The United States and Britain in Prophecy
An Analysis of the Biblical Evidence
Part 3: History

Israel's Biblical History

Now that we have examined some prophetic verses foundational to the Anglo-Israelite belief, let's take time to rehearse the biblical history of Israel, beginning with the death of Solomon. In doing so we will examine typical Anglo-Israelite interpretations of these events. As with the prophetic verses, we will not attempt to examine each and every historic claim made by Anglo-Israelites, but instead we will discuss certain key events. These key events and their interpretation shall help us see if Anglo-Israelism has any historic basis.

After the death of Solomon, Israel split into two nations. The southern tribes, loyal to the royal family, became the house of Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. The northern tribes rebelled and became the house of Israel. They eventually made Samaria their capital. Jeroboam led the northern rebellion, becoming Israel's king. To solidify his power he destroyed the influence of the Levites, the priestly tribe who had remained loyal to God's religion centered at the temple in Jerusalem. To counter the attractive influence of God's annual Holy Days, he created his own pagan state religion complete with its own festivals.

Decades passed, during which time God sent prophets who called Israel to repent and who warned them of the consequences if they did not. While there always remained a remnant in Israel faithful to God, the majority never heeded God's warnings. So in 725 B.C., God moved the Assyrians to begin a three-year siege of Samaria. That siege led to the fall of the city and the captivity of the nation. Following their custom, the Assyrians resettled conquered Israelites elsewhere in the empire, while they transplanted other subjugated peoples to the land of Israel.

Once the Israelites were resettled, the Assyrians took deliberate steps to assimilate them into their general population.

According to the author(s) of 2 Kings 17:6 and 18:11, Israelites were carried away into exile to Halah, Gozan on the banks of the Habur and to the cities of the Medes. The search for traces of this Assyrian exile confirmed this report. There are consequently no reasons to doubt its historicity. From the evidence surveyed it can be added that Israelites were incorporated into the Assyrian army and that some deportees were brought to cities in the Assyrian heartlands. (Bob Becking, The Fall of Samaria: An Historical and Archaeological Study [Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1992], 92)

This Assyrian policy of deliberate assimilation worked. Within a few decades, all evidence for any distinctive Israelite population within Assyria vanished.


House of Israel -- All Captive?

Fundamental to the Anglo-Israel argument is the belief that all significant parts of the house of Israel went into captivity. Biblical and archeological scholars harbor serious doubts about the accuracy of this view. They generally believe that the biblical and archeological evidence proves that many Israelites did not go into captivity but remained in the land. These Israelites then either mixed with the new gentile immigrants or became a significant part of the southern nation of Judah.

Let's think about this for a moment, starting not with the captivity, but the apostasy of Jeroboam. What happened in Israel when Jeroboam tried to crush God's revealed religion?

History gives many examples of religious persecution. Often we see that those who value their faith choose flight or emigration rather than surrender to religious oppression. Was the situation in Israel any different?

The Bible records what happened. When Jeroboam tried to suppress the faith, there was a massive movement of Israelites southward into Judah. Every tribe was represented in this mass migration.

The Levites...abandoned their pasturelands and property, and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the Lord.... Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their fathers. They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years [until Rehoboam temporarily abandoned God thereby losing their political support]. (2 Chronicles 11:13-16)

Later, during Asa's reign over Judah:

He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord's temple. Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. (2 Chronicles 15:8c-9)

The United States and Britain in Prophecy claimed there were only a few individuals "who for religion separated from their tribes and lived in Judah and became Jews."11 Yet it now appears that large numbers of Israelites immigrated to Judah and became Jews. Not all of their reasons were religious. Some were refugees from the Assyrian invasion.

Archeological evidence discovered over the past two decades supports this conclusion. Archaeologists now recognize a sudden and significant increase in Jerusalem's population at the time of the northern kingdom's fall. "After the fall of Samaria many refugees from the Northern Kingdom migrated south and settled in Judah, including Jerusalem. The increase in population of Jerusalem accounts for the expansion of Jerusalem westward at that time."12

Additional evidence from archeological surveys and excavations has led some scholars to conclude that other areas of Judah experienced this influx of Israelites as well.13 When we first published The United States and Britain in Prophecy, this archeological evidence had yet to be discovered. Now that it has, it cannot be ignored. From the evidence at Jerusalem alone, we can safely conclude that the Israelite presence in Judah was much greater than we previously stated.

