Have you ever wondered why God divided Israel? By that I mean, what was His purpose? And, what does that purpose have to do with the respective roles of Judah and Ephraim? Further, how does this relate to evangelizing/missionizing? All of these are interesting and progressively more serious questions that challenge some of our established (inherited) thought patterns. So, let’s explore some recent ponderings I have had. We may not answer all of the questions, but we can begin to wrestle with a new level of understanding.
At the Second B’ney Yosef Congress, Tommy and Dorothy Wilson led the Shabbat midrash from the first Genesis portion, focusing on Adam and Chava in the second and third chapters. We considered that at the completion of creation, it was ‘tov meod,’ ‘very good,’ yet, just a few verses later we see that God says, ‘it is not good that the man should be alone…’ Adam was complete within himself, perfect, however there was something more that God wanted to do to display His glory to and in Creation. Thus, He reached into Adam and drew out a part of him that was then fashioned into Chava, the help-meet and partner.
The Creation Story is about dividing and bringing together. We see in day one a separation and gathering of light from darkness. Day two waters of earth and sky are separated and gathered. Day three water and earth are separated and gathered.
Each of these separations and gatherings shows us something of the majesty of Creation and thus the majesty of the Creator. If we had only light, we could not see the magnificent stars and the reflection of the sun in the moon. If we had only earth or ground, we would not know the glorious vivid colors and beauty of a coral reef and the teeming life thereon. Dry ground and the ocean each have a purpose and a role to play in revealing God and His character, His beauty and His purpose. Each is incomplete without the other and importantly, neither can fulfill the function and purpose of the other.
Interestingly, we find this very truth to be evident in Adam and Chava. Adam, though created perfectly, could not fully display the glory of God. He was not incomplete, though he could not completely reveal that which he was called to reveal. God drew Chava out of Adam to fully reveal Himself.
Most importantly, God immediately put them back together as ‘one flesh.’ Significantly, the text uses ‘echad’ (Gen. 2:24) and not ‘yachid’ (Gen. 22:2) for the ‘one’ which helps us to begin to understand the Shema and how God reveals Himself and the Mashiach.
If we were to use broad generalizations, I think we can agree that men and women are different. They think differently, they feel differently, they act differently and they are, generally speaking, wired quite differently. In many respects we are the same, but in others, we are very different. In the relationship between man and woman, we generally find that the roles are different and neither can stand alone, rather both are necessary to function properly and to most effectively display each other’s part of the revelation of God’s glory.
Of course, we know the rest of the story. Adam and Chava sinned and God has been about the process of restoring His Kingdom ever since. But, even in this is a revelation of His Divine glory and His merciful character. In this, we also find an amazing picture that should teach us about another restoration that God is passionate about in the restoration of His Kingdom.
Just as God created Adam out of the ground, He also drew Abraham and ultimately/specifically, Israel out of the peoples of the earth. Israel was to function as an Adam that would be fruitful and multiply and tend the earth (and its peoples). Israel was to be the loving caretaker that revealed God’s glory and brought order and fruitfulness to Creation.
Even before Jacob was named Israel, there were already prophecies through Abraham that involved his seed and the blessing of the nations, but the prophecies are brought into sharp focus in Genesis 48:14-20. Not onlydo we see the name of Israel, as well as Abraham and Isaac, living on in Manasseh and Ephraim (v. 16), but we also see that they will ‘grow’ (dagah: by extension, fish, i.e., spawn, and not cursed in the flood, mixed clean and unclean… selah….) into a multitude ‘in the midst of the earth.’ Then, to get even more specific in the prophecy, Jacob crosses his hands and places the very specific blessing on Ephraim that ‘his descendants shall become a multitude of nations/peoples.’ (v. 20)
14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, [a]crossing his hands, [b]although Manasseh was the firstborn. 15 He blessed Joseph, and said,
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,/
The God who has been my shepherd [c]all my life to this day,
16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
And may my name [d]live on in them,
And the [e]names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And may they grow (dagah) into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his [f]descendants shall become a [g]multitude of nations ( מלא־הגוים : melo hagoyim).” 20 He blessed them that day, saying,
“By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying,
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’”
Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
Later, in fulfillment of God’s plan, Solomon’s kingdom was divided and the ten northern tribes separated under Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim while the southern kingdom of Judah continued under the leadership of the house of David.
I Kings 12:24 ‘Thus says the Lord, “You must not go up and fight against your [i]relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.”’
