Where Did The Apostles Go?
Peter preached the gospel in Great Britain, not in Rome. The true gospel had not been publicly preached in Rome before Paul arrived in A.D. 59. Paul never once mentions Peter in his epistle to the brethren in Rome, most of whom had been converted on Pentecost in 31 A.D.
Not even the Jews at Rome had heard the gospel preached before Paul arrived!
Here is Luke’s inspired account of Paul’s arrival in Rome: “And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together.” Continuing, Acts 28:21. “And they” — the Jews at Rome — “said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against. And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” (verses 21-23).
Here is absolute proof the Jews at Rome had never heard the apostle Peter preach.
Oh yes, there had been a “Peter” in Rome — ever since the days of Claudius Caesar. That Peter was in a high office. He was chief of the Babylonian Mysteries. His office was that of a “Peter” — meaning an Interpreter or Opener of Secrets. The word peter, in Babylonian and Hebrew, means “opener” — hence it is used in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament for “firstling” — one that first opens the womb.
That Peter of Rome was named Simon, too. Simon Magus (Acts 8 ). He was the leading conspirator in the plot hatched by the priests of the pagan Babylonian-Samaritan mysteries.
These plotters sought to seize upon the name of the Messiah as a cloak for their diabolical religion. These conspirators became the founders of what today masquerades in the world, falsely, as the “Christian Religion.” (See III John).
Simon Peter, the Messiah’s apostle, was in Britain, not Rome, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. The very fact that Peter preached in the British Isles is proof in itself that part of the Lost Ten-Tribed House of Israel was already there! Simon Peter was commissioned to go to the lost ten tribes.
And significantly, about A.D. 60 great wars overtook Britain. That is just what James warned of in his epistle (the fourth chapter, verse 1) to the twelve tribes of Israel! Could history be any clearer?
Where Are Peter and Paul Buried?
For centuries the Christian world has taken for granted that Peter and Paul are buried in Rome. No one, it seems, has thought to question the tradition.
Granted, Paul was brought to Rome about A.D. 67. He was beheaded, then buried on the Ostian Way. But are his remains still there?
Granted, too, that universal tradition declared the apostle Peter was also brought to Rome in Nero’s reign and martyred about the same time.
Many pieces of ancient literature — some spurious, some factual — confirm that Simon Magus, the false apostle, who masqueraded as Peter, also died at Rome. The question is — which Simon is buried today under the Vatican? Is there proof that the bones of the apostles Peter and Paul were moved from Rome, and are not there now?
There is a reason the Vatican has been hesitant to claim the apostle Peter’s tomb has been found! They know that it is Simon Magus, the false Peter, who is buried there, not Simon Peter the apostle. Here is what happened. In the year 656 Pope Vitalian decided the Catholic Church was not interested in the remains of the apostles Peter and Paul. The Pope therefore ordered them sent to Oswy, King of Britain! Here is part of his letter to the British king:
“However, we have ordered the blessed gifts of the holy martyrs, that is, the relics of the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, and of the holy martyrs Laurentius, John, and Paul, and Gregory, and Pancratius, to be delivered to the bearers of these our letters, to be by them delivered to you” (Bede’s
Ecclesiastical History, bk. III, ch. 29).
Could anything be more astounding? The bones of Peter and Paul (termed “relics” in the Pope’s letter) sent by the Pope from Rome to Britain — to the land of Israel!
About a century and a half earlier Constantius of Lyons took the relics of all the apostles and martyrs from Gaul and buried them in a special tomb at St. Albans in Britain. (Life of St. Germanus.)
And Andrew His Brother
Britain, after A.D. 449, was settled by hundreds of thousands of new people not there in Peter’s day. History knows them as Angles and Saxons. They came originally from the shores of the Black Sea — where the House of Israel dwelt! In A.D. 256 they began to migrate from northern Asia Minor along the shores of the Black Sea to the Cymbric Peninsula (Denmark) opposite Britain. These were the people to whose ancestors Peter wrote his epistles.
Which one of the twelve apostles preached to their ancestors — the so-called “White Syrians” — while they abode by the Bosporus and on the Black Sea? Listen to the answer from Greek historians:
“In this division Andrew had Scythia, and the neighboring countries primarily allotted him for his province. First then he travelled through Cappadocia, (Upper) Galatia and Bithynia, and instructed them in the faith of Christ, passing all along the Euxine Sea” — the old name for the Black Sea! — “…and so into the solitude of Scythia.”
