Series 1: Chapter 9 - The Birthright or the Promise of Many Nations to Abraham
The Jews go to Babylon and Return
The twenty-third chapter of Ezekiel contains a short story which seems somewhat veiled, but a knowledge of the two houses and their respective capitals lifts the veil and quickly sweeps it aside. It is of interest to us, or should be, and begins as follows:
"There were two women, daughters of one mother, who committed adultery in their youth in Egypt, the names of whom were Aholah, the elder, and Aholibah, her sister, and they were mine, saith the Lord, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; SAMARIA is Aholah [Israel], and JERUSALEM Aholibah [Judah]," (Ezekiel 23:2-4).
Then the story continues and tells how Aholah, the elder, played the harlot, and was followed into that sin by her sister Aholibah, who was more corrupt than Aholah had been. So God judged them "as women that break wedlock." Before the story is ended the history of Israel's captivity to the Assyrians is told, together with prophecies concerning the captivity of Judah in Babylon.
The Lord further says to the Jews:
"And thine elder sister is Samaria [Israel], she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand; and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters. Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations; but, as if it were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways...Neither hath Samaria [Israel] committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they and hast justified [by comparison] thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done. Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they," (Ezekiel 16:46-52).
This is in harmony with the record of Judah, as given by Jeremiah in the following:
"And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not but went and played the harlot also...And the Lord said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah," (Jeremiah 3:8, 11).
"And the Lord said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there," (2 Kings 23:27).
So Jeremiah was commanded to stand in the gate of the Lord's house and proclaim the word of the Lord unto all the men of Judah, and among other things say unto them:
"But go ye now unto my place, which is Shiloh [one of the cities of Joseph], where I set my name at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not. Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim," (Jeremiah 7:12-15).
The above is the prophecy; the following is a part of the historic record of the fact after its fulfillment.
"Thus Judah was carried away captive out of his own land. This is the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive in the seventh year [of his reign] three thousand Jews and three-and-twenty. In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty-and-two persons. In the three-and-twentieth year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred forty-and-five persons. All the persons were four thousand and six hundred," (Jeremiah 52:27-30).
Thus doth Jeremiah teach, that it was the Jews, or the people composing the kingdom of Judah, who were carried into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar; and in order to show that it was the Jewish people, and they only, who returned from that captivity, we cite the following:
"Now these are the children of the province [Judea had been a province to Babylon twenty years before Nebuchadnezzar robbed and burned the temple, destroyed Jerusalem, and took the Jews to Babylon] that went up out of the captivity of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had carried away into Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem, and Judah every one to his city," (Ezra 2:1).
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are the only books of the Bible which deal with the history of that return. Jeremiah had prophesied that the Jews should remain captives in the Chaldean Empire (Babylon was the capital of that empire) for seventy years. Just as the seventy years came to an end the empire was taken by the Medes and Persians, and it became known in history as the Medo-Persian Empire.
Ezra begins his record as follows:
"Now in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, King of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 'Thus said Cyrus King of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel [he is the God] which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place [throughout the kingdom] where he sojourneth, let the men of his place keep him with silver and with gold and with goods and with beasts, besides the free will offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.'
"Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God hath raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem," (Ezra 1:1-5).
Do you notice that it is only the men of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi who are mentioned as responding to this call? Also you will remember that those three tribes are the three which compose the kingdom of Judah which went into the Babylonish captivity, the ten tribes having been carried away into the Assyrian captivity one hundred and thirty years prior to that.
Also notice that it was not all the fathers nor all of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi that rose up to this call, but the chief of the fathers, and all of the people in those tribes mentioned whose spirit the Lord had made willing. So these willing ones went to work, gathering together their silver, gold, goods, and other precious things. And Cyrus, the king, brought out of the house of one of the idols, where Nebuchadnezzar had put them, all of the vessels belonging to the house of the Lord, and through his treasurer:
"numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. And this is the number of them: Thirty charges of silver, nine and thirty knives. Thirty basins of gold, silver of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand. All the vessels of gold and silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with him of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon to Jerusalem," (Ezra 1:8-11).
Please notice that among these things mentioned as belonging to the house of God there is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant. The reason is that the Ark was with the Birthright people.
