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A Biblical view of Globalism and Nationalism, part 1

Dec 12, 2018

The conflict between Globalism vs. Nationalism is not new, but it now appears to be coming to a climax. Therefore, it is necessary to know how the Bible views this issue, so that we can better know the mind of God and support the Kingdom of God.

Genesis 10 begins with individual men whose families grew into larger populations. As they increased, families became tribes, and tribes became nations. None of these tribes were made up of just genealogical family members, for virtually all of them included many who had joined with them from other families and tribes.

Abraham’s family was no different as it grew into a tribe. In time, of course, through marriage, they would eventually be related to the core members of the family, but it cannot be said that the nation which emerged from that tribe and were all exclusively members of a single family. By the time a nation was formed, it had become a legal entity that included, nearly always, people of other families and tribes.

Wives of the Sons of Jacob

When Jacob’s twelve sons came of age, they found wives from other families. Many of these wives remain unnamed in Scripture, but we know that they could not have all married their own sisters. The Book of Jasher (34:36; 45:3) tells us that Simeon married Bunah, a girl from Shechem who survived the massacre in Genesis 34. It is said later that he also married his half-sister, Dinah, who had been the occasion of the massacre (Jasher 45:2).

Reuben, the oldest, married “Eliuram, the daughter of Avi the Canaanite” (Jasher 45:1). Judah too married “a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua” (Genesis 38:2). Levi and Issachar married daughters of Jobab, the grandson of Eber, or Heber, from whom the name Hebrews was derived (Jasher 45:5).

Dan went to Moab and “took for a wife Aphlaleth, the daughter of Chamudah the Moabite” (Jasher 45:7). Gad and Naphtali went to Haran and took wives from the kin folk of Rebekah and Rachel (Jasher 45:9). Asher married a daughter of Ishmael (Jasher 45:12), but she died childless, so he married Hadurah, a widow who had been the wife of a grandson of Shem (Jasher 45:14). Hadurah already had a three-year-old daughter, who was brought up in the house of Asher.

Zebulon married Merishah, a Midianite (Jasher 45:19). Benjamin married a woman from Aram, or Syria (Jasher 45:21). Lastly, Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On (Genesis 41:45).

These marriages, most likely, were not interracial but international. Neither the Bible nor Jasher concern themselves with the racial makeup of these families, telling us only that they arose from the sons of Noah.

Abraham’s Household

Abraham’s household numbered in the thousands even before he had any children of his own. In Genesis 14:14 we read,

14 And when Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

This event took place years before Ishmael and Isaac were born. Abraham had no children, and yet these trained warriors had been born in his house and had grown into adulthood, knowing only the leadership of Abraham. Hence, if Abraham is the father of faith, or "all who believe" (Romans 4:11), then these of his household are prophetic types of the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 KJV).

If Abraham had 318 men trained in the art of war, his household must have numbered at least 2,000 including men, women, and children. Abraham had an entire tribe long before the birth of Isaac and Jacob. Isaac was, of course, the heir, which meant that he was the ruler of the tribe, and after him, Jacob became the heir as well. Isaac lived for 180 years, and Jacob succeeded him.

At the age of 130, Jacob and his immediate family of seventy went to Egypt.. Genesis 46:26, 27 says,

26 All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob’s sons, were sixty-six persons in all, 27 and the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt were two; all the persons of the house of Jacob, who came to Egypt, were seventy.

Though no census was taken in this migration to Egypt, there must have been ten thousand in the tribe of Israel by this time. In those days it was not unusual to double a population every 20-40 years, unless war decimated the tribe. But the Bible does not indicate that the tribe of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had suffered casualties in war during those centuries.

The Nation of Israel

Israel remained in Egypt for 210 years. The Bible tells us that it was 400 years from the birth of Isaac to Israel’s exodus from Egypt (Genesis 15:13). Again, Galatians 3:17 says that it was 430 years from the promise to Abraham until the covenant under Moses (shortly after the exodus). The 30-year difference tells us that Abraham was 70 when he was given the promise, and thirty years later he was 100 when Isaac was born.

By the time Israel left Egypt under Moses, their population numbered about six million. This figure is more feasible when we understand that they did not begin with just 70 people. The tribe itself probably numbered at least 10,000 when they moved to Egypt, and so two centuries later they had increased to six million.

While in Egypt, the tribe progressed to becoming a nation. Twelve tribes, each ruled by the patriarch descended from a son of Jacob, included the descendants of those not directly descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet they are all counted as Israelites, and all had become members of one of the twelve tribes.

