Whenever something happens with Israel in the Middle East, questions arise about its relevance to the End Times. Such is the case with the Abraham Accords, the peace agreement signed by Israel with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the United States. Is this a false peace? Is it a diplomatic breakthrough? What does it mean for region? What should we think about it considering the lessons of history and the promises of scripture?
While the world was looking the other way, Israel pulled off one of the most astounding diplomatic coups of recent years. Peace with the United Arab Emirates will be very good for both countries and for the region, but there is more significance to this development than that. What does it tell us about the national leaders who made it happen, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Are there lessons for life in this game-changing diplomatic move?
[Editor’s note: Is the Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth, or is the Creator bringing all His people to Heaven? If we accept the testimony of John the Apostle, it would seen Heaven comes to earth:
“Behold, the dwelling of God is among men, and He shall tabernacle among them. They shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them and be their God. (Revelation 21:3 TLV)
If that is the case, then what does the Kingdom of Heaven on earth look like? How does it arrive? What, if anything, can we humans do to hasten its coming?
These are questions Angus Wootten pondered for much of his life. His conclusion was that the Kingdom of Israel, composed of the Jewish part (Judah) and the non-Jewish part (Ephraim) would be restored, with both houses reunited under the reign of Messiah Son of David.
In this article, first published in January 1996, Angus offered his observations on the process of Israel’s restoration. His assessment of contemporary developments gave him cause for concern, but also great reason to hope and work for the ultimate fulfillment of the Almighty’s promises. As for how God’s people can participate in the process, Angus offers a frank analysis and a practical challenge. How have things changed in the intervening 25 years? Perhaps this article will give you a lens through which to assess our present circumstances.]
A Messianic Vision
By Angus Wootten – January 1996
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Adonai [Lord], and of his Mashiach [Anointed One]; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
How does the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, plan to accomplish this age ending event? How will He realize His Messianic Vision of manifesting His presence – in His earthly Kingdom – in the midst of a united people? To reach this goal it is obvious that one of His larger challenges is “uniting His people Israel.”
Let us examine this challenge as it currently exists. First and foremost we have the almost three-thousand year old division between the two houses of Israel: Judah and Ephraim, originally the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel. This division is manifested in our day by the division between the Jewish people and Christians, or the Church. Additionally, we have the divisions that exist among each of the houses.
On one hand we have the Church divided by laws and opinions into a multitude of denominations and cults with a vast smorgasbord of theology and doctrines. These divisions are a result of generation after generation of forefathers, to some extent, forsaking the covenants of Yahveh, and following after other gods – the gods often being themselves or other men. For this reason, we have a multitude of divisions among a people who are blinded to their heritage and destiny.
On the other hand, we have the divisions among the Jewish people who are blinded to the identity of the Messiah of Israel. While their divisions are not as numerous as those among Ephraim, they currently tend to be deeper. The deepest rift is currently being manifested in the land of Israel between those who are supportive of the government policy of trading land for peace, and those who are adamantly against this sellout of their inheritance for what they see as a vain hope of a fragile and temporary peace.
[Editor’s note: What is it that inflicts the greatest damage to human relationships? Misunderstanding, miscommunication, and stereotyping are high on the list, but perhaps there is something even higher: the belief that we know the other person.
Think about this for a moment. If we believe we know how another person or people group think and perceive the world, then we set ourselves up for all manner of obstacles to mutual respect and cooperation. If we have little or no contact with the other, then our preconceived notions remain our reality, and the other’s preconceived notions of us remain their reality. Can you see how this situation increases the probability of conflict.
This is the situation Angus Wootten addresses in this article, first published in the House of David Herald in 1995. The observations he shares – both his own and those of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein – outline the divide between Christians and Jews (Ephraim and Judah, as Angus explains). Overcoming this divide is not impossible, but it takes conscious effort in an attitude of humility and genuine brotherly love. Moreover, it is a divide we must overcome if we truly desire to see the Messianic Age that both Christians and Jews have so long awaited.]
Why Ephraim Should Know More About Judah
By Angus Wootten – October 1995
Yahveh’s ultimate goal is to manifest His presence—in His earthly Kingdom—in the midst of a united people.
