_Where are the Lost Tribes of Israel?
A debate on the validity of the Hebrew Roots movement
Ever since the gospel message was first taken to the Gentiles, there have been those who have claimed that Gentile Christians should submit to the entire Law of Moses. The Apostle Paul had to deal with such claims among the Galatians in his day, and the same flawed philosophy has plagued every generation of Christians from that day to this.
One of the more recent forms of this philosophy has taken the name of the Hebrew Roots movement. One of the foundational tenet of this philosophy is the claim that everyone who becomes a Christian actually does so because he is a descendant of one of the lost ten tribes of Israel, and his salvation is a fulfillment of God's promise to reunite all of the tribes. Thus, according to the Hebrew Roots movement, everyone who is a Christian is also an Israelite and, therefore, should submit to the Law of Moses.
I have had the opportunity to debate several followers of the Hebrew Roots movement, and this debate is the result of one of my most interesting, and entertaining, encounters. My opponent in this debate is Mr. Ted Weiland who maintains a very active online presence criticizing the American Constitution as a pagan law. His writings can be found on his website: bibleversusconstitution.org. Ted began this particular debate by challenging me to read his book The Mystery of the Gentiles and offering to pay me $100 if I could prove him wrong. Of course, he never did send me the promised $100, but here is the discussion that his offer produced:
I'll take you up on that challenge, Ted. There is no need to send me a copy of your book. I've already got a copy, and I've read through the first four chapters so far. I'll keep reading, but I think that I've already uncovered enough to demonstrate that I don't believe that you have adequately proven your case. Here are a few of the notes that I have jotted down so far:
I. Ezra records that people from all twelve tribes of Israel returned to the land after the Babylonian captivity.
a. “the men of the people of Israel” – Ezra 2:2
b. “and all Israel in their cities” – Ezra 2:70
c. “the children of Israel were in the cities” – Ezra 3:1
d. “the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel” – Ezra 4:3
e. “the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity” – Ezra 6:16
f. “the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity” – Ezra 6:21
g. “all they of the people of Israel” – Ezra 7:13
h. “I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me” – Ezra 7:28
i. “there assembled unto him out of Israel” – Ezra 10:1
j. “and all Israel” – Ezra 10:5
k. “Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh…” – Ezra 10:25-43 (ten families; one for each of the ten tribes)
II. Nehemiah referred to the people who returned as the people of Israel.
a. “the welfare of the children of Israel” – Neh 2:10
b. “the men of the people of Israel” – Neh 7:7 (quote from Ezra)
c. “and all Israel, dwelt in their cities” – Neh 7:73 (quote from Ezra)
d. “the children of Israel were assembled” – Neh 9:1
e. “the residue of Israel” – Neh 11:20
f. “And all Israel” – Neh 12:47
III. Return of both Judah and Israel was foretold by Jeremiah.
a. “they shall come together out of the land of the north” – Jer 3:18
b. “which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country” – Jer 23:8
c. “I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah” – Jer 30:3
d. “the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together” – Jer 50:4
(during the days of the Medo-Persian Empire)
IV. Other prophets also spoke of the reuniting of the two kingdoms.
a. “and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all” – Eze 37:22
b. “and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel” – Eze 39:25
c. “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together” – Hos 1:11
V. The New Testament blends Jews and Israelites together.
a. “I am verily a man which am a Jew” – Acts 22:3
b. “I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” – Rom 11:1
c. “Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I.” – II Cor 11:22
d. “of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews” – Php 3:5
VI. The New Testament recognized a distinction between Israel and the Gentiles.
a. “through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles” – Rom 11:11
b. “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles”
– Acts 21:11
c. “yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” – Acts 28:17
d. “the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness … But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness” – Rom 9:30-31
You can send me the $100 through paypal. Just let me know your email address, and I'll send you a link to my account.
Oh, and let's not forget that Luke mentions Anna who was of the tribe of Aser (Luke 2:36), and Paul references "our twelve tribes" in Acts 26:7.
