Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes 32(but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel).'”[1 Kings 11:30-32]
Near the end of Solomon’s life, the LORD God pronounced a serious judgement against the king that would forever change the future of Israel and at the same time set into motion the most compelling display of love and redemption the world has ever known.
Showing total disregard for God’s commandments, King Solomon became spiritually compromised and corrupt, introducing all Israel to pagan idolatry and gross immorality (1 Kings 11:1-10). So severe was Solomon’s sin, the LORD swore to strip the Kingdom of Israel from the hands of his son and rightful heir to David’s throne — Rehoboam. Israel was ripe for rebellion and the very moment Solomon died (circa 932 B.C.), the kingdom quickly fractured into two distinct kingdoms/nations, or what commonly became known as the two houses of Israel.
Jeroboam — representing Ephraim — was given authority over the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom, which became known as the house of Israel (aka Joseph).
Rehoboam — representing the royal house of Judah/David — retained 2 tribes in the Southern Kingdom, which became known as the house of Judah (aka the Jews).
While the royal house of Judah retained control over the capital city Jerusalem and more importantly the administration of worship in the House of God, Jeroboam wasted no time in establishing his own capital in Samaria and creating a competitive religious system, which was at best a syncretic blend of pagan idolatry with a perverse form of the priesthood.
Although the LORD did prevent the two kingdoms — Judah and Israel — from escalating into all out civil war [1 Kings 12:21-24], they irreparably were broken. The Northern Kingdom of Israel would be subjected to an unbroken line of wicked kings and defined by generations of apostasy and idolatry, while the Kingdom of Judah would give rise to a only handful of righteous kings in David’s house and preserve a faithful remnant of God’s covenant people.
DEFINING OUR TERMS BIBLICALLY
“In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the LORD their God. 5They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.’ 6“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold.“[Jeremiah 50:4-6]
From the time the Kingdom of Israel was divided, the Biblical prophets were precise in how they communicated both to and about these two separate kingdoms, or houses. The Scriptures are replete with references specifically to the house of Israel — which also was identified with alternative nicknames such as Ephraim, Joseph, and sometimes Samaria. At the same time, the Bible clearly distinguishes Israel from the house of Judah, which exclusively represents the Jewish people.
In other words, a Jew is a person who distinctly can trace his ethnic descent from the tribe of Judah. This is most important in arriving at accurate Biblical terminology and concepts . While all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews! For example, Moses — a Levite — was not a Jew. Joshua was not a Jew but rather from the tribe of Ephraim. Only those who come from the house of Judah are Jews.
One of the most unfortunate errors in all of orthodoxy is to automatically conflate the terms Jews and Israelites, or Judah and Israel. The Bible makes a distinction between Judah and Israel, and we should too. Otherwise, one of the most important theological threads throughout Scripture will be lost.
For a more modern analogy, consider the United States of America. While every Texan is an American, not all Americans are Texans. There remains important distinction among the 50 states, while every state is still a part of the greater national commonwealth of America.
It is no different with the 12 Tribes of Israel. Judah is just one of the tribes of Israel and therefore does not represent the “whole house” of Israel. When the Scriptures speak of the whole house of Israel, or “all” Israel, it is referring to all 12 tribes. Therefore, the Jews do not represent all Israel but only a remnant.
THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL IS SCATTERED
The house of Israel (Ephraim) persisted in idolatry for 200 years after the split, and the LORD sent His prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea, to desperately call Israel back to repentance. Sadly, Ephraim refused to come back to the LORD — her Husband — and pursued other gods instead, finally forcing the LORD to make a heartbreaking but necessary decision.
The God of Israel would divorce the Northern Kingdom, or the house of Israel [NOT JUDAH — see Hosea 1:6-7], and send her away in disgrace as a serial adulteress, removing her from her homeland and scattering her to the four winds of the earth, where the house of Israel (Ephraim) would become wanderers and exiles among the nations. The house of Israel effectively would cease to exist as a people and be absorbed by the Gentiles, while Judah would retain her ethnic identity up until this very day.
All their wickedness is in Gilgal,
For there I hated them.
Because of the evil of their deeds
I will drive them from My house;
I will love them no more.
All their princes are rebellious.
16Ephraim is stricken,
Their root is dried up;
They shall bear no fruit.
Yes, were they to bear children,
I would kill the darlings of their womb.
