The Myth of British Israelism
By Albert Emanuel
Author's note: Numerous websites are perpetuating the myth of British-Israelism and pseudo-historians like Steven Collins are creating fictional accounts of ancient Israelite empires. Adherents of British-Israelism believe that Britain and the United States of America are two of the lost tribes of Israel and that other western European nations constitute the remainder of the lost tribes. But the theory of British-Israelism has been completely disproven. The evidence is overwhelming the Britain and the United States are not the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. The myth of the lost tribes deserves a proper burial. The ten tribes were never lost and Josephus the Jewish historian identified their location. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a letter to the so-called lost tribes of Israel. Descendants of the ten tribes were present in Jerusalem during the time of Christ and, with the descendants of Judah, constituted the nation of Israel. Jesus preached the gospel to the ten tribes that were located in the land of Palestine. The Bible shows that the House of Israel and the House of Judah were reunited after the Babylonian captivity and returned to Palestine under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. This article was written to dispel the myth of British-Israelism and demonstrate that the promises to ancient Israel were completely fulfilled. This has important ramifications in the field of eschatology. If the promises to ancient Israel were fulfilled, then we need not look for a present or future fulfillment. This would counter the claims of Dispensationalists and Christian Zionists.
Many have claimed the distinction of having discovered the lost tribes of Israel. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the new world, he thought he had found lost Israel. Joseph Smith was supposed to have received divine revelation on the identity of lost Israel. According to one estimate, there are twenty-seven lost tribe theories. The Indians of America, the Kaffirs of South Africa, the Subbotniki of Russia, the Moussai of Persia, the Shindai of Japan, the Karens of Burma, are all people who have enjoyed the distinction of being called the lost tribes of Israel.
The supposed Father of British-Israelism was the noted Protestant apologist Dr. Abadie of Amsterdam who wrote in 1734 that "unless the ten tribes have flown into the air, or have plunged into the center of the earth, they must be sought for in the north and west, and in the British Isles" (quoted from World Prospects by Dr. A.C. Gaebelein). British-Israelism owes much of its success to Richard Brothers (1757-1824), a half-pay officer in the British navy. He was eventually confined to a mental institution. The theory spread to America and flourished in many Protestant churches. But eventually British-Israelism began to wane. Roger Chambers tell us that "the key was quietly retired when the purported truth it unlocked proved to be historical foolishness".
It is difficult to counter the myth of British-Israelism because as Roger Chamber explains, "British-Israelism is a theological sponge. Its methodology, not being seriously encumbered with the facts, renders it so flexible that when evidence becomes obvious which seems to refute or embarrass it, it simply exercises its syncretistic system, absorbs the contrary evidence, and declares that both are true".
I hope to present a solid case against British-Israelism and counter the Dispensational belief that physical Israel remains entitled to the promised land.
CHAPTER 1 THE PROMISES MADE UNTO ABRAHAM
CHAPTER 2 THE CAPTIVITY OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
CHAPTER 3 THE CAPTIVITY OF JUDAH
CHAPTER 4 THE REMNANT OF ISRAEL RETURNS TO JERUSALEM
CHAPTER 5 IRISH MYTHS AND BRITISH TALES
CONCLUSION QUOTES FROM AUTHORITIES ON BRITISH-ISRAELISM
THE PROMISES MADE UNTO ABRAHAM
Unto Abraham and his seed were made specific promises. His seed would become a "great nation" (Gen.12:12). They were to be given "all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession" (Gen.17:8). The
territorial limits were "from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen.15:18). God
promised that He would multiply Abraham's seed "as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is upon the sea shore" (Gen.22:17). This verse also says that they would "possess the gates" of their enemies. The covenant promise would be established with Isaac (Gen.17:21). God told Abraham that "in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Gen.21:12). But before these promises would be fulfilled, the seed of Abraham "shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and shall afflict them four hundred years" (Gen.15:13).
The promises were passed on to Jacob via the birthright. Canaan was to be given to the seed of Israel
(Gen.28:4). God said that they "shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to
the south" (Gen.28:14). This prophecy seemed to indicate a worldwide dispersion of Israel's children. God
would keep them in the places where they went and would bring them again into the land of Canaan
(Gen.28:15). Obedience to God was a requisite in keeping possession of the promised land. If Israel failed
to do so, God would scatter them among the nations and they would be left few in number (Duet.4:27).
Amos relates that God would "sift the House of Israel among all nations, like as corn sifted in a sieve, yet
shall not the least grain fall upon the earth" (Amos 9:9).
Jacob was told to "be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be out of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins" (Gen.35:11). Other more specific promises were made to Joseph's sons. Manasseh would become a people and also be great; but his younger brother Ephraim would be greater and his seed would become a multitude of nations (Gen.48:19). This brief summary of the promises made unto Abraham and his seed follows the progression of inheritance outlined in the book of Genesis. Scripture clearly records how and when these promises came to fruition.
Abraham's seed would become a great nation after they went down to Egypt. God told Israel to "fear not to go down into Egypt, for I will there make of thee a great nation (Gen.46:3). After the exodus out of Egypt and forty years wandering in the wilderness, the real estate of Canaan was given unto the seed of Israel. Moses spoke of this in his farewell address. "Behold I have set the land before you: go and possess the land which the Lord swore unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and their seed (Duet 1:8). Joshua declared the promises to be fulfilled. "And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which He swore to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein" (Josh.21:43). We read in verse 45 that "there failed not aught of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the House of Israel, all came to pass". Nehemiah confirmed this. He said that God made a covenant with Abraham "to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, the Girgashites, to give it, I say to his seed, and has performed thy word, for thou art righteous" (Neh.9:7,8).
During the days of David and Solomon, Israel possessed the larger land of Canaan "from the river of Egypt, unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen.17:18). Proof of this is evident in scripture. We read in II Samuel 8:3 that David "went to recover his border at the river Euphrates". And it is recorded in the book of Kings that Solomon reigned over all the kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt" (I Kings:4:21,24,25). The biblical record shows that the land promise in it's entirety has been kept. But retaining the inheritance was conditional. Israel's failure to obey the covenant would result in removal from the promised land. "Therefore, it shall come to pass that as all good things are come upon you, which the Lord your God promised you, so shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things, until He has destroyed you from off this good land" (Josh.23:15,16).
Anton Darms comments that "there is no indication...of any great increase after the dispossession of their land, and it is definitely declared that they would be left 'few in number among the nations'. Not even a hint is to be found in the book of Dueteronomy to the effect that Israel outside of Palestine was to become a great nation, but on the other hand it teaches explicitly that Israel outside the promised land would suffer untold hardship and persecution". Moses said that Israel's disobedience would make them "for a removing into all the kingdoms of the earth" (Duet.28:25). They would become "an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword among all nations" (Duet.28:25). Israel would be scattered "among all people, from one end of the earth, even unto the other" (Duet.28:64).
The promise of numerous seed, as recorded in Genesis 22:17, was fulfilled in ancient Israel. Moses said
that "the Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold you are this day as the stars of heaven for
multitude" (Duet.1:10). Solomon remarked that Israel was "like the dust of the earth in multitude" (II Chron.1:9). Isaiah quotes God as saying "thy seed (Israel) has been as the sand" (Isa.48:19). The bible application of size to nations will be the criteria for interpreting the promises of Genesis 17:4, which states that Abraham would become "the father of many nations". The word "nations" in Genesis 17:4 and Dueteronomy 11:23 is the same. A nation the size of the Canaanites or the Hittites could satisfy the requirement of Genesis 17:4. Harry Lowe comments that "the promise to Abraham of fathering many nations was fulfilled through the Semitic tribes and nations such as the Arabic tribes through Ishmael (Gen.21:13-18), the Midianites through Keturah (Gen.25:1-4), and the Edomites through Esau (Gen.36:1-19), beside the Israelites through Jacob".
Genesis 22:18 states that Abraham's seed would "possess the gates of his enemies". This promise was
reiterated in Genesis 24:60, stating more specifically that Rebekah's children would possess these gates.
Notice that "sea gates" are not even mentioned. Other translators call the gates "cities of their enemies".
The expression "gates of his enemies" refers to city gates that existed in those days. There is no other
possible meaning. Ample proof of this assertion will be provided. In Dueteronomy 28:52, we read that "he
shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until they high and fenced wall come down, wherein thou trusted...and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all the land". Whenever the word "gates" is used in scripture, it never even hints of sea gates. It always refers to city gates or the gates of a building. The nations in the promised land were Israel's enemies and when they were conquered, Israel possessed their gates. The burden of proof rests with adherents of British-Israelism to show that "gates" refers to sea gates.
It was previously mentioned that Genesis 28:13-14 refers to a worldwide dispersion of Israel. While the
context might suggest this, it is safer to contain the movement within the promised land. It specifically refers to "the land wherein thou liest" as being the geographical limits of the dispersion. This doesn't negate the fact that Israel would be scattered among all nations. It merely keeps us within the limits of this specific promise. Keep in mind that it doesn't say "the globe whereon thou liest". Israel spread to the four corners of the promised land. Some would quote Paul as saying Abraham "should be heir of the world" to prove that Israel would spread around the earth. This is clearly a misuse of scripture. This promise to Abraham was not realized in his physical descendants but in his spiritual seed through faith in Christ (Gal.3:29). We read in Romans 4:13 that "the promise that he should be heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith".
Genesis 21:12 tells us that "in Isaac shall thy seed be called". The apostle Paul quotes this verse and
interprets it saying "this is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but
the children of promise are counted for the seed" (Rom.9:8). Notice that he doesn't say that the house of
Israel would be called "saxons". Genesis 21:12 does not indicate that the seed of Abraham would be called "Isaac". It states that they would be called "in Isaac", that is, through the genealogical line of Isaac. Paul elaborates on this by saying that the spiritual seed, not fleshly Israel, would be called in or through Isaac. Advocates of British-Israelism conveniently drop the "I" from Isaac in order to get "saxons". But the Hebrew word "Isaac" is "Yishag". "Y" is the letter "yod", which, when standing at the beginning of a word, is a consonant. The expression "son of Isaac" in the Hebrew language would be "ben Yishag". Thus, there is no connection with the word "saxons".
We read in Genesis 35:11 that Jacob was told to "be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee". This verse reads somewhat different in the Hebrew. "A fruitful and great nation and an assembly of nations will be from you", or alternately, "a fruitful and great nation (people), (yea) even an assembly of nations" (people). Arvidson comments that "the second method of translation is very strong because the Hebrew is poetic and supports the parallelism. It is not two separate things but the intensification of one thing". Compare Genesis 35:11 with Genesis 28:3. God said He would make Jacob fruitful and multiply him that he would be a multitude of people. This supports the alternative translation. The Hebrew word for "company" is derived from "Ughal", which means "to assemble or gather together". It is also used for "congregation" as in "congregation of Israel". Thus, the expression "a nation and a company of nations" does not imply separate nations. It refers to the same nation but with greater intensity. Proponents of British-Israelism often cite this scripture to bolster their argument that some of the tribes of Israel would become individual nations outside of the land of Palestine.
The fulfillment of Genesis 35:11 took place in old testament Israel. I Kings 11-13 records the division. Israel, prior to this event, was the "nation" or "people" spoken of, and when the split occurred, the house of Israel became the assembly of peoples. The leader of this company was an Ephraimite named Jeroboam. Solomon had previously made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph (I Kings.11:28). Ephraim become the dominant tribe and representative of the ten tribes (Hosea 5-6). Genesis 48:16 informs us that Manasseh and Ephraim would grow together into a multitude in the midst of the earth. Verse 19 of the same chapter states that they both would become "great", Ephraim being the greater. Joshua witnessed to its fulfillment. "And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and Manasseh saying, thou art a great people" (Josh.17:17). The greatness of the sons of Joseph was realized in the land of Canaan and did not require a future fulfillment outside of the promised land.
