The Tribes of Israel are the traditional divisions of the ancient Jewish people. Biblical history records the twelve tribes of Israel as the descended sons and grandsons of the Jewish patriarch Jacob, and are called "Israel" from Jacob's name given to him by God (Genesis 32). The twelve tribes of Israel were descended from his twelve sons - Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh. Initially, these tribes formed a united kingdom, and then eventually split (922 B.C.).
It’s been almost three thousand years since that split took place. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel rebelled against King Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon and grandson of King David. The Bible continued to refer to these ten tribes as Israel while the other two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) that remained loyal to David’s descendants were known as the kingdom of Judah or simply Judah.
In most biblical literature Israel is referred to as the northern kingdom and Judah as the southern kingdom. The dominant of Israel's northern tribes were the descendants of Jacob’s son Joseph through his sons Ephraim and Manasseh—prophesied by Jacob to be the chief nations of the world in the last days (Genesis 49:1, Genesis 49:22-26; also Deuteronomy 33:13-17).
About two-hundred years after the kingdom split, the northern tribes of Israel fell to Assyria and were deported by the Assyrians to the northern parts of their empire. Often referred to now as the lost tribes of Israel, they migrated in mass to the northwest parts of Europe, far from the Middle East.
The kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon more than a century after Israel’s deportation, but its people were not lost to history. We know them today as the Israeli - Jews.
The name Ephraim is sometimes used representatively in Scripture to describe the entire northern kingdom, though it can also refer solely to the descendants of Joseph’s son of that name—prophesied to become a “multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19). Interestingly, this promise to Ephraim has been interpreted as being fulfilled as the British Empire and Commonwealth.
When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. And Joseph said to his father, "Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head." But his father refused and said, "I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations." So he blessed them that day, saying, "By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, 'God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.' "Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
Manasseh was prophesied by his father to become a great nation as well (just not as great as Ephraim), and that he would eventually separate himself from the multitude of nations. This prophecy can and has also been seen as being fulfilled in the formation, growth and dominance of the United States of America.
In a further revealing prophecy regarding the United States and Britain, Jacob (Israel) said, “Let my name be named upon them” (Genesis 48:16). These references to ” Israel” in end-time prophecy have often been interpreted as being the United States or the English-speaking countries of the British Empire or both. Important to remember that there are also times in a more narrow scriptural sense that "Israel” can only mean all twelve tribes. To more accurately interpret we have to look at specific verses in their context to see which is meant.
“Judah,” however, always refers to the Jews, the descendants of the house or kingdom of Judah. We must also understand that the modern nation called Israel is really Judah, made up of Jews. Understanding this critical part of biblical history will help us more fully comprehend a passage of Scripture in the book of Hosea, which is a possible prophecy about Ephraim (the multitude of nations). It warns of destruction to follow the end-time ascendancy of the Israelite nations.
“The pride of Israel testifies to his face; therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them. With their flocks and herds they will go to seek the Lord, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them. They have dealt treacherously with the Lord, for they have begotten pagan children. Now a new moon will devour them and their heritage."
A new moon occurs one month apart. Using a literal interpretation a new moon “devouring” them would seem to mean that Israel, Ephraim and Judah will all fall within one month.
For certain we know that this prophecy was not fulfilled in ancient times. As already mentioned, ancient Judah fell to Babylon more than a century after Israel fell to Assyria. That being the case, in the end it appears they will all three fall together—within one month of each other. Clearly this prophecy remains to be fulfilled.
Remember that Israel (Jacob) gave his name to Ephraim and Manasseh, the ancestors who would become predominantly the British and American peoples. As Ephraim is mentioned separately in this prophecy, the reference to ”Israel” (Northern Kingdom) would more than likely apply to the United States, which is now obviously the more dominant of the two nations.
For two centuries prior to World War II, the roles were reversed with the multitude of nations—the British Empire—a greater power than the single nation, the United States. But today as we know America is globally recognized as the greater of the two.
“Judah” refers to the Jewish people, particularly those who now constitute the modern nation (1948) in the Middle East that calls itself Israel.
I think it is irresponsible to not only consider, but to strongly acknowledge that there are many credible bible scholars and end-times specialists who interpret this prophecy of Hosea to be referring to all three of these modern day nations—as the United States, Britain and Israel (Judah). There is also credible support for the interpretation that in order for this prophecy to be fulfilled, eventually all three will have to fall within the span of a month. Hosea 5:6 shows these nations turning back to God, but finding it’s too late. Because of their sins, He will let them suffer temporal defeat and collapse.
(This prophecy could not have been fulfilled until after the rise of Britain and the United States as world powers in the 19th century and the formation of the Jewish state of Israel in the 20th.)
To many Christians of western culture this interpretation and idea seem both improbable and inconceivable - I get it. But that does not make it impossible or less real, we will never see what we don't want to see. But, if we take a moment to separate ourselves out and away from the comforts and constitutions of our western lifestyle and prosperous dreams, we might the opportunity to see something different. First, place yourself into the plans and purposes of the almighty God. Then, view your faith in God through the lens of what HE wants for YOU - ultimately. At the end of every day we are His children, called by His name, living in His tender mercies and under His good grace. God has always said in His word from Old Covenant to the New Covenant, that He wants to bring His people, His children, His Church - home. Jesus said, "I am going to prepare a place for you, that where I am - there you will be also." If you will allow your self to take a moment to distance your heart and mind from identity politics, political correctness, and the deceitful notion that everyone deserves and gets a trophy, you be able to see once more from a biblical perspective.
Start with this...
Consider the present day reality that Israel and the United States are perhaps the most maligned and criticized nations on earth. Consider as well, that Christians and Jews are the most persecuted and victimized people groups in the world. Persecuted and victimized by the three greatest anti-Christ anti-Semitic movements in the history of mankind - Progressivism, Communism, Radical Islamism. Their attacks and terrorism against Christianity and Judaism are not only a historical reality, but they are the reality of present-day anti-Semitic and anti-Christ global ideology. How does Hosea's prophecy look now?
How does this end for us? With a new car, a new cellphone, and a new house? The answer is no - we will according to the great promises and covenants of our faith, end up with something eternally better. The message and prophecies like Hosea's are not gloom and doom - they are hope and help. How does God begin to accomplish this? Well, perhaps He has already begun. Perhaps God was using the obscure prophet Hosea to speak to His people of all times and all places that to redeem, rescue and reward, He must eventually bring all things to an end. Could you believe for a moment today that there very well may be more to the prophetic voices of the past than mere eschatological speculation? Perhaps the strange and bizarre story of Hosea, is God's voice! God's voice speaking out and down into time itself... saying to His people, hold on, the best is yet to come.