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CHILDREN OF THE PROMISES
This chapter provides details of the promises made by God directly to Abraham (then known as Abram) and later confirmed with Isaac and then Jacob. It also includes the blessings passed on by Jacob to Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, which are relevant to the issues discussed in this paper.
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” and “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.” (Genesis 12:1-3, 7).
“And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:14-16).
“As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” (Genesis 17:5-7), and “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18 and 28:14).
The promises given to Abraham were reiterated to his son Isaac,“Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries (lands –Tanakh JPS version), and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries (lands –Tanakh JPS version); and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Genesis 26:3-5).
When Laban and Bethuel blessed Rebekah they said to her, “Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.” (Genesis 24:60). While this statement could have been a common saying of the time it is also possible that Jacob had talked a lot about the promises God had made to his family.
Again the promises were passed on to Jacob with more details of what was to be expected. “Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” (Genesis 27:28-29).
“And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” (Genesis 28:13-15). Notice the promise of a land stretching north, south, east and west of where he was located was the same as promised to Abraham.
“And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.” (Genesis 35:10-12).
“And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.” (Genesis 48:15-20).
“Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” (Genesis 49:22-26).
God promised that He would make Abraham’s name great, that his descendants would form a great nation that would be blessed with abundance. God said Abraham would be the father of many nations. He was to be exceedingly fruitful and his descendants were to be as numerous as the dust of the earth, the sand of the seashore, or the stars of the heaven. He was promised the land to the north, south, east and west of where he stood. Kings would proceed from him and his seed would possess the gate of his enemies. Abraham was also told that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in his seed.
The blessings passed on to Ephraim and Manasseh promised a significant increase in numbers. Ephraim was to become a multitude of nations. They were to overflow the boundaries of their land and receive greater blessings than the other tribes, becoming numerous and strong.
A crucial question in this study is: did the ancient nation of Israel receive the blessings promised by God to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? In this chapter we will look at each of those promises and determine from the Bible if those promises were fulfilled or not.
It was promised that Abraham’s name would be great and there is no doubt that in the eyes of the both the Jews and the followers of Christ, Abraham was highly respected and acknowledged as the father of the nation, “They (the Jews) answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father.” (John 8:39). Paul said, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29). Also, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,” (Romans 4:16). His name is also great among the descendants of Ishmael.
Ancient Israel became a great nation, especially during the reigns of king David and his son Solomon over 400 years after coming out of Egypt. Through the prophet Nathan God told David, “I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked, and have cut off all thine enemies from before thee, and have made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth.” David said, “And what one nation in the earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt?” (I Chronicles 17:8, 21, see also II Samuel 7:9, 23). Chapters 18 through 20 of I Chronicles detail some of the impressive military feats achieved by David that contributed to Israel’s greatness.
“And king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart.” (II Chronicles 9:22-23).
“And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life,” and “And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.” (I Kings 4:21, 26).
“and his (Solomon’s) fame was in all nations round about.” (I Kings 4:31).
“And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.” (I Kings 10:1).
Even Jeremiah in lamenting the fall of Jerusalem said, “she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces,” and “the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?” and “The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.” (Lamentations 1:1, 2:15 and 4:12).
The above verses regarding greatness and fame of Israel especially during the reigns of David and his son Solomon testify that the promises made by God to Abraham in that respect were fulfilled.
Adherents of the British Israelite theory teach that Israel was to become two separate entities comprising a nation plus a company of nations as indeed the KJV implies, “And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;” (Genesis 35:11). However, the Moffatt translation reads differently. It says, “be fruitful and multiply; a nation, a group of nations shall come from you,” implying that Israel was to be a single nation made up from a company or multitude of peoples - twelve tribal nations. Moffatt’s translation is confirmed by the Tanakh (New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text), which reads, “A nation, Yea an assembly of nations”, which is exactly what Israel was, a single great nation comprising a company, or group of peoples. The Living Bible also reads, “a great nation, yes, many nations;”.
When considering the composition of the ancient nation of Israel it cannot be ignored that it was a single great nation comprised of a company of tribal nations just as God had promised.
It was promised that Abraham’s descendants would be numerous like the dust of the earth, the stars of heaven and the sand on the sea-shore. The same terminology is used later in the Bible to describe the size of the population that Israel attained. According to Moses God had multiplied Israel as the stars of the heaven even prior to entering the promised land, “The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.” (Deuteronomy 1:10). Other passages also indicate they continued to multiply, “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return:” (Isaiah 10:22). “Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude,” (I Kings 4:20). And, “Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers,” (Nehemiah 9:23).
Solomon himself said, “And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.” (I Kings 3:8).
It is obvious from these verses that the population of ancient Israel did reach the proportions God defined in His promise to Abraham.
The fact that God fulfilled His promise to Abraham by giving his descendants the land that stretched as far as Abraham could see in any direction from where he stood at the time (Bethel), is not in dispute. God gave the land He promised to Israel, “And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:” (Genesis 13:14).
This is the promised land Moses led them to, “And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.” (Deuteronomy 34:4). Joshua took them into the promised land after Moses died, “And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:23).
When confirming the area with Jacob, God said, “And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:14). When the Israelites entered the promised land they crossed the Jordan and proceeded to a central position from which they spread geographically to the north, south, east and west just as God said they would: from the same point where Abraham had stood.
Genesis 28:14 (above) has sometimes been interpreted to confirm that Israel was to become a colonising nation, but this is not what the verse implies as we have just seen. It simply means they will spread from a particular point, which also happens to be where both Abraham and Jacob had previously stood, throughout the land God gave them.
God said that He would give the children of Israel a land flowing with milk and honey. In God’s own words Israel was a plentiful country, “And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof;” (Jeremiah 2:7).
The materials gathered by King David for the building of the temple in Jerusalem testify to the wealth of Israel, “He (David) gave of gold by weight for things of gold, for all instruments of all manner of service; silver also for all instruments of silver by weight, for all instruments of every kind of service: Even the weight for the candlesticks of gold, and for their lamps of gold, by weight for every candlestick, and for the lamps thereof: and for the candlesticks of silver by weight, both for the candlestick, and also for the lamps thereof, according to the use of every candlestick. And by weight he gave gold for the tables of shewbread, for every table; and likewise silver for the tables of silver: Also pure gold for the fleshhooks, and the bowls, and the cups: and for the golden basons he gave gold by weight for every bason; and likewise silver by weight for every bason of silver: And for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the pattern of the chariot of the cherubims, that spread out their wings, and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD.” (I Chronicles 28:14-18).
During the reign of Solomon there was also great abundance. Here are a few examples that portray the wealth and prosperity of that time: “And king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.” (II Chronicles 9:22).
“And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, which he placed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem. And the king made silver and gold at Jerusalem as plenteous as stones, and cedar trees made he as the sycomore trees that are in the vale for abundance. And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king’s merchants received the linen yarn at a price. And they fetched up, and brought forth out of Egypt a chariot for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so brought they out horses for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, by their means.” (II Chronicles 1:14-17).
“And it came to pass at the end of twenty years, wherein Solomon had built the house of the LORD, and his own house, That the cities which Huram had restored to Solomon, Solomon built them, and caused the children of Israel to dwell there. And Solomon went to Hamathzobah, and prevailed against it. And he built Tadmor in the wilderness, and all the store cities, which he built in Hamath. Also he built Bethhoron the upper, and Bethhoron the nether, fenced cities, with walls, gates, and bars; And Baalath, and all the store cities that Solomon had, and all the chariot cities, and the cities of the horsemen, and all that Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and throughout all the land of his dominion. As for all the people that were left of the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which were not of Israel, But of their children, who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel consumed not, them did Solomon make to pay tribute until this day.” (II Chronicles 8:1-8).
God gave his people a land flowing with milk and honey which Moses identified as the land of Canaan, “And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey;” (Exodus 3:8).
Israel prospered in that land especially during the reigns of David and Solomon, fulfilling what God had promised in respect of material blessings.
God told Abraham that kings would come from him. Many kings were born from the descendants of Abraham in both Israel and Judah, from King Saul through to the last kings of those nations before they went into captivity. From a spiritual point of view many more kings will be born: the Bible says that those of the faith are spiritual descendants of Abraham, destined to be kings. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” and “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” and “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Galatians 3:29 and I Peter 2:9, Revelation 5:10).
God said that Abraham’s seed would possess the gate of his enemies. The term ‘gate of his enemies’ does not mean ‘sea gates’. The Tanakh JPS version says, “and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes.” (Genesis 22:17). The gates of the city are where kings sat to judge and rule. To possess the gate of one’s enemies simply means to rule over them. For example when God pronounced judgment against Jerusalem, He said that their adversaries would set up their thrones in the gates of Jerusalem, “For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.” (Jeremiah 1:15). This particular prophecy was fulfilled, “And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.” (Jeremiah 39:3).
Did ancient Israel possess the gates of the cities of her enemies? Joshua 12 lists more than 30 city-state kingdoms that Israel conquered and possessed, “Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto mount Hermon, and all the plain on the east:” (Joshua 12:1, and through to verse 24).
The book of Nehemiah confirms that other nations and kingdoms were conquered by Israel and it also confirms a number of other points already made in this paper concerning God’s promises to Abraham, “Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it. So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.” (Nehemiah 9:22-25).
God said that in Abraham all families of the earth would be blessed. The example set in Genesis 3:15 shows that the word ‘seed’ in prophetic terms can be used to refer to Christ. Jesus Christ is the seed of Abraham through whom all nations will be blessed. This is confirmed in the New Testament, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” and “ Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:8, 16).
What about the promises made concerning Ephraim and Manasseh? Jacob had twelve sons, the eldest being Reuben who because of his immoral behaviour lost the birthright to Joseph, “Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel:” (I Chronicles 5:1). Joseph had proved himself more worthy than his brothers to receive the birthright.
Confirmation of the tradition that a double portion of the inheritance goes to the firstborn can be found in Moses’ time, “But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.” (Deuteronomy 21:17). The material inheritance received by the Israelites when they entered the promised land was their portion of that land – there was nothing else at that point to pass on.
Joseph’s descendants were to receive a double portion of land in accordance with the birthright tradition. That double portion was to be shared by his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob also adopted Joseph’s two sons to make up the fullness of his family, “And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.” (Genesis 48:5). Because God had ordained that the priestly tribe of Levi was not to receive any land, the adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh as Jacob’s sons made up the fullness of numbers (See Appendix I, table 1.) Without Levi, the tribes receiving land only numbered eleven, but Joseph was to receive a double portion, which was to be divided between his two sons. With Ephraim and Manasseh representing Joseph’s portion the fullness of numbers receiving the inheritance is retained. Twelve is believed to be a significant number in the Bible symbolising governmental perfection, as in 12 tribes, 12 apostles, 12 foundations in New Jerusalem, and the (12x12) 144,000 first fruits. Thus Joseph’s sons make up the ‘fulness of the nations’.
When Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh he said that Manasseh, “shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.” (Genesis 48:19-22). He was saying that because of the double portion given to Joseph and the fact that Ephraim and Manasseh were now his adopted sons, the two of them would become fully-fledged tribes of Israel, but Ephraim was to become greater than Manasseh. And also he, Ephraim, was to become a “multitude of nations”.
Jacob also said that, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)” (Genesis 49:22-24). This indicated that their numbers would increase until they overflowed their borders, and that they would become strong.
In Genesis 49 Jacob foretold what would befall his sons in the future, “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” (Genesis 49:1). However, the assumption that ‘last days’ means ‘end time’ is not supported by the numerous versions that translate the words ‘last days’ as ‘days to come’ (JPS, RVS, NIV, Living Bible, MKJV, LIT), or ‘in future times’ (BBE) that indicate a future time but not necessarily the end-time.
When they entered the promised land each tribe received its own portion. The children of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) when allocated their land said that Mt Ephraim was “too narrow” for them and were given more land (Joshua 17:14-18). In this way they received Joseph’s double portion, “And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath blessed me hitherto? And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.” and “And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only: But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down:” (Joshua 17:14-15, 17-18).