Some presume to teach that the house of Israel returned to Palestine with the Jews when they came from Babylon. When we get to that phase of our subject we will prove by both the Old and New Testaments that they did not. But just here we need to say that in the books which deal with the history of this return there is not the slightest mention, direct or indirect, by inference or reference, of the other kingdom, or house, of Israel.
There is a mention of the army of Samaria by Nehemiah, but you will find that they belonged to the Post-Samaritans, who with others opposed and hindered the Jews in their work, until finally they forced them to cease work on the temple. Here is the record:
"But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews?" (Nehemiah 4:1, 2).
"Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel," (Ezra 4:1).
Following these statements is the account of a prolonged persecution of the Jews by those mongrel nations of Post-Samaritans. They hired counselors, wrote letters of protest, resorted to trickery and hypocrisy. A letter of protest was written to Artaxerxes, king of Persia, which was signed by many, together with the rest of the nations whom the noble Asnapar brought over and set in the cities of Samaria." This had the effect of stopping the work on the temple, and it did not begin again until during the second year of Darius, at which time these imported Samaritans again tried to hinder. The account of this is given by Josephus, as follows:
"When the Samaritans, who were still enemies to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, heard the sound of trumpets, they came running together, and desired to know what was the occasion of the tumult; and when they perceived that it was the Jews who had been carried captive to Babylon and were rebuilding the temple, they came to Zorobabel, and to Jeshua, and to the heads of the families, and desired that they would give them leave to build the temple with them, and to be partners with them in building it; for they said, We worship your God, and especially pray to him, and are desirous of your religious settlement, and this ever since Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, transplanted us out of Cuthah and Medea to this place.'
"When they thus said, Zorobabel and Jeshua, the high priest, and the heads of the families of the Israelites, replied to them that, it was impossible for them to permit them to be their partners, while they only had been appointed to build that temple at first by Cyrus, and now by Darius, although it was lawful for them to come and worship there if they pleased, and that they could allow them nothing but that in common with them, which was common to them with all other men, to come to their temple, and worship there.'
"When the Cutheans heard this, for the Samaritans have that appellation, they had indignation at it, and persuaded the nations of Syria to desire the governors, in the same manner as they had done formerly in the days of Cyrus, and again in the days of Cambysses afterwards, to put a stop to the building of the temple, and to endeavor to delay and distract the Jews in their zeal about it."
This delayed matters for some time, but finally Darius ordered a search among the royal records, which resulted in the finding of the record of Cyrus concerning the restoration of the Jews, the building of the temple, and what the Lord commanded him in reference to them. The contents of this proclamation is given by Josephus, as follows:
"Cyrus, the king, in the first year of his reign, commanded that the temple should be built in Jerusalem; and the altar in height should be three-score cubits, and its breadth of the same, with three edifices of polished stone, and one edifice of stone of their own country: and he ordained that the expenses of it should be paid out of the king's revenue. He also commanded that the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged out of the temple and carried to Babylon should be restored to the people of Jerusalem, and that the care of these things should belong to Sanadassar, the governor and president of Syria and Phoenicia, and to his associates, that they may not meddle with that place, but may permit the servants of God, the Jews and their rulers, to build the temple. "
"He also ordained that they should assist him in the work; and that they should pay to the Jews, out of the tribute of the country where they were governors, on account of the sacrifices, bulls and rams, and lambs and kids of goats, and fine flour, and oil, and wine, and all other things that the priests should suggest to them; and that they should pray for the preservation of the king, and of the Persians, and for such as had transgressed any of these orders thus sent to them, he commanded that they should be caught, and hung upon a cross, and their substance confiscated to the king's use. He also prayed to God against them, that if any one attempted to hinder the building of the temple, God would strike him dead, and thereby restrain his wickedness."
Josephus also relates another trick of these Cuthean Samaritans as follows:
"When Shalmanesar, the king of Assyria, had it told him, that Hoshea, the king of Israel, had sent privately to So, the king of Egypt, desiring his assistance against him, he was very angry, and made an expedition against Samaria, in the seventh year of the reign of Hoshea; but when he was not admitted into the city by the king, he besieged Samaria three years, and took it by force in the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea, and in the seventh year of Hezekiah, king of Jerusalem, and quite demolished the government of the Israelites, and transplanted all the people into Medea and Persia, among whom lie took King Hoshea alive; and when he had removed these people out of this their land, he transplanted other nations out of Cutha, a place so called, (for there is still a river of that name in Persia,) into Samaria, and into the country of the Israelites. So the ten tribes of the Israelites were removed, etc....
