What Happened to Judah’s Brothers? A Closer Look at Family Ties

Abraham was originally a Gentile, a Persian from Ur. (What would now be modern day Iran.) There was no nation or culture of people at this time that called upon Adonai as their God although there were remnants (ancestors of Shem) that knew Him. It was God’s desire that a people—a nation—would one day bless the whole earth. A nation to which He could attach His Name. This people, His people, would inherit His blessings. He promised He would send a Messiah through this people to redeem mankind from the pervasive evil that flooded the entire earth. He promised them a land flowing with provision. He would choose a city in this promised land to one day set up His throne. And from this throne He would establish a Kingdom that would change the world. There would be no war and all the earth would be at peace.  Restored – the Tukun Olam.

The mighty Messiah and Creator God would rule all nations and teach all people His ways. Ways (or behaviors) that were moral, good, fair, and just. This Kingdom would be a new Garden of Eden, and through chosen people God would usher in the restoration of all things.

But first God had to choose one man to lead. He chose Abraham.

Genesis 22:17-18 says that, “… in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” KJV

Abraham obeyed and left his country steeped in paganism and crossed over both the Euphrates and the Jordon Rivers. The Hebrew word eber means “to cross over.” In fact, the actual word “Hebrew” comes from the word eber. Therefore, Abraham was the first one “to cross over” or the first “Hebrew.” A deeper understanding of Abraham’s obedience is that he crossed over from being a pagan into God’s family. He became a covenant son.

While all other nations followed numerous heathen gods, Abraham followed one Almighty God who spoke directly to him. Then, this awesome God chose Abraham’s son Isaac and spoke to him, making covenant promises like those He told his father. Isaac followed God just like his father Abraham. Isaac was also a Hebrew.

Genesis 26:3-4 says, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;…” KJV

After Abraham and Isaac, God then chose Isaac’s son Jacob, speaking similar covenant promises to him.

And he (Jacob) dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 28:12-14. KJV

Jacob (who was renamed Israel) was also called a Hebrew. His family (who collectively took his name Israel) were called Hebrews as well. This new family of Hebrews or Israelites were God’s chosen people. God promised that this family—His family (mishpotach) would one day be a blessing to all the nations. Jacob (Israel) had 12 sons; Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, Ashur, Dan, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin.

Notice that Judah (known now by the shortened version of the name Jew) has 11 brothers. Though the world knows about the Jews, what of the Issacharites, Zebulunites or Gaddites? Do the families of Judah’s brothers still exist? This question will be answered later.

Israel’s Renewed Covenant

Because of a great famine, Jacob’s family, consisting of 70 people made their way to the pagan land of Egypt. It was there that the Hebrews grew in number but forgot about the God of their fathers.  They fell into idolatry taking on the Egyptian gods as their own. But God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and even though Israel’s family was unfaithful, God had mercy upon them in the nations and brought over 600,000 of them out of slavery to Mt. Sinai to enter into covenant with them there. The God of Abraham was only a story from a distant past to these Hebrew people. They did not know Abraham’s God or how to worship Him. They had not received any instruction for hundreds of years so it was there that God re-introduced Himself. With terrifying peals of thunder, lightening and earthquakes God made His Presence known. He had promised the patriarchs that one day their seed would become a nation. The day had come and God gave this tiny new nation a constitution called the Torah. It was an instruction manual on how to live. It was a behavioral roadmap that the people needed to help them differentiate themselves from the pagan and idolatrous nations upon the Earth. It was their holy code to live by. It governed them and they grew to love and respect their faithful God of Covenant. The Torah taught them to have faith in God and that it was through trusting and obeying Him that they were counted as righteous.

Joseph and His Sons

One of Jacob’s sons was named Joseph. It was Joseph that made the inroad for the Hebrews to live in Egypt through his marriage to the Pharaoh’s daughter. Joseph had two sons by this Gentile princess; their names were Ephraim and Manesseh. Jacob was told at one time that his soon, Joseph was dead and he grieved greatly for his son for many years.  It was when Jacob was near death that he was told Joseph was still alive, Jacob rejoiced and called for Joseph and his sons Ephraim and Manesseh to come to see him so he could bless them.

