The Kingdom Of Judah!
Now that we’ve followed what eventually happened to the descendants of Ephraim, let’s take a moment to understand what happened to the southern kingdom (the Kingdom of Judah), that other house or family of Israel.
Judah was NOT attacked by Assyria. They made a treaty with Assyria, instead, and paid tribute to Assyria in exchange for remaining a separate nation.
But, a little after 600 BC, some 130 years after the northern kingdom of Ephraim-Israel ceased to exist, Babylon became the new world power, and led by Nebuchadnezzar they did attack and conquered Judah.
Unlike what Assyria did to Ephraim-Israel, the Babylonians did NOT scatter the inhabitants of Judah. They did deport a large group of Jews up to Babylon, but they were NOT assimilated nor separated. They were generally allowed to stay together as a group and (this is key) maintain a separate culture.
Not only were the people of Judah allowed to stay separate, most WANTED to stay separate…another significant difference between them and Ephraim-Israel. Ephraim Israel was turned over to the gentiles because they WANTED to be like the gentiles, so God granted it. Judah did NOT desire to be like their gentile neighbors.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Jews taken off to Babylon, thousands more were left in Judah as caretakers of the land (these were peasants primarily), and simply because they had so little value to the Babylonians, it wasn’t worth the trouble to deport them to Babylon.
By the time of the Babylonian invasion of Judah, Judah consisted primarily of the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah. Most certainly we should include the Levites as well, and without doubt, tiny groups of other Israelite tribes also lived in Judah.
But, the presence of these other tribes was insignificant because their numbers were so small and their influence non-existent. It’s also important that we understand that not long after Judah was hauled off to Babylon, when Persian and then Greek influence would begin to spread after Babylon lost it’s grip on the Middle East, the people of Judah would start to be called Jews. Jews, as we know them today, are ONLY people who are from the former nation of Judah.
But, after Babylon, they view themselves as the remnant of all Israel, because to their view, the tribes forming Ephraim Israel were long gone.
To Be Continued…