By Charles H. Welch
The name Israel was originally given to Jacob at Peniel (Gen. 32:28), and according to Dr. Young it means "ruling with God". Others have given the meaning as "contending with God" and "God commands, orders or rules". We believe the name was bestowed as an honour, and it became the patronymic of the twelve tribes (Gen. 35:10,11). We believe that the statement "The LOST Ten Tribes" is unscriptural, and the theory known as "British-Israel" false and mischievous. The following testimony, "wholly scriptural", should be enough for all who exercise the Berean spirit.
We learn from 1 Kings twelve that upon the death of Solomon Israel rejected Rehoboam, his son, saying, "what portion have we in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents 0 Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents" (1 Kings 12:16). Those of Israel that dwelt in the cities of Judah accepted Rehoboam as king, "So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day . . . there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only" (1 Kings 12:19-21). This statement is modified in verse 21, for there we read that the tribe of Benjamin was allied with Judah. Jeroboam the son of Nebat was made king over Israel, and built Shechem in Mount Ephraim (1 Kings 12:20,25). Jeroboam realized the great attraction Jerusalem would have upon the ten tribes that had revolted, and that there was great danger that they would return to the house of David, so he "made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, 0 Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel and the other put he in Dan, and this thing became a sin" (1 Kings 12:26-30). From this time the twelve tribes formed two kingdoms, the ten tribes being called Israel, the two tribes being called Judah.
At length, in the fourth year of King Hezekiah, Shalmanezer, king of Assyria, came up against Samaria and besieged it, and at the end of three years, took it, and in the ninth year of Hoshea, king of Israel, Samaria was taken, and Israel carried away into Assyria (2 Kings 18:9-11). This captivity of the ten tribes was a judgment sent upon them "because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God". Earlier than this, Tiglathpileser, king of Assyria, had taken many captive into Assyria. Here for a moment we make a digression to speak of the Samaritans. Upon the captivity of the Israelites, the Assyrian king introduced colonists into their place, from Babylon and elsewhere, and these new inhabitants brought their own idolatrous worship along with them. Being troubled with lions they sent to the king of Assyria, saying, "the nations which thou hast removed and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land", and so a priest was sent back from captivity, the result being a hybrid mixture of idolatry and some superficial knowledge of the true God.
The antipathy that grew between Judah and the Samaritans persisted unto the days of Christ and the apostles, "the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans".
The lost ten tribes. Is this a scriptural expression? Nowhere does the Word of God speak of the "lost" tribes, but rather that He Who scattered them will regather them in His own good time.
We have already considered the fact that while the ten tribes as a whole separated from Judah, it is nevertheless written: Rehoboam reigned over "them"!
It is therefore a Scriptural fact that there was a remnant of Israel associated with the House of David. With the flight of years, this remnant, left behind with Rehoboam, would multiply, and so ensure the presence of representatives of all twelve tribes, even though but "one tribe", intact and undivided had sided with Rehoboam.
Again, further on in the same chapter, we read:
Even after this, as we have seen when Jeroboam had been made king over the ten tribes, he felt uneasy about the attraction that the Temple services at Jerusalem would still exert over all the tribes of Israel.
To counteract this great attraction, Jeroboam deliberately introduced idolatry into his kingdom:
This sinful action stemmed the tide, and saved the kingdom as a whole from drifting back to Judah, but we must not assume that it prevented hundreds of those who were faithful to God from leaving Samaria and returning to Judah to join the little remnant of Israel that remained. The Scriptures definitely confirm that this is just what happened.
In the First Book of Chronicles we have the genealogies of those who returned from Babylonian captivity, and we find therein this entry:
This passage at once raises an interesting point in connexion with the so-called "lost tribes". If there were representatives of Ephraim and Manasseh among the returning captives of Judah, these two tribes obviously could not have been "lost". If only one man and his wife in each tribe had returned, they would have been sufficient to continue the line. It is most important, in view of the ideas contained in the "British-Israel" theory, that we should remember that the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh at least need not be looked for outside the limits of the people we now call "Jews". These tribes were evidently never "lost".
