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The Gathering of Israel and Judah
by Wayne Blank
"Israel" and "Judah"
One of the most misunderstood subjects of Bible study involves the total political division of "Israel" and "Judah" that occurred at the time of King Rehoboam. Before then, all twelve tribes of Israelites were a united kingdom through the reigns of David and Solomon, but after Solomon's death they split into two completely separate and independent kingdoms - the southern kingdom of "Judah," consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with part of Levi since the Levites were distributed among the other tribes (1 Kings 12:23) with their capital at Jerusalem, and the northern kingdom of "Israel," consisting of the other ten tribes (Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph was divided into Ephraim and Manasseh), with part of Levi since the Levites were distributed among the other tribes), with their capital up in Samaria.
Israel and Judah were never united again (see Kings of Israel and Judah). Surprisingly, they even fought wars against each other from time to time (see Jews At War With Israel). A very important fact that many do not realize is that Judah, that is, the Jewish people of today, are only one of the tribes of Israel - while all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews.
Because of their forsaking of Him, God permitted the two kingdoms to be destroyed. First, the northern kingdom of Israel was gradually conquered by the Assyrians (see Ancient Empires - Assyria), and by 721 B.C. they had practically all been taken into exile to Assyria (2 Kings 17:1-23). The vast majority of them never returned, and have become known as the "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel."
Then, about 135 years later, by 586 B.C., the southern kingdom of Judah was completely conquered by the Babylonians (see Why Babylon?), and the people of Judah were taken into captivity to Babylon. The original Temple of God in Jerusalem was destroyed at that time (see Temples). The people of the southern kingdom of Judah however did return after the Babylonians fell to the Persians (see Ancient Empires - Persia), and their descendants have become the Jewish people of today - but that return in the time of Nehemiah, or the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, were not the fulfillment of the many prophecies dealing with the future (as the context of the prophecies clearly show) gathering of all of Israel, Israel and Judah.
The Coming Gathering of Israel and Judah
There are many Scriptures which describe, in great detail, the future gathering of Israel and Judah. Examples:
"In those days and in that time, says The Lord, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come; and they shall seek The Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, 'Come, let us join ourselves to The Lord in an everlasting covenant which will never be forgotten.' "My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains; from mountain to hill they have gone, they have forgotten their fold. All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, 'We are not guilty, for they have sinned against The Lord, their true habitation, The Lord, the hope of their fathers.'" (Jeremiah 50:4-7 RSV)
Fact Finder: Did God say that the people of Israel would be sifted (i.e. distributed) among all nations?