Restoration of the Jews
Restoration Of The Jews.
This term is applied to two very different classes of prophecies relating to the Hebrew race.
1. Their Return from Captivity. — It is maintained by Von Bohlen (Genesis, p. 116) that the ten tribes intermarried so freely with the surrounding population as to have become completely absorbed; and it appears to be a universal opinion that no one now knows where their descendants are. But it is a harsh assumption that such intermarriages were commoner with the ten tribes than with the two; and certainly, in the apostolic days, the twelve tribes are referred to as a well-known people, sharply defined from the heathen (Ac 24:7; Jas 1:1). Not a trace appears that any repulsive principle existed at that time between the Ten and the Two. "Ephraim no longer envied Judah, nor Judah vexed Ephraim;" but they had become "one nation;" though only partially "on the mountains of Israel" (Isa 11:13; Eze 37:22). It would seem, therefore, that one result of the captivity was to blend all the tribes together, and produce a national union which had never been effected in their own land. If ever there was a difference between them as to the books counted sacred, that difference entirely vanished; at least, no evidence appears of the contrary fact. When, moreover, the laws of landed inheritance no longer enforced the maintenance of separate tribes and put a difficulty in the way of their intermarriage, an almost inevitable result in course of time was the entire obliteration of this distinction; and, as a fact, no modern Jews know to what tribe they belong, although vanity always makes them choose to say that they are of the two or three, and not of the ten tribes. That all Jews now living have in them the blood of all the twelve tribes ought (it seems) to be believed, until some better reason than mere assertion is advanced against it.
When Cyrus gave permission to the Israelites to return to their own country, and restored their sacred vessels, it is not wonderful that few persons of the ten tribes were eager to take advantage of it. In two centuries they had become thoroughly naturalized in their Eastern settlements; nor had Jerusalem ever been the centre of proud aspirations to them. It is perhaps remarkable that in Ezr 2:2,36 (see also 10:18, 25), the word Israel is used to signify what we might call the laity as opposed to the priests and Levites, which might seem as if the writer were anxious to avoid asserting that all the families belonged to the two tribes. (If this is not the meaning, it at least shows that all discriminating force in the words Israel and Judah was already lost. So, too, in the book of Esther, the twelve tribes through all parts of the Persian empire are called Jews.) Nevertheless, it was to be expected that only those would return to Jerusalem whose expatriation was very recent, and principally those whose parents had dwelt in the holy city or its immediate neighborhood.The re- migrants, doubtless, consisted chiefly of the pious and the poor; and as the latter proved docile to their teachers, a totally new spirit reigned in the restored nation. Whatever want of zeal the anxious Ezra might discern in his comrades, it is no slight matter that he could induce them to divorce their heathen wives — a measure of harshness which Paul would scarcely have sanctioned (1Co 7:12); and the century which followed was, on the whole, olre of great religious activity and important permanent results on the moral character of the nation. Even the prophetic spirit by no means disappeared for a century and a half; although at length both the true and the false prophet were supplanted among them by the learned and diligent scribe, the anxious commentator, and the over-literal or over- figurative critic. In place of a people prone to go astray after sensible objects of adoration, and readily admitting heathen customs; attached to monarchical power, but inattentive to a hierarchy; careless of a written law, and movable by alternate impulses of apostasy and repentance, we henceforth find in them a deep and permanent reverence for Moses and the prophets, an aversion to foreigners and foreign customs, a profound hatred of idolatry, a great devotion to priestly and Levitical rank, and to all who had an exterior of piety; in short, a slavish obedience both to the law and to its authorized expositors. Now first, so far as can be ascertained (observe the particularity of detail in Ne 8:4, etc.), were the synagogues and houses of prayer instituted and the law periodically read aloud. Now began the close observance of the Passover, the Sabbath, and the sabbatical year. Such was the change wrought in the guardians of the sacred books that, whereas the pious king Josiah had sat eighteen years on the throne without knowing of the existence of "the book of the law" (2Ki 22:3,8), in the later period, on the contrary, the text was watched over with a scrupulous and fantastic punctiliousness. From this sera the civil power was absorbed in that of the priesthood, and the Jewish people affords the singular spectacle of a nation in which the priestly rule came later in time than that of hereditary kings. Something analogous may, perhaps, be seen in the priestly authority at Comana, in Cappadocia, under the Roman sway (Cicero, Ep. ad Div. 15:4, etc.).
In their habits of life, also, the Jewish nation was permanently affected by the first captivity. The love of agriculture, which the institutions of Moses had so vigorously inspired, had necessarily declined in a foreign land; and they returned with a taste for commerce, banking, and retail trade, which was probably kept up by constant intercourse with their brethren who remained in dispersion. The same intercourse in turn propagated towards the rest the moral spirit which reigned at Jerusalem. The Egyptian Jews, it would seem, had gained little good from the contact of idolatry (Jeremiah xliv, 8); but those who had fallen in with the Persian religion, probably about the time of its great reform by Zoroaster, had been preserved from such temptations, and returned purer than they went. Thenceforward it was the honorable function of Jerusalem to act as a religious metropolis to the whole dispersed nation; and it cannot be doubted that the ten tribes, as well as the two, learned to be proud of the holy city, as the great and free centre of their name and their faith. The same religious influences thus diffused themselves through all the twelve tribes of Israel. SEE DISPERSED.
2. Their Future Return to Palestine. — It is a favorite view with many that the Israelitish race, now scattered over the face of the earth, will eventually be brought back to their own land. To this is generally added the belief that they will yet return in a converted, i.e. Christian, state. The final ingathering of the Jews, no less than of all Gentiles, is certainly taught, rot only in the Old Test., but likewise in the New (see Ro 11:11-25). But it appears to be an error to infer that, therefore, they will generally be restored to their original home. See Swaine, Objections to the Restoration of the Jews (3d ed. Lond. 1861); Browne, Restoration of the Jews (Edinb. 1861); Clarke, Restoration of the Jews (Lond. 1861). SEE MILLENNIUM.