Sibling rivalry has threatened the peace of families since the first family was formed. That’s why our Creator chose one family to reverse that trend and extend peace to every family on earth. The question is whether we will accept the offer – and if we will be intentional about extending the peace even further.
Genesis 47:28-50:26; 1 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Samuel 7:8-17; Luke 12:13-15; Romans 11:25-27
Those who have leprosy might as well be dead. Never mind that the disease we call leprosy today may or may not be one of the skin diseases meant by the Hebrew word tzara’at (צָרַעַת). The fact is, whoever had it was cut off from the community:
Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46 NKJV)
Think about that for a moment. Lepers could not go home. They could not have any kind of normal relationship with their family members, friends, business associates, or anyone else with whom they interacted before the cursed condition fell upon them. It did not matter what station of life the leper occupied; whether peasant or king, the disease cut them off from the life of the nation. Even mighty King Uzziah of Judah learned that. Although he reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem, the leprosy he contracted in the midst of his reign meant that he was king in name only:
King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land. (II Chronicles 26:21 NKJV)
How can a person shepherd the people of God when he is cut off from the House of God? Is there any hope for him, or for the people he is anointed to lead?
Yes, there is hope. That is why the Torah portion Metzora (The Leper; Leviticus 14:1-15:33) provides elaborate detail on the procedures for cleansing lepers. Once healed, the priests help them through this process to restore them to their place in society. In a certain sense, this is a resurrection from a type of death, and thus it is a symbol of what Messiah will do.
We assume that the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son was the one with the birthright, but what if the father had given it to the younger brother? If that’s the case, then redemption takes on a whole new level of meaning.
A motif running through J.R.R. Tolkien’s fiction works is the exile of the Elves from Valinor, the Blessed Realm of the Valar, the gods of Tolkien’s world. Those who read The Lord of the Rings first encounter the exiles as the High Elves who aid Frodo and his companions in their flight from the Shire. Readers who venture into The Silmarillion learn that the High Elves are the Noldor, one of three Elven clans who answered the Valar’s invitation to leave Middle Earth and live in Valinor. The Vanyar and Teleri – the other two clans – remained in Valinor, but the Noldor rebelled against the Valar and returned to Middle Earth to fight against Morgoth, Tolkien’s equivalent of Satan.
The Noldor had justification for their actions. Morgoth had stolen the Silmarils, the matchless jewels fashioned by Fëanor, greatest of the Elven craftsmen, and had killed Finwë, Fëanor’s father and king of the Noldor. Nevertheless, their rebellion under Fëanor’s leadership incurred a sentence of exile and separation from any help the Valar could offer. Over the next several centuries the Noldor and their allies among the Elves and Men of Middle Earth proved unable to defeat Morgoth, and they suffered a long defeat. At the end of their strength, the humbled remnant repented and begged help from the Valar. When help came, Morgoth was defeated and the Valar granted clemency for the Noldor to return to the Blessed Realm, bringing with them the remaining Elves of Middle Earth who had never seen Valinor.
This is the unseen backdrop for the Elves appearing in Tolkien’s later and more popular works. Those who pick up the story with The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings meet wise Elrond, stern yet kindly Thranduil, and gentle Galadriel, but they have no understanding of their history. Galadriel, for example, was Fëanor’s niece, and along with his sons and her brothers led the Noldor in rebellion. Upon passing the test of refusing the Ring of Power when Frodo offers it to her, she proves that she, the only surviving rebel leader, is indeed ready to return home as a humble penitent.
In Galadriel’s story we see the stunning panorama flowing through the body of Tolkien’s works. Yet there is one missing detail: he never tells us what happens when the exiles return. It is a significant omission. We can imagine the scenes of reconciliation as the Noldor made amends with the eternal Valar, but we do not know what happens when they encountered the brethren they had wronged. At the beginning of their flight from Valinor, the Noldor demanded of their kin, the Teleri, use of their ships. The Teleri refused, resulting in a terrible battle known thereafter as the Kinslaying. As Tolkien describes it, “Thus at last the Teleri were overcome, and a great part of their mariners that dwelt in Alqualondë were wickedly slain.” If that were not enough, when they arrived on the shores of Middle Earth, Fëanor gave orders to burn the wondrous Telerian ships, craft of great beauty the like of which could never be made again.
What happens when the prodigal Noldor return home is a tale we do not know. We hope they are reconciled with their brethren, but achieving reconciliation requires conscious effort to overcome the debt of blood between them. Until that debt is paid or forgiven, the bliss of the Blessed Realm remains unbearably diminished.
Tolkien’s epic thus becomes a parable for us, the returning exiles of the House of Yosef (Joseph). Like the Noldor, we are guilty not only of rebellion against our God and the king He had anointed, but also of an endless Kinslaying of our brethren of Judah.
A remarkable thing happened seventeen months ago, when the First B’ney Yosef National Congress convened in Ariel, Israel. At that time a people who had not existed as a people for over 2,700 years came back from the ash heap of history. The people of the House of Joseph (Yosef) – Ephraim, those “Lost Tribes” of Israel’s northern kingdom – assembled in Samaria, the territory of their ancient ancestors, and acknowledged their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to accomplish His Word to bring their people back as a nation and join them with the Jewish part of Israel (the House of Judah) in fulfillment of His covenant.
It was a modest beginning; only a little over 130 people attended, representing 12 countries. We made no bold declarations, but humbly whispered to one another and to the world that we were ready to answer the Father’s call and walk out the return of the Prodigal. Humble indeed, but astounding nevertheless. Certainly no less astounding than the reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948 after 1,900 years of dissolution.
The momentum of that First Congress has carried into the Second B’ney Yosef Congress, which is now in its third day. The Congress convened on the evening of October 26, 2016, and will continue until Monday, October 31. The venue once again is the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel. The numbers of delegates are about the same, but this time there are some significant differences.
For one thing, the number of nations has grown to 15. Not surprisingly, the United States has the largest number of delegates, comprising about half of the total. What is surprising is that the second largest contingent is from one of the world’s smallest countries: the Netherlands. Over 20 Dutch Ephraimites are here, imparting a beautiful Dutch accent to all the proceedings. Also represented are Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Peru, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland. A central feature of the Congress has been reports from each of these countries, as well as video and proxy reports from Finland, Pakistan, Uganda, and India.
These reports build a mosaic of the Hebrew Awakening happening across the globe. In Pakistan, for example, Pastor Qaiser Ilyas shared by video his work in building Hebrew language and Torah teaching programs in Urdu for children and adults. Valerie Bulkunu, representing the Aboriginal people of Australia, shared the revival that is beginning among the youth of her people, and the awakening among Aboriginals to their Hebrew roots and Israelite identity. A similar phenomenon is happening among the Mizo people of northeast India, as Margot Crossing related in her report about the descendants of exiled Israelites who migrated across the Silk Road into South Asia. These developments are happening simultaneously with the better-known Torah awakenings in Europe and North America, and in time will have an even more significant impact as tens of millions of Ephraimites come into the understanding of their covenant identity.