The wandering Jews
© 2000 Discerning the Times Digest and NewsBytes

After many generations of rejecting God, following false gods, and otherwise "doing evil in the sight of God," the Assyrians conquered the 10 northern tribes of Israel in 722 BC. They were then exiled to the northern Assyrian frontier. There, the record of the ten northern tribes ends. Although there is much dispute over what happened to them, most historians believe they intermarried and were absorbed into the people living there. They "perished" as a distinct people of God, probably in fulfillment of the prophecy given in Deuteronomy 8:19, "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish."

According to both Jewish and Christian traditions, the chosen people are today's Jews who descended from the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. These two tribes escaped the Assyrian captivity because of the God-loving King Hezekiah and other kings like him that tore down the high places and returned to God's covenant. Nonetheless, they disobeyed God, and though God is longsuffering He must eventually judge sin. He judged His wayward people, first through exile by the Babylonians for their disobedience to God beginning in 605 BC.

God warned His people (the Jews), that He would scatter them over the face of the earth if they were not obedient. He first did this with the Babylon exile which then led to the Diaspora in which most exiled Jews did not return home but stayed in Babylon or migrated to other places (blue). Following Christ's warning that God's judgment was about to fall again, the Jews were almost totally removed from Israel and scattered over North Africa and Southern Europe (orange). The rise of the Catholic Church brought a horrible and hounding persecution of the Jews wherever they fled, fulfilling God's curse (red). The persecution eventually forced the Israelite Jews to migrate to Eastern Europe and Western Russia where they met and intermarried with the non-Israelite Khazar Jews (purple). The Czars of Russia then renewed the persecution which forced the Jews to emigrate to other areas of the world (green).

Upon entering the promised land, God warned the Israelites that if they did not obey Him, He would scatter them among the nations from "one end of the earth to the other," where they will have "no resting place for the sole of (their) foot. There the Lord will give (them) an anxious mind, eyes that are weary with longing, and with a despairing heart". At the very end God foretold that Israel would "live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, 'If only it were evening!' and in the evening, 'If only it were morning!' -- because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights your eyes will see." (Deuteronomy 28:64-67) The fulfillment of this curse began in 70 AD with the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple to Roman General Titus.

The exile was not to be permanent. God also promised Israel that He would return the remnant of Israel in numerous Biblical prophecies, including Jeremiah 31:7-8, "This is what the LORD says: ‘‘Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth." The Jews and the traditional Christian Church believe this prophecy, and many more like it, was fulfilled as the Jews returned to Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century from Europe and Israel once again became a nation on May 14, 1948--for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

Two thousand years of Jewish judgment and persecution

It is important to realize that not all the Jews dispersed around the world was the result of Roman exile. The Diaspora of the Jews began with the Babylonian exile. Many Jews spread north and west from Babylon to colonize and trade in those regions while many others stayed in Babylon. During the Greco-Roman period Jews, according to traditional history, settled throughout Asia Minor and southern Europe. Many Jewish prisoners of war were brought to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Following the 135 AD Bar Kohbah revolt in Israel, Jews were forbidden to enter Jerusalem upon penalty of death and most Israeli Jews were exiled to both sides of the Mediterranean Sea.

According to traditional history, Jews fled under growing Catholic persecution in Southern Europe from about 600 to 1100 AD to Spain as well as France and Germany. The Christians during the day believed God had shifted His covenant blessing from the Israelites to the Christians, leading to self-righteous persecution of the Jews. During the Crusades from 1095 to 1270, Jews in Southern Europe fled to Spain, England, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe as the result of severe persecution and wholesale massacres of the Jews. England turned out to be the wrong place to go, because in 1290 King Edward I expelled the Jews. King Charles II did the same thing in 1394 in France by forcing all Jews from France. At the same time persecution in Germany forced most European Jews into Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Western Russia. Jews migrating from Western and Central Europe to Eastern Europe were called Ashkenazim Jews.

Given the animosity today, many may be surprised that the wandering Jews had peace and flourished under the rule of the Muslims at the time. Therefore, many fled to the Southern Balkans, Turkey and Spain. By the 1400's the Muslims were displaced by the Catholic Church from Spain and Portugal, however, and the Jews, who had flourished there, were viciously persecuted and slaughtered during the Spanish Inquisition from 1478 to 1497. Jews from North Africa, called the Sephardim, fled Spain and North Africa and some resettled in the Netherlands and Eastern Europe, but most fled to the Balkans, Turkey and Palestine.

The Russian persecution of the East European Jews from 1648 to 1917 once again forced millions of Jews to flee. This time they fled back to England where the Protestant reformation now welcomed them, and to Western Europe, America, Canada, South America and Palestine. Over 2 million East European Jews came to America during the Russian persecution. Those in Western Europe eventually were liberated by Napoleon and prospered until the dark days of Hitler.

It was the Ashkenazim Jews that returned to Israel in the 20th century to forge the modern state of Israel. For 1,880 years the Jews were a people of sorrow--a people who had no home and who had "lived in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of [their] life." (Deuteronomy 28:66) Yet, with the promise of judgment, God also made an incredible promise to bring Israel back, as a people, to her homeland: "...the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it." (Deuteronomy 30:3-5, bolding added for emphasis) V mc