Just Who Is an Israelite Today?
Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1995
Transcribed and edited by David Sielaff, October 2004
Read the accompanying Newsletter for October 2004
Some prophetic interpreters believe that the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples, along with the Belgians, Dutch, the Nordic nations and a smattering of Swiss, French and Germans are descendants of what has been called the “Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.” It is claimed that these northern Israelites were taken out of their geographical regions in the Middle East that they inherited under Moses and Joshua, and they are now in the regions mentioned above. 1 It is felt that the prophecies of the End-Time, specifically those that mention “Israel” in distinction to “Judah,” refer to the above peoples and not to the Jewish people called “Israelis” today.
Is there any evidence to support such a belief? This Report will show in the clearest of ways just who is an Israelite, and who is not an Israelite. The Holy Scriptures have some very plain and simple answers on this matter that many people have failed to notice.
If one wishes to find out who is an Israelite today, the place to start is to discover who the Bible shows to be an Israelite at the very beginning of the nation, at the period of the Exodus from Egypt under Moses. This is when the people of Israel were first allotted a national organization of individuals who were collectively reckoned to be in a covenant relationship with the true God of the universe. All the people who surrounded Mount Sinai at the giving of the Ten Commandments, and who later ratified a covenant of nationhood with God, were accounted (without ambiguity) as “Israelites” in God’s eyes. No one doubts this. It is God’s appraisal that counts in identifying who is an “Israelite.” God’s definition is all we need, and other designations must conform to God’s.
The people who came out of Egypt with Moses and entered into a covenant relationship with God were considered Israelites. These people were the thirteen tribes of Israel (Joseph had two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh) plus a mixed multitude of other races (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4). Among these aliens were Moses’ Ethiopian wife (Numbers 12:1–15) whom Aaron and Miriam were angry with Moses for marrying and also Moses’ other wife Zipporah who was of foreign extraction from Midian (Exodus 2:15–22; 18:2–6). In the covenant God made with Israel, Israelite men were also allowed to take Gentile women to be their spouses as booty in war if they were not Canaanites (Deuteronomy 21:10–14). The captive Gentile women, however, were expected to become thorough-going Israelites in all aspects of their lives (like Ruth did, Ruth 1:16). They were not to be like Solomon’s wives who continued to act like their Gentile ancestors (1 Kings 11:1–10), and not like later Jewish men with Gentile wives who did similar things (Nehemiah 13:1–3, 23–31).
It was finally determined by Israelite authorities that the children of Israelite women who were married to Gentile men were accepted as full Israelites and pure from Gentile corruptions in their racial makeup. Thus Timothy who helped the apostle Paul was considered “Israelite” though his father was a Gentile (Acts 16:1–3). The apostle Paul went even a step further than those in Judaism and said that the offspring of a couple would be “clean” if either the man or the woman was fully converted while the other was not of the same belief (1 Corinthians 7:13–16).
As for Gentile men becoming Israelites, that was permitted (other than with Canaanites) if those men adopted the rules of the covenant (Deuteronomy 23:7–8), but there were some restrictions. For example, Edomites and Egyptians were allowed to become Israelites and in full covenant relationship with God in the third generation, while Moabites and Ammonites were kept in an alien status unto the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3–4).
The real test whether one was identified as an Israelite was NOT simply to be a descendant of the patriarch Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel). The KEY was to be in a present and continuous relationship with God under the terms of the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai. There were two signs in particular (out of many other requirements) that were specifically used to identify an Israelite.
One important sign was that of circumcision for the men (Genesis 17:9–27; Exodus 12:48). Indeed, in the latter verse, it specifically states that even if a person of foreign race lived in the midst of Israel and wished to take of the Passover (which was reserved for those considered Israelites), he could do so only if circumcised (Exodus 12:48).
The other sign that was equally important was keeping the Sabbaths, both weekly and annual (Exodus 31:12–18). There were also food laws and purification standards that the covenant required of all those calling themselves Israelites. It was not race alone that determined who was an Israelite. The keeping of the outward societal distinctions recorded in the Law of the covenant made at Sinai were the legitimate signs that God used to define an Israelite.
There is another point that race alone was not the determining factor. Even if a person could clearly prove he or she was a descendant of Jacob, and at the same time consistently broke the covenant established at Sinai in an outlandish way (and especially if he became utterly idolatrous and thoroughly rebellious to Israelite society), he could be excommunicated from the nation and no longer be considered by God as being an Israelite (Deuteronomy 29:15–21). So, the first KEY to being considered by God as an Israelite is that a person had to be in good standing in his or her covenant relationship with God that Israel made with God at Mount Sinai.
When one surveys all the people in the world today (or to analyze any people who have lived in history), it should not be difficult to appraise who is an Israelite and who is not according to the criteria established by God at Sinai. What you have to do is to find a person (or persons) or a nation (or nations) who are outwardly endeavoring to observe the laws and customs that God gave to Moses and Israel when the covenant was ratified at Sinai. Again, it is not race alone that determines who is a legal Israelite because there are allowances and provisions in the covenant for those who are not actual descendants of Jacob to be considered proper Israelites if the terms of the covenant are met. Up to the time of the apostles, all males had to be circumcised to be Israelites.
