History of the Split
The United Kingdom of Israel became Two Nations
After forty years on the throne of the United Kingdom of Israel, King Solomon went the way of all mortal men, and was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. Then in 975 BC, the northern Ten Tribes of Israel split off from Judah in rebellion against the high taxes levied by the son of King Solomon. Prior to this ‘great split,’ the ‘Sceptre’ family of Judah and the ‘Birth-right’ family of Joseph had lived side by side. It was this shared history that made their separation all the more painful.
Leah and Rachel, the two wives of Jacob, were each to produce a son through whom a special blessing was to be passed on. Joseph, the first born son of Rachel, was to receive the ‘Promise of the Birth-right,’ whereas Judah, the son of Leah, was to receive the ‘Promise of the Sceptre.’ This indicated that the descendants of Judah were to become the progenitors of a great royal dynasty.
Both the children of Leah and of Rachel suffered under the heavy yoke of slavery in Egypt. Together they served those unjust taskmasters. Together they experienced their miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea and went into the wilderness. Together they crossed the river Jordan, marched around Jericho and drove out seven nations stronger than they were. Together they experienced the establishment of the monarchy and lived within one ‘United Kingdom of Israel’ under three kings, respectively, Saul, David and Solomon, who, each in their turn ruled over the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
‘My Coat for a Kingdom!’
Then, soon after the death of Solomon, came the big division of the nation that caused the two families that held the Covenant blessing of the Sceptre and the Birth-right, Judah and Joseph, to go their separate ways. The process was as painful and bitter as any divorce. We find the account of the great split written in the First book of Kings, chapters eleven and twelve. Here we find recorded the division of the tribes of Israel into two kingdoms, with a son of Solomon ruling over one kingdom, and a son of the house of Joseph ruling over the other much larger kingdom. All of this had been prophesied by God, after king Solomon had taken on no less than a thousand wives and concubines, many of whom were into paganism, witchcraft and the occult. This is the prophetic word Solomon was given:
“Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Because you have done this, and have not kept my covenant and statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.’ ”
(1 Kings 11:11-13)
The promise here is that the kingdom will be torn out of the hands of his son and given to Solomon’s servant. The servant's name was a man called Jeroboam, who was from the tribe of Ephraim, and Solomon had put him in charge of all the labour force of Joseph, i.e. the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. One day when Jeroboam was on his way out of the royal capital of Jerusalem, wearing a brand new cloak, he was approached by the prophet Ahijah. The prophet asked him to hand over his new garment only to see him tear it into twelve pieces. Ahijah then said to him:
“Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you.’ ” The prophet’s final words to him are: “And you shall be king over Israel.”
(1 Kings 11:31, 37)
No doubt, after that encounter, Jeroboam’s ears must have been burning and the loss of his brand new coat would have been nothing to him. We have all heard the saying: “My kingdom for a horse!” Jeroboam could go one better than that, as in his case he would have been able to reverse the saying to, “My coat for a kingdom!” Who would not willingly sacrifice a coat for a kingdom? The emphatic promise contained in this prophecy was that Jeroboam, a descendant of Joseph, would reign over the ten tribes, and be king over Israel. The point about these prophecies is that they were absolutely true, as in every detail they were completely fulfilled by subsequent events.
‘No taxation without representation’
Solomon was dead, and his young and inexperienced son, Rehoboam, succeeded him. Before his coronation a formal petition was presented to the young king-designate by Jeroboam, on behalf of the whole assembly of Israel, with the request for lower taxation, as the people were groaning under the weight of Solomon’s tax burden. The young heir asked for three days' respite before giving his answer. First of all he consulted the elders and counsellors of his father, and they recommended that he give way and make some concessions. He rejected their sound advice, as it was not what he wanted to hear. He then consulted his own contemporaries and they told him just what he wanted to hear. He was going to show those ‘insolent’ Israelites who was in charge! After the three days were up and the representatives of Israel came before him, the arrogant king showed that he had not listened to the voice of the people. Rehoboam addressed them very harshly, and by the way he gave his answer he effectively poured petrol on the flames. This is what he said:
“My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”
(1 Kings 12:14)
This was really not the way to win friends and influence people! The response was immediate:
“Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying: 'What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David!' ”
(1 Kings 12:16)
Interesting how these ancient Israelites rebelled against their high levels of taxation some three thousand years ago, and they thus set a pattern that was to recur again and again. One of the problems we can glean from the words: “What share have we in David?”- is that he Israelites were in effect complaining about ‘taxation without representation!’ As in those days only the royal tribe of Judah was represented through their king.
