Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and understanding. But what does it mean to fear God? On a basic level this is saying that no matter what else you know, no matter what else you think you understand, you’ll never have true understanding, you’ll never have true wisdom until you’ve learned to fear God.
This is the most basic level of wisdom.
So what does it really mean to fear God? Does it mean that that God is waiting in the sky to smite wrongdoers and you have to be on your toes at all times, always watching what you’re doing? Maybe you do need to, but no that’s not really what it’s talking about.
God isn’t up there waiting for us to do something wrong so that he can knock us around. We don’t have to be afraid that he’s vindictive and capricious.
Instead think about God more like you would an intense furnace or a nuclear reactor. You treat it with respect, never casually. Never abuse it. You follow its rules because, if you don’t, you could be burned; you could be destroyed. Not because it wants to destroy you but because, by its nature, it is so powerful, so holy, so different from anything else you know, that have to treat it with that level of respect.
The fear of the Lord is the fear that a child has for a stern, but very loving father.
God doesn’t want to be treated casually. He doesn’t want to be treated like your boyfriend or your buddy. God is an unimaginably powerful force, and you will never understand what it means to have wisdom, to have understanding…you’ll never really understand the universe until you understand God’s power and until you learn to fear it and fear him and respect him as your creator.
Episode 4, where I get to the real point of this series.
Welcome to episode 4 of Who Is Israel! In the previous three episodes, I covered the history of Israel and the Jewish people from their origin in Abraham through the patriarchs and bondage in Egypt. I talked about how God rescued Israel from Egypt, but he didn’t rescue them alone. God brought a mixed multitude from many other nations out of Egypt to Sinai where he made them to be part of Israel.
Centuries later God divided Israel into two kingdoms and then scattered them across the world where they were absorbed by the nations and, in turn, absorbed many people into themselves.
My purpose has not been to just give a history of the Jews, but to highlight a specific aspect of the history of Israel. From the moment that God renamed Jacob after the all-night wrestling match with the angel, the nation of Israel has not been only the physical descendants of Jacob. Israel has always been a mixture of peoples grafted into the main trunk of the tree of Jacob.
In this episode, I’m going to answer the four questions that I started with: Who are the Jews? Who is Israel? Who or what is the Synagogue of Satan? And finally, what does all this have to do with you and me?
First let’s answer question number one: Who are the Jews?
By now the answer should be easy. The people we know today as Jews are the result of the gradual merging of three groups. First, the Jews are primarily descended from the ancient Israelite tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Second, the Jews are also descended from refugees and migrants from the other ten tribes who were absorbed into Judah, mostly long before the modern era. Third, the Jews have adopted many people from other nations over the millennia through assimilation, conversion, and even conquest.
This was part of God’s plan all along. Jacob went into Egypt with many Gentiles in his house, and Israel left Egypt with many more Gentiles who became Israelites.
If you haven’t watched episodes 1 through 3, you might want to pause here and go do that right now. Those episodes will provide a lot of background information for this claim.
It’s really only controversial with people who want to claim that today’s Jews are actually some completely unrelated people who are only
pretending to be Jews in order to take over the world. In my opinion, the bizarrely persistent paranoia about Jews throughout history only serves to prove that they are who they say they are. That variety of anti-semitism is not based on reason or evidence. and there is no argument that will change such a person’s mind. It’s a spiritual or mental sickness that can only be cured by time and God.
So let’s leave that behind and move on to question number 2: Who Is Israel?
Recall that Israel was divided after the death of Solomon and, although some people from the Northern Kingdom, called Ephraim or Israel, were absorbed by the southern kingdom, called Judah. Most of Ephraim were assimilated into the nations where they were scattered, and they forgot that they were once Israel.
Scripture tells us that both Judah and Ephraim will one day be restored to a place of favor with God in a United Kingdom under Messiah. We might already be seeing the beginning of that in the return of many Jews to the Land of Israel since the beginning of the 20th century, but so far only half of Israel, the Jews, is involved in that return. What about Ephraim?
There are a lot of theories about where the so-called Lost Tribes went. Most of those theories are based only in the imagination. There is no real historical evidence for the various identity movements such as British Isrealism and Black Hebrew Israelites. They are the results of a few out of context facts from various sources mixed with a large dose of fanciful interpretation.
No, the various nations of Europe or Africa are NOT the lost tribes of Israel. A few isolated people groups have been discovered who might, in fact, be descendants of the Northern Kingdom, but they are relatively small and can’t reasonably represent the whole of Ephraim. Most of that half of Israel has been thoroughly mixed into the nations of the world, so there is no way that anyone except God could possibly identify them.
So, how can we ever identify that half of Israel? Didn’t God say that he never does anything momentous without telling his prophets about it first?
Right here, I want you to pause the video and take a screenshot of these lists. If you’re not sure how to do that, take picture or write them down. Whatever you need to do to make sure that you have them for later, since I don’t have the time to go over every verse now. These lists are far from comprehensive, but I think this is more than enough to support what I’ve told you so far and what I’m about to tell you.