One early Greek author gives these journeys in special detail, just as if Luke had written an account of the other apostles as he did of Paul. Andrew “went next to Trapezus, a maritime city on the Euxine Sea, whence after many other places he came to Nice, where he stayed two years, preaching and working miracles with great success: thence to Nicomedia, and so to Chalcedon; whence sailing through the Propontis he came by the Euxine Sea to Heraclea, and from thence to Amastris….He next came to Sinope, a city situated upon the same sea,…here he met with his brother Peter, with whom he stayed a considerable time….Departing hence, he went again to Amynsus and then…he proposed to return to Jerusalem” — the headquarters church. “Whence after some time he betook himself…to the country of Abasgi (a land in the Caucasus)…Hence he removed into…Asiatic Scythia or Sarmatia, but finding the inhabitants very barbarous and intractable, he stayed not long among them, only at Cherson, or Chersonesus, a great and populous city within the Bosporus (this Bosporus is the modern Crimea), he continued for some time, instructing them and confirming them in the faith. Hence taking ship, he sailed across the sea to Sinope, situated in Paphlagonia…” (pp. 137-138 of Cave’s Antiquitates Apostolicae.)
Here we find Andrew preaching to the very areas in Asia Minor which Paul bypassed. From this region, and from Scythia north of the Black Sea, migrated the ancestors of the Scots and Anglo-Saxons, as we have already seen. They are of the House of Israel — or else Andrew disobeyed his commission!
And what of the modern Scottish tradition that Andrew preached to their ancestors? Significant? Indeed!
And the Other Apostles?
And where did Simon the Zealot carry the gospel? Here, from the Greek records, is the route of his journey:
Simon “directed his journey toward Egypt, then to Cyrene, and Africa…and throughout Mauritania and all Libya, preaching the gospel….Nor could the coldness of the climate benumb his zeal, or hinder him from shipping himself and the Christian doctrine over the Western Islands, yea, even to Britain itself. Here he preached and wrought many miracles….” Nicephorus and Dorotheus both wrote “that he went at last into Britain, and…was crucified…and buried there” (p. 203 of Cave’s Antiq. Apost.).
Think of it. Another of the twelve apostles is found preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel in Britain and the West. But what is Simon the Zealot doing in North Africa? Were remnants of the House of Israel there, too? Had some fled westward in 721 B.C. at the time of the Assyrian conquest of Palestine?
Here is Geoffrey of Monmouth’s answer: “The Saxons…went unto Gormund, King of the Africans, in Ireland, wherein, adventuring thither with a vast fleet, he had conquered the folk of the country. Thereupon, by the treachery of the Saxons, he sailed across with a hundred and sixty thousand Africans into Britain…(and) laid waste, as hath been said, well-nigh the whole island with his countless thousands of Africans” (bk. xi, sect. 8, 19).
These countless thousands were not Negroes, or Arabs. They were whites — Nordics — who came from North Africa and Mauritania, where Simon preached. These Nordica, declares the Universal History (1748 — Vol. xviii, p. 194), “gave out, that their ancestors were driven out of Asia by a powerful enemy, and pursued into Greece; from whence they made their escape” to North Africa. “But this…was to be understood only of the white nations inhabiting some parts of western Barbary and Numidia.”
What white nation was driven from the western shores of western Asia? The House of Israel! Their powerful enemy? The Assyrians!
For almost three centuries after the time of Simon Zealots they remained in Mauritania. But they are not in North Africa today. They arrived in Britain shortly after A.D. 449 at the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasion.
In A.D. 598, when the bishop of Rome sent Augustine to bring Catholicism to England he found the inhabitants were already professing Christians! Their ancestors had already heard the message from one of the twelve apostles!
And Ireland Too!
Another of the apostles sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel was James, the son of Alphaeus. Some early writers were confused by the fact that two of the twelve apostles were named James. James, son of Alphaeus, was the one who left Palestine after the first twelve years. The deeds of this apostle are sometimes mistakenly assigned to James, John’s brother. But that James was already martyred by Herod (Acts 12:2).
Where did James, son of Alphaeus, preach?
“The Spanish writers generally contend, after the death of Stephen he came to these Western parts, and particularly into Spain (some add Britain and Ireland) where he planted Christianity” (p. 148 of Cave’s work).
Note it. Yet another apostle sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel ends in the British Isles — in Ireland as well as in Britain!
Eusebius, in his third book of Evangelical Demonstrations, chapter 7, admitted that the apostles “passed over to those which are called the British Isles.” Again he wrote: “Some of the Apostles preached the Gospel in the British Isles.” Could anything be plainer?
Even in Spain James spent some time. Why Spain? From ancient times Spain was the high road of migration from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the British Isles. The ancient royal House of Ireland for a time dwelt in Spain. Even today a vital part of the Iberian Peninsula — Gibraltar — belongs to the birthright tribe of Mannaseh — the British!
Paul in Britain, Too?
Turn , now, to added proof of the apostles’ mission to the lost sheep of the House of Israel in the British Isles. From an old volume, published in 1674, by William Camden, we read: “The true Christian Religion was planted here most anciently by Joseph of Arimathea, Simon Zealotes, Aristobulus, by St. Peter, and St. Paul, as may be proved by Dorotheus, Theodoretus and Sophronius.” (Remains of Britain, page 5.)
Paul is now included! Had Paul planned to go from Italy into Spain and then Britain?…Here is his answer: “…I will come by you into Spain” (Rom. 15:28). Clement of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthians, confirms Paul’s journey to the West. But did that include Britain?
Listen to the words of the Greek church historian Theodoret. He reports: “That St. Paul brought salvation to the isles that lie in the ocean” (book 1, on Psalm cxvi. p. 870). The British Isles!
But was that merely to preach to the Gentiles? Not at all. Remember that the third and last part of Paul’s commission, after he revealed the Messiah to the kings and rulers at Rome, was to bear the name of Yeshua to the “children of Israel” (Acts 9:15) — the Lost Ten Tribes. This is not a prophecy concerning Jews, whom Paul had previously reached in the Greek world of the eastern Mediterranean. This is a prophecy of Paul’s mission to the British Isles! Could anything be more astounding?
On the Shores of the Caspian Sea
James referred to Israel as scattered abroad. we have found them in Northwest Europe. And in North Africa, from whence they migrated into Britain in the fifth century. And in northern Asia Minor, associated with the Assyrians. In 256 they began to migrate from the regions of the Black Sea to Denmark, thence into the British Isles in 449.
But remnants of the Ten Lost Tribes were yet in another vast region beyond the confines of the Roman Empire. That region was known as the Kingdom of Parthia.
Who the Parthians were has long remained a mystery. They suddenly appear near the Caspian Sea around 700 B.C. as slaves of the Assyrians. “According to Diodorus, who probably followed Ctesias, they passed from the dominion of the Assyrians to that of the Medes, and from dependence upon the Medes to a similar position under the Persians.” (Rawlinson’s Monarchies, vol. IV, p. 26, quoted from Diod. Sic., ii 2, 3; 34, 1 and 6.)
The Parthians rose to power around 250 B.C. in the lands along the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. That was the very land into which Israel was exiled! What puzzles historians is that the Parthians were neither Persians, nor Medes, nor Assyrians or any other known people. Even their name breathes mystery — until you understand the Bible.
The word Parthian means exile! (See Rawlinson’s The Sixth Monarchy, page 19.) The only exiles in this land were the ten tribes of Israel! The Parthians included none other than the exiled Lost Ten Tribes who remained in the land of their captivity until A.D. 226. That’s when the Persians drove them into Europe.
Now consider this. James addressed his letter to the twelve tribes of Israel scattered abroad. He warns the Israelites against the wars being waged among themselves. When James wrote his letter about A.D.60 the world was at peace except for two regions — Britain and Parthia! There is no mistaking this. Parthia and Britain were Israelite.
Which of the twelve apostles carried the gospel to the Parthian Israelites?
The Greek historians reveal that Thomas brought the gospel to “Parthia, after which Sophornius and others inform us, that he preached the gospel to the Medes, Persians, Carmans, Hyrcani, Bactrians, and the neighbor nations” (Cave’s Antiq. Apost., p. 189).
These strange sounding names are the lands we know today as Iran (or Persia) and Afghanistan. In apostolic days the whole region was subject to the Parthians.
Though many Israelites had left the region already, multitudes remained behind, spread over adjoining territory. They lost their identity and became identified with the names of the districts in which they lived.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, was familiar with Parthia as a major dwelling place of the Ten Tribes. He declares: “But then the entire body of the people of Israel (the Ten Tribes) remained in that country (they did not return to Palestine); wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers” (Antiq. of the Jews, bk. xi, ch. v, 2).
There it is! the very area to which Thomas sojourned was, reports Josephus, filled with uncounted multitudes of the Ten Tribes! Josephus was, apparently, unaware of those who had already migrated westward. But he does make it plain that only the House of Judah ever returned to Palestine. The House of Israel was “beyond Euphrates till now”!
Parthia was defeated by Persia in 226 A.D. Expelled from Parthia, the Ten Tribes and the Medes moved north of the Black Sea, into Scythia. (See R. G. Latham’s The Native Races of the Russian Empire, page 216.) From there, around A.D. 256, the Ten Tribes migrated with their brethren from Asia Minor into Northwest Europe. This migration was occasioned by a concerted Roman attack in the east. It backfired on the Romans, for hordes of Israelites and Assyrians suddenly broke through the Roman defenses in the West that same year!