Traditionally, we look at this division and see it as a bad thing, but what if, like separating Chava out of Adam, the Almighty’s purpose was to use the two, Judah and Ephraim, to accomplish different purposes and to reveal different aspects of His glory? With the lens of history, we can look and see what has been accomplished. Judah, to the glory of God and in the midst of immense pressure from Christendom, has held to the Torah and been obedient. Ephraim, on the other hand, largely hidden in church pews among Christendom, has carried the name of Israel and the story from Scripture to the ends of the earth. Like a logical Adam and a sensing Chava, Judah and Ephraim fulfill two different roles before YHVH!! Each fulfilled the purposes of God, although imperfectly.
[Aside: For those who may be struggling to understand the differences between Judah and Ephraim, or how this concept unfolds in Scripture, I highly recommend The Lost Sheep, a video by 119 Ministries. It will unlock the whole of Scripture and reveal the Divine Plan that likely was never taught from your pulpit. Simply, Abba has, by His plan, kept this hidden until our generation. This 90 minute teaching will also clarify what is happening in our day with this crazy Hebrew roots awakening and why it is now and not 20 years ago or 20 years hence. ]
The great problem is that we have acted as our first parents. As with the prophecy over Adam and Chava,
…Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you…” (Genesis 3:16b),
Judah and Ephraim have had a rough relationship summed up in Isaiah 11 with the verses,
Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart,
And those who harass Judah will be cut off;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
And Judah will not harass Ephraim.
Like Adam and Chava, Judah and Ephraim need each other, however they are at odds and have become part of the Great Redemption story.
Torah does not allow men to wear women’s clothing, or boundary markers to be moved. Judah and Ephraim each have particular roles and defined boundaries. When, by missionizing or evangelizing, either Judah or Ephraim cause a ‘convert’ to become like themselves, they have violated a boundary and a role marker. I find it fascinating that both sides are hurt and offended when one of their own breaks ranks for the other side, yet both feel it necessary to make the other into themselves.
To be clear, Judah is quite hurt when Christians convert a Jew to Jesus and then teach the new convert that parts of the Torah are no longer truth, a gross fallacy. Those of Ephraim are equally offended when one of their own converts to Judaism, whether to make aliyah or to have greater access to quality teaching from the sages. Whether we understand it or not, the offense comes from each being convinced of their own piece of the truth without acknowledging that the other has part of the truth, therefore feeling justified in making the other like themselves.
We must realize that each, Ephraim and Judah, have a valued and significant, albeit different role. Here is a passage that illustrates how important it is for each to be who they are called to be:
Zech. 9:13 For I will bend Judah [a]as My bow,
I will fill the bow with Ephraim.
And I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece;
And I will make you like a warrior’s sword.
14 Then the Lord will appear over them,
And His arrow will go forth like lightning;
And the Lord [b]God will blow the trumpet,
And will march in the storm winds of the south.
When Christendom missionizes or evangelizes with the intent that Judah becomes like them, giving up their calling to carry and protect the Torah, they have then circumvented part of the plan of the Almighty, broken Torah by moving boundary stones, and undermined the holy calling upon Judah. Christendom, rather, should be living out their own calling in Messiah Yeshua by repenting and returning to the Torah, and they should be encouraging Judah to walk in their calling and rebuild the Temple!
As a closing thought, I would take us to Ezekiel 37 and the two sticks prophecy. Verse 19 promises that the two sticks will be made ‘echad,’ united one, in the hand of YHVH. Even as He brings the two kingdoms together to live in the Land under the headship of ‘My servant David,’ keeping Torah, they may still be distinguishable as two united peoples, no different than Adam and Chava in Gan Eden.
Having made the above observations and assertions, I recognize that many, particularly within Christendom, will meet this with raised eyebrows, or more. What I have shared flies in the face of centuries of doctrine and seems to contradict some verses in Scripture. Most of these objections have been addressed at one point or another on this blog, but I do want to share a few thoughts to alleviate concerns.
First, I fully affirm that I believe Yeshua is the Messiah and that in His time, He will reveal Himself individually and corporately to kol Yisrael (all Israel).
Secondly, I believe we all need individual redemption, the major focus of Christianity, but I also believe that we both need corporate redemption, a major focus of Judaism (which again points to the different roles of Ephraim and Judah).
Finally, I would recommend a series I wrote a couple years ago titled, ‘Who is….‘ These four posts will help understand salvation and the Eternal God.