The Lost Tribes of Israel have been written about for centuries. Many have gone wrong in the past by focusing on a physical descent from Israel as a requirement for salvation. Numerous groups and individuals throughout history have performed Scriptural acrobatics in order to satisfy their personal interpretations .
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Any casual Bible scholar can tell you that these views crumble when put under the scrutiny of Scripture. But we must recognize that there must be a thread of truth for such outlandish claims to have taken hold. That thread of truth is what we are interested in here. Let's turn to the pages of 1 Kings to see where many of these ideas originated.
- But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;
- Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.
- And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
- For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
- For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
- And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.
- Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.
- And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.
- And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice,
- And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.
- Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.
- Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son.
- Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.
King Solomon was guilty of the most abominable sin, that of idolotry.* Make no mistake folks, our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, Deuteronomy 32:16, 2 Corinthians 11:2). Can you imagine God appearing to you twice and still choosing to disobey His words? Sadly, the power of women and subtle idolotries is stronger than many Christians would like to acknowledge.
The surprising part is that God doesn't immediately visit His wrath upon Solomon. For the sake of Solomon's father, the obedient King David, He saves it for a later generation. Let's continue in 1 Kings to see how it unfolds.
* For more on idolotry including the above mentioned Ashtoreth, Milcom, Molech, Chemosh, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and Zidonians see Lucifer Has Fallen.
- And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph.
- And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field:
- And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces:
- And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee:
- (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:)
- Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.
- Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes:
- But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes.
- And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.
- And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel.
This prophecy soon came true and the 12 tribes were devided between Jeroboam and Solomon's son Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:16-17, 1 Kings 12:20). A bit of clarification is required here. I Kings repeatedly declares that one tribe will continue with Solomon, but this single tribe actually proves to be two, Judah and Benjamin (1 Kings 12:21). Judah and Benjamin became known as the Southern Kingdom while the remaing 10 tribes were known as the Northern Kingdom.
The two kingdoms were constantly engaged in war with eachother and were never reconciled (1 Kings 14:30). Eventually the Northern Kingdom was defeated by Assyria (2 Kings 15:29) and a few decades later the Southern Kingdom fell to Babylonia (Daniel 1:1). As a result both were scattered among the nations (1 Kings 22:17, Esther 3:8, Jeremiah 30:10-11). The question which remains to this day is whether or not the tribes were ever gathered again.
The Two Become One, Ephraim and Judah, Two-Houses of Israel
It is tempting to say that the two kingdoms have since reunited, but the fact of the matter is that James acknowledges that the tribes are still "scattered abroad" (James 1:1) and the Apostles in Acts ask about the full restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). John also acknowledges the "dispersed among the Gentiles" (John 7:35) and in John we find that the high priest Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation as well as the "children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:47-52). This is also in line with fulfilled prophecy in Zechariah (Zechariah 13:7).
There's no recorded history which shows that the tribes of Israel ever reunited. In fact there's a growing body of independent research showing that the tribes are still in dispersion . This is a compelling and ultimately uniting view that Israel is inclusive of both Jews and those dispersed.
Scripture shows clearly that ancient Israel's fall was necessary in order to allow Gentiles into the fold (Luke 21:24, Romans 11:25, Romans 11:30-32). These Gentiles, who include modern Christians, were never meant to replace the Jews but rather that the two would form God's elect as the Body of Christ.
Many argue that those Christians who believe in a future restoration of Israel are modern day "Judaizers". The argument goes that by observing dietary laws and "The Feasts of Israel" while at the same time rejecting "pagan" holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, and Easter these bretheren are attempting to bring "free" Christians into "the bondage of the law". This is an age old debate that usually involves confusion and oftentimes hard hearts.
The rubuttal is that Christ never came to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). It is also pointed out that not one "jot or tittle" of the law will be changed until the end of the world (Matthew 5:18, a jot is often compared to a period and a tittle to the cross of a 't'). Both sides are very passionate about their stance and can sometimes get carried away. Consequently these Jews and Christians suffer spiteful accusations from their separatist bretheren (and vice-versa) .
There are a few things that we can learn from all this, both of which should help clarify the relationship between the law and Christianity. The first is the understanding that the law of the Torah (God's law) is to be distinguished from the ceremonial laws of men.