Joseph received a double portion that was shared between his two sons and when Jacob blessed them he reversed his hands to indicate that Ephraim was to be greater than his brother, “And he (Manasseh) also shall be great: but truly his younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he,” (Genesis 48:19). The tribe of Ephraim not only became the most populous in Israel, it also achieved greatness in the sense that the name Ephraim became synonymous with the name Israel. In his note against Hosea 5:3 in the Companion Bible, Bullinger says that Ephraim is used as a figure of speech for the whole 10 tribes of Israel. Similarly the New Bible Commentary 3rd Edition says “Ephraim…Israel, are synonymous” page 709. This is commonly accepted among scholars.
What did Jacob mean when he said that Ephraim’s “seed shall become a multitude of nations,” (Genesis 48:19). The word translated ‘multitude’ means fullness and the Hebrew word ‘goyim’ means nations. The margin note in the JPS Jewish Bible Study – Tanakh Translation (2005) says “Both tribes became important, though it is from Ephraim that Moses’ successor Joshua, the prophet Samuel, and Jeroboam 1, the founder of the northern kingdom (Israel) all hailed (Num 13:8; 1 Sam 1:1; 1 Kings 11:26). In fact ‘Ephraim’ eventually became another name for the northern kingdom itself (e.g. Hos 5:3;Isa 7:1-17).” Other commentators like Matthew Henry and John Gill agree with this. John Gill says that according to Numbers 2:18-20 “Ephraim’s standard was placed before Manasseh’s” - “and upon the division of the tribes in Rehoboam’s time, as Jeroboam was of the tribe of Ephraim, that tribe was at the head of the ten tribes, and the seat of the kingdom was in it, and the whole kingdom of Israel often goes by the name of Ephraim”.
In other words Ephraim came to his fullness as the dominant of the ten tribes (families), or nations, which made up a company of nations that became known as Ephraim. Earlier in this chapter we discussed how God promised that Israel would become a nation comprised of a company of nations (Genesis 35:11). The same Hebrew word for ‘nations’ is used in Genesis 48:19 and 35:11.
Earlier verses in Chapter 48 indicate that this was to occur in the land God would give them, “and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Verse 16). The word translated as ‘earth’ (Strongs 0776 - erets) means land. What land? “And (God) said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession.” (verse 4).
Ephraim was to become a fullness of nations in the land God would give them – the land of Israel. He was to become the dominant tribe (nation/family) of the ten northern tribes, which would bear his name - Ephraim. It did not mean that Ephraim was to become the British Commonwealth spread around the world.
Joshua acknowledged that the descendants of Joseph were a ‘great’ multitude, “And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only:” (Joshua 17:17). The Hebrew word ‘rab’ translated ‘great’ also means both ‘many’ (multitude) and ‘strong’.
The Tanakh JPS translation says that Joseph’s sons will become ‘teeming multitudes upon the earth’ (Genesis 48:16). This is similar to what was promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when God used such terms as the sand on the shore, or stars in heaven. And in verse 19 “He (Manasseh) too shall become a people, and he too shall be great. Yet his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall be plentiful enough for nations”. It is saying Ephraim would become greater in number than Manasseh.
This is confirmed in the next chapter of Genesis, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:” (Genesis 49:22). In a marginal note the KJV shows that the word ‘branches’ refers to daughters, in this particular context. When taken into consideration with the blessing in verse 25, “Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb”. It is clearly talking about Joseph’s children having an abundance of descendants. The term ‘multitude of nations’ used in the KJV does not mean that Ephraim will literally become a commonwealth of nations (i.e. the British Commonwealth). It simply means that his descendants will be more plentiful than those of his brothers.
As discussed already the children of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) when allocated their land said that Mt Ephraim was “too narrow” for them and were given more land (Joshua 17:14-18). They were so numerous they effectively overflowed their borders.
To Moses, God renewed the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, “And I will bring you unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage:” (Exodus 6:8). These are the same promises He had fulfilled by the time of Solomon.
According to the Book of Joshua the promises were fulfilled, “There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:45). Just before his death Joshua reminded the Israelites of this, “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” (Joshua 23:14).
In his speech of dedication at the opening of the temple in Jerusalem, Solomon said, “Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.” (I Kings 8:56).
Claims that Israel never received all the promises and that they were finally delivered to the descendants of Israel in this day and age are not biblically founded!
The promises to Israel were conditional to obedience and they were warned that they would be reversed if they did not keep their part of the covenant, “Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.” (Joshua 23:15-16).
Consequently the blessings were removed from Israel and later the remnant Judah because of their rejection of God and disobedience of His law culminating in the crucifixion of His son Jesus Christ!
The British Israelite theory maintains that Britain and America are identifiable as descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. However, other nations like Spain, Italy and Germany who are not considered to be “Israelite” have also been greatly blessed with wealth and prosperity. It is not only Britain and America but European races in general that possess the greater part of the wealth and resources of this planet. It could perhaps be construed that societies based, however loosely, around the ten commandments, reap the natural blessings (and cursings) of adherence (or otherwise) to God’s laws. It could also be suggested that those nations that began to promote the Hebrew/Christian Bible were blessed by God because He wanted the Bible spread around the world. That has been accomplished since the invention of the printing press and through well-intentioned Bible societies like the Gideons and many others.
There is no doubt from the evidence contained in the Bible itself that ancient Israel did indeed receive all of the material blessings promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by God. As stated by Solomon at the time of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, not one of the promises God made failed (I Kings 8:56). Abraham’s name was made great and his descendants did reach the numbers God predicted. They spread abroad in the land God gave them and received the abundance, fame and strength to be a formidable force on the world scene possessing the gates of their enemies.
Joseph received a double portion and the promises to his sons Ephraim and Manasseh were fulfilled. Ephraim became a multitude of people in the land of Israel that God gave them. His tribe became the largest of the twelve and later when Israel and Judah split his name became synonymous with the name of Israel. He was greater than his brother Manasseh.
Each and every one of those promises was fulfilled in the days of ancient Israel. Any claim that the physical blessing were not received by ancient Israel in those days is erroneous. Having fulfilled those promises in every detail God is under no obligation to bless the supposed descendants of ancient Israel in this day and age.
God also promised salvation for all mankind through Abraham’s seed. This promise was fulfilled in as far as Jesus Christ through whom all mankind will be saved was born among the remnant of Israel that God retained specifically for that purpose.
According to the British Israelite teaching, Queen Elizabeth II occupies the throne of David. It is believed that after the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah took the daughters of king Zedekiah to Ireland, where one of them married a ruler who was reputed to have been a descendant of Judah among the lost tribes of Israel. They maintain that the throne was overturned three times, from Judah to Ireland, then to Scotland and finally to England fulfilling their interpretation of an Ezekiel prophecy. Are these claims supported in the Bible?
The statement that, “David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;” (Jeremiah 33:17), is used to confirm that the throne will be occupied continuously until Christ returns to claim it.
God certainly did promise that David’s throne would be established forever, “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.” (II Samuel 7:12-16).
Although the throne was established forever and will eventually be occupied by Christ for all eternity, David told Solomon that the continual occupation of the throne, that is, the physical continuance of his line, in the meantime was conditional on obedience, “Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man; And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself: That the LORD may continue his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.” (I Kings 2:1-4). David made it very clear that it was possible for the throne to exist even though unoccupied.
Later when the kingdom of Israel split into the nations of Israel and Judah, Jeroboam, Solomon’s servant, set up his own throne to rule over the nation Israel while David’s throne remained with Judah as Jacob had said it would, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Genesis 49:10).
The concept that the throne of David was to be overturned three times stems from the way the following verse has been interpreted, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.” (Ezekiel 21:26-27). The Hebrew word ‘avvah’ translated ‘overturn,’ is more correctly translated as ‘ruin’. The Tanakh (New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text) uses the correct word, “Ruin, an utter ruin I will make it. It shall be no more until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs;” (Ezekiel 21:32 JPS). This is also confirmed by the RSV translation, which says “ruin, ruin, ruin” and Moffatt who says “in ruins, ruins, ruins.”.
The word ‘ruin’ clearly indicates that the throne is to be left in a state of ruin, or unoccupied until it is claimed by Jesus Christ the rightful heir. The point is emphasised by repeating the word ‘ruin’ a number of times.