Thomas also journeyed into Northwest India, east of Persia, where the “White Indians” dwelt. These “White Indians” — that is, whites living in India — were also known as Nephthalite Huns, in later Greek records. Any connection with the tribe of Naphtali? They were overthrown in the sixth century and migrated into Scandinavia. The archaeology of Scandinavia confirms this event.
Bartholomew shared, with Thomas, the same vast plains, according to Nicephorus. Bartholomew also spent part of his time in neighboring Armenia and a portion of Upper Phrygia in Asia Minor. Nicephorus termed the area, in his history, the “Western and Northern parts of Asia,” by which he meant Upper Asia Minor, modern Turkey today. This was the same district to which Andrew carried the gospel, and to which Peter sent two of his letters.
Jude, also named Libbaeus Thaddaeus, had part in the ministry in Assyria and Mesopotamia. That is part of Parthia which Josephus designated as still inhabited by the Ten Tribes. The Parthian kingdom, which was composed of the Ten Tribes ruling over Gentiles, possessed Assyria and Mesopotamia during most of the New Testament period. From the famous city Babylon, in Mesopotamia, Peter directed the work of all the apostles in the East (Parthia).
Scythia and Upper Asia (meaning Asia Minor) were the regions assigned to Philip. (See Cave’s Antiq. Apost., p. 168.) Scythia was the name of the vast plain north of the Black and the Caspian Seas. To this region a great colony of Israelites migrated after the fall of the Persian Empire in 331. From Scythia migrated the Scots. The word Scot is derived from the word Scyth. It means an inhabitant of Scythia. The Scots are part of the House of Israel.
Interestingly, the word Scythia, in Celtic, has the same meaning that Hebrew does in the Semitic language — a migrant or wanderer!
Where Did Matthew Go?
Matthew, Metaphrastes tells us, “went first into Parthia, and having successfully planted Christianity in those parts, thence travelled to Aethiopia, that is, the Asiatic Aethiopia, lying near India.”
For some centuries this region of the Hindu Kush, bordering on Scythia and Parthia, was known as “White India.” It lies slightly east of the area where the Assyrians settled the Israelite captives. A natural process of growth led the House of Israel to these sparsely populated regions. From there they migrated to Northwest Europe in the sixth century, long after the Apostles’ time. Dorotheus declares Matthew was buried at Hierapolis in Parthia.
The Parthian kingdom was, in fact, a loose union of those lost tribes of Israel who dwelt in Central Asia during this period. The Persians finally drove them all out. Whenever Parthia prospered, other nations prospered. Whenever the Parthians suffered reverses, other nations suffered. Remember the Scripture: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Genesis 12:3).
Ethiopic and Greek sources designate Dacia (modern Romania) and Macedonia, north of Greece, as part of the ministry of Matthias. Dacia was the extreme western part of Scythia. From Dacia came the Normans who ultimately settled in France and Britain.
The French tradition that Mary, the mother of Yeshua, journeyed into Gaul (modern France) lends heavy weight to John’s having been in Gaul in his earlier years. It was to John that Yeshua committed Mary’s care. She would be where he was working. Paul knew Gaul to be an area settled by the House of Israel. He bypassed Gaul on his way from Italy to Spain (Romans 15:24, 28). Gaul must have been reached by one of the twelve.
How plain! How can any misunderstand! Here is historic proof to confirm, absolutely, the identity and location of “the House of Israel.” The identity of Israel, from secular sources, is itself also independent and absolute proof of where the twelve apostles carried out YEHOVAH God’s work.
— Hermon L. Hoeh and John D. Keyser.
Hope of Israel Ministries — Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God!
Hope of Israel Ministries P.O. Box 2186?Temple City, CA 91780, U.S.A. http://www.hope-of-israel.org
Triennial Torah Cycle
We continue this weekend with our regular Triennial Torah Reading
Num 35 Ezra 8-10 2 Cor 2-3
Cities for the Levites Numbers 35
Why are the Levites in a category all to themselves? The answer is that they are not to make their living off the land, but, rather, from their service to God and the rest of the nation. And this requires an element of faith—that God will inspire the other tribes to fulfill their responsibility in supplying the Levites’ needs. Each of the tribes of Israel is to provide cities for the Levites’ living quarters, as well as surrounding countryside for their animals. The Levites, of whom there were 23,000 males, are assigned to 48 cities, each about the size of a football stadium surrounded by around 750 acres of “common-land.” That may sound large by today’s standards, but the entire land area for all the Levites amounted to approximately 36,000 acres out of a total of more than five million acres for all Israel.
