Thursday, April 22, 2021

Who are the Lost Sheep of Israel


Who are the Lost Sheep of Israel

The "Lost Sheep" Teaching

In the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM), the "Lost Sheep" teaching states the "lost sheep" are descendants of the Northern 10 "Lost Tribes" who were taken captive to Assyria, and and were completely and irretrievably absorbed into the surrounding Gentile nations, never to be seen or heard from again.

As the teaching goes, the latter day restoration of Israel consist of these Gentile descendants of the "lost tribes" awakening to their Israeli identity which has been passed down to them through the generations. Jesus is said to have been reaching out to these descendants of the "lost tribes", whom He referred to as the "lost sheep" in Mat 10:5-6 and Mat 15:22-24.

Mat 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. (6) Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

Mat 15:22-24 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly." (23) Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." (24) He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

The teaching explicitly states that all Christians are awakened into Israel. And through the "Two Sticks" prophecy of Eze 37:15-28, these Christians are made into one stick with Judah.


Scriptural refutation of this teaching is quite plain to see in the case of the Samaritans. Samaritans were Israelite inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom who intermarried with Gentile people the king of Assyria brought from Babylon and elsewhere (2Ki 17:24). This is the definition of the "lost sheep" according to HRM, as they represent the very nature of Israelites being absorbed into the surrounding nations. These Israelites were intermarrying with Gentiles, and their genealogical connection to Israel was diminishing generation by generation. Yet, at this point, they were still able to identify as part Israeli.

Samaritans by all accounts would qualify as a "lost sheep", those to whom Jesus was sending His disciples according to the HRM definition. Yet, as we can read in Mat 10:5, they are specifically whom Jesus said NOT to go to. This is clearly a contradiction between the teaching and the words of Jesus.


The same is true of any Gentiles the disciples would have encountered, including the Canaanite woman, since the Gentiles are supposedly the descendants of the "Lost Tribes" of the Northern Kingdom. If the Gentiles are the "lost sheep" by virtue of being descendants of the "lost tribes", then it remains to be shown why Jesus apparently contradicted Himself by telling the disciples to both go to them (as lost sheep) and not go to them (as Gentiles).

The Prophet's Lost Sheep (Jeremiah)

If we allow scripture to interpret these passages for us, we find that Jeremiah and Ezekiel both considered "lost sheep" to be ethnic Israelites from all 12 tribes who have strayed from Yahweh.

Jer 50:6 "My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place.

So the question is, which "people" are His? Well, Jeremiah tells us who he is talking about in vs 4, it is the people of both, Israel and Judah together.

Jer 50:4 "In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God.

Additionally, one would expect that if Jer 50:6 was speaking of just the "lost tribes" of the Northern Kingdom, that Jeremiah would indicate so. But the fact is, Jeremiah actually addressed the SOUTHERN Kingdom as these lost sheep, not the Northern Kingdom, since it was the Southern Kingdom that was lead captive to Babylon.

Jer 50:1 This is the word the LORD spoke through Jeremiah the prophet concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians:

This is how Jesus's Jewish hearers would have understood "lost sheep". They would have understood the "lost sheep" to be Israelites from the people of Israel and the people of Judah, not as Gentiles and Samaritans who were descended from the "lost tribes" of the Northern Kingdom.

The Prophet's Lost Sheep (Ezekiel)

Ezekiel writes about the coming restoration of Israel to the land. In the prophecy of the Two Sticks in Eze 37:15-28, the "lost sheep" teaching says that the restoration consists of the "lost tribes" of the Northern Kingdom (I.E. the Gentile descendants of the Northern Kingdom) on one stick, and Judah on the other stick. The teaching states that it is the Gentile Christians awakening to being Israel and Judah who are being restored as the one nation again.

Ezekiel indicates that the Lord will "search for His sheep and look after them".

Eze 34:11-13 "'For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. (12) As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. (13) I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.

Jeremiah clearly indicates that the "lost sheep" are from the people of Israel and the people of Judah, does Ezekiel corroborate Jeremiah? Well, Ezekiel indicates that the sheep in question were scattered (Eze 34:12). Gentiles were never scattered. Ezekiel indicates that the sheep in question will be brought out from the nations and into their own land (Eze 34:13). Are we to understand then that all of the Gentile people on earth who will be saved are to be brought out from the nations and placed in "their own land"? Was the land of Israel ever land promised to the Gentiles?This is not a promise given to Gentiles, but only to Abraham's physical descendants (Gen 15:18-21).

Ezekiel states over and over again that these "sheep" will be removed from the nations and placed in their own land. Gentiles had no such promises given to them, implicitly nor explicitly.

The restoration of the "lost sheep" is clearly related to Abraham's physical descendants, not Gentiles who claim rights based on association with the "lost tribes" of the Northern Kingdom.

Eze 36:24-28 "'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. (25) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. (26) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (28) Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.


In Acts 9 Luke records Paul as God's chosen instrument to proclaim the name of Jesus to Gentiles, their kings, and the people of Israel. Gentiles and the people of Israel are clearly two different groups of people.

Act 9:15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.

In Acts 18 and 22 Luke record the events in which Paul would begin to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. If the Gentiles were the "lost sheep", then we need to understand why only now is Paul bringing the gospel to the Gentiles, if, as the "lost sheep" teaching teaches, Jesus told His disciples to He only came for the Gentile "lost sheep" to begin with.

Act 18:6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

Act 22:21 "Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"

If Jesus came for the "lost sheep" whom HRM understands to be the Gentile descendants of the northern tribes, then why is He in Israel. The "lost sheep" were scattered to the diaspora, why was Jesus ministering to the Jews in Galilee and Jerusalem?

Jesus spoke to Gentiles only three times in the gospels. The Roman Centuriun, the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Philo-Phonesian woman begging for "the crumbs for the dogs". There is no indication that His mission was to reach out to anyone but the Jews first, then the Gentiles.

Clearly according to Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and the whole of the Word, the "lost sheep" are the unbelievers among national Israel, among all 12 tribes, not members of Gentile nations. What Jesus was saying in Mat 10:5-6 and Mat 15:22-24 is that He had come for His people, the people of Israel and the people of Judah. That the people of Israel in the restoration are Gentile Christians is simply unsupportable from scripture.

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