My offer was very specific regarding the Biblical definitions of the Hebrew word “goyim” and the Greek word “ethne” as they relate to the word “Gentiles,” as found in our English Bibles, none of which you addressed in your reply.
However, had you proven your point on the separate issues to which you did respond (like you think you have,) I would still be pleased to send you the $100. Lord willing, I’ll address both the issue regarding the “gentiles” and your issue below in separate emails, as time permits. In the meantime, I wonder if you’ll extend the same offer to me—that is, if I prove your points in this response incorrect, will you send me $100?
If I'm not mistaken, the proposition made in your fifth chapter that "some of these gentiles fulfilled Bible prophecies that were intended for Israelites" is contingent upon the claim in your first four chapters that "Yahweh dispersed the house of Israel throughout the nations, and eventually their identity was forgotten by the other nations." I have demonstrated that the foundation of your position is flawed. If Israel was not scattered throughout the nations and forgotten but rather returned to the promised land along with Judah, then it seems to me that your entire argument falls apart. But perhaps I am mistaken. Maybe you could explain to me exactly how Deuteronomy 32:26 was carried out in accordance with your view.
As for me offering you $100, God has not given me any funds to bandy about in such a manner, so you'll simply have to be satisfied with the potential assurance of the accuracy of your claims.
Bill, if this response from you is indicative of how you also approached and read “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution” and “Christian Duty Under Corrupt Government (or anything else I’ve written), I’m concerned about your capacity to lay aside pre-conceived ideas and to read someone’s work without bias. Frankly, seeing you did essentially the same thing in your review of Dr. Frazer’s book “The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders,” I’m not at all surprised.
You said you had already read the first four chapters. I recommend you go back and re-read them, without prejudice. Many of your points are answered in a careful unbiased reading of those chapters.
For the sake of time and space, I’m going to assume some foundational issues that I believe you are Biblically astute enough to know and concur with me. Correct me, if in any of my assumptions about your concurrence I’m incorrect.
1) During King Saul’s and King David’s reigns, the kingdom of Israel consisted of all twelve tribes and was a united kingdom.
2) During King Solomon’s reign, the kingdom was divided into two distinct houses: the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
3) The house of Israel consisted of the ten northern tribes.
4) The house of Judah consisted of the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with Judah being the principal tribe and the reason why it was called the house of Judah. (The Levites also remained with the house of Judah.)
5) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not Israelites. Instead, they were Hebrews.
6) The first Israelites were Jacob/Israel’s twelve sons. The reason for this is because they were descended from a man whose name was changed to Israel. Consequently, those twelve sons and their descendants were known as Israelites.
7) Therefore, it is incorrect to identify Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or any other Hebrew before Jacob/Israel’s twelve sons as Israelites.
8) Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs (including Judah) were not Jews, better rendered Judahites.
9) That it wasn’t until after the split between the house of Israel and the house of Judah that the Bible ever identifies anyone as Jews (2 Kings 16:6) and that the term was NOT employed in reference to all twelve tribes, but only to the descendants of the house of Judah.
10) Therefore, it is incorrect to call any Hebrew or Israelite before the split or those from house of Israel Jews or Judahites.
For now, let’s make sure were on the same page on these ten foundational points. If you’re in agreement with all ten points, just simply respond “Agreed.” If on any point, you disagree with me, please explain why you disagree.
All of your statements were true before the return of both Judah and Israel from their captivity in c. 450 BC. At that point, the two nations were blended into one nation again, and the names "Jews" and "Israelites" became interchangeable terms used in reference to people of that united kingdom.
Your response is exactly how I expected you would answer. I will get to a more detailed reply first opportunity I get. In the meantime, would you also agree for there to have been a reuniting of the house of Judah and the house of Israel at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah that both the house of Judah and the house of Israel would have had to have been present in the land of Judah at that time for this alleged reuniting to have occurred?
If by the land of Judah you are referring to the promised land, then that is correct.
I'm referring to the land that Ezra and Nehemiah and those with them returned to from the Babylonian captivity that you claim both the house of Judah and house of Israel returned to and were reunited in.
Then, yes, in order for there to have been a reuniting of the two kingdoms at that time, members of both groups must have been present in the land.
Ted, it has been several days since your last comment. I have read more of your book, and I keep coming back to the fact that your entire argument rests on the supposition that only the descendants of the kingdom of Judah returned to the promised land after the Babylonian captivity. I provided evidence above to show that this assumption is incorrect. Can you prove that descendants of the kingdom of Israel did not return to the land at that time? If not, I would appreciate it if you would follow through with your offer and send me the $100 that you promised.
With the ten previous agreed-upon facts (from my previous reply) in hand, let’s now take a look at whether you’ve proven your points in your post above. In your last response, you agreed that in order for there to be a reunion of the house of Judah and the house of Israel at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah that both houses had to be present in the land that Ezra and the others returned to from Babylonian captivity—that is, in the land previously occupied by the two-tribed southern house of Judah. Consequently, it is incumbent upon you to prove the house of Israel’s presence in that land at that time, especially in light of the following facts:
1) The house of Israel was still in Assyrian captivity/dispersion at the time.
2) Their captivity/dispersion was never prophesied to end at the same time as the house of Judah’s captivity.
3) The prophecies that are time specific regarding the reunion of the house of Judah with the house of Israel were to be fulfilled under the New Covenant dispensation, as per Jeremiah 30 & 31, Ezekiel 37:15-28, Micah 5:2-6, etc. (I’ll discuss these prophecies in more detail later.)
4) Jeremiah’s prophecies referred to in Ezra 1:1 are clearly only about the two-tribed house of Judah; they do not include the ten-tribed house of Israel in any sense.
As I mentioned in one of my previous responses, most, if not all, of your points are answered in Chapters 1-4, Chapter 2 specifically. You said you had read these chapters prior to your post above, but it would seem not very closely or with an intent to understand them. Otherwise, you would never have used the arguments in your previous post to try to prove your position.
You begin by asserting that “Ezra records that people from all twelve tribes of Israel returned to the land after the Babylonian captivity.” The fact is Ezra did NOT record that people from ALL twelve tribes returned to the land of Judah. You either need to retract that claim or provide a verse that actually says that. Ezra 1:1 declares that what occurred was in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jeremiah 25) and had nothing to do with the ten northern tribes of the house of Israel. See Jeremiah 25:1-12.
Your entire argument that all twelve tribes returned from the Babylonian captivity rests upon the fact that phrases employing the appellation “Israel” are found throughout Ezra and Nehemiah. Indeed, they are. But that does not prove your point. Were Judah and Benjamin ISRAELITE tribes? Of course they were. Therefore, because they were citizens of the house of Judah they were known as Judahites (or Jews) and because they were descended from two of the twelve tribes of Israel, they were also known as Israelites or collectively as Israel.
It is true that the term “Israel” in Ezra and Nehemiah MIGHT be referring to descendants of all twelve tribes. However, it is just as true that “Israel” might be referring to ONLY Judahite Israelites from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Consequently, the context (and the related prophecies) must be used to determine whether it’s referring to all twelve tribes or only the
two-tribed house of Judah.
By themselves, Ezra 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1-12 prove that only a remnant from the house of Judah returned from the house of Judah’s Babylonian captivity. Next, consider Ezra 10:
“And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem; and that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.” (Ezra 10:7-8)
Note the phrase “ALL the children of the captivity” and the judgment (property confiscation and excommunication) upon any who did not gather in the allotted three-day period. Nearly everyone (at least, representatives of all the tribes who had returned from the Babylonian captivity) would have done his level best to be at this meeting. If, as you contend, both the house of Judah and the house of Israel were present and reunited, then certainly all twelve tribes would have attended this meeting. But, that is not what occurred:
“Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days.” (Ezra 10:9)
Why only the men of Judah and Benjamin? Because ONLY the house of Judah was taken into Babylonian captivity and ONLY the house of Judah returned from Babylonian captivity. This perfectly fulfills “the word of YHWH by the mouth of Jeremiah,” as per Jeremiah 25:1-12.