It was finally allowed, under New Testament teaching, that Gentiles could be considered Israelites without being circumcised. Besides that, all Israelites had to have the sign of the Sabbaths to show their covenant relationship with God. They had to observe the seventh day Sabbath and the other holy days established by Moses. Besides those signs, the people had to keep the other laws and regulations that Moses imposed on those who were considered by God to be Israelites: the food laws and the rites of purification and Temple rituals and ceremonies. If the above requirements were met by people who wished to be identified with the society of Israel (save the few racial restrictions in the Law), all such persons were considered as legally attached to the nation or nations of Israel.
The apostle Paul provided the world of his time (and our modern world) with a statement that clearly identifies who he considered to be an Israelite, and it is a ramification of the first KEY mentioned above. Paul rounds up the whole of the nation of Israel into their status of being twelve tribes and he shows what those twelve tribes were doing at his time. He made his identifying statement in front of a King of Judaea who was also very knowledgeable of the Old Testament and what it taught regarding the status of being an Israelite. That was King Agrippa the First (Acts 26:1–5). Now notice what Paul related.
“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly [with intensity] serving God night and day, hope to come.”
Now Paul did not say he was referring to a part of the twelve tribes, or simply to those who were of the tribe of Judah alone. He was talking about a promise from God that had been given to ALL the twelve tribes. He said those twelve tribes were at that very time SERVING GOD night and day. And, Paul said they were doing so “instantly” (with intensity) in hope of gaining the outcome of the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. The twelve tribes of Paul were in his judgment active participants in practicing the covenant made with God at Sinai.
Look at the limits of Paul’s statement for identifying the twelve tribes of Israel. Paul made his appraisal in front of the King of Judaea plus some top Rabbis from Jerusalem who had come to the trial. They did not argue with Paul over this matter. Look at what this historical observation of Paul means.
And they were the only peoples of which we have records (with the possible exception of a few Ethiopians who claimed to have Solomonic blood in them) who could claim to be serving God intensely night and day to achieve the promise given to the Fathers of Israel.
The apostle Paul’s twelve tribes did not include the tribes inhabiting the British Isles. It is utterly ridiculous to say the British and Northwestern Europeans in the time of Paul were head-over-heels into Mosaic religious beliefs that Paul said the twelve tribes were rigorously engaged in doing. Plainly, there is not a stitch of real evidence to show that even a smidgen of Mosaic religious or societal beliefs, as described by Paul, that was among the Celts of Britain (or the Germans who became the Anglo-Saxons). All of Paul’s twelve tribes (with the Jews) were unitedly striving to gain the promise to Israel.
According to Paul the Israelites, wherever scattered — in Spain, Rome, Egypt, Palestine, Asia, Babylon or in Persia — were actively serving God “for the hope of the promise of God unto our fathers” (Acts 26:6). This is the second key to recognizing Israel.
When James composed his epistle from Jerusalem, he addressed it “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). Now this is all-inclusive. He addressed his letter to ALL the twelve tribes of Israel who were resident outside of Palestine. If some of the twelve tribes were in the British Isles or Northwestern Europe at the time, it would have included them. Look at these salient points in James’ epistle:
Now, at the time of James and Paul, were the people of the British Isles or Gaul or Germania meeting in synagogues each week to hear the Holy Scriptures (plus the other things that James said the twelve tribes were doing)? The answer is “certainly not.” It is sheer fantasy to believe they did. The only people who fit the description of Paul and James are what people then (and people today) would call “Jews,” or offshoots of Jews. In no way do the British or Germans come close.
In truth, the twelve tribes were never “lost” in a geographical sense. The prophet Ezekiel went to the whole House of Israel in the early 6th century B.C.E. (some 100 to 150 years after the Assyrians carried the Northern Ten Tribes captive out of Palestine). He not only directed his prophecy to them (which was about the ruin of Jerusalem and the Temple in Judah that those Northern Ten Tribes were interested in), but also he spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue, which they all understood at the time (Ezekiel 3:1–27).
Indeed, after the Babylonian Captivity was over, some of the first to go back to Palestine and Jerusalem were those of Ephraim and Manasseh, two of the top Israelite tribes of the northern kingdom:
“Now the first inhabitants that dwelt in their possessions in their cities were, the Israelites, the priests, Levites, and the Nethinims. And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh.”
1 Chronicles 9:2–3
In addition, when Christ was blessed as an infant, there was Anna of the tribe of Asher in Jerusalem to extol him (Luke 2:36). Asher was one of the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel.