After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession. And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. Gen. 48:1-5 ESV

What Jacob officially did was claim his two grandchildren as his own thus giving them a portion of his inheritance.  Joseph’s children became his own father’s sons and adopted brothers to Joseph’s 11 brothers.

But Jacob did a curious thing concerning Ephraim:

17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” Gen 48:17-19 ESV

In Hebrew a multitude of nations is called the melo ha goyim and better translated as the fullness of the nations.

Two Kingdoms

Eventually the children of Israel received their land allotments. All 13 tribes (Joseph’s portion being doubled and given to his sons) lived in the land that God promised them. Over time the tribes began to worship false gods. The prophet Ahijah, prophesied that 10 tribes to the north would separate from the others in the south creating two Kingdoms. The ten tribes of the north eventually took upon themselves the name of the adopted brother Ephraim but they were also known as Israel. The three tribes to the south (Levi, Benjamin and Judah) took the name of their brother Judah and were eventually known as Jews.

30 Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes 32 (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 1 kings 11:30-32 ESV

Because of their persistent idolatry God divorced the ten tribes in the north. These were the offspring of Judah’s brothers (Rueben, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Ashur, Dan, Gad, Naphtali, Ephraim and Manesseh). The Northern Kingdom was eventually conquered by Assyria around 725 BC.

The Kingdom of Judah was all that remained identifiable as Jacob’s children. The rest were absorbed into the nations and live among the Gentiles to this day.

It must be noted, however that Judah and those other two tribes connected to him were also guilty of idolatry but God spared them for the sake of David (that is the promise of Messiah) and for the sake of Jerusalem (the city He swore that He would one day set up His throne in the Golden Age).

The Messiah, Son of David

God made good on His promise to bring the Messiah into the world through the tribe of Judah. The movement called The Way of Yeshua grew in number as multitudes of Judeans and Galileans believed that Yeshua was the Messiah promised by their Torah and prophets.

He said to them, “This is what I told you, while I was still with you, that all things which are written in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled.” Luke 24:44 WEB

Yeshua also told his disciples to go into the nations and tell the Good News! Because Yeshua paid the penalty for sin all peoples can be brought near (be saved because of Messiah – Abraham’s promise to the nations)

Melo Ha Goyim- Fullness of Nations

25 For I don’t desire you to be ignorant, brothers,[a] of this mystery, so that you won’t be wise in your own conceits, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles (or nations) has come in.  Romans 11:25 WEB

To Sum it up

  1. God’s promise to Abraham – All the nations will be blessed through his covenant.
  2. Jacob’s prophecy concerning Joseph’s son, Ephraim – Joesph’s son, Ephraim (Jacob’s adopted son) will be the melo ha goyim (the fullness of the nations).
  3. Abijahs Prophecy concerning the 10 tribes to the north– God will tear the 10 tribes of the north called Ephraim away and send them into the nations where they would assimilate.
  4. Abijahs Prophecy concerning the tribe of Judah (the Jews) – God will keep one tribe for the sake of King David (the Messiah) and to keep Jerusalem for His throne. This people has been miraculously preserved though the world has tried to eliminate them through Roman persecutions, Inquisitions, pograms, Crusades, the Holocaust and Arab wars.
  5. Paul’s Word to the Romans– Blindness has happened to Israel in part (Judah) until the fullness of the melo ha goyim or the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (those who are Ephraim and all the Gentiles who are now connected to him in faith).

1At the same time, saith the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 8Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the borders of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. 9They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born. 10Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.  Jer. 31:1,8-10  KJV

Ephraim is among the nations. As all of Israel was in the Gentile land of Egypt and forgot the God of their fathers, the 10 tribes of Israel are still in the Gentile lands and have forgotten who they are. One day God will lead them out and those who are connected to them to the promised Kingdom of the Golden Age of Messiah.

19Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. 20And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. 21And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 22And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: 23Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. 24And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.  Ez. 37:19-24 KJV

So where are Judah’s brothers? In the nations! In the Churches! Among the Gentiles! Among the heathen! In this way all Israel shall be saved and the heathen brought near, all grafted (some re-grafted) into the cultivated olive tree of Israel – by faith.

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