PALESTINE THE CENTER OF THE EARTH
SUPERIMPOSED upon the accompanying map of the world is a wheel, the hub of which is placed upon Palestine with its spokes radiating to the four corners of the globe. This graphic representation is to present the scriptural teaching with reference to the place which Israel occupies in relation to the nations of the world.
When one looks upon God's universe, whether through the telescope or the microscope, one sees order and design on every hand. Evidently, the great Creator has a purpose in all that He does. At the present time, with our limited vision and distorted ideas, we might not be able to detect His benevolence in everything; but we may be certain from what we do know that He is directing all things according to His will toward a great consummation, which will burst forth in its full glory at the appointed time. The Lord broke His silence of the ages in His utterance to the serpent when He foretold that the woman's seed should crush the serpent's head. In the first chapters of Genesis there are little hints relative to this announced purpose, but in 12:1-3 we find a full statement of His plan and purpose of blessing the world through Abraham and his seed: "Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." God reaffirmed this promise to Isaac and Jacob, enlarging upon the details. At times He clarified the various elements in statements made to Abraham to whom He first divulged His purpose.ISRAEL THE CHANNEL OF SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS
We may be absolutely certain that God will carry out His plans as He has announced. He has seen the end from the beginning--"declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isa. 46:9,10). There cannot, therefore, be any developments unforeseen by the Lord that will cause Him to change His plans and to adopt others. We may, therefore, take our stand upon this passage with full assurance that God will bless all nations in and through Abraham's seed.
According to biblical chronology, the one original continent was split into various divisions in 1757 A.H.--in the days of Peleg (Gen. 10:25). Prior to this time, the Lord scattered the human race over that one original continent and gave to each tribe and nation its respective territory. Then He brought on that terrific cataclysm which cut off the people and animals in certain sections from those in other portions of the lands that were not submerged by the inrushing waters. In thus allotting to the nations their inheritance He made the distribution bearing in mind His special plan for Israel. (For the allocation of the earth to the various tribes, see the table of nations [Gen. 10]). This chapter is recognized as the one authoritative ancient document upon which archaeologists and ethnologists can depend for exact information regarding those primitive times.) When the Lord did this, He providentially led each tribe or group to that portion of the globe which He had assigned to it. This fundamental of all human facts is setforth forcefully in Deuteronomy 32:8,9: "When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, When he separated the children of men, He set the bounds of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel. For Jehovah's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." This verse is positive proof that Israel is indeed the hub of the nations. To deny this proposition is to disbelieve the very Word of God.
In perfect harmony with this declaration by Moses is the one spoken by the Apostle Paul at Mars Hill, when he addressed the Athenian supreme court and declared:
Ye men of Athens, in all things I perceive that ye are very religious. 23 For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, To AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you. 24 The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 and he made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined
their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each of us: 28 for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring (Acts 17:22-28).
The special point to which I wish to direct the reader's attention is verse 26 which declares that God made every nation of men to dwell upon the face of the earth, "having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God." Here it is asserted that God determined the appointed seasons and the bounds of the habitations of every nation. This is in perfect accord with Deuteronomy 32:8,9. Paul added that, in making these allotments, the Lord did it in order that men should seek after Him. From these two passages we can see how God placed the various nations in their territory, relating them to Israel, in order that through her they might come to a knowledge of God. Such is the expressed declaration of these passages and others that might be cited.
The declaration that God gave to the nations their inheritance, locating them with reference to the children of Israel, assumes that He gave Israel a land which is likewise properly related to other nations. Instantly we see the force of this implication when we turn to Ezekiel 38. In this chapter the prophet, speaking for the Lord, addressed Gog, the Prince of Russia, in the end-time. In verses 11 and 12 He revealed the motives which will prompt Gog to lead his hosts into Palestine; namely, the desire to seize the goods and property of the Jews who will at that time be gathered there out of the nations and will be dwelling in their own land, which is "the middle of the earth." A glance at the accompanying map will show that Palestine is indeed the middle of the earth. The Lord created the Hebrew race by a special biological miracle (Gen. 21:1-7, Isa. 43:1). This people thus brought into existence by a direct act of the Almighty was given the Land of Promise, the center of the earth, in order that through them His truth might be made known to the world.
