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Chapter 14: Tribulation and the Time of Jacob's Trouble

It is commonly taught that the world will shortly experience a time of great trouble called “the great tribulation.” Some teach that this will continue for seven years; others teach that it will last only half that time. These theories are usually accompanied by speculations on whether the “rapture” will occur at the beginning of this seven-year period, in the middle, or at the end of it. Virtually all of these theories begin with the assumption that Jesus died at the beginning or middle of Daniel’s 70th week (i.e., rest year cycle) and that the crucifixion “stopped God’s time clock.” Thus, by this theory, Daniel’s 70th week, or at least half of it, remains to be fulfilled at some future time called “the great tribulation.”

We have already seen in recent chapters that Jesus’ crucifixion occurred precisely at the end of Daniel’s 70 weeks. This is proven positively by known Persian history, for we know that Ezra was sent to Jerusalem by king Artaxerxes I of Persia in the seventh year of his reign (Ezra 7:7). Astronomical calculations of lunar eclipses recorded during the reign of Darius I positively date these Persian kings, and since we know exactly how long each king reigned, we can say with certainty that Artaxerxes’ seventh year began in the spring of 458 B.C. This was when Ezra began his journey to Jerusalem, where he cleansed the priesthood and made the offerings at the end of 76 cleansing years. (It was 76 years from the Edict of Cyrus that commissioned Zerubbabel to the Edict of Artaxerxes that sent Ezra to Jerusalem.)

Thus, we see that Daniel’s 70th week extended from 26 to 33 A.D. Jesus’ ministry began precisely in the midst of that week, in the fall of 29 A.D., with His baptism on the Day of Atonement. The crucifixion occurred at the end of the week, in the spring of 33 A.D., which was precisely 490 years after Ezra began his journey to Jerusalem. With such hard evidence in hand, we can state with virtual certainty that Daniel’s 70-week period was completed in 33 A.D. and that there is no supposed “final week” remaining for a future fulfillment.

God’s time clock did not somehow stop. May I remind you of the things that prophecy preachers said in 1948 when the Israeli state was established? This was supposed to be the time when the tribulation would begin. In 1948, the rapture was supposed to occur “any day now.” It did not. The tribulation was supposed to begin immediately and last seven years. It was supposed to end with a mass conversion of 144,000 Jews who would become instant missionaries, preaching to a world full of people who could not accept Christ anyway—because the Holy Spirit supposedly had already been removed from the earth! None of this occurred.

There was, of course, a war between the Israelis and their Arab neighbors in 1948, making it look very much like these views might prove to be correct. But rapture did not occur, and the Israeli army won the war without their need for conversion to Christ. In the early months of the war, the pre-tribulation rapture began to be discredited, as it became apparent that Jesus was not coming at the beginning of this tribulation. The “mid-trib” position became more popular, as men speculated that the rapture would occur by the end of 1952. But three and a half years passed without a rapture, the war ended, the Jews remained unconverted, and the world remained unevangelized by 144,000 would-be Jewish missionaries of the Order of St. Paul.

By the end of 1955, at the completion of seven years from 1948, there were many teachers scraping entire omelets off their faces, but their teachings had become so ingrained in the minds of Christians that they were able to retrench, telling people their doctrines were still correct, but that they simply had been mistaken on timing. Few thought to reexamine the foundations of their prophetic view to see if their premises were faulty.

Jeremiah’s Prophecy

Jeremiah prophesied of “the time of Jacob’s trouble” in terms of the captivity of Judah and Israel. It was quite obviously a long-term prophecy, for in his day Israel had already been deported to Assyria, and Judah was about to be deported to Babylon. Jeremiah 30:3-9 says,

3 For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again [“remove’] the captivity of My people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. 4 And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. 5 For thus saith the Lord, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. 6 Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? 7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. 8 For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bands, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him; 9 But they shall serve the Lord their God; and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.

Jeremiah speaks of this time of trouble as being like a time of childbirth, “a woman in travail” (v. 6). This is a fairly common prophetic theme in the Scripture, and it can certainly be applied in a number of situations. Our focus here will be on the time of Jacob’s trouble, for here we must go back to the man Jacob, because his travails set a prophetic pattern for his descendants on a national and worldwide fulfillment.

Jacob’s First 21-Year Time of Trouble Under Laban

Jacob had two times of trouble. Both were 21 years long. His first time of trouble began when he fled from Esau and went to Haran, where he worked for his uncle Laban for 20 years (Gen. 31:41). It was a time of physical labor. If we factor in his travel time each way, along with some time to fall in love with Rachel, it is safe to say that it took about 21 years in all.