Isn’t it amazing how history repeats itself? This issue is very significant because this was exactly the complaint of the American colonists when King George of England wanted to levy his Stamp Tax on them.
‘No taxation without representation’ became the emotive rallying cry of the revolt and of the subsequent American War of Independence. In Britain in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher also came a cropper over her Poll Tax being imposed upon the people by the central government. Her Poll Tax was designed to replace a local tax based on the rateable value of property. Local councils determined the rates each year, and the point is that the councillors could be voted out of office at the local council elections. The whole nation was in uproar and the avalanche of protest that followed forced ‘Iron Lady’ to change direction back to local government taxes, and the rateable value of property. Essentially this dispute too was about ‘no taxation without representation.’ It is interesting to see how the modern nations of America and Great Britain also get very worked up and excited about the issue of taxation. It seems that they, much like the ancient Israelites, are imbued with a very strong sense of justice, as they get especially upset when taxes are deemed to be arbitrary and unfair. Might this shared characteristic per chance be another clue as to the true origins of these people?
The Chief Collector of Taxes—murdered!
To go back to the situation in ancient Israel: King Rehoboam’s next move was to send his Chief Collector of Taxes to gather in the new higher taxes he had decreed, and the Israelites responded by stoning him to death. The young king was furious and was determined to bring those obstinate Israelites into line. King Rehoboam then mobilised his army throughout the territory of Judah and Benjamin and assembled a force of some 180,000-crack warriors to fight against the House of Israel. Here we see the House of Judah, the holder of the Royal Sceptre, and the House of Israel, the inheritor of the Birth-right, at the brink of Civil War, and all of this over the matter of taxation! Is this not extraordinary?
The separation of the Sceptre and the Birthright
It very much looked like a terrible bloodbath was in prospect, with brother fighting brother. At this point God intervened by sending a prophet called Shemayah with a message for Rehoboam, the king of Judah. This was the message he gave to the king:
“You shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house, for this thing is from Me.”
(1 Kings 12:24)
By saying ‘this thing is from Me,’ God was saying that it was His will that this split and division of the tribes occurred. In the division of the twelve tribes into two separate kingdoms, God also fulfilled the prophetic warning he gave to King Solomon that the kingdom would be torn out of the hands of his son and given to his servant. The promise was that He would not tear away the whole of the kingdom but that He would leave him one tribe for the sake of his oath to Solomon’s father, King David. As it happened, much of the tribe of Benjamin stayed loyal to Rehoboam, and thus the kingdom of Judah was composed of the tribe of Judah, the tribe of Benjamin and some from the priestly tribe of Levi. Also the prophecy of Ahijah to Jeroboam was fulfilled in every detail, as he became king over the ten tribes of Israel. Thus by divine appointment the Sceptre of Judah and the Birth-right of Israel were separated then and there. This is how the SCEPTRE family of Judah and the BIRTH-RIGHT family of Joseph each became the head and representative of a distinct nation, or commonwealth.
Israel separates into two Nations
The Birth-right tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph, were the leading tribes of the Ten-Tribe Kingdom of Israel, and a princely son of the Tribe of Ephraim became king over that kingdom. At the same time a son of the Royal House of David, which holds the Sceptre, was king over the kingdom of Judah. Each nation was now free to go forward independently of the other to fulfil their respective destinies:
One was to fulfil the spiritual ‘Sceptre’ element of the Covenant God had made with Abraham, that of bringing forth the Messiah from the royal line of David, and being the Lawgiver by preserving the Law on behalf of all of mankind. Thus Judah would become a source of ‘spiritual’ blessing to all the nations of the earth.
The other was to fulfil the physical ‘Birth-right’ element of the Covenant God had made with Abraham, that of becoming many nations and a source of ‘physical’ blessing to all the nations of the earth.
Each nation thus had its own distinct role and destiny to fulfil in the world.