"But now the Cutheans who removed into Samaria, (for that is the name they have been called by to this time, because they were brought out of the country called Cutha, which is a country of Persia, and there is a river of the same name in it,) and are called in the Hebrew tongue Cutheans, but in the Greek tongue Samaritans. And when they see the Jews in prosperity they pretend that they are changed, and allied to them, and call them kinsmen, as though they were derived from Joseph."
Our object in inserting these quotations is threefold. First: to show that not only the sacred writers, but also the secular historian, and the rulers, both friendly and unfriendly, who had to do with those Israelites who went into and came out of the Babylonish captivity, called them Jews.
Second: to show how the bitter feeling was engendered among the Jews against those Cuthea-Samaritans, whom they called "Dogs," whom they never forgave, and with whom they never had any dealings. When Christ spoke to the woman of Samaria at the well, she was so surprised that her first words were, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." (John 4:9)
Third: to show that neither Josephus, who writes on the "Antiquities of the Jews," nor their enemies, the Cuthea-Samaritans, ever confounds the ten-tribed Israelites with the Jewish Israelites.
Oh, how we do thank God that he made Josephus write concerning those imported nations in Samaria, who, because they were living in that land which had been the home of the Birthright kingdom, when they were seeking that which would be advantageous to them, would sidle up to the Jews, and claim kinship.
"AS THOUGH THEY WERE DERIVED FROM JOSEPH." What impudence! Think of the audacity of these imported mongrels claiming to be a portion of the Abrahamic birthright-holders. Is it much marvel that the Jews should dub such a race of fawners by the appropriate name of Dogs?
Both Ezra and Nehemiah, the Biblical historians of the return of the Jews from Babylon to Judea, give the genealogy of all who returned, a list of all the men who worked on the wall, a special list of all the priests who had married strange wives, and the exact number of individuals who returned. The aggregate of these is summed up as follows:
"The whole congregation together was forty-and-two thousand three hundred and three-score, besides their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand, three hundred thirty-seven." (Ezra 2:64-65).
Ezra states that there were among these servants two hundred singing men and women, but Nehemiah puts the number of singers at two hundred and forty-five. This could easily have been the case by the time he got there, for the going up which was led by him was the second one, and did not take place until fourteen years and a half after that which was led by Ezra. And yet in the genealogical records of this "whole congregation" of forty-nine thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven Jews, there is not a tribal name mentioned except those of Judah, Benjamin and Levi.
Please remember that it is the people of these three tribes who compose the mass of the kingdom of Judah, and who only are called Jews.
Josephus tells us of an epistle which was written by Xerxes, the son of Darius, at the time when the Jews were getting ready to leave Babylon, and sent to Esdras (Ezra) which was the cause of great rejoicing among them. He speaks of the effect it had upon them, as follows:
"So he read the epistle at Babylon to those Jews that went there, but he kept the epistle itself, and sent a copy of it to all those of his own nation that were in Medea. And when these Jews had understood what piety the king had toward God, and what kindness he had for Esdras, they were all greatly pleased; nay, many of them took their effects with them, and came to Babylon, as very desirous of going down to Jerusalem; but then THE ENTIRE BODY of THE PEOPLE of ISRAEL remained in that country, wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while THE TEN TRIBES are beyond the Euphrates till now (A. D. 95), and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers."
We note that First and Second Kings, the Chronicles, Josephus, Ezra and Nehemiah, all speak of the kingdom of Judah at times, as "Judah and Benjamin." This is why Josephus says that there were only two tribes under the power of the Romans.
The reason for this is supposed to be the fact that the Levites were priests who served in the temple, and did not count for anything when it came to the political and fighting strength of the Jewish people, for the Levites were undoubtedly with Judah and Benjamin, as a part of the Kingdom of Judah.
Furthermore, aside from the mention of the tribal name of Ashur, as the name of the tribe to which Anna, the prophetess belonged, there is not a tribal name used in any historic portion of the new Testament, except the three tribal names of the Jewish people, i.e., Judah, Levi, and Benjamin. The ancestors of Anna could easily have belonged to one of those scattered families who returned out of Israel unto the kingdom of Judah, because they would not serve Jeroboam's calves.
Chapter 9 - The Birthright or the Promise of Many Nations to Abraham