To get the full story, the book of Jasher is again very helpful in filling in some interesting details about this story that are not mentioned in the Genesis account. It was customary in biblical days for the man to give a dowry when betrothing a wife. For Isaac to send Jacob to Haran without money for a dowry would be inconceivable. Yet we find Jacob arrived there penniless and had to work for Laban in place of a dowry. Jasher 29:30-38 tells us how he came to be penniless.

And Isaac finished commanding Jacob and blessing him, and he gave him many gifts, together with silver and gold, and he sent him away; and Jacob hearkened to his father and mother; he kissed them and arose and went to Padan-aram, and Jacob was seventy seven years old when he went out from the land of Canaan from Beersheba. 31 And when Jacob went away to go to Haran, Esau called unto his son Eliphaz, and secretly spoke unto him, saying, now hasten, take thy sword in thy hand and pursue Jacob and pass before him in the road, and lurk for him, and slay him with thy sword in one of the mountains, and take all belonging to him… 33 And Eliphaz did as his father had commanded him, and Eliphaz was at that time thirteen years old, and Eliphaz rose up and went and took ten of his mother’s brothers with him and pursued Jacob… 35 And Jacob saw Eliphaz and his men pursuing him, and Jacob stood still in the place in which he was going, in order to know what this was, for he did not know the thing; and Eliphaz drew his sword and he went on advancing, he and his men, toward Jacob; and Jacob said unto them, what is to do with you that you have come hither, and what meaneth it that you pursue with your swords? 36 And Eliphaz came near to Jacob and he answered and said unto him, thus did my father command me, and now therefore I will not deviate from the orders which my father gave me; and when Jacob saw that Esau had spoken to Eliphaz to employ force, Jacob then approached and supplicated Eliphaz and his men, saying to him, 37 Behold all that I have and which my father and mother gave unto me, that take unto thee and go from me and do not slay me, and may this thing be accounted unto thee a righteousness. 38 And the Lord caused Jacob to find favor in the sight of Eliphaz the son of Esau and his men, and they hearkened to the voice of Jacob, and they did not put him to death, and Eliphaz and his men took all belonging to Jacob together with the silver and gold that he had brought with him from Beersheba; they left him nothing.

Because Jacob was a pauper when he arrived in Haran, he struck a deal with Laban to work for him seven years in place of a dowry to marry Rachel. At the end of the seven years, Laban tricked Jacob by substituting Leah for Rachel. (Jasher says that Laban was able to do this because the girls were twins and because they were veiled.) Jacob was angry when he discovered the switch the next morning, but there was nothing he could do about it, since Leah was no longer a virgin. Laban appeased him by insisting it was customary that the oldest daughter marry before the younger. If Jacob would promise to work for another seven years, then he could have Rachel as well. Jacob agreed, so there was a second wedding on the heels of the first. However, his seven-year “tribulation” was doubled to fourteen years in all.

During those first seven years of marriage to Leah and Rachel, Leah bore Jacob four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Rachel was barren. In the competition for more sons, Rachel gave her handmaid to Jacob as a wife to bear children in proxy for Rachel. Not to be outdone, Leah did the same. And so Jacob eventually had four wives and twelve sons.

Rachel finally gave birth to her first son, Joseph, when Jacob was 91 years old (Jasher 31:21). It came at the end of the 14 years of “tribulation.” Jacob was then ready to return home, but Laban persuaded him to stay for another rest year cycle (six years of labor). Finally, Jacob returned to Canaan in the 21st year, having worked for Laban three rest year cycles.

This was the first “time of Jacob’s trouble.” It was a time of servitude as a bondservant for three rest year cycles. This time of bondage is thus directly connected with the time of bondservants. We are not told if Laban released Jacob on the seventh and the fourteenth years. The text seems to imply that he was not released, since we are told that Jacob had to work for Laban for seven years twice, but this may be a simple matter of semantics. At any rate, at the end of the third work week Jacob did leave Laban, after completing six years of labor. This implies that the sabbath rest year laws were already known and perhaps to some extent observed even in Jacob’s day. Exodus 21:2 says,

2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve; and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

If we look more closely at the chronology of Jacob’s time of servitude, we see that he went to Haran at the age of 77, which was the year 2185. The previous year (2184) had been the 312th rest year from Adam. Forty-four Jubilees had passed, and the year 2184 was the fourth rest year into the 45th Jubilee cycle. Jacob left Laban in the year 2205, after serving 20 years. This was the seventh rest year, leading up to the 45th Jubilee the following fall of the year.

But the story does not end here. As we will see shortly, the number 21 deals with the exceeding sinfulness of sin, or the full scope of sin. God dealt with Jacob’s scheming nature for 21 years before finally releasing him from bondage. On his return to Canaan, he wrestled with the angel at Penuel (Gen. 32:24-31) and was given the name “Israel” to indicate his newly found revelation of the Sovereignty of God. This represents Jacob’s change of heart and a “new nature.” The fact that this event took place during a rest year leading up to a Jubilee makes it highly significant as a pattern-setter, with implications that could affect events in our own time.

From Penuel, Jacob went to Succoth (“booths,” i.e., Feast of Tabernacles), where he stayed for a year and a half (Jasher 33:4). In other words, Jacob remained in Succoth for the rest of the 49th year of the Jubilee cycle, as well as the following year, which was the year of Jubilee. This is the pattern of how we ourselves are to enter into God’s Rest after our own time of trouble and servitude in Babylon. We are to recognize God as Sovereign, and serve as God leads us until the appointed time draws near for the Jubilee and for the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The culmination of the story came when God told Jacob to return to Bethel. The story is told in the 35th chapter of Genesis, but Jasher 36:3 gives us the precise timing,

And Jacob was ninety nine years old when he went up to Bethel, and Jacob and his sons and all the people that were with him remained in Bethel in Luz, and he there built an altar to the Lord who appeared unto him, and Jacob and his sons remained in Bethel six months.

Jacob had gone to Bethel the first time at the age of 77, while on his way to Laban’s house. There is where he had his famous dream about the angels of God ascending and descending upon him. At that time, he had poured oil upon the stone he had used for a pillow while he slept. In the study of types and shadows, this was Jacob’s Pentecost. But 22 years later, when Jacob was 99, God told him to return to Bethel (Gen. 35:1). This time he set up the stone for a pillar, “and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon”(Gen. 35:14). This prefigures the Feast of Tabernacles—something greater than Pentecost—when a drink offering was poured out on each of the seven days (Lev. 23:37).

These events are significant, because 22 is the number of Light in biblical numerology. (For instance, the word “light” appears 22 times in the gospel of John.) The Bible uses the number 21 to indicate a time of bondage to sin prior to the great release depicted in the number 22. It shows the progression as we move from the time of labor and bondage in this sinful flesh to the final outpouring of His glorious Light, when our bodies shall be changed into His likeness, even as what occurred with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.

The numbers 21 and 22 are the basis of Jacob’s distress and deliverance. Multiplying by ten, we find that the children of Israel also experienced two times of distress for 210-220 years in longer-term prophecy. Finally, as we will see, the House of Israel was brought into a long, 2,520-year time of bondage (12 x 210 years). The meaning and purpose of these long-term cycles must be viewed from the root meanings of the numbers 21 and 22. Thus, it is profitable if we do a short study of these numbers before proceeding with the second 21-year time of Jacob’s distress.

The Number 21: Distress

The number 21 is half of 42, which is the number of arrival. It is used in many different circumstances. The number 21 is the number that signifies distress, especially as it leads into the number 22, sons of light, where the distress is alleviated. The Bible records 21 sins of Israel and 42 encampments (Numbers 33), from Egypt to the plains of Jericho. It is the time of “the Church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). The 21 sins are:

In 2 Timothy 3:4, we find a comparable example, where Paul lists 21 sins characterizing the sins found in the New Testament “Church in the wilderness.” The only difference is that the New Testament Church has wandered for 40 Jubilees, instead of a mere 40 years. But Paul lists 21 sins against them, just as Moses listed 21 sins against Israel in his day.

All of these sins are, of course, symptoms of the distress of human nature since Adam first sinned. Mankind has labored under bondage to the earth ever since God sold them to the earth for Adam’s sin. We have been subject to death for nearly 6,000 years of history and are now nearing the first of Creation’s great Rest Years, when the first great Release will be declared, according to the law of Exodus 21:2.

After the Year of Release comes the opportunity to return to our Master to get our ears bored to His Door. Exodus 21:5-6 says,

5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free, 6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

Jesus said, “I am the Door” (John 10:9). If any man hears His voice, his ears are opened (symbolized by the aul that puts a hole in the ear lobe). Those who hear His voice and are obedient to the call may come and remain in God’s house. This is the call of the Feast of Tabernacles when men are to leave their own houses (fleshly tabernacles) and dwell in the Tabernacle not made with hands (2 Cor. 5:1-4).

This is also what Jacob did in returning to Bethel, “God’s House.” He was released in the rest year, but he returned to Bethel in order to fulfill the prophetic law of God. His return indicated that the law was written on his heart, and that he wanted to serve God, not because he had to, but because he wanted to. It revealed a new nature and the fact that he had come into full agreement with God and His law. All of this is part of the meaning of the number 22, for Jacob returned to Bethel after 22 years.

This is the symbolism of the number 22, the number of the sons of light. It naturally follows the number 21, even as we, like Jacob, labor 21 years and then are released to enter into His house to serve him forever and to share in His inheritance as the sons of light. In that new servitude we find true freedom. It is not freedom from God, but freedom from sin that we may serve Him in perfect obedience and harmony with His character and His Plan for Creation.

It is important that we understand this sequence of events, the symbolisms involved, and also the law of Exodus 21 on which it is all based. Let us now go back to study the life of Jacob, so that we can understand this second “time of Jacob’s trouble” and see how it set the pattern for world events in later years.

Jacob’s Second 21-Year Time of Trouble

Jacob’s second time of trouble began when Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him as a slave and he was taken to Egypt. The brothers covered their tracks by dipping his coat of many colors in the blood of a goat, so that their father would think he had been killed by wild beasts. Jacob mourned for his lost son for 21 years before God reunited them. This 21-year time of mourning was Jacob’s second time of trouble. But before we study the actual events to see how they are prophetic of later history, let us first establish the time period of 21 years.

Genesis 37:2 tells us that Joseph was 17 years old when he had his prophetic dreams, which made his brothers so angry with him. Jacob had made him a coat of many colors. It was customary in those days, when a father wanted to make clear to the world the identity of the birthright son, to make it absolutely clear to all by giving to him a bright, multicolored coat to wear. Joseph’s older brothers were obviously jealous of him and angry, since they were older and felt that Jacob had bypassed them just because he was Rachel’s firstborn son. In their eyes, this was totally unfair.

The oldest sons were also put to shame in this, because Reuben had been disqualified for defiling his father’s bed (Gen. 35:22; 1 Chron. 5:1). The next two sons, Simeon and Levi, were disqualified because of their cruelty (Gen. 34:30; 49:5-6). Instead of having a repentant attitude, they disagreed with their father and took out their anger upon Joseph. Then Joseph began telling the family about his prophetic dreams, in which all his brethren bowed down to him and served him. That did it. When they got their chance, they sold him as a bondslave into Egypt.

Genesis 37:2 says that Joseph was 17 when he had the prophetic dreams. Jasher 44:14 tells us that Joseph had just turned 18 the day he arrived in Egypt and was sold as a slave to Potiphar. After a short time serving in Potiphar’s house, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and was sent to prison. He remained there for twelve years until reaching the age of 30 (Gen. 41:46), when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and was made Prime Minister of Egypt.

Strangely enough, Joseph did not immediately send word to his father to let him know that he was alive and safe. For another nine years he allowed Jacob to think that he was dead and lost forever. The first seven years was a time of plenty, when Joseph gathered food for storage against the lean years that lay ahead (Gen. 41:29-30). The lean years of famine thus began when Joseph was 37 years old. Two years later, he revealed his identity to his brothers who had come to buy grain (Gen. 45:6). Joseph was now 39 years old. It was 21 years since he had been sold as a slave into Egypt, and his time of distress was ending.

Joseph then invited the family to move to Egypt. This ended Jacob’s second 21-year time of trouble. It also began a greater level of fulfillment of the time of Jacob’s trouble, for this was the beginning of Israel’s 210-year sojourn in Egypt. It was Israel’s first time of trouble on a national level.

Israel’s First 210-Year National Time of Trouble

Israel’s first 210-year time of trouble as a corporate nation directly parallels Jacob’s 21-year time of trouble. Since we are dealing with a time of trouble on a greater level of fulfillment, the time frame is longer, but it is still characterized by the number 21. In Chapter 2, we saw that Israel did indeed spend precisely 210 years in Egypt. We know that Israel went to Egypt in the year 2238 and left under Moses in the year 2448. Their time in Egypt was characterized by distress and bondage, even as Jacob himself experienced in his bondage to Laban.