(Illustration of the United Kingdom of Israel)
The greatest irony is that the Jewish nation today is called Israel, whilst the ‘actual’ Nation and Kingdom of Israel goes by many different names. It surely has the whole world confused, but the fact is that the Jewish State we see in the Middle East today does not constitute all of Israel. As we have already seen, the Jews are merely one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The name Israel belongs to the descendants of the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, as in the Birth-right blessing which Jacob pronounced over the two lads, he said: “and let my name be named on them” (Gen. 48:16). God previously had changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and in this deathbed blessing Jacob is formally adopting Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph, and he is categorically stating that his name be named upon them. Thus the two sons of Joseph have inherited the name Israel. This does not in any way mean that the Jews are not part of Israel, because the Jews, just like any of the other twelve tribes, are all Israelites, descended from the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
After the ‘Great Split’
After the two parts of the formerly United Kingdom of Israel have gone their separate way, the Ten Tribes of Israel set up a rival kingdom to the north of Jerusalem. From that moment on, Israel’s History Book refers to this Northern Kingdom simply as Israel, with its capital city being called Samaria (1 Kings 11:26-37 and 1 Kings 12).
A new king by the name of Jeroboam, who was from the Tribe of Ephraim, then commenced his rule over these Ten Tribes. This king felt rather insecure in his new kingdom, the reason being that Jerusalem was the focus of his subjects’ religion, along with the glorious Temple of Solomon in which all the grand ceremonies of the High Holy days of Israel were celebrated seven times a year in three major festival seasons. He did not want his subjects to go to Jerusalem for their solemn High Days and Festivals, as he did not want them to be influenced by his rival Rehoboam, the king of Judah. His solution was to erect two Golden Calves and instructed his people to worship them instead. His very words were: “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem to worship. Behold your gods O Israel, which brought you out of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28). It so happened that the Ox or Bull was also one of the main emblems of the tribe of Ephraim, and it was therefore a logical choice that Golden Calves should be set up. After all, Ephraim, as the inheritor of the Birth-right blessing, had become the Chief of the Tribes of Israel, and King Jeroboam, who made the decision to set these calves up, was himself from the tribe of Ephraim. It is interesting to note that one of the common epithets for the British is John Bull, and they are also known as the Bulldog breed. Could this possibly be yet another clue for us to ponder?
The big split occurred around 975 BC, and from this time onwards we have two separate kingdoms completely independent of each other and known as:
A) – THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL—IN THE NORTH
Eventually with Samaria as its capital
B) – THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH—IN THE SOUTH
With Jerusalem as its capital
From here onwards, the Scriptures do not refer any more to the descendants of Judah as Israel. Ever since that time Judah and Israel have gone their separate ways. The Bible more than once even records the two nations going to war against each other.
The Assyrians’ invasion and deportation of Israel
During the two hundred fifty years of Israel’s independent existence she was ruled by a succession of evil kings whom to a man had departed from their original faith and this in direct breach of the covenant relationship with the God of Israel. The nation had consequently experienced a toboggan slide into moral depravity through the worship of false pagan gods, who had led them into the occult and witchcraft of every conceivable kind. Their land became lawless and was filled with violence, and they practised the most grisly rites in which they even sacrificed their own children to those false gods. God had warned them countless times, by sending His prophets to warn them of his impending judgement upon their nation.
The mighty and warlike Assyrian Empire had already attacked the kingdom several times and taken the tribes dwelling to the east of the Jordan River into captivity. As the situation progressively deteriorated over the years, many inhabitants – the vast majority – left the country for other lands, as they could see the ‘writing on the wall’. Some of these founded new empires such as Carthage on the North African coast. In fact the original Hebrew name for Carthage was Kirjath-Hadeschath, which historian Alfred Church translates as “New Town.” *1) Others founded the Scythian Empire north of the Black Sea, whilst others still fled to Israelite colonies in around the Mediterranean Sea, in the Greek islands, Asia Minor, as well as to Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the British Isles. Finally, in 721 BC the armies of the Assyrian Empire invaded the Northern Kingdom for the third and final time and took the entire remaining population of the Kingdom of Israel into captivity. The Scripture clearly states: “there is none left but the tribe of Judah only!” (2 Kings 17:18)
(The Kingdom of Israel in the North & the Kingdom of Judah in the South)
(Captivity Route of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria)
The Babylonians take Judah into captivity
Over a century and a quarter later, the Kingdom of Judah suffered the same fate as her northern neighbour, the reason being that they too had departed from their sacred covenant with God by embracing pagan gods and consequently sinking into a hedonistic morass of depravity and lawlessness. Once again, the prophets of God warned them numerous times, all to no avail. Then during the years 604-581 BC the Kingdom of Judah is invaded and finally overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar – the King of Babylon, which was the successor empire to the Assyrians. This time around, almost the entire population of the Kingdom of Judah is transported to Babylon.
