The Two Houses of Israel (plus Levi)

In the Day 26 article I casually mentioned that the letter ‘Bet’ in Hebrew was both a picture of a house as well as the number 2. I made a parenthetical statement that this was a subtle reference to two “houses”. This deserves a greater explanation, and it dovetails nicely with discussing the third man on the hill here in Exodus 17.  

He is Hur. 

This is the first mention of Hur by name.  Exodus often introduces characters names on an as-needed basis, as Miriam was finally named after introducing her into the narrative as a child around 80 years earlier.  Hur (pronounced “chur” with a guttural ch) is from the tribe of Judah, and much later in the Exodus narrative Hur’s son is filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to craft crucial aspects of the Tabernacle.  That is just about all we know about Hur, specifically.  

However, with Joshua being from the Tribe of Ephraim, Hur from the Tribe of Judah, and both Moses and Aaron from the Tribe of Levi—we have representatives from the three  “Houses” in Scripture.  Not only are they united in victory on this very hill, they are doing so with an etz (a stick) in their hands.  Ezekiel himself was a Levite and prophesied using similar imagery regarding events still in our future: 

Thus says Adonai YHWH: Behold, I am about to take the etz [stick] of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the etz [stick] of Judah, and they may be one in my hand.  When the  sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, Thus says Adonai YHWH: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.” (Ezekiel 37:19-22

To understand this prophecy, here’s the shortest primer ever on these Houses, and why this is relevant to us today: 

It’s a very common misconception that the Old Testament is “Jewish” and the New Testament is “Christian”.  If you’ve studied with us for the past 27 days, I hope its become clear that this viewpoint is heretical nonsense, bordering on hysterical nonsense.  Messiah is omni-present in our complete Scriptures from cover to cover and the principles in Scripture are likewise consistent.  The terms “Jewish” and “Christian” are so hard to even define that they are barely useful as adjectives, especially when trying to apply these terms to our ancestor’s beliefs. Today, there are “Jews” who proudly declare themselves to be atheists, and entire Christian denominations whose teachings look nothing like Christ’s.  Messiah himself was a “Jew”, yet from a traditional Christian perspective “Jews” killed Jesus.  For millennia, religions have re-branded themselves mostly for the sake of gaining wealth and power, and in their wake is this muddy mess of definitions.  

Although “Jew” and “Christian” are not useful terms, there IS a divide between two houses, two nations, or two kingdoms—and this is such a crucial aspect of understanding the entire Bible, that the very first letter in the Hebrew bible is a ‘Bet’.  It’s even intentionally made larger than every other letter to make this reality perfectly clear.  (See the image below.)   That one letter is screaming “TWO HOUSES!”, before we even finish the first word of scripture.. 

Abraham, for example, is never called “Jewish”, he is only ever referred to as a Hebrew.  Isaac and Jacob likewise.  Jacob however, eventually has 12 sons, three of which become crucial in the understanding of these Houses: Levi, Judah, and Joseph.  Levi and Judah are both sons of Leah and Jacob. 

Levi’s descendants are purchased and set apart as Yah’s Holy Priesthood for tabernacle service and sacrifices (Numbers 1-4) so in some ways the Levites become neutral—like medics in the war between the remaining two Houses.  Moses, a Levite, would therefore not be “Jewish” either.  This makes Moses the perfect mediator and an unbiased conduit for Yah to use for law giving.   Once the land is settled, the Levites aren’t assigned any land, just 49 specific cities with surrounding space for security and growing food.

Judah is set apart by prophecy (Genesis 49:8-12) to be the only legal bloodline for kings—eventually those that associate closely with Judah became known the “House of Judah” and eventually re-brand themselves as “Jews”.   Jews eventually inhabit the southern part of the Promised Land, which they aptly rename Judah.  Jerusalem is located in Judah.

Joseph, on the other hand, is the favored son of Jacob and Rachel, his favored wife. Joseph eventually has two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, both of whom essentially take Joseph’s place as adopted sons of Jacob. If you remember, Jacob also went by the name “Israel”.
All of these nicknames are important, because when referring to family-lines or houses, the terms ‘Ephraim’, ‘Joseph’, and even ‘Israel’ are more or less interchangeable.  This house is also known as the Northern Tribes, as their allotment of land is north of Jerusalem.  Sadly, this entire house eventually becomes more famously known as the “Lost Tribes of the House of Israel”.  The good news, or better THE GOSPEL, is that the lost tribes are no longer lost, as I will explain soon enough.   Patience.   