To accomplish this, He chose a people from the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He called that people, “Yisrael.” His chosen people went down into Egypt, being seventy in number, and there they grew into a nation. Then Yahveh brought them out of Egypt and into the Land of Promise.
Under the consecutive reigns of Kings David and Solomon they reached the pinnacle of their glory as a united kingdom. However, after the death of Solomon, the twelve tribes of Israel divided into two houses: the house of Judah and the house of Ephraim. These two houses are fundamentally divided until this day. Presently, we find Judah among the Jewish people, and primarily, Ephraim is found among the “nations.” For Jacob declared that those of Ephraim would become a “melo goyim,” or, a “fulness of Gentiles.”
To save those of scattered Yisrael (see Ezekiel 34), to restore “both the houses of Israel” (Isaiah 8:14), Yahveh sent His Son, Yeshua: He came to give the hope of eternal and abundant life to those whom Yahveh had called and chosen. This hope of a regathered, reunited, and thus restored kingdom of Israel, will become a reality when the greater son of David establishes His throne here on earth—when he begins His actual reign over the reunited kingdom of Israel.
How can we, as individuals, help to reunite that kingdom?
By following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.
Paul, in Romans Eleven, saw that a combination of Jewish acceptance of Messiah, as well as the ingathering of the full number of Gentiles from among the nations, would herald this end-time kingdom. This Apostle to the nations was willing to pay the high price of his own salvation to gain the reward of a restored kingdom of Israel. His ministry to the “Gentiles,” or “wild olive branches” of Israel, had the added beneﬁt of making the Jews jealous, that some of them might be saved. (See The Olive Tree of Israel.)
Paul wanted those of the “wild” side of the family tree of Israel (Jeremiah 11:10, 16; 2:18, 21; Romans 11), meaning the non-Jews who were being grafted into the “Rich Root” of the Olive Tree of Israel, which “Root is Yeshua (Revelation 22:16) – as well as those Jewish branches that remained on Messiah’s tree – together, he wanted them to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, in the nineteen hundred years since Paul’s witness, both houses, one believing in a present Messiah and one in a future Messiah, have contributed to building walls of misunderstanding. One solid wall that has been built by the non-Jews is that of presenting a Greek/Romanized Christ in a paganized smorgasbord of theologies. This “Greek Jesus” is much more difficult for Jews to accept than is the Hebrew Yeshua, because Yeshua conforms more closely to their image of the Messiah.
So it is that we will begin reuniting the remnant in our own house, and the reunification of both houses, as we search for the Hebrew truth of the Gospel. This search will cause us to receive back from our Jewish people many ancient truths about our heritage. It will better prepare us to reach out to them in love and mercy. And, if we will treat both houses with the dignity they rightfully deserve, then, we will be demonstrating the true message of Messiah.
Coming from the Jewish side of this search for love and mercy is Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. Yechiel is an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, and founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. In the introduction to his book, What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism, Rabbi Eckstein likens the relationship of Jews and Christians to the two Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. Very prophetically, Yechiel says:
It is only when the two cherubim reach out and touch one another that we will see the glory and salvation of our God.
Unfortunately, over the past two thousand years, the wild olive branches (Ephraim) have continued to behave in a very “wild” manner toward their Jewish brethren. They have failed miserably at following Paul’s example. For the Jews, the Ark with its Cherubim remains lost. They are without Temple and sacrifice. Fortunately, Yahveh has a plan in progress to restore His Kingdom to the united House of Israel. That plan is as follows:
- From the throne of His father David, Yeshua is currently ruling over the House of Jacob.
- The Father has established the time, season or epoch that will signal when the Kingdom will be restored.
- Yeshua has a core of disciples that are trained in the Word given Him by the Father. These disciples are raising up successors in each succeeding generation, who believe in Messiah through the words of His original disciples.
- Thus, there will be disciples in the generation destined for the restoration of the Kingdom. They will be ready, willing and able to accomplish the desire of their Master. It is from this predestined generation that the partial hardening or blindness will be removed – and these disciples will be gathered from both the Houses of Israel, they will be gathered from all twelve tribes. From Judah will be removed his blindness to the Messiah, and from Ephraim his blindness to his roots (Jeremiah 31:18-19).
