Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
This month’s article is “Just Who Is an Israelite Today?” In this teaching Dr. Martin explains the biblical criteria for being an Israelite, and it is not based on racial or genetic characteristics of the majority populations of Britain, the United States, and the Anglo-Saxon peoples (who supposedly comprise the 10 “lost tribes of Israel”). A number of us have held to this erroneous teaching in the past. However, in life people learn and grow and change their understanding when good information replaces bad speculation.
I feel this article presents Dr. Martin’s strongest evidence to refute this mistaken teaching. He does this by showing that the 10 “lost tribes of Israel” were not lost but were in fact known all along to the New Testament authors. Many from those tribes returned to the Promised Land after the exile, while a large contingent of Jews and Israelites remained in the area around Babylon for several centuries. The diaspora (or scattering) of Israel around the world continues to this day. The tribes of Israel did not transmute themselves into any modern nations today, not until the State of Israel was established in 1948.
Originally presented in 1995 this article has not appeared on the ASK website until now. I have updated, somewhat expanded, and set out this article so as to make as clear as possible what Dr. Martin intended to convey: that all Israelites (all the tribes of Israel) can be identified as the people we call “Jews” today. Dr. Martin’s evidence begins, as all study of ancient history should, from the biblical record — in context — and only then should other sources should be considered. He does not get into speculative history or the etymology of words. As it often does, the biblical record clarifies the issues and keeps the researcher and student on course and not diverted by peripheral issues or prophetic speculation.
God made many promises to Israel. If they were disobedient to their Covenant agreement with their God, He promised to punish and scatter them away from the Promised Land. God fulfilled that promise. He also promised to return them to that land some day. He did so in part after the exile was over in the 5th century B.C.E. Israel also has privileges that no other people on earth have, they have God’s promises, many still future to us today. These promises will be fulfilled.
It is not possible in most cases to determine which of the 12 tribes of Israel any particular Jewish person belongs to today, although Dr. Martin gives some identifiers that distinguish the 10 northern tribes of Ephraim from the southern tribes of Judah. While many Jews have extensive genealogies of their family lineage, all too many family records and genealogies are incomplete or no longer exist due to wars of past centuries. Many Gentiles converted to Judaism through the centuries, and intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles has often taken place. At certain periods of history groups of Jews have blended into local Gentile population (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes by force) and they abandon their distinguishing religious beliefs that set them apart from the nations of the Gentiles. Finally, we should note the unknown quantity of those who masquerade and “say they are Jews, and are not” (Revelation 2:9). This statement is repeated in Revelation 3:9 where the phrase is added, “say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.” 1
As you will read in Dr. Martin’s article, James, Peter, and Paul said that the peoples of Israel scattered abroad retained knowledge about elements of their religion and their covenant with God. All those of Israel who lost knowledge of their covenant relationship with God also lost their heritage, became Gentiles, and blended into the populations of the nations. Although there are a few genetic distinctions, there is no single genetic indicator that distinguishes Israel or the Jews today from populations near where they live.
God did not separate Israel from the nations because Israel was special in some way. This is clear. They were no more special to God than any other human beings. However, Israel was special because they were separated by God to fulfill His purpose. There were two reasons God did this:
1. They were separated (first in Abraham) to be a special inheritance to God, to be an example and a testimony to the other nations of the world. They were to teach the Gentiles — the nations — about God. 2 This teaching would occur either by their positive teaching and example, or by their negative example of God’s punishment and rescue of Israel, with the nations observing God’s preservation of Israel throughout history as a people continually looking to God for their salvation, yet unable to achieve it because of their sins. 3
2. They were separated to preserve the Word of God. This was done through the canonization of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The entire Bible was canonized and preserved under the authority of Israelites. 4
“What advantage then has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
This past month we received more than the usual number of personal expressions of appreciation from those of you who comprehend and like the work we are doing at ASK. We are so very thankful to each of you who find time to write and let us know that you study the material carefully and that it increases your understanding of God’s Word. We are also grateful for your material support. Most of all we are grateful for your prayers on our behalf that we continue what we are doing, and to do it better. That certainly boosts our morale! I know that God is answering your prayers. We are humbled that so many think so highly of what we do for you. Pray that more and more people will be led to the ASK website and material in the future.
Dr. Martin left a grand legacy of extremely useful material to explain the marvels of the Bible — material that can yet be produced for some time to come. The material ASK produces is not just for this month or for next month, and not just for your eyes and ears alone, but it will be a storehouse of information available for years, perhaps decades to come, as a knowledge repository for the restitution of all things leading to the last days before the return of Jesus Christ. Thank you. And thank you again.
1 See Dr. Martin’s book The People That History Forgot: The Mysterious People Who Originated the World’s Religions (Portland, OR: ASK Publications, 1993) which discusses the entire story of those people who present themselves as God’s people, first as Jews and later as Christians, when their entire religious agenda is comprised of pagan philosophy and teaching. This book is available for purchase at http://www.askelm.com/books/book004.htm, and online at http://www.askelm.com/people/index.asp.
2 See Genesis 12:2–3, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14, 45:7; Exodus 19:5–6, 33:16; Leviticus 20:24–26; Deuteronomy 7:1–11, 9:29, 14:2, 32:9; 1 Kings 8:53; Isaiah 2:2–4, 42:6, 43:9–10, 48:20, 49:1–7, 61:6–11, 66:18–19; Jeremiah 4:2, 10:16; all of Jonah; Micah 4:1–3; Psalm 96:2–5, Psalm 117; Matthew 28:18–20; Luke 24:47; John 7:35, 17:17–23; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 2:9–10; Romans 11:25–36; Galatians 3:6; 1 Timothy 2:7, 4:10; and 2 Timothy 1:11.
3 See Deuteronomy 6:1–2, 9:4–5; Jeremiah 31:9–11, 31–34; Psalm 98:2–3, 147:18–20; Nehemiah 9:2–3, 27–29; 2 Chronicles 34:21; and Romans 11:10–11.
4 This is the subject of Dr. Martin’s book Restoring the Original Bible (Portland, OR: ASK Publications, 1994), available for purchase at http://www.askelm.com/books/book002.htm, and online at http://www.askelm.com/restoring/index.asp. See also Deuteronomy 4:2, 10:2, 17:14–15, 29:1, 31:24–26; Isaiah 55:11; Psalm 12:6–7, 78:1–7, all of Psalm 119; Proverbs 7:1–4; 2 Chronicles 34:31; Matthew 5:18, 24:35; Luke 8:15, 11:28; John 1:17, 14:23; Acts 7:38–39; 1 Peter 1:23–25; Romans 9:4; 2 Timothy 3:15–17; and Revelation 1:3. To “keep the commandments” means to preserve them for future generations.
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