Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures
by H.P. MANSFIELD
(14) The Kingdom Overturned: "Until He Come ..."
Civil Dissension Rends Israel Into Two.
David's reign over a united Israel was followed by that of Solomon his son (1 Chron. 29:23). Under his wise administration, the nation reached a pinnacle of power and prestige which will only be exceeded when Christ "the greater than Solomon" (Matt. 12:42) restores again "the Kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6; Matt. 19:28) and reigns as king.
The record declares:
"Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father, and prospered, and all Israel obeyed him" (1 Chron. 29:23).
He built up the commercial and political prosperity of the nation. Many of the cities were rebuilt, impressive palaces were erected for himself and his multitudinous wives, and a magnificent Temple was set up in Jerusalem dedicated to the worship of Yahweh.
The seeds of decay, however, were evident even in this glory. Although Israel had become a wealthy and powerful nation so that "silver and gold became as plentiful as stones, and cedar trees as sycomore trees for abundance" (2 Chron. 1:15), these riches had been wrung from the people by such oppressive measures of taxation as to cause them to remember the warning counsel of Samuel (1 Sam. 8:10-11). Moreover, with his increasing prosperity, Solomon's heart was lifted up in pride, so that he forgot the responsibilities that he owed unto God.
In the face of this spiritual decline, God proclaimed that He would rend the greater part of the Kingdom from the control of Solomon's sons (1 Kings 11:26-34), and give it unto others.
The close of Solomon's reign found mounting difficulties on every side, and increasing resentment on the part of the people. A deputation was sent to his successor, Rehoboam, - demanding some relief from the oppressive taxation. Rehoboam, however, influenced by the headstrong advice of the more inexperienced and irresponsible counsellors, refused this reasonable request, with the result that the nation was almost plunged into civil war. This was only prevented by the warning of God, and with growing, tension, ten of the tribes seceded and formed a separate kingdom under Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:9-17).
Thus arose the distinction between Israel (ten tribes) and Judah (two tribes), referred to so frequently in Scripture (e.g. Ezekiel 37:21-22).
The Northern Kingdom Taken into Captivity.
The spiritual condition of the divided nation continued to deteriorate. In mercy, God sent prophets to warn the people of the punishment that would inevitably fall upon them if they continued in the way they were proceeding, but the admonition fell on deaf ears. It is recorded:
"The people despised His words, and misused His prophets until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy" (2 Chron. 36:16).
The ten tribes proved to be the more wicked of the two kingdoms, and were the first to be punished. Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, marched against Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, about 700 B.C., and after a siege, the city fell (2 Kings 17:5; 18:10). In accordance with Assyrian policy, the people were taken into captivity and transplanted into different foreign parts.
Where Are The Lost Ten Tribes?
The theory is sometimes advanced, that these tribes migrated west through Europe until they reached England where they settled, and the claim is made, that Britain, America etc. are the "lost ten tribes of Israel."
There is absolutely no true Scriptural support for this theory, and usually the very context of the references advanced to prove it, is sufficient to overthrow it.
The ten tribes were never "lost" in the sense advanced by this theory; they were "lost" spiritually (see Jer. 50:6). It is true that Jesus declared- "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24; 10:16). But Jesus limited his preaching to Palestine, and this comment was made to a Gentile who pleaded his help. Therefore, the very action of the Lord illustrated that these "lost sheep of the house of Israel" were to be found in Jewry in the days of his preaching.
The Apostles used the term in the same manner. When Peter preached at Pentecost, he declared:
"Let ALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
He addressed them as "men of Israel," and "elders of Israel" (Acts 3:12; 4:8), thus identifying Jews and Israelites as one and the same.
In like manner, when James wrote his epistle, he wrote it to the "twelve tribes scattered abroad" (James 1:1), showing that at that stage, the political identity of all the tribes of Israel had been retained.
The political status of the ten tribes, after being taken into captivity is described in the prophecy of Hosea:
"The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, without a prince, and without a sacrifice . . . afterward shall they return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days." (Hosea 3:4-5).*
Such a description as this cannot apply to the British which have had a long succession of kings and a political entity, but it can and does apply to the people of Israel (the Jews), which have been scattered among all nations, but are now returning to their land in fulfilment of the prophecy. God has a wonderful future for the Jewish people, after they have been humbled by reverses.