- These disciples will witness both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. They will witness to the truth that it will be through the unity of the two Houses of Israel that the world will believe. Then, the end will come, and the Kingdom of Yahveh will be manifested on earth.
If you believe this may well be the generation destined for the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, then we need to answer two questions: What are we going to about it? And, what price are we willing to pay?
The correct answer to both questions is: LOVE! We must love our brother Judah. The price we must pay, if we are going to be successful, is a price of love.
Sound Advice From An Orthodox Rabbi
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein tells the story in his book, What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism, of a young man who visited his rabbi. The young man became so overwhelmed by the emotional experience that he cried out, “Rabbi, I love you dearly.” The rabbi, who was both touched and amused by his student’s sincerity, asked him, “Tell me, my son, you say that you love me, but where do I hurt? What ails me?” To this the perplexed young man responded, “I do not know where you hurt, Rabbi, but, nevertheless, I love you dearly.” The rabbi then replied, “But how can you say you love me when you do not even know where I hurt and what brings me pain?”
Yechiel’s story illustrates the truth that we cannot truly love our brother Judah until we know where he hurts. We cannot help until we know what brings him pain. Let us listen to Yechiel as he speaks at an Israel Symposium, and recounts some of his thoughts, beliefs, and experiences. The following excerpts from his message will give us a better understanding of our brother Judah, of what he believes, of what brings him joy, and of what brings him pain.
Recently, in my role as a mediator between Christians and Jews, I was called to mediate in regards to a Christian company called the Family Entertainment Network. They are producing bible stories on video for children. And they are using TV infommercials as a marketing tool for their videos. In a half hour program they present selected segments from their video series to motivate the viewing audience to purchase their videos.
These animated videos were deeply offensive to Jews. They portrayed Yeshua as a blond, blue eyed, soft featured Anglo-Saxon. And they presented all of those who did not accept Him with big hooked noses, unkempt long black curly hair. A totally different image from Yeshua – as if Yeshua was not a Jew.
Also there were segments of the video that used selections from the King James Version of the Scriptures to paint a very unfavorable picture of the Jews who did not accept Yeshua. One example was how they conspired to kill Yeshua.
Sadly, the primary targets of this message are children, ages five to twelve.
What struck me about this affair is that the Christians who produced this material were in my mind not anti-Semitic. However, they were unaware of those pages of Christian history that most Christians never studied, yet they are the pages that Jews are primarily familiar with.
However, this situation is quite similar to the situation surrounding the movie The Last Temptation of Christ. In it, there were insensitivities on the part of many Jews to Christian sensibilities.
What this shows me is that two thousand years is a long time to be apart, to be separate. And that all sorts of misunderstandings can arise during that period.
Yahveh Does Not Hear The Prayers of Jews?
A number of years ago Baily Smith, then the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, made the comment that God Almighty does not hear the prayers of Jews. It became a big issue at the time, so I took him and some Southern Baptist leaders to Israel. And, I spoke at his church in Dell City, Oklahoma. I spoke frankly about the history of the Jewish people and their images of Christians. I told them about the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust, and the State of Israel. After I finished, the congregation was clapping, and Baily Smith came over to me and said: ‘Isn’t Rabbi Eckstein terrific? We have to bring him back for one of our crusades.’
The whole congregation was agreeing, ‘Bring him to the crusades, bring him to the crusades.’
I heard the word ‘crusades,’ and I was ready to run.
In that moment, I realized again, that to him the word crusade meant one thing, and to me the word crusade elicited an entirely different emotion. Yet, he was not intending to be offensive or instill that emotion in me.
The Cross: Symbol of Yahveh’s Love For Christians An Object Of Fear For Many Jews
One more example, that is more powerful than any other, involves the symbol of the cross.