It is believed that the statement that David shall “never want for a man to sit upon the throne.” (Jeremiah 33:17) means that the throne must be continually occupied, and that this was accomplished when the throne was transferred through Zedekiah’s daughter to Ireland, then Scotland and finally to England where it has remained until this day. Does the Bible support this claim? Did the royal line to the throne continue through Zedekiah?
The Bible records the legal line of heirs to the throne through David’s son Solomon in Matthew 1:1–16. However, there is no mention of Zedekiah and it can be argued that is because Zedekiah was not a legal heir to the throne. Although Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s uncle and a member of the royal family he was not in line for the throne. On the particular occasion when God used Ezekiel to portray Zedekiah’s fate he referred to Zedekiah as a prince, which he was, rather than king (Ezekiel 12:12-13).
Zedekiah was a vassal king appointed not by God, but by Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiachin was King when Judah’s Babylonian captivity commenced. As long as King Jehoiachin remained alive and did not abdicate he was the rightful king on David’s throne. There is no evidence that Jehoiachin abdicated. He outlived Zedekiah, and his captors eventually afforded him the respect of his royal position (II Kings 25:27-30). Zedekiah was not the king of Judah in God’s eyes otherwise he would have been included in the genealogy of Matthew 1:1-16.
The royal line continued through Jehoiachin’s sons but they did not sit on the throne and had no kingdom to rule over. Everything was in ruins, the nation had been destroyed and the remnant was in captivity.
No descendant of Jehoiachin sat on the throne because God had decreed, “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:30). There is no Biblical evidence that any of Zedekiah’s descendants sat on David’s throne, which confirms that it did indeed lie in a state of ruin.
Christ was however a blood descendant of David through the genealogy of David’s son Nathan which is listed in Luke 3:23-31. Through his mother Mary, Christ was eligible to sit on the throne of David. And Jeremiah prophesied that Christ (the Branch) would eventually be king, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper.” (Jeremiah 23:5).
When Jeremiah said, “David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;” (Jeremiah 33:17), it simply meant that once Christ claims the throne we will never want for any one else. When the time is right Christ the Branch will occupy the throne for all eternity. He will rule as a spiritual king when he returns. And when the time comes there will also be a spiritual priesthood “And made us (the saints) a kingdom, priests to his God and Father;” and “And hast made them (the saints) a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth." (Revelation 1:6; also 5:10 (RSV)). God said that He had established the throne of David forever, but because of the sins of Judah it was to remain unoccupied until claimed by Christ.
If the words “David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 33:17), mean that the throne of Israel will be continually occupied from Jeremiah’s time until Christ returns to take up the throne, then, according to the next verse a Levitical priesthood will also be offering sacrifices during that same period, “Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.” (Verse 18). Why would God go to great lengths to maintain the royal line through Zedekiah’s daughters as some claim and leave the matter of the priests and sacrifices unfulfilled? Both statements refer to Christ who is the king qualified to take over David’s throne. He is our sacrifice and has already assumed the position of High Priest.
What happened to Israel’s royal line? When the nation of Israel split, the northern kingdom began its own ‘royal line’ through Jereboam, a servant of Solomon. Jeroboam was not of the royal family. Over one hundred years prior to the fall of Judah Hosea prophesied that Israel’s royal line would cease, “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim:” (Hosea 3:4).
God caused the nation along with its ‘royal line’ to cease. “And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.” and “For I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.” and “for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.”. He said He will not be their God until, “it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”. This will happen when Judah and Israel are ‘gathered together” when, “they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9, 10 and 11).
The day of Jezreel is the day of judgement. In the Tanakh (The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Scriptures) it says, “and they shall rise from the ground for marvellous shall be the day of Jezreel.”. Jezreel is symbolic for judgment and this verse is saying that neither Israel nor Judah will be God’s people until they are gathered together in the resurrection on the day of judgment - the Great White Throne Judgment Day of Revelation 20:11-12. This is when everyone who has never received God’s Spirit will be resurrected. Ancient Israel and Judah will be resurrected along with the rest of the world.
According to Hosea, Israel along with its ‘royal’ line ceased to exist and will remain that way until the resurrection. (A remnant from all the tribes survived for a special purpose which is discussed further in this paper.)
An often quoted passage used to support the story of the flight of Zedekiah’s daughters to Ireland is Ezekiel 17:22-24 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent: In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done it.”.
