The Lost Tribes and the Two Houses of Israel
A True Jewish View
James Scott Trimm
There have been many attempts by mainline Messianic Judaism to discredit what has come to be called “Two House Theology”. Yet the mainline Messianic position on this issue is not in keeping with Judaism.
Sometimes I have been asked “what is the difference between Nazarene Judaism and Messianic Judaism?” My reply is “Judaism”. The difference between the ways Nazarene Judaism and mainline Messianic Judaism have reacted to the “Two House” movement provides us with a perfect example. The mainline Messianic Jewish attitude towards the Two House movement is totally at odds with JUDAISM.
The Mishnah recounts to us the age old question, as to whether or not the Lost Ten Tribes will yet return.
The ten tribes are not destined to return,
since it is said, “And he cast them into another land,
as on this day” (Deut. 29:28).
Just as the day passes and does not return,
so they have gone their way and will not return,”
the words of Rabbi Akiva.
Rabbi Eliezer says,
“Just as this day is dark and then grows light,
so the ten tribes for whom it is now dark–
thus in the future it is destined to grow light for them.”
The Gemara to this passage of Mishnah says:
Our Rabbis taught: The ten tribes have no portion in the world to come, as it says, And the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation: And the Lord rooted them out of their land, refers to this world; and cast them into another land — to the world to come: this is R. Akiba’s view. R. Simeon b. Judah, of the Kefar of Acco, said on R. Simeon’s authority: If their deeds are as this day’s, they will not return; otherwise they shall. Rabbi said: They will enter the future world, as it is said, [And it shall come to pass] in that day, that the great trumpetshall be blown, [and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land ofEgypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem]. (Is. 27:13)
It must be understood here that the “World to Come” here refers to the Messianic Kingdom. There was a conflict between Akiva and Eliezer as to whether the Lost Ten Tribes would return. In the Gemara we see that Rabbi Y’hudah, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin ruled in favor of Rabbi Eliezer’s view, that the Ten Tribes would in fact return and have a part in the World to Come. (Whenever the Talmud refers to “Rabbi” without a name, it is a reference to Rabbi Y’hudah the Nasi) Rabbi Y’hudah (Rabbi Judah) also indicated that the Lost Ten Tribes had lost their identity and become mingled among the nations, only to have their identity revealed in the future:
Rab Judah said in the name of R. Assi: If at the present time a heathen betroths [a daughter in Israel], note must be
taken of such betrothal since it may be that he is of the ten tribes.
The Midrash Rabba speaks of the future reunion of the two houses of Israel saying:
AND HE SAID: GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER (HE’ASEFU)… ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES, AND HEAR (XLIX, 1 f.). GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER from the land of Egypt, and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES into Raameses; GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER from [the exile of] the ten tribes, and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. He thus commanded them to show honour to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.1 R. Aha interpreted [the word HE’ASEFU], ‘Purify yourselves,’ as in the verse, And they gathered themselves together… and they purified themselves (Neh. XII, 28 ff.).2 The Rabbis say: He warned them against dissension, bidding them, Be ye all one assembly. Thus it says, And thou, son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it: For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions (Ezek. XXXVII, 16). ‘ His companion ‘ is written: when the children of Israel unite in one band, then they may prepare themselves for redemption. For what follows this? And I will make them one nation in the land, etc. (ib. 22).
(Gen. Rabbah XCVIII:2)
The Midrash Rabbah here is making a drash on the two phrases GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER and ASSEMBLE YOURSELVES, applying this as a type of their future reunion and redemption (as seen in Ezekiel 37)
The Midrash Rabbah also teaches that the Gentile nations will be blessed by the last days restoration of the Ten Tribes by virtue of their having been scattered among them:
They shall come trembling as a bird out of Egypt–this refers to the generation of the wilderness–and as a dove out of
the land of Assyria (Hos. XI, 11)–this refers to the ten tribes; and of both of them it says’ And I will make them to
dwell in their houses, saith the Lord (ib.). Rabbi says: When a certain kind of dove is given food, the other doves smellit and flock to her cote. So when the elder sits and discourses, many strangers become proselytes at such a time; so, for instance, Jethro heard the news and came, Rahab heard and came. So through Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, many strangers became proselytes at that time. What is the reason? Because, when he seeth his children sanctify My name, then, as it goes on, they also that err in spirit shall come to understanding (Isa. XXIX, 23, 24).