Father Ed Flannery, one of the first Catholics involved in Christian/Jewish dialogue, wrote a book in the early Sixties in which he described why he became involved:
One day he was walking down the street with a Jewish woman. Suddenly she stopped talking. He could sense she was uncomfortable. He thought maybe he had said something to offend her, but she assured him that he had not said or done anything offensive. Later, Father Flannery pressed the woman as to what had happened. She answered, ‘Do you remember when we were walking on Elm Street, and we passed that church with a big cross? I am sorry Father, but every time I see a cross I am afraid. I shudder. I am reminded of what the cross meant to my forefathers, and how they were taken to the cross and burnt and martyred because they refused to accept the cross.’
Father Flannery asked himself, ‘How could this symbol of God’s ultimate love be understood by this Jewish woman as an object of fear?’
That is when he began to study the pages of Christian history that he had never studied before. These pages are the only pages of Christian history of which this Jewish woman was aware.
I see Christians and Jews as two ships passing in the night. We each want to make this world a better and holier place. But often we fail to do so. The stereotypes and images that we have of one another just go right by the true essence of one another.
The Challenges We Face As Christians and Jews:
First to reverse our sad and tragic history by really coming to understand the other – not as we perceive the other but as the other perceives himself. We need to stop and let the other community and individuals define themselves.
Second is to demonstrate true love. It is often easy to love a community as an idea or as an ideal. I have come to know many Christians over the years, who love Jews as an idea. They sometimes love Jews as a biblical ideal. This is a good starting point. But, it is a lot harder to love us with our flaws. We are flawed, we are sinful. Many of us are secular, and it is a lot harder to love us in reality than as an idea.
We must come to a place where we can love one another unconditionally.
I have met many Christians who have loved in the hope that _______. Who love in the expectation that ________. Who love on the condition that _______.
I’ll let you fill in the blanks. However, the essence of Christian love, as I understand it, is to love unconditionally. And, then to let God move.
I have been in many churches where the Pastor will ask the congregation, ‘How many people did we bring to Christ this week?’
I feel like saying, ‘According to my understanding of Christian theology you didn’t bring anybody to Christ. It is God through the Holy Spirit who brings people to Christ.’
The Christians who feel their goal is to bring the world to Christ are wrong. The Christian great commission is to preach of God’s love through Yeshua to the whole world. And God, in His time, in His mysterious way, as Paul describes in Romans Eleven, will do what He wants to do through the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit He will work on individuals to bring about the changes He desires. It will not be man’s doing but God’s doing, and God can be trusted.
In essence, the second goal is to love unconditionally and to leave things to God.
The third point is to demonstrate unselfish love. A boy scout schleps an old lady across the street, who doesn’t want to go across the street. He isn’t showing love to her. He is harassing her. I’ve met many Christians who want to love Jews the way that they want to love Jews, not the way Jews want and need to be loved.
Why Are We So Chosen?
We are witnessing God’s presence in history today, in a way that, in my opinion, is no less powerful, and no less demonstrable than when He entered into history and delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. I asked myself, and my congregation, ‘What did we do to merit the privilege of being part of this generation. The generation that has seen the rebirth of the State of Israel. Why should we be the ones to witness the reunification of Jerusalem? That we should be the ones to see a community of black Jews, that have not had any contact with the rest of the Jewish community for two thousand years be plucked out in one twenty-four hour period to return to their homeland to join their brothers and sisters. What did we do to merit seeing the Jews of Russia repressed and oppressed for decades being allowed to come to home to Israel.’ I don’t know. But, one thing is very clear to me, God is calling his children home. We are seeing that He is true to his Word.
Six Million Bones In The Valley of Sheol
The Jewish people lost six million of their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters in the Holocaust. One third of the of the world’s Jewish population perished. We Jews looked down into the valley of Sheol that was in Europe, and we saw six million dry bones. This was no less compelling than what Ezekiel saw in his valley of dry bones. And, we asked as Ezekiel did, ‘Will these bones again live?’
As Jews we wondered if we could recover from such a life blow. And, behold a miracle occurred. Flesh and sinew appeared on those bones. And, the Jewish people experienced resurrection – they came to the State of Israel!
For Jews, The Road To Jerusalem Is Paved With The Ashes of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Treblinka
The link between death and resurrection constitutes the core of your identity as Christians. It is not enough for you as Christians to say that Yeshua died on the cross on Friday. What makes you a Christian is your ability to say, ‘He rose from the dead three days later.’
