Divorce and Dispersion
The northern tribes preferred the allure of nations around them over God’s commands. Though the southern tribes were not much better, God sent the house of Israel (the northern tribes) away with a decree of divorce.
“She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.” (Jeremiah 3:8)
Remember what God said would happen if they broke the covenant? Let’s review from Leviticus.
“But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you…” (Leviticus 26:14-16)
Skipping down the long list of punishments…
“And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.” (Leviticus 26:33)
Remember also the warnings of Moses in Deuteronomy.
“And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.” (Deuteronomy 4:27-28)
“And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.” (Deuteronomy 28:64)
Scattering was acknowledged in the Psalms.
“You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.” (Psalm 44:11)
“Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them that he would make them fall in the wilderness, and would make their offspring fall among the nations, scattering them among the lands.” (Psalm 106:26-27)
The prophets also spoke of scattering.
“And the Lord says: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them. Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink. I will scatter them among the nations whom neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them.” (Jeremiah 9:13-16)
“For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.” (Jeremiah 10:21)
“I will scatter you like chaff driven by the wind from the desert.” (Jeremiah 13:24)
“then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’” (Jeremiah 16:11-13)
“Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.” (Jeremiah 18:17 – See Jeremiah 18:6 for verification that God is talking about the house of Israel.)
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:1-2)
“And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them among the countries.” (Ezekiel 12:15)
“And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken.” (Ezekiel 17:21)
“But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths.Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, because they had not obeyed my rules, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers’ idols.” (Ezekiel 20:21-24)
“I will scatter you among the nations and disperse you through the countries, and I will consume your uncleanness out of you.” (Ezekiel 22:15)
“So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.” (Ezekiel 34:6)
“I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them.” (Ezekiel 36:19)
“My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9:17)
They would forget their identity as Israel, God’s commands and even his name.
“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” (Judges 3:7)
“And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side,” (Judges 8:34)
“For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.” (Isaiah 7:8)
“But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway,” (Jeremiah 18:15)
“I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?” (Jeremiah 23:25-27)
“Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.” (Ezekiel 14:4-5)
“Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.” (Hosea 4-1-2)
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6)
“Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone.” (Hosea 4:17)
“Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel. For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers.” (Hosea 8:8)
“For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; so I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour her strongholds.” (Hosea 8:14)
The first century historian Flavius Josephus had direct access to top Roman and Jewish leadership. He made this observation in the first century.
“…the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [Media]; wherefore there are but two tribes [Judah and Benjamin] in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers.” (Flavius Josephus –The Antiquities of the Jews, 11.133)
Those of the ten tribes carried away into Assyria had ignored God’s commands for too long and were sent away. The marriage language likens it to a divorce. They were no longer God’s people (“Not my people”). They forgot God. They were no longer part of Israel.
But then God said all Israel would be reunited!