Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Fission Or Fusion? The Destiny of Israel's Tribes
The idea of a fusion of all of Israel’s twelve tribes into the Jewish people of today is without Biblical or historical support. It is for this reason that Bible believers have for generations spoken of the “lost tribes” of Israel. Christians need to continue this investigation into the identity of the other “lost ten tribes” of Israel in our modern world.
by J. S. Brooks
If the Jewish people are the sole representatives in the world today of the Biblical twelve tribes of Israel, then what happened to all of the separate Hebrew tribes that we read about in the Bible? The standard and seldom challenged popular view is that these ancient twelve tribes all fused into one tribe, one people, the modern Jews.
Does YEHOVAH God’s Word teach this? Do Bible prophecies say, for example, that Simeon and Judah would have an Anschluss, or political union, and cease to be separate tribes? Do we read that any of the tribes had a “unity ceremony” and proceeded to throw away their distinguishing tribal banners and heritage? Did the distinctive form of Biblical government under tribal boundaries quickly end with the coming of Solomon’s United Kingdom? Modern religious writers seem to talk in such terms. Yet the Bible teaches the opposite: a continuing tribal division, or “fission,” not fusion.
Modern schoolchildren have probably heard the word, fission, used in connection with nuclear technology. Webster’s Dictionary defines fission as, firstly, “a splitting or breaking up into parts;” secondly, “reproduction…into two or more parts each of which grows into a complete organism;” and thirdly, “the splitting of an atomic nucleus resulting in the release of large amounts of energy.” The first two of these definitions have an interesting analogy with the twelve tribes of Israel.
Firstly, Israel did indeed split and break into parts. You might expect that the children of Jacob, being close relatives with a common religion, would certainly fuse into a tightly united nation when encountering strong, armed opposition from numerous Canaanite and Philistine tribes already established in the Promised Land. It is a common and sensible adage that there is strength in unity, and “united we stand, divided we fall.” The circumstances they faced emphasized the need for unity instead of division, fusion instead of fission, and yet Jacob’s twelve sons instead became progenitors of twelve separate and distinctive tribes. These tribes even have entirely separate and distinctive prophecies relating to their individual futures in the “latter days” (Genesis 49; Deuteronomy 33), indicating their continuing separateness throughout this age. Further, Bible history records that these tribes often displayed a definite disinterest in coming to each other’s aid when in distress. (See as an example, Judges 5)
Religious writers often ignore or downplay this division, and children’s Bible stories seem to imply, for instance, that each of the judges of ancient Israel was actually, in effect, a defacto king over twelve united tribes. This was not the case, as evidenced by the research of at least a handful of respected ancient Mideast scholars. One of them is Niels Peter Lemche, who wrote: “There is no information which suggests that any Judge managed to establish a dynasty, or that the narratives refer to a succession of pan-Israelite rulers” (Early Israel, p. 275). In other words, the Biblical Judges, such as Samson, were local leaders acting in their own tribal areas, not pseudo-kings over all twelve tribes.
Webster’s second definition of fission speaks of a division “into two or more parts each of which grows into a complete organism.” Modern religious writers ignore the fact that the Israel tribes, although divided, were loosely associated into two separate groups, the houses of Israel and Judah. To quote Professor Lemche, the Israelite conquest in the Book of Joshua “as a rule followed the division between Lea[h] and Rachel tribes;” that is, the separate tribal groupings of Judah and Israel (ibid. p. 63).
Furthermore, the most natural and credible reading of the prophecies in Genesis indicates that Israel would eventually grow in numbers to become twelve separate and distinct nations or kingdoms, each with their own king. For example, Genesis 17:5-6 states, “Nor shall your name any longer be Abram [high, exalted father]; but your name shall be Abraham [father of a multitude], for I have made you the father of many nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful and I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you” (Amplified Version). Similarly, Genesis 35:11 promised Jacob, “And God said to him, I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you and kings shall be born of your stock.” Certainly, these are prophecies of fission, twelve individual “parts each of which grows into a complete organism.”
Other examples of fission in Israel’s history include the tribe of Levi, divided and dispersed among the other tribes and yet keeping their identity intact as the tribe composing the priesthood (Deuteronomy 18:1-7). Another example of fission instead of fusion was the division of the tribe of Joseph into the separate tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48).
Modern religious writers make a great deal of clamor concerning “missing” tribes that are supposed to have fused into other tribes and lost their individual existence. The tribe of Simeon, it is claimed, merged very early into the tribe of Judah. Yet Dr. Lemche disagrees, saying, “Simeon’s territorial possessions (Joshua 19:1-9) show it existed in the beginning of the national period” under Solomon (ibid. p. 283).
The tribe of Dan does not appear in the tribal list of Revelation 7:4-8, causing proponents of fusion to insist that this tribe must somehow have ceased to exist as a separate entity. Yet the tribe of Judah is missing in the list of Solomon’s districts (1 Kings 4:7-19), without any implication that this tribe ceased to exist! (cf. Lemche, ibid. p. 286). It is much more likely that Dan, with a coastland port, very early engaged in sea trade and left Canaan for lands to the west; historians write about the tuatha de Danaan or tribe of Dan, in the history of early Mediterranean lands as well as the British Isles. The lack of mention of a tribe in Canaan does not mean that it did not exist elsewhere. In the case of Judah, it is evidence that Solomon had an entirely separate administration for the house of Judah that was not included in the administrative list covering the northern House of Israel. This again is another example of fission, not fusion, in Israelite history.
It is also worth pointing out that under the united monarchy, a time when many assume separate tribal heritages ended, Solomon’s districts maintained existing tribal boundaries. Dr. Lemche states, “Solomon’s distinct subdivision was undertaken on the basis of existing tribal borders” (ibid. p. 285). So even during the united monarchy, Israel’s tribal divisions continued.
In spite of popular mainstream belief in Israel’s fusion into one united tribe, Jewish scholarship has long advocated fission. The late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire maintained that the Jewish people are descended only from the house of Judah, constituting the tribes of “Judah and Benjamin with a certain number of descendants of the tribe of Levi,” and that “there is not any further admixture of other tribes” (Story of Celto-Saxon Israel, p.187). The idea of a fusion of all of Israel’s twelve tribes into the Jewish people of today is without Biblical or historical support. It is for this reason that Bible believers have for generations spoken of the “lost tribes” of Israel. Christians need to continue this investigation into the identity of the other “lost ten tribes” of Israel in our modern world. This research is already underway in the book, Israel’s Tribes Today by Steven M. Collins, which locates each of the twelve tribes as separate nations in the world today.
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