The United States and Britain in Prophecy
An Analysis of the Biblical Evidence
Part 2: Promises to the Patriarchs

The Davidic Promises

The New Testament takes a strikingly different approach than that of Anglo-Israelism. There, repeatedly, the Davidic promises find fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

For example, the first chapter of the New Testament, Matthew 1, emphasizes Jesus' Davidic lineage. It is but one proof of his Messiahship. He holds the title Son of David. He, not some human king in a far-off isle, is the true heir of the Davidic promises. Because this is the New Testament perspective, the church has chosen to emphasize what the New Testament emphasizes.

At this point it might be wise to interject one example of the kind of teaching often used to support Anglo-Israelite views. In The United States and Britain in Prophecy, Ezekiel 21:27 is quoted to prove that God would overturn the throne of David three times, transferring it each time to a new location. The theory is that the first overturning transferred the throne from Jerusalem to Ireland, the second to Scotland, and the third, under King James, to England.2 Therefore Queen Elizabeth II is an alleged descendant of King David.

In the King James Version, Ezekiel 21:26-27 reads, "Remove the diadem, and take off the crown.... Exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him."

Now perhaps the most obvious point that we should mention is that neither Ireland, Scotland, England nor their royal families are mentioned in Ezekiel. These must be read into the text through Anglo-Israelite eyes. As to the meaning of the verse itself, the use of other translations gives insight.

The New International Version reads, "Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was.... A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! It will not be restored until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs; to him I will give it." Nothing in this translation implies an overthrowing and transfer of the throne to another country. Instead it tells us that the house of David would be without a ruling king until God decides to fill the vacancy with the rightful heir.

The New King James supports this interpretation, for it reads: "Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him."

The New Revised Standard Version puts it this way. "A ruin, a ruin, a ruin -- I will make it! (Such has never occurred.) Until he comes whose right it is; to him I will give it."

Properly understood, "The threefold repetition of `ruin' stresses the intensity of God's wrath and its destruction administered by Babylonia."3 The verse is about the total vacancy of the Davidic throne until the rightful heir comes. The wording of "[t]he phrase until he come whose right it is recalls the Messianic prophecy in Genesis 49:10."4 That this verse prophesies the Messiah's ascension to the vacant Davidic throne is understood by both Jewish and Christian commentators. That is the natural sense of the verse. The consistent New Testament witness is that Jesus is that rightful heir.


The Abrahamic Covenant

Yet many Christians would argue that Anglo-Israelism is not based on folklore, questionable genealogies or dubious scriptural interpretations. They insist it is based on God's covenant promises to Abraham, which have allegedly found fulfillment only in the peoples of northwestern Europe. Furthermore, it's alleged the whole idea finds root in the lack of such fulfillment in Old Testament Israel.

However, the covenant that the New Testament preaches is not sealed through circumcision, as was the Abrahamic covenant, but is ratified with the blood of Christ. The focus of the new covenant is the Son of David, Jesus Christ, and the true Israel of God, the church. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promises.

The New Testament emphasizes the new covenant. It is a covenant of grace, not race. It is a covenant God made in his great love for all peoples. It is a covenant that does not distinguish between color of skin, facial features, shape of skull or ancestry. That covenant is the one we celebrate.

But now let us take time to examine the Anglo-Israelite interpretation of Israelite history and, in particular, the interpretation the church gave that history in The United States and Britain in Prophecy. We will start by examining God's promises to the patriarchs.


A Father of Many Nations

God promised to Abraham that he would father a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:5-6). The United States and Britain in Prophecy contended that "These are basic -- the foundation for the establishment of the greatest world powers."5 It alleged that in all biblical history, Abraham's descendants never became a multitude of great nations. Therefore the Jews could not possibly have fulfilled this promise. We must, the argument continues, look outside the Bible to discover who did.

Let's consider the term nation. We can begin by asking, In the Bible is a nation always a political unit, a country, a state or empire as we know it today? The answer is no, for in Deuteronomy 26:5 we read, "[Israel] went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous." At that time Israel was a nation, yet Israel lived within the country of Egypt.

Therefore, when discovering how Abraham became the father of many nations, we do not limit our search to countries. We expand our search to include distinctive peoples, some of whom may have been independent, while others may have lived within a state, country or empire. Political units are not the deciding factor. Distinct peoples are. These peoples, having the same father, are very closely related, yet with time and increasing size they have developed their own distinctive characteristics, sufficient to be called nations (not countries).

Who were the nations that came from Abraham? Most of us already know he became the father of the tribes of Israel and Judah. He also fathered the Midianites (Genesis 25:2, 4), the Ishmaelites (Genesis 17:20) and the other Arabic tribes descended from his sons Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Ishbak and Shuah (Genesis 25:1-3). Finally, there were the Edomites, descendants of his grandson Esau (Genesis 36). While God did not count most of these as "children of the promise," and therefore they did not receive the promised blessings, they did fulfill God's promise that Abraham would father many nations.

Yet there is another aspect of this promise we should consider. In the New Testament, we have an inspired commentary on this very promise. Paul explains that God intended more than a physical fulfillment. He intended an even greater fulfillment in the church:

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.... Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring -- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations [Genesis 17:5]." He is our father in the sight of God.... Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." (Romans 4:13-18, emphasis ours throughout)

Abraham, with the founding of the New Testament church and having been the father of many nations physically, became the father of many nations spiritually. The New Testament emphasizes this grace-based aspect of the promise. Unfortunately, The United States and Britain in Prophecy failed to address adequately these facts. Despite what Romans plainly teaches, it even denied that the church fulfilled the promise.6 Therefore, our book's perspective was not that of the New Testament.


As the Dust of the Earth

Another verse that was misunderstood was Genesis 28:14. The book argued that this verse proved God's promise of many nations was referring to the large nation-states of today, because God promised that those nations would be extremely populous -- far more populous than the nations of Abraham's day. The context of Genesis 28:14 is Jacob's dream at Bethel when he was fleeing from his brother Esau. This famous passage includes the story of the ladder reaching up to heaven, on which the angels ascended and descended. God speaks to Jacob and promises that "Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south." The United States and Britain in Prophecy went on to say, "Here the size of the `many nations' is compared to the number of grains of dust of the earth. Elsewhere God compared the population of these promised nations to the grains of sand on a seashore and to the stars -- uncountable for multitude."7 It added that we must look for fulfillment of these promises apart from the Jews. "We must do it or deny God's promise!"8

Yet as we have seen, God has fulfilled the many-nations promise among several different peoples identified in the Bible. Those peoples include the Jews. The same is true of the promise in Genesis 28:14, for in 1 Kings 4:20 we read, "The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy." And Deuteronomy 1:10 says, "The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky." Other verses speak of Israel as being as numerous as the stars of heaven (Deuteronomy 10:22; 28:62; Nehemiah 9:23). These verses prove that God kept his promises to Abraham, yet The United States and Britain in Prophecy does not mention these verses.


To the West, East, North and South

There is another aspect of Genesis 28:14: the promise that Jacob's descendants would spread out "to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south." The Bible also describes this fulfillment.

Remember, God gave Jacob this promise at Bethel. That site later played an important role during Israel's conquest of Canaan. Israel first conquered Jericho, then Ai and the neighboring community of Bethel (Joshua 8:9, 17, 22). Having secured this foothold in the heart of the Promised Land, Israel proceeded to conquer territory to the west, east, north and south.


A Multitude of Nations

Some may ask, What of the promises to Ephraim and Manasseh? Was not the tribe of Ephraim promised that they would become "a multitude of nations"? And was not Manasseh promised that they would become "a great people"? Does this not prove they were the ancestors of the United States and Britain? Genesis 48:19 contains the promises to Ephraim and Manasseh. It reads, "He [Manasseh]...will become a people, and he...will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother [Ephraim] will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group [or multitude {KJV}] of nations."

How are we to understand these promises? The story of the boys' blessing begins in Genesis 48:1 with the family of Israel in Egypt. Jacob, near death, calls his son Joseph to him. Jacob reflects back on how God has blessed him: "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, `I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.' "

In the above reflection, we clearly see that Jacob believed God's promises would be fulfilled in the land of Canaan, not in some other far-off land. It is to Canaan that he focuses the family's attention. He wants them to understand that they are not going to stay in Egypt, but will instead inherit Canaan. Later in this account, after blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, he again associates this promise with them: "God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers" (Genesis 48:21). They were to go to Canaan, not a far-off isle. Joshua later confirmed that the tribal promises were fulfilled in the land of Canaan (Joshua 23:14).