However, we must also take into account the evidence of 2 Chronicles fifteen:
Here we not only get four tribes mentioned by name, but we are also assured that "out of Israel" there fell to Asa men IN ABUNDANCE. The Hebrew word translated "abundance" is the word "multitude" in Genesis 32:12 and 48:16; Deuteronomy 1:10. Is it possible, then, that these tribes can be lost? Do we lose, when we have abundance?
In the next chapter we read that Baasha, king of Israel, came up against Judah and built Ramah, "to the intent that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah" (2 Chron.16:1).
This action by the king of Israel shows how seriously he regarded the continuous loss of his people to the kingdom of Judah. We also find, in chapter nineteen, the king of Judah going through the people "from Beersheba to Ephraim", and "bringing them back to the Lord God of their fathers" (2 Chron.19:4). Again, we read in chapter twenty-three, in connexion with Jehoiada, the high priest:
And again, in chapter thirty:
We do not suggest that this great number of the house of Israel severed all connexion there and then with the ten-tribed kingdom, for we are told that these Israelites returned to their possessions and cities (2 Chron.31:1). Their hearts were certainly now with Judah, but there were many things connected with their inheritance and tribal obligations that needed readjusting before they could follow their hearts and take their place with the people of Judah.
We have now discovered that representatives of nine tribes were gathered under the aegis of the King of Judah-Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, Asher, Zebulun, Issachar, and Levi. The more we read, the more difficult it becomes to believe that the ten tribes were ever lost.
Following the chronology given in The Companion Bible, we find that the ten-tribed kingdom was established under Jeroboam in 880 B.C. and carried away into captivity by. Shalmanezer in 611 B.C. This would give a period of 269 years from its inception to its disruption. If, alternatively, we adopt, Ussher's chronology, the period will be reduced to 254 years. We have already seen that, before the captivity, the tribes of Israel "in abundance" went back and joined with Judah, and it therefore follows that, when the ten-tribed kingdom was taken into captivity, representatives in plenty of all Israel must have remained in the land as part of Judah.
In the days of Josiah (531 B.c.-that is eighty years after the captivity of Israel by the Assyrians), we read:
Here we reach absolute, positive proof, that the ten tribes were never lost. Even though those deported by the Assyrian kings never returned, this does not affect the argument, for the "remnant of Israel" was quite sufficient to perpetuate the seed, and preserve the continuity of the people. (See REMNANT.) The kingdom of Judah went into captivity under Nebuchadnezzar in 496 B.C., which would be 115 years after the end of "Israel" under Shalmanezer. This captivity, however, was limited to seventy years, and at the end of this period the people returned to Jerusalem and the land. Towards the close of this captivity, a recorded prayer of Daniel mentions "Judah" and "all Israel", including those that were "near" and those "afar off".
This captive people are called not only "Jews" but "Israel". Ezra, in his second chapter, gives a list of those who came back to Jerusalem at the end of the seventy years' captivity, and he heads the list with the words: "The number of the men of the people of Israel" (Ezra 2:2). We are given the names of a few who "could not shew their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel" (Ezra 2:59-63), and we therefore infer that all the others in the list were able to establish their claim to be members of one or other of the tribes of Israel. At the end of the list we read that "all Israel" dwelt in their cities; and we read again of "Israel" in Ezra 7:10,13, 9:1 and 10:1,5. The kingdom of Judah was taken captive by the same line of kings as had taken captive the ten-tribed kingdom, and any one of the ten tribes was as free to go back as were the members of the tribe of Judah. This we find they did (see Ezra 7:7).
