THE END OF ISRAEL
About five hundred years before the event of 458 BC, or nearly three thousand years ago today, the brief and troubled association between Judah and the Israelites ("the children of Israel") came to an end. Israel rejected the chosen people creed which was beginning to take shape in Judah and went its own way. (The adoption of the name "Israel" by the Zionist state which was set up in Palestine in 1948 was transparent false pretence).
The events which led to the short-lived, unhappy union covered earlier centuries. The mythological or legendary period of Moses was followed by one in Canaan during which "Israel" was the strong, cohesive and recognizable entity, the northern confederation of the ten tribes. Judah (to which the very small tribe of Benjamin attached itself) was a petty chiefdom in the south.
Judah, from which today's Zionism comes down, was a tribe of ill repute. Judah sold his brother Joseph, the most beloved son of Jacob-called-Israel, to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver (as Judas, the only Judean among the disciples, much later betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver), and then founded the tribe in incest, (Genesis 37-38). The priestly scribes who wrote this Scriptural account centuries afterwards had made themselves the masters of Judah and as they altered the oral tradition, whenever it suited them, the question prompts itself: why were they at pains to preserve, or possibly even to insert, this attribution of incestuous beginnings and a treacherous nature to the very people who, they said, were the chosen of God? The thing is mysterious, like much else in the Levitical Scriptures, and only the inner sect could supply an answer.
Anyway, those Scriptures and today's authorities agree about the separateness of "Israel" and "Judah". In the Old Testament Israel is often called "the house of Joseph", in pointed distinction from "the house of Judah". The Jewish Encyclopaedia says, ''Joseph and Judah typify two distinct lines of descent" and adds (as already cited) that Judah was "in all likelihood a non-Israelitish tribe". The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that Judaism developed long after the Israelites had merged themselves with mankind, and that the true relationship of the two peoples is best expressed in the phrase, "The Israelites were not Jews". Historically, Judah was to survive for a little while and to bring forth Judaism, which begat Zionism. Israel was to disappear as an entity, and it all came about in this way:
The little tribe in the south, Judah, became identified with the landless tribe, that of the Levites. These hereditary priests, who claimed that their office had been bestowed on them by Jehovah on Mount Sinai, were the true fathers of Judaism. They wandered among the tribes, preaching that the war of one was the war of all, and Jehovah's war. Their aim was power and they strove for a theocracy, a state in which God is the sovereign and religion the law. During the period of the Judges they achieved their aim to some extent, for they naturally
were the Judges. What they, and isolated Judah, most needed was union with Israel. Israel, which distrusted this lawgiving priesthood, would not hear of unification unless it were under a king; all the surrounding peoples had kings.
The Levites grasped this opportunity. They saw that if a king were appointed the ruling class would supply the nominee, and they were the ruling class. Samuel, at their head, set up a puppet monarchy, behind which the priesthood wielded true power; this was achieved through the stipulation that the king should reign only for life, which meant that he would not be able to found a dynasty. Samuel chose a young Benjaminite peasant, Saul, who had made some name in tribal warfare and, presumably, was thought likely to be tractable (the choice of a Benjaminite suggests that Israel would not consider any man of Judah for the kingship). The unified kingdom of Israel then began; in truth it survived but this one reign, Saul's.
In Saul's fate (or in the account given of it in the later Scriptures) the ominous nature of Judaism, as it was to be given shape, may be discerned. He was commanded to begin the holy war by attacking the Amalekites "and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass". He destroyed "man and woman, infant and suckling", but spared King-Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen, yearlings and lambs. For this he was excommunicated by Samuel, who secretly chose one David, of Judah, to be Saul's successor. Thereafter Saul vainly strove by zeal in "utter destruction" to appease the Levites, and then by attempting David's life to save his throne. At last he killed himself.
Possibly none of this happened; it is the account given in the Book of Samuel, which the Levites produced centuries later. Whether it is true or allegorical, the importance lies in the plain implication: Jehovah demanded literal obedience when he commanded "utter destruction", and mercy or pity were capital offences. This lesson is driven home in many other depictments of events which were possibly historical and possibly imaginary.
This was really the end, three thousand years ago, of the united kingdom, for Israel would not accept the man of Judah, David, as king. Dr. Kastein says that "the rest of Israel ignored him" and proclaimed Saul's son, Ishbosheth, king, whereon the re-division into Israel and Judah "really took place". According to Samuel, Ishbosheth was killed and his head was sent to David, who thereon restored a nominal union and made Jerusalem his capital. He never again truly united the kingdom or the tribes; he founded a dynasty which survived one more reign.
Formal Judaism holds to this day that the Messianic consummation will come about under a worldly king of "the house of David"; and racial exclusion is the first tenet of formal Judaism (and the law of the land in the Zionist state). The origins of the dynasty founded by David are thus of direct relevance to this narrative.
Racial discrimination and segregation were clearly unknown to the tribespeople in those days of the association between Israel and Judah, for the Old Testament says that David, the Judahite, from his roof, saw "a very beautiful woman" bathing, commanded her to him and made her with child, and then had her husband, a Hittite, sent into the front battle-line with orders that he be killed. When he was dead David added the woman, Bathsheba, to his wives, and her second son by him became the next king, Solomon (this story of David and Bathsheba, as related in the Old Testament, was bowdlerized in a Hollywood-made moving picture of our day).
Such was the racial descent of Solomon, the last king of the riven confederacy, according to the Levitical scribes. He began his reign with three murders, including that of his brother, and vainly sought to save his dynasty by the Habsburg method, marriage, though on grander scale. He married princesses from Egypt and many neighbouring tribes and had hundreds of lesser wives, so that in his day, too, racial segregation must have been unknown. He built the temple and established a hereditary high priesthood.
That was the story, concluded in 937 BC, of the short association between Israel and Judah. When Solomon died the incompatible associates finally split, and in the north Israel resumed its independent life. Dr Kastein says:
"The two states had no more in common, for good or evil, than any other two countries with a common frontier. From time to time they waged war against each other or made treaties, but they were entirely separate. The Israelites ceased to believe that they had a destiny apart from their neighbours and King Jeroboam made separation from Judah as complete in the religious as in the political sense". Then, of the Judahites, Dr. Kastein adds, "they decided that they were destined to develop as a race apart. . . they demanded an order of existence fundamentally different from that of the people about them. These were differences which allowed of no process of assimilation to others. They demanded separation, absolute differentiation. "
Thus the cause of the breach and separation is made c1ear. Israel believed that its destiny lay with involvement in mankind, and rejected Judah on the very grounds which recurrently, in the ensuing three thousand years, caused other peoples to turn in alarm, resentment and repudiation from Judaism. Judah "demanded separation, absolute differentiation". (However, Dr. Kastein, though he says "Judah", means "the Levites". How could even the tribespeople of Judah, at that stage, have demanded "separation, absolute differentiation", when Solomon had had a thousand wives?)
It was the Levites, with their racial creed, that Israel rejected. The next two hundred years, during which Israel and Judah existed separately, and often in enmity, but side by side, are filled with the voices of the Hebrew "prophets", arraigning the Levites and the creed which they were constructing. These voices still call to mankind out of the tribal darkness which bec1ouds much of the Old
Testament, for they scarified the creed which was in the making just as Jesus scarified it seven or eight hundred years later, when it was long established, at the Temple in Jerusalem.
These men were nearly all Israelites; most of them were Josephites. They were on the road to the one-God of all-peoples and to participation in mankind. They were not unique among men in this: soon the Buddha, in India, was to oppose his Sermon at Benares and his Five Commands of Uprightness to the creed of Brahma, the creator of caste-segregation, and to the worship of idols. They were in truth Israelite remonstrants against the Levitical teaching which was to become identified with the name of Judah. The name "Hebrew prophets" is inapt because they made no pretence to power of divination and were angered by the description ("I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son", Amos). They were protestants in their time and gave simple warning of the calculable consequences of the racial creed; their warning remains valid today.
The claims of the Levite priesthood moved them to these protests, particularly the priestly c1aim to the firstborn ("That which openeth the womb is mine," Exodus), and the priestly insistence on sacrificial rites. The Israelite expostulants (to whom this "so-called law of Moses" was unknown, according to Mr. Montefiore) saw no virtue in the bloodying of priests, the endless sacrifice of animals and the "burnt offerings", the "sweet savour" of which was supposed to please Jehovah. They rebuked the priestly doctrine of slaying and enslaving "the heathen". God, they cried, desired moral behaviour, neighbourly conduct and justice towards the poor, the fatherless, the widow and the oppressed, not blood sacrifices and hatred of the heathen.
These protests provide the first forelight of the dawn which came some eight hundred years later. They find themse1ves in strange company among the injunctions to massacre in which the Old Testament abounds. The strange thing is that these remonstrances survived the compilation, when Israel was gone and the Levites, supreme in Judah, wrote down the Scriptures.
Today's student cannot explain, for instance, why King David suffers Nathan publicly to rebuke him for taking Uriah's wife and having Uriah murdered. Possibly among the later scribes who compiled the historical narrative, long after Israel and the Israelite expostulants were gone, were some of their mind, who contrived in this way to continue their protest.
Conversely, these benevolent and enlightened passages are often followed by fanatical ones, attributed to the same man, which cancel them, or put the opposite in their place. The only reasonable explanation is that these are interpolations later made, to bring the heretics into line with Levitical dogma.
Whatever the explanation, these Israelite protests against the heresy of Judah have an ageless appeal and form the monument to vanished Israel. They force their way, like little blades of truth, between the dark stones of tribal saga. They pointed the way to the rising and widening road of common involvement in
mankind and away from the tribal abyss.
Elijah and Elisha both worked in Israel, and Amos spoke solely to the Josephites. He in particular attacked the blood sacrifices and priestly rites: "I hate, I despise your feasts and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Yea, though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meal offerings, I will not accept them. Neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs" (the Levites' chanted liturgies) "and let me not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run as water and righteousness as a mighty stream". And then the immortal rebuke to the "peculiar people" doctrine: "Are ye not as the children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel, saith the Lord".
Hosea, another Israelite, says, "I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings". Hosea exhorts to the practice of "justice and righteousness", "loving kindness and compassion and faithfulness", not discrimination and contempt.
In Micah's time the Levites apparently still demanded the sacrifice of all the firstborn to Jehovah:
"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousands of rivers of oil. Shall I give my firstborn for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? It hath been told to thee, O man, what is good and what the Lord doth require of thee: only to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God" .
These men contended for the soul of the tribespeople during the two centuries when Israel and Judah existed side by side, and sometimes at daggers drawn. During this period the Levites, earlier distributed among the twelve tribes, were driven more and more to congregate in tiny Judah and in Jerusalem, and to concentrate their energies on the Judahites.
Then, in 721 BC, Israel was attacked and conquered by Assyria and the Israelites were carried into captivity. Judah was spared for that moment and for another century remained an insignificant vassal, first of Assyria and then of Egypt, and the stronghold of the Levitical sect.
At that point "the children of Israel" disappear from history and if promises made to them are to be redeemed, this redemption must evidently be from among the ranks of mankind, in which they became involved and merged. Given the prevalent westward trend among the movements of peoples during the last twenty-seven hundred years, it is probable that much of their blood has gone into the European and American peoples.
The Judaist claim, on the other hand, is that Israel was totally and deservedly "lost", because it rejected the Levitical creed and chose "rapprochement with neighbouring peoples". Dr. Kastein, whose words these are, nearly twenty-seven
centuries later ardently rejoiced, on that very account, in their downfall: "The ten northern tribes, with their separate development, had drifted so far from their kindred in the south that the chronicle of their fall takes the form of a brief bald statement of fact unrelieved by any expression of grief. No epic poem, no dirge, no sympathy marked the hour of their downfall".
The student of the controversy of Zion has to plod far before he begins to unveil its mysteries, but very soon discovers that in all things it speaks with two tongues, one for "the heathen" and one for the initiates.
The Levites of that ancient time did not, and today's Zionists do not believe that the Israelites "vanished without leaving a trace" (as Dr. Kastein says). They were pronounced "dead", in the way that a Jew marrying out of the fold today is pronounced dead (for instance, Dr. John Goldstein); they were excommunicated and only in that sense "vanished".
Peoples do not become extinct; the North American Indians, the Australian Blackfellows, the New Zealand Maoris, the South African Bantu and others are the proofs of that. For that matter, the Israelites could not have been "taken away captive", had they been physically exterminated. Their blood and thought survive in mankind, somewhere, today.
Israel remained separate from Judah of its own will, and for the very reasons which ever since have aroused the mistrust and misgiving of other peoples. The Israelites "were not Jews"; the Judahites were "in all likelihood non-Israelitish".
The true meaning of the assertion that Israel "disappeared" is to be found in the later Talmud, which says: "The ten tribes have no share in the world to come". Thus, "the children of Israel" are banned from heaven by the ruling sect of Judah because they refused to exclude themselves from mankind on earth.
The Chief Rabbi of the British Empire in 1918, the Very Rev. J.H. Hertz, in answer to an enquiry on this point said explicitly, "The people known at present as Jews are descendants of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin with a certain number of descendants of the tribe of Levi". This statement makes perfectly clear that "Israel" had no part in what has become Judaism (no authority, Judaist or other, would support the claim made to blood-descent from Judah, for the Jews of today, but this is of little account).
Therefore the use of the name "Israel" by the Zionist state which was created in Palestine in this century is in the nature of a forgery. Some strong reason must have dictated the use of the name of a people who were not Jews and would have none of the creed which has become Judaism. One tenable theory suggests itself. The Zionist state was set up with the connivance of the great nations of the West, which is also the area of Christendom. The calculation may have been that these peoples would be comforted in their consciences if they could be led to believe that they were fulfilling Biblical prophecy and God's promise to "Israel", at whatever cost in the "destruction" of innocent peoples.
If that was the motive for the misuse of the name "Israel", the expedient may
for the time being have been successful; the multitude was ever easily "persuaded". However, truth will out in the long run, as the surviving remonstrances of the Israelite prophets show.
If the Zionist state of 1948 could 1ay claim to any name whatever taken from far antiquity, this could only be "Judah", as this chapter has shown.