Jacob also understands that he is to have many more descendants than those presently in his family. His descendants are to become "a community of peoples." Israel will be both prosperous and fruitful. Therefore, Jacob tells Joseph that he wishes his grandsons to share in these promises. Though their mother may be Egyptian, they are not to be cut off from the family heritage. God has chosen them as well.

With this background we can properly understand the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh. As Jacob begins to bless his grandsons he adopts them into the family (i.e., he places not only his name on them, but also the names of his ancestors). He then asks that "they increase greatly upon the earth" (Genesis 48:16). The significance of this latter blessing will become more apparent as we study the account further.

Let's discuss Manasseh first. You may have noticed that God's promise to him did not involve statehood. It simply said that his descendants would become a "great people." And they did. This is simply a variation of the earlier blessing found in verse 16. In successive generations their population flourished. Even before leaving Egypt, they (as did all the Israelites) had a tremendous birth rate (Exodus 1:7). The territories Manasseh later inhabited in Canaan enabled them to become one of the most powerful and prosperous tribes in Israel. In so blessing them, God fulfilled his promise.

The same is true of Ephraim. While initially a smaller tribe than Manasseh, by the days of Hosea, Ephraim came to represent the whole house of Israel. Ephraim had indeed succeeded his brother in wealth, power, influence and population. Just as God promised, Manasseh's younger brother became greater than he.

But what of the phrase group of nations? some might ask. Surely the tribe Ephraim did not fulfill that during biblical times? Actually, it did.

We've already established that the word nation may refer to a distinct group of people sharing a common heritage. It does not always imply statehood. With that in mind, let's consider the following. Old Testament Hebrew scholars explain Genesis 48:19 by first recognizing that the prepositional phrase of nations modifies the noun group (or multitude). In other words, because nations modifies group (and not the other way around), Jacob was commenting on the size of Ephraim's future population, not the abundance of nations to come from him.

Let's illustrate this further. The word translated in Genesis 48:19 as group or multitude can have the sense of fullness. (See the margin of the Oxford edition of the King James Bible). Because of this, some translators feel the passage would be better rendered: "His [Ephraim's] seed will become the fullness of nations." Or to put it in other words, Ephraim would become very populous -- so populous that they would be like the fullness of nations. The Anchor Bible puts it this way: "His offspring shall suffice for nations."9

This interpretation fits with what we have already observed. Remember how Abraham's children were to become as many as the sand of the sea, or the stars of heaven? Yet we saw how, even before they entered the Promised Land, they had already attained that size. It would appear that the fullness of nations is a step below that. Therefore, we need look no further than the history of Israel as told in the Bible to find God faithfully keeping his promises to the patriarchs.

Notice what the Commentary on the Old Testament by Keil and Delitzsch has to say about this.

This blessing began to be fulfilled from the time of the Judges, when the tribe of Ephraim so increased in extent and power, that it took the lead of the northern tribes and became the head of the ten tribes, and its name acquired equal importance with the name Israel, whereas under Moses, Manasseh had numbered 20,000 more than Ephraim (Numbers 26:34, 37).10

The Bible does not say that Manasseh would become the United States. Nor does it say that Ephraim would become the British Commonwealth. To conclude otherwise would be to read something into the Bible that is not there.

Continue to Part 3...

Source:  Ralph Orr
Copyright 1995 Worldwide Church of God



2. The United States and Britain in Prophecy [hereafter called USBP] (Pasadena, California: Worldwide Church of God, 1986), 87.

3. Ralph H. Alexander, "Ezekiel," The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 6, Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library [Zondervan], 1986), 845.

4. S. Fisch, Ezekiel, The Soncino Books of the Bible, A. Cohen, ed. (New York: The Soncino Press, 1985), 141.

5. USBP, 20.

6. USBP, 19.

7. USBP, 22.

8. USBP, 23.

9. E.A. Speiser, Genesis: Introduction, Translation and Notes, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 356.

10. C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1, "The Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus 1-11," James Martin, trans. (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1989), 384-5).