Just as the apostle Paul stated that he was of the tribe of Benjamin, though he also called himself a “Jew” (consider Philippians 3:5 with Acts 21:39), those who identified themselves in the 1st century with the Ten Tribes of Israel would also have called themselves as being “Jews” by religion. Why was this? This was because they all looked then to Jerusalem and the Temple as the geographical center of their religious beliefs. All Israel finally had to look to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity since that is where the Temple was built which was the geographical apex for the Mosaic religion that the twelve tribes were practicing as a part of their covenant relationship with God. The tribe of Judah became the top tribe of all the twelve tribes after the Babylonian Captivity, and all Israelitish tribes identified themselves with Judah because it had Jerusalem and the Temple.
We now come to the next KEY that identifies Israelites, and this especially applies to the Ten Tribes that left Palestine early for other regions around Assyria and then into several Asia Minor and Mediterranean areas to do trade and merchandising. There was a prophecy that this would be done. In Amos we read:
“For lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like corn [wheat] is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth [to germinate].”
James was referring to this prophecy when he addressed his book to “the twelve tribes in the dispersion [scattering or Diaspora, Greek].” (James 1:1). The apostle Peter also directed his first epistle to some of these same Israelites in the “dispersion [scattering or Diaspora, Greek] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). The apostles were referring to the “scattering” (or, Diaspora that meant the scattering of grain) about which Amos 9:9 was speaking.
Amos went on to say that not a single seed or piece of grain would germinate and begin to take root in that foreign soil. What is the interpretation of Amos because many Israelites lived and died in those foreign lands? It means simply that these Israelites of the House of Israel in their minds would not take “root” in the alien lands where they were scattered.
Amos meant they would always consider their “roots” to be in the Land of Israel in the Middle East though they may live for several generations in many foreign lands. It means in simple terms, that all true Israelites who were scattered by God will always look to Palestine as their home, and to Jerusalem and the Temple for their spiritual and original “roots.” The Land of Israel would continually be the center for their religious beliefs and it would be their permanent home no matter where they lived in the world. Peter and James spoke to those in the dispersion (the Diaspora, the “scattered seeds”) with this very prophecy of Amos (and its interpretation by Paul and James) in mind. All the twelve tribes were then looking to Jerusalem as their home base. This principle provides a KEY for us today to know who is an Israelite.
People who have lived over the generations with a family belief that their actual “roots” are in Palestine and Jerusalem, and have desired to gain the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. They have their first priority to identify themselves as the descendants of Israel. That is what Amos said would happen, and Paul and James back up this interpretation by showing that this is precisely what the twelve tribes of Israel were doing in their time. Remember, James said they were all meeting in synagogues in his day, and all those synagogues were then in contact with Jerusalem. And what about us today? The same thing applies. All descendants of ancient Israel will always have a deep and unmitigated yearning to return one day to the place of their “roots” — to Palestine.
As for me (Ernest L. Martin), my “roots” are solidly based in the United States of America. I have not the slightest desire (nor has my family for generations that I know of) ever wanted our “roots” to be in Palestine. Many Americans, British and Northwestern Europeans may love the land of Palestine because our Lord grew up there and died there and is coming back to that land, but hardly any of us (besides those who call themselves today “Jews”) desire to abandon our own countries and return as Mosaic believers to Palestine.
The prophecy of Amos 9:9, however, makes it clear that all true Israelites will not want to have their permanent “roots” in foreign lands away from their ancient homeland in the Middle East. Indeed, if any Israelite or Jew does change his mind and abandons his desire to be in the society of Israel and gives up looking to Palestine and Jerusalem as the head and source of his religious beliefs, then that person ceases to desire the promise given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He gives up his heritage as being an Israelite.
There have been people in every generation since the 6th Century B.C.E. who have joined with the Gentiles among whom they found themselves (always a minority of Israelites). When such people give up their attachment to the customs and religious beliefs associated with the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai, such people cease to be Israelites. If their abandonment of being an Israelite is for the express purpose of deliberately leaving their people and wishing no longer to be associated with them, they usually marry Gentile wives or husbands and lose their desire to have their “roots” in the Land of Israel and to be reckoned a part of Israelite society. Even God himself will consider them Gentiles and legally as being a part of the people with whom they now identify themselves. Those excommunicated are also no longer Israelites.
On the other hand, if Israelites in the Diaspora love the good life and prosperity that they can have in the Gentile lands in which they live, but still have the yearning to be attached to Israelite society and to have their actual “roots” in Palestine and Jerusalem as Amos 9:9 prophesies, then they are still reckoned by God as Israelites. To be recognized by God as Israelites, they must be doing today just as Paul told King Agrippa that the twelve tribes were doing in the 1st century.
“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto to our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come”
Among the twelve tribes of Israel, the two tribes of Joseph were reckoned by God to have special positions within the nation of Israel. Though Judah was to have the rulership of the tribes with the strength of a lion (the Messiah would come from Judah) and great personal riches would come to Judah so that their water was like wine and their teeth would be white with an abundance of milk (Genesis 49:8–12).