These four themes run through all of Biblical prophecy about the future of Israel, the scattering of Ephraim and Judah, Ephraim lost in the nations, the grafting of many former Gentiles into Israel, and the ultimate restoration of both houses of Israel. These events were all prophesied and described in Scripture.
How does this relate to the identity of Ephraim?
I need to tell you about two prophecies related to the restoration of Ephraim.
In the Book of Ruth, two widows returned to the Land of Israel. Naomi, a natural born Israelite, and Ruth, a Gentile who married one of Naomi’s sons. Naomi’s husbands and sons have died. So neither woman has husband or children. Without intervention, they would be destitute. Ruth meets and marries Boaz, a distant relative of her father-in-law and a wealthy nobleman. Legally her first son from Boaz becomes the heir of her dead husband and therefore of Naomi’s dead husband as well. A line of Israel, that had effectively vanished from the earth, was resurrected by a kinsman redeemer, a foreshadowing of Messiah. Naomi represents the natural children of Israel, while Ruth represents the Gentiles who have been adopted by Israel.
In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, two stories of healing are paired in a chiastic structure. Yeshua is called to heal a 12 year old girl who is deathly ill, but on his way to the girl’s house an older, wealthy woman with an illness that has persisted for 12 years is healed when she touches the hem of his garments. Yeshua then goes on to the girl’s house where he is told that she has died, but he proceeds to heal her anyway. The older woman is Judah. She has tried everything to be healed of her affliction, but nothing works until she turns to Yeshua. The young girl is Ephraim. As far as the world is concerned, she is dead, lost forever, but Yeshua restores her to life again.
In Jeremiah 31:31, God told Jeremiah that the New Covenant was only for the houses of Israel and Judah, not to the church or to Rome. There is no body of Messiah outside of Israel. There is no separate covenant with a Gentile Church. There is only Israel and then there’s everyone else, so it matters whether or not a person is part of Israel or not.
The honest truth is that nobody today can positively identify the natural descendants of Ephraim, but that just doesn’t matter!
Wait, didn’t I say that it matters who is Israel? Yes, but that’s not the same thing as saying it matters who is Judah and who is Ephraim.
Yeshua knows who belongs to him. When he calls Ephraim, they will rise from their historical grave and be reunited with him. In the meantime both Judah and Ephraim were never only the physical descendants of Jacob. They were always a core of natural children and a mixed multitude of Gentiles grafted in by their faith in the God of Abraham.
If you were a Gentile, one of those whom Jeremiah says have inherited nothing but lies from their ancestors, and now you believe in Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, if you have joined yourself to Yahweh to love him, to keep his Sabbaths, and to hold fast to his covenant, then you have been cut off from the tree of your ancestors and grafted into the tree of Israel.
Whether you are Judah or Ephraim, I can’t tell you, but if you have repented of your sin, committed your life to love and obey the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to his Messiah and Son Yeshua, then you are Israel! Prophesied from the beginning, adopted into the kingdom of God, and made to be joint heirs with the faithful remnant of Jacob.
You are Israel, and that’s enough.
I guess that answers question number four – what does that have to do with you? But there is one question I haven’t addressed yet. Who or what is the Synagogue of Satan?
This term comes from Revelation 2:8-9 where Yeshua says, “And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write the words of the first and the last who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a Synagogue of Satan.”
There has been a lot of debate about this passage over the last 2000 years, and it might be the most common passage quoted by people who want to say that God lied to the Jews when he promised to forgive and restore them.
First off, we know that this can’t be talking about all Jews, because Yeshua spoke these words to a Jew! John, Paul, Peter, Matthew, James… all Jews. Out of the 27 books in the New Testament, 24 or 25 were written by Jews. For the first few decades, almost all of the followers of Yeshua were Jews.
So, how are we to know what he meant?
There are two ways to interpret every Bible passage: literal and figurative. Not every passage is intended to be understood figuratively and not every passage is intended to be understood literally. Knowing which is which depends on understanding the context of the passage, including its historical context. If a passage has a literal interpretation, that must come first. Without understanding the literal meaning we can’t accurately understand its figurative meaning, if it has one.
We know that the first three chapters of Revelation were addressed to seven real congregations that existed in the first century. Antipas, the Nicolaitans, and others mentioned in these chapters were real people. Chapter 2 verses 8-11 were addressed to a real congregation in Smyrna. If all of those people and organizations were real historic people, there’s no good reason to assume that verses 8-9 isn’t a real synagogue that existed in Smyrna in the 1st century. This statement wasn’t made to all of the 7 churches, so it’s reasonable to assume that it was something peculiar to Smyrna at that time and that that church would know exactly what Yeshua meant.
But what else do we know about the Synagogue of Satan from these verses?
