Israel and Judah: Two Sons who Became Enemies
The Becoming of Judah and Israel
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 of Israel and 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
There was a great dispute about the two men who were in positions 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 with Judah. 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.
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.
Both Israel and Judah had their own captivities. 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. They were also known as the “diaspora” or the “lost sheep of the House of Israel.”
Though this divide happened so long before the time of Yeshua, it was something very relevant to His day. On more than one occasion Yeshua brings up the tension between the two nations.
Yeshua Mentions the Two Houses
It happened several times, for example, when Yeshua interacted with the Samaritan woman. Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) brings it up also in the “Parable of the Good Samaritan.” Perhaps the most overlooked reference and teaching that Yeshua delivers on the two nations is in “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.”
This parable is most often taught as a call for an unbelieving family member to come back into relationship with the Father. But is this why Yeshua shared this parable? Could there be a deeper message from the Messiah 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 himself.
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 represents the firstborn, as the kingship rested with him. It was the lineage of the great king David, and king Solomon after 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” with other gods and foreigners. Doesn’t it sound like the younger son who committed many sins in a foreign land?
Biblical history shows us that Judah remained closer to the LORD and His ways, even though their hearts were far from Him. 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,” look at it in a different light. Think about how Yeshua was preparing the hearts of those around him, the Jews, to receive their brothers with gladness.
Yeshua’s death on the cross made a way for the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” to be brought back into relationship with the Father. They have been scattered and lost for a long time.
His death clothes them 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. Add to that protection (the sandals), and provision (the fatted calf). God’s desire is for Israel to return to His household, and for His other son to receive Israel with open arms.