Israel and Judah

 

Words are important and what they mean is important and how they are used is important. It is for these reasons our Founding Fathers made freedom of the press and freedom of assembly and freedom of worship pillars of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is often said, ďThe pen is mightier than the sword.Ē That is a fine way of making the point that words are powerful. However, as powerful as words may be they are difficult tools to master. Like most things they can be used for good or for bad. They can be used wisely or foolishly.So when we read the Word of God, the Bible, we need to be careful to understand what is intended. This is true of the entire Bible. After all the Bible is the book of truth as it says in (John 17:17 NIV) Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. But if we misunderstand then to be told the truth is not very helpful. Today I want to talk about a few words that are frequently used and abused. If we donít have the proper understanding in one area it frequently causes us to misunderstand other areas.

 

The words I am interested in today are Israel, Judah, Jews, and Judeans. I will define each word and then we can dig a little deeper.

Israel

1.      The name given to Jacob by God

2.      The name give to the ancestors of Israel, also called Israelites.

3.      The twelve tribes descended from the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel.

4.      An ancient kingdom founded by Saul around 1025 B.C. After 933 it split into the Northern Kingdom, or kingdom of Israel, and the kingdom of Judah to the south.

Judah

1.      A son of Jacob and Leah and the forebear of one of the tribes of Israel.

2.      The name given to the ancestors of Judah, also called Jews.

3.      An ancient kingdom between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It lasted from the division of Israel in 933 B.C. until the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

4.      Land of Judah occupied primarily by Jews at the time of Jesus

Jews

1.      A member of the tribe of Judah. A Judaite.

2.      An adherent of Judaism as a religion or culture.

Judean

1.      Resident or citizen of Judah in one of its several national and geographical meanings.

 

Now if you do a search of the terms Jew in the New Testament it occurs 22 times in King James and each of those 22 times the word used has the meaning of Judean.

*†† 2453. Ioudaios, ee-oo-dah'-yos; from G2448 (in the sense of G2455 as a country); Judaean, i.e. belonging to Jehudah:--Jew (-ess), of Judaea.

If you search for the plural, that is, ďJews,Ē in the New Testament it occurs 175 times and in all of those the term has the meaning of Judean. The term for the land itself is Judea or the land of Judah.

 

The concept is like this. I am an Oregonian born in the state of Washington. Or my wife is an Orton born to the family of Sarras. In fact, Paul says something quite similar in Romans.

*†† (Rom 11:1 NIV)I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

Yet in in Acts and Philippians Paul says this.

*†† (Acts 21:39 NIV)Paul answered, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people."

*†† (Phil 3:4-5 NIV)though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: {5} circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;

So what is Paul? A Benjaminite, an Israelite, a Judaite, a Jew or what? The answer is he was in one sense or another all except for a Judaite. That is Paul was not a Jew other than in the sense of sharing the same faith as the Judah people, the Judeans.

 

All people that live in Oregon live in the United States. But not all people that live in the United States live in Oregon. Likewise all Jews (more precisely, Judah people) are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews. This is important because Abraham and moses are frequently referred to as Jews. But in fact Abraham was a Hebrew from the land of Ur and Judah hadnít even been born yet! As for Moses, he was a Levite, one of the twelve tribes of Israel distinct from the tribe of Judah.

 

Often we hear the Jews called, Godís chosen people. That is not entirely wrong but itís not entirely right either. The first reference to Godís chosen people is a verse that refers to Israel! So Judah (Jews) was only one of twelve tribes God referred to as His chosen people.

*†† (Deu 14:1-2 NIV)You are the children of the LORD your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead, {2} for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

Not only that but all Christians are also referred to as Godís chosen people.

*†† (1 Pet 2:9 NIV)But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

OK, letís look at a few scriptures. These show that the tribes split and were recognized by God as distinct but still with a common heritage.

*†† (Jer 3:18 NIV)In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.

*†† (Jer 31:31 NIV)"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

*†† (Heb 8:8-12 NIV)But God found fault with the people and said : "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. {9} It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. {10} This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Here Bethlehem is shown to be in Judah land and yet the ruler from Bethlehem will rule not over Judah but all of Israel.

*†† (Mat 2:6 NIV)"'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

Note here that this letter was sent not to Judah but to all of the tribes of Israel.

*†† (James 1:1 NIV)James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.

*†† (1 Pet 1:1 RSV)Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

God wants all of Israel together again.

*†† (2 Chr 30:6 NIV)At the king's command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read: "People of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria.

 

Finally, the Bible is the story of God and Israel from cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelations.

*†† (Acts 2:36 NIV)"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

*†† (Rom 11:25-26 NIV)I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. {26} And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

 

We may not know who or where all the people of Israel are, but God does. Not only that God is creating new Israelites by grafting them into original Israelites.

*†† (Eph 3:6 NIV)This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

 

It is correct to call Jews Israelites but remember that they are only a portion of Israel and a small portion at that.Remember that whenever Jews are mentioned in the New Testament it is referring to not only Jews but possibly any other resident of Judea but especially those of the Israel lineage. Paul, for instance, was a Roman but his primary identification was as an Israelite.

 

This subject deserves a deeper study but I leave that as a challenge to you. I pray I gave you a good start.