We know that they were telling lies about God or about their fellow believers. Maybe they were of the same sect that falsely accused Paul, Stephen, and Yeshua of trying to abolish the law of Moses.
We know that they say they are Jews but aren’t really. It isn’t likely that there was an entire Jewish synagogue a fake Jews, but Yeshua could have been using the term “Jew” as a metaphor, like Paul did in Romans 2:28-29: For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, but a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart by the spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man, but from God.” Jew is a short form of Judah which means “praised”. Paul was saying that some Jews don’t live up to the name while some Gentiles do. He wasn’t saying that some Jews aren’t really Jews.
John made a similar point in 1 John 4:20-21: “If anyone says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Yeshua might have been saying that, by their slander, the members of a Jewish synagogue in Smyrna weren’t living up to the name Jew, that they were serving Satan the accuser instead of God.
How would this apply today? Who fits the description of Smyrna’s Synagogue of Satan now?
Literally several groups do. Many in Christian Identity groups claim to be the physical descendants of Israel while they tell horrendous lies about the Jewish people. Believers in replacement theology slander God by claiming that he lied to the descendants of Jacob when he told them that he loved them and promised to forgive them. They are fake Jews because they claim that the church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. They quite literally claim to be Jews when they’re not.
Metaphorically, this phrase “Synagogue of Satan” could refer to anyone who claims to worship Adonai but teaches contrary to his laws. They shame the name of God instead of praising it.
In the end, the final judgment of who is Israel and who is not is all up to Yeshua. He will separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, and the saints from the condemned.
On the one hand, there will be united Israel, consisting of faithful Judah, faithful Ephraim, and all of the grafted in gentiles, and on the other hand, there will be everyone else: an unbelieving world, those cut off from Israel for their rebellion, those who have rejected forgiveness, obedience and salvation, who have rejected Yeshua. They will all be destroyed in the end.
There is a consistent repeating pattern from Abraham to today. Israel is scattered into the world where they adopt people from the nations and is finally restored to the land and to blessing by Messiah. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Hebrew slaves, Ephraim, Judah… They have all experienced this pattern to one extent or another.
Whoever and wherever you are, no matter who your ancestors were, if you have repented of your sins, given your allegiance to the king of Israel, and committed to obey the King’s law, then you are a citizen of Israel. Remember that the natural branches of Israel and Judah always form the core, but there is always room for more faithful adoptees from the nations.
As the wise man once said, “Hear the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep his Commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
This is Jay Carper from American Torah. Be blessed.
Here’s the transcript for Who Is Israel? Episode 3. Please excuse the less than perfect wording and format.
In Episode 2, we talked about the division of Israel into two kingdoms after Solomon’s death, the destruction and dispersions of Judah and Ephraim into the nations, the partial return of Judah, and finally the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome and the rescattering of Judah across the world.
In this episode, we’ll see what happened to the Jews after the coming of Yeshua and Christianity.
At the beginning of the first century, the world was divided into three groups. The first group was Judah, who was living all over the Roman Empire and beyond, but concentrated in distinct insular communities. The second group was Ephraim, who was also scattered across Africa and Eurasia, but had been mostly absorbed into the peoples of the lands where they lived. The third group of people in the first century, and by far the largest was the Gentiles…which was everyone else.
The word Gentile comes from a Latin word that roughly means clan, and is usually translated into English as nations or peoples. Biblically speaking, a Gentile is someone from any nation other than Israel.
Around 30 AD a man named Jesus began upsetting this new order. He claimed to be the Messiah that Moses had prophesied and that the Jews had long awaited. He upset a lot of theological apple carts and made enemies of most of the Jewish religious leaders. They conspired with one of his disciples, Judas, and pressured the Roman governor into having him crucified.
Much to their chagrin, Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose from the grave on the third day and later ascended into heaven. During his ministry on earth, his influence was mostly limited to the land of Judea and its immediate neighbors. However, within a few years Jews over all over the Empire were beginning to believe in him.
Faith in Jesus, or Yeshua as his friends and family would have known him, remained mostly a Jewish thing at first, but another upstart named Paul began teaching uncircumcised Gentiles about him too.
Yeshua’s followers went by various names, depending on region and religious practices: the Sect of the Nazarenes, The Way, and eventually Christians.
The followers of Yeshua split first century Judah into three more groups:
traditional Judaism, which rejected the Messiah of Jesus, the Circumcision, which accepted Jesus as Messiah, but required complete ritual conversion to Judaism for all converts, whether Gentile or Hellenized Jews, and The Way, which was more lenient of new converts.
Although the Jewish people mostly stuck with what they knew of as Judaism, many believed in Yeshua and fell into one of the two camps of the Circumcision or The Way. Some among the Gentiles, which inevitably included many lost Ephraimites, converted to Judaism, but many more left their ancestral paganism for faith in Jesus.
Some Gentiles, Greeks in particular, converted to Judaism, but the Gentiles of that time were almost universally polytheistic pagans, meaning they worshiped many gods at the same time. Monotheism, a belief in only one God, was rare and often thought to be tantamount to atheism.
