The ABC of Scattering
Part 9
From Egypt to Post-Exile Jerusalem

John Plunkett

August 23rd 2016

Today, in Part 9, we will be covering a lot of ground.  We are going to go all the way from the Egyptian slavery to post-exile Jerusalem. 

Last time, in Part 8, we left the growing families of the recently deceased Joseph and those of his brothers. Many or all of the brothers were likely deceased at the time.  

Exodus 1:
6:  And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
7:  And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
8:  Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.
9:  And he said unto his people, "Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
10:  Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falls out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land."

That last phrase is very interesting.  The first inclination of this new Pharaoh, who never knew Joseph and his good works on behalf of Egypt, was to get the Israelites up and "get them outa here." 

But in reality, he did not follow through and do that.  This is something for us to keep in mind. 

How long was it that the children of Israel were welcomed by the Egyptians before things started to turn nasty?  We are not told, so we can’t be exactly sure. 

Once the former Pharaoh – the one who got along well with Joseph and his family – died, the next Pharaoh – or perhaps even a couple more generations of Pharaohs – lost their former positive memories of the man who, through the inspiration of God, foresaw that disastrous seven-year famine and made wise arrangements to get Egypt – and its neighbouring nations – through it. 

This new, unfriendly Pharaoh either didn’t know about those amazing events (highly unlikely) or, for some reason, disregarded them.

But despite the Israelites' miraculously rapid population growth, at some point, the good times were replaced by bad times, and eventually by a period of abject slavery. 

The scriptures' mentions of the timing of the Israelites' dwelling – their stay – their yashab – in Egypt – can be a bit confusing.  I don’t want to go into all of the detail on this; but Genesis 15 and Acts 7 mention a period of four hundred years whereas Exodus 12 and Galatians 3 mention a period of four hundred and thirty years.  It is interesting that, if we look into history, neither of these numbers seems to fit in with what we believe to be the actual timing.  But I am not going to go into that detail today as that is properly a subject for another time.

In this sermon, I am not getting too picky on the actual dates, because there are differing "expert opinions" on them.

There is some new information that is coming out about which Pharaoh was on the throne of Egypt at the time of Joseph's death, and which one was on the throne at the time of the Exodus. 

Perhaps Apepi (a.k.a. Apophis) who was succeeded by Aahmes who we believe might have been the Pharaoh at the time of Joseph’s death, which occurred about 1635 BC.  Again, we are not going to be dogmatic on the dates; but I just want to give you an approximate timing. 

As the children of Israel were still living peacefully in Egypt, the next Pharaoh – Amen-Hotep I – was perhaps the one who turned nasty on them.  Or maybe it was one of the succeeding Pharaohs: Thothmes I, or II or III.  Or maybe Amen-Hotep II.  Believe it or not, there was also a Pharaoh who was a female.  Her name was Hatasu.  I haven’t taken too much time on this because it is not really critical to what we are studying right now.

Again, let’s not get hung up on the dates or the Pharaohs because our main question is this: Whatever the timing actually was, how did the Israelites actually fare during their post-Joseph years in Egypt? 

I am pretty sure that, that the Egyptians didn’t start treating the Israelites badly right away, as soon as Joseph died.  Rather, from what the scriptures tell us, the mistreatment probably began when this other Pharaoh came to power. 

The main thing for us to ask, though, more specifically, is this:  Did the Israelites stay faithful to God during that time – in the "good" years between the time of Joseph's death and the coronation of this new, unfriendly Pharaoh? 

We can be pretty sure that, while Jacob and Joseph were still alive, the family probably would have stayed pretty-well on track – on the straight and narrow.  But what happened after Joseph’s death?  

We're not told who took over as leader of the Israelites.  We can speculate that it might have been one – or even both – of Joseph’s sons – Ephraim and Manasseh. 

Or it could have been one of the sons of Judah, who had been granted the kingly line – the royal line of Israel (Genesis 49:10) – possibly Judah's firstborn, Pharez, through whom the royal lineage continued (Matthew 1:3; Luke 3:33).  

Whoever Joseph's successor was as the new Israelite leader, again we ask: To what extent did the subsequent leaders keep the people on a righteous path after Joseph’s death?

