The Dispersion of Israel

ARTICLE 10-We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes;
A painting depicting Abraham and Isaac gathering wood for a sacrifice.Israel-The combined name and title, Israel, in the original sense of the word, expressed the thought of one who had succeeded in his supplication before the Lord; “soldier of God,” “one who contends with God,” “a prince of God,” are among the common English equivalents. The name first appears in sacred writ as a title conferred upon Jacob, when the latter prevailed in his determination to secure a blessing from his heavenly visitor in the wilderness, receiving the promise: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” We read further: “And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padan-aram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.”

But the name-title thus bestowed under conditions of solemn dignity acquired a wider application, and came to represent the posterity of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, with each of whom the Lord had covenanted that through his descendants should all nations of the earth be blessed. The name of the individual patriarch thus grew into the designation of a people, including the twelve tribes, who delighted in the title Israelites, or children of Israel. By such names they were collectively known during the dark days of their Egyptian bondage, throughout the forty years of the exodus and the journey to the land of promise, on through the period of their existence as a powerful people under the government of the Judges, and as a united nation during the hundred and twenty years comprised in the successive reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon.

At the death of Solomon, probably about 975 B.C., the kingdom was divided. The tribe of Judah and part of the tribe of Benjamin accepted Rehoboam, son and successor of Solomon, as their king; while the rest of the people, usually spoken of as the Ten Tribes, revolted against Rehoboam, thus breaking their allegiance with the house of David, and chose Jeroboam as their king. The Ten Tribes under Jeroboam retained the title Kingdom of Israel, though the kingdom was likewise known by the name of Ephraim from its most prominent tribe; while Rehoboam and his subjects were known as the Kingdom of Judah. For about two hundred and fifty years the two kingdoms maintained a separate existence; after which, about 721 B.C., the independent status of the kingdom of Israel was destroyed, and the people were brought into captivity by the Assyrians under Shalmanezer. The Kingdom of Judah was recognized for over a century longer, and then it was brought to an end by Nebuchadnezzar, who inaugurated the Babylonian captivity. For seventy years the people remained in subjection, and this was in accordance with the prophecy of Jeremiah;  then the Lord softened the hearts of the ruling kings, and the work of emancipation was begun by Cyrus the Persian. The Hebrew people were permitted to return to Judea and to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.

The people, then commonly known as Hebrews, or Jews, retained as the name of their nation the appellation “Israel,” though they scarcely comprised two complete tribes out of the twelve. The name Israel, thus held with commendable pride by the remnant of a once mighty nation, was used in a figurative manner to designate the covenant people who constituted the Church of Christ;  and in that sense it is still employed. The Israelites, as first we meet them in history, were a united people. That we may comprehend the true import of the gathering to which reference is made in the tenth of the Articles of Faith, it is necessary that we first consider the dispersion and scattering to which the people have been subjected. The scriptures abound in predictions concerning such dispersions; scripture and secular history in general unite in testimony of the fulfilment of these prophecies.

The Dispersion of Israel Foretold-It has been said, that “if a complete history of the house of Israel were written, it would be the history of histories, the key of the world’s history for the past twenty centuries.” Justification for this sweeping statement is found in the fact that the Israelites have been so completely dispersed among the nations as to give to this scattered people a place of importance as a factor in the rise and development of almost every large division of the human family. This work of dispersion was brought about by many stages, and extended through millenniums. It was foreseen by the early prophets; and the spiritual leaders of every generation prior to and immediately following the Messianic era predicted the scattering of the people, as an ordained result of their increasing wickedness, or referred to the fulfilment of former prophecies regarding the dispersion then already accomplished, and foretold a further and more complete diffusion of the nation.

