Book: America & Britain

What happened to the ten tribes of the northern Kingdom of Israel after the Assyrian Empire forcibly removed them from their land? Where did they go—where are they today? History traditionally declares that they were fully assimilated by the nations among which they were scattered. History books make little mention of them today, only remembering them as the “lost” tribes of Israel.

But the Scriptures say otherwise—God Himself says otherwise. God entered into a divine covenant—a binding contractual commitment—with the entire nation of ancient Israel, all twelve tribes. In that covenant, God promised to keep, lead, and bless Israel above all nations, while Israel, in turn, agreed to worship and obey God alone. As we will see, that covenant agreement was fully based on and was the result of specific promises God had made centuries earlier to the patriarch Abraham.

When the people of Israel were held captive as slaves in the land of Egypt, God heard their groaning and “remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Ex. 2:24). This covenant was the reason for God delivering Israel out of bondage and subsequently settling them in the land promised to Abraham. A few weeks after the children of Israel were freed from Egypt, they fell into gross sin—through the idolatrous “golden calf” incident (Ex. 32). Fearing God might actually destroy the entire nation in His anger, Moses interceded on their behalf—appealing to God’s covenant promise to Abraham. He said: “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore [in a covenant] by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever’ ” (Ex. 32:13).

Because of specific promises made to Abraham, Israel was to be God’s chosen nation—forever!

Even as the tribes of Israel fell into sin and rebellion again and again, God has purposed that—while He would most assuredly chasten and correct them—He would never cast them off permanently. Notice this key prophecy in the book of Leviticus dealing with God’s corrective punishment on the tribes of Israel—and how He would always “remember” His covenant with their fathers.

“[While in corrective captivity,] if they shall confess their iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers with their own iniquities which they sinned against Me, and that they have walked contrary to Me, so that I, in turn, have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies, and if their uncircumcised hearts are then humbled, and they accept the punishment for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac; and also My covenant with Abraham I will remember. And I will remember the land. The land also shall be forsaken by them and shall enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies waste without them. And they shall accept the punishment of their iniquities; because, even because they despised My judgments, and because their soul hated My statutes.

“And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not entirely cast them away; neither will I hate them to destroy them utterly and to break My covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. But for their sakes, I will remember the covenant of their ancestors [made at Sinai] whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, so that I might be their God. I am the LORD” (Lev. 26:40-45).

According to God’s own divine plan and based on His irrevocable promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the entire nation of Israel will always be His people and He will always be their God. As we saw earlier, the southern Kingdom of Judah was sent into captivity at the hand of the Babylonians—only to return 70 years later. Indeed, God remembered His covenant with Abraham, sparing the Jewish nation from utter destruction.

But what about the northern tribes? Has God forgotten them—or will He yet remember His promises to Abraham concerning their future? If God’s Word is true, He will remember—He will deliver them as well from captivity and certain destruction. But this can only be so if the northern tribes of Israel still exist on this earth today.

Nehemiah writes that God always keeps His covenants (Neh. 9:32). Recalling history, David wrote that God remembered His covenant with Abraham when He delivered them from Egypt. But David’s words are also prophetic in that God will yet remember this special covenant—“forever”! “O you seed of Abraham His servant, you children of Jacob His chosen [nation]. He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations; the covenant which He made with Abraham…” (Psa. 105:6-9).

Though both houses of Israel will suffer under the corrective hand of God, they will be fully restored in the age to come—having been shown tremendous mercy by God. The prophet Micah writes:

“Who is a God like You, Who pardons iniquity and passes over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage [Israel]? He does not keep His anger forever because He delights in mercy. He will turn again; He will have compassion upon us. He will subdue our iniquities. Yea, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will perform the truth to Jacob, and mercy to Abraham, which You have sworn to our fathers from the days of old” (Micah 7:18-20).

As we will see, God’s Word shows that Israel is destined to play a key role in the age to come—after she is miraculously delivered from near total destruction in the troublesome latter days. As noted earlier, millennial prophecies, such as in Ezekiel 37:16-22, speak of the full restoration of the tribes of Israel into one united kingdom. But one cannot restore what does not exist. Moreover, Jesus promised His twelve apostles that in the kingdom age they would sit on literal thrones ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel— proving that they must still exist today.

If this is so—if the Bible is to be trusted—where are the “lost” tribes today? Where and how can we find them? The answer lies in the mysterious promises made to the patriarch Abraham.

God’s Unique Covenant With Abraham

Almost any long-time churchgoer can recount numerous biblical stories, including ones about the great patriarch Abraham. There’s the story of Abraham going to war to deliver his nephew Lot from the hand of marauding kings; and who doesn’t remember the account of Abraham being asked by God to “sacrifice” his son Isaac?

Almost any long-time churchgoer can recount numerous biblical stories, including ones about the great patriarch Abraham. There’s the story of Abraham going to war to deliver his nephew Lot from the hand of marauding kings; and who doesn’t remember the account of Abraham being asked by God to “sacrifice” his son Isaac?

But ask most any churchgoer about the “covenant promises” of material and national blessings made to Abraham—promises subsequently passed on by “birthright” to Isaac and Jacob—and you’ll likely get a blank stare. Theologians and church pastors correctly teach that God’s covenant with Abraham featured the promise of the Messiah. They are likewise aware that God’s promises to Abraham resulted eventually in the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel under David and his son Solomon. But “Christianity” as a whole is woefully ignorant of the fact that God’s covenant promises to Abraham extend immeasurably beyond what was accomplished through the biblical nation of Israel.

The fact is, God’s covenant promises to Abraham were not limited to the small, ancient people known as the nation of Israel. The Abrahamic promises not only extend far into the future—into eternity, in fact—they ultimately involve the entirety of the human family.

As we examine God’s covenant with Abraham, we will begin to grasp the immense scope of the promises made to the patriarch. The details of this covenant, as revealed in the Scriptures, will become an infallible guide in our search for the modern identity of the “lost” ten tribes of Israel. Detailed descriptions of physical and material blessings—of national prominence—will provide vital clues; the promised possession of strategic land and sea gates will be key; geographic makeup and location will be important factors—all leading us to the unmistakable identity of modern Israel.

God Begins Anew Through One Man—Abraham

God began the human family through Adam and Eve, with the intent that their offspring—in addition to inheriting the entire earth—would enjoy a close relationship with God. But Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12) not only disqualified him from leading mankind into that relationship, it set the entire human family on a course of sin and rebellion against God’s way of life. Only the work of the spiritual “second Adam”—Jesus the Messiah—would restore mankind to the relationship God had originally sought.

Still, righteous men such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Shem found favor with God. But in His grand design for humanity, God would choose one man through which to initiate His plan of salvation—Abraham. In Genesis 12, we read:

“And the LORD said to Abram, ‘Get out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house into a land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation. And I will bless you and make your name great. And you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those that bless you and curse the one who curses you. And in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.’ Then Abram departed, even as the LORD had spoken to him…” (Gen. 12:1-4).

Through the patriarch Abraham—who obeyed God without question or hesitation—God would start His own, particular nation, a people He could call His own. Of them, God says, “This people that I formed for Myself, they shall [yet] declare My praise”—as a “model nation” to all the world (Isa. 43:21). (This passage hints at the future role Israel will yet play in the age to come, when they will be instrumental in bringing salvation to all of mankind.)

Even in the early stage of His covenant with Abraham, it was clear that God’s promise was twofold: 1) “I will make of you a great nation”—an obvious indication of material, national blessings (Genesis 18:18 says “a great and mighty nation”); and 2) “In you shall all families of the earth be blessed”—a veiled reference to the eventual coming of the Messiah as Abraham’s “seed” (Gal. 3:16).

Abraham would not only become the father of a great nation, he would ultimately become the spiritual “father of all who believe” the Gospel—including Gentiles (Rom. 4:11-12; Gal. 3:29). God was working out a role for Abraham that would ultimately bring salvation to the whole world. Thus, in Galatians 3:8, Paul links the “promised seed” to the Gospel message of the kingdom age. In fact, Christ’s entire mission—through both His first and second comings—is predicated on these covenant promises.