Some see this passage as supporting the concept that Jeremiah took the daughters of Zedekiah to the lost tribes. However, this is simply not the case. It is interesting to note that Bullinger (1837-1913) lived through the period when the British Israelite theory was conceived and promoted. He spoke very strongly against the idea that Ezekiel 17 referred to the transplanting of Zedekiah’s daughters. “Those who interpret this enigma of Zedekiah’s daughters are hereby warned that they shall not prosper” (notes on verse 22) and in reference to the ‘tender one’ in verse 22 he writes “The Chaldee Tagrum interpret this of the Messiah. Those who interpret this of Zedekiah’s ‘younger daughter’ are guilty of substituting her for the Messiah Himself; Whose future Kingdom is to be in the mountains of the height of Israel, and not in any other country; or during the present dispensation.”.
Ezekiel 17: 22-24 is not talking about Zedekiah’s daughters at all. It is referring to Christ the Branch (the highest Branch), who was to be planted on the mountains of Israel to be the King over Israel, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6). That righteous Branch is Christ. Even now as the head of the church (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23), he is ruling over the spiritual Kingdom of Israel and it is through him that salvation is offered whereby all the nations of the earth are to be blessed.
The message of Ezekiel 17 is that Jerusalem, the last bastion of the Kingdom of Israel, was destroyed and its people taken into captivity and it is not going to be permanently restored until it is done through Christ.
Is the claim that Queen Elizabeth the Second is a direct descendant of the Davidic royal line valid?
We have already shown that the Davidic line did not descend through Zedekiah and his daughters through Ireland to the British throne. Similarly any attempt to trace the heritage of Queen Elizabeth the Second back to Ireland runs into problems.
We don’t have to go very far back in the current royal line of the British throne until we strike problems in establishing the supposed line of descent. In the early part of chapter 2 of A. N. Wilson’s recent book “The Victorians” he casts serious doubt on the paternity of both Victoria and Albert. If neither Queen Victoria nor her husband Prince Albert were descended from their respective fathers then the Davidic line has been broken.
This is just one example indicating the problems of tracing the royal line through many generations spanning nearly 2,500 years, from when Zedekiah’s daughters were supposed to have landed in Ireland, to this day. It is enough to throw doubt on the validity of the concept that the “Davidic line” continued to the present British throne.
When Jehoiachin died in captivity the throne of David was left vacant but the royal line continued down to Christ who is to be king.
There is no scriptural proof the royal line continued through Zedekiah’s daughters who supposedly took the crown to Ireland. This theory is based on legend and myth.
The prophecies concerning Israel’s greatness were fulfilled prior to the time of the destruction of Israel and Judah. Because of their sin they went into captivity and will only come out of that captivity when they accept Christ as their saviour, repent and receive God’s Spirit. The prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel refer to spiritual Israel into which all people, Jews and Gentiles will be restored. It doesn’t matter who or where the descendants of Israel are today: they, like the rest of the world, are in spiritual captivity and will remain so until resurrected.
The promise that the throne of David was be established forever and that David would never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel has clearly been fulfilled. That throne was established and because most who sat on it failed to obey His commandments God eventually denied those of the royal line access to the throne until Christ. As head of the Church he sits on that throne ruling Spiritual Israel - His church. There is no longer any need for a man to sit on the throne.
 Supporters of the British Israelite theory insist that the so-called breach that occurred at the birth of the twins Pharez and Zareh had to be healed generations later when Zedekiah’s daughter married a King Herremon in Ireland who was reputed to be of the Zarah line. This scenario is based on speculation and myth, it is not biblically provable. The more likely explanation for the Pharaz/Zarah birth incident is simply that God had predetermined that Christ would be of the Pharez line and not the Zarah line.
 It should be noted that the genealogy in Luke 3:23 says Joseph was the son of Heli. This was not the case. Heli was Joseph’s father in-law, Mary’s father. Joseph’s real father was Jacob (Mat 1:16) but he became Heli’s son by marriage. Because Mary had no brothers she was entitled to inherit her father’s rights (Numbers 27:1-7 and 36:6-7 set the precedent).
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Last modified: 06/04/12
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