(The Captivity route of the Southern Kingdom to Babylon)
Judah returns to her ancestral land
On the face of it, and judging by the events of the time, the Kingdom of Judah is finished for good. The royal family has been killed and almost all the inhabitants have been taken as slaves to Babylon. The reality on the ground appears to indicate that both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are totally eliminated. It really does not seem possible that either of them can be restored. Yet, if this were true, it would mean that the covenant promises of the Sceptre and the Birth-right, which God swore by an oath to Abraham, couldn’t be fulfilled. This is obviously not possible. So what does history tell us? The Jews suffer seventy long years of captivity in Babylon, but their plight is considerably eased after the Persians defeat Babylon and become their new rulers. Then, by special dispensation of King Cyrus of the Persians, some 50,000 Jews are given leave to return to the land of Judea, with the specific task of rebuilding the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem. The House of Judah is thus brought back to the land, so that they can fulfil their ‘spiritual’ commission of becoming a source of ‘Spiritual’ blessing to all the nations in the world.
The House of Israel never comes back!
Israel’s History Book does not record the House of Israel ever returning to their tribal lands to the north of Judah, and neither does secular history! Thus the Ten Tribes of Israel have become known as THE LOST HOUSE OF ISRAEL, or as some people would say, THE LOST TEN TRIBES! The reason they are not permitted to come back to their ancestral lands is that they are to become an innumerable multitude that are to walk in their ‘Birth-right’ destiny to bring untold ‘physical’ blessings to all the nations and families in the world.
The lost sheep of the House of Israel
In the New Testament, when Jesus sent his disciples out preaching, he specifically told them not to go to the Gentiles “but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6). By this most precise instruction to his disciples we have a clear indication that in His day both Jesus and his disciples were well aware where the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ could be found! This same Jesus – whose name in Hebrew is Yeshua, literally meaning ‘Salvation’ – when accosted by a Gentile woman who sought deliverance for her daughter, said to her: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).
Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, who lived in the days of Christ, wrote about the whereabouts of the ‘Lost Ten Tribes.’ He wrote the following words nearly eight hundred years after the House of Israel had been transported to Assyria: “The Ten Tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude.” The good old Flavius Josephus also wrote in AD 100 that: “The entire body of the people (the ten tribes) of ISRAEL remained in that country, wherefore there are but Two Tribes (Judah and Benjamin) in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans.” *2)
There we have it from the horse’s mouth! Surely, this should settle it! More than six hundred years after the return of the Jews to their Promised Land from their exile in Babylon, the Ten Tribes of Israel had still not returned from the lands beyond the Euphrates River. History records that they never did, and the Bible, Israel’s consummate history book, completely confirms the fact; although it does prophesy of a yet future day when the Lost House of Israel will return to take up its rightful place in the Land of Promise. The Bible thus speaks of an ultimate reunification of the two houses of Israel in the age of Messiah.
One sure sign that the time is approaching when all of the Twelve Tribes will reassemble in the Land of Promise is the miracle of 1948. The miracle was the establishment of a Jewish State in the Holy Land. From the ashes of the Holocaust new life has sprung forth. This Jewish State mainly consists of members of the Tribe of Judah – 80% of the population – with most of the balance being Arabs. Nevertheless, the Jewish leaders have called it ‘Israel,’ although the Lost House of Israel is still lost and the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel have not returned. It would therefore have been more accurate if they had named their country Judah. Yet some few of the founding fathers of the modern State of Israel had a sense of the prophetic meaning of that name. They looked forward to the Age of Messiah, when, according to the Scriptures, all of the Twelve Tribes of Israel will be reunited once again. Not since the days of King Solomon has this occurred, yet every religiously observant Jew knows that one day it will be a glorious reality. One day, when Messiah returns, he will reunite the house of Judah with the house of Israel (see Ezekiel 37:15-22), when He shall establish His government, ruling from Jerusalem over the Twelve Tribes of Israel – as one nation – and it is through His rule that all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
The well-known Victorian Jewish historian, author and Bible scholar, Alfred Edersheim, *3) who had embraced the Christian faith and was ordained into the Church of England in 1875, stated in one of his books: “No notice has been taken of those wanderers of the Ten Tribes, whose “trackless footsteps” seem as mysterious as their after-fate. Josephus describes them as an innumerable multitude beyond the Euphrates River... Still the great mass of the Ten Tribes was, in the days of Christ as in our own, lost to the Hebrew nation.” *3 It is a common assumption in Christian circles to refer to the Northern Kingdom of Israel as having become lost in time and somehow absorbed and assimilated, not to say swallowed up, by the rest of humanity. Others assume that the Jews represent all of the tribes of Israel. Whichever way people like to look at it, they have become known as the Lost Ten Tribes. The subject has become a matter of the wildest speculation.
