Jacob Report #7 – The Conflicted Connection: Judah and Israel

This is a follow-up to JR #5-How did Judah (Judea) Become the Occupied Territories? In this current Jacob Report, we continue to explore the biblical and prophetic roots of the international conflict presently playing out in the Middle East.


I. Judah Selected to Rule His Brothers, the Sons of Israel

When Jacob was about to die, he called together his twelve sons. On his deathbed, Jacob made an amazing prediction regarding Judah, who was neither the oldest nor the most likely of his sons.

Genesis 49:1, 2, 8-12 (NASB)
Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father.”
Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are dull from wine, And his teeth white from milk.”

From this remarkable prophecy, we first learn that Messiah was destined to come through Judah, and that the son of Judah would rule the sons of Israel. These “details” which Jacob related were certainly not his own thoughts, but most certainly were the inspired predictions of the Holy Spirit. No doubt, had it been left to Jacob, Joseph was the likely son to designate, “Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.” After all, Joseph, second only to Pharaoh, was the most powerful man in all of Egypt at the moment of Jacob’s prophecy. Joseph, not Judah, was the logical choice.

The purpose of this Jacob Report is to track through the scripture as well as history the uneasy, tenuous relationship of Judah and Israel—a special relationship which was first identified by Jacob while on his deathbed. Then we will consider what this “special relationship” has to do with the events now being played out in the Middle East. Is there a prophetic thread, a link that could explain much of what we read and hear in the news today?


II. The Tenuous, Separate Relationship of Judah and Israel

Judah and Israel have historically and biblically been considered separately—named and numbered separately. Saul, upon taking command of the people of Israel, numbered Judah and the rest of Israel separately.

1 Samuel 11:6-8 (NASB)
Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen.” Then the dread of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out as one man. He numbered them in Bezek; and the sons of Israel were 300,000, and the men of Judah 30,000.

Note that there is no separate number of Asher, Reuben, Gad or any other tribe. Only Judah is considered separate—apart—from Israel.

  • This separate accounting remained true, even under David’s rule.

2 Samuel 24:1 (NASB)
Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

2 Samuel 24:9 (NASB)
And Joab gave the number of the registration of the people to the king; and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.

The reign of David, the King of all Israel, was divided into periods: when he ruled Judah (only) and when he ruled all Israel, including Judah.

2 Samuel 5:4-5 (NASB)
David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah.

Note that David was the king of Judah (Judah only) for over seven years. During this period, after Saul’s death, there was war between the house of Saul and David. After Saul’s death, Ish-bosheth the son of Saul continued to rule Israel—but not Judah.

2 Samuel 2:3-9 (NASB)
And David brought up his men who were with him, each with his household; and they lived in the cities of Hebron. Then the men of Judah came and there anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, “It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul.”

David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead, and said to them, “May you be blessed of the LORD because you have shown this kindness to Saul your lord, and have buried him. Now may the LORD show lovingkindness and truth to you; and I also will show this goodness to you, because you have done this thing. Now therefore, let your hands be strong and be valiant; for Saul your lord is dead, and also the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”

But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, over the Ashurites, over Jezreel, over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, even over all Israel.

  • Even though David was ruling as King of Judah, Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, was considered “King of ALL Israel!”
  • There is no biblical record of any other tribe of Israel except for Judah having a king who ruled the tribe apart from Israel. (Gad never appointed its own king.)

After Israel and Judah were consolidated under King David, he conquered the city of Jerusalem and incorporated it into the Jewish kingdom. From the time of its conquest, Jerusalem became David’s capital and the capital of ALL Israel. Jerusalem thereafter was always connected with Judah, David and his heirs, as well as the future Messiah.

2 Samuel 5:6-7, 9 (NASB)
Now the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, and they said to David, “You shall not come in here, but the blind and lame will turn you away”; thinking, “David cannot enter here.” Nevertheless, David captured the stronghold of Zion, that is the city of David.
So David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward.

When Absalom led a rebellion against his father in an effort to take the kingdom by force, David could have fought a battle from the fortifications of Jerusalem. Instead, in order to protect the city, he chose to flee from Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 15:13-14 (NASB)
Then a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.” David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise and let us flee, for otherwise none of us will escape from Absalom. Go in haste, or he will overtake us quickly and bring down calamity on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.”

Although the rebellion of Absalom was unsuccessful, the unity of Israel and Judah was tenuous. Upon David’s return to Jerusalem, tension remained between Judah and Israel. Both Israel and Judah continued to retain their separate identities.

2 Samuel 19:39-43 (NASB)
All the people crossed over the Jordan and the king crossed too… and all the people of Judah and also half the people of Israel accompanied the king.

And behold, all the men of Israel came to the king and said to the king, “Why had our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household and all David’s men with him over the Jordan?” Then all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is a close relative to us. Why then are you angry about this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense, or has anything been taken for us?”

But the men of Israel answered the men of Judah and said, “We have ten parts in the king, therefore we also have more claim on David than you. Why then did you treat us with contempt? Was it not our advice first to bring back our king?” Yet the words of the men of Judah were harsher than the words of the men of Israel.

  • It is important to note that “the men of Judah” under David’s rule were still considered separate and distinct from the “men of Israel.”

The tension between Israel and Judah that existed after the rebellion of Absalom, upon David’s return to Jerusalem, immediately boiled over and another rebellion ensued threatening to divide Israel and Judah permanently.

2 Samuel 20:1-2 (NASB)
Now a worthless fellow happened to be there whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite; and he blew the trumpet and said, “We have no portion in David, Nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; Every man to his tents, O Israel!”So all the men of Israel withdrew from following David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri; but the men of Judah remained steadfast to their king, from the Jordan even to Jerusalem.

  • Thereafter, David sought the Lord and the Lord sent Nathan, the prophet, to proclaim what we now know as “God’s eternal covenant with the house of David.”

2 Samuel 7:8-17 (NASB)
Now therefore, thus you shall say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth.”

“I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you.”

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”‘

In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.

The death-bed prophecy of Jacob to Judah—“Your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you” (Gen. 49:8)—was to have its fulfillment in the son of Judah: David, and his descendent.

1 Chronicles 28:2-5 (NASB)
Then King David rose to his feet and said, “Listen to me, my brethren and my people; …the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever. For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father’s house, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. Of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons), He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.”

  • The distinctiveness of Judah was still recognized and preserved, even during the reign of Solomon.

1 Kings 4:20-25 (NASB)
Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance; they were eating and drinking and rejoicing. So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.


III. The Final, Painful Separation of Judah and Israel

Judah and Israel were successfully, if tenuously, united only during Saul, David, and Solomon’s rule. Solomon, however, proved treacherous and disloyal and betrayed the God of Israel, the God of his father David.

1 Kings 11:1-9 (NASB)
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.

For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.

Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,

This flagrant treachery of Solomon led directly to an edict from God tearing the kingdom in two. The Lord sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam with His decision.

1 Kings 11:29-37 (NASB)
It came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field. Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak which was on him and tore it into twelve pieces.

He said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes (but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did. ‘Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of My servant David whom I chose, who observed My commandments and My statutes; but I will take the kingdom from his son’s hand and give it to you, even ten tribes.

‘But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name. ‘I will take you, and you shall reign over whatever you desire, and you shall be king over Israel.

Jeroboam and his descendants were to be king of Israel—but not Judah. After the death of Solomon, Rehoboam succeeded him as king, but king of Judah only! The kingdom of Israel that also included Judah had been united for over 100 years (if at times, tenuously) under Saul, David, and Solomon would now be split for millenniums to come into two kingdoms—Israel and Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel seceded permanently in about 931BCE.

1 Kings 12:18-19 (NASB)
…And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

  • Jerusalem, the city of David, would remain the capital of Judah throughout the centuries, as Judah was successively subjected to the domination of the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and finally Rome.
  • When Israel, led by Jeroboam, permanently split with Judah, Israel forsook God, forsook Jerusalem, and made conscious efforts to discourage their citizens from going up to Jerusalem. They did this by providing heathen alternatives to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to His chosen city and Temple.

1 Kings 12:26-28 (NASB)
Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.”

As a result of continuous idolatry and disloyalty to God, Israel fell at the hand of Assyria as decreed by God.

Isaiah 10:5-6 (NASB)
…Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hands is My indignation, I send it against a godless nation And commission it against the people of My fury To capture booty and to seize plunder, And to trample them down like mud in the streets.

In 721 BCE the nation of Israel, made up of the 10 northern tribes which originally seceded under Jeroboam, was carried into exile by the Assyrian Empire. This kingdom of Israel would not return from the exile. There would not be a nation of Israel for over 2,600 years, until the modern state of Israel was declared by David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv.

After the Assyrian captivity of Israel, Judah was left with its capital, Jerusalem, as the sole Jewish kingdom. Judah was expected by God to take a warning from the fate of Israel. The lessons were not learned. After much warning from the prophets, especially Jeremiah, Babylon first subjugated and then destroyed and burned Jerusalem along with Solomon’s Temple. In 586 BCE Judah was fully and completely carried into exile as predicted by Jeremiah.

In 537 BCE Judah was given permission and encouragement, with the decree by the Medo-Persian King Cyrus, to return to Judah. The kingdom of Judah with its capital, Jerusalem, continued to exist as a kingdom subjugated to successive empires: Medo-Persia, Greece, and finally, Rome.

In 70 CE the city of Jerusalem was sacked and burned by Titus, the Roman general. The Second Temple was likewise destroyed. An ongoing Jewish rebellion eventually led to Rome’s decree, banishing Jews from Jerusalem and Judea. In 135 CE, the Romans renamed Judea “Syria Palestina” in an effort to once and for all obliterate the land’s Jewish identity.


IV. Future Relationship of Israel and Judea: What the Prophets Said


A. Ezekiel

Ezekiel began his prophecy career about 590 BCE, or about 130 years after the northern kingdom of Israel was carried into captivity by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, and immediately prior to the final assault by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, which resulted in the burning of Jerusalem, the destruction of Solomon’s Temple (the first Temple), and the beginning of Judah’s exile.

There are two passages in Ezekiel which are particularly relevant to the present topic: the distinctive and often separate destiny of Judah and Israel.

In Ezekiel 4, Ezekiel is asked to create a demonstration warning that Jerusalem would shortly be under siege. In the process, he is instructed to lie, first on his left side, and then on his right.

Ezekiel 4:4-6 (NASB)
“As for you, lie down on your left side and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel on it; you shall bear their iniquity for the number of days that you lie on it. For I have assigned you a number of days corresponding to the years of their iniquity, three hundred and ninety days; thus you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah; I have assigned it to you for forty days, a day for each year.”

The significant point here is that the judgments of Judah and Israel were weighed, considered, and executed separately. In addition, Ezekiel acknowledged by his actions that Judah and Israel were separate, not one kingdom or nation. Remember, this prophecy occurs 130 years after the exile of Israel.

Having established that Ezekiel regarded the two kingdoms separately, we now consider a most extraordinary prophecy from the same prophet, Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 37 contains the amazing prophecy of “The Valley of Dry Bones.”

Ezekiel 37:1 (NASB)
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.

As the chapter continues, Ezekiel makes the remarkable prediction that no matter how dry the bones seem, no matter how impossible the situation appears to a mere man such as Ezekiel, the bones would come together—the house of Israel would be restored to the land of Israel.

Ezekiel 37:12 (NASB)
“Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.”

At the time of this prophecy by Ezekiel, the northern kingdom had already been in exile 130 years. Could he imagine that his prophecy would be an inspiration to the 19th century Zionist movement and that it would finally have its fulfillment in 1948—over 2,600 years after Israel had first been carried into exile by Assyria?

But, the remarkable predictions of Ezekiel 37 do not end here.


A.1.  Ezekiel Predicts the Reunification of Israel and Judah

Ezekiel 37:15-22 (NASB)
The word of the LORD came again to me saying, “And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.’ “Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.”

“When the sons of your people speak to you saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?’ say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘

“The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.” Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.”‘

Ezekiel, the same prophet who earlier acknowledged the separateness of Judah and Israel, goes on to predict the rebirth of the “lost” kingdom of Israel and, further, predicts this “resurrected” nation of Israel will be “joined” and “reunited” with the kingdom of Judah and once again be one nation—not two!


B. Daniel the Prophet

Daniel was a “peer” of Ezekiel, a prophet with a long life who lived through Judah and Jerusalem’s initial siege and subjugation by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

Now we will consider what is certainly the most widely known prophecy of Daniel: the seventy weeks of Daniel.

This famous prophecy is contained in Daniel 9.

Daniel 9:1 (NASB)
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans—

Daniel is meticulous in recording the time he receives each of his prophecies. Thus, he opens the chapter with a “time stamp”—“the first year of Darius.” This would be 522 BCE. This is important because of what has already taken place at the time of this prophecy.

  • Jerusalem has previously been sacked and burned to the ground by the Babylonians.
  • Solomon’s Temple has been burned and the articles of the Temple carried away. The Second Temple in Jerusalem is not yet completed at the time of his prophecy.
  • The first decree of Cyrus, permitting a return of the Judean captives to their homeland, had gone out in 538 BCE.

With these key events established, let us continue.

Daniel 9:21, 24-27 (NASB)
While I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.”

“Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Let us step back and recall the intercessory prayer of Daniel which results in this historic prophecy.

Daniel 9:7 (NASB)
“Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You.”

The focus of his intercession makes a clear distinction between the men of Judah (and the inhabitants of Jerusalem) and “all Israel, those nearby and those who are far away.”

When the prophecy comes forth from Gabriel, it is introduced with, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city.” You know the rest. Here is the point.

  • The clock of this well-known prophecy runs completely independent of the restoration of the nation of Israel; the re-establishment of which would not occur until 1948! This very specific prophecy—which almost all Bible scholars accept as a prediction of 483 years (fulfilled) plus one remaining (unfulfilled) seven-year period—was able to be clearly started and completed, all without the emergence of the modern state of Israel which did not occur until 1948!

I make no point here other than what is stated in the previous paragraph, though I will point out one other interesting item. If Gabriel states that “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people” and all of the first sixty-nine weeks were able to be completed without a modern state and nation of Israel, who are the people of Daniel referred to by Gabriel?

I have a clue, but I cannot be dogmatic that it is important or “on point.”

When Nebuchadnezzar had his famous dream and was prepared to destroy all of his “spiritual” advisors, including Daniel and his three friends, they prayed and God revealed the dream in question and the interpretation. When the king’s man, Arioch, was informed that Daniel could reveal the dream and the interpretation…

Daniel 2:25 (NASB) “Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: ‘I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!'” 

Daniel is introduced as a son of Judah, one of the exiles.

  • Final question: If the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy were started and satisfied without the state of Israel in existence, is it not likely the final seven years is not marked by events in Israel but by events that are in and affect Judah and Jerusalem?

I raise this as a question. I am not making a declaration. Surely, the beginning of that final seven-year period is of historic prophetic importance. None would dare to disagree the end of that seven years is marked by the return of Messiah Yeshua, but what about the starting event(s)?


C. Zechariah

Zechariah began his prophecy career in about 516 BCE, about the time the Second Temple was completed and dedicated in Jerusalem. The exiles of Judah had already made substantial efforts in returning to and restoring their national identity. This was after the decree of Cyrus and subsequent encouragement of Darius.

For our purposes here, it is enough to establish that the kingdom of Judah was substantially reconstituted and the Second Temple was completed. Israel, on the other hand, was almost 200 years absent following the Assyrian exile.


C.1.  Zechariah Predicts Unity of Judah and Israel to Be Torn Apart, Again

We have already seen that Ezekiel in chapter 37 looked into the future and predicted that the time would come when the two sticks (kingdoms) of Judah and Israel would be reunited into one.

Ezekiel 37:19 and 22 (NASB)
Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘ “And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.”

Now we have the fantastic prediction of Zechariah that the unity, as predicted by Ezekiel, will not last! In fact, it will be broken apart!

Zechariah 11:7, 10-11, 14 (NASB)
…And I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Favor and the other I called Union; so I pastured the flock.

I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day, and thus the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized that it was the word of the LORD.

Then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

There is much to consider in these verses and, in fact, the rest of Zechariah 11. However, I will only make two points at this time. There will be ample opportunity in future Jacob Reports to probe the depths of this amazing chapter.

Zechariah carries out a visual “parable” much as was the custom of Ezekiel. In the process of conducting this living, prophetic illustration, he is told to take two sticks; one he is to call “Favor” and the other “Union.”

The first point:  Breaking the staff “Union” certainly foretells an intentional and deliberate act resulting in the breaking apart of the relationship of Judah and Israel. At the time of Zechariah’s prophecy, there exists only a recently reconstituted kingdom of Judah. This reconstituted kingdom of Judah would last until it was finally dissolved by the Romans in 70 CE. At no time during the period of Judah’s “rebirth” was there any opportunity for the fulfillment of either Ezekiel’s prediction of Unity or Zechariah’s prediction of their (subsequent) dissolution. There would not be a nation of Israel, as already pointed out, until 1948. However, Zechariah looks to a time in the distant future when Israel and Judah simultaneously exist and then are united (just as Ezekiel predicted they would be).

The second point: The stick which he names Union looks far into the future and foresees the breaking of that union by an individual whom Zechariah “stands in” for in the prophetic illustration (just as he “stands in” for Judas in Zech. 11:12 and 13). A second stick, Favor, is broken in the process. We have a clue as to who this individual is. In verse 10, Zechariah says he is a covenant breaker!

 ”  I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples.”

If you have previously read the Jacob Report #1, Ben Israel: The Wicked Prince, you know the name “Ben Israel.” This is a man Ezekiel identifies as “the wicked prince of Israel” (Ezek. 21:25). Apparently the wicked prince of Israel, riding high in the public opinion polls, makes the political decision to “burn political capital” (i.e., break the stick of Favor in order to break the stick of Union).

Two prophets: Ezekiel and Zechariah. Each prophet looks into the future to a time when both Israel and Judah exist. Both prophets see a time when they are united into one nation. But Zechariah predicts a nefarious character will sacrifice favor in order to break the unity of Judah and Israel.


D. Yeshua

Some might question my listing Yeshua as “one of the prophets.” But, not only is He the Messiah, He is the fulfillment of the Priest, King, and prophet.

Deuteronomy 18:18 (NASB)
“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, (Moses) and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”

Certainly Yeshua’s prophetic predictions are relevant, at least two of which are on topic with this present Jacob Report.

First, let us establish the political status of both Israel and Judah at the time of Yeshua’s life and ministry. Israel, the nation, remained in exile. During the lifetime and ministry of Yeshua, there was only Judah, which was subjugated to the Roman government.

Judah had a King.

Luke 1:5 (NASB)
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias . . .

Judah had a governor.

Luke 3:1 (NASB)
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea . . .

Judah had synagogues.

Luke 4:44 (NASB)
So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they went forth from Judah into the entire world.

Acts 1:8 (NASB)
…and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Judah was a geographic region, clearly definable in the Roman world of the time.

Acts 8:1 (NASB)
…on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Judah was the central location of the events of Yeshua’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection.

Acts 10:37 (NASB)
you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed.

Jerusalem, the city of David, continued without interruption as the capital of Judah.

  • Israel had no king, no governor, and no capital. If a Roman were given the news, “You’re going to be the governor of Israel,” his reaction would be, “Where’s Israel?” Israel was a theological concept understood by the descendants of Jacob (the men of Israel). It lived in the mind of God and in the minds of the men of Israel.

Now for the two prophecies of Yeshua which are relevant to our present topic.

Matthew 10:23 (NASB)
“But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

This is a truly extraordinary prophecy! There is no question that the prophecy looks forward to events occurring at the time of His Second Coming. What is very interesting is that He discloses the fact that Israel will have cities at that time. He foretells an evangelistic outreach that goes from city to city in Israel, until every city has heard the Gospel. This is a prediction of the nation of Israel, in existence, with cities (of Israel) at the time of His return. This could not have been fulfilled before 1948! For over 2,600 years, Israel had no cities because it was not a nation.

