Ephraimites: A Case of Stolen Identity
Titus 3: 8. Faithful is the Word: and in these things I would have you also establish them; so that they, who have believed in Elohim, may be careful to cultivate good works: these are the things which are good and profitable to men. 9. But foolish questions and stories of genealogies and the disputes and contests of the scribes, avoid: for there is no profit in them and they are vain. 10. An heretical man, after you have instructed him once and then again, avoid: 11. and know that such a man is perverse and sinful, and self-condemned.
A movement alternately known as the "Ephraimite," "Restoration of Israel," "Two-Covenant Israel," or "Two House" movement has been gaining much ground in Messianic circles. The erroneous "two-house" belief (started approximately 50 years ago) suggests all Christians who become Torah observant believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob automatically belong to the Tribe of Ephraim...and, using Ezekiel 37 (concerning two trees which become one in the hand of the Most High) as "proof", they have built an entire religion around this train of thought! Some have even gone so far as to place more emphasis on their supposed "tribe membership" than on the fact that through Y'shua we are all ONE in Messiah!
Somehow, it seems to have been overlooked that Ezekiel 37 is about the division of the HEBREWS (the 12 tribes of Israel, which includes Gentiles who have "crossed over" to accept YHWH as their God). It's got nothing to do with "Gentiles" all somehow "belonging" to the Tribe of Ephraim when they accept YHWH!
Many, if not most, proponents of this movement contend that members of the "born-again" segment of the Christian church are, in fact, actual blood descendants of the ancient Israelites who were exiled in the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 722 B.C.E. Their agenda is to "prove" that Christians are the northern tribes - which actually detracts from our Savior, Yeshua.
Originally, the Messianic Jewish "movement" was all about bringing Jews to faith in Messiah, nothing more. It was NOT about separating Jews from Gentiles in some sort of a hierarchy of faith. But lately, it has gained ground with myriads of Messianic teachers, who seem to have realized that giving Gentiles a tribal identity via "two house" is a very lucrative business venture.
So here's the problem with "two house": It is NOT biblical!
There is a difference between discussing the issue in scripture that Ephraim returns, and building an entire religious identity around it! The two-house issue is NON-CORE, non-salvation specific.
YHWH never said this issue was to build a separate religion, nor separate Messianic believers into "us and them!" (Jews and Ephraim.) It's not about being "Jews" or "Ephraim"! It's simply about YHWH and being obedient to HIM.
Who CARES what "tribe" we are from? YHWH knows which tribes everyone of us belongs to and we will enter through that particular gate when the times comes (Revelation 21:10 through 22:14). But to insist all Gentiles who become believers are automatically part of the "Northern Tribes" - and more specifically "Ephraim" - is absolutely ludicrous. Yet there are entire factions who believe this, and it's all they EVER talk about. But, where does Scripture tell us all Gentiles who come to YHWH are automatically part of Ephraim?
Both Hosea and Ezekiel were written at times of geographical separation of Israel, and both prophets prophesied an ultimate "rejoining" of the "two houses" (due to geographical separation) into one, united, holy Israel. Ezekiel 37:22 clearly states:
"They will no longer be two nations, and they will never again be divided into two kingdoms" and the earlier (by 100+ years) prophecy of Hosea says in 1:11 (2:2) "Then the people of Y'hudah and the people of Isra'el will be gathered together; they will appoint for themselves one leader; and they will go up out of the land; for that will be a great day..."
The point of both prophets seems to be the reunification of Israel from two geographically separated peoples, not identity-separated "nations". It makes no sense that anyone today would feel the need to establish and identify with a "separation" of Israel once again into "two houses" - something YHWH clearly is opposed to.
Both prophets, it seems, were keen on identifying that there is "one Israel"! Ezekiel even adds: "My servant David will be king over them, and all of them will have one shepherd; they will live by my rulings and keep and observe my regulations" (vs 37:24). This does not sound like Ezekiel is prophesying any identity as "separate houses" under one leader!