Recall that after Jacob returned from his labor under Laban, he remained in Succoth for a year and a half before returning to Bethel, the “House of God.” In the same manner also, Israel as a nation came out of Egyptian bondage in the spring of 2448 and spent a year and a half preparing for the Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew “succoth”). Israel was supposed to enter the Promised Land at the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall, two weeks into the beginning of the year 2450. While the pattern was definitely there, the type was broken by their refusal to enter the land at that time. Nonetheless, their opportunity came on schedule according to the pattern of Jacob when God told him to return to Bethel.

Israel’s Second 210-Year National Time of Trouble

Israel’s second 210-year time of trouble directly parallels Jacob’s 21-year separation from Joseph. It began at the death of Solomon in 931 B.C., with the breach between Israel and Judah. The story is told in 1 Kings 12. Solomon had overtaxed the people in order to pay for his public works projects, and so when he died, the people of Israel came to his son, Rehoboam, and asked for tax relief. Rehoboam refused to lower taxes, so the ten northern tribes of Israel revolted and set up their own monarchy with its capital in Samaria. This nation lasted for 210 years, until the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C.

During this time, the tribes of Joseph were separated from Judah for 210 years. Thus, even as Jacob had been separated from Joseph for 21 years, now the tribes of Joseph were separated from Judah for 210 years. In fact, Genesis 37:26-27 tells us that Judah was the one who had suggested selling Joseph to the slave traders. It is therefore no surprise to learn that Rehoboam, a Judahite, made the ill-advised decision to raise taxes further, which caused the separation between the tribes of Judah and Joseph. We can also prove conclusively that the Divided Kingdom lasted precisely 210 years.

In Chapter 2, we saw how the Assyrian Eponym Calendar astronomically dates the death of Ahab at 853 B.C., because this occurred 90 years prior to the famous solar eclipse of 763 B.C. We also know that Solomon died in the year 931 B.C., 78 years prior to Ahab’s death.

The Assyrian calendar also tells us that they made war on Samaria in 724 B.C., and the Bible tells us the siege lasted three years. Thus, Samaria fell in 721 B.C. This was 210 years after the death of Solomon in 931 B.C. and the foolish decision of Rehoboam that split the nation.

The Prophetic Significance of Israel’s Separation from Judah

Many Christians know that Israel and Judah were two distinct nations in biblical history after the death of Solomon, but few have really understood its implications. This was a very serious situation and highly significant in the overall Plan of God. If we are to comprehend the time of Jacob’s trouble and know how it affects us today, we must grasp the implications of this second time of trouble for the houses of Israel and Judah. The prophets from then on give distinct prophecies to each of these nations, and often these prophecies are quite different. And yet, Bible teachers usually lump them all together and try to make all of them fit the Israeli state today. This is the main reason why their predictions from 1948-1955 failed to come to pass.

When Jacob blessed his 12 sons, he prophesied that Judah would bring forth the Messiah, while Joseph would carry the birthright itself. We read of this in 1 Chronicles 5:1-2,

1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. 2 For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s.)

It is clear from this that Joseph was actually the birthright holder, though Judah carried the royal line that would lead to David and eventually to Jesus. So long as Judah and Joseph were united as one nation, each could benefit from the other’s calling. But once the split occurred, with Judah in the south and the tribes of Joseph in the north, there was a prophetic “breach” between the messianic line and the birthright. It was a breach between the King and the Kingdom.

The prophet Ahijah apparently understood the seriousness of the situation when he was sent to Jeroboam to prophesy the split. In 1 Kings 11:30-37 we read,

30 And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces; 31 And he said to Jeroboam, take thee ten pieces; for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee; 32 (But he shall have one tribe for My servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake…) 34 Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand; but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David My servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he kept My commandments and My statutes; 35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes… 37 And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shall be a king over Israel.

We see from this passage that God took the kingdom out of the hands of Solomon’s son. It was the kingdom of Israel. In fact, the tribes of Joseph had the right to the name of Israel ever since Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons by stating in Genesis 48:16,

16 The angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads; and let my name be named on them.

The angel had given Jacob his new name, Israel, and Jacob then conferred this name upon the sons of Joseph. For this reason, the Northern Kingdom retained the legal right to the name of Israel. The name of Israel legally belonged to the sons of Joseph. As long as all the tribes remained united, the legal name of Israel could be applied to all of them, but when the nation split, the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi had to decide upon an alternate name. They picked the House of Judah, named after the leading tribe of that nation.

We must not overlook the importance of this legal point. The name Israel signified the holders of the birthright, but Judah did not hold the birthright. The sons of Joseph did. Thus, the kingly line was separated from the birthright kingdom when the nation split. After a separation of 210 years, the tribes of Israel were deported to Assyria, where they were supposedly lost forever. However, the prophets continued to prophesy the restoration of the House of Israel with the House of Judah. Ezekiel 37 prophesied the repair of the breach between Judah and Joseph.