Although Jeremiah’s prophecy and Ezra 10:7-9 is proof enough that only Israelites from the two-tribed house of Judah returned from Babylon, following are some additional passages that prove the same thing:
“Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites [who had remained with the house of Judah at the time the united kingdom was severed into two houses], with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of YHWH which is in Jerusalem. ...with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:5-11)
“Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city.” (Ezra 2:1)
“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto YHWH God of Israel.” (Ezra 4:1)
“And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by
genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein, these are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city.” (Nehemiah 7:5-6)
In other words, there is no textual evidence whatsoever for any reunion of the house of Judah and the house of Israel at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Nor is there any evidence that all twelve tribes became known as “Jews” at this same time.
You also attempted to employ Paul as evidence for your argument that the terms “Jews” and “Israelites” applied to all twelve tribes of Israel:
“V. The New Testament blends Jews and Israelites together.
“a. “I am verily a man which am a Jew” – Acts 22:3
“b. “I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the
tribe of Benjamin” – Rom 11:1”
Hopefully, you recognize your error. Indeed, Paul is great example of the fact that the terms “Israelites” and “Judahites” were interchangeable ONLY for citizens of the house of Judah. Paul is not evidence that all twelve tribes of Israel became known as Jews or Judahites. Instead, he provides further confirmation that only the house of Judah was identified by both terms: Paul was a Benjamite Judahite Israelite. A Benjamite by tribe, a Judahite by house, and an Israelite by nationality or lineage.
You also attempted to use Anna of the tribe of Asher, cited in Luke 2:36, as evidence for the same. However, Anna is never identified as a Judahite, nor is she used as evidence for an already accomplished reunion between the house of Judah and the house of Israel.
Because this response is already quite long, I will not go into great detail regarding the time-sensitive Old Testament prophecies concerning the reunion of the house of Judah and the house of Israel, except to say the following:
1) Not only do they indicate that this reunion would occur during the New Covenant dispensation, some of them (like Micah 5) are messianic prophecies.
2) In Ezekiel 37, David is mentioned. But which David—the first David or the second David? It has to be the second David (i.e., Christ), because by the time Ezekiel made this prophecy, the first David had been long dead and buried.
3) Jeremiah 31 is a continuation of the prophecies in Jeremiah 30, and Jeremiah 31:31-32 is clearly specific to the New Covenant. For more, see “The Mystery of the Gentiles: Who Are They and Where Are They Now?” at missiontoisrael.org/mystery-of..., or for anyone who doesn’t already have a copy, I’ll be pleased to send you a free copy of the book. (Perhaps, even Angie will now take me up on my offer.)
By the way, it so happens that three weeks ago (before this discussion commenced), I providentially began an expository
series on the book of Ezra. This past weekend, I preached Part 2, in which I began to address some of this same material. If anyone is interested in listening to this audio series, let me know and I’ll add you to either our regular CD mailing list or our general email list so that you can receive the CDs and/or the links. Email me at tweiland [at] vistabeam [dot] com. Let me know which way you prefer receiving them and provide me either your snail mail and/or email address.
That's very interesting, Ted, but I'm curious. Why did you not consider the remainder of Ezra 10? In particular, I would like to know what you think of verses 25-43 which specifically mentions the men of ten different families who were said to be "of Israel." Who were these ten families if not the members of the ten tribes of Israel who returned along with Judah?
Also, I would very much like to know your opinion of Jeremiah 50:3. Who was the nation from the north that made war against Babylon? Do you think that this is a reference to the Medes and Persians?
My apologies, I overlooked your point regarding Ezra 10:25-43. I’m glad you’ve mentioned it, so I can address it now.
First, it is nothing but supposition that because the text mentions ten families that they must represent the ten tribes of the house of Israel. Even if these families represented house of Israel Israelites, it would still be conjecture that ten families are cited because there are ten tribes in the house of Israel. However, there is no reason whatsoever to conclude anything differently about the Israel in these verses than anywhere else in the entire book, especially being that verse 9 of this same chapter identifies them as being Israelites of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Had they been otherwise, they would have been excommunicated and dispossessed of their properties for not having shown up at the previous meeting.
Furthermore, the lists of those who are here described as repenting of their sins are essentially no different (other than they’re provided in reverse order) than the lists provided in Chapter 2: Priests, Levites, singers, porters (i.e., servants), and the Israel who returned from the Babylonian captivity in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies in Jeremiah 25. Note, neither here nor in Chapter 2 is Judah and Benjamin specifically listed. Why is that? Because they’re generically identified by the term “Israel” in both locations.
Consequently, Ezra 10:25-43 can no more be used to prove the presence of the house of Israel in the land of Judah at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah than can any of your other arguments.
I will address your question about Jeremiah 50 in a follow-up email, AS TIME PERMITS.
Thank you for providing your explanation of Ezra 10:25-43. I believe that you are mistaken in your understanding of this passage, and I will explain why as soon as you are able to answer my question regarding the nation from the north mentioned in Jeremiah 50:3. I'm surprised that you did not include an answer to this question in your comments about Ezra 10. After all, I'm only looking for a simple yes or no response. Most commentaries say that the nation from the north mentioned in Jeremiah 50:3 is the nation of the Medes and Persians. Do you agree with this conclusion or not? There's no need to explain your answer. A simple yes or no will do.
As for Jeremiah 50, let me begin by providing what I believe is irrefutable evidence that the reunion of the house of Judah and the house of Israel did not take place until the New Covenant Dispensation. The following list is what I came up with off the top of my head. There is a plethora of additional evidence that, had I time to dig it up, could be added to this list.
1) The events in Ezra and Nehemiah are the fulfillment of Jeremiah 25:1-12, which has nothing to do with the ten-tribed house of Israel.
2) The lack of any concrete textual evidence in Ezra or Nehemiah, demonstrating that the house of Israel was present at the time of the house of Judah’s release from their Babylonian captivity, eliminates any possibility that the reunion occurred at that time. (Don’t forget that “all the children of the captivity” are identified as consisting of “all the men of Judah and Benjamin” in Ezra 10:7-9.)
3) As stated in my previous response, Jeremiah 30 & 31, Ezekiel 37, and Micah 5 all associate the reunion in question with the New Covenant.
4) Also, Hosea 1:11’s “one head” corresponds with Ezekiel’s 37:22-25’s one king, shepherd, and prince, who is identified as David—that is, the Second David, Jesus Christ.
5) The same is true with Jeremiah 30:9’s David. (If you believe this isn’t referring to Christ, the second David, then was the first David raised from the grave at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, and then never mentioned in Ezra and Nehemiah or anywhere else in the Bible?)
6) Romans 9 and 1 Peter 2 identify Hosea 1’s prophesied reunion as being accomplished under the New Covenant.
7) Romans 11 provides the New Covenant fulfillment of Ezekiel 37’s two-stick prophecy.
8) Jeremiah 30 and 31’s reunion prophecies are New Covenant specific (Jeremiah 31:31-32), as further verified by Hebrews 8:8-9.
9) The reunion prophecy in Micah 5 is identified with the first advent of Christ. If the reunion was not definitively fulfilled at the time of Christ’s (the second David’s) first appearance and the commencement of the New Covenant, then there is likewise reason to believe Jesus was not the New Covenant Messiah.
Jeremiah 50 is arguably a difficult passage. However, unless you can refute each of the above points, we should expect Jeremiah 50 to harmonize with these conclusions. Is there any evidence in Jeremiah 50 for a New Covenant reunion? Yes, there is. In six locations in Jeremiah 50, we find language that is New Covenant in nature:
1) In the KJV, verses 4-5 speak of the children of Israel and the children of Judah joining themselves to Yahweh in a perpetual covenant. The term “perpetual covenant” is translated from the same two Hebrew words translated “everlasting covenant” in Ezekiel 37:24-26: “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. ...and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them....” This comports with Hebrews 13:20: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant....”
2) Verse 6 refers to the two houses (or flocks) as “lost sheep.” The house of Israel continued as lost (dispersed) sheep long beyond the time of Judah’s return from Babylon. They were not to be gathered into one fold with the flock of Judah until the New Covenant dispensation, as depicted in John 10:14-16: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine ... and I lay down my life for the sheep [the house of Judah]. And other sheep I have [the house of Israel], which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
Do not overlook the last two words “one shepherd.” John 10:14-16 not only fulfills the reuniting of the two flocks of Jeremiah 50, but also the one shepherd prophecy of Ezekiel 37:24: “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd....”
3) Verse 20 describes a perpetual forgiveness for both Judah and Israel. The only perpetual forgiveness for anyone is through Christ’s blood-atoning New Covenant sacrifice and resurrection.
4) Verse 20’s declaration that Israel’s and Judah’s sins would “be no more” corresponds with Jeremiah 31:34: “...they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith YHWH; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
5) Verses 15 and 29’s declaration (“as she has done, do unto her”) is quoted in Revelation 18:29 regarding mystery Babylon, which Revelation 11:8 identifies as Jerusalem where Christ was crucified.
Jeremiah 50 provides us with five good reasons to believe that its prophecy regarding the reunion between the houses of Judah and Israel occurs during the New Covenant dispensation. This harmonizes this prophecy with my opening nine evidences for a New Covenant reunion.
You asked if I believe “the nation from the north mentioned in Jeremiah 50:3 is the nation of the Medes and the Persians." I’m not sure. In light of the above material, I tend to believe verses 1-3 is probably referring to mystery Babylon, which was Jerusalem. I believe its prophesied destruction was fulfilled by Titus and his army when they destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, which consummated the Old Covenant dispensation. However, the language is difficult and I don’t rule out a possibility that verses 1-3 are Old Covenant (in which case “the one” from the North would be the nations of the Medes and the Persians) and verse 4 and following are New Covenant.
I am sorry to see that you find this passage so difficult to understand. Personally, I found this passage to be very clear and easy to comprehend, so perhaps I can help you to understand it better. The identity of the nation from the north mentioned in Jeremiah 50:3 is remarkably easy to ascertain. All you have to do is read the next chapter and see that God Himself identifies this nation when He said "Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it." Here we have a direct statement from God that the nation brought against Babylon to destroy her was the nation of the Medes. Therefore, your second possibility, which you admitted that you do not rule out, is the correct understanding of the nation from the North. Jeremiah 50:3 is speaking of the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon which occurred in 539 BC.
Now, perhaps you would like to argue that a single verse in the next chapter is insufficient evidence for identifying the nation from the North as the nation of the Medes and the Persians. I think that this verse is sufficient, but just in case you do not, let me point out a few other indentifying statements.
In chapter 50 verse 1, Babylon as being in the land of the Chaldeans, and thus this cannot be a reference to Jerusalem as a spiritual Babylon. The Chaldeans ceased to exist as a distinct people group after the conquest of Babylon by the Medes and Persians.
In verse 2, we read: "Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces." According to historical records, Bel and Merodach were names given to the national god of the Babylonian empire.
Verse 8 again identifies Babylon as being in the land of the Chaldeans.
Verse 9 identifies the conquerors of Babylon as an assembly of great nations. This is an accurate description of the nation of the Medes and the Persians which was a confederation of many nations.
Verse 10 once again identifies Babylon as being part of Chaldea.
Verse 17 identifies the Babylon which is destroyed in verse 3 with the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar.