These religious upheavals did not help the already tense relationship between Judah and Rome.
Non-Messianic Jews separated themselves from Messianic Jews, sometimes persecuting them violently, and Roman persecution of Christians added incentive for the traditional Jews to distance themselves from Messianic Jews and especially from the Gentile converts whom they rejected outright.
As the Jews came to be as hated as the Christians, Many new Gentile converts encouraged this separation and changed their own religious practices to make the difference even more pronounced. They stopped keeping a seventh-day Sabbath. They changed which days of the week they fasted on. They changed the dates and traditions of God’s holy days or else stop keeping them altogether. They did everything they could not to look or sound like Jews while still worshiping a Jewish God and a Jewish Messiah.
Within a few centuries, The Way became Christianity while those of the Circumcision either returned to Judaism or joined Christianity, abandoning their traditions and many of the commandments of God altogether. Meanwhile, Gentiles including many Jews and Ephraimites, who had long forgotten their identity, continued converting to Christianity, making the gap between the faiths even greater.
Once again the end result was two opposing camps: Judah, separated and despised by the world, and Christianity, wanting to be part of the world, despised for a time, but eventually conquering Rome itself.
Jesus once told his disciples that men would hate them because they first hated him. Because men hate God, his law, and everything that highlights their ultimate accountability to him as creator and judge, man’s evil inclination drives him to hate that which God loves. It wouldn’t matter if the Jews had behaved with perfect righteousness throughout their history. Men will hate God’s chosen people because they first hated God.
During the formative centuries of rabbinic Judaism, the Jewish people became more resistant to assimilation than ever before. There was no place on earth that they could call their own, nowhere to live according to their own customs as every other people did, yet they remained visibly distinct from the surrounding Christian and Pagan peoples.
For the next seventeen hundred years, Christians were fickle friends to the Jews at best. One King invited them to settle within his borders, and then another kicked them out again. Warm welcome turned to indifference, resentment, suspicion, and finally persecution. Sometimes there were religious reasons for these shifts and sometimes political, but there were always economic reasons, and people are naturally suspicious of others who look and behave differently, who don’t blend in, and this same pattern has repeated up to the present day.
Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Christendom was engaged in an existential struggle with Islam, and the Jews were often caught in the middle, alternately persecuted and befriended by one side or the other.
After the Middle Ages, came the Reconquista and the expulsion from Spain, migration to the new world, Soviet pogroms, and the Nazi genocide. In other words, more of the same.
Until recent decades, Muslims were usually kinder to the Jews than Christians were, especially in Spain, but the Jews have never been truly secure or welcomed for too many generations in any land, the United States being one of the very rare exceptions.
This perennial anti-semitism was fertile ground for malicious myth-making.
Accusations of kidnapping of children, human sacrifice, and drinking or eating human blood, especially at Passover, were common in the late Middle Ages.
More recent myths usually feature the idea that contemporary Jews, especially those of Ashkenazi descent, were never really Jews at all, but some other group of people, who usurped the identity of Judah in order to…
Well, the why of such theories is never very clear.
The fact is that modern genetic science has conclusively demonstrated that the Jewish populations from all over the world are related. The Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe have about 30 to 40 percent European and other DNA add mixtures, which is what you might expect after thousands of years of living in exile in foreign lands.
Despite much wild-eyed speculation to the contrary, the people known today as Jews all over the world are genetically descended from people who lived in the region of Judea about 2,000 years ago.
So where is Israel today? I want you to remember back to episode 1. If you haven’t seen it pause this video now and go back and watch it. Episodes 1 & 2 provide important background information for what I’m about to tell you.
Here’s a quick recap for those of you who have already seen the previous episodes. When Jacob was still alive, Israel and a small mixed multitude went into Egypt at the Exodus. Israel, plus a large mixed multitude, left Egypt and, in the promised land, Israel gained yet more mixed multitudes through conquest, assimilation, and intermarriage.
Long after the nation of Israel was divided into separate kingdoms, Ephraim was scattered to the world and mixed with the native peoples wherever they went. Judah was also scattered and mixed, although to a lesser extent than Ephraim. Some from the southern tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon were scattered with Ephraim or deliberately rejected their ancestral heritage, and some from the northern tribes of Israel were absorbed by Judah. But most of them adapted to pagan and Christian cultures so long ago that they no longer have any idea that they might once have been part of Israel.
Over the many centuries since Jacob died, Israel has adopted, assimilated, conquered, and married people from every nation on earth, even while they themselves were scattered, enslaved, assimilated, and married in the opposite direction.
The consistent pattern of history is that of Israel divided into two camps. In one camp are the people we call Jews. Today, just as they were at the time of Moses, David, and Jesus, the Jews consists of a core of the natural children of Jacob with a significant component of people adopted from the nations. The second camp of Israel also includes a core of physical descendants of Jacob, but that core is impossible to identify or count today.
