Updated: Sep 2
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I believe it is very important for us to know about the distinction between the house of Judah and the house of Israel (Also called the house of Joseph or Ephraim). Today many people associate all 12 tribes of Israel as Jews, but this is false, for the term Jew does not show up until after Israel became two nations.
Abraham was a Hebrew not a Jew
The word Hebrew is also usually associated with only Jewish heritage and culture. However, the first man to be called a Hebrew was:
“And one who had escaped came and informed Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamrĕ the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and brother of Anĕr, and they had a covenant with Aḇram. ” (Genesis 14:13)
Abraham couldn’t have been a Jew as neither the tribe of Judah nor the house of Judah had been established, so to say only the Jews are Hebrews is false. When in fact all of Israel are Hebrews, Abraham fathered Isaac who fathered Jacob (who later becomes Israel) who fathered the 12 tribes. If you read my post, “Grafted In” then you know those of us who follow Yeshua are Abraham’s seed, thus we are Hebrews.
Israel Divides into Two
The nation of Israel was split in two, after years of unrest and infighting among the 12 tribes of Israel. The details of this can be found in the books of 1&2 Samuel and 1 Kings. The southern kingdom made up of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and a portion of Levi (to what extent is unsure), became known as Judah or the house of Judah. The northern kingdom, made up of the other 10 tribes, became known as Israel or the house of Israel. The distinction is seen here:
“And he mustered them in Bezeq, and the children of Yisra’ĕl (Israel) were three hundred thousand, and the men of Yehuḏah (Judah) thirty thousand.” (1 Samuel 11:8)
Up until Israel divided, the word Jew was never used.
The Misconception of the Usage of Hebrew and Jew
It is a common misconception to say that the Jews were slaves to the Egyptians when it was all of Israel that was enslaved, that is why YHWH says this.
“Say, therefore, to the children of Yisra’ĕl (Israel), ‘I am יהוה, and I shall bring you out from under the burdens of the Mitsrites (Egyptians), and shall deliver you from their enslaving, and shall redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments, ” (Exodus 6:6)
YHWH doesn’t say “tell the Jews”, he tells Moses to inform all of Israel. Since we’re in Exodus, let's look at a verse that supports the notion that all of Israel are Hebrews.
“And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Mitsrian (Egyptians) women. For they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” (Exodus 1:19)
The first time the word Jew is brought up is here:
“And in the seventh new moon it came to be that Yishma‛ĕl (Ishmael) son of Nethanyah (Nethaniah), son of Elishama, of the seed of the reign, came with ten men and struck Geḏalyahu (Gedaliah) that he died, and the Yehuḏim (Jews), and the Kasdim (Chaldeans) who were with him at Mitspah (Mizpah).” (2 Kings 25:25)
Remember this takes place after the split, those who come from the house of Judah are called Jews, those who come from the house of Israel are never called Jews in the Bible.
The House of Israel Divorced
Now we turn to see when the house of Israel was divorced and sent away.
“And יהוה said to me in the days of Yoshiyahu (Josiah) the sovereign, “Have you seen what backsliding Yisra’ĕl (Israel) has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there committed whoring. “And after she had done all these, I said ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Yehuḏah (Judah) saw it. “And I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Yisra’ĕl (Israel) had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Yehuḏah (Judah) did not fear, but went and committed whoring too.” (Jeremiah 3:6-8)
Because the house of Israel betrayed YHWH and sought-after other gods and forsook the ways (Torah) of the Most High, they were divorced, scattered among the nations. This was hinted at in Genesis when Israel (Jacob) blessed Ephraim.
“And when Yosĕph (Joseph) saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephrayim (Ephraim), it was evil in his eyes; and he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from the head of Ephrayim (Ephraim) to the head of Menashsheh (Manasseh). And Yosĕph (Joseph) said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the first-born, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also becomes a people, and he also is great. And yet, his younger brother is greater than he, and his seed is to become the completeness of the nations.”(Genesis 48:17-19)
Note that “completeness of the nations” can be translated as “Fullness of the Gentiles”, see Strong’s concordance H4393 and H1471. Gentile means “nations” or more specifically nations outside of Israel. That means anyone who is not of Israel, this is also mentioned in Romans:
“For I do not wish you to be ignorant of this secret, brothers, lest you should be wise in your own estimation, that hardening in part has come over Yisra’ĕl (Israel), until the completeness of the nations has come in.” (Romans 11:25)
The Two Sticks
Now, let me show you how Ephraim and the house of Israel are related.
“And you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it, ‘For Yehuḏah (Judah) and for the children of Yisra’ĕl (Israel), his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Yosĕph (Joseph), the stick of Ephrayim (Ephraim), and for all the house of Yisra’ĕl (Israel), his companions. ” (Ezekiel 37:16)
Here we see that the stick of Ephraim is the house of Israel and is separate from the stick of Judah. This is symbolic of the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah being detached from one another. But a time will come when both sticks are brought back together and made one once more.
“Then bring them together for yourself into one stick, and they shall become one in your hand. “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Won’t you show us what you mean by these?’ say to them, ‘Thus said the Master יהוה, “See, I am taking the stick of Yosĕph (Joseph), which is in the hand of Ephrayim (Ephraim), and the tribes of Yisra’ĕl (Israel), his companions. And I shall give them unto him, with the stick of Yehuḏah (Judah), and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand.” (Ezekiel 37: 17-19)
“And I shall make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Yisra’ĕl (Israel). And one sovereign shall be sovereign over them all, and let them no longer be two nations, and let them no longer be divided into two reigns. “And they shall no longer defile themselves with their idols, nor with their disgusting matters, nor with any of their transgressions. And I shall save them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and I shall cleanse them. And they shall be My people, and I be their Elohim,” (Ezekiel 37:22-23)
It should be noted that the house of Judah was brought back to the promised land after their time in Babylon captivity. You can read about this in the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. The house of Israel, however, is not recorded returning to the promised land, for they were scattered before Judah was taken captive. You might have heard of the 10 lost tribes of Israel or as our Messiah called them the lost sheep.
“And He answering, said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Yisra’ĕl (Israel).” (Matthew 15:24)
Discovering Your Identity
If you read “Grafted In” then you know we have been grafted into the olive tree of Israel. It can be a difficult concept to grasp due to the indoctrination of man doctrine, but I found a series that teaches on the identity of believers. It’s a great teaching and well worth the 9 plus hours it takes to watch the whole series. Rabbi Steve Berkson really takes his time going over the scriptures, so you can know without a doubt that you are Israel.
I hope this post helps you to see that there is a difference between the house of Israel and the house of Judah, as well as clearing the air about some misconceptions. Test this teaching, as you should everything, and I pray the Rauch Hakodesh guides you into all truths.
There is 10 parts to this series, you should be able to find the other parts on YouTube when you click on the link.
Check out some of my books! Available in both print and kindle versions.