Joseph was to gain even more prosperity. This was to come by possessing not only the blessings of the other tribes of Israel, but his branches would reach out beyond the Land of Israel [“whose branches run over the wall or boundary of Israel”]. He would inherit even more riches. Joseph was destined to receive the blessings even of Gentile nations (Genesis 49:22, with verses 25–26). The prophecy of Jacob showed that Joseph would gain to himself many of the vast blessings even of the Gentiles in foreign lands. This is precisely what Joseph began to do when he “was separate from his brethren” (Genesis 49:26). He became ruler over all the land and riches of Egypt, being second only to Pharaoh himself.
Note this important point. Though Joseph himself became known as an Egyptian in nationality and inherited its riches, he never gave up his claim to being an Israelite. So much was Joseph still an Israelite that he commanded the Israelites to rebury him in the Land of Israel where his “roots” were, and where his fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) were buried (Genesis 50:22–26). Though Amos 9:9 that later prophesied that the seed of Israel would NOT take “root” in foreign lands, Amos was simply recording this perennial trait of all true Israelites of always wanting to be attached to the Land of Israel no matter in what countries they would find themselves. This trait, according to Amos 9:9, would be characteristic of all true Israelites in later times.
We find that Joseph had already established the precedent by having his bones transported out of Egypt (where he was a ruler of a mighty Gentile nation and had inherited much of its vast wealth). Joseph was a true Israelite. He may have found his fortune in a Gentile land, but his “roots” and his permanent “home” was in his opinion always in the Land of Israel. This in fact describes all true Israelites of any age who find themselves living outside the Land of Israel in the Diaspora about which Amos 9:9 talks. Israelites may live several generations in a foreign land (as Israel did in Egypt from Joseph’s time until the Exodus), but they will always want to return to the Land of Israel.
The patriarch Jacob told his son Joseph that Manasseh, Joseph’s actual firstborn, would switch places with Ephraim (Ephraim would become the legal firstborn). Manasseh was to become a single people, but Ephraim “shall be greater than he [Manasseh], and his seed shall become a multitude [fullness] of nations” (Genesis 48:19). The word “multitude” in most other contexts in the Bible means “a filling up” of a vessel, such as a cup or a censor, etc. It meant that the seed of Ephraim would inherit or will fill up a vessel of nations. These “nations” [goyim] in this prophecy about Ephraim, are Israelite “nations,” NOT Gentile nations [goyim].
It must be understood that the word “nations” [goyim] can refer to Israelite nations.
In this verse, God meant that those “nations” were “nations of Israel,” NOT of the Gentiles as the word is normally translated.
Indeed, the New Testament indications concerning this matter are equally clear. The Greek word ethnos can refer to the nation and the people of Israel as well as to Gentile nations. Note that when Matthew quoted Isaiah 9:1 as applying to the ministry of Christ, he used the word “ethnos,” which often in the New Testament is a term that refers to “Israel.”
Finally (among several other places), Paul spoke of being: “among mine own nation [ethnos] at Jerusalem” (Acts 26:4).
So too, when Isaiah prophesied of a great light coming to “Galilee of the nations,” both he and Matthew (quoted Isaiah) meant “Israelite nations.” This is important to note because Galilee was given by God to Israel, NOT to the Gentiles as the erroneous translation suggests. So, when Jacob prophesied that Ephraim would become “a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19), he meant Ephraim would become a leader of Israelite nations that would develop in Palestine and in Galilee. Indeed, this very prophecy was fulfilled in history. Let us see.
Before the people of Israel became one nation under King Saul (their first king), they are shown in the Scriptures to be disunited tribes that could be called small nations. In this period, when the tribes (or nations) of Israel needed political advice, the tribe (or nation) of Ephraim was there to exercise their leadership, no doubt referring to the prophecy of Jacob as their excuse for showing their rulership over the other tribes (nations) of Israel during this period.
Notice that both in the time of Gideon (Judges 8:1) and that of Jephthah (Judges 12:1), we find Ephraimites showing their personal rulership over some of the northern tribes of Israel. 2 Even in the time of King Saul and David, the Ten Tribes as a unit under the leadership of Ephraim were already singled out as a separate part of Israel (2 Samuel 19:41–43). After the fall of Solomon’s united kingdom of Israel, the Ephraimite (Jeroboam) exercised power again over the northern Ten Tribes (1 Kings 11:26, 31). It became common for the next 500 years to call the Northern Ten Tribes by the single name of Ephraim (Hosea 5:3; Zechariah 9:10, 13; 10:7).
Note this carefully: the House of Israel in the north was collectively called “Chief of the nations” (Jeremiah 31:6–7; Amos 6:1), and those nations [goyim] were the Ten Nations (Tribes) of Israel that Ephraim then controlled. So, Ephraim fulfilled Jacob’s prophecy by becoming (for about a thousand years) the leader of “a multitude [or fullness] of nations [plural]” (Genesis 48:19). Those nations were Israelites.
There were thus two nations of Israel: Ephraim and the tribes with him in the north of the land, and Judah and the tribes with him in Jerusalem and the south, and they were both called goyim (Ezekiel 37:22). Ephraim and his tribes were taken captive and became the first Diaspora of Israel. Amos 9:9 states, however, that they would NOT take “root” in foreign lands but their desire would always be for the Land of Israel. Some of Ephraim and Manasseh did in fact return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity (1 Chronicles 9:2–3). The majority, however, remained in the Diaspora (scattering outward from the Middle East mainly into Asia Minor and into Europe). They were still meeting in synagogues and still in contact with Jerusalem for spiritual guidance in New Testament times.
Recall that Amos 9:9 stated most clearly that those Israelites who would be taken captive out of the Land of Israel in the Middle East would become scattered “among the nations.” It did not mean that they were to become mighty nations themselves outside of Palestine. There is not a hint of such teaching in the Holy Scriptures. The prophecies about Israel refer to them as being dispersed into “all nations of the earth” and that they would be persecuted in those nations where they found themselves. Notice Hosea 9:16–17. These verses apply specifically to Ephraim as head of the Northern Ten Tribes that were taken captive by the Assyrians in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.E. The prophecy makes it clear what was to happen to them.
“Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up [in Palestine], they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb. My God will cast them away [from Palestine], because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be WANDERERS among the nations.”
This makes the matter quite plain. Those of Ephraim (and the Northern Ten Tribes they controlled) were not to leave the Land of Israel and then, after a time, become mighty and independent nations in the world. No! Just the opposite was to occur. They were to find themselves as small units of people scattered here and there among the various nations. This is exactly what the principal prophecies found in the Law of Moses said would happen to them. Note the prophecy of Leviticus:
“And I will bring the land [of Israel in the Middle East] into desolation: and your enemies that dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will SCATTER YOU AMONG THE HEATHEN [nations].”
This means that Israelites were to find themselves in the countries of the nations of the world as scattered units here and there. Indeed, in the Book of Deuteronomy, the condition that they were to inherit is shown with more intensity. Note what was to happen to them once they left the Land of Israel in Palestine.
“And the Lord shall SCATTER YOU among ALL PEOPLE, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known, even wood and stone. And AMONG THESE NATIONS shall you find no ease, neither shall the sole of your foot have rest: but the Lord shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind.”
This prophecy accurately describes the prophetic destiny of all the people of Israel and Judah — and this means the people of Ephraim and the Northern Ten Tribes. They have literally been scattered into all nations of the earth, not to become mighty nations like the United States, Britain and the Commonwealth. Usually they would be despised by the people around them and always out-of-joint with the people of the nations with whom they would find themselves.
And note this. The prophecy said that in those Gentile lands they would find themselves serving other gods whom they knew not before. Look at what has happened. There are numerous Israelite communities in most cities of the United State, and in most areas of the world, as the prophecy stated. Even if Israelites attend the synagogues on the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days ordained by Moses, almost all their businesses or institutions with whom they are associated are very active in promoting the alien Christmas, Easter, Halloween, the pagan New Years, etc.
Why here in Portland, our main stores are owned (or created) by people from Israel and they are the biggest purveyors of these heathen festivities in the whole city. They excuse themselves by saying that to thrive in business demands their compliance to heathen festivities and customs. The same thing applies in other areas of the world where Israelites are. So the prophecy is perfectly accurate. Israelites (to make a living) are having to bow and scrape to the heathen customs of the nations among whom they find themselves, and that is what the prophecies said they would be doing.
The prophecy of Deuteronomy also said they would be harassed and in distress as a result of the vindictiveness placed upon them by the peoples of the nations in which they would find themselves. Why would they be in such tremulous conditions? Because the Israelites would be observing their Mosaic customs and traditions that would separate them from the Gentile societies. This would always make them to be different. However, if the Israelites gave up their identity with being a part of the Israelite communities in the nations to which they were scattered, then persecution against them would stop. This is because they would then become like the other people of the nations and be free of distress, harassment, and not suffer the indignities told of in Deuteronomy chapter 28. But most of the Israelites would continue to keep the customs and religion of Moses, though they would be persecuted for it.
Hosea 8:8 shows another prophecy that indicates the same thing.
“Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be AMONG THE GENTILES as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.”
Yes, the Israelites of Ephraim and the Northern Ten Tribes (along with Judah) would become a people scattered among the nations of the world, but they would not be looked on by the nations as a people in which they can have pleasure.
Ephraim and the Northern Ten Tribes were the first of the Israelites to experience this humiliation. They were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in the 8th and 7th centuries before Christ, and most of them did not return to Palestine. They became, as the prophecies related, “scattered among all the nations of the world.” God said they would be harassed and in distress for their customs and religious beliefs. This is precisely what has happened to Ephraim. But what about the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic folk?