The New Testament recognized the continuing breach between Israel and Judah in many of Jesus’ parables, but also showed that this breach would be repaired. For example, the parable in Matthew 25:14 begins with the statement, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is as a man travelling into a far country.” For other examples of this theme, see Matthew 21:33, Mark 12:1, Luke 19:12 and 20:9. These tell us that Jesus (the King, the Messiah of the line of Judah) had to ascend into the heavens (the far country) in order to repair the breach with His Kingdom.

Jesus came as the Lion of the tribe of Judah the first time, in order to secure His throne rights as the Messiah. He comes the second time to the tribes of Joseph in order to secure His birthright, which is His Kingdom. This is apparent to those who have studied the two works of Christ as foretold in the law. Thus, His second work repairs the breach, as foretold Ezekiel 37.

When Israel and Judah split into two nations, the birthright went to the north, while the Messianic line remained with Judah in the south. When Assyria deported the House of Israel, they took the birthright captive. It was the Kingdom itself that went into captivity, with all that this term implies. Most are content to lose the tribes of Joseph in Assyria. Most are content to call them “the lost tribes of Israel,” or “the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matt. 10:6). As Ezekiel foretold, the shepherds refused to search and seek them out, saying, “neither have ye sought that which was lost” (Ezek. 34:4). Therefore, God said, “Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out” (Ezek. 34:11). Toward the end of his prophecy, Ezekiel identified the people of whom he speaks: “Thus shall they know that… they, even the House of Israel, are My people” (Ezek. 34:30).

God was not content to allow the birthright to be lost, for the Kingdom is His Bride who must birth the Manchild. The Messiah is the King; the House of Israel was His Wife. It takes both Husband and Wife to bring forth the Sons. The underlying story of the Bible and of all history is how Jesus ascended to the heavens, so that He would be able to direct the events of history to redeem His people, the lost sheep of the House of Israel—in order that He might invite her into His Tabernacle to conceive and birth the Manchild.

This is not a minor theme. It is central to the entire Bible story, and is the goal of history.

Until recently, the Jews never claimed to be descendants of the lost House of Israel. In fact, they still agree that they are descended only from the remnant of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi that returned from Babylon under Zerubbabel. While there may be certain individuals of all tribes in that remnant, the heads of the lost tribes held the tribes’ birthright. The tribeship itself was located with those birthright holders, who had been deported to Assyria and never returned.

In 1948, the Jews proclaimed the official name of their new nation to be Israel. They knew better, but it was a masterful stroke of genius, for this illegal usurpation of the name given to the tribes of Joseph gave the Christian world the impression that their nation was the fulfillment of the biblical prophecies about the restoration of the House of Israel. It has been worth billions of dollars in aid and donations. The Christian world immediately threw their support behind that state and boldly proclaimed that the rapture would take place any moment now, the tribulation was nigh, and the Jews were soon to be all converted to Christ.

Obviously, this did not take place. The failure of this prophecy had much to do with the great deception that the new state of “Israel” was somehow the restored House of Israel. But neither the Jews today nor the original Judah nation had the right to call themselves Israel. The Jews themselves are well aware that they are not descended from the lost House of Israel. They do not carry the birthright of Joseph, nor are they in any way the restored Kingdom of God upon the earth. At best, that nation might be called Judah.

Today’s so-called nation of Israel is actually only a Jewish state fulfilling Jesus’ New Testament prophecies. It is fulfilling Jesus’ prophecies of the fig tree that was to bring forth more leaves (but no Fruit) described in Matthew 21 and 24. Not once did Jesus even hint that this “fig tree” would ever bring forth the Fruits of the Kingdom. In fact, He continually prophesied its eventual destruction after God had given it one final opportunity to bear Fruit.

Once Jesus was born of the line of Judah and secured His throne rights, Judah’s prophetic role in the salvation of the world was concluded. Thus, the destruction of the remnant of Judah in 70 A.D. proves that Judah had fulfilled its call in that regard. All that remained was to bring that cursed “fig tree” back to life, allow it to bring forth more leaves for a season, and then cut down the tree if it still remained barren of Fruit.

