After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. Revelation 7:9

Tribes and Nations

This website is all about explaining how Christianity is rooted in the Tanakh (Old Testament Ė Jewish scriptures) and how the Christian has been grafted in to Godís people like a wild olive branch grafted into the cultivated olive tree of Israel.  

But who exactly is meant by Israel.    (It does not mean a new, spiritual, replacement for Old Testament Israel Ė that is Replacement Theology)

Until the time of Yeshua (Jesus), the peoples of the world could be divided up into the Children of Israel and the pagan nations.   The distinction was between those who had a covenant with Elohim , the one true God and all the nations who worshipped sun, moon and stars and animal and earth deities.

Bedouin tents and flocks between Jerusalem and Jericho

The first covenant was made with Avram, who as a result became Avraham.   God said he would make him a nation.   The word for nation in Hebrew is Goy, and the plural is goyim.   Thus all the other peoples were the goyim.   ( the English word is Gentiles)

Genesis 17 v3   

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 

Avraham was the father of Itzchak (Isaac) and Itzchak was the father of Yaakov (Jacob) who had his name changed to Isírael (strove with man and with God and prevailed).

Israel and his twelve sons went down into Egypt and became a large people who eventually became enslaved by Pharoah. Yaakov (Israel) pronounced blessings on his sons from his deathbed. Judah was blessed to be the one from whom kings would descend.    Genesis 49 v8-10   

"Judah, your brothers will praise you;  your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;  your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, O Judah;  you return from the prey, my son.    Like a lion he crouches and lies down,  like a lioness--who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah,  nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,  until he comes to whom it belongs"
"He to whom it belongs" is from the Hebrew  " Shiloh"  (until Shiloh comes),  and clearly refers to Messiah.

Reuven had lost his birthright blessing as firstborn (1 Chronicles 5 v1-2) ).   This birthright blessing was given to the sons of Yosef (Joseph), Manessah and Efrayim (Ephraim).   Ephraim received the firstborn blessing in spite of being the younger. (Genesis 48 v14-21 )

But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim's head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.  Then he blessed Joseph and said,  "May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm -may he bless these boys.  May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth."    When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim's head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. Joseph said to him, "No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head."  But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations." He blessed them that day and said,  "In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing:  `May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.' "

Israel became a covenant nation when Adonai delivered them by the hand of Moshe (Moses) and gave them the Torah (teaching or instruction) and the Tent of Meeting whilst they were en route to the Promised Land.

The twelve sons of Israel were The twelve tribes were counted in Numbers 1 were
Reuven, Reuven
Shimeon, Shimeon
Gad Gad
Yíhudah Yíhudah
Issachar Issachar
Zevulun Zevulun
Binyamin Binyamin
Dan Dan
Asher Asher
Naftali Naftali
Levi  -  whose family became the priestly tribe  
Yosef Efrayim

The tribes listed in Numbers 1 were allocated plots around the Tent of Meeting.   Although Efrayim and Manasseh were half tribes, they were both large and prominent.    Levi was listed separate from the twelve as they were the priests and came under different rules and provisions. 

In time God allowed Israel to have a king and, after a bad start with Saul, David (from the tribe of Y'hudah (Judah) was made king.   David was a man after Godís heart and was in many ways a picture of Messiach (The anointed one (Christos, in Greek)) who was promised.   God / YHVH / promised David that his descendents would always have a successor on his throne.   

To David, through Natan the Prophet - Samuel 7 v12-17

When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.' "    Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

Israel's blessing to Judah - Genesis 49 v8-10

"Judah, your brothers will praise you;  your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;  your father's sons will bow down to you. You are a lion's cub, O Judah;  you return from the prey, my son.    Like a lion he crouches and lies down,  like a lioness--who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah,  nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,  until he comes to whom it belongs" 

To Jeroboam  - 1 Kings 11 34

" `But I will not take the whole kingdom out of Solomon's hand; I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of David my servant, whom I chose and who observed my commands and statutes. I will take the kingdom from his son's hands and give you ten tribes. I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name. However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel.

