FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ISRAEL’S LO-AMMI PERIOD
The questions we will be considering about the Old Testament lo-ammi period are:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “LO-AMMI”?
WHY DID ISRAEL BECOME LO-AMMI?
WERE ALL TWELVE TRIBES TAKEN BACK?
DID ISRAEL REMAIN LO-AMMI THROUGHOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “LO-AMMI”?
We read the phrase “lo-ammi” in Hosea 1:9, “Then said God, ‘Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not My People, and I will not be your God”. The context will show that the Lord told Hosea to take a wife and he took Gomer as his wife (vs. 3). Gomer had three children. The first was named “Jezreel”. We read of the second child’s birth in verse 6, “and she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, ‘Call her name Lo-ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away”. The note in the Companion Bible on the name is very helpful. It reads, “…..Rendered (in the Septuagint) ‘not beloved’ in Rom. 9:25, and ‘not having obtained mercy’ in I Peter 2:10…….”. So when we come to verse 9 which tells of the birth of Gomer’s third child who was named Lo-ammi that verse defines the name as meaning “not My People”.
It is important to note Hosea 2:1-2, “Say to your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruamah. Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not My wife, neither am I her husband…….”. This tells us that Israel became lo-ammi, i.e. Not My People” and at the same time and for the same reasons She was divorced as Jehovah’s wife.
We have learned that God has prophesied against Israel by the naming of Hosea’s and Gomer’s children names which mean “not having obtained mercy”, and “not My People”. And we have also learned from 2:1-2 that Jehovah will divorce His wife, Israel.
TO WHOM DOES THE TERM “ISRAEL” REFER?
As one reads through the prophecy of Hosea it is clear that sometimes the term “Israel” is used of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, and sometimes it is used of all twelve tribes. For example in Hosea 1:11 we read, “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together…..” It is clear that in this verse the term “Israel” refers to the ten tribes of the northern kingdom. But we read in Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt”. The phrase “called My Son out of Egypt” has two meanings. The first obviously refers to God’s bringing Israel out from their servitude to Egypt. We read in Ex. 4:22-23, “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, ‘Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, even My first born: and I say unto thee ‘Let My son go…….'”. The second meaning refers to Christ the child being brought out of Egypt from where Joseph took Him, as commanded by the angel (see Matt. 2:13-15), to escape Herod. But the point is that God led all twelve tribes out of Egypt, not just ten tribes. So in this passage, “Israel” refers to all twelve tribes. Hosea 12:13 also uses the term “Israel” of all twelve tribes as we read, “and by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt”. How are we to tell when “Israel” refers to the ten tribes and when it refers to all twelve tribes? By the context.
But in reading the entire book of Hosea, it is clear that most of the time when we read of “Israel” we are reading of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom. This has led many to believe that it was only the ten tribes who became lo-ammi. Let us consider the reason Israel became lo-ammi as it will, in my opinion, become clear that all twelve tribes were equally deserving of equal punishment.
WHY DID ISRAEL BECOME LO-AMMI?
Why did God divorce Israel and cause Her to become “not My People”? For the answer to that question we will consider Lev. 26. Lev. 26 is a very long chapter in which God tells Israel that if they obey His law they will be blessed with many earthly, temporal blessings, but if they disobey they will be cursed with earthly, temporal punishments. Let us consider briefly this passage.
We read in Lev. 26:12 which comes in the context of the blessings if Israel does obey God’s law. “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My People”. Compare that to Jer.7: 23, “But this thing commanded I them saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people; and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you that it may be well unto you”. But as verses 24-26 tell us, Israel of Jeremiah’s day did not “hearken unto Me”. And in verse 29 we read of the consequence of that disobedience. “…..the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath”. In other words, one of the blessings if Israel did obey the law is that God will be their God and Israel will be His people. It is clear that the opposite was also true, i.e. if Israel disobeyed the law, God would not be their God and they would not be His people, i.e. they would be lo-ammi.
As we compare Lev. 26 which tells us what God would do if Israel disobeyed, with those things of which Israel was guilty before their lo-ammi period, we will see that they are the same. In other words, because Israel disobeyed the law they were punished with the exact punishments God had warned them of in Lev. 26.
We read in Lev. 26:28-39 the consequences of Israel’s disobedience. Verse 25) and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemies……31) I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation.….32) And I will bring the land into desolation…. 33) and I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you, and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste……34) Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate and ye be in your enemies’ land……38) and ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up….39) and they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands..…”.
Note that Lev. 26:25 speaks of Israel being delivered into the hand of the enemies. And we read in II Chron. 36:20, “And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon…….”.
