The Song of Moses, Part 7, Divine reflections on Jezreel (God Scatters)
Aug 20, 2013
The section from Deuteronomy 32:26-33 is “D2” in the outline of the Song of Moses. It runs parallel to “D” in verse 20.
Whereas “D” was about Israel becoming Lo-ammi, “not My people,” the parallel section of “D2” is about Jezreel, “God scatters.” These names were two of Hosea’s children, who lived this prophecy found in the Song of Moses. It appears that in the Song, God was most concerned that men would not recognize the sovereignty of God, but would believe that Israel’s judgment upon Israel either random or the result of Assyria’s great strength and power.
Deuteronomy 32:26, 27 says,
26 I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces,
I will remove the memory of them from men,”
27 Had I not feared the provocation by the enemy,
Lest their adversaries should misjudge,
Lest they should say, “Our hand is triumphant,
And the Lord has not done all this.”
The main thrust of this is not so much that Israel was to be broken apart, or cut to pieces, but rather that men would take credit for doing it by their own power. This is what God “fears” most, Moses says. When he speaks of “the provocation of the enemy,” the word means “vexation or frustration.” The Hebrew word is kahas.
In other words, when Israel’s adversaries misjudge the situation and take credit for removing Israel into foreign lands, they cause God to be vexed and frustrated for not recognizing His sovereignty.
Israel’s scattering was on account of their refusal to obey the vow that they had made at Mount Horeb. In Deuteronomy 28 God pre-wrote history by prophesying that if they were disobedient, He would bring foreign nations to deport them into other lands. The Song of Moses was a final attempt to make men understand that God takes responsibility for this judgment. So God seems to fear being misjudged, as if He is not powerful enough to stop the Assyrians and their gods from conquering and scattering Israel.
In verse 26 God reveals two aspects of divine judgment that was to come. First, “I will cut them to pieces.” The Hebrew word is pa’ah, “to blow them away, as in scattering them with the wind.”
So many centuries later, when the rabbinic scholars translated this passage into Greek (the Septuagint), they translated it “I will scatter them.” This relates Israel’s judgment to the name of Hosea’s oldest son, Jezreel (Hosea 1:4), which means “God scatters.” Jezreel (Yiz-reh-al) is a homonym that sounds like Israel (Yis-ra-al). Yet Jezreel’s root word is zara, “seed,” while Israel’s root word is sara, “prince.” Jezreel represents Israel in the time that they are scattered as seed sown in a field.
The second aspect of divine judgment was, “I will remove the memory of them from men.” Not only were the Israelites to be scattered, but they were also to be forgotten. And so we find that when the Assyrians took the Israelites captive, they became the so-called “lost tribes of Israel.” The only group that remained to be remembered were the Judahites, or Judeans, or Jews.
Most of the people of Judah were deported to Assyria along with the tribes of Israel, for the Assyrian records on the Taylor Prism tell us that King Sennacherib took 46 walled cities of Judah along with their communities and deported those people to Assyria.
“Compared to this, the Taylor Prism proclaims that 46 walled cities and innumerable smaller settlements were conquered by the Assyrians, with 200,150 people, and livestock, being deported, and the conquered territory being dispersed among the three kings of the Philistines instead of being given back. Additionally, the Prism says that Sennacherib’s siege resulted in Hezekiah being shut up in Jerusalem ‘like a caged bird’.”
Although perhaps the majority of the people of Judah were deported to Assyria, the national entity known as the House of Judah remained in Jerusalem for another century. The nation resided with the king, and in this case King Hezekiah was not taken to Assyria. God destroyed the Assyrian army (185,000 troops) outside the walls of Jerusalem, as Scripture says (2 Kings 19:35).
The “nation,” as a political organization, resides with the king, not with the people, so even though the majority of the people were deported to Assyria, they did not take the “nation” with them. Hence, 2 Kings 17:18 says, “none was left except the tribe of Judah.”
The Israelites, on the other hand, were removed from the land. The name Israel was given to Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:16). The Ephraimite chief or leader specifically held the birthright of Joseph and the birthright name Israel. When he was taken to Assyria, the “tribe” of Ephraim and the nation of Israel itself was removed from the land and scattered in Assyria.
Not only were they scattered, but God caused their remembrance to cease so that they would become “lost sheep” (Jeremiah 50:6). Ezekiel 34 prophesies that God’s sheep were lost and scattered on every mountain (kingdom). By the law of lost sheep in Deuteronomy 22:1-3, the shepherds (“pastors”) were supposed to find and care for God’s lost sheep until He came to claim them. However, the prophet says, the shepherds abused the sheep and treated many of them as if they were their own (Ezekiel 34:4).
Other sheep remained “lost,” and because no man sought for them, God vowed to search for them and to find them (Ezekiel 34:11). Jesus claimed to be the One fulfilling this prophecy, for when He sent the disciples on their first mission trip, he instructed them in Matthew 10:6,
5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”], and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
It is likely that Jesus was sending them north to Parthia, which was the nation located in the old territory of Assyria. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, still knew where the majority of those Israelites were living, for as yet they had not been completely lost. He writes in his Antiquities of the Jews, XI, v, 2,
“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.”
If Josephus knew the location of the Israelites, it must have been somewhat common knowledge. Hence, Jesus needed no special revelation to send His disciples to Parthia. The Euphrates River was the traditional boundary between the Roman Empire and the Parthian Empire. The river’s source was in the mountains of Armenia in what is now eastern Turkey. The disciples’ mission trip was only the beginning of His search for those “lost sheep.” It was to be completed by the time of Christ’s second coming.
About two centuries later, when the Sasanian Dynasty of Persia rose up in 224 B.C., they conquered Parthia and pushed those Israelites further north into Europe all the way to the Baltic Sea. This was how the Anglo-Saxon confederation was formed. The word engle is Hebrew for “bull,” and Saxon was the Latin version of Sacae (Greek) or Saka (Persian), also known as the Beth-Sak, “house of Isaac.” When these people invaded the island of Britain, the nation came to be known as Engle Land, or England, nicknamed “John Bull.”
When the Western Roman Empire fell (476 A.D.), many records were lost, and education became the privilege of the few. As the ex-Israelites migrated into Europe under other names, their identity was lost, as both Moses and Hosea had prophesied. They truly became “lost sheep,” for they were both scattered and forgotten.
And yet, as Ezekiel 34 says, God’s lost sheep would be found at the end of the age. They would be regathered, along with many “others” (Isaiah 56:8). Jesus Christ would find them, and they would be regathered to Him, as “Christians” claimed Him as their King and rallied around Him (Hosea 1:11).
All of this was essentially a repeat of the story of Joseph. Joseph was “lost” in Egypt and presumed to be dead for many years. But as it turned out, he was lost in plain sight because Pharaoh gave him a new name, Zaphenath-paneah (Genesis 41:45), which appears to mean “hidden (lost) treasure.” Joseph was also given a wife, Asenath, who bore him two children. The first-born was Manasseh, whose name means “forgetfulness.” We read in Genesis 41:51,
51 And Joseph named the first-born Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
His name prophesied of his descendants (and all Israel) who were to forget their heritage and their connection to the biblical nation of Israel. In the end, however, Joseph revealed his identity became known, not only to his brothers, but also to Pharaoh himself (Genesis 45:4, 16).
The timing of the fulfillment of this revelation is seen when we study the two comings of Christ. His first coming was as Messiah ben-Judah in order that He might claim the throne rights of the His father David. The second time, however, He comes with his robe dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13) in order to identify Him with Joseph (Genesis 37:31). He comes as the Messiah ben-Joseph in order to claim the Birthright, which had been given to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:2). In this way, the breach between the Scepter and the Birthright is to be repaired, as prophesied in Ezekiel 37:17.
There are many details of Scripture and history that we must know in order to have a clear understanding of the divine plan. God gives us a very brief statement of intent in the Song of Moses when He tells us that God will scatter Israel and cause them to be forgotten. The prophets expound on this—Hosea and Ezekiel in particular—but in the end, we must study some history of the migrations of Israel that occurred after the fall of Assyria, if we are to understand the divine plan. Only then can we read the Song of Moses with any serious appreciation for what is revealed in it.
This is the seventh part of a series titled "The Song of Moses." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones