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2 Houses?

R. Steven Bernstein

Are Judah and Israel two separate peoples? Within the body of Messiah, this is a question that is sometimes asked today. I would like to take this opportunity to show that historically, this is not a viable concept.

This concept stems from the idea that there are 10 lost Tribes of Israel. And, that these 10 lost Tribes of Israel somehow morph into the current body of Messiah, that is, the non-Jewish body of Messiah. And, that the Jewish people are from the tribe of Judah alone. So, let us look at the history, and the historical context of Judah and Israel.

First, let us address the idea that the separation of 2 houses is through bloodline. In order for this to be true, the bloodlines of each of the tribes of Israel, historically, must have been kept pure. In other words, each of the tribe must have married and had children within the tribes themselves. The Jewish people, through the millennia, have kept track of one of the tribes and the people of this tribe have kept the bloodline pure. This of course is the tribe of Levi. Within the tribe of Levi, the Jewish people have also kept track of the descendants of Aaron, the Kohayns, of pure bloodline. In every Orthodox or Hasidic synagogue today, the 1st person called to the Torah is a direct descendent of Aaron, a Kohayn, and the 2nd person called to the Torah is a descendent of Levi. Other than the tribe of Levi, the bloodlines of every tribe of Israel is mixed and present in the current Jewish people. In Judges 21, we see the beginning of the precedent of the mixture of bloodline. Bloodlines were intentionally mixed to keep the tribe of Benjamin from going extinct. Historically, since that time, the bloodlines of every one of the tribes of Israel have been mixed. Every Jewish person that you see today has the bloodlines of all of the tribes of Israel mixed in him or her. The exception to this rule is the tribe of Levi.

After King Shlomo, we were divided into 2 kingdoms, the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. We are all familiar with this history. The northern kingdom of Israel is conquered by the Assyrians and our people were carried off into captivity in Assyria. Later, the southern kingdom, comprised of Judah and Benjamin, was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia and also carried off into exile. It would seem that these 2 peoples were now separated through different exiles, but, historical examination will reveal otherwise. After Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar himself was defeated by the Persian Empire. The Persian Empire extended its conquest northward as well. In fact, the Persian Empire conquered all Assyria. This resulted in all of the children of Israel coming under Persian rule.

As the history continues, we come to the story of Mordechai, and Esther. Haman did in fact threaten the existence of all of the children of Israel, since all of the children of Israel were under were under Persian rule. All of the children of Israel that had been conquered by the Assyrians and all of the children of Israel that have been conquered by the Babylonians came under the edicts of Haman. Happily, the Jewish people defeated Haman and his minions. Queen Esther, then gave birth to Daryavesh, the Jewish King of Persia (according to Midrash.) Daryavesh gave Ezra and Nehemiah permission to return to the land of the promise and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. This decree went out to all of Persia, to the children of Israel who were exiled by Assyria and to the children of Israel who were exiled by Babylonia. The leadership came from Babylonia, but Jewish people from all over the Persian Empire returned to the land of the promise.

So, we see that it is impossible for the terms Judah and Israel, or the terms Judah and Efrayim, to be referring, from this point forward, to bloodline. In fact, we see Judah and Israel being used interchangeably in the Tanakh in Ezra and Nehemiah. Both the terms Judah and Israel are used specifically to prevent us from saying that any one of the tribes is not included in the discussion. That is, that we understand that it is all the Jewish people about which the text is speaking. In reality, the geographic terms Judah and Israel, cease to have meaning after the exiles to Assyria and Babylonia. This is proven out on the return of the exiles and no longer in any writings are Judah and Israel referred to as being separate.

Historically, after the destruction of the 1st Temple, the terms Judah, Israel, Efrayim, are all referring to the Jewish people. The bloodlines are all mixed. The geopolitical lines are all changed. The returnees from captivity are of all of the tribes of Israel. The 2 house concept has no basis.

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781