But here is where theologians and scholars overwhelmingly jump track. They read Genesis 12:1-4 and assume that the Abrahamic promises have been fulfilled. Yes, Abraham did become a “great nation” via the ancient nation of Israel (under Solomon’s rule); and yes, through Christ, “all families of the earth” will ultimately be spiritually blessed. But scholars and theologians fail to acknowledge the depth and richness of the promises of material blessings God made to Abraham and his descendants. It is on this key point that theologians err—thus, they are blinded to the truth about the identity of modern-day Israel.

As will be brought out, the material and national promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob involve so much more than most have imagined. As time went by, God reaffirmed His promises to Abraham and his sons, each time expanding and elaborating on the promises, adding greater detail as to the magnitude of the physical blessings. It is in these detailed descriptions of geographic size and scope, worldwide prominence and influence, and national wealth that we will find the keys to Israel’s modern-day identity.

What is a Covenant?

A covenant is simply a binding agreement between two or more parties. Many Bible students are familiar with what is called the “Old Covenant”—a “contract” between God and the nation of Israel, struck at Sinai. In this covenant, God, for His part, promised to lead, protect, and bless Israel—claiming them as His “special treasure” and “holy nation” (Ex. 19:3-6). For their part in the agreement, Israel promised to obey and follow God in every way—“All that the LORD has spoken, we will do” (verse 8).

A short time prior to entering the Promised Land, God reaffirmed the Sinaitic covenant with the children of Israel:

“You stand today, all of you, before the LORD your God: your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in your camp … so that you should enter into covenant [a restating of the Old Covenant] with the LORD your God and into His oath which the LORD your God makes with you today; that He may establish you today for a people to Himself, and that He may be your God as He has said to you and as He has sworn to your fathers—to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deut. 29:10-13).

This passage demonstrates the continuing nature of the Abrahamic covenant—that the promises to Abraham were extended to Israel and on to their descendants. Indeed, the “Old Covenant” was the direct result of the covenant promises God made to Abraham. The establishment of Israel as a nation under God was the fulfillment of Genesis 12:2—but only in part.

In order for Abraham’s descendants to become a “great nation,” the patriarch would need an heir. In Genesis 15, God promised Abraham a son—one from his “own loins.” Of that seed, God said it would grow into a multitude like the stars—uncountable for number (verse 5). To affirm His promises, God had Abraham participate in a special ceremony (verses 9-12, 17) designed to show that God Himself, as guarantor, would see to it that the promises would be fulfilled—even if Abraham’s descendants (Israel) failed on their part (which they did repeatedly). The ceremony was also messianic in that it foreshadowed the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as His death—through the power of divine reconciliation—would ultimately guarantee the full realization of the Abrahamic promises. In effect, Abraham was being told that even if his descendants failed to live up to their part of the covenant, God Himself would take full responsibility to “make it right.” Thus, God’s covenant promises to Abraham—including the Old Covenant, which in time would be superseded by the New Covenant—were absolutely sure, for their success ultimately depended on God alone.

The key—as pictured by the ceremony of Genesis 15—would be the redemptive work of the Messiah. This is why the apostle Paul wrote that Jesus came “so that He might confirm the promises given to the fathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob]” (Rom. 15:8). As Messiah, Jesus confirmed the Abrahamic promises through His death and resurrection.

“A Great Nation” Expanded to “Many Nations”

Initially, God told Abraham He would give him the land of Canaan, in which he was to sojourn (Gen. 12:6-7). Later, after Abraham and Lot had parted ways, God told the patriarch to “look northward and southward, and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give to you and to your seed forever. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can count the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be counted. Rise up and walk through the land, in the length of it and in the breadth of it, for I will give it [all] to you” (Gen. 13:14-17). Thus, whatever territories Abraham’s descendants could see or walk through was to be theirs. The implication here is that the land promise was, ultimately, to be unlimited. 1

Still later, in Genesis 15, God revealed to Abraham that his descendants would become slaves in a strange land—but that He would deliver them in keeping with the promises He had made (verses 13-14). In reaffirming the covenant, God added: “I have given this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphra

The covenant promises of material and national greatness continue in Genesis 17, where we see an important addition—that multiple nations would come of Abraham’s seed.

“And when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am the Almighty God! Walk before Me and be perfect. And I will make [confirm] My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.’ And Abram fell on his face. And God talked with him, saying:

“ ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. Neither shall your name any more be called Abram [exalted father], but your name shall be Abraham [father of a multitude]; for I have made you a father of many nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations [plural] of you, and kings [plural] shall come from you.

“ ‘And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your seed after you. And I will give the land to you in which you are a sojourner, and to your seed after you, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. And I will be their God’ ” (Gen. 17:1-8).

Does the land of Canaan qualify as “many nations”? Could the original, ancient tribes of Israel be described as “many nations”? Is the modern Jewish nation of Israel “many nations”? Impossible. The biblical language used— exceedingly fruitful, I will make nations of you, kings shall come from you— clearly identifies Abraham’s descendants as numerous, well-populated nations. As we continue, we will see that the Abrahamic promises go immeasurably beyond “all the land of Canaan”—which was a mere “down payment.” The fact that God, at this point in time, changed Abram’s name to Abraham is indicative of His ultimate intent—to make Abraham, literally, the father of a multitude of nations.

What about the church—does it not fulfill these promises? The church is spoken of as a (singular) “holy nation”—spiritually (I Peter 2:9). Collectively, the saints are, through Christ, Abraham’s spiritual children (Gal. 3:29). But scattered Christians do not form nations, plural. Moreover, they have never inherited the physical, material wealth clearly promised to Abraham’s descendants. Obviously, neither the Jews nor the church could be the fulfillment of these profound promises.

Again, the spiritual aspect of the Abrahamic promises is being fulfilled through the “one seed”—Christ. But where, how, and through whom have the physical promises been fulfilled? Where are the “many nations,” the “many kings” promised to Abraham?

The Promises Amplified Yet Again

It is important to note that, up to this point in Abraham’s relationship with God, the covenant promises were conditional—they hinged on the patriarch’s obedience to God’s ways and laws. In Genesis 22, God puts Abraham through a sore trial and test, commanding him to sacrifice the very heir through whom the promises would be fulfilled—his only son, Isaac. Upon passing the test, God says of Abraham, “[For] now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (verse 12). From that critical juncture, all of the covenant promises become unconditional. God could see that Abraham would always be faithful in his obedience to Him. God said:

“By Myself have I sworn … because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son; that in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (verses 16-18).

This passage repeats the promise of the Messiah—“in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”2 It also again emphasizes the vastness of the “multitudes” to come from Abraham, offspring so numerous they would be like the stars of heaven and the sand of the seashore— uncountable for number.

But here, God also adds a key detail to the promises—the possession by Israel of their enemies’ “gates.” This is a reference to strategic sea gates—such as the Panama Canal, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, etc. But notice, these are not simply “gates” which Israel would control as part of their own lands—these “gates” belong to Israel’s enemies. Thus, Abraham’s descendants would have powerful control and influence over other nations via these strategic “gates”—impacting whole economies and determining the outcomes of wars. This key aspect of the covenant promises points to worldwide dominance and power for Abraham’s descendants!

The promise of strategic seas gates is repeated in Genesis 24, this time to Rebekah, Isaac’s affianced wife. Obviously aware of the covenant between Abraham and God, Rebekah’s family blessed her, saying, “Our sister, may you become the mother of countless thousands, and may your children possess the gates of those who hate them” (verse 60; author’s paraphrase).

But Israel of old never possessed such gates, and today’s Jewish State of Israel has possessed no such gates. We are forced to look for the fulfillment of these very specific promises elsewhere—and they must be fulfilled or God’s Word is not reliable. Where—how—in what peoples have these monumental promises been fulfilled?

CHAPTER 2 NOTES

1. In Romans 4:13, Paul writes that Abraham is to be “heir of the world”— indicating that Israel would (at some point in the messianic age) fill the earth. Compare this to what Jesus says in Matthew 13:31-33, that the Kingdom of Heaven would fill the earth (also Dan. 2:44; 7:14; Rev. 11:15; 19:15). Inheriting David’s throne, Jesus is to rule over Israel forever, and His kingdom will have no end (Luke 1:32-33). These passages show that a restored Israel forms the basis of the world-encompassing Kingdom of God.

2. The promise that “in you [in your seed] shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3) is repeated several times: Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14. While the promise is clearly messianic, it is also obvious that the entire world was (and is) to be blessed in manifold ways through modern Israel—Britain and America.