God instructs Moses to appoint six of the Levite cities to be cities of refuge. When someone is murdered, members of the victimized family may choose an “avenger of blood”—a single individual—from among themselves to execute the murderer. The city of refuge provides asylum for anyone who fears the dead person’s relatives will seek revenge before there can be a fair trial—as well as for those cleared of murder in a trial and found guilty of accidental death, or manslaughter. The congregation is to judge between these two situations, whether the crime was strictly accidental or if it was murder (Numbers 35:24). If deemed murder, the offender is put to death. If manslaughter, the killer is delivered to one of the six cities of refuge, there to remain until the death of the high priest—at which time he may leave a free man. But if he leaves the city of refuge before that, the avenger of blood will be allowed to kill him and remain guiltless. It may sound harsh to us today to think that someone who killed another person by accident could himself be legally killed by the victim’s relative. Yet in practical fact it demonstrates the high value God places on human life and that God holds everyone responsible for his or her actions. We all have a serious responsibility to be sure that our actions never harm or injure others, because under God’s legal system a person’s carelessness could bring a severe—and possibly fatal—penalty.
Furthermore, God made some concessions to human weakness in the legal system He gave to the Israelites—realizing that they were a carnally motivated people (compare Matthew 19:8). These, in fact, can serve to demonstrate God’s wisdom. Consider the appointment of an avenger of blood. Human nature, God knew quite well, demanded revenge. Without rules governing the exacting of it in situations such as that just described, family or tribal warfare could have broken out like the Hatfields and McCoys of American history, with no end to the bloodshed that defiles the land (Numbers 35:33). God said, “You must not defile the land where you are going to live, for I [will] live there myself. I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel” (verse 34, NLT).
Returning to the Promised Land (Ezra 8 )
Chapter 8 gives more details about the journey of Ezra and the band of exiles who went with him to Jerusalem. “Verses 1-14 list those who accompanied Ezra from Mesopotamia, including the descendants of 15 individuals. The figures of the men listed total 1,496, in addition to the individuals named. There were also a considerable number of women and children (v. 21). An additional group of about 40 Levites (vv. 18-19) and of 220 ‘temple servants’ (v. 20) are also listed” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, note on verse 1). The distinction “last sons of Adonikam” in verse 13 may indicate that these were following other family members who had returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel 80 years earlier (see 2:13).
The river of Ahava, the departure point, was probably a canal a short distance outside Babylon. “‘The canal that flows toward Ahava’ probably flowed into either the Euphrates or the Tigris (cf. the ‘River’ Kebar in Ezek 1:1, which was also a canal). [One scholar] suggests the modern Meem, classical Maschana or Scenae, on the right bank of the Tigris River, which was near the beginning of two caravan routes” (note on verse 15).
After camping there for three days, awaiting more arrivals, it was soon realized that there were no Levites (verse 15). A similar problem came up at the time of the first return. While more than 4,000 priests returned with Zerubbabel, only 341 Levites did, including singers and gatekeepers (2:36-42). Perhaps they reckoned the Levitical role as lacking in prestige as compared with the priestly office. And maybe, with settled lives in Babylon, they did not want to go embark on a life of service and hard work in a faraway, undeveloped land. Yet, as noted above, about 40 Levites did answer the recruiting efforts initiated by Ezra (verses 16-19).
In Ezra 8:21, Ezra proclaims a fast. There are some important principles here. The purpose of a fast is to “humble ourselves before our God”—not so that we can cajole Him into taking pity on us and answering our every wish, but so that we can realize our total dependence on Him and therefore be in a more appropriate frame of mind for receiving His blessings. As part of this mind frame, we will be more receptive to God’s will. That will help us “to seek from Him the right way for us.” When we face hard decisions about where to go or what to do or how to do what needs to be done, fasting is a way to help us see God’s direction. He can answer in a variety of ways—through circumstances, advice from others, direct inspiration or revelation through His Word, the Holy Bible, or even by direct intervention.
Ezra and those with him were in a serious predicament. Being waylaid by bandits and robbers was rather common in the ancient world. And yet Ezra had not asked the king for a military escort, as he felt it would have made his pious testimony to the king about the power and wrath of God seem phony (verse 22). Having fasted, however, Ezra says that God answered their prayers (verse 23). Whether this means that they received some confirmation of His protection is not clear. Perhaps they came across scriptural promises of protection during the fast. Perhaps God helped them to pick out a safer route. Then again, it may just refer to the fact that they made it to Judea without incident. Ezra does, however, specifically say that God delivered them “from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road” (verse 31). But whether actual ambushes were attempted and thwarted is not clear. Perhaps God kept any potential robbers from even thinking to ambush the returning exiles. This is quite remarkable when one considers all the treasure the company was transporting. “The 650 talents of silver weighed nearly 25 tons. The one hundred talents of gold weighed over three tons. These figures do not include the numerous other valuable objects of exquisite artistry” (Nelson Study Bible, note on verses 24-30). These sums equate to millions of dollars in today’s money.
