We need to realize that Israel today includes far more territory than just this tiny modern Middle Eastern nation. Most people associate the name Israel with the Jewish state of that name. However, the Jewish people are descendants of primarily two of the 12 tribes that made up ancient Israel—Judah and Benjamin, along with a considerable portion of the priestly tribe of Levi.
After the reign of King Solomon, God caused the kingdom of Israel to divide into two separate nations because of Solomon’s sins. The northern 10 tribes retained the name of Israel while the southern portion with its two tribes was called the kingdom of Judah. The word Jew is merely a shortened form of Judah. The first time the word Jews appear in the King James Version of the Bible, in 2 Kings 16:5-6 2 Kings 16:5-6 5 Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to war: and they besieged Ahaz, but could not overcome him.
6 At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drove the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelled there to this day.
American King James Version×, the northern nation of Israel is actually at war with the Jews! So clearly they are not one and the same people.
After the time of Solomon, these two nations became two politically distinct geographical entities. The Jews are part of the Israelites descended from the patriarch Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. But he had other sons, and the descendants of 10 of them formed the northern nation of Israel, including the descendants of the patriarch Joseph.
Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. In due time their descendants became two great modern nations, one with an empire that stretched around the world. Joseph’s descendants became the easiest to identify in contemporary history because the prophetic blessings they were to receive stand out so distinctly (see Genesis 49:22-26 Genesis 49:22-26 22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:
24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
25 Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
26 The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers.
American King James Version×and Deuteronomy 33:13-17 Deuteronomy 33:13-17 13 And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the LORD be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, 14 And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, 15 And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills, 16 And for the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelled in the bush: let the blessing come on the head of Joseph, and on the top of the head of him that was separated from his brothers. 17 His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.
American King James Version×).
The intriguing story of how the modern descendants of the patriarch Joseph eventually became Great Britain and the United States of America is told in our free Bible study aid The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy . Much of God’s prophetic plan cannot really be understood without the national identifications carefully laid out in this publication.
Both Great Britain and the United States played major roles, one following the other, in the restoration (after nearly 2,000 years) of the Jewish people to nationhood in the Middle East in 1948. The Balfour Declaration in Britain (1917) was followed by U.S. President Harry Truman’s crucial political backing in the late 40s. The destinies of all three nations—biblically known as Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh—are intertwined and will be a big part of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy at the time of the end, albeit in different ways.