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Bible verses about Children of Israel
(From Forerunner Commentary)

2 Kings 16:1-6

II Kings 16:1-6 briefly summarizes one of the many wars between the Kingdom of Judah in the south and the Kingdom of Israel to its north. Appearing in this passage is the first occurrence of the word Jew in God's Word.

Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah, . . . king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to make war; and they besieged Ahaz but could not overcome him. At that time Rezin king of Syria captured Elath for Syria, and drove the men of Judah from Elath. (verses 5-6)

The King James Version translates "men of Judah" with the single word Jews. During the military campaign outlined above, the Syrians captured the port city of Elath from Judah, driving the Jews out.

The term Jew usually refers to a person from the tribe of Judah. In fact, Jew is a shortened, or what semanticists call a "clipped," form of the word Judah. Strictly speaking, a Jew is genetically a member of the tribe of Judah; that is, the term Jew refers to a person who has descended from Jacob's son, Judah. The Jews make up one tribe of the children of Israel, the tribe of Judah, whose homeland was in the southern part of Canaan. The Jews, then, form only a subset of a much larger group of people, the children of Israel.

Of course, the Kingdom of Judah had in it individuals descended from the tribes Judah, Levi, and Benjamin. Today, Jews (for the most part) do not differentiate between these three tribes. A modern Jew, more likely than not, is descended from the tribe of Judah or the tribe of Benjamin or the tribe Levi—few, if any, know specifically from which tribe. Moreover, few even give the matter much thought, so irrelevant today have the tribes become as social and political entities.

The term Jew is not interchangeable with the term Israel. While all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews!

There is an important distinction between them. Today, a Jew is an individual descended through one of three tribes. However, the term Israel has a number of broader meanings, all derived from the fact that Israel was the name God gave the patriarch Jacob.

  • The word Israel can refer to a person. When used this way, it refers specifically to the patriarch Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel (see Genesis 32:28).
  • The word Israel often refers to all the descendants of Jacob. Hence, "the children of Israel," a term much used in the Pentateuch, refers to individuals from all the tribes—literally, all the descendants of the man Jacob (Israel).
  • After the fissure of the Davidic monarchy, the term Israel came to have a more specific national meaning. Used in this collective sense, Israel refers to those Israelites who were citizens of the Kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom.
  • Often, the Scriptures use the word Israel in a specialized, limited way, where it refers only to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob, remember, began his blessing on the two boys with the statement, "Let my name be named upon them" (Genesis 48:16).

These differences are more than "shades of meaning" or nuances. Readers of God's Word need to keep a keen eye on both the words Jew and Israel, ensuring that they understand their proper meaning in context.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen


 

Galatians 3:26

This statement would have been a bombshell - and high heresy - to the average Jew of Paul's time, who would have had it in his mind that the people of Israel were the only children of God. Paul here is beginning to explain that physical lineage is not relevant where God's calling is concerned, because under the New Covenant only God can give the summons (John 6:44), and if He summons a Gentile, it is just as valid as if He gave it to an Israelite.

The faith of Jesus Christ is the important factor rather than heredity. This faith is also a part of what God gives (Ephesians 2:8) - again, only to those whom He chooses. But if God has given this living faith (James 2:20) to a man, that man is then a begotten - but not yet born - child of God. God is the real father, rather than Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:26

We become children of Abraham once we are justified by faith in Christ's sacrifice. The Abrahamic Covenant and the promises God made, then, are still in effect. He is going to fulfill those promises. Abraham will have multiple billions of descendants. Now we see the real purpose of the covenant: Abraham's children actually, under God's spiritual purpose, also become God's children.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 27)


 

Galatians 3:29

The apostle directs our understanding of Abraham's offspring away from the usual biological definition and toward one pivoting around a relationship with Christ. A few verses earlier, he shows that faith is the crucial substance (see Hebrews 11:1) of that relationship: "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7).

Operatively, then, "the faith of Christ" (Galatians 2:16, KJV), not a faith we inflame within ourselves, is the source—we could even say, the functional cause—of our spiritual kinship with Abraham. Through our exercise of Christ's faith in us, we become Abraham's children. Regardless of lineage, we are not his spiritual children by birth. For the purposes of spiritual salvation, reconciliation with God by the faith of Jesus Christ renders irrelevant the genetic, national, social, and gender differences among Homo sapiens (see Galatians 3:26-29).

Thus, the apostle stresses the importance of faith over genealogy. Israel, from God's viewpoint, is first and foremost a spiritual entity, a nation and people (I Peter 2:9) of faith, and only secondarily—subordinately—a physical or natural entity.

Charles Whitaker
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith


 

Galatians 3:29

Abraham is the father of the physical nation God elected to work in and through, and he is also the father of those He calls to be part of His forming spiritual nation. Appreciating Abraham as the father of the physical nation is easy, but seeing him as father of the spiritual nation is not so simple, as we are more apt to think that, because God begets us, He is our spiritual Father. We must therefore see Abraham's spiritual fatherhood in a different light.

The Jews of Jesus' day did not grasp Abraham's spiritual fatherhood correctly. Jesus gives the answer to this perplexing title in John 8, where a great deal of the dialogue involves ancestry.

"And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. . . . I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me." They said to Him, 'Where is Your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also." . . . Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." (verses 16, 18-19, 28-29)

Abraham's spiritual fatherhood soon becomes the focus of Jesus' instruction:

They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'?" . . . "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father." They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this." (John 8:33, 37-40)

Members of the same family bear a likeness to one another. It is this principle that designates who is a spiritual child of Abraham. It is not a matter of physical resemblance but a similarity of moral and spiritual attitude and behavior. Christ designates that resemblance to be believing God as Abraham did, as well as doing the works that he did. In the larger picture, a spiritual descendant of Abraham will grow and overcome, gradually changing into the spiritual image of Jesus Christ.

The factor that set Abraham apart above all others was that faith drove, motivated, inspired, and guided—sometimes dramatically—what he did with his life. Thus, Abraham is not only the physical progenitor of Israelites but also the spiritual, moral pattern that his descendants are to conform to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)


 

Galatians 6:15-16

Walk according to this rule means "understand and apply this principle."

After Jacob's name was changed to Israel, through the centuries Israel gradually became a code name for the called and chosen of God who had made a covenant with Him. Here in Galatians 6, that code name is transferred openly and clearly to the church, and Paul attaches the prepositional phrase "of God" to show possession to differentiate it from the physical nation also named "Israel." God is creating a new nation—a New Covenant people—whose citizenship is in heaven and whose people owe their loyalty to the Kingdom of God, its laws, and its purposes.

The Israel of God—the remnant, the elect, the vessels of mercy, the children of promise—is a spiritual body, the Body of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. In one sense, there is no nationality, for we are being transformed into a new "nationality"—the Kingdom of God! God is doing a new thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Galatians 6:16

As members of the God Family—children of God, we will be God, ruling as He would rule. Spiritually speaking, we will be the kings God promised would descend from Jacob (Genesis 35:12). Yes, Israel is an apt designation for God's church; the Israel of God will rule as God.

Viewed in the present tense or in the future, we in the true Israel of God have a great deal in common with our patriarch Jacob. Like him, we will eventually have a new name (Revelation 3:12). Like him, we struggle to overcome. And like him, those who remain faithful among us will someday prevail, qualifying to rule as God—princes forever with Him.

Charles Whitaker
The Israel of God


 

 




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