Jeremiah 33 v14

" `The days are coming,' declares the LORD, `when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.   " `In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line;  he will do what is just and right in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved  and Jerusalem will live in safety.  This is the name by which it will be called:  The LORD Our Righteousness.' For this is what the LORD says: `David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.' "

Due to Solomonís sins the kingdom was divided after his death. Judah, Benjamin and part of Levi remained as Judah (what was Judea by the time of Jesus), and the rest of the tribes became Israel, with its capital in Samaria. This nation became known as Israel or Ephraim interchangeably in scripture.

Israel / Ephraim proved faithless and, after many warnings were carried off into exile by the Assyrians in 721 BCE.     They became "the lost tribes of Israel".

Judah did better, but were eventually carried off to Babylon in 581 BCE.     However, in their case a remnant returned at the end of their exile Ė Judah to their old territory and Benjamin to the Galil(Galilee).    In 70CE the Romans crushed Judea, killed over a million Jews  and dispersed the rest to the Nations.

The Ten Tribes gradually lost their special identity as God's chosen people.    Some of the people of Ephraim / Israel intermarried with Assyrians and returned to Samaria.   Thus the Samaritans kept some customs and beliefs mixed with pagan customs Ė hence the disdain with which they were viewed by the Judeans in Jesusí time.   ( Samaritans still celebrate a form of Passover on Mount Gerazim.)    However, Josephus recorded in the first century CE, "The ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude." 

The present day & Still to come

The Jews we know today are descendants of Judah, Benjamin and Levi.   Of course, down the centuries, other people have become Jews (see Ruth) and their descendants are Jews.   The state of Israel is a miracle in Godís purposes of wrapping up history, but it is not a kingdom but a secular republic.   And it is not actually Israel but Judah.   Judah maintained their God given identity (Shabbat Ė the seventh day Sabbath rest) and have suffered for it all down their history.

There is a body of scholarship that holds that the ten tribes were not lost but migrated to Western Europe where they live now, unaware of their identity.    They also believe that the royal line of David, and Jacobís stone from Bethel, can be traced right to a present day monarchy, fulfilling the promise of continuity of the kingdom.   ( see above, especially the reference to Shiloh)

Wildolive does not take a position on the mystery of "the lost tribes of Israel", as it is unclear when and if the mystery of the ten tribes will be revealed.  It is felt that the Christian should take care to avoid being sidetracked into minor issues by such matters.  Chuck Cohen observed that it is reasonable to suppose the faithful of the ten tribes were not actually lost, but would have left Israel as it went off the rails and joined themselves to Judah.

The Messianic Israel Alliance believes that Christians are ( unawares )  Ephraim returning, but yet to be united with Judah under the one king (Messiah Yeshua).   Obviously with there being so many believers from so many nations they are not all actual descendants of the ten tribes, but just as believers from the nations joined themselves to Judah and became Jews, believers in Yeshua can be seen as being joined in to Ephraim.   This is another way of seeing God's master plan for bringing all things together at the end of the age.  

(See  Ephraimites for a warning about taking a questionable position on the matter)

Ezekiel 37 v15-22 says,  

"The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, `Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.' Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, `Ephraim's stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.' Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.   "When your countrymen ask you, `Won't you tell us what you mean by this?' say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph--which is in Ephraim's hand--and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah's stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.' Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on and say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms."

Zechariah 9 v9

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you,  righteous and having salvation,   gentle and riding on a donkey,  on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem,  and the battle bow will be broken.  He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.   As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,  I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.  Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;  even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.  I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim.  I will rouse your sons, O Zion,  against your sons, O Greece,  and make you like a warrior's sword.

Jerimiah 31 v7-9  

This is what the LORD says:    "Sing with joy for Jacob;  shout for the foremost of the nations.  Make your praises heard, and say,  `O LORD, save your people,  the remnant of Israel.'  See, I will bring them from the land of the north  and gather them from the ends of the earth.  Among them will be the blind and the lame,  expectant mothers and women in labor;  a great throng will return.  They will come with weeping;  they will pray as I bring them back.  I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel's father,  and Ephraim is my firstborn son.

Remember Romans 11, from which the Wild Olive concept comes.   Romans 11 v25-29

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:  "The deliverer will come from Zion;   he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.   And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."  As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Clearly there are wonderful things yet to be revealed in God's plan for the world.


updated 31/10/16

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