Notice that the period in Ezekiel is a prophecy of the end of the exile of Israel and the narrative is about people of Israel separated by geography, not so much identity. Notice also that verse 37:22 declares that "They will no longer be two nations, and they will never again be divided into two kingdoms." So, the point is that the separation is ultimately to be GONE.
Why then, in the late twentieth century, (where the idea originated), is this separation emphasized?
When Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) said "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26), he was talking about the godless gentiles who would be "grafted-in" should they choose to become Israel by accepting YHWH as their God. Shaul was not identifying gentiles as a separate "house" of Ephraim! All it takes is the individual's acceptance of the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob as their God, and they become Israel.
Therefore, there really is no need or justification to have an identity based on an ancient geographical separation.
MOVING ON, below are just a few of the many scriptures that show Ephraim was NOT among YHWH's favorites. Ephraim was driven so low that they at one point even tried to falsify their own identity - yet many insist Ephraim was one of the Twelve Tribes and that they will play an important part in the end times:
So, let's take a look at who comprised the Twelve Tribes - Notice Ephraim is nowhere to be found:
Genesis 36: 22 It was while Isra'el was living in that land that Re'uven went and slept with Bilhah his father's concubine, and Isra'el heard about it. Ya'akov had twelve sons. 23 The sons of Le'ah were Re'uven Ya'akov's firstborn, Shim'on, Levi, Y'hudah, vYissakhar and Z'vulun. 24 The sons of Rachel were Yosef and Binyamin. 25 The sons of Bilhah Rachel's slave-girl were Dan and Naftali. 26 And the sons of Zilpah Le'ah's slave-girl were Gad and Asher. These were Ya'akov's sons, born to him in Paddan-Aram.
Isaiah 28: 1 Woe to the haughty crown of Efrayim's drunks, to the fading flower of its proud splendor, located at the head of the rich valley belonging to people overcome by wine! 2 Adonai has someone strong and powerful. He comes like a hailstorm, a destructive tempest, like a flood of water, rushing, overwhelming; with his hand he hurls them to the ground. 3 The haughty crown of Efrayim's drunks is trampled underfoot; 4 and the fading flower of its proud splendor, located at the head of the rich valley, is like the first ripe fig of summer whoever sees it picks and eats it. 5 On that day, ADONAI-Tzva'ot will be a glorious crown, a brilliant diadem for the remnant of his people. 6 He will also be a spirit of justice for whoever sits as a judge, and a source of strength for those repelling enemy attacks at the gate. 7 But there are others reeling from wine, staggering about because of strong liquor; cohen and prophet reel from strong liquor, they are confused by wine. Led astray by strong liquor, they err in their visions and stumble when judging. 8 All tables are covered with vomit and feces, not a single place is clean.
Judges 12: 1 The men of Efrayim assembled, crossed into Tzafon and said to Yiftach, "Why didn't you call us to go with you when you went over to fight the people of 'Amon? We're ready to burn down your house with you in it!" 2 Yiftach answered, "When my people and I were in a serious dispute with the people of 'Amon, I called you; and you didn't rescue me from their power. 3 When I saw that you weren't rescuing me, I put my life in my own hands and went over to attack the people of 'Amon; and ADONAI gave them over into my power. So why have you come up today to fight me?" 4 Then Yiftach gathered together all the men of Gil'ad and fought with Efrayim, and the men of Gil'ad defeated Efrayim; because they were saying, "You Gil'ad men who live in Efrayim and M'nasheh have deserted Efrayim!" 5 The men of Gil'ad cut off Efrayim from the crossings over the Yarden, and whenever anyone from Efrayim tried to escape and said, "Let me go across," the men of Gil'ad would ask him, "Are you from Efrayim?" and if he said, "No," 6 they would tell him to say "Shibbolet." If he said, "Sibbolet," because he could not make his mouth pronounce it right, they took hold of him and killed him on the spot at the Yarden crossing; at that time 42,000 men of Efrayim died.