The exiles departed from Babylon and gathered outside the city at the Ahava Canal on the first day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar (7:9). They remained there for 11 days, striking out on their long journey on the 12th day of the month (8:31). From that point it took them about three and a half months to reach Jerusalem, as they arrived on the first day of the fifth month (7:9). After resting for three days, the returned exiles deposited their treasure in the temple and then offered sacrifices (verses 32-35). Then, “the delivery of the royal orders to the regional governors (8:36) may have taken weeks or even months. Ezra did not just deliver the decree, he secured the support of the king’s satraps and governors” (note on 9:1).
We should realize that with this miniscule return of exiles, even added to those who had come in Zerubbabel’s day, the vast majority of the Jewish people remained in Babylonia or were scattered throughout the empire. More would come later with Nehemiah, but the vast majority of the Jews would still remain scattered. In historical fact, many more Jews have returned to the Holy Land over the past century than ever returned in ancient times. Yet even the modern return constitutes a minority of the world’s Jewish population. These small returns, while necessary to fulfill God’s scriptural prophecies, have not constituted the great return to the Promised Land prophesied in Scripture—in which all Judah and all Israel as well are to return with miraculous signs and wonders. This great event is yet future—to occur after Christ’s return. Nevertheless, we should view the small returns of ancient times as a tiny foretaste of what is to come—in the sense of a joyful reunion with God and true worship in His land after so long a time being gone.
The Problem of Intermarriage (Ezra 9)
After settling in and completing the business of securing the support of the regional governors (see 8:36-9:1), a shocking report is brought to Ezra. This was apparently about four and a half months after his and his company’s initial arrival on the first day of the fifth month (see 7:9), as the measures to deal with this issue are rather speedily announced on the 17th day of the ninth month (compare 10:8, 9).
Ezra is informed that the people, priests and Levites included, had entered into mixed marriages with the neighboring pagan peoples (9:1-2)—a direct violation of the law that God had given through Moses (see Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3). The law in this regard was intended to keep the covenant people distinct as a nation and to protect them and their children from being influenced into false religious concepts and practices.
While it is possible that some of the new arrivals could have been guilty, it seems unlikely that any of them would have entered into marriages with foreigners in just a few months’ time. More likely, the guilty were only of those Jews who already lived in the land when Ezra arrived. In stating that the transgressors were “of those who had been carried away captive,” Ezra must have meant they were the descendants of those who returned with Zerubbabel. Certainly those who already had children by these illegal marriages had to have been in these marriages prior to Ezra’s arrival.
It is pointed out to Ezra that the leaders and rulers of the people led the way in this transgression (Ezra 9:2). Leaders always have an opportunity to serve as examples for others to emulate—whether for good or ill. When those in such responsible positions are corrupted, they often lead others astray.
Specific motivations behind what happened are not given. “Humanly speaking there may have been reasons for such intermarriages, such as a disparity between the number of returning men and available Jewish women” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, note on verses 1-2). Yet it would have been far better to remain single, even if it meant living alone with no perpetuation of one’s family lineage, than to so flagrantly disobey God. The One who created marriage desires for people to experience its benefits, but only within the boundaries He has set. This is important for all of us to remember. Christians in the New Testament are instructed to not marry unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14; compare 1 Corinthians 7:39). This is for our own sake and that of any children we might produce—and that of the rest of the Church. Of course, many when they are first converted and become part of God’s Church are already married to a spouse who is not yet called of God—and in this case the apostle Paul instructs that the marriage be maintained if the unbeliever is willing to continue the marriage in fidelity and peace (see verses 12-16).
Ezra is utterly distraught at the news that has been brought to him, rending his garment in grief and even tearing out some of his own hair (Ezra 9:3)—a unique occurrence in Scripture, as shaving one’s hair is otherwise given as a symbol of shame. As others gather about him in dire concern, Ezra collapses into a fast of mourning, rising from it at the time of the evening sacrifice to pour out a confession of guilt to God. The next chapter reveals that he did this before the temple (see 10:1).
Verses 10-12 of chapter 9, while stated as if a single quotation from the law regarding the present sin, actually draw from many passages (see Deuteronomy 7:3-4; 11:8-9; 23:6; Proverbs 10:27; 13:22; 20:7; Isaiah 1:19).
Ezra ends his prayer with a declaration that God is righteous—and that the remnant of Israel is deserving of being wiped out (Ezra 9:13-15). Perhaps he was going to now ask that the people be led to repentance and for forgiveness but, as we will see in the next chapter, his prayer is cut short—for a good reason.