Palestine has truly been called "the bridge of the nations," for such it has been, especially in ancient times. The nations in the gray dawn of human history and for centuries in their commercial relations, one with the other, passed through Palestine. The Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Medes and Persians, the Syrians, the Hittites, the Egyptians, and the other peoples with whom Israel had commercial relations sent their caravans across this bridge of the nations in their regular routine of trade and traffic. Over this same bridge, as a casual glance at history will show, marched the hosts of the warring nations. For what purpose was Israel given this bridge and was placed on it? The answer is clear: That she might hold aloft the torch of the revelation of the true God in order that all other nations might come to the brightness of His glory and be saved.
The title of this volume is The World's Greatest Library Graphically Illustrated. The Bible is indeed a library. It is a book consisting of sixty-six smaller ones dealing with practically every phase of human thought and activity. No one has ever fathomed its mighty depths. It has withstood the assaults of atheism, unbelievers, and skeptics through the centuries. Today it stands forth in all its splendor, sending forth a light for our feet and our pathway. Who are the human authors of this matchless collection of books through whom the Almighty has spoken? The answer is, the Jews, with the exception of the authors of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, Job, and possibly Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and The Acts, who according to some students was a Gentile, although the evidence is not positive. Practically the entire Bible was given to us by the Jews. Our Lord took upon Himself the flesh of Abraham. The apostles were Jews. The first missionaries were Jews. Practically all that we have therefore, from a spiritual standpoint, came to us from God through the Jews. To the Roman church Paul summarized the situation thus: "For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their [Jews'] spiritual things, they owe it to them also to minister unto them in carnal things" (Rom. 15:27). God therefore made the Jews the fountain of spiritual blessing to the Gentile world.WHO ARE THE ISRAELITES?
Even to the casual reader of the Scriptures, it is abundantly evident that the Jewish nation is the only one that occupies the central position on the historic stage in the biblical record. References are made to the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, the Hittites, the Canaanites, and others--only as they came in touch with the Jews. Otherwise, their names never would have appeared in the sacred record. This fact appears in its true perspective when one notices that they are only mentioned, and that incidently, as they touched in some way the Jewish people. The very fact that they constitute the only nation marching majestically through the Scriptures is proof indeed that they are the nation of destiny--that they are the hub of the nations. Everyone who is willing to accept the Scriptures as the Word of God must admit the truthfulness of this position and act accordingly.
In recent years and in certain quarters there has arisen confusion as to who are the Israelites. In this connection, let me say that a distinction has been made in modern times, where really there is no difference, between Israel and the Jews. Since the Scriptures are unanimous in making Israel the hub of the nations, it becomes of paramount importance that we know the scriptural teaching regarding this people.
The word Israel etymologically means "he who has striven with God" or "God has overcome or conquered"; hence it also means "a prince with God." This name was given to Jacob on the memorable night when he wrestled with the angel of Jehovah who appeared to him at the ford of the Jabbock. The name Jacob means "supplanter," but after that memorable occasion, his name was by divine authority changed to "Israel." His descendants are likewise called by the same name, being spoken of as the "children of Israel." He with his twelve sons and their wives went down into Egypt where they developed into a great nation. They are called "children of Israel" in such passages as Exodus 1:12; 2:23; 5:15, etc. This term, therefore, refers to the twelve tribes descending from the twelve sons of Jacob.
Balaam, as recorded in Numbers 23 and 24, was given four visions of the future of the children of Israel. The significance of each is seen upon examination of his oracles. He was called by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel when they were in the Plains of Moab. Instead of doing as Balak wished, Balaam was forced by the Spirit of God to utter a blessing each time concerning this people, in all of which he called them by the names of Jacob and Israel. The visions of Balaam, therefore, include the twelve tribes. By no manipulation of the facts, as is sometimes done, can these predictions be made to apply to the ten northern tribes alone.
In Joshua 1:2 we read of the children of Israel--the twelve tribes. These were led across the Jordan into Canaan by Joshua. In Judges 1:1 and 2:11 we again read of the children of Israel. In fact, throughout the Book of Judges we read of the twelve tribes. In I Samuel 8:4 we are told that the elders of the children of Israel came to Samuel at Ramah, asking that a king be appointed over them in order that they might be like the nations round about them. About this position there can be no doubt. The expressions, children of Israel, and Israel, are used throughout the historical books of the Old Testament--up to I Kings 12 and 13--in referring to the twelve tribes. Upon the death of Solomon, when Rehoboam refused to lighten the taxes, there was formed in the North a new government, a rival to the one at Jerusalem. This kingdom became known as Israel, whereas the tribes which remained faithful to the throne of David were called Judah. Hence after that event and until the fall of the northern kingdom, these terms, Judah and Israel, were used to refer to these rival kingdoms.
In the days of Ahaz, however, the name, Jews, appeared for the first time. (See II Kings 16:6.) This noun was derived from Judah, which means "praise." In the reign of Hezekiah, the successor of Ahaz, we see the name Jews again, which term refers to the people of the southern kingdom (II Kings 18:26). This name continued as a synonym for Judah from that time onward and finally superseded it. An examination of the books of the prophets confirms this conclusion. In the New Testament we see that Judaea is the name of the southern district in Palestine and that the people who lived there, and in Galilee were called Jews. Furthermore, their countrymen who lived throughout the Greco-Roman Empire were also called Jews.
In this investigation it is necessary for us, having examined the rise, the use, and the discontinuance of the word, Judah, and the meaning and development of the word, Jew, now to examine the history of the fall of the northern kingdom and the things which resulted there from in order to understand the meaning of the word, Israel, after that event. In II Kings 17 we have an account of the siege and the final fall of Samaria, the capital of the kingdom of Israel. According to the Assyrian record, Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, first launched the attack against Samaria. The war continued for three years. Finally, Samaria fell to Sargon, who by that time had succeeded Shalmaneser. As to how Shalmaneser met his death, we cannot say; but Sargon captured and overthrew the northern kingdom in 719 B.C., which was 3406 A.H. This proves to be one of the pivotal dates of history so far as the Chosen People are concerned.
Sargon, in his royal palace at Khorsabad, commemorated his conquest of Samaria with a memorial inscription upon the walls. According to it he deported 27,290 of the leaders of the northern kingdom and colonized them in various sections of his empire. The rest of the people he left in the land. Over them he, according to his records, placed his governor. This statement is in perfect alignment with the general policy of the Assyrians. As we learn from various records, when they conquered a country, they always deported the royal line, and the nobility, and all prominent men, colonizing them in other provinces incorporated into their empire. Then they took captives from other conquered lands and settled them in the newly acquired territory. By so doing they rendered the population more heterogeneous and reduced to the minimum the possibility of an organized revolt. In keeping with this nationally established policy, Sargon deported from Samaria the leaders only and left the masses of the people in the land. It is therefore contrary to the historical facts, which are recorded on the Assyrian monuments, to speak of the "ten lost tribes of Israel." They were never lost. They were never taken from their land. They remained in it--with the exception of those whom I have just mentioned.
The biblical account confirms the Assyrian record. In II Kings 17:23 we read of the fall of Samaria and the underlying causes--the people's disloyalty to God. Some think that verse 18 contradicts this position. It reads as follows: "Therefore Jehovah was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only." Also the statement in verse 23 is interpreted as denying this proposition. Here are the words: "So Israel was carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day." If the passage stopped with verse 23 and there were no other evidence in the Scriptures, we might conclude that the entire population of the northern kingdom was deported to Assyria; but, when we study the remaining portion of this chapter, we see that this was not the case. I may make a certain speech. Someone might listen to part of it and then retire from the room. Of course he would lose the connection. By hearing only part of the discussion, he might honestly believe that I took a certain position; whereas those who listened to the entire message would understand the first part in the light of all that was said. In the same manner we must study the entire chapter of II Kings 17 before arriving at the conclusion that all the Israelites were removed from the land by Sargon. In verses 24-33 we read of certain Asiatics whom the Assyrians brought into the land of Palestine and colonized there in order that he might, as before stated, make the population heterogeneous. They immediately had difficulty with the wild beasts of the land. Being pagans, they thought that they did not know how to honor the god of the country; hence they sent to the King of Assyria for a priest who had been taken captive in order that he might teach them the law of the god of the land. One was sent. He taught these colonists to worship Jehovah. They did not give up their paganism but added Jehovah to their pantheon. It is said that "they feared Jehovah, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away" (vs. 33). There can be no misunderstanding as to who these colonists, discussed in these verses, were.
But in verses 34-40 is a record of an entirely different group in the land. Notice what is said about them. "Unto this day they do after the former manner: they fear not Jehovah, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law or after the commandment which Jehovah commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel," etc. (vs. 34). The historian continues to talk about these people with whom the Lord made a covenant, stating that they did not keep their statutes, law, and commandments which Jehovah commanded the children of Jacob. From this statement it is clear that this group belonged to those whom Jehovah brought out of Egypt and to whom He gave His Law. We are told that these feared "not Jehovah" nor did they after their ordinances. The colonists, as we have seen, still worshiped their old pagan gods and also accepted Jehovah as another pagan god; but this second group, with whom Jehovah had entered into covenant relation when He brought them out of the land of Egypt and gave them ordinances, commandments, statutes, and a Law, did not fear Jehovah. Neither did they keep His ordinances. These could be none other than the people of the land the Am-Haarets--who were left in the country by Sargon when he deported the 27,290 leaders into Assyrian captivity.