Yet the fate of this remnant of Judah does not adversely affect the Plan of God to establish His Kingdom. The Kingdom was not resident in Judah, but in Israel. The prophet Ahijah had decreed the removal of the Kingdom from the hands of Rehoboam, a Judahite, to Jeroboam, an Ephraimite. Only if God was to lose the House of Israel would the Kingdom truly be lost—and the birthright with it. But God has promised many times in Scripture that the tribes of Joseph will be found, even as Joseph himself was found alive and well at the head of Egypt.

As the example of Joseph indicates, we would expect to find the lost House of Israel in a leadership role among the nations at the end of the age—even while they were “lost.” But as for the identity of the lost birthright tribes and how they are to be found, we will have to reserve this for the next chapter of this book. First, let us go to the story of Hezekiah to see how the Bible prophesies the repair of the breach between Judah and Joseph.

Israel’s second time of trouble was primarily a time of separation between Judah and Joseph. At the end of 210 years of separation, the two nations theoretically should have been reunited and the breach repaired. This did not happen, because the people did not repent and because God had yet another, longer time of trouble in mind for them. Nonetheless, in studying the end of that 210-year breach, we find all the prophetic patterns laid down by which God eventually will repair the breach. The events in the life of king Hezekiah give us precise details that are soon to be fulfilled in the world during our own time.

The Story of Hezekiah

The story of Hezekiah is found in 2 Kings 18-20. It begins with the fall of Samaria, when the last remnant of the House of Israel was deported to Assyria. Assyria deported the first few tribes in 745 B.C., but completed the task in 721 B.C. when they captured Samaria, Israel’s capital. We pick up the story here, as told in 2 Kings 18:9-10.

9 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, that Shalmanezer king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it. 10 And at the end of three years they took it, even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.

Shalmanezer, king of Assyria, conquered Samaria in 721 B.C., but he died before he had a chance to try to conquer Jerusalem. He was succeeded by Sennacherib, who returned and tried to conquer Jerusalem eight years later, in 713 B.C. We read of this in 2 Kings 18:13,

13 Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.

Samaria was taken in Hezekiah’s sixth year, and the siege of Jerusalem came in Hezekiah’s 14th year. Keep in mind that this was also 218 years after the death of Solomon and the breach between Judah and Joseph. The point of our discussion here will be to show that the prophetic pattern for the repair of the breach took place under Hezekiah ten years after the fall of Samaria, or 220 years after the beginning of the breach. That is, after the 210-year cycle of Joseph’s separation from his brethren, it took another ten years to repair the breach.

This 210-220 years follows the pattern in the life of Jacob himself, who spent 21 years in bondage, and then returned to Bethel, the House of God, at the end of the 22nd year. The only difference is that in Hezekiah’s day the pattern was national in scope, and thus the numbers reflect a longer time cycle.

When the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem, their captain shouted to the men on the walls of the city, trying to persuade them to surrender. In doing so, he blasphemed God by claiming that He was just like all the other weak gods who had not been able to save their worshippers from Assyrian conquest. In 2 Kings 19:1 we read that Hezekiah tore his clothing (the traditional reaction to hearing blasphemy). He then sent for Isaiah, the prophet, who was in the city during this siege. Hezekiah’s message to Isaiah is recorded in 2 Kings 19:3,

3 And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy; for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.

One might ask what “children” have to do with the siege of Jerusalem. What did Hezekiah mean by not having the strength to bring forth children? He was referring to a very personal problem which had national implications. Hezekiah had no children at this point in his life. Yet God had promised David, his ancestor, that he would never lack a man to sit upon the throne (Jer. 33:17). What would become of this promise, if the Assyrian army were to take the city of Jerusalem? Certainly, Hezekiah would have been executed and all the royal family with him. The promise to David might fail. The Messiah might never be born. Already, it appeared as though the promises to Joseph had failed, for the Assyrians had deported the birthright tribes far away near the Caspian Sea. Would the promises to Judah fail also?

Thus, we see the underlying tone of Hezekiah’s inquiry. When he spoke of “the remnant that are left” ( 2 Ki. 19:4, Is. 37:4), it went far beyond the remaining body of citizens who were left in Jerusalem. It was also a reference to the seed of David that might be lost forever. Isaiah sent word back to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 19:21-34. In part, it reads,

28 Because thy [Assyria’s] rage against Me and thy tumult is come up into Mine ears; therefore I will put My hook in thy nose, and My bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. 29 And this shall be a sign unto thee: Ye shall eat this year [i.e., the 8th year after the fall of Samaria] such things as grow of themselves, and in the second year [9th year] that which springeth of the same; and in the third year [10th year] sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruits thereof. 30 And the remnant that is escaped of the House of Judah shall yet again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 31 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of Mount Zion; the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this. 32 Therefore, thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord.