Matthew 24:3, 15-18 (NASB)
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

“Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.”

Here we have another prediction of events that will occur immediately preceding the Second Coming of Messiah Yeshua. Yeshua now joins Ezekiel and Zechariah in predicting a time when both Israel and Judah will be clearly identifiable. If Judah could not be identified, then to whom would this “warning” apply? It addresses “those who are IN Judea.”

As we are all aware, Judah ceased to be a nation and completely lost its identity after the wars with Rome. Yet Yeshua looks ahead to a future time (just as Ezekiel and Zechariah did) when there will, once again, be a recognizable and definable Judah! And He warns “those who are in Judea”—this future Judah—of a tragedy to come.

In the next and final section of this Jacob Report, we will make an effort to bring all of these prophetic predictions into focus as we examine the current status of Israel and Judah.


V. Judah and Israel in the 20th and 21st Centuries

In the previous section, we focused on predictions of the prophets, including Yeshua, the fulfillment of all prophecy, Priest, and King. These predictions all looked forward to a future day when both Judah and Israel would be individually, distinctly identifiable.


A. The Aliyah Movement Until the Modern State of Israel

The birth of modern Zionism in the 19th century directly inspired the immigration of European Jews to the historic land of their ancestors. These “pioneers” often overcame monumental obstacles to reach the land of Palestine, in an attempt to build a new life. Up to World War I, the land which had previously been known as “Israel” and “Judah” was all included in the dominion of the Ottoman Empire. The Jewish immigration continued, frequently in defiance of the local government’s policies and wishes.

The Ottoman Empire sided with the Germans during WWI and, consequently, lost their empire when the Allies divided up the spoils. The British and French ended up with most of “Palestine,” the historic lands of Judah and Israel. The British mandate that was endorsed in 1920 by the League of Nations placed most of the Jewish “settlement” areas under the “administration” of the British. Jewish immigration continued in bits and spurts, with and without the approval of the British. This continued right through the end of WWII. (The struggle of the returning Jewish community with the British was dealt with in JR#3-Broken Promises: The Balfour Declaration.)

The important point for this Jacob Report is where the settlement of these new Jewish pioneers (refugees) concentrated. The fact is, with few exceptions, it was the area and land of the historic ten tribes, the former land of Israel, which absorbed the majority of the immigrants. The historic land of Judah with the exception of Jerusalem was largely left to the Arabs or remained desolate and unsettled altogether.


B. Israel and Judah—1947 to 1967

Once the United Nations took up the issue of Palestine in 1947, it began to make decisions concerning how the land of Palestine would be “carved up.”  It agreed to a “new” Jewish homeland, a Jewish state, for a portion but also “decided” the largest percentage would become another (there were already 8) Arab state. The land which the UN “designated” for another Arab state was the land which historically had belonged to David’s family tribe, Judah. Not only did the UN “decide” that historic Judah would revert to the new Arab state but it also “decided” that Jerusalem, the city of David and the capital of Judah for centuries, would become an “international city” under the administration of the UN.

Of course, the Arab League and all its members rejected any plan to create a Jewish state. They rejected, therefore, the creation of the new Arab state. They vowed to declare war the day a Jewish state was proclaimed. The Arab League swore it would throw the new state and all of its Jewish population into the sea through a massive coordinated Islamic invasion. Prior to the outbreak of the promised 1948 attack, David Ben-Gurion (who would become the new Prime Minister of Israel) sent emissaries to divulge to Transjordan that the new Jewish state would have no objection if Transjordan moved into and subjugated the land designated by the UN for the (rejected) Arab state—primarily the land of historic Judah. All three biographies of Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Abba Eban explain Ben-Gurion’s logic. Ben-Gurion concluded it was most important to get a Jewish state and not to offend the sensibilities of the new international body (the UN) that had approved its creation. Though it was within the capability of the new Israeli Defense Forces to capture much of this area, Israel elected not to attempt it.

The city of Jerusalem was another matter. Though the UN had designated the city as the first truly international city, once war broke out the UN had no enforcement mechanism to protect or defend the residents or its own interests. Israel and Transjordan fought to a standstill, with Transjordan possessing the ancient, historic city of Jerusalem, the city of David, and Israel capturing the modern, newer city of Jerusalem, largely built and developed after WWI.

This was the “status quo” from 1948 until 1967. For the first time since 721BCE there was a nation called Israel. Its borders and communities primarily consisted, oddly enough, of the historic “northern” kingdom of Israel, which had broken its covenant with the seed of David after the death of Solomon. Although historic Israel was “reborn,” just as Ezekiel predicted, a Jewish Judah was nowhere to be found. In fact, had the UN plan been fully implemented, these lands of David’s family, the historic land of the tribe of Judah, would have become another Arab (Islamic) member state in the United Nations.


C.  1967—Judah Becomes the “Occupied” Territories

In the spring of 1967 the Soviet Union incited Egypt (then led by Gamel Abdul Nasser) and Syria to state loudly and clearly their intention to attack Israel and “throw the Jewish state into the sea.” Thus the Six-Day War ensued. Israel had warned Jordan ahead of time not to “get involved.” However, persistent Egyptian radio broadcasts extolling unbelievable Arab successes mislead the Jordanian king. Jordan attacked Israel from the east. Jordan’s armies also attacked the Jewish portion of the city of Jerusalem.

The end result of this Soviet and Arab attempt to destroy the young nation of Israel resulted in a rout, albeit not the one the Arab’s (or the Soviet’s) expected. When the guns were silenced, Israel had moved into the land Jordan had taken in 1948 from the UN “designated” future Arab state. Additionally, Israel had completely captured the entire city of Jerusalem, including the ancient and historic city of David, Old Jerusalem.  For the first time since the Romans, this city was in the hands of a Jewish nation. And, for the first time since the devastating wars of Rome, the land of historic Judah, the land of David, was controlled by a Jewish nation.


D. Judah Unexpectedly Remains Under Israel’s Control

The Mapai (left leaning—later known as Labor) government of Levi Eshkol fully expected to “surrender” almost all of the territory captured in the brief Six-Day War. The highest diplomatic goal anticipated by successive Mapai governments had been to achieve a combination of “recognition by” and “peace with” Israel’s Arab neighbors. In order to achieve that goal, the Eshkol government and previous Mapai governments were willing to do almost anything within reason.

It was taken for granted that since the collective Arab armies had suffered such complete and conclusive defeat, they would at last be willing to recognize the Jewish state and to make peace. In return for that, the Israeli government expected its “spoils” of the Six-Day War would be short lived. The territory seized from Jordan would be quickly returned as part of such a peace deal. The territory in question was the historic territory of Judah, the family homeland of David. The Arab states, however, obstinately refused to either recognize Israel or make peace. The territory of Judah would just have to remain in Israel’s control.

Not everyone in Israel was determined to give up the (Judea and Samaria) territory recovered in the Six-Day War. There was a significant voice of opinion that stated the recovery of Judah was by the divine and sovereign plan of God. It was this opinion that led to the first Jewish “settlers” moving into the recently recovered area of Judah. Originally the “settlement” was conducted as a military and security operation. It soon took on much more significance. What started out as a “trickle” of Jewish pioneers became a thriving, growing, and passionate movement to resettle the historic and ancient lands of Judah and Samaria. The energy of this settlement effort was significantly encouraged and financially supported when the Labor government was replaced in 1977 with a Likud (Right leaning—conservative) government led initially by Menachem Begin.

Thereafter successive Likud governments would disagree and struggle with Labor governments over the permanence of these same “occupied” territories. It would remain the most divisive issue separating and distinguishing the two Israeli parties.

Every Labor government which emerged would try once again its hand at a grand and comprehensive peace deal with Israel’s Arab neighbors. Always, at the core of the peace plan was the willingness of these Israeli leaders to return Judah to the Arabs with the proposal that it become another Arab (Palestinian-Islamic) state.

As time continued, the original trickle of Jewish settlement increased until, as of 2012, there are over 130 Jewish communities with over 330,000 Israeli citizens living in the “territories” a.k.a. Judea and Samaria. This does not take into account over 186,000 who live in the historic city of David, “Old Jerusalem,” recovered from Jordan in 1967.

E. The Pressure on Israel to Relent and to Separate from Judah

From Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to Barak Obama, successive American Democratic presidents have joined successive Israeli Labor governments in an effort to find a palatable mechanism to turn the territory of Judah over to the Palestinians. In recent years this pressure has been dialed up and joined by the European community. The World community seems in agreement that the territory of Judah can never be allowed to flourish as part of a Jewish state.

In spite of the willingness of Labor Prime Ministers to make a deal, the Palestinians have been the greatest obstacle. In 2000 the proposed separation took on a new life when the “Separation Wall” was built to “keep suicide bombers out.” The wall runs approximately along a line of the 1967 border, placing the majority of Judah (and its 500,000+ Jewish citizens and communities) on the “other side” of the Separation Wall, separated from the rest of Israel.


F. Recall the Words of the Prophets

The original Jewish return and settlement of what was to become the modern state of Israel occurred during the “Aliyah” period of the 19th and 20th centuries, almost exclusively within the borders of land originally included in the territory of the northern kingdom of Israel, the kingdom of Israel which separated from Judah after the death of Solomon. The nation of Israel was exiled in 721 BCE and ceased to exist until 1948.

Within 100 years of the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the Second Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and Judah would follow Israel into exile. Judah was not heard from again until 1967 when the Israeli government recovered the ancient city of Jerusalem and the historic lands of Judah and Samaria from Jordan. Thereafter, over 130 additional Jewish communities populated by almost 500,000 Israeli citizens have made their homes in the recovered portion of Judah and Jerusalem.

Ezekiel predicted a day when Judah and Israel would be “joined together” as one, with one government.

Ezekiel 37:15-22 (NASB)
The word of the LORD came again to me saying, “And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.'”

Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. When the sons of your people speak to you saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?’ say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘

“The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.”‘

At no time from the time of Israel’s exile in 721BCE to its rebirth in 1948 could this possibly occur. Although Israel was the first to return from exile, Judah did not follow until its miraculous rebirth as a Jewish land in 1967. Since 1967, Judah has been totally dependent upon and subservient to Israel. Judah and Israel have been “joined” through the single government of Israel. The fate of Judah and its historic capital, Jerusalem, depend upon the decisions of the Israeli government. The fate of neither Jerusalem nor Judah lies within their own hands.

Zechariah predicted that at some time after Judah and Israel were joined, they would be divided once again. This would be done at the instigation of Ben Israel who would simultaneously sacrifice substantial political favor directly as a result of his actions with regard to breaking the unity of Judah and Israel.

Zechariah 11:7, 10-11, 14 (NASB)
…And I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Favor and the other I called Union; so I pastured the flock.

I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day, and thus the afflicted of the flock who were watching me realized that it was the word of the LORD.

Then I cut in pieces my second staff Union, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

Yeshua predicted a time when Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies.

Luke 21:20-22 (NASB)
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.”

Yeshua warned those who were “in” Judah to flee without delay and to take cover in the mountains of Judah. He further warned that anyone not already “in the city” (of Jerusalem) should not seek to enter. In 2012, the Jewish population of the historic city of Old Jerusalem and Judah is almost 500,000.


VI. Conclusion

It is the proposition of this Jacob Report that the successive prophecies of Ezekiel and Zechariah, which foretold a reunification of Israel and Judah followed by a breaking apart of that unity, could not possibly have occurred at any time prior to 1967. I further maintain that the effort to break the unity of Judah apart from Israel is imminently foreseeable and that it will eventually be “successfully” accomplished by Ben Israel who will willingly surrender his favorability standing to accomplish this purpose.

Zechariah 11:10 (NASB)
“I took my staff Favor and cut it in pieces, to break my covenant which I had made with all the peoples.”


Download the complete version of Jacob Report #7 – The Conflicted Connection: Judah and Israel

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