10 Lost Tribes, 12 Tribes of Israel, absorbed, assimilated, blessing, blindness, civil war, divided nation, dry bones, Ephraim, exiled, first born, fullness of Gentiles, House of Israel, House of Judah, idolatry, Israel, Jews, lost identity, Northern Kingdom, partial hardening, Promised Land, rebellion, reconciled, redeemed, reunited, Samaria, Samaritans, second born, Southern Kingdom, Tribe of Ephraim, wooden sticks
But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also will become a people, and he also will become great. But his younger brother will become greater than he and his seed will be the fullness of the nations.” – Genesis 48:19, TLV
For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant of this mystery—lest you be wise in your own eyes—that a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; – Romans 11:25, TLV
Just like Isaac and Jacob were second-born sons who received the firstborn’s blessing, the same is true of Ephraim. Jacob blessed Joseph’s second-born son, Ephraim. In addition to the first-born blessing, Ephraim’s descendants also would become “the fullness of the Gentiles” (in Hebrew, melo ha’ goyim) – the fullness of those who did not belong to God.
Ephraim’s history is as follows: The nation of Israel consisted of 12 Tribes (minus the set apart tribe of Levi), which descended from the sons and grandsons of Jacob who also was called Israel. After King Solomon died, the nation of Israel had a civil war that ended with the nation splitting into two Kingdoms – the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. Ten of the 12 Tribes of Israel made up the Northern Kingdom (a.k.a., House of Israel, House of Joseph, or Ephraim). These 10 Tribes were Ruben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, and Joseph whose Tribe was divided in two: 1. Manasseh and 2. Ephraim. The remaining two Tribes were Judah and Benjamin, and they made up the Southern Kingdom that also was known as House of Judah or simply, Judah.
The Northern Kingdom established its capital in Samaria. Over time, the Tribe of Ephraim became the dominant Northern Kingdom Tribe. This Tribe became so powerful that the Northern Kingdom changed its name from Israel to Ephraim.
As a result of the Ephraim-Israelites’ idolatry and rebellion (their partial hardening or temporary blindness, as the apostle Paul describes it), God’s warned judgment on the Northern Kingdom’s 10 Tribes was for them to be scattered. They were no longer allowed to live in the Promised Land.
The Assyrians invaded Israel and took the conquered Ephraim (all 10 Tribes of Israel) into captivity. The Ephraim-Israelites were scattered among the Assyrian Empire’s 120 nations. The surviving Ephraim-Israelites assimilated and intermarried with a variety of the 120 Gentile nations of the Assyrian Empire until the vast majority of these Ephraim-Israelites lost their identity and became Gentiles (also known as the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel) who have Hebrew blood in them.
After the Southern Kingdom also rebelled and committed idolatry, it also was taken into captivity – Babylonian captivity. The Jews stayed in Babylon for 70 years. At the end of Judah’s 70-year exile, some Jews were allowed to return to Israel. Additionally, at this time, the King of Assyria sent some Ephraim-Israelites back to live in Samaria. The descendants of these Ephraim-Israelites were the Samaritans in Jesus’ day. Their ancestors were always at odds with the Jews from Judah who also returned to Israel.
While the Southern Kingdom of Judah returned to Israel, the bulk of the Northern Kingdom never returned. Indeed, they couldn’t return because they had defiled themselves. For this reason, God gave them a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).
Eventually, the Northern Kingdom’s 10 Tribes, the remnant who still had its Israelite identity (those individuals who maintained their tribal affiliation and memory of their Hebrew roots), were scattered to the four corners of the world. Here was where most of them were absorbed by the Gentile nations, losing their identity and becoming Gentiles, themselves, who have Hebrew blood in them.
There has been a small remnant of the 10 Lost Tribes that have been rediscovered. They, however, are quick to note that they are from Israel, but they are not Jews. They are correct. The Ephraim-Israelites were from the Kingdom of Ephraim and not from the Kingdom of Judah. Only the people who lived in Judah were known as “Jews” – Jew is the slang term given to the House of Judah members who lived in the land of Judah, which later became known as Judea. Thus, those individuals who lived in Judea were considered “Jews,” as well.
Since God promised that ALL of Israel will be saved (Isaiah 45:17, 59:20; Romans 11:26), that would mean He would have to resurrect and reunite both the entire 10 Lost Tribes of Israel/Ephraim and the Tribe of Judah that also was scattered to the four corners of the world, after 70 AD. Their resurrection and reunion are seen in Ezekiel 37:1-14 (the resurrection of the dry bones that are reunited), and in Ezekiel 37:15-16 (the two sticks [Ephraim and Judah] being reunited). They become one!
It is a Great Mystery – how God will miraculously fix it so that He can be married again to the 10 Lost Tribes, as well as all lost Jews. After all, it is written that Jesus died for the 10 Lost Tribes so that He could bring these lost sheep back into the fold (John 10:15-17). God can keep His Word because Jesus died and was resurrected so that He is now able to redeem His lost sheep and remarry, via the New Covenant, everyone who is reborn as new creatures in Him.
Through Christ, it is now possible for divorced Ephraim (the entire Northern Kingdom) to become the prophesied multitude of nations – the fullness of Gentiles – and not just be scattered among them. That’s right! The fullness of Gentiles refers to the House of Israel (Ephraim) that was scattered and completely absorbed by the world’s Gentile nations and, thus, became Gentiles themselves. As long as these Gentiles who have any amount of Hebrew blood in them are obedient and faithful to Christ and Father God, they can be redeemed, remarried, and allowed to return to the Promised Land of Israel.
Scripture tells us that the fullness of Gentiles will be completed in the prophesied third day. The prophet Hosea writes:
After two days He
will revive us.
On the third day He will raise us up,
and we will live in His presence. – Hosea 6:2, TLV
Once we Gentiles who are also born again, saved, and are being sanctified believers understand the importance of the nation of Israel’s division, we will better understand how the Old and New Testament Scriptures are describing, explaining, and revealing so much more than we ever could have imagined. Moreover, we will understand that lineage isn’t what Father God is concerned about; indeed, even if we don’t have any Hebrew blood in us, if we are obedient and faithful to Christ and Father God, and if we are united with those Gentiles who do have Hebrew blood, then we can be united with them and the Jews who are the current God-approved citizens of Israel, as well as united with the holy root that has been supporting us, the new branches (Romans 11:17-18). Selah . . . . .