|Exiled Israel ....|
When the descendants of Jacob were enslaved in Egypt, the Almighty led his people out from bondage with powerful displays and wonderful miracles, eventually bringing them into the Promised Land. God had previously given that land to Abraham, Jacobís grandfather, as a place of inheritance for Abrahamís descendants. After the Hebrews won the land from its former occupants, they established themselves as the nation of Israel, reaching their national pinnacle under Solomon, son of King David.
After the reign of Solomon, the nation of Israel divided in a dispute over taxation. The Southern kingdom remained under the rule of Rehoboam, Solomonís son and descendant of Judah. For that reason it became known as Judah. The Northern Kingdom followed Jeroboam. Because ten of the twelve tribes comprised the Northern kingdom, it kept the national name of Israel. Jeroboam was a member of the tribe of Ephraim and the nation that he led was also called Ephraim. Later, it was called Samaria, after Omri built it as the capital city.
Jeroboam feared that his subjects would eventually return to Rehoboamís rule. Not only had the prophet Nathan promised David that one of his descendants would always reign over Israel (1 S 7:16; Jer 33:21), but Mosaic law required all Hebrews to sacrifice at the Temple at least once each year. Fearing that the yearly trip to Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, would gradually erode his political power, Jeroboam erected two golden calves as places for his citizens to sacrifice, placing one at Dan and the other at Bethel. This idolatrous act prompted many of his subjects to move to Judah where they could continue to practice true religion (2 Chr 11:16). This is why the Southern kingdom, Judah, included members of all the tribes of Israel.
Idolatry spread throughout the Northern kingdom of Israel. The Bible lays the guilt for their national sin on Jeroboam (1 K 14:16). Although God continually sent prophets to call the Israelites back to true religion, they preferred paganism. After all, the more faithful had already fled Israel for Judah. In time, idolatry become the national religion. Jezebel, King Ahabís wife, even ordered the deaths of all the prophets. Elijah was the only survivor, but was forced to flee the country to save his life. Israelís wickedness grew so great that God expelled them from the Promised Land.
In 721 BC, Assyria conquered Israel, the Northern kingdom, and exiled most of its citizens to areas around the Caspian Sea (2 K 17:6). They joined a smaller group of Israelites that the Assyrians had already deported in 744 BC (1 Chr 5:26). Ten years later, the Assyrians conquered much of Judah (2 K 18:13). While they did not conquer Jerusalem, the Talmud says that they captured many surrounding cities and banished over 200,000 Jews to the same area to which the Assyrians exiled Israel. As a result, descendants of all twelve tribes lived among the exiled Israelites as well as in Judah.
Once the Assyrians removed the Israelites from the Northern kingdom, they brought another group of conquered people into that vacant land. The new group took the name Samaritans and initially suffered disease and pestilence. The Assyrians assume that their sufferings were because the Samaritans did not worship the god of the land. They returned a few Israelites to the Northern kingdom to teach them about Jehovah and his ways. According to the Talmud, a century later, after Assyria had fallen as an empire, King Josiah sent Jeremiah to Scythia to invite all the Israelites to return to their homeland. A few responded. As a result, some Hebrews intermarried with the Samaritans.
Babylon conquered Judah, the Southern kingdom, in 598 BC, taking its more prominent citizens to Babylon. Ten years later, in 588, it destroyed Jerusalem and deported the entire Jewish nation to Babylon where they remained captive until Cyrus, king of Persia, overthrew that empire in 538 BC. During the Babylonian captivity, the Promised Land remained void of Hebrews, except for those sown among the Samaritans, who by that time had lost their national identity. After Cyrus conquered Babylon, he immediately issued a proclamation authorizing Ezra to lead the Hebrews back to Judah and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1). Ezra invited the Israelites that still lived around the Caspian Sea to return with him. Josephus states, "He sent a copy of it to all those of his own nation that were in Media. . . But then the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country" (Antiquity of the Jews; Bk 11, Ch 5, Sec 2). Israel refused the invitation and some migrated toward another country. The Apocrypha records, "They took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they might there keep their statutes, which they had never kept in their own land. And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow passage of river. For the most High then shewed signs for them, and held still the flood, till they were passed over. For through that country there was a great way to go, namely, a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth" (2 Esdras 13:41-45).
The specific group of Israelites that the Apocrypha said passed over the Euphrates is unknown. Many exiled Israelites migrated north through the Caucus mountains that run between the Black and Caspian Seas. Other Israelites traveled to the north side of the Caucus Mountains by traveling on the east side of the Caspian Sea. Gradually, those peopleís journeyed westward. Because they originated from the Caucus Mountains, their race is called Caucasian. One of their nations, Moesia, which means followers of Moses, was situated directly north of Greece on the west side of the Black Sea.
Most of exiled Israel remained outside Roman dominion. Josephus recorded that in his day (95 AD) "there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates til now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated" (Antiquity of the Jews; Bk 11, Ch 5, Sec 2). Exiled Israelís first immigrants, who migrated westward by a route on the north side of the Black Sea, were followed by most citizens of Scythia, a nation that was predominately composed of exiled Israelites. The descendants of many of these people formed most of the barbarian nations that invaded the Roman Empire in the second, third, and fourth centuries and eventually inhabited Northwestern Europe.
Not all Israelites traveled north of the Black Sea on their westward trek. For instance, the Cimmerians, Israelites who served in Assyriaís military, migrated across Turkey. Neither did these people migrate at the same time. While some began their journey to northwestern Europe long before Christ, others, especially those from Scythia, emigrated after the Saviorís birth.