Yet the ancient Jewish rabbis and sages were fully aware of the status and whereabouts of the House of Israel. In their minds there was no question of the Lost Ten Tribes having left “trackless footsteps” which could not be traced by anyone. For them there was very little mystery surrounding the Lost Ten Tribes – not so today. These Jewish sages understood that the house of Joseph, also known as the Ten Tribes, not only were never lost, but actually knew exactly where they were. The very idea that God could not trace his own people was anathema to them. These sages based their understanding on the Scriptures, such as found in Psalm 60:9, “Ephraim also is the helmet for my head.” Other translations put the word ‘strength’ or ‘stronghold’ in place of ‘helmet.’ Ephraim is the collective term used for the Ten Tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel, which were led by Ephraim. Here Ephraim is called the strength of God’s head. In order for the Ten Tribes to be lost, God would in essence have to lose His strength, or possibly even His very head! As we have already seen, even Jesus Christ knew exactly where they were, as he sent his disciples to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” According to the Gospel account in Matthew 10:6, his disciples did not ask him where to go, which indicates that they too knew where their fellow Israelites were to be found.
Prior to the third and final Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, millions of Israelites, having seen the writing on the wall, had left their homes and lands to Israelite colonies all around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Carthage, Antioch, Corinth and Ephesus, as well as Spain, Ireland and England. Come the third invasion, the entire remaining population was taken as slaves into captivity. Once released from the Assyrians yoke the Israelites travelled to the far corners of the world. They established mighty empires, such as the Saka, Scythian and Parthian empires, some of which stretches as far east as Afghanistan, China and Japan. Much of this hidden and long buried history is documented in the books by Steven Collins, which may be found on the “Recommended Further Reading” section of this website.
The prophet Amos made a remarkable prophecy. He prophesied, saying:
“Behold the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom [Israel], and I will destroy it from the face of the earth.”
The kingdom was indeed destroyed, as it ceased to exist, as even all its remaining people were transported to Assyria, somewhere south of the Caspian Sea. The territory of the Ten Tribes was occupied, and the Assyrian overlords transported foreign tribes into the land of Israel. No more land or territory, no more kings, no more subjects, no more independence – God had made good His word that he would destroy the sinful kingdom of Israel from the face of the earth! You can always trust God to keep His word. But this is not the end of it, as the prophecy itself did not end there. The same verse of Amos continues: “ ‘Yet, I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the Lord.” Though God’s judgement was that he would completely destroy the kingdom of Israel because of their sins, he promised he would not wipe out the people of Israel.
Once again, in confirmation of God’s faithfulness, we have that wonderful secular authoritative testimony from the Jewish historian Josephus, who said that: “The Ten Tribes are beyond Euphrates till now [approx. A.D. 100], and are immense multitudes!” In addition we have a further prophetic promise given to Israel via the prophet Amos:
“For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.”
Here we have a cast iron promise that God would SIFT the Israelite tribes through the nations of the earth, but that He would preserve them intact as a people. They might lose their identity but they would not be amalgamated with other peoples. Moreover, not one of them would be lost to God. Those scholars who study the Scriptures know that in Bible prophecy Israel features as a key player in end-time events. This begs the question: where are these mysterious Israelites today?
In the meantime, the Ten Tribes of Israel remain in their lost state, sadly unaware of their true God-given ancestry; they consider themselves to be Gentile nations. However, whereas man is prone to lose things, God by definition cannot lose anything. In His word He has left many clear indications, as to what we should look for if we want to identify and locate the whereabouts of the Lost House of Israel today. The fact is that those tribes can be located if we use the clues and signposts listed in Israel’s History Book – the Bible. For sure the prophets indicate over and over again that those Ten missing Tribes of Israel will indeed be found in our time today.