When II Kings 17 is studied properly, one finds unimpeachable evidence that the ten northern tribes were never taken into captivity; on the contrary, they were left in the land and remained there. Only the royalty, nobility, and leaders were taken. It is therefore incorrect and unscriptural to speak of "the ten lost tribes of Israel."
Although the kingdom was split in the days of Rehoboam and the rival kingdom was set up in Samaria, many of the people in the northern tribes migrated into Judah. This fact is seen in II Chronicles 15, which speaks of the revival that occurred in the southern kingdom during the reign of Asa. Many who had come from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon (II Chron. 15:8,9,10) were present and participated in this revival. When Hezekiah held his great passover, about the time of the fall of the northern kingdom, he sent "to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto Jehovah, the God of Israel" (II Chron. 30:1). The messengers "passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even unto Zebulon: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless certain men of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulon humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem" (vss. 10,11).
Ninety-eight years after the fall of the northern kingdom, King Josiah of Judah held his great passover service, in the eighteenth year of his reign. Certain ones "came to Hilkiah, the high priest, and delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin, and of the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (II Chron. 34:9). According to this record, the Levites received offerings from the ten northern tribes ninety-eight years after they were supposed to have been carried into Assyrian captivity. If they had all been deported, according to the theory now under examination, there would have been none of them to make these contributions. Regardless of this theory the ten northern tribes were in the Promised Land and did make this contribution, which was a substantial one. Let the reader bear in mind that they were in the Land when they made it. I simply ask everyone to examine II Chronicles 34 and 35 and get the facts for himself. If he does this, he cannot, in view of all the facts, accept the theory that ten of the tribes of Israel were ever lost.
In the year 3520 A.H. the southern kingdom was overthrown by the Babylonians and many of the leaders were taken into exile. At the end of the seventy years of captivity Cyrus, king of Persia, who had by this time conquered the Babylonian Empire and had incorporated it into his realm, issued a decree that any or all the children of Israel throughout his vast domains might return to the land of their fathers if they chose to do so. Since Assyria had been swallowed up by Babylon, and since the latter in turn had been incorporated into the realm of Cyrus, this permission for all of the children of Israel to return to the land of their fathers allowed those leaders of the northern kingdom whose ancestors had been taken captive by Sargon to return to Palestine.
In the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah the terms, Jews and Israel, are used interchangeably. This becomes immediately apparent by reading the record. We are given a list of those of the children of Israel who returned. The facts that Ezekiel and Jeremiah, who prophesied about the time of the overthrow of the southern kingdom, employed the terms, Israel and Jews, interchangeably and that the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah show the same usage prove that there were no lost tribes of Israel.
When we come into the New Testament, we see these names used interchangeably with reference to the same people. In one place the Hebrews are called Israelites; in another, they are spoken of as Jews. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul did not think that there were any lost tribes. In speaking to Agrippa, he declared, "And now I stand here to be judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; unto which promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain" (Acts 26:6,7). If ten of the twelve tribes had been taken into captivity and had been lost, it would have been impossible for Paul to make the assertion that the twelve tribes were serving God earnestly day and night. Furthermore, James did not believe that ten of the tribes were lost, for he wrote his epistle "to the twelve tribes which are of the Dispersion" (Jas. 1:1). The word Dispersion was a term used by the Jews to refer to their countrymen who were living in other countries outside of Palestine. This term never arose until about the time of the Greek Empire. James addressed his epistle to the twelve tribes.
My friend, the people who are now known as Jews--the twelve tribes of Israel--are the ones whom God chose to be the channel through whom He would bless the world. It was through this people that the Lord gave us His revelation in the past. It was from among them that the Saviour came. It was from them that the twelve apostles came. It was with them that the church of Jesus Christ began. It was through them that we have received our spiritual blessings. It will be by them that the truth of God will be given to the entire world. It will be in them that all nations shall be blessed.
In view of these indisputable facts let us do all that we can to get the truth of God to the Jewish nation while we have time and opportunity. This people is the "hub of the nations"; this people is the nation of destiny.