Biblical Prophecies-In the course of the exodus from Egypt, where the Israelites had dwelt as in a house of bondage, to Canaan the land of their promised inheritance, the Lord gave them many laws; and established ordinances for their government in temporal and spiritual affairs. He arrayed for their contemplation blessings beyond the power of the unaided mind of man to conceive, predicating these upon their obedience to the laws of righteousness and their allegiance to Himself as God and King. In contrast with this picture of blessed prosperity, the Lord described with terrible distinctness and soul-harrowing detail a state of abject misfortune and blighting suffering, into which they would surely fall if they departed from the path of rectitude and adopted the sinful practises of the heathen peoples with whom they would have dealings. The darkest parts of this dread picture were those that depicted the prospective breaking up of the nation, and the scattering of the people among those who knew not God. These extreme calamities, however, were to befall Israel only if less severe chastisements should have proved ineffective.

When the journey following the exodus was nearing its close, as the Israelites were preparing to cross the Jordan and to take possession of the land of promise, when Moses, patriarch, law-giver and prophet, was about to ascend Nebo, whence to look over the goodly land and then be taken from earth, he repeated the story of contrasted blessings and cursings, which were inseparable from God’s covenant with the people. “The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies” was declared unto them; and again: “The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.” Yet further: “The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favor to the young .And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.”

As the sacred record progresses the fact is made plain that Israel had chosen the evil alternative, forfeiting the blessings and reaping the curses. When the son of sinful Jeroboam lay sick almost unto death, the troubled king sent his wife in disguise to Ahijah, the blind prophet of Israel, to inquire concerning the fate of the child. The prophet, seeing beyond the physical blindness of his old age, predicted the child’s death and the overthrow of the house of Jeroboam; and declared further: “For the Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger.”

Through Isaiah the Lord justifies His judgment upon the people, likening them to an unprofitable vineyard, which, in spite of protecting hedge and fullest care had yielded but wild grapes and which was fit only for spoliation; “Therefore,” He continues, “my people are gone into captivity.” And yet other tribulations were to follow, against which the people were warned lest they alienate themselves entirely from the God of their fathers: “And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? To whom will ye flee for help?” The prophet directs the attention of his erring people to the fact that their tribulations are from the Lord: “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law. Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle.”                                         1 2 3 4 5

After the captivity of Ephraim, or the kingdom of Israel specifically so called, the people of Judah needed yet further admonishments. Through Jeremiah the fate of their brethren was brought to their remembrance; then, as a result of their continued and increasing wickedness, the Lord said: “And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.” Their land was to be despoiled; all the cities of Judah were to be consigned to desolation, and the people were to be scattered among the kingdoms of the earth. Other prophets revealed the Lord’s words of anger and dire warning; and the divine decree is recorded: “I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve; ” and again: “I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries.”

Book of Mormon Predictions-The record made by the division of the house of Israel that took its departure from Jerusalem and made its way to the western hemisphere about 600 B.C., contains many references to the dispersions that had already taken place, and to the continuation of the scattering which was to the writers of the Book of Mormon yet future. In the course of the journey to the coast, and while encamped with his company in the valley of Lemuel on the borders of the Red Sea, the Prophet Lehi declared what he had learned by revelation of the future “dwindling of the Jews in unbelief,” of their crucifying the Messiah, and of their scattering “upon all the face of the earth.” He compared Israel to an olive-tree, the branches of which were to be broken off and distributed; and he recognized the exodus of his colony and their journeying afar as an incident in the general course of dispersion. Nephi, son of Lehi, also beheld in vision the scattering of the covenant people of God, and on this point added his testimony to that of his prophet-father. He saw also that the posterity of his brethren, subsequently known as the Lamanites, would be chastened for their unbelief, and that they were destined to become subject to the Gentiles, and to be scattered before them. Down the prophetic vista of years he saw also the bringing forth of sacred records, other than those then known, “unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth.”

Article Name
The Dispersion of Israel
Mormons believe in the literal and spiritual gathering of Israel, the restoration of the Ten Tribes, and establishing Jerusalem and Zion as holy cities.