The prophets foretold that Israel would migrate to the west. Jeremiah proclaimed, "I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity" (Jer 18:17). Hosea proclaimed, "Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind" (Hos 12:1). Since an east wind blows from east to west, that which an east wind scatters travels toward the west.
Elsewhere, the prophets revealed that the land to which Israel would be driven was unknown to them when they were in the Promised Land. Jeremiah said, "I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known" (Jer 9:16). Later, he explained, "Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night" (Jer 16:13).
The Bible shows that some places to which Israel was scattered were isles of the sea. Isaiah, while prophesying the gathering of Israel in the latter days, said that a remnant of Israel would come "from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea" (Is 11:11).
The isles of the sea form part of the land that God gave to the Israelites. While Abraham received areas in the Middle East for his descendants, part of whom are the Israelites, Jacob obtained additional places of inheritance. He told Joseph, "The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren" (Gen 49:26). Since Jacob was speaking to his son Joseph, the phrase "thy father" refers to Jacob. "My progenitors" means the forefathers of Jacob, who were Abraham and Isaac. Jacob told Joseph that Jacobís blessings were greater than the blessings of Abraham and Isaac, extending to "the utmost bound of the everlasting hills." Since the coastline bounds any hill or land mass rising above sea level, including the continents, one possible meaning of that phrase is "the coasts of the continents and isles of the sea."
One group of islands to which a portion of Israel migrated are the British Isles. Bede, the earliest Saxon historian, recorded that his ancestors came from the west side of the Black Sea, the very spot on which the nation of Moesia existed. Saxon literally means Isaacís sons and Angles, the name of the tribe that joined the Saxons in their invasion of England, comes from the Hebrew word Aegel, meaning bull-calf. The Bible calls Ephriam an aegel (Jer 31:18). In addition to the Angles and Saxons, the Scots are of Hebraic origin. They claim to be descended from Scotta, a descendant of Zarah, son of Judah, whose son married Tea-Tephi in Ireland. Tea-Tephi was a daughter of Zedikiah, last king of Judah, whom tradition says was brought to Ireland after the Babylonian conquest by Jeremiah. Other Hebrews populated southern England. Ancient tradition maintains that Anna, the mother of Mary, Jesusí mother, and brother of Joseph of Armathea, was a daughter of Amlood and kin to Aviragus, the British king who withstood the Roman Emperor Claudius.
Other Israelites settled on the coasts of Europe. Denmark was colonized by members of the tribe of Dan. The Goths were descendants of Gad. Scandinavia literally means Scyth-land, or land of the Scythians. The Parisi, a tribe in France and England, came from Peresh, son of Machir and grandson of Manasseh. Anciently, the Finns regarded themselves as part of the lost tribes of Israel.
While most Northwestern Europeans descended from Israelite stock, many Hebrews migrated to other parts of the world. Some traveled east and their descendants have been found in India and China. Others crossed the oceans and inhabited the New World. When Jacob blessed his son Joseph, he made this prediction: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall" (Gen 29:22). One kind of wall or barrier to nations and people is the sea. Isaiah revealed that some would transverse that barrier. He said, "They wandered through the wilderness; her branches are stretched out, they are gone over the sea" (Is 16:8). Hebrews migrated to America about the time of the Babylonian captivity. Their history has been divinely preserved in the Book of Mormon.
God scattered Israel to the isles so that in its wilderness they might find him and adopt his ways. Isaiah prophesied, "Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength" ([Isa 41:1). Jeremiah foretold, "Thus saith the Lord, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest" (Jer 31:2).
After remnants of Israel settled on the coasts of the European continent and in the isles of the sea, they heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. They formed many, if not most, of the countries that accepted and protected the Reformation. As a result, the grace contained in the Saviorís gospel lifted those Hebrew remnants from paganismís barbarism and superstition, placing them in heavenly places, instead.
The divine work of restoring Israel is not limited to just bringing its remnants to a knowledge of the Savior. God intends to physically gather them. He promised, "I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel" (Micah 2:12). Elsewhere he pledged, "Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock" (Jer 31: 10). The Bible teaches that God will raise a banner in the last days to which his people can assemble. Isaiah prophesied, "He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Is 11:12).
The place on which God said he would lift his ensign is America. Nathanís prophesy to King David said, "Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them anymore, as before time"(2 S 7:10). David ruled Israel; yet God promised another place for his people, a place from which they would never move again. Israel left the Promised Land and roamed to various places throughout the earth. They grew to such numbers that they could not physically fit in the amount of land they once occupied in the Middle East (Is 49:19). The place to which Nathan referred must be somewhere other than Palestine, perhaps among the isles in which Israel found rest.
Isaiah described the place of the ensign, saying, "He will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth (Is 5:26). The end of the earth, or other side of the earth from Palestine, is the American continent. The spot of the ensignís raising must be in the Western hemisphere. Isaiah provides more information when he prophesied, "Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia; that sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled! All ye inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye" (Isa 18:1-3). The Bible reveals that the land on which the latter-day ensign would be raised will display the wings of an eagle. The appearance of North and South America make the appearance of wings on the globe. More importantly, the national symbol of the United States of America is an eagle with outstretched wings. America is the site from which God raised his latter-day ensign.
Once the United States became a nation, God moved to restore the gospel of his son, Jesus Christ, in its pristine simplicity and glory. He established it as a beacon to scattered Israel, knowing that the preaching of his word would gather his people from the places of their exile and establish them on the land of freedom, from which they would never again be scattered. He called Joseph Smith and endowed him with sufficient heavenly power so that he could bring forth the latter-day work. In time, it will complete its assigned task. Israel will be gathered and purified; believers from every nationality and race will join the holy kingdom; and Jesus will descend to rule his people in peace and righteousness for one thousand years.