Where did those lost Ephraimites go? Who are they? More importantly, does it even matter?
I’ll answer that and other important questions in Episode 4. Don’t miss it!
This is Jay Carper from AmericanTorah.com, for a stronger America and the kingdom of God.
As I noted regarding Episode 1, the text below is the transcript of a video, so it doesn’t read as smoothly as something intended to be read.
Welcome to episode two of Who Is Israel. In episode one we covered the history of Israel from God’s covenant with Abraham up to the reign of King Solomon. Let’s pick up right where we left off.
King Solomon made Israel into a trade giant and created large public works, but he also generated enormous personal wealth and imported foreign religions.
Big government always brings higher taxes, and Solomon’s government was no different. He increased taxes and other demands on his own people, including sending many of them to foreign lands as slaves and hired workers. All of this fomented divisions between the tribes that dated from before Saul.
Solomon died around 930 BC, and his son Rehoboam became King after him. Rehoboam continued the domestic practices of Solomon, raising taxes even higher and importing more idolatry. His misguided policies finally split the nation in two.
Jeroboam, in Ephraim, led the ten northern tribes in rebellion.
In order to break spiritual ties to the south, he created an alternate religious system with a temple in his own tribal territory, and in order to break economic dependence, he formed stronger ties with foreign peoples to the north. The end result was two kingdoms, both Israel.
The southern kingdom was primarily made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin with parts of Levi and Simeon. When the two groups split, many refugees from the northern tribes fled south to join relatives who already lived there.
The southern kingdom was called Judah because that tribe was dominant, but is sometimes referred to in the Bible simply by the name of her capital city, Jerusalem.
The northern kingdom was dominated by Ephraim. In Scripture, she is called Israel, Ephraim, Samaria, or Shomron and was made up of the ten northern tribes: Zebulon, Issachar, Naphtali, Dan, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Gad with parts of Levi and Simeon. And just as some from the north move south to Judah, some from Judah undoubtedly settled in the north.
The nation was divided between two kingdoms, but whether in the north or the south, the natural descendants of Jacob as well as those who had been naturalized into Israel over the centuries were all Israel, God’s chosen people.
This is when things begin to get more complicated.
The Assyrian Empire engaged in a series of invasions of Israel between 740 and 720 BC with the brutality of Israel’s earlier Canaanite invasion, but on a much larger scale. The Assyrians killed millions of people across the Middle East, but they fought a different kind of conquest.
They didn’t just take the land and subjugate people. They wanted to incorporate those whom they had conquered into their own, to destroy them as a separate people and turn them all into Assyrians. In order to do that, they employed a systematic program of relocation. After killing a significant portion of the conquered nation, they would scatter the survivors throughout their empire, thus destroying their former national identity and helping to prevent future rebellions.
During these invasions the people of Israel followed four paths.
Many fled south to Judah. Every war has its refugees. The wealthy and the landless were able to escape more quickly and they were mostly assimilated by Judah.
Others were resettled within the Assyrian Empire. They were scattered from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf where they mixed with other people who were already there. This was a deliberate attempt to destroy their ethnic identity.
Many years later when Babylon gave Judah a similar, but less drastic treatment, some few of Israel who had managed to retain their heritage by banding together in small communities were assimilated by exiled Judah. Most, however, completely forgot their identity as Israel and were assimilated by other people within Assyria.
A few more escaped beyond Assyria’s reach into Egypt, Arabia, and the Mediterranean. Some, who were taken away by the Assyrians, kept going into Persia and Central Asia, and most of these forgot their identity as Israel as well.
Despite the violence of Assyria’s invasions, some remained in the Land of Israel. They were farmers, in small villages, and hill people. They eventually merged with other peoples resettled by Assyria in their land and became the Samaritans and, later, Hellenized Jews.
The end result was that there were two groups of Ephraim in exile:
Ephraimites, living in Judah and still in cohesive communities when Babylon replaced Syria, mostly came to identify as Jews.
Other Ephraimites, including many of those still in the Land of Israel, were scattered and assimilated into the nations.
The southern kingdom of Judah lasted 120 years longer than the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Babylon eventually replaced Assyria as the dominant regional power and began a series of invasions into Judah. The first invasion took place around 605 BC.
Some of Judah fled South to Egypt, Arabia, and other places in the opposite direction from Babylon, but most people stayed, and the kingdom became a vassal state of Babylon.
Within a few years, however, King Jehoiakim switched allegiances to Egypt. This resulted in a second invasion around 597 BC. The city of Jerusalem was besieged and eventually recaptured. The city and temple were looted, and King Jehoiakim was killed.
More refugees fled south, and about 50,000 captives were taken to Babylon, including young Jechoniah. As before, most of the people stayed in the land of Judah and continued as vassals of Babylon.
King Nebuchadnezzar placed Jechoniah’s uncle Zedekiah on the throne in Jerusalem, but like Jehoiakim, he too soon rebelled, and Babylon invaded a third time in 586 BC. This time, Jerusalem was completely destroyed along with the temple.
More refugees fled south across Arabia and Africa, but most of the people of Judah were taken as prisoners to the Euphrates Valley. Very few Israelites were left in Judea after this.
These exiles of Judah in Babylon absorbed many of the people of Ephraim who had maintained their identity as Israel after the Assyrian invasion of the north. However, much of Ephraim was too scattered or had already been assimilated by other peoples by this time.
The end result of Judah’s destruction was two groups of people in exile who came to be known as Jews: the Jews in Babylon and the Jews in diaspora among the nations.
But this was not the end of either Judah or Israel. Centuries before, God had predicted all of this, including that they would fall away and be exiled. But God also promised to have mercy on them and to restore them when they repent.
While Judah was in exile in Babylon, Jews had migrated throughout the Babylonian Empire. Very few lived in Judea. The land was occupied by Samaritans, Canaanites, and others, while Edomites had begun moving in from the southeast.
In about 540 BC, Persia conquered Babylon and became the new supreme power in the Middle East. King Cyrus allowed some Jews to return to Judea and rebuild the temple over a long period between 540 and 440 BC. Zerubabbel, Ezra, and Nehemiah were part of this migration, but all Israel didn’t return at that time. Those who came back to Judea were relatively few and almost exclusively from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
Most Jews remained in distant lands, many migrating across the Persian Empire in Asia. Jews had spread throughout Mesopotamia even into the Indus Valley in Central Asia. In Africa, Jews lived in Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia, and probably even further west and south, but all empires eventually fall.
Around 330 BC, the Greeks and Macedonians conquered Persia and Judea. The Jews continued their migratory pattern of following armies and trade routes of their conquerors into every corner of the new Empire. They moved across the Greek Empire en masse into southeastern Europe around the Black Sea and across North Africa.
Many Jews probably also drifted back to Judea during this brief time of relative peace and tolerance.
Around 160 BC Judah Maccabee revolted and set up a new Jewish Kingdom. Many Jews returned to Judea at that time, although many more still lived outside of the borders of Judea than inside. During their rule the Maccabees conquered neighboring kingdoms including Edom whom they forcibly converted to Judaism. Many individuals of those conquered peoples were assimilated by Judea over the ensuing centuries.
Most of the old Canaanite peoples had vanished by this time, having been completely assimilated, or destroyed. Their descendants among Israel had been recognized as full Israelites for centuries, with little to no distinction between them and fully pedigreed Israelites.
Around 60 BC the Romans conquered Syria and Judea. Under Roman rule, Edom and Judah were separated and recombined in various ways by shifting politics, and Jews migrated further across the Mediterranean and southern Europe.
Over time Jews came to occupy professional classes wherever they went. Nearly every significant Roman city had Jewish settlements and many Roman military units had attached Jewish scribes. By 70 AD the Jews had permanent settlements throughout the world known to the Romans and beyond.
Over the centuries Israel had scattered as refugees beyond the reach of conquerors, they had been subjected to mass forced relocations, large numbers of their people had been enslaved, they endured persecutions and forced conversions to foreign religions.
But not all of their population changes had been involuntary. They followed trade routes to and from distant lands, they intermarried with foreign peoples, many non-Jews became proselytes and were adopted into Israel, and, just as Israelites were enslaved and forced to convert, so too Israel subjected others to slavery and forced conversions, and all of this before their most infamous confrontation with Rome.
At the end of the first Diaspora, in one respect Israel looked very much like they had at the beginning, but from another angle they look very different indeed.
Israel started as two camps: Judah and Ephraim. Each change in world power caused the Israelites, both Jew and Ephraimite, to scatter even further until they settled far beyond the boundaries of the world known to other Mediterranean peoples. They scattered among the nations separately. First Ephraim and then Judah. Many Ephraimites were absorbed by Judah, but each of them also adopted people from out of the nations and were in turn adopted into the nations.
Israel ended the first diaspora as she began: in two camps. But the nature of the two groups had changed dramatically. Members of both Judah and Ephraim were assimilated into the nations in the places where they were scattered, but Ephraim had long faded to invisibility in the world as a distinct people, while Judah attempted to keep herself separate.
As it always does, history soon repeated itself. A Jewish revolt in 66 AD was the first of several over the next century sparked by nationalist uprisings, false messiahs, and liberation movements. Subsequent Roman invasions resulted in mass crucifixions and millions dead. Ultimately the Jews were banished from Judea by Rome, the land was renamed Palestina after the Jews’ old enemies, the Philistines, and Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina. The Jewish people were scattered further than ever, many trying to escape the reach of Rome just as Ephraim had fled Assyria.
But another movement spread with and ahead of the Jews.
We’ll hear more about that in episode 3. Don’t miss it and don’t forget to stop by the blog at AmericanTorah.com.