Covenant to Put Away Pagan Wives (Ezra 10)
As Ezra prayed and wept before the temple, a large assembly of the people gathered to join in his mourning and prayer to God. Just as corrupt leadership had led the people astray, so righteous leadership can lead others in the proper direction.
In verse 2 a certain Shechaniah remarkably observes that even though the people had grievously sinned, “yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this.” That is a true and wonderful message. It characterized the whole history of the nation. And it remains true for all who will today or in the future be part of the Israel of God, His chosen people. Despite our past sins, God will still work with us and ultimately deliver us. Yet that is contingent on our making a change in our lives. People must repent. And in verse 3, Shechaniah suggests a covenant with God to do just that—in this case, ending their illegal marriages.
Shechaniah is referred to as the son of Jehiel of the sons of Elam. “Possibly his father is the same Jehiel mentioned in vv. 21 and 26 as he also was of the family of Elam…. Perhaps Shecaniah was grieved that his father had married a non-Jewish mother. Six members of the clan of Elam were involved in intermarriages (v. 26)” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, note on verse 2).
Specifically, Shechaniah’s call is to put away their pagan wives and the children born to them. Shechaniah says, “Let it be done according to the law” (verse 3), evidently referring to the law of divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-2, where a man could divorce a wife if he found fault in her. In this case, the fault was evidently that the women were still pagans. Moreover, these marriages were illegal to start with. The sending away of the children with their mothers had a precedent in God telling Abraham to heed Sarah in sending Ishmael away with Hagar so that Ishmael and his lineage would not cause problems for the son of promise, Isaac, and his lineage (see Genesis 21:8-21).
Encouraged, Ezra has the leaders take an oath about putting away the foreign wives (Ezra 10:4-5). Yet he continues his fast (verse 6). In verses 7-8, a proclamation is issued demanding that all the Jews of Judea gather at Jerusalem within three days. “As the territory of Judah had been much reduced, the most distant inhabitants would not be more than fifty miles from Jerusalem. The borders were Bethel in the north, Beersheba in the south, Jericho in the east, and Ono in the west…. All could travel to Jerusalem ‘within three days'” (note on verse 8 ). Those who would not come would have their property confiscated and be expelled from the Jewish community. Emperor Artaxerxes had given Ezra the powers of confiscation and banishment along with other state powers—even capital punishment—in the decree he issued regarding the return (see 7:26).
Incidentally, some see “all Israel” in 10:5 and other such references to Israel as an indication that all 12 tribes of Israel had returned to the Promised Land. But verse 9 makes it clear that this referred only to “all the men of Judah and Benjamin” along with the Levites also mentioned in verse 5. These constituted the remnant of Israel—Israel, as mentioned earlier, being the name of the nation in covenant with God. While a small smattering of people descended from the northern tribes did live among the southern tribes, having been absorbed into Judah, the northern tribes, as tribes, remained scattered. They will not return to the Promised Land until the time of Christ’s return.
The 20th day of the ninth month (verse 9) would have been in December. So besides being rainy, it was also probably very cold—leaving the people shivering (on top of their trembling over the current situation). This created a problem in dealing with the matter at hand. The people, while in agreement with Ezra’s directive, recognized that it would take much more than a day or two to search out all the guilty and make sure all were sworn to putting away their pagan wives and children—and during this time the people who had traveled to Jerusalem couldn’t reasonably be expected to live and sleep outside in the cold and rain. So they requested that the investigation be organized by their officials and carried out in rotations (verses 12-14).
The opposition of the four men in verse 15 lends credibility to the account. That is, rather than a general statement that “everyone agreed,” we are specifically told of four who did not without any indication given as to why. It’s like the reading of a vote tally. As to the objections of these four, it should be noted that it is not clear exactly what they were objecting to—whether to the rotational investigation proposed by the people or the putting away of wives and children. Whatever it was, their objections apparently had no effect. The investigations by Ezra and the leaders proceeded (verse 16).
Interestingly, we are told that it took a few months to “question” the men who had married pagan women (verse 17). It seems that for a mere blanket decree of putting away foreign wives, a simple identification of each woman’s nationality would have sufficed and that this would not have taken so long. Perhaps there was a complicating factor. Some of these women may have converted to the Israelite religion, as with Ruth and Rahab. If so, the examination may have included determining if these women were indeed still pagan, and only those who still were would have to have been put away, along with their children who would have been adversely affected by their mothers.