Israel Is Our Easter Sunday
The rebirth of the State of Israel is our Easter Sunday. It gives us hope for the future, and the will to carry on. Israel is our proof that God still loves His Jewish people – that He has not abandoned them. And, that the promises and covenants He made with our forefathers are still intact.
Seeing Israel: Through The Eyes of a Black Pastor
My work and ministry were born, without my even knowing it. It began one evening in a hotel room in Jerusalem.
I grew up in an Orthodox home. My father was an Orthodox Rabbi, the chief Rabbi of Canada. I studied in Yeshivas, and Orthodox Jewish schools all my life. After my ordination in New York I went to Columbia for my doctoral. It was my first time not only being in a school with non-Jews, but in a school with women. I became the Director of Interreligious Affairs for a group called the Anti-Defamation League. And, one of the first things I did was to bring a group of twenty-five Christians to Israel.
I must tell you that all my life I thought Israel was only related to the Jewish people. I was never aware of the fact that there were Christians who felt anything about Israel. This was my first experience at seeing Israel through Christian eyes. My roommate on the twelve day trip was an eighty-six year old black Baptist minister from Virginia. And, I said to myself, ‘This is going to be a long twelve days.’ I had nothing at all in common with this man. He was poor, and had been saving money for ten years so he could afford to go to Israel before he died. Finally his children got together and picked up the balance of the ticket so he could go. And, as fate would have it, this man was my roommate.
On the morning of the first day in Jerusalem I went out on the veranda overlooking the city. I put on my tallit, teﬁllin, prayer shawl and phylacteries, and said my morning prayers. Tears came to my eyes as I looked over the beautiful city of Jerusalem and realized I had come home.
I’m sure that my roommate saw me, but he didn’t say anything. That night I came back to the room a little bit late, and, he didn’t see me walk in. I saw him kneeling by the bed with hands lifted upward to heaven. He was crying like a baby. He kept saying, ‘Lord, thank you. I am luckier than Moses. I am luckier than Moses. Moses only got to see the Promised Land. I got to walk in it.’
We Both Cried Our Tears Of Joy
I realized at that moment that this eighty-six year black Baptist minister from Virginia, and this twenty-ﬁve year old, newly ordained, hot-shot white Rabbi from New York, had far more in common than I ever could have imagined. We both cried our tears of joy for the privilege, the undeserved privilege of being able to walk in the Holy Land.”
We pray these nuggets from Yechiel will give you food for thought. And, that they will encourage you to more effectively reach out to your brother Judah.
To learn more about Jews and Judaism we recommend Yechiel’s book, and his audio and video tapes:
- In his book, What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism, Yechiel will continue to enrich your understanding of modern Judaism. And, he continues his eloquent plea for both Christians and Jews to relinquish prejudicial myths about each other, and to enter into dialogue that respects the individual parameters of each faith. 336 pages.
- In his cassette tape, Selections From Ask The Rabbi, Yechiel discusses: What Christians should know about Jews, and Jews about Christians. What the State of Israel means to Jews today. Why Jews wear prayer shawls and affix a mezuzzah to their doorpost, and much more.
- His video, God, Israel & The Bible: A Jewish Perspective, is geared toward Christians and Jews alike, and includes teachings on: God, the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Noahite covenants, the Dispersion, the Holocaust, Christian/Jewish relations, Christian missions, The Jewish return to Zion and building of modern Israel, Establishing fellowship between Christian and Jews, and more.
Yechiel is not only a learned Rabbi, he also is a soul stirring singer and guitarist. In his audio cassette tape, Shiray Shalom (Songs of Peace) he sings Hebrew Scriptures set to modem and traditional Jewish melodies. The cassette comes with a printed English translation.
We also recommend the following books:
- Anti-Semitism: Causes And Effects (Revised & Updated Second Edition) by Paul E. Grosser & Edwin G. Halperin. This book is an indispensable guide to an understanding of anti-Semitism, its history, and the present state of Jewish-Christian relationships. Hard cover, 438 pages.
