Israel and Judah: Difference Between the Two Kingdoms
When Judah and Israel Were One
When the people of Israel asked God for a king, the nation officially became a kingdom. But God warned them that it will come with its challenges.
In about the 10th century BCE something took place that dramatically affected the people of Israel and still affects them today. What was it? It was the great divide, which split the people into kingdoms of Israel and of Judah.
2 Kings 12:16-19 tells us:
“And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king,
‘What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.’
…So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.”
The Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah
In that day, there was a great dispute in Israel, the nation chosen by God, about who was to become king. Two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, did not agree with the proposed king of Israel, Rehoboam.
In result, they decided to forsake their inheritance. They became the southern Kingdom of Judah – also known as the House of Judah.
The northern 10 tribes remained one people group and kept the name of Israel. The once unified tribes of Jacob were now two nations. They were two houses, or two brothers if you will, that had become enemies.
The prophets wept over her fate. They were a people of God after all. But their pride and hunger for power took over.
Difference between Israel and Judah
We see throughout the rest of the Old Testament how these two nations fought with one another. They each became strong and independent and created two distinct lineages in history. Each had their own kings, and even their own prophets.
Sadly, also both Israel and Judah fell into captivity, although to different powers and at different times. God sent the Babylonians to capture the House of Judah, and He sent the Assyrians to conquer the House of Israel.
And while the Babylonian captivity of Judah lasted for a period of 70 years, Israel never fully came out of the Assyrian captivity. The Samaritans were considered half-breeds from the House of Israel. But many tribes were considered lost.
At first, they were known as the “diaspora”, which is a common name for the Jewish people who live away from their land. Eventually, the northern tribes became the “lost sheep of the House of Israel.”
Yeshua Mentions the Two Houses
Though this divide happened long centuries before Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) was born on earth, it was something very relevant to His day. On more than one occasion Yeshua brings up the tension between the two kingdoms.
It happened several times, for example, when Yeshua interacted with the Samaritan woman. Yeshua brings it up also in the “Parable of the Good Samaritan.”
But perhaps the most overlooked reference and teaching that Yeshua delivers on the two houses is in “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.”
The Father, the Prodigal Son and Brother
This parable is most often taught as a call for an unbelieving family member to come back into relationship with the Father. But could there be a deeper message in this story? Or another layer?
I would like to suggest that the Messiah also wanted to bring attention to the two “brotherly” nations.
In the parable, the younger son asks for his inheritance and departs from his father’s house. The elder son remains at home, yet he does not walk in perfect harmony with the father. Anger and bitterness settle within him.
Even when his brother comes home, the firstborn has an inward struggle to rejoice.
The Prodigal Brothers, Israel and Judah
The Southern Kingdom of Judah is like the firstborn, who never intended to abandon the father. The kingship rested with him. Judah carried the lineage of the great king David and king Solomon.
Biblical history shows us that Judah remained closer to the LORD and His ways, even though their hearts were far from Him. This lays out the Northern Kingdom of Israel to be the younger son.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us in great detail that neither Israel nor Judah were perfect. Both had evil in their hearts.
But it is Israel who first went out and “sold their wild oats”, chose other gods and foreigners. Doesn’t it sound like the younger son who committed many sins in a foreign land?
In His parable, Yeshua called those who surrounded Him to not be angry and stubborn of heart when their brother returned from his sin.
Reuniting the Family
Next time you read the Parable of the Prodigal Son, try looking at it in a different light. Consider the two brothers and their relationship. Think about how Yeshua was preparing the hearts of the Jewish people to receive their brothers with gladness.
The northern tribes have been scattered and lost for a long time. Yeshua’s death on the cross made a way also for the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” to be brought back into relationship with the Father.
God wants to reunite His chosen people. And Yeshua’s death clothes them once again in righteousness and gives them authority. Just like the best robe and the signet ring that the father gives to his son in the parable.
God’s desire is for Israel to return to His household, and for His other son to receive Israel with open arms.
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