Verse 21 indicates that the cities of Merathaim and Pekod were destroyed at the same time that Babylon was destroyed, and both of these cities were in the area of the physical city of Babylon.
Verse 25 identifies the destruction of Babylon along with these other cities as "the work of the Lord GOD of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans."
Verse 35 again identifies Babylon as a city of the Chaldeans.
Verse 41 again mentions the confederacy of kings that made up the nation of the Medes and the Persians.
Verse 43 seems to be a direct reference to the then future prophecy presented to the king of Babylon by the writing of God's own hand upon the wall of his palace as recorded in Daniel 5. This occurred just before Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians.
Verse 45 again identifies Babylon with the land of the Chaldeans.
Chapter 51 verse 4, also identifies Babylon with the land of the Chaldeans.
Verse 11 states directly that Babylon would be destroyed by the kings of the Medes.
Verse 24 again identifies Babylon with the Chaldeans.
Verse 27 states that Babylon would be defeated by a group of nations including the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni and Ashchenaz. These have been identified as members of the Medes and the Persians.
Verse 28 confirms that the nations mentioned in verse 27 were confederate with the kings of the Medes.
Verse 34 identifies Babylon as the same city over which Nebuchadnezzar was king.
Verse 35 again identifies Babylon with the Chaldeans.
Verse 44 again associates Babylon with Bel which was a reference to the national god of the Babylonian empire.
Verse 54 again identifies Babylon with the land of the Chaldeans.
Verses 60-64 clearly state that the Babylon referred to in this prophecy of Jeremiah was close to the Euphrates River. The only Babylon that was near the Euphrates River was the Babylon which was conquered by the Medes and the Persians in 539 BC. Therefore, the conquering nation from the North which is mentioned in verse 3 of Jeremiah 50 must be the nation of the Medes and the Persians.
With this solution firmly in mind, let's give some additional consideration to Jeremiah 50:4. This verse begins with the phrase "In those days, and in that time." This, of course, leads us to ask which days and which time is being spoken of. The answer is obviously the days and the time spoken of in verses 1-3. In other words, Jeremiah was prophesying that the event described in verse 4 would take place during the same time period as the events of verse 3. We have already established that verse 3 is a reference to the conquering of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians. Thus, the event in verse 4 must have taken place during the time that the Medes and the Persians ruled over Babylon. You have already admitted that verse 4 is a prophecy of members of both kingdoms of Israel being reunited. Therefore, we can conclude that Jeremiah 50:4 is a prophecy that the two kingdoms of Israel would be reunited after the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon.
Now, let me address your six instances of supposedly New Covenant language in Jeremiah 50. Your first point was a claim that the perpetual covenant mentioned in verse 5 is a reference to the everlasting covenant mentioned in Ezekiel 37:26. However, there is a distinction between these two covenants that you have overlooked. The everlasting covenant mentioned in Ezekiel was a covenant initiated by God, but the perpetual covenant mentioned in verse 5 was initiated by the people. They said of their own accord "let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant." This covenant initiated by the people is a perfect match for the covenant which was made by the people during the time of Nehemiah as recorded in Nehemiah 9:38 where we read: "because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it." This was a covenant initiated by the people after they were taught the Law of God. Thus, it is a better match for the prophecy of Jeremiah 50:5 than the everlasting covenant promised in Ezekiel 37:26.
Your second point has already been disproven in that I have shown that the two kingdoms were reunited during the time of the Medo-Persian rule of Babylon.
In regards to your third point, it should be noted that verse 20 does not mention anything at all about a perpetual forgiveness. It mentions forgiveness, but it does not say anything at all about that forgiveness applying to sins which occurred future to the events of that time. In fact, the verse begins with the same description of time as was used in verse 4. This indicates that this particular forgiveness of Israel and Judah took place at the same time as the event recorded in verse 4.
Similarly, your fourth point is also incorrect. Verse 20 does not state that the sins of Israel and Judah would "be no more." It simply states that at that time their sin would not be able to be found because of God's forgiveness. This verse does not in any way imply that Israel and Judah would be incapable of sinning any more. It simply means that God wiped their slate clean when He brought them back to the Promised Land. The reunited nation of Israel stood before God without sin at that particular moment in time.
