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Israel. A land of conflict. A Middle East flash point. A pilgrim’s destination. Home of many ancient sites and cities, including Jerusalem—where three world religions converge.
But what exactly is Israel? There are a number of answers.
A modern-day nation? Yes.
This is probably the first answer that comes to mind when most hear the word “Israel.” With a population of 7,473,052 (CIA World Factbook), the Middle Eastern nation primarily consists of persons of Jewish descent. It is the location of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The prospects of peace seem perpetually afar off. A real solution to the modern-day nation’s problems remains elusive.
A man? Yes.
Thousands of years ago, Abraham had a son, Isaac, who had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. Notice: “And [God] said unto [Jacob], What is your name? And he said, Jacob. And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel [meaning prevailer with God]: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Gen. 32:27-28). From that point forward Jacob’s name was Israel.
An ancient nation of tribes? Yes.
Israel had 12 sons—Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin. These sons’ families grew into a nation: “And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly” (Gen. 47:27). While in Egypt for nearly two and a half centuries, the tribes of Israel grew vastly in number. The birthright (something of great importance, but not the subject of this article) was passed from Jacob (or Israel) to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Israel effectively became 13 tribes.
A kingdom that became divided from Judah? Yes.
After the time of King Solomon, Israel split into two nations: Judah to the south and Israel to the north. Judah consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as well as the majority of Levi. These peoples became known as Jews.
A people lost to history and the world at large? Yes.
The northern 10 tribes of Israel were taken captive by the Assyrians in 721-718 BC and became known as the “lost 10 tribes of Israel.” The Jews remained in the land of Judah (later Judea). Then, the Assyrians placed the Samaritans (transplanted from a region near Babylon) in the land formerly inhabited by the 10 tribes.
Around 586 BC, the Jews were taken captive by the Babylonians. While a remnant of them returned approximately 70 years later, the vast majority of the Jews remained dispersed among other nations after the captivity.
Undoubtedly, Israel has many different meanings and applications. So which meanings apply today?
The prevailing thought is that Israel today (along with its people) is simply the same as Israel of old. In recent years, many professing Christians (particularly evangelicals) make a point of standing with Israel, thinking that any reference to Israel in the Bible is an exact equation to Israel today. Yet this cannot be! Again, much of the Israelitish people were taken into captivity, never to return.
This begs a number of questions: What is the nation of Israel today? How should one read all the references to Israel in the Old Testament? Are they all one and the same? Would the author of the Bible, who claims to not be an “author of confusion” (I Cor. 14:33), leave such an important subject blurred and confusing?
When taking into account all the scriptural and biblical proof, it becomes clear that the tribe of Judah (along with portions of Simeon and Levi) is the nation of Israel today. This brief article cannot provide all the extensive documentation that proves this beyond a doubt. All of the proof is found in David C. Pack’s book America and Britain in Prophecy.
In that book, within the context of Sabbath-keeping, Mr. Pack provides more detail on this subject, under the subhead “Why Tribes Now ‘Lost’”:
“Remember this critical point, now lost to the world. The Jews are only one twelfth of the tribes of Israel. They sprang from Jacob’s son Judah. There were eleven other sons.
“Therefore, the Sabbath is still binding on the lost tribes of Israel. God’s identifying sign was to be kept by these nations. But they have refused to keep it, believing themselves to be Gentiles, and have assigned the Sabbath obligation to ‘the Jewish people.’
“The true story behind Israel’s loss of identity is astonishing, and known to almost none for many centuries. Yet, these modern nations need never have lost sight of their true identity. A choice they made caused this to happen.
“While people denigrate and sneer at the Sabbath as merely ‘Jewish,’ it is binding on far more people than the relatively small number of Israelites who have descended from the tribe of Judah.
“We must take time to carefully recap, from a different perspective, certain previous points known to almost none. This is vital background to what we will now study. Understanding God’s special covenant springs directly from this review!
“The Bible speaks of the term ‘Jew.’ Of course, most think this term is synonymous with all the tribes of Israel, because they never investigate what the Bible actually says!
“Recall that the very first place in the entire Bible in which the term ‘Jews’ is found describes a war occurring between the Jews and Israel! Let’s read it: ‘Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him. At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drove the Jews from Elath’ (II Kgs. 16:5-6).
“This was not Jews fighting Jews. Most people have no idea that the nation of Israel had become divided—into two different nations, with two separate kingdoms.”
“…when Solomon died, Israel rebelled against the oppressive tax rates he had imposed. The price of Solomon’s luxurious lifestyle came on the backs of the Israelites he overtaxed. His son Rehoboam ignored the wise counsel of those who advised him that reducing taxes would stop a revolt developing under a high-ranking leader named Jeroboam, appointed by Solomon. Instead, Rehoboam listened to younger men who told him to actually raise taxes.
“The result? Ten tribes rebelled, leaving only Judah and Benjamin still loyal to Rehoboam. These tribes pulled away from Jerusalem as their capital, much like the Old South seceded from the American Union in 1861. Two separate kingdoms—the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah—emerged, with two separate capitals, Samaria (Israel) and Jerusalem (Judah).”
Under the subhead “Joseph’s Sons Receive Israel’s Name,” Mr. Pack adds more:
“In the next passage, to signify explicitly that God’s blessing was to be passed to Ephraim above firstborn Manasseh, Jacob crossed his hands. Let’s read: ‘And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth’ (Gen. 48:14-16).
“This will be shown to be an absolutely astounding prophecy, carrying truly staggering implications for all the nations of the world. We have just witnessed, directly from the pages of the Bible, God’s original promise to Abraham being passed directly to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh! Jacob said, ‘let my name be named on them’ and ‘let them grow into a multitude.’
“Absolutely nothing in this account says anything about Judah. He was neither included nor apparently even present during the proceedings! Why then do countless millions of people who read the Bible not see this—and acknowledge it?
“Jacob specifically asked God, with hands on both grandsons, to ‘Bless the lads.’ This was a joint blessing, conferred on both young boys—now get this—having nothing to do with Judah or any of his children. Together, the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh were promised—actually prophesied—to expand into a great multitude, consisting of the ‘nation and company of nations’ of Genesis 35:11.
“I repeatedly urge readers, ‘Do not believe me unless you can see it in your Bible!’ I tell you that now. These verses are most plain!
“This account requires no interpretation from me. It contains no symbolism, holding mystery to all but the trained eye. Israel’s name was to be placed on, carried by, the sons of Joseph—not Judah!
“Put another way, we now ask: Who does God—not men!—identify as the people who are Israel (nationally and ethnically) today? Again, the answer is Ephraim and Manasseh, not Judah! The modern nation of Israel, home to the Jews who call themselves ‘Israelis,’ is not the nation God has told us actually carries Israel’s name. Yet, the world and virtually all Bible students remain deceived on this point.
“The theologians, churchmen, religionists and supposed Bible scholars could know what you have just learned. They could set aside their prejudice and tradition, pick up their Bibles and read these plain verses. But these ‘leaders’ refuse to do this and thereby reject knowledge available to them, with countless millions following them like the ‘blind leading the blind.’
“This need not include you!”
This article only begins to open the door to the understanding of who and what is Israel. Great prophecies are about to unfold on the nations descended from the lost Israelite tribes and the modern-day nation of Israel.
To learn much more, request the free book America and Britain in Prophecy.