The Bible then tells us that the same night this prophecy was given, God destroyed the entire Assyrian army. The Assyrian king returned to Nineveh, as Isaiah prophesied, where he was killed by his own son. Sennacherib tried to kill the seed of David, so God had him killed by the hand of his own son.

The point to remember here is this: even though the siege of Jerusalem was broken that very night, God told the people not to sow or reap until the third year. Why? Because God’s appointed time was ten years after the fall of Samaria, 220 years after the breach. The Assyrian army was destroyed in the eighth year, the 218th year after the breach. This began the process toward deliverance, but that process would not be complete until the third year.

The 14th Jubilee: Samaria Conquered (721 B.C.)

The fall of Samaria occurred on the 14th Jubilee of their calendar, dating from the year Joshua led Israel into Canaan. Fourteen is the Biblical number of salvation or deliverance. It was the time of Israel’s visitation, but because of their heart idolatry and spiritual adultery, they lost their Jubilee. Instead of deliverance, they were deported to Assyria and began a much longer series of 210-year cycles that would bring us to the present day. In their deportation, the breach between Israel and Judah was complete. Israel was now fully “lost.” God actually gave Israel a bill of divorce (Jer. 3:8) and sent her out of His house according to the law (Deut. 24:1-5).

But the problem also involved Judah, for without the birthright, Judah could not birth the Manchild either. They had to be united, the King and His Kingdom, Husband and Wife, in order to bring forth children in a lawful manner. This entire problem manifested in king Hezekiah, the head of the Judah nation. He had no children, no heir to the throne. The threat of execution at the hand of the Assyrian king was real. So God did the first work of deliverance in the eighth year after the 14th Jubilee; but Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, was not born until the end of the tenth year. This was the appointed time.

God told the people to keep two rest years in a row. They were to “eat such things as grow of themselves” for two years (2 Kings 19:29). In other words, they would not sow or reap for two years, but just eat whatever grew of itself. In the third year, they were to sow and reap and eat of their crops. In effect, this was a Jubilee Sign of the 49th and 50th years. God called them to observe the Jubilee ten years late. In the tenth year, the “remnant” was to take root downward and bear fruit upward (2 Kings 19.30). God was not ultimately speaking of crops at all. He was speaking of the “Remnant,” which was a reference to the birth of Hezekiah’s son and (to us) a type of the Manchild.

The Remnant Shall Return

If we were to compare this with one of Isaiah’s major themes throughout the book of Isaiah, we would see that the “Remnant” concept is developed much further there. Isaiah 1:9 sets the tone for this prophetic theme in his writing,

9 Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.

The “Remnant” is defined in Isaiah 6:13 as God’s tithe of the harvest, “a tenth," as distinct from the rest of the people whose eyes are blinded and their ears stopped (6:9-10).

In Isaiah 7:3, we are told of Isaiah’s oldest son, named prophetically, Shear-jashub, which means “a remnant shall return.” The prophetic significance of his name is found in Isaiah 10:20-23.

20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Remnant [Hebrew shear] of Israel, and such as are escaped of the House of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21 The Remnant shall return [shear-jashub], even the Remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. 22 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a Remnant of them shall return; the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. 23 For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.

Notice that the Remnant comes out of the House of Jacob, not out of the House of Judah. This is simply because Judah was to produce the Messiah, the Father of the Remnant. But the House of Israel was to be the mother of the Remnant.

Jacob represents man in a leavened state; as Israel, he is an Overcomer. While he was named Jacob, he was striving with God; when he was renamed Israel, he entered into Rest. There is the man of Jacob and the nation of Israel; both are the same prophetically.

King Hezekiah of Judah, who was of the seed of David, became a type of the father of the Remnant. His son was Manasseh, born ten years after the 14th Jubilee. Manasseh was the son of king Hezekiah and Hephzibah (2 Kings 21:1); but he was named after Joseph’s son, Manasseh. He was thus a manifestation of the Manchild, the offspring of the Messiah and His Kingdom Bride. This story also may prophetically give us the timing for the repair of the breach between Judah and Joseph. This, we know, is connected to the second work of Christ, for He came the first time of the line of Judah to secure His throne rights, but He comes the second time to secure His birthright. When both are secured, the King and His Kingdom are reunited, and the Manchild can be brought to birth.

This same time cycle is culminating in our day in a greater manifestation, which could well be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in the story of Hezekiah. This will be the subject of the next chapter.