Your fifth point is easily dismissed, for Revelation 11:8 does not identify Jerusalem as Babylon. Rather, it refers to Jerusalem as "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt." There is nothing in this verse which links Jerusalem with Babylon. The fact that Jerusalem is spiritually called Soddom does not mean that every statement in the Bible about Sodom is to be read as if it were written about Jerusalem. There was a literal Sodom which was judged long before God used the example of that literal Sodom to describe the judgment of Jerusalem. Similarly, there was a literal Babylon which was judged long before God used the example of that literal Babylon to describe the judgment of an unnamed city in Revelation 14-18. The similarity of language here no more makes Jeremiah 50-51 a reference to the city of Revelation 14-18 than the similarity of language between Genesis 19:28 and Revelation 9:2 makes Genesis 19 a reference to the bottomless pit. Two items can be similar and can even be described with similar language while still being two separate and distinct items.
When we recognize that Jeremiah 50:4 does in fact prophesy a reuniting of Israel and Judah during the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon, then we can turn to the account of the return expecting to find both Israelites and Judeans among those who came back to the promised land. This is exactly what we find in Ezra 10:25-43.
You have only mentioned two objections to the claim that Ezra 10:25-43 is a reference to the ten tribes of the Northern kingdom of Israel. First you said that verse 9 identifies these men as being of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but this conclusion ignores the events which took place between verse 9 and verse 25. The men in verse 9 were only from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin because the proclamation of verse 7 was only sent out through Judah and Jerusalem. This is why the proclamation only allowed three days for the men to assemble. It would have been impossible for men scattered throughout the Promised Land to have responded within three days to a proclamation given in Jerusalem. Those in Dan, for example, wouldn't even receive news of the proclamation within that time. This is clearly stated in the text in verse 13 where the men assembled in Jerusalem said "neither is this a work of one day or two" when they were told that the men had to separate themselves from their strange wives. In fact, verses 15-17 tell us that it took a total of three months for all the men of the land which had taken strange wives to come and appear before Jonathan and Jahaziah.
Verses 18-24 then provide us with an account of the men among the priests, the Levites and the singers who had taken strange wives as well as those among the sons of Immer, Harim and Pashur. Then, after already listing these men, verse 25 begins with the phrase "Moreover of Israel." This indicates that the families in verse 25-43 were somehow distinguished as being different from the families in verses 18-24. That distinction cannot be limited to the distinction between priests and Levites and the rest of the people for Immer, Harim and Pashur were listed in verses 18-24, but they were neither priests nor Levites. The only indication we have of the nature of this distinction is that the men in verses 25-43 were men "of Israel." This means that Immer, Harim and Pashur along with the priests and Levites were not men of Israel. The only thing that these men could have been other than men of Israel is men of Judah. Therefore, Ezra 10 records men from both Judah and Israel reunited in a single nation as prophesied in Jeremiah 50:4.
Your second objection was that the men listed in Ezra 10:25-43 were included in the list of those returning from Babylon in Ezra 2, and I agree. This means that the men identified in Ezra 10:25-43 as being men "of Israel" as distinct from the men of Judah in Ezrah 10:18-24 were included in the list of those who returned to the Promised Land after the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon. Therefore, the northern kingdom of Israel did not remain lost as you assume, but rather it was reunited with the southern kingdom during the time of the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon as Jeremiah prophesied, and both kingdoms were allowed to return to the Promised Land where the nation of Israel was once again established as a united kingdom.
Thank you for your input on this. You’ve provided some points worthy of consideration and examination in light of ALL the Bible has to say on this issue. At the same time, there are many points herein that I believe are erroneous and can be proven wrong. However, I do not have the time to continue debating you over these. Readers will have to do their own study and decide for themselves who has provided the best case for when the reunion was to take place.