The Biblical account of the division of Israel into two “houses” or kingdoms in the time of King Rehoboam of Judah is of great prophetic significance right up to our own day. The leadership, or birthright, of Israel was originally given to the Patriarch Joseph (1 Chron. 5:1-2), and then to his son Ephraim and his descendants of the Ten Tribe Northern “House of Israel.” Yet a significant temporary transfer of leadership took place during the time of King David, who was of the tribe and “House of Judah.” David and his son Solomon ruled over all twelve tribes of Israel until Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, came to the throne. Then the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel separated from Judah and chose Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim as their king instead. In the Hebrew text of 1 Kings, Jeroboam is referred to as “nagid,” meaning a “crown prince or designated heir.” In other words, he became the Israelite birthright holder!
Professor James Richard Linville, in his book, “Israel In The Book of Kings,” asks “…does the transfer of the nagid-ship [i.e., kingly leadership] to the North[ern Ten Tribes] reveal a loss of legitimacy or status for Judah? …granting Jeroboam the title once held by David, and then even passed it on to another Northerner.” The Bible indeed seems to be indicating that the birthright, or right to rule God’s people, was transferred back to the Joseph tribes of the House of Israel.
This transfer of the birthright, first from Joseph’s descendant Saul to David of the House of Judah, and later back to the House of Israel, can be seen in prophetic symbolism.
Few realize the significance of the tearing of a robe as a sign of termination. This action figured prominently in the removal of Saul as king. We read of this in 1 Samuel 15:26-28: “And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.” King Saul’s sins caused the kingship and birthright rulership to pass to the House of Judah.
[inset side=”left” title=””]”the Joseph tribes of the northern kingdom were conquered by Assyria, and exiled from the land of Canaan as “lost tribes” to other lands”[/inset]The Prophet Ahijah later performed this same significant ritual in the tearing of the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel from the rulership of Rehoboam, king of Judah. We read of this in 1 Kings 11:29-31, “And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field: And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces: And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee.” Thus the transfer of leadership, nagid, or birthright took effect from Judah back to Ten Tribe Israel.
The kingdom of the House of Israel existed for over two centuries, from 930 B.C. until the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. Then the Joseph tribes of the northern kingdom were conquered by Assyria, and exiled from the land of Canaan as “lost tribes” to other lands. The House of Judah, however, remained in Canaan except for a 70 year Babylonian exile from which they alone returned in 538 B.C. Once again Judah had obtained by default the birthright and rulership of the land of Canaan.
This provides a prophetic background to events that occurred at the crucifixion of Christ in the New Testament. We read this account in the gospel of Matthew, beginning at chapter 27, verse 50: “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:50-54)
Incredibly, many Christian ministers deny that this rending of the veil of the temple signified anything at all to do with the Jewish people, or House of Judah, and their status as the primary people of God and recipients of the promises. Few, if any, realize its significance concerning the birthright. A popular claim is that the rending of the veil symbolized the ending of the laws of God, yet the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:31 denied that God’s laws have come to an end under the New Covenant. The Apostle’s words were: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
[inset side=”right” title=””]“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”[/inset]Other Christian expositors claim that the rending of the temple veil merely signified that the Old Covenant was being replaced by the New Covenant, but with no change whatsoever in personnel. However, a double witness to this symbolism of a rending garment also appears in Matthew chapter 26. We read beginning at verse 56:
“But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled… And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” (Matt. 26:56-66)
Few Christians notice this important symbolism of the Jewish High Priest rending his garment. In doing so, he disqualified himself as a priest of God according to the explicit law given in Leviticus 21, verse 10. It reads: “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes.”
The rending of his garment by the Jewish High Priest provided a second New Testament witness signifying that the kingdom of God and prophetic birthright was transferred from the House of Judah at the time of Christ. The Roman conquest and destruction of 70-73 A.D. was the death-knell for the House of Judah’s rulership of first-century Palestine.
The Transferred Kingdom
Our Savior spoke of this very thing in Matthew 21:43. Speaking to the Jews who did not believe in Him, Christ says, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
What does it mean to say that this kingdom was ‘taken’? The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, translated by George Howard, is believed to be a Hebrew version of that gospel dating to the time of the Apostles. It translates: “…the kingdom of heaven shall be torn from you and given to a nation producing its fruit.” Like a torn garment, a kingdom that is torn away is removed from its prior status and location. The kingdom of God would no longer be found in old Canaan, but be ‘taken’ or removed to another place.
Who was this kingdom ‘given’ to? The word, “fruits,” in the text is a prophetic key; in the Hebrew language the word, “Ephraim,” means “fruitfulness.” Their name is the key to their identification. Ephraim-Joseph and their descendants were the promised inheritors of the birthright, as we previously pointed out (1 Chron. 5:1-2). In order for numerous latter-day prophecies concerning Israel’s birthright promises to be fulfilled, God had removed a section of Israel from Palestine to other lands so that they could be fruitful as believers in Christ and represent His kingdom on earth! Where are they in the world today? The continuation of the House of Israel (Ephraim-Joseph), as well as a portion of the House of Judah and the Davidic line, took place in lands of the West. This is discussed in detail in W.H. Bennett’s, “Story Of Celto-Saxon Israel,” available from CBIA’s online bookshop at www.migrations.info. It is a fascinating and inspirational historical account, well worth reading in order to understand crucial Biblical prophecy concerning latter-day Israel. May God bless your study of this important prophetic question.