that the righteous that died in the hope of a glorious resurrection, may arise and meet the Lord in the air, and live again, in the flesh, on the earth.”


180 Years Ago: The Shepherd of Israel and the Tribe of Joseph — 2 Comments

  1. Thanks, Allen. Apart from enjoying sharing these, they also cause me to read them very carefully in order to properly grasp and summarize the points and references being made. The process has given me some interesting insights on the development of early thought. The early periodicals had much material that can be a chore to plow through, but the effort in finding fun early theological and doctrinal explorations is almost always worth it.