This is Jay Carper for the kingdom of God and a stronger America.
There is a lot of confusion and many competing theories today about the place of Gentiles who have come to believe in Israel’s Messiah. Are we Israel? Are we Ephraim? Are we something else entirely? In my Who Is Israel video series, I attempt to answer these questions as well as closely related questions about the Jews.
This is episode 1. I posted a transcript below the video, but don’t expect it to read like a polished text article. It’s awkward, repetitious, and simplistic. In part, that’s the nature of video transcripts. It’s also an artifact of my lack of experience in creating videos. I expect the video, sound quality, and transcripts will improve as I get more practice.
Christians of all denominations, whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Messianic, all love God and want to do what’s right and obey him, but I’m afraid that we’ve forgotten our roots. Most of us have.
The New Testament writings are rooted in the Old Testament and can’t be understood without it. Almost every teaching of Jesus, John, and all the New Testament writers are straight from the Old Testament. Paul’s letters, for example, are primarily commentary on the Old Testament for Gentiles who are new to the faith.
Hi, my name is Jay Carper from American Torah, and my mission is to highlight the deep roots of New Testament theology in the Old Testament. I want to make all of the Bible relevant for Americans today.
Since I write a lot about Torah and keeping God’s law, people frequently ask me if I’m Jewish. I’m not, but it’s a reasonable question. I also see a lot of discussion on social media about the technical meaning of the word Jew.
Who is a Jew? Are the Jews the same as Israel? Are the Jews of today the same as the Jews of Jesus’ day? Is the church Israel? Did God reject the Jews in favor of the church? Where did the Ten Lost Tribes go? Where they lost at all?
These can be sensitive questions even when asked completely without any rancor. I understand why some people get defensive and angry when they hear them, but I don’t think it’s wrong to ask honest questions. I can’t think of anything that shouldn’t be questioned to some extent. Sincere and thoughtful questions deserve sincere and thoughtful answers.
There are four questions related to Jews and Israel that I want to answer in this video:
First, who are the Jews?
Second, who is Israel?
Third, who or what is the Synagogue of Satan, and
Fourth, what does this have to do with you and me?
In order to answer those questions, I’m going to trace the history of Israel and the Jews from ancient Mesopotamia all the way through to the 21st century. I’ll touch on their origins in Abraham, their migrations, the invasions, all the spiritual revolutions that happen to Israel over the centuries, what happened to the northern ten tribes after the Assyrian invasion, how yesterday’s Israel became today’s Jews, how the Jews became scattered around the world, who the Jews are today, Israel and prophecy, and what the relationship of the Chris Church is to Israel.
Sometime between 2000 and 1500 BC God began a process of division. He began dividing covenant people from non covenant people.
Abraham was born in Mesopotamia, probably somewhere in modern Iraq. He is widely considered to be the first Hebrew. The word Hebrew comes from an ancient word meaning one who crosses over, and this applies to Abraham in two ways. First, Abraham crossed over from paganism to faith in the true God, and second, he crossed over from his home in Mesopotamia east of the Jordan into the Promised Land.
During his travels, God made covenants with Abraham, including several promises. First, to make him into a great nation and, second, to bless all peoples of the earth through him.
Abraham had a son through his wife’s servant, Hagar. His name was Ishmael. He was born after God made the covenant to make Abraham into a nation,
but Ishmael would not be the vehicle of God’s promises, so he was not counted in the Covenant. God blessed Ishmael, but he did not inherit the Covenant from Abraham.
Later, when Abraham was 99 years old, God promised him a son by his wife Sarah. That sons name was Isaac. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. He’s called the son of promise, and he is the inheritor of the covenant.
Abraham also married a woman named Keturah. He had more sons, but these sons also weren’t part of the Covenant. Only one son inherited that covenant from Abraham, and that was Isaac.
Isaac also had two sons. His first son was Esau. Esau despised his covenant birthright, so God despised him too and cut him off from the covenant people. Isaac’s second son was Jacob. Jacob wanted the Covenant and so he inherited it from Isaac. As with the previous generation, the Covenant went to one son and not the other.
Ishmael, the sons of Keturah, and Esau were all descendants of Abraham, but they would not become part of Israel. Over two generations God split each family into two camps. One inherited the Covenant and one didn’t. But something changed with Jacob. Instead of subtracting people from the covenant, God began adding them.
Jacob married two women, creating a divided house. Leah, with her servant girl and their sons, became one house. Rachel, with her servant girl and their sons, became another. So Jacobs children formed two sub houses, but, unlike Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau, the sons of all four women inherited as part of the Covenant. None of his sons were skipped over or cut off from the covenant. Jacob, whom God later renamed to Israel, had twelve sons, and they all inherited it alike.
Abraham and Isaac had many servants in their lifetimes and those servants benefited from being part of their houses, but just like Ishmael and Keturah, they didn’t inherit the Covenant with Isaac and Jacob.