When the returned captives assembled before the rebuilt temple on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius, "twelve he-goats" were offered "for all Israel", "according to the number of the tribes of Israel" (Ezra 6:15-17). From this time onward the title "Jew" became a generic one, and was used without discrimination for .any member of the nation of Israel. It is a fallacy to imagine that it is unscriptural to use the word "Jew" of an Israelite after the return of the captivity. Paul says, "I am verily a man which am a Jew" (Acts 22:3), and yet he also calls himself an "Israelite" (Rom. 11:1). Peter also calls himself "a Jew" (Acts 10:28), in spite of the fact that he was a Galilean (Acts 2:7). The "Jews" who were assembled on the day of Pentecost were addressed by Peter as "Ye men of Israel" and "All the house of Israel" (Acts 2:22,36), while in Acts four we read that "all the people of Israel" were guilty of the death of Christ, not merely Judah (Acts 4:10,27).
To take further examples from the Acts, can we believe that Gamaliel made a mistake in speaking to the "Jews" as "Ye men of Israel" (Acts 5:35), or that Peter was confusing things that differ when he told Cornelius that "the word" was sent "unto the children of Israel", "in the land of the Jews" (Acts 1O:36,39)? When Paul stood up in the synagogue in Acts thirteen, he spoke to the assembly as "men of Israel and ye that fear God", while, according to the record further on in the chapter, those that heard him speak were "Jews" (Acts 13:16, 42). The tribes of Israel were certainly not lost when Paul stood before Agrippa and said:
The word "instantly" could only be used here of actual service; it could not have been used if any of the twelve tribes had been lost.
James also addresses his epistle: "To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (Jas. 1:1). Could this letter have been so inscribed if the bulk of the ten tribes had by this time lost their identity? Was this letter returned to James marked "Not Known, Gone Away"?
The suggestion that God would preserve the ten-tribed kingdom after their captivity and bless them centuries later in the guise of Gentiles is quite unscriptural. According to Scripture, the Lord said that He would "destroy the sinful kingdom from off the face of the earth", but would not utterly destroy the "house of Jacob". The remaining members of the twelve tribes, that had not been deported by the Assyrians, were to be "sifted among all nations as corn is sifted in a sieve" (Amos 9:8,9), until the time came for their ultimate restoration-for we read that "all Israel shall be saved".
The northern kingdom, however, was to be destroyed, and not preserved. There was a sufficient number of every tribe left in the kingdom of Judah to ensure the continuity of the whole house of Israel, and, though scattered for a time among the nations, the twelve tribes are to be preserved until the end. Such is the testimony of Scripture. We have not covered a tithe of the whole ground, but what we have seen of what has been revealed in the Word concerning the fate of the house of Israel allows no room for doubt.
Into the supposed etymological and geographical "identification" of these so-called lost tribes we do not propose to enter. The moment a person who has been falsely reported as "lost" is discovered, all "identification" at once becomes valueless. To those who believe in the inspiration of Holy Writ, nothing more need be said. We have demonstrated by citations from the Scriptures themselves that the tribes of Israel were never "lost", but that many of Israel returned "in abundance" to Judah after the separation.
In conclusion we should like to add one more quotation this time from Isaiah:
This passage looks forward to the cross and discountenances the idea that only "the Jews" were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. In the Acts Peter speaks of the Lord as "the Stone which was set at nought of you builders" (Acts 4:8-11), and in his epistles quotes Isaiah 8:13,14 (1 Pet. 2:8). It is obvious from this passage that Christ became a "stone of stumbling" and a "rock of offence" to both houses of Israel, and not merely to the house of Judah.
We are not discussing here the various matters that arise out of this subject, as we are confining our studies to one point only. We know from Scripture that all the blessings of Israel are related to the land promised to Abraham; that Israel will be gathered from the lands into which they have been scattered; that Israel will be Lo-ammi for many days, but will return to the Lord and to David their King in the latter days; that Israel shall dwell alone and not be numbered among the peoples. These and many other items of revealed truth we pass over as not essential to our main quest. Having "searched the Scriptures" we intend by grace to abide by our findings.