Verses 18-44 list 113 men who had married pagan women. The Encyclopaedia Judaica comments that this is “an exceptionally small number in a community of some 30,000 persons. It is probably a truncated list, including representative names and pointing to the involvement of all classes, as the schematic arrangement may indicate. For the most part members of the upper classes are named, which also seems to reflect the genuineness of the list since they alone were in a position to contract such marriages and stood to benefit most from them” (quoted in Expositor’s, note on verse 44). On the other hand, it could have been a complete list—as the sins of a few could bring guilt on the whole nation (compare the sin of Achan in Joshua 7). Either way, it is worth noting that of the 113 listed, 17 are priests, 10 are Levites and 86 represent the rest of the nation. Thus, nearly 25 percent of those listed are religious leaders. What a sad state of affairs this was.
Presumably, all who were married to pagan wives gave their promise to put them away, though that is explicitly stated only about those listed first (see verses 18-19; compare verses 20-44). Yet whether or not all of them followed through on their promise is not even hinted at. It seems hard to believe that Ezra would have allowed this to continue on any kind of wide scale. But his hand may have been weakened over time. Indeed, around 25 years later Nehemiah would have to redress this problem once again.
We should not look at Ezra 10 as the conclusion of the book. For as mentioned in the Bible Reading Program’s introductory comments on this book, in the Hebrew canon Ezra and Nehemiah are reckoned together as one book. Yet before proceeding to Nehemiah 1, we will, after a supplementary reading, turn back a few chapters in the book of Ezra for the sake of following the apparent chronological order.
2 Corinthians 2
Reasons for the apostle not coming to Corinth. (1-4) Directions about restoring the repentant offender. (5-11) An account of his labours and success in spreading the gospel of Christ. (12-17)
The apostle desired to have a cheerful meeting with them; and he had written in confidence of their doing what was to their benefit and his comfort; and that therefore they would be glad to remove every cause of disquiet from him. We should always give pain unwillingly, even when duty requires that it must be given.
The apostle desires them to receive the person who had done wrong, again into their communion; for he was aware of his fault, and much afflicted under his punishment. Even sorrow for sin should not unfit for other duties, and drive to despair. Not only was there danger last Satan should get advantage, by tempting the penitent to hard thoughts of God and religion, and so drive him to despair; but against the churches and the ministers of Christ, by bringing an evil report upon believers as unforgiving; thus making divisions, and hindering the success of the ministry. In this, as in other things, wisdom is to be used, that the ministry may not be blamed for indulging sin on the one hand, or for too great severity towards sinners on the other hand. Satan has many plans to deceive, and knows how to make a bad use of our mistakes.
A believer’s triumphs are all in Christ. To him be the praise and glory of all, while the success of the gospel is a good reason for a believer’s joy and rejoicing. In ancient triumphs, abundance of perfumes and sweet odours were used; so the name and salvation of Jesus, as ointment poured out, was a sweet savour diffused in every place. Unto some, the gospel is a savour of death unto death. They reject it to their ruin. Unto others, the gospel is a savour of life unto life: as it quickened them at first when they were dead in trespasses and sins, so it makes them more lively, and will end in eternal life. Observe the awful impressions this matter made upon the apostle, and should also make upon us. The work is great, and of ourselves we have no strength at all; all our sufficiency is of God. But what we do in religion, unless it is done in sincerity, as in the sight of God, is not of God, does not come from him, and will not reach to him. May we carefully watch ourselves in this matter; and seek the testimony of our consciences, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, that as of sincerity, so speak we in Christ and of Christ.
2 Corinthians 3
The preference of the gospel to the law given by Moses. (1-11) The preaching of the apostle was suitable to the excellency and evidence of the gospel, through the power of the Set Apart Spirit. (12-18)
Even the appearance of self-praise and courting human applause, is painful to the humble and spiritual mind. Nothing is more delightful to faithful ministers, or more to their praise, than the success of their ministry, as shown in the spirits and lives of those among whom they labour. The law of Christ was written in their hearts, and the love of Christ shed abroad there. Nor was it written in tables of stone, as the law of God given to Moses, but on the fleshy (not fleshly, as fleshliness denotes sensuality) tables of the heart, Ezekiel 36:26. Their hearts were humbled and softened to receive this impression, by the new-creating power of the Holy Spirit. He ascribes all the glory to God. And remember, as our whole dependence is upon the Lord, so the whole glory belongs to him alone.
The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is happy, for the heart is set at liberty to run the ways of God’s commandments. They have light, and with open face they behold the glory of the Lord. Believers should prize and improve these privileges. We should not rest contented without knowing the transforming power of the gospel, by the working of the Spirit, bringing us to seek to be like the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and into union with Him. We behold Christ, as in the glass of his word; and as the reflection from a mirror causes the face to shine, the faces of believers shine also.