Jacob also acquired servants throughout his journeys, and his sons acquired many more, but the Bible says they entered Egypt as 70 people. These are only only the literal sons of Jacob because the servants aren’t formally counted with Israel. Servants still counted as members of the households and the Egyptians made no distinction. They treated them all as a single people.
The Bible only enumerates the literal sons of Jacob, but we know that many more people than this had been assimilated into Israel and entered Egypt with them. They spent 200 years in Egypt, and there were probably many other people enslaved there with them. Many of them merged with the Hebrews during that time. Jacob’s 70 became a multitude, not just through the growth of their own families, but by the absorption of other people.
At each stage God divided Israel from not Israel. With Abraham and Isaac God subtracted but with Jacob God added.
The Hebrews spent 200 years in Egypt after Jacob’s family of 70 left Canaan and all during this time God continued his refining process of adding and subtracting people from Israel. The Hebrews were persecuted and enslaved in Egypt, but as always God had a plan of salvation.
More than 2 million people left Egypt with Moses into the wilderness, and during those 2 centuries in Egypt if every Hebrew family had 10 children who survived into adulthood, and each of those children had ten more of their own, the Hebrews alone could have accounted for all of the people who left in the exodus, but it doesn’t seem likely.
The Hebrews had a very harsh life in Egypt. They endured hard manual labor of slavery. They worked in farming, fishing, and building construction, all of which could be dangerous occupations. Some people, even 3500 years ago, never even had children and many others, like Isaac and Rebecca, only had a few. Some who did have large families unfortunately lose some of their children at a young age through disease or violence, such as when Pharaoh ordered the infant Hebrew boys to be thrown into the Nile. If that weren’t enough some Israelites probably assimilated into Egyptian and other foreign cultures. They got tired of waiting for God’s Redemption and stopped being Hebrews altogether.
The people who left Egypt with Moses were probably mostly descendants of Jacob, but also would have included many people from other nations, including other descendants of Abraham, such as the Midianites and completely foreign people such as Kushites. The Bible calls these people a mixed multitude.
The people who entered the Promised Land were a mixed group of Hebrews, Egyptians, Edomites, Kushites, and others, but God still called them all Israel. In the wilderness Israel lost many people through several rebellions. There was the incident of the golden calf at Sinai, Korah’s rebellion, the faithlessness of the ten spies, and several incidents of the people complaining against God. They had conflicts with Moabites, Midianites, and others. Many people died. They weren’t separated or exiled from the rest of the nation, but they were culled by death.
At the time that Israel entered the promised land, God had told them that they were to conquer all of the peoples across the Jordan. Not immediately, but in time and without compromise. Eventually all of the Canaanites were to be entirely destroyed or dispossessed. They started strong under Joshua’s leadership, but never finished the job. They left Philistines, Moabites, and Midianites in the south. They left Canaanites, Hittites, and others in the north.
During the time of the judges intermarriage and assimilation worked both ways. The Israelites assimilated into Canaanite people and ceased being Israelites at all, while Canaanites assimilated into Israel and became Hebrews. Each group remained a separate people, but the lines between them blurred over the next 400 years.
By the time Samuel anointed Saul king of Israel there was a significant amount of admixture in Israel, yet God still called all of those who are descended from Jacob along with all of those who joined the Hebrews in worshiping Him “Israel”, and treated the whole as a single people.
King Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin, but he began a process of uniting the divided tribes of Israel. They were essentially twelve loosely allied tribes each with their own leadership. Saul mostly united the people and defeated many of Israel’s enemies, but he didn’t destroy all of the Canaanites and Philistines.
King David completed the process of the unification that Saul had begun, but he too failed to purge the land of Canaanites and Philistines. He conquered numerous neighboring kingdoms, subjugated many foreign people, bringing foreign slaves into Israel as laborers and as war captives. History tells us that war almost inevitably brings intermarriage and at least a partial merging of cultures.
David’s son, Solomon, established wide-ranging trade networks. He sent Israelites with Phoenician ships all across the Mediterranean, probably much of the Indian Ocean as well, and through these trade networks, many foreigners immigrated to Israel, including many of Sullivan’s wives. Trade, like war, also brings intermarriage. Solomon married many non-Hebrews and his officials likely did the same.
Israel absorbed many people from the surrounding kingdoms during this time, and many Israelites emigrated to foreign lands and stayed there. Despite all this movement of people, and the assimilation of many foreigners into Israel, in time, there was no real distinction made between the descendants of those people and the descendants of Jacob. God treated them all as Israel.
In this episode, we talked about the origins of Israel in God’s covenant with Abraham, the refining of the Covenant people until Jacob, Israel’s time in Egypt, and Israel as a nation up until King Solomon. In Episode two will begin at Solomon’s death and the division of Israel into two kingdoms.
Don’t forget to check out the blog at AmericanTorah.com.
This is Jay Carper for the kingdom of God and a stronger America. Be blessed.