The concept of the Olive Tree which is put forth by Rabbi Shaul (Apostle Paul) is one such metaphor that has been pushed by some further than its intention, and from which has come great grief in the Messianic movement. The error is found in the attempt to bring together the prophecy of Ezekiel 37 (concerning two trees which become one in the hand of the Most High) with Romans 11:17,18. Whereas Romans talks about branches coming from another tree and being grafted in to an established tree, Ezekiel is talking about two separate but equal trees becoming one tree. In the case of Shaul, he is speaking of people coming and joining other people: Gentiles joining Jews in the Torah of Messiah. Whereas, Ezekiel sees the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel coming under the authority of Messiah.
Shaul is talking about a spiritual union of faith, while Ezekiel is plainly talking about a union of physical kingdoms. Shaul is saying that the wild branches have to leave their tree and join the tree the natural ones are in. The natural ones are the righteous Jews. Some of them who are cut off from the natural are also able to be grafted in from off the ground where they have been cut off. Therefore, Shaul in Romans 11 is emphasizing the importance of the spiritual flow of bearing good fruit by being grafted into the spiritual tree which God intended, and that this comes from trust in Messiah Yeshua and obedience to His Torah. That is his only meaning to the metaphor.
In Ezekiel 37 the two trees are indicative of fully realized physical Israel, Ephraim and Judah and their associated tribes. In Romans 11, the wild branches come away from the wild and enter the natural. It is the Gentiles (wild in sin) becoming aware of the natural (Torah obedient Israel) through the knowledge of Messiah, thereby joining with the stream of life available to Israel. That part of Israel (the Jews) which does not take to the Torah through Messiah is cast off, with the possibility of returning to the Olive Tree.
There is no reason to think that Ezekiel 37 and Romans 11 are speaking of the same metaphor. For, if the wild are Ephraim and the Jews are the natural, then Romans 11 is saying that righteous Ephraim must leave Ephraim and join Judah. Ephraim then is no more. Under that scenario Ephraim is bad and Judah is good, and that just is not the case.
So, the "Two-House movement" has accomplished what?
(1) Division among Messianic believers.
(2) Falsely concentrated on the idea that there are "10 lost tribes." The Bible tells us there were 12 tribes, not ten; and YHWH knows where each one is!
(3) Ignored the idea that Ephraim, the son of Joseph's pagan Egyptian wife, was a rebellious "bad guy" full of idolatry; not a tribe that was destined to be a great people.
(4) Totally downplayed the fact that we are ONE in Messiah (Ephesians 2:15); that in Messiah there is no Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free (Galatians 3:28).
Do you see anywhere in the following passage that suggests Ephraim has any significance upon Yeshua's return?
Revelation 7: 4. And I heard the number of them that were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed from every tribe of Israelites. 5. Of the tribe of Yehuda, twelve thousand were sealed: of the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand: of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand: 6. of the tribe of Ashur, twelve thousand: of the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand: of the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand: 7. of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand: of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand: of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand: 8. of the tribe of Zebulon, twelve thousand: of the tribe of Yosip, twelve thousand: of the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand. 9. And after these things, I looked, and lo, a great multitude which no one could number, from all kindreds and nations and tribes and tongues; who stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands; 10. and they cried with a loud voice, saying: Salvation to our Elohim, to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.
The "Ephraimite" movement has taken root out of prejudice and jealousy, it is not only divisive but it is taking a Name and Identity from others which is not rightfully to be taken. If one identifies himself as a Christian, Messianic, Netzarim, Believer, a Jew, Follower, Disciple, Talmid, a Spiritual Israelite, or someone with a Jewish Heart, Heart of a Jew, or Hebrew heart, they do so by their Faith. Anyone can choose to be a Jew, a Christian, a Netzari, a Believer etc, but to call oneself "Ephraim" without evidence to prove it, is by material point of law, theft.