- The Jewish People And Jesus Christ After Auschwitz, by Jakob Jocz. This is an excellent study in the controversy between Church and Synagogue. It also integrates a “new phenomenon of our age,” the rise of Jewish Christianity. It integrates the Messianic Jewish movement as an important factor in the discussions between Church and Synagogue. 273 pages.
Quite naturally, there are profound theological differences between the Believer and the Orthodox Jew. Nevertheless, like Yechiel and the eighty-six year old black Baptist minister from Virginia, we have much in common.
If we, as Ephraimites, are going to successfully lead the way in making the house of Judah and the house of Ephraim the united house of Israel, then we must concentrate on hearing our brother, and learning how to love him.
A Word To The Wise
In seeking to love the people of Judah, let us not add to the problem by mistreating the people of Ephraim. Let us be wise enough to treat both houses with absolute equity. Let us judge both peoples with righteous, absolutely equitable, judgment, for only then will they reunite.
 See books In Search Of Israel, and The Olive Tree of Israel, both by Batya Ruth Wootten. In Search of Israel is available through Key of David Publishing (https://www.keyofdavidpublishing.com/product/in-search-of-israel/). The Olive Tree of Israel is currently out of print.
 The ArtScroll Tanach Series says the word used, m’loh, means a “fullness” and, “Connotes abundance . . . meaning: His seed will become the abundance of the nations. . . They will have to inhabit lands of other nations.” See Genesis, Volume 6, page 2121. Also see Strong’s words # H4393 and 1471. Additionally, note that melo is used in Psalm 24:1, being translated, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
[Editor’s note: The people of God have struggled through an identity question for millennia. It comes down to this: if God has designated Israel as His only covenant nation, and only those who are part of Israel can partake of all His promises, then who is Israel, and how does anyone get to be part of it? The proposed answers are many, and often seem to be mutually exclusive. Is Israel only the Jewish people? Is it only the church, which is now “spiritual Israel,” or “the Israel of God?” Is it only people from the British Isles, or from Africa, or some other ethnic grouping? Or is it perhaps something else – something more inclusive that incorporates all who call upon the name of the Lord (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13), somehow embracing both physical descendants of Abraham and foreigners whom God has “grafted in?”
In 1994, Angus Wootten proposed an answer based not only on his understanding of scripture and history, but his faith in a covenant-keeping God to come through on His promises. More than a synthesis of various positions, Angus crafted a balanced, logical approach that indicates how much we all have in common as part of God’s family, regardless how we got in. This article was originally published in the August 1994 edition of the House of David Herald.]
By Angus Wootten – August 1994
House of David Herald, vol 7-8, August 1994
Our Heavenly Father had the Prophets Amos and Hosea deliver a message to the Northern Kingdom of Israel: “Behold . . . I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground” (Amos 9:9). And ultimately, He said, “Israel is swallowed up; they are now among the nations like a vessel in which no one delights” (Hosea 8:8).
Even earlier the Psalmist had warned: “They did not listen to the voice of Yahveh . . . Therefore He swore to them, that He would cast them down in the wilderness, and that He would cast their seed among the nations, and scatter them in the lands . . . [For] they did not destroy the peoples, as Yahveh commanded them, but they mingled with the nations, and learned their practices” (Psalms 106:25-27; 34-35).
Knowing that we can only please Yahveh by faith (Hebrews 1 12:6), we have no alternative but to accept that the foregoing prophesies have been fulfilled, and that the following promises are either now being fulfilled, or at some future date will be fulfilled: For He says the scattered peoples will cry out: “Save us, O Yahveh our God, and gather us, from among the nations, to give thanks to Thy Holy Name, and glory in Thy praise” (Psalms 106:47).
The Psalmist also gives the reason why Yahveh answers this prayer: “For He remembered His holy Word with Abraham His servant; and He brought forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with a joyful shout. He gave them also the lands of the nations, that they might take possession of the fruit of the peoples’ labor, so that they might keep His statutes, and observe His laws” (Psalms 105:42-45).
