Following the division of the twelve tribes of Israel, during the reign of King Rehoboam in approximately 937 BC, the ten northern tribes became known as the house of Israel. These tribes were never known as Judahites.
In a section titled “The Hebrew Peoples,” relating to the time following the division of the two houses, Harmsworth History of the World affirms that the ten tribes were not Judahites:
Since the severance, the God of Israel had ceased to be the centre of a national worship, and any traces of such worship, which had been retained in the north from the time of David, were quite insignificant…. In reality the Ten Tribes … were not, therefore, “Jews.”50
Furthermore, there was a period of time when the ten tribes were not even known by the name “Israelites.” Understanding the Israelites’ marital relationship with Yahweh and His subsequent divorce of the house of Israel is essential to understanding this loss of identity. The Old Testament Scriptures reveal that Yahweh wed the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel:
And Yahweh said … Israel … I am married unto you…. - Jeremiah 3:11-14
Moses recorded in the book of Exodus what has been described as Yahweh’s marriage proposal to all twelve tribes of the nation of Israel:
Ye have seen … how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people…. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. - Exodus 19:4-6
This is the first time that the word “kingdom,” used in reference to Yahweh’s kingdom, appears in the Bible. Yahweh established a kingdom relationship between Himself and the nation of Israel when He married her at Mount Sinai. In Ezekiel 16 Yahweh provided a second witness to the affinity between His kingdom and His marriage to Israel:
Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord Yahweh, and thou becamest mine…. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. - Ezekiel 16:8-13
King David commented on this kingdom relationship:
…let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. - Psalm 59:13
While wrestling with an angel, Jacob was given the name “Israel” because this name means power or ruling with El:
And he [Yahweh] said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God…. - Genesis 32:28
James Strong’s definition for the name “Israel” is even more explicit:
Yisra'el (yis-raw-ale'); from OT:8280 and OT:410; he will rule as God….51
“God” is translated from the Hebrew word “Elohiym,” El being its shortened form. Yahweh Elohiym married the twelve tribes of Israel thereby making her His helpmeet. As both His wife and His queen, she ruled with El in His kingdom and was thus named Isra El.
Later, however, because the ten-tribed house of Israel worshiped other gods, an act which Yahweh identified as adultery, He divorced and put her away:
And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not…. - Jeremiah 3:8
2 Kings 17 describes the divorce and dispersion of the house of Israel at the hands of their Assyrian spoilers:
Therefore Yahweh was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only…. And Yahweh rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight. - 2 Kings 17:18-20
Yahweh declared to Hosea that as a result of His divorcing the house of Israel, she would no longer be His people, thereby stripping that house of her name:
And Yahweh said unto him … I will … cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel…. Then said God … ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. - Hosea 1:4-9
When the ten tribes committed adultery and He divorced them, they were no longer a part of Yahweh Elohiym’s people. Therefore, the ten northern tribes no longer had either the right or privilege of being called Isra El.
Historian Walter Hutchinson described the consequence of the house of Israel’s disobedience under King Jeroboam and her subsequent divorce in terms of a loss of identity:
In consequence of Jeroboam’s ambition, aided by the weakness of Solomon’s successor Rehoboam [king of the house of Judah], at about the year 937 B.C. there were formed the rival, and often hostile, kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the latter of which lost its identity by the capture of Samaria in 722 B.C….52
Following Yahweh’s divorce of the ten-tribed house of Israel, He dispersed them among non-Israelite nations:
…when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings…. And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. - Ezekiel 36:17-19
Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure. - Hosea 8:8
Behold, the eyes of the Lord Yahweh are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith Yahweh. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. - Amos 9:8-9
The Kingdom represented the seat of government and Yahweh’s covenantal marriage relationship with Israel. It was this seat of government that Yahweh destroyed when He divorced her, not the people of the house of Israel.
And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am Yahweh their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am Yahweh. – Leviticus 26:44-45
Yahweh dispersed the house of Israel throughout the nations, and eventually their identity was forgotten by the other nations:
I [Yahweh] said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men. - Deuteronomy 32:26
Although the house of Israel’s identity was lost to other nations, and even to herself, Yahweh never lost sight of who she was:
…O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen … thou art my servant: I have formed thee.… O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. - Isaiah 44:1-21
Because of being dispersed throughout the then known world, the descendants of the house of Israel became identified as simply “goyim,” the Hebrew word most often translated gentiles in the Old Testament. This change from a specific to a non-specific identity is confirmed in the New Testament. Paul identified himself and the Corinthian Christians as descendants of the Old Testament Israelites, and later he identified them as ethne, the Greek equivalent of goyim:
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. - 1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Ye know that ye were Gentiles [ethne], carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. - 1 Corinthians 12:2
Yahweh had divorced the ten-tribed house of Israel for her idolatry and scattered her among non-Israelite goyim or peoples. Eventually they assumed the names of the nations and peoples among whom they lived or those nations gave them other names. This change of names is indicated in The Jewish Encyclopedia under the heading “Tribes, Lost Ten”:
If the Ten Tribes have disappeared, the literal fulfillment of the prophecies would be impossible; if they have not disappeared, obviously they must exist under a different name.53
2 Kings 17:1-23 records that the Assyrians were responsible for taking the ten-tribed house of Israel into captivity and dispersing them among non-Israelite peoples. In recent years, some fourteen hundred Assyrian cuneiform tablets have been unearthed and deciphered. These tablets provide some of the names the house of Israel had been given or that they assumed during their dispersion.
Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets, by biblical archaeologist and historian E. Raymond Capt, documents the new names of the house of Israel during and following their Assyrian captivity.54 The identity of the dispersed Israelites today is a question that will be answered in Chapter 9.
It is important to understand that the terms “Jews” and “Israelites” are synonymous only when referring to the descendants of the two-tribed house of Judah. It is equally important to understand that it is inaccurate to refer to the Israelites descended from the ten-tribed house of Israel as Jews or Judahites. They were not descended from Judah; hence there is no scriptural justification for calling them Judahites. The Israelites that Assyria dispersed eventually became known as the nations or gentiles, having lost their identity through the centuries.
50. Hugo Winckler and Leonard William King, “The Hebrew Peoples,” Harmsworth History of the World by Arthur Mee, Sir John Alexander Hammerton and Arthur Donald Innes (London, England: Carmelite House, 1908) Volume 3, p. 1776.
51. James Strong, “Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible,” The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990) p. 53.
52. Walter Hutchinson, Hutchinson’s History of the Nations (London, England: Hutchinson & Company, 1914) Volume II, p. 530.
53. “Tribes, Lost Ten,” The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1905) Volume XII, p. 249.
*We are admonished in Matthew 10:8 “freely ye have received, freely give.” Although there is a suggested price for our books, we do not sell them. In keeping with 2 Corinthians 9:7, this ministry is supported by freewill offerings. If you cannot afford the suggested price, inform us of your situation, and we will be pleased to provide you with whatever you need for whatever you can send.