17My God will cast them away,[Hosea 9:15-17]
Because they did not obey Him;
And they shall be wanderers among the nations.
The division of the two houses — Israel and Judah — seemed to be irreversible because the house of Israel permanently was lost as a people — God’s people Israel were no longer His people and He was no longer their Husband. The original marriage covenant of Sinai tragically ended in divorce!
But at the very same time … God made a promise that He would not abandon and forsake the house of Israel forever, but would one day bring her back and remarry Israel in righteousness and faithful covenantal love.
Consider the words of the LORD through Hosea.
Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son.
9Then God said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi,
For you are not My people,
And I will not be your God.“
10Yet the number of the children of Israel[Hosea 1:8-11]
Shall be as the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered.
And it shall come to pass
In the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’
There it shall be said to them,
‘You are sons of the living God.’
11Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel
Shall be gathered together,
And appoint for themselves one head;
And they shall come up out of the land,
For great will be the day of Jezreel!
God’s promise of a future restoration and a new marriage contract with Israel, however, was virtually impossible. At least two seemingly immovable obstacles persisted.
- The house of Israel intermingled and intermarried with the Gentiles and practically became a mixed multitude and therefore indistinguishable from the Gentiles. Israel was assimilated culturally, genetically, spiritually, and geographically. Truly lost in the sense that Israel as a distinct people could no longer be identified.
- In the Torah, God forbid the remarriage of an adulterous wife who had been divorced, calling it an abomination (see Deuteronomy 24 and Romans 7). God cannot break His own commandment!
How could the LORD bring a lost people, a wayward wife back home, if divorced Israel could never come back to their God (Husband) according to the law?
There was only one way … the Bridegroom had to die to release His adulteress wife from the original marriage contract, freeing her to remarry again, and then the Bridegroom had to be raised from the dead legally as a new man and therefore free to remarry His original Bride — Israel — in a new and better covenant because it was purchased and ratified in the blood of the sinless Son of God and Sacrificial Lamb — Yeshua the Christ — the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the lost sheep of the house of Israel (see Matthew 15:24).
To get more details about the Bridegroom God’s amazing love demonstrated Israel at the cross, be sure to read my last post in this series HERE.
THE FULLNESS OF THE GENTILES — MELO HAGOYIM
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,[Romans 11:25-27]
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
The Bridegroom was willing to die for His Bride to bring her back into covenant relationship, yet there still remained the undeniable fact that the house of Israel had dissolved into the nations and no longer could be identified as a people group. So how would God overcome this obstacle?
To find out, we must go all the way back to the patriarch Jacob (Israel) and discover God’s prophetic promise from the very beginning.
Just before Jacob died, he blessed Joseph’s two son, Manasseh and Ephraim, and he pronounced a fascinating prophecy over Ephraim, the younger son.
Then Jacob said to Joseph: “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’ 5And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.[Genesis 48:3-5]
Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. 15And he blessed Joseph, and said:
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,
16the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He (Manasseh) also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”[Genesis 48:14-16, 19]
Did you catch that?
God promised to make Jacob’s descendants into a “multitude” of nations, and Jacob specifically identified Ephraim as the one through whom this promise would be fulfilled! Obviously the house of Judah does not represent a “multitude of nations.” So how did the LORD accomplish this?
God expelled the house of Israel (Ephraim) from the land, dispersing the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into the nations, where the seed of Israel would be mixed with the Gentiles, growing into multitude of nations! So through Israel’s rebellion and dispersion, God produced literal, genetic descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel all over the world.
This is exactly what Paul meant by the phrase — the “fullness of the Gentiles.” Paul is directly quoting from Jacob’s own words in Genesis 48!
This Hebrew phrase found in Genesis 48:19 — מְלא גּוֺיִם — literally is translated the “fullness of the Gentiles.” This phrase comes from two Hebrew words — melo: fullness, that which fills + goyim: nations, peoples = Fullness of the Gentiles.
So by scattering the seed of Jacob into the nations, God exponentially multiplied his descendants for generations, and at the same time God promised to gather Israel back and restore her in the end! This is at the very heart of the gospel!
In my next post, we will delve even deeper to see the amazing contrast between how God used both the scattering of Ephraim to the nations and the preservation of the house of Judah to bring about the perfect plan of redemption and the establishment of a new marriage covenant in Messiah!