Even though we are required to exercise our faith, we can contemplate on how Yahveh did, and will, fill the many prophesies about the scattering and regathering of the people of Israel. And, in regard to their regathering, we can attempt to ascertain whether we might have a role to play. So let us start our investigation from the most advantageous position possible: that of a graduate student of the House of David. A graduate student is one who has read In Search of Israel, The Olive Tree of Israel, and issues of the Herald, and fully understands the basic teaching of House of David: That there were in Scripture, and still are two houses of Israel, Ephraim and Judah, and that it is Yahveh’s plan for them to be reunited into one house, which becomes the restored kingdom of Israel.
We are starting from the vantage point of understanding that Israel today is separated into two houses, of which many are still scattered among the nations. Today, those of the house of Judah are primarily scattered among the Jewish people, while those of the house of Ephraim are primarily scattered among the Christian people. As we well know, the initial division between Ephraim and Judah took place in 930 BC, when the united Davidic kingdom was divided into the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel, or Israel and Judah. Over the next two centuries, the Northern Kingdom was slowly absorbed into the surrounding nations, including Judah.
For example, during the reign of Baasha, 908-886 BC, Ben-hadad, King of Assyria, sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities of Naphtali (2 Chronicles 16:4). During the same period King Asa of Judah had many from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon defect to him from Israel (2 Chronicles 15:9).
It was some one hundred and sixty years later that the end came with the Assyrian conquest of the city of Samaria in 722 BC, alter a three year siege. It was at this time that the famous exile of 27,290 inhabitants of the city, taken as booty, were carried away into exile by Assyria, and settled in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes (2 Kings 17:6). While this one exile most often forms the basis for most works that seek to explain the wanderings of the “Ten Lost Tribes,” it was by no means their only exile, and, it was neither total, nor was it final, and it surely does not constitute the entire remnant of the Northern Kingdom.
The Assyrian policy at that time was first to absorb areas and populations into the empire in place, and next to establish vassal states. When the first two policies did not work, they would take military and political control of the area, effectively neutralizing the population by deporting a portion of the people: which basically included the leadership, soldiers, and all those capable of being a threat to Assyrian control. These exiles were replaced by the importation of foreign colonists, those who were exiled from their own lands. And then, as today, there was a continual voluntary movement of people for economic reasons.
Hezekiah, King of Judah 7l5-686 BC, reinforces the fact that the deportation of the Northern Kingdom was not total. As a young man, Hezekiah had observed the gradual disintegration and capitulation of the Northern Kingdom as the Assyrians advanced southward. He realized that Israel had been taken captive because of her disobedience to Yahveh’s laws. Therefore, Hezekiah was concerned that his people renew the covenant they had broken. And also, attempting to heal the breach that had separated Judah and Israel since Solomonic times, he sent letters throughout the land inviting the people to come to Jerusalem for the Passover. Although some ignored Hezekiah’s appeal, many responded, coming from Asher, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Issachar, as well as from Judah.
So, the population of the area which comprised the former kingdom of Israel consisted of many elements: remnants of the peoples which the Israelites had failed to destroy when they took the land, remnants of the Israelites, Assyrians residing in the land, foreign colonists imported by the Assyrians, and those who had moved into the area for economic reasons.
Then, in 586 BC, we have a virtual replay of the fall of Israel, with Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Judah, along with several deportations of portions of the population of Judah to Babylon. Then, seventy years later, in 535 BC some of the descendants of those deported to Babylon began to return to Jerusalem. Next we see the temple being rebuilt and the reestablishment of Judah as a recognizable people who became known as “Jews.”
Over the next five centuries, the only visible Israelites, and the only known worshipers of Yahveh, were known as “Jews.” So anyone, in the then land of Israel — Judea, Samaria, Galilee — or throughout the world who was called to be a worshiper of Yahveh, became known as a “Jew” — regardless of their tribal heritage. Thus, James addresses his letter to, “the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” (James 1:1). Furthermore, the post exilic prophets, in particular Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah, treated the tribes of the vanquished northern kingdom — regardess of where they were — as integral parts of the covenant people of Israel.
The description of Ezekiel’s two sticks, which represented Ephraim and Judah, indicates that each stick contained elements of all twelve tribes (Ezekiel 37:15-19). This was obviously true in Ezekiel’s day, and will be true in that day, which is yet future, when the two sticks are made one in Yahveh’s hand.
