English blog

Jews = Israelites

22-01-2013 - Posted by Andre Piet

Earlier I spoke at a meeting about Acts 26, and verse 7 also was mentioned in which Paul speaks of the promise…

to which our twelve-tribed people, earnestly offering divine service night and day, is expecting to attain.

I remarked that Paul spoke of the twelve tribes as a religious entity and knows not such a thing as “the ten lost tribes,” whose identity has become lost. There are many who claim that the Jews are only the representatives of two tribes. Now it is true that the name “Jew” refers to Judah. But why? The name “Jew” dates from the days of King Cyrus, who made the call go forth to “all kingdoms” that “whoever, in any way” belonged to God’s people, should go up “to Jerusalem in Judah” (Ezra 1:1-4). This call not only included the two tribes in Babylon, but also the ten tribes in Assyria (See: Ezra 6:22). Not quite fifty thousand people, at that time, responded to this call. They were mainly from the two tribes. Nevertheless, these returned people were officially called Israel (Ezra 6:17; 9:1, 10:5, etc.). They represented, explicitly, all the twelve tribes (Ezra 6:17). Due to Cyrus having assigned these Israelites the area of Judah, they received the name “Jews”, regardless from which tribe they had come. Even someone from the priestly family (> Cohen) and thus of the tribe of Levi, was therefore quite rightly called a Jew. It is for this reason not surprising that the term Jew in the NT is a synonym for Israelite. So, on the day of Pentecost, Peter directed himself to “Men! Jews!…”, whom he a little later addressed as “Men! Israelites!” (cf e.g. Acts 2:14, 22, see also 36). In a following weblog I will take a closer look at what happened to most of the Israelites who did not return from the exile.