Another question is this: What was the reason that the LORD allowed them – or more likely – caused them – to descend from the very peak of the Egyptians' respect and favour – all of the way down to the very depths of Egyptian disdain and hatred?

Please see Part 12 of this series for details of Ezekiel 23, where we see that, during their time in Egypt, the Israelites were committing some kind of spiritual immorality.  Perhaps that spiritual immorality was the main reason.  But as we move further into the book of Exodus, we see what was perhaps another partial reason.  Repeating from Exodus 1:

7:  And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

I believe that the Israelite population explosion was likely caused by God, partially because He wanted them to increaseThis miraculous increase frightened this new Pharaoh very much:

9:  And he said unto his people, "Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
10:  Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falls out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.

Pharaoh's fear was likely a secondary cause.  By being fruitful and multiplying, the Israelites  were obeying God.  So why would He have cursed them for this? 

Perhaps this miraculous level of fruitfulness was intended to trigger the slavery which was a punishment on the Israelites from God.  

Could their period of slavery possibly have been partially due to the sin – if, in fact, it was a sin – of the Israelites' voluntary, excessive dwelling (yashabing) in Egypt for such a long time after the seven-year famine ended? 

This is a real possibility that dovetails with the LORD's mention of Israel's spiritual whoredoms in Egypt – as mentioned in Ezekiel 23.  


Because, as we talked about last time in Part 8, Jacob died in Egypt twelve years after the seven-year famine and his son Joseph died in Egypt a whopping sixty-six years after the end of the seven-year famine. 

Sixty-six years!  And yet we find absolutely no scriptural indication that the Israelites who survived Jacob and Joseph were showing any likelihood whatsoever of hitting the road again any time soon.

Please remember that God had repeatedly promised them a possession in the Promised Land of Canaan; not in Egypt.

Yet, they hung around in Egypt for such a long time.  However long the Israelites' Egyptian yashab was, what happened to them when the LORD did finally bring them to the end of it?

I am not going to go into all of the detail of the Exodus.  We all know the details very well as we go through it every year during the Passover season.

But let's ask the question again: Once the LORD raised up Moses and Aaron, miraculously freed the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery, and set them back "on the road again" towards the Promised Land, were they obedient to His commands? 

No.  They were not.  We know the story well because we've heard it over and over again.  Even after seeing with their very own eyes all of the fantastic things that God had done for them, they still reverted back to rebellion, murmuring, idolatry and other sins. 

Some of those Israelites, as we are going to see, even expressed a desire to go backwards, to return to Egypt, and to re-settle back there!

If you think about it, the LORD’s patience, and His love, must have been stretched to the limit. Still, He patiently and lovingly bore with them; but with stern warnings.  He told them exactly what His punishment would be on them if they continued in their rebellious and idolatrous ways.  Here we see the scattering scriptures starting to come together in earnest:

Leviticus 26:
27:  And if you will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me...
Verse 33:  And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.

As we go through the rest of these scriptures today, I ask you to keep this advice from the apostle Paul in mind:

I Corinthians 10:
1:  Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
10:  Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
11:  Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

So, these examples were recorded for the Christians of Paul’s day; and they were also certainly written for us too – we who are even closer to the ends of the world now than were Paul and his contemporaries.

Yes, these Old Covenant examples are intended for the New Covenant spiritual Israel of God – His Church.

Going back to the Exodus narrative: The Israelites were now out of Egypt and back "on the road again."  Where did they go?  God had them travelling for a while.  I will give you a quick, abridged overview of their initial journeyings.  When they were first thrust out of Egypt, they went from Goshen and Rameses to their first campsite at a place called Succoth.  Then to Pi-Hahiroth; and then from there they passed miraculously through the Red Sea and went to a place called Marah where the LORD healed the waters for them.  And then they went to a place called Elim where they camped by twelve springs of water.  From there they went out to the Wilderness of Sin, where the LORD sent manna and quails to feed them.  Then to a place called Rephidim where they got into a scrap with the Amalekites.  Then to Mount Sinai – also known as Mount Horeb – where the LORD gave the Ten Commandments and His Sinai Covenant laws.  From there they went out into the Sinai wilderness again where, as commanded by the LORD, they constructed the Tabernacle.  Then they came to a place called Ezion-Geber, passed through the lands of Esau and Ammon and then they came to a place called Kadesh Barnea where the LORD told Moses to send spies into the Promised Land.