The spirit of Judah (I use the term “spirit” because I don’t believe this is a bloodline thing) is to create extra laws, on top of what Moses is given on Sinai. “Judah” means “praise”, and obedience is indeed the highest form of worship, but this is not an excuse to create more and more laws in order to increase our own righteousness and holiness.  Many of these laws eventually undo the entire spirit and purpose of Yah’s pure instruction. This purpose is to be an inviting “welcome” light to the nations, yet, inevitably, these extra rules create a private club.  Any private club becomes more concerned with controlling their own.  The nature of this ‘dogma’ (an important Greek word that means unauthorized man-made rules) isn’t unique to the “Jews”.  “Christian” religions create these dogmas all the time as well. 

In contrast, Ephraim means “abundant fruit” and the spirit of Ephraim seems to always want to trade lawfulness for affluence.  We read in Hosea 8:12, “Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing.” It’s this desire for lawlessness, the desire to throw off righteous leadership and guidance, that eventually gets the entire nation of Israel kicked out of the Promised Land and scattered into the nations.  Yah essentially tells them that if they want to be like all the other nations, their desire is granted.  He will often grant us the true desires of our heart (and that is not often a good thing!)  See Jeremiah 3:8-10, and 1 Kings 12

Fun fact: The Books of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings were initially one long scroll, called the “Scroll of the Kingdoms”.  The point was to show the origins of the separate Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the nature of these two “spirits”, and how each of their specific brands of sin lead each to their destruction.  Saul embodies the reckless nature of the spirit of Ephraim, while David embodies the nature of a righteous king from Judah.  In the history of biblical kings, Judah had only a few who were righteous, Ephraim had exactly zero. 

The Old Testament is filled with Prophets, some are sent specifically to Israel, others specifically to Judah.  Each prophet has the same message—repent and return to the Way or face destruction by the surrounding nations.  Even after those messages are unheeded and every Hebrew (of both Houses) is kicked out and exiled, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel still continue to offer a means of escape through repentance, but add to that message detailed prophecies of hope—about a day when both Kingdoms will truly repent in the deepest of ways, and return to the Way with their whole heart.  

The Book of Hebrews is the only book in the New Testament that defines the “New Covenant”, and it’s quoting from Jeremiah 31:31-34

Behold, the days are coming, declares YHWH, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares YHWH. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares YHWH: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares YHWH. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 

Did you notice something?  

According to Jeremiah, and by extension the Book of Hebrews, there is no New Covenant made with anyone except the house of Israel (aka Ephraim) and the house of Judah. 

Spiritually speaking (again not DNA) if you are part of the New Covenant, then by definition you must be adopted into one of these two houses—whether you recognize it or not.  

There is great, wonderful, and healing power in understanding who you are in Messiah.  Who you REALLY are.   Once this clicks, you’ll see your people, and thus yourself, in every verse in Scripture.   You are not a bystander watching from the sidelines.   The Church is Israel, and we have become as wayward as the Israelites that Hosea preached to. 

Messiah says this: “I was sent ONLY to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The Book of James opens like this: “To the twelve tribes of Israel, scattered abroad: greetings!”  Greetings back at you brother.   I’ll see you in The Kingdom.

Paul says this in Ephesians, “Remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh…remember that you were at that time separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without YHWH in the world. But now, in Messiah Yeshua you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.” In other words, you may have considered yourself a “gentile” when you were in the world without Messiah, but you are NO LONGER A GENTILE.  You are now an Israelite and therefore have hope and a promise. 

In Revelation 21, the famous “pearly gate” is actually 12 gates, and the only way into the New Jerusalem is through one of these gates, each named for a Tribe of Israel. There is no gate marked Baptist, or Mormon, or Catholic—if you aren’t Israel, you don’t have a gate.  

I could elaborate with more and more and more verses—but since the entire Bible is predicated on the giant TWO HOUSE hint that is the very first giant letter, I think I’ve made my point. 

This is why the Way to Shavuot is relevant to “Christians”—not just studying it, but actually walking on it. 

This is why Shabbat and the seven Feasts are NOT “Jewish”.  

It was not the Law of God that was nailed to the cross, it was the penalty of our lawlessness.  It was death that was put to death.  This is why Paul is so adamant in the entirety of Romans 11 that we, as former gentiles, do not adopt the evil spirit of our Israelite ancestors and throw out the Torah for the sake of worldly wealth and power.  

The Law of God was not nailed to the cross—it was “dogma”—putting to death the Satanic man-made rules that separated “Jews” and “Gentiles”.

Ephesians 2:13-22, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing dogmas, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” 

Back to Exodus 17: All of this back story is crucial to understand why Hur is invited to the top of this hill—to show the power of Israel when both houses are obedient, worshipful, and praising His Holy name in unity—as it will be under that future New Covenant predicted by the Prophets. 

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