(Song of Songs Rabbah IV:2)
Finally the Midrash Rabbah tells us something about what became of the Lost Ten Tribes:
6. AND SHE CALLED HIS NAME JOSEPH, SAYING: THE LORD ADD TO ME ANOTHER SON (XXX, 24). ANOTHER [i.e. different] in respect of exile. R. Judah b. R. Simon said: The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were not exiled to the same place as were the other ten tribes. The ten-tribes were exiled beyond the River Sambatyon, whereas the tribes of Judah and Benjamin are dispersed in all countries. ANOTHER SON-in respect of dissension. R. Phinehas said: Through Rachel’s prayer the tribes of Judah and Benjamin did not revolt [against the Davidic dynasty] together with the remaining ten tribes. ANOTHER denotes the behavior of others.
(Gen. Rabbah LXXIII:6)
The identity of this river has remained a mystery. The primary clue to the identity of the mysterious Sabatyon river is
also found in Midrash Rabbah which quotes Rabbi Akiba as saying:
…the river Sabatyon carries stones the whole
week but allows them to rest on the Sabbath.
(Genesis Rabbah 11:5)
Similarly the Talmud says:
Let the river Sabatyon prove that the
Seventh day is the Sabbath.
Back in 1987 there was an article published in the Orthodox Jewish (Chabad) Journal B’Or HaTorah titled “Did any of the Lost Tribes Go North?” by Yochanon Ben David (John Hulley) (B’Or Ha’Torah 6 (1987): 127-133). The object of this paper was to identify the Sabbatayon and thus determine the location of the Ten Lost Tribes. This article concluded that the Sabbatyon was in fact the Bosphorus straits between the Mediterranean Sea and the the Black Sea. Hulley showed that the Straites were anciently referred to as a river and that due to current fluctuations between the two Seas, the Bosphorus slows down, stops or changes direction approximately once every seven days. He concludes that the legend might further be based upon a Sabbath day crossing of the Sabbatyon coinciding with the current being at rest. This would mean that the Ten Tribes had migrated across the straites toward Europe.
The prophet Ovadyah (Obadiah) speaks of the destination of the House of Israel in their exile as follows:
And the captivity of this host of the children of Yisrael,
that are among the Kena’anites, even unto Tzarfat, and
the captivity of Yerushalayim, that is in Sepharad, shall
possess the cities of the South.
Where is Tzarfat? Tzarfat is the Hebrew word for “France”. In fact, if you were reading a newspaper in Israel today, and it referred to France, the word used would be “Tzarfat”.
In fact Rashi’s commentary to Ob. 1:20 says: “Tzarfat is the kingdom of France.”
Gauls had migrated from an area just north of the Assyrian Empire across Europe to the area we know today as France. The land we know today as France was Gaul. In fact the “DeGaulle” in Charles DeGaulle (the French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II) means “of Gaul”. These Gauls were also known as Celts… they migrated across the English channel into the Brittish isles… thus the Celts spoke “Gealic”. These “Gauls” were GAL-aeens who had been exiled by the Assyrians to the land north of Assyria, As they passed through the area known now as Turkey they created a colony there called GAL-atia.
In 1944 Zionist activist David Horowitz organized the United Israel World Union. The hallmark of this Jewish organization was Isaiah’s word “My house will become a house of prayer for all peoples,” and “Whosoever will call upon the name of YHWH will be saved.” Horowitz maintained that the Lost Tribes of Israel had scattered among the nations and having lost their identity, would be a key componant and catalyst of masses of “Gentiles” who he believed would be drawn to Judaism, and join the Jewish people bringing about a Messianic age. Horowitz continued to lead the organization and proclaim this message of the future reunion of the two houses of Israel until his death at the age of 99 years in 2002. I know, I spoke with him on a number of occasions, he was a friend of mine.
Orthodox Israeli Yair Davidy is another Jew to proclaim the message of the Two Houses of Israel and the Ten Lost Tribes. Davidy lives in Israel where he runs the organization Brit-Am Israel. He has written several books on the topic of the Lost Tribes and their migrations into Western Europe. Many of these books have a letter in the front, giving them Rabbinic Aprobation from Rabbi Avram Feld. Among Yair’s books are The Tribes: The Israelite Origin of the Western Peoples (1993); Ephraim and Lost Israelite Identity. Yair Davidy’s thoroughly documented research shows that the Lost Ten Tribes, which had been transplanted to the outskirts of Assyria came to be known as the Sakeans (they were previously known as Yitzakheans or in Aramaic Isakeans). These Sakeans are known to have migrated northwest and made their way into Europe to become the Scythians (S’kitheans) and Saxons (Saksons). Davidy’s research has shown that other tribal groups of the Lost Ten Tribes also emerged in Europe under names similar to those of the Tribe of Israel, such as: Galics (Galileans); Danes (Dans); Cimereans (Simeons); Goths/Gots (Gads “Gad” is pronounced in Hebrew as “God”).
