Thursday, April 22, 2021

Who is Israel, Gentiles, and the Remnant


Who is Israel, Gentiles, and the Remnant

Who is Israel

Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, a Messianic believer, documents a great deal of variety and complexity in how various Jewish sects and others define Israel, but over all, he makes the case that the only definition of Jews or Israelites that matters is a Biblical definition. How does the Bible define them? I agree with him on that.

His definition is drawn from Gen 12:1-3, Gen 13:15-16, and Gen 15:4-5, confirmed to Abraham, Gen 26:2-5 confirmed to Issac, and Gen 28:13-15 confirmed to Jacob.

Gen 12:1-3 The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. (2) "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Gen 13:15-16 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. (16) I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.

Gen 15:4-5 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir." (5) He took him outside and said, "Look up at the sky and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

Gen 21:12 But God said to him, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.

Gen 25:19-23 This is the account of the family line of Abraham's son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, (20) and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. (21) Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. (22) The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. (23) The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."

Gen 26:2-5 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. (3) Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. (4) I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, (5) because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions."

Gen 28:13-15 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. (14) Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. (15) I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

According to the words written by Moses then, Israel is defined ethnically as "a son who is your own flesh and blood".

Therefore, a Gentile cannot be Israel since they do not have blood descendancy.

Reference: The Remnant of Israel; The History, Theology, and Philosophy of the Messianic Jewish Community, pages 1-8

Who is the Remnant of Israel

Many state that properly, the term "Jew" comes from Judah. It was also the name given to the southern tribes. Israel was the name for the 10 northern tribes.

However, it also seems that today the term "Israel" is also used for all of the tribes who by blood are the sons of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, since the 12 tribes were reunited following the Babylonian exile (See Rom 11:1).

In the time following the exile, during the reign of King Josiah , there existed a Remnant in Israel and Judah.

2Ch 34:8-9 In the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign, to purify the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the ruler of the city, with Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the temple of the LORD his God. (9) They went to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the temple of God, which the Levites who were the gatekeepers had collected from the people of Manasseh, Ephraim and the entire remnant of Israel and from all the people of Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

2Ch 34:21 "Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD's anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the LORD; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book."

Prior to the exile, Isaiah prophesies that of the people of Israel, a the remnant will return. Following the context of the preceding passages being ethnic Israelites, Isaiah also is speaking of ethnic Israelites, not Israelites of lost tribes absorbed into Gentile nations.

The entire section of Isa 10:20-34 speaks of a remnant of Israel returning. An excerpt is below:

Isa 10:20-25 In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. (21) A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God. (22) Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous. (23) The Lord, the LORD Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land. (24) Therefore this is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says: "My people who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did. (25) Very soon my anger against you will end and my wrath will be directed to their destruction."

Isaiah very clearly speaks prophetically of the Remnant of Israel who were carried off to Assyria as surviving that exile, all the way to the end times restoration.

Isa 11:11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.

Isa 11:16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt.

Isa 37:4 It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives."

The "remnant of the people of Israel", are sustained, carried, and rescued.

Isa 46:3-4 "Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. (4) Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Jeremiah also speaks to the issue of the remnant of Israel, the ethnic northern tribes.

Jer 31:7 This is what the LORD says: "Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, 'LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.'

Jer 50:17-20 "Israel is a scattered flock that lions have chased away. The first to devour them was the king of Assyria; the last to crush their bones was Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon." (18) Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "I will punish the king of Babylon and his land as I punished the king of Assyria. (19) But I will bring Israel back to their own pasture, and they will graze on Carmel and Bashan; their appetite will be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and Gilead. (20) In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "search will be made for Israel's guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.

Following the Babylonian exile, people from all of the tribes returned to Jerusalem. The reason there were people returning who were of the northern kingdom is Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Assyria. There are passages all through Ezra and Nehemiah that speak of the northern tribes, for example, vs 2 below introduces "the people of the province who came up from the captivity" who included "the list of men of the people of Israel":

Ezra 2:1-2 Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, (2) in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah): The list of the men of the people of Israel:

Not only do Ezra and Nehemiah speak of the actual ethnic people of Israel who had previously been taken captive to Assyria, but chapter 2 of Ezra goes on to mention many from tribes other than Judah, Benjamin and Levi who are among the tribes who return from exile.

The following passage indicates that in spite of the people of Israel sinning greatly, never the less, "God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in His sanctuary".

Ezra 9:1, Ezra 9:8 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. (8) "But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.

The preservation of a remnant of Israel in spite of what they have done is repeated:

Nehe 9:2 Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.

Eze 9:3-8 Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side (4) and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." (5) As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. (6) Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple. (7) Then he said to them, "Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!" So they went out and began killing throughout the city. (8) While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, "Alas, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?"

Ezra 9:13-15 "What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this. (14) Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? (15) LORD, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence."

Ezra mentions Israel and Israelites some 37 times, and Nehemiah some 20 times. This would be strange if Israel had been completely absorbed into the nations surrounding Assyria and no longer existed.

Ezekiel was a prophet during the Babylonian exile. He asks God if He will completely destroy the remnant of Israel. The answer, God will bring them back.

Eze 11:13-17 Now as I was prophesying, Pelatiah son of Benaiah died. Then I fell facedown and cried out in a loud voice, "Alas, Sovereign LORD! Will you completely destroy the remnant of Israel?" (14) The word of the LORD came to me: (15) "Son of man, the people of Jerusalem have said of your fellow exiles and all the other Israelites, 'They are far away from the LORD; this land was given to us as our possession.' (16) "Therefore say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.' "Therefore say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.'

Other prophets also foresee the remnant of Israel returning to the land.

Amos 5:15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

Mic 5:7-8 The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on the grass, which do not wait for anyone or depend on man. (8) The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which mauls and mangles as it goes, and no one can rescue.

Mic 7:18-19 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. (19) You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Zep 3:12 But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the LORD.

Paul quotes Isaiah to confirm the continued existence of the Remnant of Israel. Given the unbroken line of the remnant as spoken by the prophets, Paul would not have understood the Remnant of Israel to be anything but ethnic northern tribes.

Rom 9:27-29 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. (28) For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality." (29) It is just as Isaiah said previously: "Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah."

Paul confirms the continued existence of the Remnant of Israel. He declares that he is an Israelite, and connects that to the ethnic Remnant of Israel through the example of Elijah. Elijah was prophet to Ahab, King of Israel (Northern Kingdom). This passage clearly speaks of a Remnant of the Northern Kingdom still surviving to Paul's day.

Rom 11:1-5 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. (2) God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah--how he appealed to God against Israel: (3) "Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me"? (4) And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." (5) So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.

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