Fall Of The Southern Kingdom.
The southern kingdom did not heed the warning manifest in the punishment poured out upon the northern kingdom. Jeremiah sadly noted:
"For all this Judah hath not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord" (Jer. 3:10).
It was a time of spiritual chicanery and hypocrisy. Though the Temple services apparently flourished, the heart of the nation had turned completely away from God. During the period of the last king to sit on David's throne (Zedekiah) conditions sharply deteriorated, and the counsel of God's prophets and faithful priests were completely disregarded. The time came when God would bear it no more. A message was sent unto guilty Zedekiah as the responsible figure-head of the nation:
"Thou profane, wicked prince of Israel whose day is come when iniquity shall have an end. Remove the diadem, and take off the crown; this shall not be the same . . . I will overturn it (the throne of David) and it shall be no more UNTIL HE COME WHOSE RIGHT IT IS: AND I WILL GIVE IT HIM" (Ezekiel 21:26-27).
This was a direct reference to the King promised David, the One who would establish his throne and kingdom for ever (2 Sam. 7:13). The declaration, therefore, stated that the throne of David would be completely overthrown, and never restored, until the Messiah comes to build it up once more.
This was the hope of the early communities of believers. Therefore, James quoted the words of the prophets applying them to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ at his second coming:
"After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up" (Acts 15:16).
Because of God's purpose with Israel, the nation has never been destroyed, nor ever will be, though David's throne has been temporarily "in ruins."
Judah was overthrown by Babylon in B.C. 606. Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon had recently developed into a world power, and Judah was swallowed up with other nations in his march of conquest.
Nebuchadnezzar's policy in regard to conquered peopIes was similar to that of the Assyrians before him. He took them into captivity, and dispersed them among his dominions, in order to prevent them rising against him. The Jews were treated in that way, and among those taken into captivity at that time was Daniel the prophet (see Dan. 1).
His prophecy makes exciting reading, particularly upon the background of his experiences, and in view of the fact that God's Kingdom on earth had then been broken up. Consider such declarations as the following:
"The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people (i.e. its ruler shall be immortal), but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Ch. 2:44).
"The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom UNDER THE WHOLE HEAVEN (notice -- not in heaven!), shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Dan. 7:27).
Daniel gave an outline history of events from his day until the setting up again of the Kingdom of God (Dan. 2:28-44). He predicted the crucifixion of Christ (Dan. 9:26), and his ultimate glory (Dan. 8:25; 7:27), and showed that the faithful would be raised from the dead to inherit everlasting life (Dan.12:2), and an inheritance upon earth forever (Dan. 12:13; Dan. 7:27).
His prophecies have had remarkable fulfilment to the present time, so that every confidence can be placed in the vindication. of everything predicted.
Restoration Of Judah.
Jeremiah predicted that the Babylonian captivity would last for seventy years, after which the people would return (Jer. 25:12; 29:10-12). In fulfilment of this prediction, Babylon was overthrown by Persia about seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar, and in B.C. 536, a decree was issued by Cyrus the Persian, permitting Jews to return to their land (Ezra 1).
A small regathering of Jews was organised under Zerubbabel and Joshua, and ultimately a Jewish State came again into existence as recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Contemporary prophets, however, revealed that this was not the promised restoration, for that still awaits the future (see Haggai 2:7-9; Zechariah 1:14-17; 2:4-5; 6:12-13; 8:3-8, 20-23; 12:7-14; 14:9).
The Shadow Of Rome.
Some 450 years after Cyrus, a new menace to Israel's independence arose in the West. The Roman legions were on the march, extending the boundaries of the empire in all directions. The shadow of Roman rule stretched menacingly towards the east, and soon the tramp of its legions was heard.
Daniel had predicted that the nation of Judah would be swallowed up by Rome, and so it proved to be. Under the Herods, Judah lost its independence. It became but a province of the Roman Empire, with a resident governor to see that the orders of the Emperor were carried out.
Thus, at the birth of Christ, Herod the Idumean (Edomite) reigned in Jerusalem under the authority of the Roman power. Judah had lost its independence and was under the heel of the oppressor, or, as called in the prophecy of Daniel, "the desolator" (Dan. 9:27 marg.)
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 14
A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF ISRAEL'S HISTORY (CHART)