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At their first dispersion they were carried into Assyria and Media, and if they subsisted any where it is reasonable to imagine they might be found there in great abundance. But this is not the case, neither are they to be found in any of those parts where it has been asserted, by different Jewish writers, they took up their residence. It is the opinion of some that they returned into their own country, with the other two tribes after the Babylonish captivity. The decree, indeed, of Cyrus extended to all the people of God, Ezra i. 3. and that of Artaxerxes to all the people of Israel, vii. 13. and no doubt but many of the Israelites took advantage of these decrees, and returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra to their own cities: but still the main body of the ten tribes remained behind; and if the whole did not return at this time, they cannot be supposed to have returned in a body at any time after, for we do not read of any such circumstance in history, neither of the time or occasion of their return. The celebrated Dean Prideaux says, “ the ten tribes of Israel, which " had separated from the house of David, were brought to “ a full and utter destruction, and never after recovered 66 themselves again. For those who were thus carried
away (excepting only some few, who joining them66 selves to the Jews in the land of their captivity return“ed with them) soon going into the usages and idolatry “ of the nations among whom they were planted (to “ which they were too much addicted while in their own “ land) after a time became wholly absorbed, and swal“ lowed up in them, and thence utterly losing their name, “ their language and their memorial, were never after 56 spoken of."
But if the whole race of Israel became thus extinct and perished for ever, it may be asked how can the numerous prophecies be fulfilled which promise the future conversion and restoration of Israel as well as Judah? The truth we conceive to lie between these two opinions, Neither did they all return to Jerusalem, nor did all who remained behind comply with the idolatry of the Gentiles, among whom they lived. But whether they remained, or whether they returned, this prophecy of Isaiah was still fulfilled; the kingdom, the commonwealth, the state of
Israel was utterly broken; they no longer subsisted as a distinct people from Judah, they no longer maintained a separate religion, they joined themselves to the Jews from whom they had been unhappily divided, they lost the name of Israel as a name of distinction, and were thenceforth all in common called Jews.
It appears from the book of Esther, that there were great numbers of Jews in all the hundred and twenty and seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, or Artaxerxes Longimanus, king of Persia, and they could not all be the remains of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who had refused to return to Jerusalem with their brethren; they must, at least many of them, have been the descendants of the ten tribes whom the kings of Assyria had carried away captive; but yet they are all spoken of as one and the same people, and all, without distinction, are denominated Jews.
We read in the acts of the Apostles, that there went to Jerusalem, to celebrate the feast of Pentecost, Parthians and Medes, and Elamites, and the duellers in Mesopotamia, Acts ii. 9. These men came from the countries wherein the ten tribes had been placed, and, in all probability, were therefore some of their posterity; but yet these, as well as the rest, are stiled Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven, Acts ii. 5. Those likewise of the ten tribes, who returned to Jerusalem, united with the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and formed but one nation, one body of Jews. They might, perhaps, for some ages, have preserved their genealogies; but they are now incorporated together, and the distinction of tribes and families is, in a great measure, lost among them, and they have all, from the Babylonish cap. tivity to this day, been comprehended under the general name of Jews.
There were many persons of all the ten tribes in being during the time of St. Paul's ministry; for he speaketh of the twelve tribes hoping to attain to the promise of God, Acts xxxvi. 7. and St. James addresses his epistle to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, James i. 1. And there is no doubt but there are many of the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel still in being, though they cannot be separated from the rest. They are all confounded with the other Jews, and there is no difference between them. The Samaritans, indeed, (of whom there are still some remains at Sichem, and the neighboring towns) pretend to be the descendants of the children of Israel, but they are really derived from those nations which Esar. haddon, king of Assyria, planted in the country, after he had carried thence the ten tribes into captivity. And it is for this reason that the Jews call them by no other name than Cuthites, which was the name of the principal person of those nations. They exclaim against them as the worst of heretics, and, if possible, have
a greater aversion to them than to the Christians.