Those who claim to be "Ephraimites" are also claiming to be a portion above their brethren, although a very small percentage of people having a love for Yeshua, Torah, Israel, the Jewish People, Hebrew, Aramaic etc claim to have any blood connection to Israel. "Ephraimitism" is an unsanctified division within the Body of Mashiyach and causing divisions within friends, families, and congregations. Most individuals are interested to grow their Faith in Yeshua and Torah, instead of being sold "Ephraimite" theories and "Lost Tribe" propaganda at Holy Convocations. It is wrong to hold meetings in the name of "Two Houses" and spend the majority of efforts and discussion around this motif, there are much more vital and important matters at hand. Prophetic passages in the Tanakh and Ketuvim Netzarim direct us to grow in HaMashiyach and go out and make Talmidim, thus creating the bond of Unity, we are not to focus on political and genealogical theorem.
...The fact of the matter is that Ephraim was very disobedient to YHWH and as a Tribe they never had such great military exploits as other Tribes, neither did they become the largest in number, far from it. Scriptures indicate that Ephraim let Canaanites dwell in their territories, the Canaanite idolatry rapidly brought Ephraim down physically and spiritually. To teach that Ephraim, irregardless of their crass rebellion to YHWH became or will become a great people, is antithetical to Scripture.
Following is some food for thought for those who insist on dwelling on the "two-house" issue:
Traditionally it is said that 10 of the 12 Tribes of Israel are lost among the heathen/nations of the world. The question remains, if all 10 are lost, then how do we define or how are supposed to understand scriptures such as the following:
Luke 2: 36. Then there was Kanna the prophetess a daughter of Peniel from the tribe of Asher; she was also advanced in her days. (AENT)
Wouldn't Asher be one of the 10 "lost" tribes - yet this scripture says that Kanna was of this tribe....
Matthew 4: 13. And he left Nasrath and came (and) dwelt in Capurnakhum on the side of the sea by the border of Zebulon and of Naptali. 14. That might be fulfilled the thing that was spoken through Yesha'yahu the prophet who said, 15. "The land of Zebulon the land of Naptali (by) the way of the sea the crossings of the Yordanan Galeela of the nations. 16. Who sit the people in darkness have seen a great light, and those that sit in the land and the shadow of death, a light has appeared to them." (AENT)
Aren't Zebulon and Naptali both tribes of Israel? Though this scripture speaks of the LAND more so than the people of these tribes, is it safer to say that if the land was still there, that there were people of those tribes that lived there in the days when Yeshua walked the earth?
Matthew 15: 24. But he answered and said to them, Have I not been sent except to the sheep, which went astray from the House of Israel? (AENT)
Wouldn't the lost sheep of Israel be the 10 "lost" tribes of Israel? But, if Yeshua was only sent to them, wouldn't that mean that both He and His Apostles knew who and where they were since He said unto his Apostles:
Matthew 10: . 5. Y'shua sent these twelve and commanded them and said, Do not go by the way of the heathen, and do not enter the cities of the Samaritans. 6. But you go, rather, to the sheep that are lost from the house of Israel. (AENT)
And lastly, did YHWH not make His New Covenant with the Torah observant House of Israel and House of Judah? Where was Ephraim mentioned?
Jeremiah 31: 31 "Here, the days are coming," says ADONAI, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Isra'el and with the house of Y'hudah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day I took them by their hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt; because they, for their part, violated my covenant, even though I, for my part, was a husband to them," says ADONAI. 33 "For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days," says ADONAI: "I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, 'Know ADONAI'; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickednesses and remember their sins no more."
Another important fact to consider in trying to sort out the "two house" nonsense:
Consider the story of the scouts in Numbers 13-14. Note Numbers 13:6-7 tells us that Kalev is the son of Y'funeh; and yet when it came to being chosen, he was the one chosen from the tribe of Y'hudah (Judah).