Not only is the Two House message the traditional position of Rabbinic Judaism, it is also the historic position of the Nazarenes, the original Jewish followers of Yeshua.
Let me begin by examining the Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah 8:14 as cited by Jerome:
The Nazarenes, who accept Messiah in such a way
that they do not cease to observe the old law
explain the two houses as the two families, viz.
of Shammai and Hillel, from whom originated the Scribes
and the Pharisees. Akiba, who took over their school,
is called the master of Aquila the proselyte, and
after him came Meir who has been succeeded by Joannes
the son of Zakkai and after him Eliezer and further
Telphon, and next Joseph Galilaeus and Joshua up to
the capture of Jerusalem. Shammai then and Hillel
were born not long before the Lord; they originated
in Judea. The name of the first means “scatterer”
and of the second “unholy”, because he scattered and
defiled the precepts of the Torah by his traditions
and deutroseis. And these are the two houses who did
not accept the Savior who has become to them ruin and
Now I want to clarify two things here. First of all the Nazarene commentary here is not giving the Pashat (literal meaning) of the passage but a MIDRASH (an allagoical meaning) for the passage. This Midrash draws an allagorical relationship between the two houses of Israel (the House of Israel and the House of Judah) and the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel. The basis for this Midrash is a wordplay on the names Shammai and Hillel which sound in Hebrew like the words for “scatterer” and “unholy”. “Scatterer” ties the House of Shammai allegorically to the “scattered” House of Israel. “Unholy” ties the House of Hillel to the House of Judah.
Two things are important to note:
1. The Midrash is not identifying an allegory to the two houses
themselves, but to the STUMBLING (see Is. 8:14) of the two houses.
2. The Midrash is not attacking Hillel and Shammai themselves but the
Houses or schools of Rabbinic thought that arose after them in their names
(as is clear from the linage of Rabbis that came after them), The purpose
of this portion of the Midrash is to link Rabbinic Judaism to the
“stumbling” of the House of Judah discussed in this section of Isaiah.
This section of the commentary is purely midrashic (allegorical) and tells us little about the Nazarene understanding of the Pashat (literal meaning) of this passage.
But now lets look at the Nazarene commentary on Is. 9:1-4 (8:23-93 in Jewish versions) as cited by Jerome:
The Nazarenes, whose opinion I have set forth above,
try to explain this passage in the following way:
When Messiah came and his proclaiming shone out,
the land of Zebulon and Naphtali first of all were
freed from the errors of the Scribes and Pharisees
and he shook off their shoulders the very heavy yoke
of the Jewish traditions. Later, however, the proclaiming
became more dominant, that means the proclaiming was
multiplied, through the Goodnews of the emissary Paul
who was the least of all the emissaries. And the goodnews
of Messiah shone to the most distant tribes and the way of
the whole sea. Finally the whole world, which earlier walked
or sat in darkness and was imprisoned in the bonds of idolatry
and death, has seen the clear light of the goodnews.
(Note: The “Jewish traditions” in the context of this commentary refer to Rabbinic Halachah of the fourth century CE with which the Nazarenes took issue.)
Now Isaiah 9:1-4 refers to “Galilee of the GOYIM (nations/Gentiles)” but identifies these “Gentiles” as the inhabitants of “the land of Zebulon and Naphtali”. Here the House of Israel is being identified as “Gentiles”. There are at least two other places in Scripture where the word “Gentile” is used to describe Ephraim (the House of Israel). One of these is Gen. 48:19 where (in the Hebrew) Ephraim is told his descendent’s will become “a multitude of nations (GOYIM; Gentiles)” (compare Rom. 11:25 where the same phrase is translated in the KJV as “fullness of the gentiles”). The other case is in Rom. 9:24 which refers to “Jews” and “Gentiles” but then goes on (in Rom. 9:25-26) to quote Hosea (Hos. 2:23; 1:10) to identify them which the “Children of Judah” and “the Children of Israel” (Hosea 1:10-11; 2:23).
The Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah understands “you have multiplied the nation” (Is. 9:3) to refer to Paul “the proclaiming was multiplied, through the Goodnews of the emissary Paul… to the most distant tribes”. Therefore the ancient Nazarenes understood the “Gentiles” to whom Paul primarily directed his message with the Ephraimite “Gentiles” of Isaiah 9:1-4 and with “the most distant tribes”.
This comment in the Nazarene Commentary on Isaiah makes it clear that the Ancient Sect of Nazarene Judaism held to the Two House message and believed that Paul was an emissary to the Ephraimites. The “Two House” message is a JEWISH message with deep roots in Judaism. The Two House message has always been taught in Rabbinic Judaism and it is the historic position of Nazarene Judaism. Messianic Judaism has once again exchanged Judaism for traditional Christianity.
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