There is also evidence that Assyria did not carry all of the Israelites into captivity. Some Israelites continued to dwell in the land after their brothers were exiled.

Consider what we read in Chronicles.

Long after the Assyrian invasion, Josiah, king of Judah, to finance the rebuilding of the temple, collected taxes "from the people of Manasseh, Ephraim and the entire remnant of Israel" (2 Chronicles 34:9). Yet according to the United States and Britain in Prophecy this could not have happened, because no Israelites were left in those areas from whom Josiah could have collected taxes.

Soon after this taxation, Josiah celebrated a grand Passover at Jerusalem:

The Israelites who were present celebrated the Passover at that time and observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days.... [N]one of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 35:17-18)

How could this be if everyone from the northern tribes had been carried away?


The Tribe of Judah Alone?

Yes, the Bible does say, "So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left." (2 Kings 17:18). What does this mean? If it means what Anglo-Israelites take it to mean, that no significant Israelite population remained behind after the Assyrian invasion, how do we explain the previous evidence that shows otherwise? Do we discard it? Ignore it? Or do we reexamine our presuppositions about what we think this scripture says?

At face value, the verse appears to say that only the tribe of Judah escaped captivity. Yet we have already shown that most Levites had moved southward into Judah two centuries earlier and had therefore escaped Assyrian captivity as well. We have also seen that large numbers from other northern tribes also migrated southward.

Furthermore, the house of Judah did not encompass just the tribe of Judah. Its territory included land allotted to Simeon and Benjamin.14 Its population was mixed. In recounting the division of Israel, 1 Kings tells us that Rehoboam, king of Judah, continued to reign over the "Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah," and that to stop the rebellion "he mustered the whole house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin." Before the fighting began, "This word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: `Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to the whole house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people.... Do not fight against your brothers, the Israelites" (1 Kings 12:17, 21-24). Therefore, because the house of Judah included the tribes of Benjamin, Simeon and Judah -- not just Judah alone -- all these tribes escaped Assyrian captivity. (Remember, the apostle Paul was a Benjamite.)

To repeat a point made earlier, we have also proven that significant representatives of Levi, Ephraim, Manasseh and all the other northern tribes kept the Passover in Jerusalem long after Samaria's fall. Therefore, what does the phrase "there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone" mean? Does it contradict these plain facts?

When God inspired his servants to write the Bible, he inspired them to use the vocabulary, literary styles and modes of expression commonly in use during the time he inspired each book. He also allowed for the personality of each book's author to have free expression. That is why Isaiah does not read like Jeremiah, or 1 Peter like 1 Corinthians. That is why the Bible does not read like books written in our day. Styles and modes of expression have changed.

Common to every language are figures of speech, which, if unrecognized by readers, will cause them to misunderstand the subtleties of what they are reading. Some languages are richer in the number of figures of speech than others. E.W. Bullinger in his classic work Figures of Speech Used in the Bible has identified 217 distinct types of figures of speech found in the Scriptures. Bullinger states in his work's introduction:

A figure denotes some form which a word or sentence takes, different from its ordinary and natural form. This is always for the purpose of giving additional force, more life, intensified feeling and greater emphasis. Whereas today "Figurative language" is ignorantly spoken of as though it made less of the meaning, and deprived the words of their power and force. A passage of God's Word is quoted: and it is met with the cry, "Oh, that is figurative" -- implying that its meaning is weakened, or that it has quite a different meaning, or that it has no meaning at all. But the very opposite is the case. For an unusual form (figura) is never used except to add force to the truth conveyed, emphasis to the statement of it, and depth to the meaning of it.15