In Numbers 32:12 we are told that no one would get to enter the Promised Land, except for Kalev son of Y'funeh the K'nizi and Y'hoshua son of Nun, for they followed YHWH wholeheartedly.
Numbers 32: 10 ADONAI's anger blazed up on that day; and he swore, 11 'None of the people aged twenty or more who came out of Egypt will see the land I swore to Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya'akov; because they haven't followed me unreservedly - 12 except Kalev the son of Y'funeh the K'nizi and Y'hoshua the son of Nun, because they have followed ADONAI unreservedly.' 13 Thus ADONAI's anger blazed against Isra'el, so that he made them wander here and there in the desert forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of ADONAI had died out. (CJB)
Note Kalev's father was a K'nizi - a GENTILE. Backing up a bit to Genesis 36, we see this:
Genesis 36: 9 This is the genealogy of 'Esav the father of Edom in the hill-country of Se'ir. 10 The names of 'Esav's sons were Elifaz, son of 'Adah the wife of 'Esav, and Re'u'el the son of Basmat the wife of 'Esav. 11 The sons of Elifaz were Teman, Omar, Tzefo, Ga'tam and K'naz.
So we see, Kalev was a descendant of Esau. Through Kalev, Esau's family will have restored the birthright he sold to Israel. In so doing, both the Israelites and the Edomites - the Jews and the Gentiles - will receive the land, because after Kalev and Y'hoshua are the only two of the scouts to stand in support of YHWH, and Kalev was most vociferous. YHWH says:
Numbers 14: 24 But my servant Kalev, because he had a different Spirit with him and has fully followed me - him I will bring into the land he entered, and it will belong to his descendants.
ONE HOUSE - because Kalev was not only a Gentile, but he was also the Jew...a leader from the tribe of Judah! Although it was specifically written in Torah, Kalev was obviously at some point circumcised so he could and would be covered under the covenant. And the Gentiles who believe (as he did) wholeheartedly in YHWH, will be justly rewarded....
In the meantime we must also keep in mind that Hebron is where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca are buried, and where David would ultimately be crowned king to start the lineage of the Eternal Kingdom.
The two tribes - Judah and Ephraim - were the tribes of Y'hoshua and Kalev...But note that the tribe that walked away was the tribe from which Y'hoshua came. In other words, it is not the Gentiles, but the Israelites who walked away, as they walked away from Y'shua, despite their lineage tracing them back to Yhoshua, without whom, they would not have had the land! Meanwhile, the Jews were led by the pagan who chose to believe. So the Gentiles come from this tribe...the apostates are represented by Ephraim; not the Jews!
YHWH has given us all brains with which to read, study and comprehend, and fortunately, there is a growing new breed of Ephraimites - "spiritual Ephraimites" who are secure in their ethnic identities and much more interested in their identity in Mashiyach and His Government than a blood identity as "Ephraimites" or Judah.
The difference between an "identity" Ephraimite and a "spiritual" Ephraimite is night and day. The former is religious (seducing Christians into observing Torah because of some imaginary bloodline identity); and the latter is Faithful. The former have arrived at a new religious fad where they can beat down the Jews and Christians with their cutting edge theology and how to keep the calendar and say the Name of YHWH. The latter are yearning for YHWH and His Government and have a spirit of reconciliation and ministry. The Spiritual Ephraimite is confident in being a Fearer of Elohim, and in his or her own right as Torah observant followers of Y'shua, whether Black or White, Spanish, French, German, Asian, Indian, American, Auzzie, Arab, Israelis or whoever are able to recognize the "one new man" which is a cliche' for some, but a spiritual reality for many others.
Ephraimite, or "Two House" movement is in error for the following reasons:
- flawed, unwarranted, and dangerous interpretation of scripture
- inconsistent logic and contradictions
- racist and race-based theology
- theology that functions in the same way as supersessionism
- historically inaccurate depictions of Israel
- dangerous, false, and militant claims to the land which threaten the stability of the current State of Israel