The second thing to learn is that obedience to God's law brings blessings in this life while faith alone in Jesus Christ brings salvation in the life to come. We must also recognize that sin impedes both faith and obedience. While we should follow God's law it must be acknowledged that the law is fulfilled with love (Joshua 22:5, Galatians 5:14).
Regardless of which laws we choose to follow, true obedience comes not from the will of man but from the inward presence of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus said, we should love God first and our neighboor as ourselves, then the rest will follow (Matthew 22:36-40).
It's important to recognize that love does not replace God's law but encompasses it. In fact Jeremiah and Ezekiel both predict that God will gather His people scattered abroad and make a new and everlasting covenant with them in which no one will have to teach another about God, for His law will be written on each individual's heart:
Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. Jeremiah 31:10
- Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
- Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
- But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
- And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
- Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.
- Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.
- And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence.
- And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
- That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
- And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
- And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.
- Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.
- And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
- And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
So will Jews and Christians unite before the return of Christ? There is a resounding yes within a movement that has started known as Two-House, refering to Judah and Ephraim, the Two Houses of Israel who are most prominently found in Ezekiel and Jeremiah:
- 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 show 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.
- And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
- And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
- Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
- And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
- And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
- Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
- My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Again we see that the two Houses of Israel, which were scattered abroad, will be united to become one under one shepherd. That shepherd is none other than Christ Jesus, and the servant David is commonly agreed to be an allusion to the same.
The future implications of these verses are apparent in the use of the words "for ever" and the reiteration of a new and everlasting covenant. It becomes immediately evident that this may have been fulfilled in 1948 when present day Israel became a nation. This may be partially true but fails primarily where it is most important, that the two become one under one shepherd and one king, Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to note that the second stick is identified as Joseph and Ephraim. If we remember back in Genesis 49:22 Joseph is compared to a fruitful branch, indicating his outreaching growth (see Who is Israel? A Brief Biblical History of Israel). Hitchcock's Bible Names defines Ephraim as "fruitful" and "increasing", this is made plain by Genesis 41:52.
It makes perfect sense that this stick, that of Ephraim and Joseph, represents Christianity. Unlike Judaism, a main tenet of Christianity is to make believers out of the unbelieving masses; hence outreaching growth. That is Jesus' instruction in Matthew 28:19. The image of branches and growth also lends itself readily to the olive tree in Romans:
- For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
- And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
- Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
- Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
- Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
- For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
- Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
- And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
- For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert 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?
This is a beautiful picture of Israel, the olive tree (Hosea 14:5-6), and Christians, the wild branches, becoming one in Christ, who is the root (Revelation 22:16). And note that while the wild branches are grafted in place of those which were broken off, those same branches can be replaced.
Brothers and Sisters there is only one Body of believers, there is only one Church, there is only one Faith (Ephesians 4:4-6), and it is made of both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 14:27, Romans 9:22-26). God has reconciled the two through Christ Jesus:
- Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
- That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
- But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
- For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
- Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
- And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
- And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
- For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
- Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
- And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
It is clear that there is no salvation apart from Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:16) and God's mercy (Romans 9:15-16). Just as Revelation warns us of the false church, Romans 9 says "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" and "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved" (KJV).
These are the saints found throughout Revelation that are persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus. These are those who have watched and have been ready. These are those that have kept the commandments of God. These are those that God has chosen. They will still go through the Great Tribulation but unlike the non-believing masses they will be under the protection of God and the Blood of Christ. This is the Israel of God.
- But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
- Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
- Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
- The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
- And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
- Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
- Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
- And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
- Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Verses referenced in this study:
- Genesis 41:52; 49:22
- Exodus 20:5
- Deuteronomy 32:16
- Joshua 22:5
- 1 Kings 11:1-13; 11:28-37; 12:16-17; 12:20-21; 14:30; 22:17
- 2 Kings 15:29
- Esther 3:8
- Isaiah 41:8-10
- Jeremiah 30:10-11; 31:10; 31:31-34
- Ezekiel 11:16-20; 20:34-38; 37:16-27
- Daniel 1:1
- Hosea 14:5-6
- Zechariah 13:7
- Matthew 5:17-18; 22:36-40; 28:19
- Luke 21:24
- John 7:35; 11:47-52
- Acts 1:6; 14:27
- Romans 9:15-16; 9:22-26; 11:16-25; 11:30-32
- 2 Corinthians 11:2
- Galatians 2:16; 5:14
- Ephesians 1:18-23; 2:11-20; 4:4-6
- James 1:1
- Revelation 22:16
Links referenced in this study: