Are Israelites Jews?
Whereas all Jews undoubtedly are Israelites, the question is, are all Israelites Jewish? There is quite a lot of confusion about the terms Israelite and Jew just as there are a lot of misunderstandings about the terms Jew and Gentile. A lot of people think that if somebody is an Israelite, he must therefore by definition be a Jew. It is a common perception that all Israelites are Jewish. The problem is that this idea is far from the truth. To refer to all Israelites as Jews is to deny the existence of the other ten tribes of Israel, which have descended from the sons of Jacob. Remember the patriarch Jacob had twelve sons that were to grow into the twelve tribes of Israel. Each tribe maintained its own distinct identity and after Joshua had conquered the land of Canaan, they were each apportioned their own tribal territories within the Land of Promise. To give you a modern day analogy; it is like saying that every American is from Texas, and therefore from now on we will refer to every American as a Texan.
You see, even Abraham was not a Jew, he was a Hebrew! Isaac too was no Jew as he, like his father, was a Hebrew. Jacob and Joseph also were not Jewish, as they too were Hebrews, or, as Jacob’s name was changed by God to Israel, they might be called Israelites. Moses and Aaron were from the tribe of Levi and thus they were Levites and could not claim to be Jewish either. Joshua too was no Jew, as he was from the tribe of Ephraim nevertheless, they were all Israelites. For someone to be called a Texan must mean that he was born and bred in Texas, and so it is also with the Jew, as strictly speaking a Jewish person by very definition has to be a descendant of the Patriarch Judah, the fourth son of Jacob. Nevertheless, you will not find the word Jew in the Bible until after the death of Solomon, as it was after his reign that the northern Ten Tribes of Israel seceded from Judah and the House of David. It was at that time approximately 3000 years ago that Israel split into two nations with the Kingdom of Judah in the south and the Kingdom of Israel in the north. At the time of the separation it was the tribe of Benjamin which largely stayed loyal to the House of David, as indeed did many from the priestly tribe of Levi, and for this reason the term Jew came to include the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. There were also remnants of all the other tribes who remained behind with Judah, and the definition of being a Jew then came to refer to anyone who was part of and lived in the territory of the Kingdom of Judah. The first mention of the word Jew in the Bible confirms the fact, as we discover in the book of Esther in reference to Mordecai, the Jew! (Esther 2:5), as it also goes on to say that he is a Benjamite, e.g. his family roots were in the tribe of Benjamin.
Ever since the separation of the two nations/kingdoms the people who lived in the territory of Judah became known as Jews, whereas the population of the northern kingdom of Israel became known as Israelites. Thus now we have two quite separate definitions – we have got Jews and Israelites, and even though in Jacob/Israel, they share the same ancestral father, they are in effect two separate nations, each with their own particular identity. It is because historically the Jews as a people right up to our day have been so persecuted that they have come to feel isolated from the rest of the world. This very isolation in turn has led them to divide the world into two categories e.g. Jews and Gentiles. To the Jewish mind, Gentile means anyone other than a Jew, and going by their own Jewish definition; Israelites descended from the other 10 Tribes are Gentiles also for the simple reason they are not Jews! Over time the situation has been further developed into becoming an issue of religion, whereby anyone, (no matter what their parentage or origins), who converts to Judaism automatically becomes Jewish. The present day State of Israel is only for the Jews, as non-Jews are not permitted to acquire citizenship in the nation unless they convert to Judaism. According to the prophets of Israel, this situation is destined to change when Judah and Israel, the two houses/nations of Israel are reunited in the reign of Messiah. Todays reality is that whereas the Jews are Israelites, most Israelites are not Jews, as Judah was only one of twelve tribes. Yet, we live in the days when all the tribes of Israel will once again be reunited into one nation. See: Ezekiel 37:19-26 for confirmation of this certain fact.
Having studied the subject regarding the Lost House of Israel and the much prophesied reunification of the Two Houses of Israel, also known as the Gospel of the Kingdom, I have come to the view that those ‘lost Israelites’ are mainly ‘concentrated’ in the Anglo-Saxon/Celtic English speaking nations, as well as in the nations of North-western Europe, especially those nations touched by the Protestant Reformation, which was the instrument God used to bring His Word, the Bible, to the people of this world. Nevertheless, numerous prophecies indicate the 10 tribes were scattered to the four corners of the earth. (Jer. 30:10; Ez. 6:8; Ez. 34:6). From this we can surmise that descendants of Jacob may be found all over the world. As far as working out who is an Israelite and who is not, I think we can safely leave that to Our Father in Heaven. After all, if He knows the number of the very hairs on our heads, I am sure He is aware of our Israelite ancestry too.
As far as any true believer in Messiah is concerned it really does not matter which part of the world we originate from. In this respect we can take great comfort from the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:29;
“If you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The word “seed” in this verse is translated from the Greek word “sperma,” and you cannot get more ‘physical’ than this. Therefore, this means that if you are truly “in” Messiah, and have surrendered and dedicated your whole life to Him, you are the seed of Abraham and an heir to the Covenant YHVH made with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob and all of the twelve tribes of Israel. This makes you an Israelite! You may be sure that once this realization truly sinks in, it will totally transform your life. Prepare yourself for great and unexpected changes from within.
When you put the above in context with the words where Yeshua explained the purpose of His Divine Mission:
“I was not sent EXCEPT TO THE LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL.”
Add to this the fact that He strictly forbade His disciples saying:
“Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter the cities of the Samaritans. But GO RATHER TO THE LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL.”
When you then add to this His further statement in John 6:44;
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
We can infer from these four Scriptures that:
A – Yeshua, our Messiah, was sent by His Father on a RESCUE mission
B – His mission was to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel
C – Yeshua and his disciples were not permitted to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans
D – No One can come to Messiah Yeshua, except the Father (YHVH) draws him
E – If you belong to Messiah Yeshua, you are the seed of Abraham
Conclusion: In this dispensation only the seed of Abraham is being drawn to salvation in Messiah Yeshua.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, e.g. the part that is not of Israel, can take great assurance that the covenant God, the Holy One of Israel, made with Abraham contains the cast iron immutable promise that in his (Abraham’s) seed, ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH will be blessed. (Genesis 12:3) In other words Our Father God will get around to them later. At this time He is primarily concerned with His nation Israel and that is why He has called Himself the GOD OF ISRAEL.