"All Israel shall be saved." Before we can come to a Scriptural conclusion as to the import of the statement, found in Romans eleven, we must consider as a whole the section in which it is found, namely Romans 9-11. The structure of Romans 9-11 in its simplest presentation is as follows:
A 9:1-5. Sorrow
A 11:33-35. Song
Who are Israel? Abraham had eight sons-Ishmael, by Hagar; Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah, by Keturah; and Isaac, by Sarah. Ishmael was "cast out", for he could not be the heir together with Isaac (Gen. 21:10). Of the sons of Keturah it is written, "Abraham gave them gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son" (Gen. 25:6). But of Isaac we read, "and Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac" (Gen. 25:5). If mere physical descent from Abraham had constituted a claim, then seven other nations descended from these seven other sons might have disputed Israel's rights. The deciding factor was God's sovereign election.
Again, coming close to the problem, the Apostle carries the argument a stage further. The other nations referred to above were descended from different mothers, but the Apostle goes on to show that even sons born to Isaac' by the same mother do not share equal privileges. Esau was the elder, Jacob was the younger, both children of the same mother, yet Esau was rejected and Jacob chosen:
This is not the only place where a distinction is made between the true seed, and the merely natural seed. For example, when the Lord looked upon Nathanael he said, "Behold, an Israelite indeed" (John 1:47). And again, in John 8, we read:
In the epistle to the Romans itself we have the distinction between the natural and the spiritual seed brought forward:
These words are immediately followed by the question:
In Galatians four, Ishmael is likened to the unbelieving Jews "born after the flesh", while the true believing Jews are likened to Isaac; and his mother, the freewoman, is likened to Jerusalem that is above, and free. These constitute the "Israel of God" (Gal. 4:21-31, 6:16).
As we study the argument put forward by the Apostle in Romans eleven, an important principle emerges that extends beyond the limits of the people of Israel.
"All Israel" (Rom. 11:26), can only be interpreted aright if the reasoning of Romans nine is adhered to.
The following extract from Nedarim f. 31.1 is suggestive:
This brief quotation is sufficient to show that the Apostle's method of argument was familiar to the Jews, and would be easily followed. Israel is not a title that belongs to any one merely because he is a descendant of Abraham, for it is written:
"They are not all Israel, which are of Israel, neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the chi1dren of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:6-8).
Here the words "Israel", "seed" and "children" are used with two significations. One speaks of every single descendant, the other of those who are related to promise, counted for the seed, and in Isaac. With these humbling evidences of Divine sovereignty we turn to Romans eleven and read:
This blessing of Israel takes place under the covenant (see COVENANT), and cannot be spiritualized away and applied or interpreted of the church. In the same way "The Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16) refers to the elect nation and not to the Gentiles. Several facts stand out in the record of Israel's calling.
The attempt to make a distinction between "The Jew" and "Israel" fails in the light of scriptural usage. The title Israel belongs to all the tribes. The term Jew dropped its special reference to Judah, and became the symbol of a religion. From Genesis twelve, where the promise of a seed was made to Abraham, to the last chapter of the Acts, the Jew or Israel dominate the Scriptures and blessing and purpose are related to them. The only portion of Scripture where Israel, as a factor, is absent, is the dispensation of the Mystery, the parenthetical period that intervenes between the blindness of Israel which came upon them in Acts twenty-eight, and the day when their eyes shall be opened and they will look upon Him Whom they pierced.
The phrase "The children of Israel" is too deep seated to be removed either from our translations or our references, but it should be remembered that the word used in the O.T. and also in the N.T. is "son" as distinct from a "child". The first title given to Israel in the Scriptures is found in Exodus 4:22: "Israel is My son, even My firstborn", and the last is found in Isaiah 46:13: "Israel My glory". The earthly ministry of Christ was limited to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:6, 15:24). While others spoke of Christ as "The King of the Jews", the Jews themselves used the title "The King of Israel" (Matt. 27:42, Mark 15:32, John 1:49 and 12:13). It can truly be affirmed that he who realizes the Scriptural position of Israel, the nature, sphere, and purpose of their calling, their influence upon the condition of the Gentiles, and the blank (dispensationally) that their failure at the first advent caused, possesses the key to unlock the purpose of the ages. In Israel the believer may see worked out in miniature the scheme of redemption and the goal of God, and discover that what things happened unto them, happened unto them as examples and types and shadows of larger issues.