Mainline Christians generally know something about the Old Testament fall of Jerusalem and Babylonian exile of the House of Judah, but there was another exile of Judah that is almost universally ignored, even by many Biblical scholars. We read about this “unknown exile” in the book of Second Kings 18:13: “Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.” Historians date this event to 701 B.C., which is about two decades after the fall of the House of Israel and its capital, Samaria. The Scriptural account tells us that all of Judah’s cities except for Jerusalem itself fell to the Assyrians, with the exile of most of the conquered citizens.
As the Assyrian army prepared to attack Jerusalem itself, Sennacherib sent a pompous letter to Jerusalem’s officials, declaring, “Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?” (Isa. 10:11) The inspiring story of Jerusalem’s deliverance is told in 2 Kings: “And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD…” (2 Ki. 19:14-15)
God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and promised to deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian army. “Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard.” (2 Ki. 19:20) Even though God spared Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, all of the other cities of Judah were conquered and their people exiled.
A remnant who escaped the Assyrian conquest of the cities of Judah would continue a small presence in the land. “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward…the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.” (2 Ki. 19:30-32)
The prophet Isaiah also recorded these momentous events. God declared, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.” (Isa. 10:20)
Notice that this verse refers to two sections of Israel. First, “the remnant” includes those few who had escaped the Assyrian conquest and exile, including the elderly and others too weak to travel. The fact that they are a “remnant” indicates that these individuals were not a majority of the population. Second, “such as are escaped,” would include an additional unknown number who may have taken to the hills and hid out from the enemy, as well as those safe in the city of Jerusalem.
In spite of the clear account given in Scripture, some Bible commentaries want to promote an entirely different view of events, and deny the exile of any Israelites at all. The popular Jamieson, Faucett and Brown Commentary says this concerning the events of Isaiah 10: “…the Assyrians in Sennacherib’s reign did not carry off Judah captive…” This would lead a reader to suppose that there were absolutely no Israelites of the House of Judah taken into exile, when the Bible instead labels those few who remained, “a remnant.” One wonders if the reason for this false history is to dispel any ideas of exiled Israel becoming “lost tribes.”
Just as worrisome is the same commentary’s interpretation of a following verse in Isaiah, which states: “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.” (Isa. 10:22) Here we are told that Israel in exile was a vast multitude “as the sand of the sea,” certainly indicating that most of God’s people were exiled from the land. Not only does the commentary’s view above contradict this Scripture, but they then also follow with an even more surprising error of interpretation:
“Though Israel be now numerous as the sand, a remnant only of them shall return – the great majority shall perish. The reason is added, Because the consumption (fully completed destruction) is decreed…” (Jamieson, Faucett and Brown Commentary on Isaiah 10:22)
Nowhere in the text does the prophet tell us, “The great majority of Israel shall perish.” Quite the opposite! Nowhere, in fact, does Scripture overturn the Abrahamic Covenant’s promise of great multiplicity of seed. If that were the case, then Israel would not have been as numerous as the sand of the sea! The Bible instead is telling us that there was a great diminishing of the number of Israel in Palestine due to the great numbers exiled.
The Preacher’s Commentary of Isaiah 10:6 states, “Isaiah tells us that God gave Assyria the charge to attack His people, seize their wealth, march them into exile, and trample through their streets. (Isa. 10:15-16) As total as the destruction was to be, the charge was still limited to Judah and within the sovereignty of God.” This does reveal the truth that Assyria took Judah into exile, which few commentaries seem to admit. However, it incorrectly claims that this exile “was still limited to Judah.” Instead, some of the House of Israel that had escaped the Assyrian conquest of 722 B.C. had resettled in the cities of Judah and faced exile by Sennacherib.
Anti-British-Israel writers often will claim that all or most of the House of Israel escaped exile in 722 B.C. by fleeing to Judah where they resettled. If so, most of these individuals were exiled later during Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah.
The combination of misguided commentaries and even difficult to understand Hebrew expressions sometimes provide a roadblock to the average person coming into an understanding of British-Israel truth on their own. For example, in Isa 10:13 we read, “For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man.” Although it may not be clear to us in English, the phrase, “removed the bounds of the people,” is an idiom indicating exile beyond the borders of Israel. In addition, the Hebrew expression translated, “put down the inhabitants,” is also an indication of exile and removal from the land (as confirmed correctly by the Jamieson, Faucett and Brown Commentary on this Verse).
This may be part of the reason that the Apostle Paul advised, “…how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14) It is important for each of us to be witnesses to others in order to overcome such obstacles and help them better understand Biblical truths!