In the early part of the last century a theory began to emerge that the people of Anglo-Saxon-Celtic-Nordic stock who lived in Northwestern Europe were the descendants of the people of Ephraim with his Northern Ten Tribes. The theory imagined that after 2520 years of punishment upon them for their evil ways, God would then redeem Ephraim and make them mighty and powerful nations in the earth outside of Palestine. There is, however, no indication in the Bible whatever that such a 2520 years of punishment upon Israel is a part of prophetic history. That period is completely fictitious. The theory stated that after 2520 years, Ephraim would emerge as the United States of America, Britain and its Empire (later, Commonwealth), and the other political states in Northwestern Europe.
What nonsense! For example, during Ephraim’s so-called 2520 years of “punishment,” which was supposed to last to about 1800 C.E., where did all the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic tribes wander as scattered and persecuted peoples throughout all nations of the world to fulfill the prophetic promises of what would happen to Israel during their Diaspora? They never fulfilled the prophecies about Israel. Did these Northwestern Europeans find themselves among other nations of the world (scattered from here to there) as separated peoples from the natives of the lands and in distress and with the nations having no pleasure in them because they were Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples? Absolutely not.
On the other hand, have the people who became known as “Jews” experienced those things in almost every land they ever went to in their Diaspora? The answer is decidedly, YES!
The real truth is that the prophecies that I have recorded above about the consequences of Ephraim and Judah being taken out of the Land of Israel in the Middle East have been fulfilled precisely among all Israelites. God has kept His promise to them. They have indeed been scattered into all areas of the world.
Only now, at the end of the age (as it is prophesied) would Ephraim and Judah again become “one stick” (one nation) in Palestine and they would find themselves to be a single nation again. They would come together to form one nation out of two peoples who are both Israelites. The two Israelite nations are Ephraim and Judah. Recall that Ephraim separated from the Jews (Judah) in the Middle East when they were taken captive by the Assyrians, but Ephraim never lost touch with their brethren in Jerusalem where the Temple was.
At the time of Esther many Gentiles of the Persian Empire became “Jews.” This is shown in the Scriptures. “Many people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them” (Esther 8:17; 9:27). Other mixtures followed. In the two hundred years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., Judaism in Palestine steadily became a very popular religious belief among many of the Gentile peoples who lived near the Jews in the Middle East.
Quite a number of people from the surrounding nations were prone to accept Judaism and Jews in a very favorable way. In fact, two of those nearby peoples had been forcibly converted to Judaism with their men having to be circumcised. One of these was the remnants of the Edomites (called the Idumeans) who were subdued by the Jewish king John Hyrcanus in about 125 B.C.E and forced into circumcision and the Jewish rites (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XV.7.9 ¶254).
The other was an Arabian tribe called the Ituraeans who lived between the Sea of Galilee and Damascus. They were forced by the Jewish king Aristobulus (100 B.C.E) to submit to circumcision and to become “Jews” or face expulsion from their lands (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XIII.11.3 ¶318). Many of them submitted to this requirement and they were then reckoned among the Jews.
It could rightly be said of both the Idumeans and Ituraeans that many accepted their Judaism in a religious sense often in a half-hearted way (Josephus called them “half Jews”), but obviously there were some Idumeans who took conversions seriously. There were hundreds of thousands of people who made up these two Arabian group types and the Romans considered them to be a part of the Jews.
We must also be aware of another major group of peoples who joined the Jews (often in great numbers) in the hundred years or so before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. These were known by the Jews as Gentiles who became proselytes and/or God-fearers. The proselytes would apply to Gentile men who became circumcised and took on the full role of being a “new Jew,” while the God-fearers would often not submit to circumcision but were those who practiced most of the other rites of Judaism. Of course, women were not subjected to circumcision but many Gentile women in the surrounding areas of Judaea adopted Judaism and reared their children within the Jewish religious society.
Josephus mentions, as an interesting example, that almost all the women of Damascus were practicing the Jewish religion (Josephus, Wars of the Jews II.20.2 ¶¶560–561), and many Gentiles in Antioch (the capital city of Syria) were Jewish proselytes (Josephus, Wars of the Jews VII.3.3 ¶¶43–45). In fact, Jews won over to their religious beliefs proselytes from all areas of the Middle East in the period before 70 C.E., and there were also many more Gentiles who became “God-fearers” and gave heed to Jewish ways.
This mixing of Middle Eastern peoples with the Jewish people in Palestine gave an Arabian type complexion to many Jews in the Middle East and in North Africa and these have become known as the Eastern type of Jewish people. Others, who came from some of the northern tribes of Israel who went into Europe (notably central Europe) were not influenced by this type of racial mixture and they are generally known as Ashkenazi Jews. True, there were some in the Khazar Kingdom in the 8th century of our era (in the area of what we call southern Russia today) who embraced Judaism, but the Khazarian people by this time were predominantly white in skin color. Besides that, the people were not very numerous who converted. It appears that some of them, however, did become part of the Ashkenazi Jews who went into central Europe.
