Today almost everyone identifies the name Israel with the Jews. Most people assume the Jewish people are the sole remaining descendants of the ancient nation of Israel. The assumption, however, is incorrect.
Technically the Jews are principally descendants of two of the Israelite tribes, Judah and Benjamin, plus a considerable part of a third, the priestly tribe of Levi.
Unknown to most people, 10 other tribes in ancient Israel were never called Jews. These northern tribes were historically distinct and politically separate from the Jews, their brothers to the south who formed the kingdom of Judah, from which the term Jew was derived.
The northern coalition of tribes, the kingdom or house of Israel, had already become an independent nation, separate from the house of Judah, by the time the word Jew appears in the biblical narrative. In fact, the first time the term appears in the King James Version of the Bible, Israel was at war with the Jews (see 2 Kings 16:5-6, KJV).
Are all Israelites Jews? No. Jews—the citizens and descendants of the kingdom of Judah—are indeed Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews. Since all 12 tribes, including Jews, are descendants of their father Israel (Jacob), we can apply the term Israelite to all of the tribes. The term Jew, however, is accurate only for the people that made up the kingdom of Judah and their descendants.
Incidentally, Jews who live in the modern state of Israel are often called Israelis. To understand the important connection between the lost tribes of Israel and people of Northwest European heritage, including the English-speaking peoples, request or download our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. GN