Likewise, when Israel left Egypt, many Egyptians came with them. Exodus 12:38 says,

38 And a mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.

These were new believers who saw the power of God in the ten plagues that destroyed Egypt. They were not yet knowledgeable of the ways of God, and so they often caused problems in the wilderness journey. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that they returned to Egypt. Instead, they were integrated into whatever tribe of Israel that they chose, and when the Israelites conquered Canaan, they were disbursed among the tribes. They were not separated from the rest of the nation, for we read of no additional tribal territory allotted to them.

The Genetic Makeup of the Nation of Israel

Most people today think of Israel in racial terms, but a nation is a legal and political entity, not racial. In ancient times, Israel was divided into twelve tribes, each ruled by a “prince” (Numbers 7:11 KJV). Each prince was the birthright holder of the tribal inheritance and was the direct descendant of the original patriarch. No one else held the birthright, even if they were direct descendants of the patriarchs. There could be just one prince at a time.

The nation of Israel, then, included many families, as we have seen. The vast majority of them were not directly descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they all had a common culture and were expected to worship the same God. Anyone who joined the nation in later years was expected to worship the same God and to conform to His laws and Kingdom culture. In doing so, such foreigners came under the same covenant and promise given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Isaiah 56:6, 7).

It is clear, then, that Israel was never strictly a genealogical term, though it was led by the direct descendants of the man called Jacob-Israel. Israel was said to be “chosen,” but one cannot say that the “chosen people” must be genealogical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The chosen ones are those who come under the covenant, and Isaiah clearly tells us that foreigners had the right to come under that covenant.

In fact, if an Israelite—even a direct descendant of Jacob—violated certain laws (and did not repent), he could lose his citizenship (status) as an Israelite. So when the Roman centurion came to Jesus with faith in his heart, we read in Matthew 8:10-12,

10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The “many” coming from east and west are obviously those like the Roman centurion who were foreigners desiring to come under the covenants given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Conversely, many of “the sons of the kingdom” would be “cast out” for their lack of faith. The common Jewish thinking in the first century was that their genealogical connection to Abraham gave them special status before God and that any foreign proselyte was a second-class citizen. Such proselytes had to worship God from the outer court known as the Court of Women or the Court of the Gentiles.

John the Baptist contradicted that claim in Luke 3:8,

8 Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

Where did John get this idea? It was not a new idea. He was a student of the law, which often tells us that certain offenses could result in the expulsion of tribal members from the commonwealth of Israel. A good example of this is found in the laws of sacrifice, where if a man does not bring the blood of a sacrifice to the sanctuary and apply it to the altar, he was in danger of being “cut off from among his people” (Leviticus 17:4).

Such a person could not claim that his rights were being violated. He could not bring forth his genealogical history as evidence of his status as an Israelite. No, the law trumps genealogy. Being an Israelite was a legal matter, not a genealogical matter, insofar as one’s claim to be under the covenant with Abraham. Just as Abraham’s entire household came under the same covenant through their unity with Abraham, so also one could lose his covenant status by not having the faith of Abraham.

More Than One Meaning

The problem in any language is that words usually have more than one meaning. Over the years, words also tend to change their meaning. The term Israel is no exception. Sometimes the Bible uses it in reference to the man Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. In later years Israel was a political or national term, inclusive of the twelve tribes. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided, and thereafter, the term Israel applied only to the ten northern tribes as distinct from the two tribes of the House of Judah.

To understand Scripture, we must understand these shifts of meaning. Most of the prophets wrote their books after the kingdom had been divided, and so their use of the term Israel was nearly always excluded the house of Judah. Many Christians today do not realize this, and so they tend to attribute all of Israel’s prophecies to the Jews.

But the term Jew is just short for Judah. In fact, the term Jew itself has various shades of meaning. It could mean a descendant of the man named Judah. It could just as easily mean a member of the tribe of Judah, regardless of genealogy. After the divided kingdom, a Jew was distinct from an Israelite. In 2 Kings 16:6 KJV the term Jew is used for the first time in describing a war between the Israelites (allied with the Syrians) and the Jews.

In Esther 8:17 the term is used in a religious sense,

17 … And many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them.

These converts were probably Persians, and they “became Jews.” A few centuries later, the entire nation of Edom converted to Judaism and became Jews. Certainly, they did not suddenly change their genealogy. Being a Jew meant that they adopted Judaism.

Language, then, can present a problem to those trying to understand Scripture. But if we hope to understand globalism and nationalism from a biblical point of view, we must have some grasp of the biblical language in our great text book.

This is part 1 of a series titled "A Biblical view of Globalism and Nationalism" To view all parts, click the link below.

A Biblical view of Globalism and Nationalism

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones