Israel’s Biblical Identity

When the Bible talks about Israel, what does it mean?

In the mid-15th century b.c., the 12 tribes of Israel fled Egyptian captivity and resettled in the land of Canaan. By the 11th century b.c., Israel was led by a united monarchy. For more than 100 years Israel was ruled by kings Saul, David and Solomon.

When King Solomon died in the mid-10th century, he was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. King Rehoboam increased taxes, which provoked a rebellion. The rebel movement was led by Jeroboam, a formidable leader from the tribe of Ephraim.

By the late 10th century b.c., Jeroboam had successfully split Israel into two distinct kingdoms. The northern kingdom was led by Jeroboam, and was comprised of 10 tribes. This kingdom retained the name “Israel”—its capital was Samaria.

Two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, remained loyal to King Rehoboam and the house of David (1 Kings 12:20-24; Ezra 4:1; 2 Chronicles 11). Following the split, these two tribes comprised the southern kingdom, which became known as Judah. Jerusalem was the capital of Judah.

After Jeroboam’s rebellion, the Bible clearly distinguishes between the “house of Israel” and the “house of Judah.”

Today, the sovereign nation called “Israel” is comprised of Jews, the descendants of the tribe of Judah. Many secular historians acknowledge this truth. In his book Jerusalem: The Biography, Simon Sebag Montefiore writes, “Modern Jews are descended from the last two tribes who survived as the kingdom of Judah.”

This truth is critical to understanding Bible prophecy. When end-time Bible prophecies refer to Judah, they are referring to the nation known today as Israel.

For more on this subject, request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong.