The Shemitah and The Yovel: Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part III
Diaspora Does Not Mean Destruction
Ephraim: Still Enduring the Exile
By the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s first conquest of Jerusalem in 605 BC, the Ephraimite (Northern) Kingdom of Israel had been in exile for over a century. As with Judah, the exile of Israel by the Assyrian Empire proceeded in stages, beginning with the invasions of Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul) in 734 BC, and concluding with the siege and conquest of Israel’s capital, Samaria, by Shalmaneser V and Sargon II from 724 to 722 BC. The account of II Kings 17 contains the summary of the conquest, as well as an explanation of why the exile took place:
Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight. For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day. (II Kings 17:5-23 NKJV)
This account explains the origin of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. To this day those tribes remain dispersed throughout the nations. While there have been efforts to trace the migrations of the Ten Tribes and locate them, there is no certainty where these Israelites are today. Most likely their descendants exist on every continent in every nation of the earth. Perhaps someday they will be identified, but actual physical descent from the Ten Tribes is secondary to God’s ultimate purposes. Even though the division of the nation of Israel happened in direct response to the sin of King Solomon, the Lord explained to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, that He Himself had initiated the division:
And when Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah with the tribe of Benjamin, one hundred and eighty thousand chosen men who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, that he might restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, “Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “You shall not go up nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel. Let every man return to his house, for this thing is from Me.”’” Therefore they obeyed the word of the Lord, and turned back, according to the word of the Lord. (I Kings 12:21-24 NKJV, emphasis added)
In subsequent generations, the prophets provided additional insight as to the reasons why the Lord God had initiated this division, why He permitted Israel to continue in their idolatrous ways, and why He would make sure they were scattered to the nations. Ezekiel provides the clearest explanation:
Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, your brethren, your relatives, your countrymen, and all the house of Israel in its entirety, are those about whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Get far away from the Lord; this land has been given to us as a possession.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.”’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 11:14-21 NKJV, emphasis added)
Notice that Ezekiel’s words are not addressed to the House of Judah (the Jewish nation). The only reference to the Jews in this passage is at the beginning, in the context of their contention that the exiled Ten Tribes no longer have an inheritance in the land of Israel, nor any part in the Lord Himself. That attitude calls to mind the antagonistic relations between the Jews and the Samaritans (descendants of the Ten Tribes and of other peoples placed in the land by the Assyrians) as recorded in the Gospels (Matthew 10:5-6; Luke 9:51-56, 10:25-37, 17:11-19; John 4:7-9, 8:48-50). God dismisses that attitude by explaining that, even though the Ephraimites have rebelled against the commandments of the Lord, they will still retain some knowledge of Him (“yet shall I be a little sanctuary for them”) wherever they go during their exile. In time they will come to their senses and God will bring them back. At that glorious time, when the Ten Tribes of Ephraim have returned to the land, God will give them a new heart to understand and obey His commandments.
Consider this amazing set of promises in conjunction with other words from the prophets, starting with this familiar promise in Jeremiah:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when 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 lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NKJV, emphasis added)
Here is God’s promise not only to bring an end to the exile of both Judah and Israel, but to renew the covenant with all Israel by writing His Law (Torah) on their hearts. Then, when we return to Ezekiel, we see something even more amazing:
Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand. And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’—say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”’” (Ezekiel 37:15-28 NKJV, emphasis added)
This famous “Two Sticks” prophecy reveals an astounding amount of detail about what God is doing in these Latter Days and beyond. He promises to bring all Israel back to the land, both the exiles of Israel (Ephraim) and the exiles of Judah. And He promises that the Kingdom will never be divided ever again because His Prince, the Son of David (Messiah) will reign over them forever. Then He promises to “tabernacle” (dwell) with His people, a promise reiterated by the Apostle John several centuries later. Yet the aspect that of this prophecy that explains the purposes of God in dividing the kingdom is in the description of the Two Sticks: they represent not only Ephraim and Judah, but their companions. In other words, throughout the centuries of exile and wandering, these children of Israel will gather to themselves people from every single nation on earth, bringing them home when the Lord ends the exile and reassembles the full nation in the land of Israel. How is this to be done? By the work of God in being a “little sanctuary” to Ephraim, and by entrusting His oracles (Torah) to Judah (Acts 7:37-38; Romans 3:1-2). Thus they carry to the nations the knowledge of Creator God, priming them for His full revelation of Himself in Messiah.
As if that were not enough, there is still more explanation of this plan of God in the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament). Consider these words of Messiah Yeshua:
When we consider this Parable of the Leaven in connection with the prophecies from Ezekiel and Jeremiah, as well as others such as in Hosea 1:1-11 and Amos 9:1-15, we see that the entire nation of Israel, both Judah and Ephraim, are the leaven God hid in the earth, working inexorably through the entire mass until is all leavened. When we apply this understanding to the other parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13, we see that all Israel is:
- The Good Seed sown in different types of soil;
- The Wheat among the Tares;
- The Mustard Seed that grows into a mighty tree;
- The Hidden Treasure in the field;
- The Pearl of Great Price;
- The Net cast into the sea that drew out a multitude of fish.
The priceless message of the Kingdom is indeed salvation and reconciliation to God our Creator. That reconciliation happens only through God’s Messiah. And now we see more completely how Messiah accomplishes this: by scattering His people Israel though the nations so that they can carry the testimony of God to the ends of the earth, and bring them back into the Kingdom when the appointed time set by Almighty God arrives. That appointed time seems to coincide with the end of Israel’s exile.
This leaves us with only one question, which some would say is the most important question of all. We know that the exile of Judah is at an end, and Jews are even now returning to the land. But when will God decree an end to the exile of Ephraim?
 The mystery of the Ten Lost Tribes is a subject that has remained on the fringes of “respectable” scholarship. Serious, credentialed scholars have done creditable research in archaeology, linguistics, anthropology, genetics, history, and other disciplines in an effort to trace the Ten Tribes through history and identify their descendants today. This research has turned up a consistent body of evidence indicating the various places to which the descendants of Israel and of Judah migrated after the ancient conquests by Assyria and Babylon. However, some of this research over the centuries has fed a number of erroneous doctrines, such as British Israelism, a form of replacement theology. At its extreme, British Israelism holds that Western European and British peoples are descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes and have taken the place of Jews in God’s plan. Errors such as these which some Two House adherents have upheld are justifiable causes for questioning the validity of Two House doctrine. Sadly, such errors have caused many to miss the deep truths of the Two House message which go a long way toward explaining the purposes of God in working through Israel to bless every nation on earth. In truth, actual physical descent from Abraham through any of Israel’s twelve tribes is secondary to the miracle done by our Creator in raising up seed to Abraham from every nation by His work of redemption through Messiah Yeshua. That is why the Apostle Paul admonishes us avoid genealogical disputes (I Timothy 1:3-11; Titus 3:1-11). There is, nevertheless, some merit in a properly balanced investigation into the dispersion of all Israel (Judah and Ephraim), knowing that God will at some point restore every tribe to the land (Ezekiel 48; Revelation 7; Revelation 21). Those who would be interested in investigating and judging these things could start by reviewing the work of Yair Davidiy (Britam.org; Hebrewnations.com), Steven M. Collins, and Drs. Alex and Georgina Perdomo (Etzyoseph.org). The Barking Fox does not endorse any of these sites, but does encourage honest investigation of this matter as one possible way the Lord God might fulfill His promises to and through the nation of Israel.
Part IV looks in detail at the reasons for Ephraim’s exile, and the promises of God to bring that exile to an end.