It was quite a long way for them to walk.  No doubt about that!  But in His pillar of cloud an fire, and under the human leadership of Moses, the LORD led them to the very edge of the Promised Land, here in Kadesh Barnea. 

He commanded them to go in, because, at this point in time, the LORD considered that the time of their wandering – from Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – and all of the way up to this point they had been wandering – He considered that the time of their wandering and their scattering was over.  The time had come for their halt, and their settling down in the Promised Land. 

Joshua, Caleb and the other spies went in.  But, we all know what happened, scared by the spies other than Joshua and Caleb, the Israelites foolishly, faithlessly, fearfully and rebelliously rejected this huge blessing that the LORD was offering them right there and then.

Again, we all know the story; so I won't go into the detail of it too much – how the spies went in and came back with huge bunches of grapes and their fantastic accounts of this amazing land that was before them.  But they also reported about the scary inhabitants, and that is what put their fellow Israelites off. 

We learn that, although Caleb and Joshua were faithful and courageous, the majority of the spies were faithless and cowardly.  They influenced all of the people against going into the land, despite all that they had seen and how God had fought for them.  They had seen so many miraculous things with their own eyes.  The LORD had an absolutely one hundred percent perfect record of looking after His people – especially whenever they were faithful and obedient.  Yes!  A one hundred percent perfect record; and yet they were afraid of these Canaanites.

Let’s read a little of this in the book of Numbers, because it has some interesting things about the travels of the Israelites:

Numbers 14:
1:  And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
2:  And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!  Or would God we had died in this wilderness!
3:  And wherefore has the LORD brought us unto this land?   To fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey?  Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?"
4:  And they said one to another, "Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt."

They would have gone backwards!  Despite all that they had seen the LORD do for them – again with their very own eyes – they foolishly feared. 

OK, maybe these Canaanites guys were nine feet tall; but they were puny in God’s sight!  The Israelites foolishly feared those puny Canaanites more than they feared the LORD God.  This putting mere human beings before the LORD God was tantamount to idolatry and rebellion.

Over and over again, when the LORD told them to move and to travel, they wanted to stop and settle down.  And now that it was the right time – the LORD’s time – for them to stop, to settle down, to dwell, and to yashab, they demanded to keep travelling – and in the wrong direction!  They wanted to go back to Egypt!

The LORD was justifiably angry.  The LORD’s anger is, of course, always righteous anger. Initially He planned to wipe them all out and to start all over again with Moses; and probably with Joshua and Caleb because they had shown faith and courage. 

Moses could have been won over by his vanity, and could have said to the LORD, "Okay, let’s do it!"   But he didn’t.  We know that Moses wasn't perfect.  He made some mistakes and he paid for them; but Numbers 12:3 tells us that he was one of the meekest men who ever lived.  He called on the LORD to exercise mercy on the Israelites and not to wipe them out there and then, despite their terrible sin.  The LORD agreed to his request. 

Please don’t ever think that your prayers go unheeded.  Sometimes God has His mind made up about certain things; but He really does listen to His people. 

Even though He did agree with Moses, He did not forgive them completely.  And that is important.

Continuing in Numbers 14:

Verse 20:  And the LORD said, "I have pardoned according to your word:
21:  But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
22:  Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice...

We know what happened here.  He immediately executed the spies who had brought the bad report which triggered the rebellion from the people.  But for the general populace of the Israelites, He deferred the timing of their death penalty.  He called that deferral of the penalty His "Breach of Promise."

This is a side issue; but is something for us all to remember – an additional lesson for all of us in spiritual Israel. When we look into the character of the LORD here and elsewhere, we see that He does not forgive unless He first sees the fruits of repentance.  If we don’t repent, He will not forgive us.  Although this is another subject, it shows here that the Israelites did not repent, and so the LORD could not forgive them completely.  Although He could not let it go, in His graciousness, He deferred the penalty.  

So what was the deferred penalty?

Verse 23:  Surely they shall not see the land which I swore unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:
24:  But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it."

Please note the word “possess” and please remember back to Joseph and his brothers when they were still in Egypt, unwisely waning their possession to be in Egypt.

Continuing in Numbers 14:

25:  (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.)  "Tomorrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.

In other words, "Okay guys, get yourselves back "on the road again!" 

30a:  Doubtless you shall not come into the land, concerning which I swore to make you dwell therein… 

The land that was going to be their dwelling place...

30b: … save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
31:  But your little ones, which you said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.
32:  But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.
33:  And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.
34:  After the number of the days in which you searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall you bear your iniquities, even forty years, and you shall know my breach of promise.
35:  I the LORD have said, 'I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.'"

So then, after the LORD had pronounced this judgment on them and clearly commanded them to return to the road, what did they do?  Did they humbly and cheerfully obey?

Verse 40:  And they rose up early in the morning, and got them up into the top of the mountain, saying, "Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD has promised: for we have sinned."

Don't be fooled!  They were not being repentant!  on the contrary, they were being even more rebellious!  Moses responded that they had had their chance and that they had blown it.

41:  And Moses said, "Wherefore now do you transgress the commandment of the LORD?  But it shall not prosper.
42:  Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that you be not smitten before your enemies.
43:  For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword: because you are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.
44:  But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.
45:  Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.

The LORD told them (and I paraphrase): "Because you did not going to obey me in the first place, go ahead and hit the road for forty years! Yes, it is a long time; but it is going to teach you and your children a lesson.  Hit the road and get going!"  

They replied, "No!  We've changed our minds!  We are going to go in!  We are going to stop here!  We are going to yashab here!  We are going to fight those Amalekites and Canaanites and we are going to take the land from them!"

Over and over and over again, the LORD says, "Do this!"  But the Israelites insist on doing the exact opposite.  He says, "Go"; but they insist on stopping.  He says, "Stop"; and they insist on going!  

As a punishment, He allowed those who rebelliously went up to fight the Canaanites and Amalekites against His will to be soundly defeated.  And then, for their ultimate good, and as a lesson for us, He set the survivors on the road again for another long period of wandering in the wilderness.  For 40 long years, during which He caused that rebellious generation to die out.

Let’s go back to our list of places where they went and continue:

After Kadesh Barnea, they went into what is called the Eastern Wilderness where they avoided conflict with Edom and Moab.  From there they went to the Arnon River where they did get into a fight with some Canaanites whom they defeated – in accordance with the LORD's will.

From there, they went to Mount Hor where Aaron died and to Mount Nebo where Moses looked out and viewed the Promised Land before he died and was buried there.

God did not allow Aaron or Moses to enter the Promised Land, because of their sin when they struck the rock at Meribah.

From Mount Nebo, under the leadership of Joshua, they went to the Plains of Moab, where the LORD instructed them on how to divide the Promised Land and how to dispossess the inhabitants.

They then crossed the Jordan River near Gilgal on dry ground and finally, they came into Jericho, which was the first Canaanite city of the conquest.

Even after their eventual settlement period in the Promised Land – their ultimate halt in Canaan – when they went back and settled down in peace, we don’t get a lot of detail of the history of subsequent events.  However, long term, had the Israelites learned their lesson? 

The answer is No!  Yet more idolatry!  More Sabbath-breaking!  More of other kinds of sins as well, all of which led to more scattering!  More scattering – right through the era of the Judges and on into the time of Samuel and the Monarchy.

The LORD had foreseen and prophesied that the Israelites would demand a King.  Instead of being content to have Him ruling them, that they would demand a King.  (Genesis 17 and 35, Deuteronomy 17 and 28).  And so, the Israelite monarchy was born out of faithless rebellion.

The LORD foresaw this and started talking about the kings of Israel (He didn’t call it Israel back then) way back in the time of Abram, before he became Abraham.  The monarchy came into being in approximately 1050 BC.  And again, it was born out of faithless rebellion.

The first king, Saul, was not of the royal sceptre tribe of Judah; but of the tribe of Benjamin.  I'm not sure why.  

Saul was a big man; but when he viewed himself as little in his own eyes, everything went very well with him.  But when he started to "act big," to put himself up on a pedestal and to stray from his former obedience to God’s laws, things started to go terribly wrong.  We see here what the LORD God told Saul through Samuel:

I Samuel 15:23:
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.

So, in the LORD's eyes, King Saul was guilty of idolatry.  His main idol was himself.  In effect, he had become his own idol and what I call a "Mini Tower of Babel."

Saul was plagued by evil spirits, which prompted him to pursue young David.  Even before Saul knew that David was going to be the next king of Israel, those demons knew!  And because he was the ancestor of the ultimate King of Kings, there is nothing that they would have liked better than for Saul to capture and execute David, so cutting off his royal line. 

But they didn’t.  They couldn't!  Because the LORD was looking after him. 

Although Saul did not succeed in this attempt, more treachery and murder ensued in the land of Israel; and separation too, to the point that Israelites were fighting and killing fellow-Israelites. 

Let’s get back to the journey.  Please think about young David now.  You have probably seen movies where you see him, as a young man, being anointed in the tent of his father, Jesse. 

From the day that Samuel anointed young David to be King of Israel, up until the day that David actually ascended the throne, quite a number of years went by.  But that day did finally come, in what we believe to have been in or around the year 1010 BC. 

But even after David’s coronation – initially over the tribe of Judah only – and despite David’s relative righteousness and the fact that the LORD God did have a great love for him, still, within his family and within the nation, treachery, in-fighting, and murders continued.  Even after David re-united Judah with the other tribes of Israel, his reign suffered from more in-fighting, treachery and murder.  Within David’s own family terrible things were happening. 

Although I hate to have to say so, some of these problems have had their counterparts in the New Covenant Israel of God – even in our day.  We have seen infighting and treachery among God’s people within His true church.  Thankfully, not murder.  Not yet, at least.  But Jesus did prophecy that too would happen, as we can read about in Matthew 24 and John 16. 

Back to David.  Although he had his imperfections and troubles (some of them due to pretty females, which he apparently had an eye for), he was sincerely repentant and he continued to be faithful to God, right through to the end of his life. 

David died in about 970 BC.  What happened after his death?  More infighting, more treachery, and more murder!  This was happening in his family as his sons were scrambling to get the throne.

But it was God’s will that Solomon would ascend the throne which he eventually did.  In some ways like King Saul, Solomon had a very promising start to his reign; but in later life he allowed his heart to be turned from God – once again by pretty women – by his ridiculously large harem of wives and concubines, many of whom were foreign idol worshippers.  Some of them influenced him in favour of their false heathen gods.  So once again, we see idolatry in Israel!

It is interesting as well, that once again, at this point, as we have seen throughout this history that, just like with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we see another case of what might have otherwise been an almost "perfect score" ruined and another major scattering initiated – by lots of pretty female faces!  I am not, of course, blaming all of the troubles of the world on pretty women; but I think you can you see this pattern running through the history of Israel. 

Our God is merciful and gracious.  And in His mercy, the LORD deferred the penalty on Solomon until after his death.  Why?  Because He loved Solomon for all the good he had done at the beginning of his reign; also because of the faithfulness of his father David and all the good he had done. 

But in about 931 BC, in the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the LORD caused the nation of Israel to be split into two kingdoms – the southern House of Judah and the northern House of Israel.

I Kings 11:
11a:  Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon…

Look who was talking here now.  The LORD!

11b: … "Forasmuch as this is done of you, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely rend the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant {Jeroboam}.
12:  Notwithstanding in your days I will not do it, for David your father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of your son.
13:  Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to your son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.

Please notice who would do this rending, this uprooting, and this scattering.  It was the LORD!

We ask the question again: Did the kings and the people of the two new nations learn the lesson?

No!  We continually read of more idolatry and more other major sins in both houses – Judah and Israel.  This led to more separation and more scattering.  But as always, in His great mercy, the LORD gave them repeated warnings and opportunities to repent.  In this case, we read a warning that comes from the LORD to the prophet Ahijah, directed towards this new king Jeroboam of the northern House of Israel. (By the way, Jeroboam was as Ephraimite, which I found very interesting).

The LORD sent His warning through Ahijah and through Jeroboam’s wife!  Ahijah said to her:

I Kings 14:
7:  Go, tell Jeroboam, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'Forasmuch as I exalted you from among the people, and made you prince over my people Israel,
8:  And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it to you: and yet you have not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in my eyes;
9:  But have done evil above all that were before you: for you have gone and made you other gods and molten images to provoke me to anger, and have cast me behind your back...
15:  For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger.

