After Solomon died, God gave ten of Israel’s tribes to Solomon’s servant Jeroboam.
“And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did.” (1 Kings 11:31-33)
Jeroboam was from the tribe of Ephraim (1 Kings 11:26). Solomon, “…gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.” (v28)
Remember Jacobs blessing of second born Ephraim back in Genesis 48? Jacob said that Ephraim’s offspring would become a multitude of hag·gō·w·yim. They would become a multitude of gentile nations. For review…
“When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 48:17-19)
The 12 tribes of Israel were split into 2 kingdoms. Geographically they were divided with 10 tribes in the north and 2 in the south. God frequently referred to the northern kingdom as the house of Israel and to the southern kingdom as the house of Judah. Here’s an overview of each in the Old Testament.
The house of Israel – in the OT
- These were the 10 northern tribes named after Jacob’s (Israel’s) sons Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulun. Ephraim and Manasseh were the sons of Joseph but Jacob adopted them as his own and portioned out territory as if they were his own sons (Genesis 48:5, Joshua 14:4, Joshua 17:17). Thus Joseph received a double portion compared to the rest of his brothers.
- They are sometimes called the house of Joseph (Amos 5:6, Obadiah 1:18, Zechariah 10:6) or just Joseph (Ezekiel 37:16).
- Some scriptures refer to this whole group as Ephraim, as prophesied in Genesis 48:17-19. (Isaiah 7:8, Isaiah 7:17, Isaiah 11:13, Isaiah 28:3, Jeremiah 7:15, Jeremiah 31:9, Jeremiah 31:18, Jeremiah 31:20, Ezekiel 37:16, Ezekiel 37:19, Hosea 4:17, Hosea 5:3, Hosea 5:5, Hosea 5:9, Hosea 5:11-14, Hosea 6:4, Hosea 6:10, Hosea 7:1, Hosea 7:8, Hosea 7:11, Hosea 9:3, Hosea 9:8, Hosea 9:11, Hosea 9:13 and dozens more)
- Most of the house of Israel was carried into captivity by Assyria beginning in 721 BC. (2 Kings 17:6)
- Ultimately, the majority were dispersed and assimilated among the nations to live as gentiles among the pagan and heathen gentiles. (Hosea 8:8)
- A remnant escaped from the Assyrians. Of that remnant, only a few humbled themselves and returned to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 30:1-11)
- The book of Jeremiah was written around 626 BC; approximately 100 years into the dispersion. Over these few generations, they were already losing their identity as the house of Israel. (Jeremiah 50:6, Hosea 8:14 and Jeremiah 23:25-27)
- They were called ‘Jezreel’ (Hosea 1:4, Hosea 2:22)
- They were called ‘No Mercy’. (Hosea 1:6)
- They were called ‘Not my people’. (Hosea 1:9, Hosea 2:23)
- The law of God was strange to them. (Hosea 8:12)
- They were called ‘those that are far off’. (Daniel 9:7, Isaiah 57:19)
- They have still not returned to their land and are sometimes referred to today as the ten lost tribes of Israel.
The house of Judah – in the OT
- The 2 southern tribes were named after Judah because that tribe was more dominant than Benjamin. Benjamin eventually assimilated into Judah. Levites were scattered among all twelve tribes so some remained with Judah while others were carried away by the Assyrians with the house of Israel.
- The house of Judah fell to Babylon in 586 BC when Jerusalem was destroyed. After 70 years in captivity, a year for each land sabbath missed (2 Chronicles 36:19-23), many returned to Jerusalem, where they generally kept the temple system operational until 70 AD.
- The English word Jew comes from the Hebrew word Yehudi, which means “from the kingdom of Judah“. Let that sink in. Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Moses were not Jews. The word isn’t used in the scriptures until the time period between the two exiles.
- Not all of Judah (later called Jews) returned to Jerusalem from Babylon after their seventy years in captivity. The book of Esther recounts events dealing with the Jewish people still in Babylon and Persia. (helpful timeline)
- Judah did not completely lose her identity because many came back after captivity. This was important because the Messiah would come from Judah. (Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 11:1)
- They are called ‘Those that are near’. (Daniel 9:7)
All twelve tribes – in the OT
- They were called Israel.
- They were called Jacob.
- They were called redeemed. (Exodus 15:13, Deuteronomy 7:8, Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 13:5, Deuteronomy 15:15, Deuteronomy 21:8, Deuteronomy 24:17-18, 2 Samuel 7:23, 1 Chronicles 17:21, Psalm 74:2, Psalm 77:15, Psalm 78:35, Isaiah 51:10, Nehemiah 1:10, Micah 6:4)
- They were called ‘a stiff-necked people’. (Exodus 32:9, Exodus 33:3, Exodus 33:5, Exodus 34:9, 2 Chronicles 30:8, Nehemiah 9:16, Nehemiah 9:17, Nehemiah 9:29, Proverbs 29:1, Jeremiah 7:26, Jeremiah 17:23, Jeremiah 19:15)