There are two key facts that must be kept in mind when attempting to track the people of Israel: One is the fact that the bloodline comes from the father. Secondly, one’s biology does not change, regardless of where the people were, or presently are, located. Also, what one believes or does not believe cannot change one’s genealogy. An Israelite forever remains an Israelite. Though an Israelite may be “lost” to the world, and even lost to themselves, an Israelite is never lost to Yahveh’s all-seeing eyes (Amos 9:9).
So, by 30 AD, when the ministry of Yeshua served to once again divide the people of Israel, only Yahveh Himself knew the genealogy of the seven million Jews that were in Judah, Samaria, Galilee, and scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Again, we know from James that all twelve tribes were represented in this number. We also know that a major portion of the Jewish people did not follow after Yeshua. And, after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and the loss of a sacrifice and a priesthood, they established what we know today as Rabbinic Judaism. However, one important portion our Jewish brothers retained was the title of, “Jew,” which to many people, has become synonymous with “Israel.”
On the other hand, a significant portion of the Jewish people did follow after Yeshua. In fact, history tells us that for the first thirty years the Early Church was virtually all “Jewish.” However, the influx of “Yahveh fearing Gentiles” had given the Church a non-Jewish majority by the end of the ﬁrst century.
The first thing to realize is that the Jewish people who followed Yeshua did not have a change in their genealogy. They were still Israelites, and their descendants, even to this day, are still Israelites, whether or not they care to call themselves Israelites, and whether they know it or not.
What was the tribal make-up of these two First Century groups? Realizing that only Yahveh can definitively answer this question, we are limited to reasonable assumptions and educated guesses. So, would it not be reasonable to assume that the initial tribal composition of the two groups would roughly parallel their tribal composition today? If this is true, then we have only to determine the current tribal composition to answer this question. Today, most Christians deny that they are physical Israelites from any tribe. This would pretty well rule out that they are from Judah, Benjamin or Levi, because descendants of these tribes did not receive the punishment of being lost to their identity. On the other hand, based on limited survey data, Jewish people claim heritage from the tribes of either Judah, Levi or Benjamin. Therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that a majority of the first century Jews who followed Yeshua had a Northern Kingdom tribal heritage, while a majority of those Jews who followed after Rabbinic Judaism had a Southern Kingdom tribal heritage.
As for the “Yahveh fearing Gentiles” we ask: who were they, and where did they come from? Paul answers the question of who they were, by stating who they are: “And if you belong to Yeshua, then you are Abraham’s offspring [seed, sperm], heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).
Another statement by Paul that should also be considered is, “‘you’ who were formerly Gentiles in the flesh” (Ephesians 2:1 1). The implication clearly is that “you” are no longer Gentiles in the flesh. Thus, if “you” are not now a Gentile in the flesh, then “you” must be the only alternative: an Israelite in the flesh. Was the flesh of the “you” miraculously changed from Gentile to Israelite? Or, does Paul mean: Now that you have accepted Yeshua and understand that “you” are a member of the Commonwealth of Israel, “you” should realize that “you” have always been an Israelite? Peter was quite correct when he states that Paul is difficult to understand (2 Peter 3: 16). So for now, take your pick, and reserve a more definitive answer for the day when you can talk with Paul—in the Kingdom.
Where did these “Gentiles” come from? The reasonable conclusion is that they are from that seed that was scattered throughout every nation on earth. Yair Davidiy’s book, The Tribes, is a reasonable, historical account of how much of the seed of Israel was scattered.
Why is this heritage important? If we do not know who we are, it is impossible to fully understand our mission, and it is difficult to determine how we should live. When we understand that we are an Israelite, and that our job is to prepare for the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, and that as Israelites, we should live in the manner of Israelites, and not in the manner of Gentiles, then, we will surely be more pleasing to our Creator than those who continue to walk in ignorance—which ignorance Yahveh ordained as punishment for our forefathers, but is being removed in our day.
As a follower of Yahveh you are required to see yourself as an Israelite. And that means you must belong to one of the following categories.
Which box would you check?