One common type of figure of speech that God used in the Bible is synecdoche (the practice of referring to the whole by reference to one of its parts, e.g., "Washington" for the United States, "London" for England, "Ephraim" for all Israel). Bullinger defines this type of figure as "the exchange of one idea for another associated idea."16 For a figure to be a synecdoche there must be an internal association between the two ideas. For example, in Isaiah 7 Ephraim is used figuratively for the whole house of Israel. Because the tribe of Ephraim is a part of the house of Israel, there is an internal association of the terms. Therefore, when Ephraim is used figuratively for Israel, Ephraim is a synecdoche. Specifically, it is a synecdoche of the part, meaning a part has been put for the whole.17

The inspired author of Kings used a synecdoche of the part more than once. For example, 1 Kings 11:32 says that the royal house of David would rule over only one tribe. Yet from other scriptures we know that Benjamin, Levi and Simeon are included in this number. So here the "one tribe" is a synecdoche for all those who associated with the house of David. In this passage, the writer does not mean to deceive, but to emphasize the great loss David's house would suffer at the rebellion of the other tribes. In 1 Kings 12:20 we read another example of synecdoche when Judah is identified as that one tribe. That verse reads, "Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David." Yet the historic fact is that other tribes remained loyal as well. Judah is a synecdoche representing all of them.

Those unfamiliar with synecdoche might assume that such passages prove the Bible contradictory and historically unreliable. Yet as Bullinger points out, those familiar with the richness of ancient Hebrew literary figures would never make such a claim.

The relevance of this discussion is now obvious, for we just read in 1 Kings 12:20 that "only the tribe of Judah remained loyal." That synecdoche is similar to the one in 2 Kings 17:18 that reads "Only the tribe of Judah was left." We have already seen that many members of the other tribes remained, including significant representatives of the two principal tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh. Therefore, 2 Kings 17:18 is an example of synecdoche. The verse is talking about kingdoms, not the people who lived in the kingdoms. Only the southern kingdom, here called "the tribe of Judah" continued to exist. The United States and Britain in Prophecy failed to address these facts.

In the years following Josiah's reign, the northern tribes continued to grow in influence within Judah. The Bible records that Jews and Israelites were still living side by side in the days of the early church. Israelites were major players in the life of the southern nation, having significant economic, political and religious roles.

What evidence do we have for this? Besides the already cited account of Josiah's reign, we have the added word of the prophets.

Continue to Part 4...

Source:  Ralph Orr
Copyright 1995 Worldwide Church of God



11. USBP, 70.

12. "Geography, history and archaeology," The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Oxford University Press, 1991, 414). For more detailed information read "Jerusalem," The New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. 2 (Israel Exploration Society and Carta, Simon and Schuster, 1993), 704-9. From the latter we quote, "It seems that refugees flocked to Jerusalem from Samaria and the surrounding countryside.... Presently available excavation results provide ample evidence for the growth of Jerusalem's population and concomitant increase in area."

13. Avi Ofer, though disagreeing, admits the "theoretical possibility that these sites [in the Judean hills] were founded toward the end of the eighth century BCE (after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel?)." If so, that leads to the possibility that their founding may be attributed to Israelite immigration, just as the sudden growth of Jerusalem's population was at that same time (Avi Ofer, "Judean Hills Survey," The New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. 2, 816).

The same encyclopedia has an article on Jericho by Kathleen M. Kenyon. She notes that "in the seventh century BCE...there was an extensive occupation of the ancient site," where little archeological evidence for an occupation from the immediately preceding centuries exists (Kathleen M. Kenyon, "Jericho," The New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. 2, 680, cp. the article "Jericho" in The New Anchor Bible Dictionary). Why Jericho should become more prominent in that century is not explained. Could it be further evidence of a significant increase in population in Judah following Samaria's fall?

While it is admitted that the meaning of the evidence outside of Jerusalem is debatable, Anglo-Israelites should not ignore the fact that archeology now raises serious doubts as to their interpretation of events.

14. Remember, Simeon was scattered throughout Israel. Bible atlases often show Simeonite territory to have been centered in southern Judah, while Benjamin formed the northern border of the house of Judah (Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas: Revised Edition [New York: Macmillan, 1977], maps #68, 70, 82, 118, 147, 151).

15. E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible Explained and Illustrated (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1993), v-vi.

16. Bullinger, 613.

17. Bullinger, 640.