In my view, these latter Jews (the Ashkenazi) best describe the characteristics of the Ephraim branch of Israel. They are the ones who were “separated from their brethren” in the Middle East and/or those in North Africa and represent a different type of Jewish person in outward physical appearance and psychological attitude from the Eastern or “Arabic” types.
These Ashkenazi people are the most powerful of the Jews at the present, both in Israel and outside the Land of Israel. They resemble “Ephraim” in so many ways. They are the ones who like Joseph would inherit much of the wealth of the Gentiles (Genesis 49:22–26). Like Joseph, they never forgot where their “roots” were. They always attended the synagogues and practiced the covenant customs and ceremonies established with Israel at Mount Sinai. Besides that, they were the ones who made the first start at returning to Palestine in order to build the State of Israel and they now control most of the institutions in the nation of Israel today. They best fit the role of being the stick of “Ephraim” (Ezekiel 37).
Many of those Jews who remained in the Middle East, or among the Arabic nations, represent the other stick (Judah) of the nation of Israel. Both types are in Israel today and prophecy shows that they are not naturally harmonious to one another in several ways. Indeed, prophecy shows they will soon challenge one another for leadership in the land (read all of Zechariah 9, 10 and 11) with some serious consequences (Zechariah 12:7–9).
Read the prophecies in Zechariah chapters 9, 10 and 11 which clearly show that Ephraim is considered as having returned to Palestine at the end of the age (our day today). They are reckoned in the prophecies as being different than those of Judah who are their brothers in the faith of Judaism. Anyone who goes to Israel today can readily distinguish the variances between the two Jewish groups. The two groups find it difficult to see things in the same way. Though both groups are clearly and plainly “Jews” (because they meet the qualifications for being Israelites that I have demonstrated in this Prophetic Report), they do show that the racial history of Israel is not one that is without mixture. Why even in the very beginning of the nation at Mount Sinai there were the mixed multitude who were already a part of Israel (Exodus 12:37–38).
As we have seen, race is not even the main factor in determining who is an Israelite. The central feature that Amos 9:9 made abundantly clear (and the apostles Peter and James referred to) is that all such people will never establish their permanent “roots” in Gentile lands if they are true Israelites who meet the prophetic standard of Amos 9:9. This point was enforced by the apostle Paul when he said that the twelve tribes of Israel were those people who were continually and intensely endeavoring to gain the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and the other fathers of early Israel (Acts 26:7–8).
In the State of Israel today, even those who do not consider themselves religious, still willingly adhere to the observance of the basic customs that identify them as being covenant Israelites. The main two types of Jews, the Ashkenazi and the Easterners, that exist in the State of Israel today (and there are even several sub-groups) clearly represent the two main divisions of Israel. The Bible distinguishes both groups in past history and in prophecy.
Indeed, the prophet Ezekiel shows both groups will be in existence at the end of the age (Ezekiel 37). These are two main divisions, who desire and hope to be one stick or one nation, but find it difficult to get along with one another in a harmonious way in all matters of civil and religious life. Those two divisions in Israel and the world today are the Ephraim and Judah of old. When one analyzes all the prophetic teachings about the people of Israel (whether of Ephraim or Judah), the present Ashkenazi and the Easterners fit the prophetic scenario in a perfect sense. They actually meet all the qualifications for being the two Israelite “sticks” (Ezekiel 37) that are mentioned in prophecy.
In the long prophecy found in Zechariah chapters 9, 10 & 11 which describe events solidly within the period of the End-Time leading up to the Second Advent of Christ, we find Ephraim and Judah distinguished from one another, yet they are in cooperation with one another in Palestine. That’s right. Both Ephraim and Judah are shown to be living as two political powers in the Land of Israel in the Middle East. There are several geographical terms found within this long prophecy which center precisely on areas in the Middle East and in the Land of Israel in particular (see Zechariah 9:1–8; 10:10–11; 11:1–3). In fact, in this period of time — which is just on the horizon to us — we find Ephraim and Judah which are reckoned as “two staves” coming together to be “one staff” (Zechariah 11:7). 3
That “one staff” will be broken in a type of civil war that will one day develop between the two Israelite groups in the Land of Israel (Zechariah 11:10–17). The consequences will be disastrous to the people (Zechariah 13:7–9). Before this civil war begins, the nation of Israel, with Ephraim and Judah united as “one staff” in the Land of Israel, will have a glorious existence that will last for several years. During that time, the majority of the population is destined to be given a “spirit of grace and supplication” (Zechariah 12:9 through 13:6). This is when the Jewish authorities will acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah and the nation will go over to a belief in Him and the teachings of the Gospel. They will be “mourning” for Him as they now “mourn” for their lost Temple at their Western (Wailing) Wall. 4
At this time a new Temple will be built in the Jerusalem area, and the Gentiles will help in its construction (Isaiah 44:27–45:25). When this occurs, many Gentiles in the world will want to become “Jews.”
“Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, even shall take hold the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, ‘We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.’”
This condition is described in the Book of Revelation as a time when a Temple will be built in Jerusalem that will become a Temple for all people on earth, not just the Jews alone (Revelation 11:1–13). This all occurs before the Second Advent of Christ back to this earth, and these events are all centered in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel in the Middle East.
The prophecies of the Holy Scriptures show in the clearest of ways that Ephraim and Judah will be linked as “one staff” (as “one stick”) in the period just before the Mount of Olives splits in two at the Second Advent of Christ. Let us be plain, in NO WAY does this mean that Ephraim is reckoned by God to be either the United States of America (as some believe) or Britain and the Commonwealth (as others believe). The events being described by the Bible concerning Ephraim and Judah are all centered in the Middle East and they describe a situation in which both Ephraim and Judah are then reckoned as one nation called Israel. They practice the same religious and social beliefs. 5
As shown earlier in this Prophetic Report, it is sheer nonsense to think that the United States and Britain represent the descendants of the ancient tribes of Israel known as Ephraim and Manasseh. There is not a tissue of historical and biblical proof to sustain such a teaching.
Though they do not show any distinguishing marks that they are Israelites, the United States and Britain have credentials for being close relatives of the Israelites. I have literature that shows that there is good reason to believe that the majority of them are descendants from Abraham, but mainly through his wife Keturah (who had six sons) who went away from Abraham into the east country (Genesis 25:1–6). For a rundown on the historical and biblical evidence to show this, you should read my book The People That History Forgot that discusses the racial history of several of the early tribes that were once in the Middle East and later immigrated into Europe. 6
As a matter of interest in this regard, it has been common custom among the Jews to call the original Romans after the twin brother of Jacob called Esau, who, of course, would be a descendant of Abraham. Note that even the apostle Paul said that the fleshly Romans of his day were what he called the children of Abraham. He said: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, has found?” (Romans 4:1). Paul is saying that the Romans to whom he was writing (though clearly Gentiles) were still from Abraham as pertaining to the flesh, and not simply as being Abraham’s spiritual children alone. The Romans were not fleshly Israelites because they did not possess the biblical qualifications. 7
One of the main reasons that the people of the United States and Britain have been some of the most cordial to the people of Israel over the centuries (though there has never been a perfect relationship of complete brotherliness) is simply because we all have Abraham as our fleshly father. Of course, here in the United States we have people from all races on earth as our citizens, but all of them have basically adapted to the cultural, social and religious principles that have governed the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic-Nordic peoples that the majority of the population represent. This means that all of us, no matter of what race we may be, have shown more compassion and understanding to the people of Israel than many other nations. That will continue because it is in our nature to do so. This does not mean, however, that the people of the United States are Israelites by descent.
The theory that the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic-Nordic peoples are the literal descendants of ancient Israel is not an innocent prophetic diversion that one can accept or not accept without too much harm to the teachings of the biblical revelation. It has greater consequences than that. If one accepts the theory as a fact, that the United States and Britain and the Commonwealth as a physical people actually have the covenant promises that God gave to Israel, then the prophecies about Israel concerning the End-Time have to be taken out of their geographical contexts in the Middle East and switched to a European and American environment. This does utter violence to the prophecies of the Scripture. The prophetic geography within the Holy Scriptures clearly points to the Middle East as the place for the fulfillment of the bulk of the future events associated with the time of the end which we are now entering. It is time to give up fantasies and get back to the plain truths of the Bible. They are nonsense and do violence to the prophecies.
It is not difficult to surmise who are Israelites. Paul summed it up well. He gave a principle that applies today as when he said it.
“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come”
If the factors within this verse describe you, then you have major credentials that you are indeed a true descendant of the twelve tribes. If this scripture does not describe you in your innermost heart and desire, and that of your family over the generations, you are not a descendant of those twelve tribes.
Edited by David Sielaff, October 2004
1 This would include Canada, the United States, South Africa, and in other areas of the world where these Europeans have settled. DWS
2 Abimelech, son of the judge Gideon, from the tribe of Manasseh (the twin-brother tribe of Ephraim) proclaimed himself king over all of the tribes of Israel. See the article, “The First King in Israel” at http://www.askelm.com/news/n040209.htm. DWS
3 See the article “The Land of Israel in Prophecy” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p911201.htm.
4 See Dr. Martin’s article, “The Strange Story of the False Wailing Wall” at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t000701.htm.
5 See also “Who are the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel Today?” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p900703.htm.
6 Ernest L. Martin, The People That History Forgot (Portland: Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, 1993). It is available at: http://www.askelm.com/books/book004.asp and free online (a chapter each week) at http://www.askelm.com/people/index.asp.
7 See the articles “Ancient Nations in the Middle East, Part 1” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p900602.htm and “Ancient Nations in the Middle East, Part 2” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p900702.htm.
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