It may, perhaps, be asked by some, what could be the reason that such a material difference and distinction should be made between the two tribes of Judab and Benjamin and the ten tribes of Israel. Why the latter should be, as it were, lost in their captivity, and the former restored, and preserved several ages after. To this it is answered, that the ten tribes had totally revolted from God to the worship of the golden calves in Dan and Bethel; and for this, and their idolatry and wickedness, they were suffered to remain in the land of their captivity. The Jews were restored, not so much for their own sakes as for the sake of the promises made unto their forefathers, namely, the promise to Judah that the Messiah should come of his tribe, and the promise to David that the Messiah should be born of his family. It was there. fore necessary for the tribe of Judah, and the families of that tribe, to be kept distinct until the Divine dispensation should be accomplished. But since these ends have been fully answered, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin are as much confounded as any of the rest: all distinction of families and genealogies is lost among them; and (as Bishop Chandler observes) the Jews themselves acknowledge as much in saying, that when the Messiah
it will be part of his office “ to sort their families, restore their genealogies, and set aside strangers.”
In what an astonishing manner does it engage the attention of the most serious, when they reflect on the preservation of the Jews through so many ages, notwith
standing the great efforts that have been made, at different periods, totally to extirpate them, and that, instead of themselves, all their enemies have been finally reduced. But wonderful as these events may appear, they are still made much more so by their being signified beforehand by the spirit of prophecy, as we find particularly in the prophet Jeremiah, Fear not thou, O Jacob my servant, saith the Lord, for I am with thee, for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee, but I will not make a full end of thee. Jer. xlvi. 28.
Of all the astonishing things we meet with both in ancient and modern histories, there is not certainly any to be found so remarkably singular as that of the preservation of the Jews to the present period of time. They have been dispersed among all nations, and yet they are not confounded with any. They flow into all parts of the world, mix with all nations, and yet keep separate from all. They still live as a distinct people, and yet they do not live any where according to their own laws: they neither elect their own magistrates, nor enjoy the full exercise of their religion. Their solemn feasts and sacrifices are limited to one certain place, and that hath been now, for many ages, in the hands of strangers and aliens, who will not suffer them to come thither. No people on the whole face of the earth have continued unmixed so long as they have done. The northern nations have come in great multitudes into the more southern parts of Europe; but where are they now to be discerned and distinguished? The Gauls went forth in great bodies to seek their fortune in foreign parts; but what traces or footsteps of them are now remaining any where? In France, who can separate the race of the ancient Gauls from the various other people, who, from time to time, have settled there? In Spain, who can distinguish exactly between the first possessors, the Spaniards, and the Goths and Moors, who conquered and kept possession of the country for some time? In England, who can pretend to say with certainty which families are derived from the ancient Britons, and which from the Romans, or Saxons, or Danes, or Normans? The most ancient and honorable pedigrees can be traced up only to a certain period, and beyond that there is nothing but conjecture and uncertain. ty, obscurity and ignorance. But the Jews can go up higher than any nation: they can even deduce their pedigree from the beginning of the world. They may not know from what particular tribe or family they are descended, but they know certainly that they all sprung from the stock of Abraham. And yet the contempt with which they have been treated, and the hardships which they have undergone in almost all countries, should, one would think, bave made them desirous to forget or renounce their original; but they profess it, they glory in it: and after so many wars, massacres, and persecutions, they still subsist, they still are very numerous: and what but a supernatural power could have preserved them in such a manner as none other nation upon earth bath been preserved ?
At the same time that we behold with astonishment the wise dispensations of Providence in having protected the Jews even to the present period, we cannot, without equal astonishment, reflect on the circumstance of his having been pleased likewise utterly to destroy their enemies. The first oppressors of the Jews were the Egyptians, who detained them from their own land, compelled them into captivity, treated them with great cruel. ty, and kept them for many years in bondage. The Assyrians carried away captives the ten tribes of Israel, and the Babylonians afterwards the two remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Syro-Macedonians, especially Antiochus Epiphanes, cruelly persecuted them; and the Romans utterly dissolved the Jewish state, and dispersed the people so that they have never been able to recover their city and country ever since.
And where are now these great and famous monarchies, which, in their time, subdued and oppressed the people of God? Are they not vanished, and not only their power, but almost even their very names lost on the earth? The Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians were overthrown, and entirely subjugated by the Persians; and the Persians (it is remarkable) were the restorers of the Jews, as well as the destroyers of their enemies. The SyroMacedonians were swallowed up by the Romans; and the