Once again, please notice who would do all of the smiting, the shaking, the uprooting and the scattering!  It was the LORD God!  Yes, He would use human beings; but it would be done according to His will!

I mention this because I have spoken to ministers who do not believe that the LORD would scatter and direct His New Covenant people in the same way if we continued to sin unrepentedly.  But He would do so!  For our own good!

Over the next two hundred years, the kings of the northern House of Israel went from bad to worse.  They had nineteen kings; but not one of those nineteen were recorded as being in the least righteous.  That is not a very good record!

So, in about 722 BC, just as He had foretold through Ahijah, Jeroboam’s royal line came to an abrupt end; and the LORD had His people of the northern House of Israel taken out of their homeland and out "on the road again"!  They were taken into captivity by the Assyrians; and from Assyria they were ultimately scattered across the globe and never came back to Israel as a whole people.  They were scattered and became known as "the Lost Ten Tribes."

After the people of the northern House of Israel were taken into captivity and ultimately scattered all over Europe and beyond, were they no longer Israelites?

Of course they were still Israelites!  Even after they had lost their identity to the point that even they themselves didn’t know who they were – and still do not to this day!

God knew – and still knows – who they were – and are.  This is an important fact to keep in mind.  We will be coming back to this.

After the northern tribes had been taken into Assyrian captivity, God inspired Jeremiah to repeat those very same warnings to the southern House of Judah.  In effect, the LORD was saying to the kings and the people of the House of Judah, (I am paraphrasing here), 

"Look at how your brothers and sisters of the northern House of Israel sinned against me.  And look at the penalty that I imposed on them."  

People look upon the LORD God of the Old Testament as being harsh; but He was longsuffering, loving and merciful.  He warned them over and over again. He told them that what He did to Israel was going to happen to them too if they continued committing the same sins.  Paraphrasing God's words again:

"If you people of Judah fail to learn from your sister's bad example, and if you continue to commit the same sins as she committed, make no mistake, I will impose basically the same – or a very similar – penalty on you." 

And what was that penalty? 

Jeremiah 9:
13:  And the LORD said, "Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;
14:  But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them...
16:  I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them."

Again, right up the time when it happened, He kept giving them opportunities to repent.  If they would have repented, He would not have done it.  It is good for us to look at the example of His treatment of Nineveh, from which we can see that He really will actually change His mind – if we will repent.  More warnings via Jeremiah: 

Jeremiah 13:
9:  Thus says the LORD, "After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem...

Perhaps we can think back to the unrighteous pride of Saul and Solomon.

10:  This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing...

If you read the whole account, you'll see that He is talking about an old pair of men’s underpants!  Good for nothing!

17:  But if you will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and my eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD’S flock is carried away captive...

That was the punishment!  The LORD would weep because He was forced into having to do that, and because of what it would do to His beloved peoples.

19:  The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.

That "carrying away" is not the kind of travel that anyone would enjoy.

22:  And if you say in your heart, 'Wherefore come these things upon me?' For the greatness of your iniquity are your skirts discovered, and your heels made bare.
24:  Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passes away by the wind of the wilderness.
25:  This is your lot, the portion of your measures from me," says the LORD; "because you have forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood."

He said that He was going to scatter them! – That He was going to bring somebody along to take them captive.  

Did they heed?  Did they repent? 

Of course they didn’t!

What did the LORD do?  Did He follow through on what He had warned them? 

Of course He did!  He was bound by His own Holy word.  And still is!

In 586 BC, the LORD employed a "sword."  Please remember that "sword."  He employed the sword of Nebuchadnezzar to come down on them and to take them away.  To carry them away – "on the road again"!  They were taken into captivity in Babylon. 

There in Babylon they were not all kept in the same area.  Even there in captivity, they were scattered and separated.

Then, after the seventy-year captivity ended, they continued to be scattered.  Some of the Jews returned to Judah and to Jerusalem; but many did not.  Initially, there were only a few that returned.

Before we leave Jeremiah for today, let’s consider another two questions with regard to scattering:

Firstly, what responsibility did the priestly leadership of Old Covenant Israel have with regards to scattering?