Joseph's birthright promise was satisfied in the promised land. Genesis 48:22 shows that his descendants would be given one portion above the other tribes when Canaan was divided up. Dueteronomy 33:17 tells us that in Moses day, Ephraim was already a "multitude of peoples", and that Manasseh was "a great people". Hence the expression "they are the ten thousands of Ephraim and the thousands of Manasseh". This is the fulfillment of Genesis 49:22, where Joseph is said to be "a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall".
In Dueteronomy 33.13-17), Moses confers a blessing upon Joseph's seed. The JFB commentary states that "the territory of the tribe, diversified by hill and dale, wood and water, would be rich in all the productions , olives, grapes, figs, etc., which are reared in the mountainous region as well as in grain and herbs that grow in the level fields". Moses said that Joseph's "glory is like the firstling of a bullock, and his horns are like the horns of a unicorn: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth". Joshua, an Ephraimite, (Num.13) under the emblem of the bullock and the unicorn triumphed over the enemies of Israel. With the leading armies of Ephraim and Manasseh, he pushed forward to take the land of Canaan and drive out its inhabitants.
Some are puzzled by Genesis 49:24, which states that "from hence", that is, from that time forward, "the
shepherd, the stone of Israel" would be with Joseph's seed. Or alternatively, from hence, that is, from the
shepherd, the stone of Israel, Joseph would receive strength and blessings. This is evident from the verse itself. The arms of Joseph's hands were made strong by the God of Jacob and the blessings were also given by Him. It seems apparent that the stone of Israel refers to Christ. Paul wrote of a "spiritual rock that went with them (Israel), and that rock was Christ (I Cor.10:4). We read in Psalm 80:1 that "the shepherd of Israel would lead Joseph like a flock". One of Joseph's sons, an Ephraimite named Joshua, is shown to be a type of Christ (Zech.3:6). He was put in charge of Israel that "they be not as a sheep which have no shepherd" (Num.28:17). After Moses death, Joshua, a type of Israel's shepherd, led the seed of Joseph into the land of Canaan where they inherited their promises. He concluded that "there failed not aught of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass" (Josh.21:44). The stone of Israel mentioned in Genesis 49:24 is not a reference to Jacob's pillar stone. The verse itself tells us that the stone is symbolic of a shepherd, which we know to be Christ.
The promises made unto Abraham that were of a physical nature find their fulfillment in old testament Israel. Nememiah confirmed this when he wrote that "thou gavest them kingdoms and nations...their children also multiplied thou as the stars of heaven and broughtest them into the land concerning which thou hast promised to their fathers...and they took strong cities and a fat land and possessed houses full of goods, wells digged, vineyards and olive yards, and fruit trees in abundance" (Neh.9:22-25). Israel has already been a great people, even a multitude of people. And the specific promises made to Ephraim and
Manasseh, in regard to their size and physical possessions, were fulfilled before they went into the Assyrian captivity. Thus, we need not look outside the pages of scripture, nor elsewhere than the land of Canaan to find the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham and his seed.
The spiritual promises were fulfilled in Christ. He came to confirm those promises made unto Abraham
(Romans 15:18). Paul tells us that "if ye be Christ's, they ye are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise"(Gal.3:29). In verse 16 of the same chapter, he comments that "now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ".
Both the physical and spiritual promises made to Abraham have been fulfilled. And the physical promises to Israel and his children were fulfilled in the land of Palestine before the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. The specific promises made to Joseph and his sons Ephraim and Manasseh were also fulfilled in the land of Canaan prior to the Assyrian captivity. The claim advanced by advocates of British-Israelism that the above mentioned physical promises were not completely fulfilled in the land of Palestine prior to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities has no biblical support. I emphasize this point because it demolishes the theory of British-Israelism. Authors like Steven Collins are attempting to transform gentile nations into tribes of Israel and claiming that promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were fulfilled in these nations. But fictitious history and imaginary fulfillments are no substitute for the truth.