In an interesting tract, a reformed scholar laments the fact that so many of our young people are losing interest in the Bible. Yet, it is perhaps understandable that, with the modern focus on “relevance,” young people today do indeed lose interest in something which they are told has little direct application to them, being written for and about another people called, “Israel.” The author proceeds to construct an argument by saying that we are outsiders who, as gentiles, dwell in the tents of Shem in a sense by adopting Christianity, a ‘Jewish religion.’ He gives the Israel promises and covenants of the Old Testament completely to the modern Jews, who he believes constitute all of Israel in the world today. He finds Christianity and the Christian era foretold in an obscure prophecy in Genesis 9:27, which Noah (not God) made while in a drunken state: “God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” Whether Noah’s drunken prophecy found fulfillment at all, even in ancient times, is an open question, but whether it should be taken as the Bible’s chief foreshadowing of the Christian era is even more dubious. Unfortunately, this verse has a long history of abuse; it found popular use, for example, in the American southern states before the Civil War as a justification for slavery.
Has God foretold the Christian era in prophecy in a clear manner, or must we resort to an obscure and remote passage of scripture to find our place in the plan of God? The Calvinistic Christians of the Reformation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries found themselves in prophecy, not as Japhethites sneeking under Shem’s tent, but as the very Israel of God! For example, when Pastor John Robinson sent the pilgrims to America, he preached to them a sermon based on Jeremiah 3:14-17, a prophecy of God to Israel: “…I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Pastor Robinson then explained that they were going to that land. It was common in Reformation times for Christians to speak of themselves as, “Israel,” “God’s chosen,” and “a seed out of Jacob,” Israel symbolism was common; in fact, England has as national symbols the unicorn of the northern house of Israel and the lion of Judah, and other European nations also have Israel heraldic symbolism. This is brought clearly forth in W.H. Bennett’s wonderful study, “Symbols Of Our Celto-Saxon Heritage,” available from CBIA
Before they left for the new world, the Puritans heard a sermon from Pastor John Cotton, one of the most preeminent of Colonial-era ministers. Entitled, “God’s Promise To His Plantation,” it was based on 2 Samuel 7:10, “Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and I will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more.” That prophetic land to them was America. It is at least interesting to note that this prophecy of a future Zion, or place for God’s people, was given by God while Israel already dwelled in Palestine; yet it spoke of a future place to be appointed unto them.
Authors Lutz and Warren, in their book on early Christian American beliefs, “A Covenanted People,” state, “Cotton’s identification of America with the Israelites remained a dominant theme throughout the colonial period, and one that continues to shape American’s conception of themselves today.”
Was there a scriptural basis for Christians calling themselves, “the Israel of God”? In Galatians 3:7, we read, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, THE SAME ARE the children of Abraham.” The Apostle did not say that through faith we become Japhethites in Shem’s tents. The Apostle Paul explains this truth a few verses later in verse sixteen, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He sayeth not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” This statement by Paul flatly contradicts the widely held dispensationalist dogma which assigns all of prophecy concerning Israel for our day to the unbelieving main portion of world Jewry. Some writers have tried to constrict these verses in Galatians chapter three to salvation alone, “the Abrahamic covenant of faith,” but Paul here doesn’t speak in the singular, but of “promises,” and his argument holds true for all of the promises to Israel. To emphasize his point that the true Israelites would have the Christian faith, the Apostle continues in verse 29, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Yes, this scripture passage leaves no room for the idea that any people who reject Christ will enjoy the Abrahamic blessings.
Are the dispensationalists correct in their assertion that the Jews of today are a pure race physically descended from Abraham? Confusion exists in the minds of some people, who seem to believe that two separate Israels exist in God’s eyes, a physical one and a different spiritual people. In a letter a few years ago, the leaders of one small Christian denomination stated that the Old Testament promises to Israel are divided between today’s Christians and Jews, and that it was up to their council to decide which prophecy belonged to who! But the fact remains that there is no basis in scripture for the teaching that two entirely distinct Israels exist side by side today. The word, Israel, is never plural in scripture!
The modern Jewish people certainly are a cultural community but as a whole are neither a religion nor a race. Recent studies, for example, have shown that a third of the young generation of Jews are irreligious and that a full one-half of Jews marry non-Jews. These trends have continued to accelerate.
Jews today, although of mixed origins, are of two basic historic sub-groups: Ashkenazic and Sephardic. The Ashkenazic constitute over 90% of modern Jewry, and come from Eastern Europe and Russia. In the Table of Nations in Genesis chapter 10, Ashkenaz appears as the brother of Togarmah, and the grandson, not of Shem, but of Japheth. The Ashkenazic peoples are a Slavic-Turkish subgroup which originated in southern Russia in an area known in the middle ages as Khazaria. Jewish scholars know that names such as Kaplan and Alpern stem from Ashkenazic-Khazar, not Semitic roots. “Alper” meant “brave knight” in the Khazar language; “Kaplan” meant “fierce hawk” in that same language.
Sephardic Jews, constituting less than 10% of modern Jews, trace their ancestry back to Palestine. However, many different peoples combined to mold the heritage of this portion of Jewry. Notably, Israel’s ancient adversaries, the Edomites, were conquered by Jewish leader John Hyrcanus and forceably converted in the second century, B.C. If the Biblical prophetic blessings for Israel were fulfilled in the Sephardic strain of world Jewry, then the prophecies concerning Edom would equally be fulfilled in these same people; a strange and confusing situation, to say the least.
There appears therefore, to be little scriptural or historical basis for consigning the prophetic designation of Israel to any other than a people known as Christendom, Christ’s Kingdom, in this era. And there is scant basis for supposing that God considers his Christian people to be outsiders who snuck in under Shem’s tent, as it were. To refer again to the prophecy in Genesis 9:27, since a majority of the world’s Jews have come and settled in Western Christian lands, it may be more correct to say that they are dwelling in our tents! The fact remains that according to the clear word of God, we are God’s covenant people, “the children of Abraham,” and the “heirs according to promise.” These things were known to our Calvinistic and Covenanter forefathers, and should be known to us. Let’s let our young people know that when they read about God’s provision for his Israel, that we are that people, the sheep of His pasture!