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Bible verses about Israel's Identity
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 21:12

Genesis contains two significant prophecies about the name of the Israelite peoples. In the first, Genesis 21:12, God tells Abraham to send Ishmael and his mother away, "for in Isaac your seed shall be called." Paul repeats this twice in the New Testament (Romans 9:7; Hebrews 11:18). On the surface this seems to mean that God would consider Isaac's progeny to be the true sons of Abraham, and this is true. But it means so much more! It also means that Israel would call itself by the name "Isaac" in later times.

The second prophecy concerns Jacob's blessing on the sons of Joseph. In his prayer he asks God to "bless the lads; let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac" (Genesis 48:16). This confirms God's words to Abraham, only this time it is specifically directed toward the birthright tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. The descendants of Joseph would bear the names of the patriarchs, particularly Isaac.

Amos, written less than a half century before Israel fell, uses the name "Isaac" twice to refer to Israel:

The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. . . . Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD: You say, "Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not spout against the house of Isaac." (Amos 7:9, 16)

Israel may have already been calling itself "the house of Isaac" or "the sons of Isaac" even before their overthrow and captivity.

After Assyria fell, ancient records tell of a new people living around the shores of the Caspian Sea. These people were variously known as Sakai, Sacae, Sagetae, Sakki, Scyths, Scythians, Scuths, Scuits, Scolotoi, and Scots. In his book The Tribes, Yair Davidy writes:

SACCAE was the contemporary Middle Eastern term for Scyth and the name is believed to be a derivative of 'Isaac'. The appellation 'Saxe' or 'Saxon' is a further development of the same name. (p. 128)

Sharon Turner, author of History of the Anglo-Saxons, agrees, "Saka-Suna or the Sons of Sakai abbreviated into Saksun, which is the same sound as Saxon, seems a reasonable etymology of the word 'Saxon'" (p. 87). It takes no great leap of reason to conclude that "Saxons" is a corrupted form of "Isaac's sons."

Where do we find the Anglo-Saxon peoples living in these last days? In the very same place the Bible tells us Israel would be: northwestern Europe and its colonies!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Israel: Present


 

Genesis 37:6-10

In Genesis, Jacob clearly understood that he was the sun, his wife was the moon, and his twelve children were the stars. This is the root of the nation of Israel. In Revelation, these symbols are used for two reasons. One is to signify the root of the woman portrayed there, that she is Israelitish: sun, moon, stars—Jacob, Rachel, and the twelve sons. But the sun, moon, and stars also have a secondary meaning: to indicate glory. She is a glorious woman—one that can be associated with the glorious things in the heaven—the sun, moon, and stars.

Note this allusion to glory because, as God is looking at Israel at this time—that is, in the prophetic sense, in the time within the prophecies—Israel is glorious. Israel's beginning was glorious—glorious as the heavenly bodies.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Genesis 49:13

Zebulun would "dwell by the haven of the sea" and "become a haven for ships." His descendants would be a seafaring people.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Two): Blessings in Faith


 

Genesis 49:13

The Dutch have long been recognized as a sea-faring people. Measured by shipping volume, the vast Rotterdam Harbor is the largest in the world.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Ten): Clues and Answers


 

Genesis 49:14-15

Issachar would become a "band of slaves," bowing his shoulder to bear a burden.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Two): Blessings in Faith


 

Genesis 49:17

God Himself told Ephraim to mark their way so that they could return one day to the Promised Land: "Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, turn back to these your cities" (Jeremiah 31:21). How were they to do this?

One of the main ways involves the prophecy of Jacob about the tribe of Dan. "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path" (Genesis 49:17). A serpent or snake leaves a mark behind it as it moves over the earth; some snakes, like rattlesnakes, leave very distinctive trails. So does the tribe of Dan.

Though Joshua had allotted land to Dan in Canaan, the Danites found it to be difficult to hold and settle because of its proximity to the Philistines. They began to look elsewhere for living space.

And six hundred men of the family of the Danites went from there, from Zorah and Eshtaol, armed with weapons of war. Then they went up and encamped in Kirjath Jearim in Judah. (Therefore they call that place Mahaneh Dan [Camp of Dan] to this day. There it is, west of Kirjath Jearim.) (Judges 18:11-12)

Finally, they came to the city of Laish, in the far northern reaches of Israel, and they took it. "And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel. However the name of the city was formerly Laish" (verse 29).

And thus they have been naming places after their ancestor ever since! A good map of Europe will show dozens of place names carrying the name of Dan within them. The Don, Dnieper, Dniester and Danube rivers all flow into the Black Sea. The Romans knew the Rhine and Rhone rivers as the Eridanus and the Rhodanus. Denmark (literally, "Dan's Land") and Sweden are both northwestern European countries. The English escaped from Dunkirk (literally, "Dan's Church") during WWII. One can find similar place names sprinkled heavily throughout England, Scotland, and especially Ireland, where dun means "judge," just as dan does in Hebrew!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Israel: Present


 

1 Kings 12:25-33

I Kings 12:25-33 records the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel's apostasy. Fearing that he might eventually lose political control over the ten tribes because of their long-standing religious ties to Jerusalem, capital of the Kingdom of Judah (verse 27), Jeroboam I instituted a state religion designed to meet his peoples' needs for convenience - and his own need for power. He built two shrines, one in Bethel, at the southern extremity of his kingdom, the other in Dan, near its northern boundary (verse 29). If not de jure, at least de facto, he exiled the Levites, the priestly tribe established by God, and installed in their place a priesthood of his own devising (verse 31). Finally, he moved the fall holy day season from the seventh month to the eighth, thereby effectively setting aside the Sabbath commandment, since the holy days are God's Sabbaths (see Leviticus 23:1-3, 23-44). All this "became a sin" for Israel (I Kings 12:30).

Jeroboam's apostasy, his movement to false religious practices, took deep root. In fact, the house of Israel never departed from the practices he established. II Kings 17:21-23 records this fact:

Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the LORD removed Israel out of His sight. . . .

Having abandoned the Sabbath, the God-given sign marking them as His people (Exodus 31:13-17), the folk of the northern tribes eventually lost their identification. That is why most Israelites do not know who they are to this day. The forefathers forsook the sign that denoted their connection to God.

Take this line of thought to its logical conclusion: The Sabbath is a memorial to creation and, by extension, to the Creator God (see Exodus 20:11). Modern-day Israelites do not know who they are today because their forefathers, generations ago, abandoned this memorial to the Creator God. Therefore, modern-day Israelites have come to abandon more than the sign: They have abandoned the God to whom the sign points. They no longer know God.

This is not an overstatement. Make no mistake: Failure to recognize who Israel is today is failure to recognize the God who made Israel! The distressing secularism running rampant in the modern nations of Israel today has its roots in Sabbath-breaking. The antidote for secularism in America is not an inane Constitutional amendment requiring the teaching of creationism in the state schools. The panacea some offer, prayer in the public schools, will not do the trick. Increased Sunday church attendance will not stanch the flood of secularism; after all, most Sunday worshippers accept the doctrines of biologic and economic determinism (i.e., evolution and socialism, respectively) just as avowed atheists do. Attempting to unite a people with its God through these measures is surely akin to building a wall with "untempered mortar" (see Ezekiel 13:9-23). In the coming storm, such a wall will fall.

However, one will never find a Sabbath-keeper who is a secularist, for the Sabbath-keeper has maintained his link with the Creator God. Sabbath-keeping and secularism mix about as well as oil and water.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

2 Kings 17:5-8

God was thorough. He just wiped them all out of the land of Canaan and sent them into the cities of the Medes and into Assyria—exiled. And in a way, they are still in exile. God has led them to the lands that He was holding for them.

The descendants of Israel who went into exile do not know that their homeland is back in Canaan. They have never gone back. That is a detail of how thorough God's exile of Israel was—they forgot everything. Just as He prophesied in Deuteronomy 28, the Israelites went into other lands and took gods of wood and stone and completely forgot their past.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Jeremiah 31:18-21

Notice how different verses 18-19 sound from anything being spoken by the peoples of Israel today. After Jacob's Trouble, Israel will actually grieve and moan due to the correction she receives. She will beg to be brought back to God. Verse 20 shows the unmistakable compassion and feeling that God has for His people, and His determination to lift them out of the pitiful physical and spiritual condition they will be in at that point.

Verse 21 tells of Israel reversing the course of her migration millennia ago, "Set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back. . . ." Israel comes to this condition and pleads for God's restoration before she makes the Second Exodus, just as Israel cried out in Egypt to the God of their fathers, and then God delivered them. If this is correct, the identity of Israel will be recognized sometime during Jacob's Trouble, but before the Second Exodus takes place.

If the patterns of Israel's history remain consistent, God will remind Israel of her obligation to Him, which will include the knowledge of who Israel is. She will not listen—Israel has rarely listened—so God will cause the nations of Jacob to go through such "trouble" as they have never experienced. Though God does not revel in destruction, He knows best what it will take to turn His people around. In the end, the repentant people who remain will be willingly led back to the Promised Land.

David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Three)


 

Revelation 12:1-17

The nation of Israel is symbolically referred to throughout the chapter. In verse 1, Israel is described as a Woman clothed with the sun and moon and wearing a crown of stars. Tying the symbols to Joseph's dream in Genesis 37 confirms the Woman's identity. In the next verse, Israel is the Woman about to give birth.

In verses 3-4, the Child she is about to bear is the focus of the great red Dragon's—Satan's—murderous intent. Verse 5 identifies her child as the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the One born to rule all nations. In verse 6, the Woman who gave birth to Christ, Israel, flees to a place God prepared for her. That place is, I believe, where the Israelitish nations are located today.

Note that by verses 7-9, time has progressed to the end, when God throws Satan and his demons out of heaven for good. Verses 10-11 allude to the church by mentioning people overcoming the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb. At no time, however, is the Woman of the early verses of this chapter, Israel, indicated to be converted.

But where is the church located? Verse 17 provides a hint, mentioning "the remnant of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Verse 13, which follows the interlude involving the Dragon being cast to earth, clarifies the object of the prophecy up until verse 17: "Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child." The Woman who gave birth to the Messiah is specifically named. She cannot represent the church because the church did not give birth to the Messiah, but the nation of Israel did. Thus, the people of Israel are the object of the Devil's persecutions.

In verse 14, no break in the narrative occurs to indicate the Devil's focus changes. It is Israel, persecuted by Satan, who is given two wings of a great eagle to fly to her place from the face of the serpent. In the past, we have always applied verse 14 to the church, but there is nothing to indicate any change in subject has taken place! Again in verse 15, the serpent spews a flood from his mouth to destroy the nation of Israel. Likewise, the nation is helped by means of the earth swallowing the flood in verse 16.

It is not until verse 17 that the church comes directly into the picture, identified as "the rest of her [the Woman's] offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ," the Messiah born to the Woman in verse 5. Israel, the nation, does not keep the commandments of God, nor does it have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Even as the Messiah was born of the Woman and definitely kept the commandments of God, so also does the remnant of her offspring, who are now clearly distinguished from her.

Putting verse 17 together with verses 7-12, the church, the Woman's offspring, will undergo some measure of persecution within Israel before the Woman—Israel—flees in verse 15. Otherwise, why would verse 11 say they "overcame . . . by the blood of the Lamb" and "did not love their lives to the death"?

Verse 17 clearly states that the Dragon leaves the Woman who fled and heads toward some other geographical location to persecute those who keep the commandments. In other words, the Woman who fled and her offspring that keep the commandments are, at the time verse 17 occurs, at different locations.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Four): Where Is the Woman of Revelation 17?


 

Revelation 12:6

Mark this, and mark it well. The woman who fled into the wilderness is not the church. It is the nation. Nothing has changed in the prophecy. The woman who gave birth to the child fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Revelation 17:1

In Revelation 17:1, the Woman sits on many waters; in verse 3, she sits on the Beast; in verse 9, she sits on seven mountains, symbolic of nations (Isaiah 2:2-3); and in verse 15, the "waters" are defined as peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The term "sits" appears more than 300 times in Scripture, and most of the time, it merely indicates a posture contrasting to "stands." However, sometimes it indicates qualities of far greater importance.

Proverbs 31:23 says, "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land." This is a common positive usage and implies a measure of respect and authority. In contrast, Psalm 1:1 reads, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful." Here, sitting is shown in a negative usage. Matthew 8:11; 23:2; and Acts 23:3 all show that "sit" indicates a position of prominence, authority, and influence for good or evil. One in this position is influential enough to teach, persuade, guide, or force another to follow, imitate, or submit.

This description of the Great Harlot "sitting" in Revelation 17 opens clues to help identify her among the nations: First, even as a person sits on a horse's back and influences it to go this way or that, walk, or run, the Woman teaches, guides, or coerces many nations, perhaps worldwide, to do her bidding.

Since the Beast is clearly an awesome, frightful entity, this fact suggests that her powers are vast. Adding to this evidence of strength, the Beast is described as consisting of peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The Beast is no pushover, yet at this time in the prophecy, the Woman is in control. Only the modern nations of Israel in the entire world possesses this combination of strength to control something as ferocious as the Beast. The Bible's description of the Beast having the strongest parts of several vicious, carnivorous animals adds to John's amazement over the Woman.

She is never described in any way as similar to the Beast. The Bible always depicts her as one unit. Because of this contrast between the Woman and the Beast, it is distinctly possible that God wants us to understand that the Woman in this end-time prophecy is one people, as contrasted to the Beast, which consists of many diverse, unrelated peoples.

Feeding this thought into present circumstances, God is describing all the nations of Israel in intimate association with the Beast. The world does not conceive Israel in this manner, but God does. It is an association of support, strong influence, and even control. Consider how entwined the nations of Israel are with Europe through political, trade, and military agreements. As the history of the last two centuries prove, the Joseph tribes—America and the United Kingdom—in particular, are the clearest end-time realization of the Woman.

Notice how God specifically mentions the tribe of Joseph in prophecies written in the last decades before Israel fell to Assyria in 721-718 BC:

[Woe to you] who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; who chant to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. (Amos 6:4-6)

Why single out Joseph, even though all of the ten northern tribes were about to fall? Because "Joseph" is used here to represent the entire house of Israel just as "Jerusalem" is used to represent the entire house of Judah. Ephraim and Manasseh were the leading and strongest tribes just before Israel fell, even as they are today. Judah was the leading and strongest tribe in the south, and today, though small, it is again fairly strong and, interestingly, located to the south of the bulk of Ephraim and Manasseh.

In Amos 5:15, God adds, "Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph." God may intend these prophecies for all of Israel, but He singles Joseph out because it was the leading tribe politically, economically, and militarily. Interesting, too, is the fact that most of the end-time church resides in Joseph.

Amos 6:1 adds yet another characteristic of Israel that helps identify her by revealing what some of her citizens were saying: "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria, notable persons in the chief nation, to whom the house of Israel comes!" In modern language, God is saying that the average, reasonably well-off Israelite boasted, "Look at the other nations. None are greater than we are." This arrogance echoed what their leaders, the notable persons, said. This boast was probably true, but beneath it, the cancer of their immorality and false spirituality was eating away at their vitals, and God would soon bring this powerful nation down. Amos paints a picture of a people so self-absorbed with pleasure, so self-confident in their power, that they feel free to indulge themselves, ignoring the fact that the entire nation is, in reality, walking on eggshells in every vital area of well-being.

Amos and Hosea, both prophets to the northern kingdom, were contemporaries during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel. Amos began preaching before Hosea, but Hosea preached for a longer time, ending his ministry just a few years before the northern tribes fell to Assyria. In Hosea, "Ephraim" appears 37 times, using it the same way Amos uses "Joseph." Sometimes, it is clear that God means all ten northern tribes, but at other times, He means Ephraim alone. Hosea 10:11 is typical: "Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh grain; but I harnessed her fair neck, I will make Ephraim pull a plow. Judah shall plow; Jacob shall break his clods." He means all of Israel here, but "Ephraim," the leading tribe's name, is used.

It is Israel, primarily the Joseph tribes, to which the Beast is currently submitting, but the time is coming when events will take a stunning turn, as Revelation 17:16-17 shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

 




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