In verse 31 of Lev. 26 we read of Israel’s cities and sanctuaries becoming “waste” and “desolate” respectively. This was fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar as we read in II Chron. 36:19, “And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof”.
And in Lev. 26:32 we read of the land becoming desolate which was also fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar as we read in Jer. 4:7, “The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles (Nebuchadnezzar) is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; and thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant”.
In verse 33 of Lev. 26 we read of Israel being scattered among the heathen and in verse 38 of them perishing among the heathen. and in 39 of their pining away in the land of their enemies. Because the captivity lasted 70 years many who had been carried away to Babylon did indeed pine away and perished in the land of their enemies.
I have tried to show in this section that because Israel disobeyed the Law of Moses, She was, as promised in Lev. 26, punished in the way God told them He would punish them. They were led away captive, their cities and the Temple were destroyed, and Israel, again as promised, was no longer God’s people and He was not their God, i.e. they became “lo-ammi”.
WAS JUDAH AS DISOBEDIENT OF THE LAW AS ISRAEL?
Before we look at the passages that will, in my opinion, prove that Judah was set aside with Israel, I would like to remind the readers of the section above on the reason Israel became lo-ammi. God promised in Lev. 26:12 that if Israel obeyed the law that He would, “…..walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My People”. I don’t think it at all illogical to conclude that if they disobeyed the opposite would be true, i.e. He would not be their God and they would not be His people. So this section will focus on whether the house of Judah was as guilty of disobedience as was the house of Israel. If they were, and I believe we will see that that was the case, then there would be no reason to conclude (absent any Scriptural evidence to the contrary) that Judah was not set aside with Israel.
Ezek. 23 is about two sisters. We read in verse 4 that one represents Samaria, the capitol of the northern kingdom (the ten tribes) and the other represents Jerusalem, the capitol of the southern kingdom (the two tribes).
Let us consider just the key passages of this chapter. Verses 5-10 describe the sins of Samaria. Then in verse 11 we read, “And when her sister. (who represents Jerusalem)…..saw this she was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she……”. Then from verses 12-18 we read of Jerusalem’s sins.
Then in verse 18 we read, “So she (the sister representing Jerusalem) discovered her whoredoms……then My mind was alienated from her, like as My mind was alienated from her sister”. This tells us that God’s mind was the same towards Jerusalem as it was toward Samaria.
Verses 19-30 go on to describe the sins of Jerusalem.
Then we read in verse 31, “Thou (Jerusalem) hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore will I give her cup into thine hand“. This tells us that the punishment that God has for Samaria He also has for Jerusalem.
In verse 32 we read, “Thou (Jerusalem) shalt drink of thy sister’s (i.e. Samaria’s) cup deep and large….”. Again the same punishment for both sisters.
Vs. 33, “Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of thy sister Samaria“. Again the same punishment for both.
Verses 34-49 go on to speak of all the sins of “them”, i.e. Samaria and Jerusalem. In other words, God considers both the northern and southern kingdom as the same in terms of their sins and their punishment.
Therefore, if the northern kingdom was made lo-ammi because of their disobedience of the Law of Moses, so too was the southern kingdom.
Let us also consider Hosea 5:9-12, “Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be. The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out My wrath upon them like water. Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment because he willingly walked after the commandment. Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as a rottenness”. The Companion Bible explains the somewhat puzzling thought that Ephraim was judged because “he willingly walked after the commandment”. That note reads, “Note the Ellipsis, i.e. the (idolatrous) commandment (of Jeroboam)” (I Kings 12:28, II Kings 10:29-31). In other words, Ephraim was judged because he followed the idolatrous commandment of Jeroboam as recorded in I Kings 12:28 and II Kings 10:29-30. The Companion Bible also suggests that “rottenness” is “a worm”. This passage speaks of the sins and the wrath against both Ephraim (the northern kingdom) and Judah. (the southern kingdom). I do not see that Judah is treated any better than is Ephraim.
Jer. 5:11, “For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against Me, saith the Lord”.
Jer. 7:30-31, For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it. and they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into My heart”.
Jer. 11:9-10, “And the Lord said unto me, ‘A conspiracy is found among the men of Judah, and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear My words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers”.
Jer. 11:17, “For the Lord of hosts, That planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke Me to anger in offering incense unto Baal”.
Ezek. 9:9, “Then said He unto me, ‘The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, ‘The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not'”.
FURTHER EVIDENCE THAT JUDAH HAD BECOME LO-AMMI
We read in Is. 1:1, “The vision of Isaiah….which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem…….”. This tells us that Isaiah is writing primarily of Judah. And we read in 50:1 of this book, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgression is your mother put away?'”. In other words, Judah has been divorced. Bearing in mind that in the same context in which we read that Israel will be “lo-ammi” (Hosea 1:9) we also read just a few verses later in Hosea 2:2 that Israel will be divorced. Surely, if, as Isaiah tells us Judah will be divorced, we may conclude that she will also become lo-ammi.