Secondly, bringing this same question up to modern times, what responsibility does the ministerial leadership of spiritual New Covenant Israel have today?

According to the LORD, again speaking through Jeremiah, they have lots of responsibility.

Jeremiah 10:21:
For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.

We are told here that those leaders had – and still have – a huge, grave responsibility in this regard. 

First of all, God tells us, through the pen of Jeremiah, that the leaders are not to be "brutish."  Whether Old Covenant priests, or New covenant ministers, they are not to act likes brutes towards the flocks in their charge!  They are to set a proper example of seeking the LORD. 

By failing to comply with both of these requirements, the LORD tells us through Jeremiah that the result would be even more scattering. 

But, as we have already seen, only God has the authority and the responsibility to scatter His people!  

So then is God pleased with His priests and/or with His ministers if and when they cause His peoples to be scattered?  Also, do these brutish ministers and/or priests think that they are somehow helping God by causing scattering? 

I don’t think so!  But the important thing is, What does God think?  Does He think that these brutish ministers or priests are helping Him?  Again, the answer comes via the pen of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 23:2:
Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; "You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them.  Behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings," says the LORD.

This is not the kind of visit from the LORD God that any of us would want.  It is evident that God is certainly not pleased with His ministers or priests when they do this. 

Why not?  Because, once again, He alone retains the right and the authority to either punish His people through scattering, or in some cases, amazing as it may seem, to bless His people by scattering. 

Moving on in time, we are now winding down towards the end of the Old Testament period.  We are going to the book of Nehemiah – as written in about 445 BC.  This was about seventy years after Judah returned from their captivity. 

We find Nehemiah praying here; and in his prayer, he cites some verses from Leviticus 26.  In effect, he is repeating this very same warning from God:

Nehemiah 1:8:
Remember, I beseech you, the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, "If you transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations."

Through these recorded words of Nehemiah’s prayer, the LORD was warning the Jews, who had returned to their homeland after their 70-year captivity, not to commit the same transgressions again.  And that if they did, they would receive exactly the very same punishment – scattering!

Punishment?  For what?  Nehemiah uses the word ‘transgress.’  The threatened punishment is for transgression:

I John 3:44:
Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

So what Nehemiah was talking about here was law-breaking.  Please keep this in mind now as we join the people of Judah as they move along, after another promising, but shaky, post-exile start.

God sternly warns through Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi against further Sabbath breaking and idolatry.  The post-exile Jews were trying to avoid doing those things and to ward off subsequent punishments for doing them.  They did not, of course, want more exile and scattering.

But, in some ways, they overdid it!  Instead of just sticking firmly to God’s holy laws, they started making up their own complicated and unscriptural sets of rules.  The Jews today refer to them as "the Oral Law" (which are no longer merely oral!)  

In Hebrew, this so-called "oral law" is named "the Talmud" – which has has two parts.  There is the Mishnah, which I'm sure you have heard of, and the Gemara, which is not so very well known. 

But Jesus had His own name for them.  He referred to them collectively as "the traditions of the elders." 

Although the Israelites – including the Jews, of course – were clearly commanded not to add nor to take away from God’s Word (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32), the Jews came to revere their own man-made oral law, even above God’s holy written Word and His holy laws. 

As well as being another example of idolatry, the Talmud also contains unscriptural, picky man-made rules on how the Sabbath should or should not be kept. 

So we see the pattern continuing of Sabbath-breaking and idolatry, over and over again. 

Just as King Saul had done, the Jews put themselves and their own human opinions before God, up on a pedestal.  In effect, this was the worship of the self rather than the worship of God.  It was idolatry.  It was self-idolatry.  I think of it as yet another "mini Tower of Babel." 

This idolatrous fiasco continued – and even increased and developed – right into what is called the “intertestamental period” which was a period of relative scriptural darkness from the end of the book of Malachi up until time of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and the pre-birth of John the Baptist in the book of Luke. 

The Intertestamental period ran from 420 BC up until 6BC – approximately 400 years.

So the Jews' post-exilic idolatry continued, increased and developed right into Jesus’ human lifetime and right on into the early church era.  And even right up into our day today! 

Yes.  These traditions of the elders – and others that have been added since Jesus' human lifetime  – are still seriously affecting God’s people – including you and me – right into the 21st Century!