Jer. 7:15, “and I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim”.
Jer. 7:29, “Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation of high places; for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath”.
Jer. 11:2-4, “Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and say unto them, ‘Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace,saying, ‘Obey My voice, and do thou, according to all which I command you: so shall ye me My People, and I will be your God”.
Jer. 44:11, “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; ‘Behold, I will set My face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah'”.
Before we leave this section we must consider Hosea 1:6-7 which reads, “And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. and God said unto him, ‘Call her name Lo-ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. 7) But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, or by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen'”.
The word “but” that begins verse 7 tells us that there is a contrast between how God will deal with Israel and how He will deal with Judah. As we have seen however, Judah was just as guilty of disobedience of the law as was Israel, and there are many passages that tells us that Judah was dealt with in the same way as was Israel. In other words, there was no contrast between how God dealt with Judah and how He dealt with Israel. So how are we to understand Hosea 1:6-7?
Let us consider the phrase “take them away”. There is no contrast between Israel and Judah being taken away, as both were carried away captive (see II Chron. 36:20 for the proof that Judah was carried away captive). Therefore, I believe the note in the Companion Bible on the phrase “take them away” makes sense. That note reads, “supply the Ellipsis, ‘take away (the kingdom which belongs to them)'”. That is to say, the kingdom that belonged to Judah was returned to them, but the kingdom that was Israel’s was not returned. This is born out by the fact that very few of the northern kingdom returned to their lands.
WERE ALL TWELVE TRIBES TAKEN BACK?
Because most of those who returned after the 70 year lo-ammi period were of the house of Judah, many believe that the ten tribes of the northern kingdom remained lo-ammi. I believe that all twelve tribes were taken back as God’s People. Let us consider a few passages that tell us that that is what did indeed occurred.
Ezra 6:16-17, “And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy. And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams. four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel”.
There are two phrases worthy of note. 1) the phrase, “and the rest of the children of the captivity” tells us that it refers to all twelve tribes because all twelve were “the children of captivity” (this will be proved below). 2) The phrase “offering for all Israel….. twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel”. Twelve he goats were offered as a sin offering, i.e. one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. That tells us that all twelve tribes were included in the term “Israel”. Therefore this passage has to do with all twelve tribes. So even though there were relatively few of the northern kingdom that returned, it is clear from the fact that a sin offering was made for all twelve tribes that all twelve were no longer lo-ammi.
Let us consider a few passages from Chronicles and Kings for further evidence that all twelve tribes were represented in the dedication of the temple and were therefore included in the captivity, and therefore were included in the term “the children of Israel”.
We read in I Kings 12:17, “But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cites of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them”. Rehoboam was, of course, King of Judah Obviously the phrase “children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah” refers to those of the northern kingdom or it would be totally redundant to say that they dwelt in Judah. Consider also I Chron. 9:3, “And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh”. Ephraim, and Manasseh were, of course, from the twelve tribes of the northern kingdom.
And in II Chron. 15:9 we read, “He (Asa, the king of Judah) gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those of Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who resided with them, for many defected to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord God was with him (Asa).” (NASB)
Let us also consider II Chron. 30. We learn in this chapter that King Hezekiah sent a message to the northern kingdom so that they might join in the celebration of the Passover (verses 1 and 6). And we read in verse 11 that many accepted that call, “Nevertheless, divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun, humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem” (see also vs. 18). What is key in our present discussion is verse 9 which reads, “For if ye turn again unto the Lord your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land....”.
My point is that the inspired Word sent to Israel was that if they come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the Lord will have compassion on their offspring and lead them back to the Land of Israel, And that is, or course, exactly what happened. Many of Israel did come to Jerusalem for the Passover and their offspring were led back to the Land when their captivity ended. This was just as true for those of the northern kingdom as it was for those of the southern kingdom.
In short, because we know that all twelve tribes were represented in the captivity and the return to Jerusalem, and that sacrifices were made on behalf of all twelve tribes, we must, in my opinion, conclude that God took back all twelve tribes of Israel.
DID ISRAEL REMAIN LO-AMMI THROUGHOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT?
Some believe that none of the twelve tribes of Israel were ever taken back by God after the 70 year lo-ammi period, i.e. that they remained lo-ammi throughout the entire New Testament. The paper on this web-site Was Israel Lo-Ammi Throughout The Entire New Testament? will prove from Scripture that God had taken them back. That paper also discusses the arguments put forth by those who believe otherwise.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org