Many of us have grown up reading the Parable of the prodigal Son. And we have all identified with this disobedient child. We have been taught that the prodigal son is the common sinner and the Father is God Almighty. Is this interpretation correct? If it is correct, who is the other jealous son? Is there another interpretation to this Parable? Today, we will delve into one of the most used Parables in Christianity, and in my opinion, one of the least understood.
Before we begin studying this Parable, I believe all of us need a working knowledge of one of the most important, yet, one of the least discussed facts in the Bible. And that is “The 2 Houses Of Israel” also known as “The divided Kingdom of Israel”. Some of you must be knowing a lot about this subject. Some of you might have heard it somewhere at sometime. But most of the Christians around the world have no clue to this Historic Event that changed everything in the Scriptures, and the prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled concerning this subject. So let us get down to it.
What are these 2 Houses of Israel? A brief look at Biblical History
After Moses led the 12 Tribes of Israel (the generations that came from the 12 Children of Jacob) out of Egypt, God appeared to “His People – Israel” and gave them Commandments and led them to the Land of Israel. At this time there was no King over Israel, and God Himself reigned King over His People. After Moses’ death, Joshua acted as “Judge” over Israel and many others were appointed after Joshua(Book of Judges) for a span of around 450 years(Acts 13:20). When Samuel was acting as Judge over Israel, the people asked for a King to rule over them, to much displeasure from Samuel & God Himself(1Sam 8:5-8). After Saul’s reign, David was appointed as King and he ruled over all 12 Tribes of Israel/Jacob (2Sam 5:3-5). After David, Solomon was anointed King and when Solomon was old, his many wives made him sin against God (1Kin 11:4-7). As punishment, Solomon’s servant Jeroboam received 10 tribes to rule over, and the rest were ruled by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam (1Kin 11:30,31/ 1Kin 12:16,17). Rehoboam ruled over the Tribe of Judah & Benjamin, collectively called the “House of Judah” (1Kin 12:23). From this point onwards in the Books of 1st & 2nd Kings, Jeroboam and his Sons ruled over what was called “The House of Israel” in the north of the land while Rehoboam and his Sons ruled over what was called “The House of Judah” in the south of the land. After much rebellion against God, and not giving ear to the Prophets, The House of Israel was taken captive to Assyria(2Kin 17:6,18,23). The Majority of them were scattered among the nations(Hos 8:8, Jer 31:10). Even though, The House of Judah, was much better than The House of Israel, they also disobeyed God and was taken captive to Babylon(Dan 1:1,2). But God let them return back to their land after 70 yrs in exile(Jer 29:10, Ezr 2:1, Neh 7:6). The people who are called Jews today, are mostly, the descendants of the House of Judah. And the House of Israel has been dispersed among nations according to all of the prophecies of Scripture. These descendants are worshiping there own gods without knowing who they are, living in countries around the world(Deut 28:64, Neh 1:8,9, Eze 12:15). And God has said that He will bring back these people from the ends of the Earth.
These 2 Houses are specifically mentioned throughout the Scriptures
1Kin 12:21, 2Kin 23:27, Isa 5:7, Jer 3:18, 5:11, 11:10,17, 12:14, 13:11, 31:27, 31:31, 33:14, Eze 9:9, Hos 11:12, Mic 1:5, Zec 8:13, Heb 8:8
The scattering of His People was prophesied before it happened
Lev 26:33, Deut 4:27, 28:63-68, 32:26, Jer 9:16, Ezek 20:23, 22:15,
God has promised to bring back the scattered and rebuild His people
Deut 30:1-5, Isaiah 11:10-13, 27:12, 43:5-7, Jer 3:12-15, Amos 9:9, Ezek 11:17, Ezek 37
These 2 houses will become one people
Eze 37:16-19, Jer 3:18, 50:4, Hos 1:11
Yeshua was sent for the Lost sheep of the House of Israel
Mat 15:24, John 11:52
Yeshua will rule over these 2 Houses forever
Luk 1:33 (The House of Jacob is the “House of Judah” & the “House of Israel”, together)
Everyone including the Apostles knew about the scattered
John 7:35, 1Pet 1:1, James 1:1, Acts 21:21
So what does the Division of Israel have to do with the Parable of the Prodigal Son?
I believe that the correct interpretation of this Parable can only be understood by someone after studying what happened to Israel, and what was prophesied about them throughout the Scriptures. consider the following explanation. (My Interpretation is added in underlined font)
Luk 15:11 And he said, A certain man(Father God) had two sons(The two Houses of Israel – Hos 1:10,11):
Luk 15:12 And the younger of them(The House of Israel/Ephraim – Jer 31:20) said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. (God blessed them abundantly with their inheritance – Eze 35:15)
Luk 15:13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. (The House of Israel sinned against God, doing all that they pleased, and was finally exiled – 2Kin 17:18)
Luk 15:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. (In Exile, the house of Israel got scattered among the nations – Deut 4:27)
Luk 15:15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. (Among the nations they have become slaves to other God’s – Deut 4:28)
Luk 15:16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. (They fell to the depths of uncleanness – Hos 9:3)
Luk 15:17-19 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. (They will finally understand their error and return to the Father – Jer 31:16-19)
Luk 15:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. (The Father showed His ways through Yeshua, to whomever was in error – John 14:24)
Luk 15:21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. (The House of Israel is coming back to him with repentance – Acts 5:31)
Luk 15:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: (The Father accepts the repenting House of Israel, and gives them back their rightful position – Hos 14)
Luk 15:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: (Yeshua was sent for the Lost of the House of Israel – Mat 15:24)
Luk 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (Through Yeshua the House of Israel is alive again through a renewed covenant – Heb 8:10)
Luk 15:25-28 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. (The House of Judah has a hard time accepting that the Father could accept the children that had disobeyed Him – Acts 11:3&18 , as the House of Judah did not keep company with other Nations – Acts 10:28)
Luk 15:29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: (The House of Judah, for the most part, have always been obedient to God – Hos 11:12)
Luk 15:30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. (The House of Israel, on the other hand has always been in harlotry with other gods – Jer 3:6)
Luk 15:31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. (The House of Israel, unlike Judah, was given a bill of divorce and put away by God, Almighty resulting in their exile and scattering- Jer 3:8)
Luk 15:32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (God will accept the repenting House of Israel, making his brother, The House of Judah, jealous – Rom 11:11)
FAQ 01 – Why would the House of Judah that has 2 tribes be called by Judah’s name?
According to Gen 49:10 Jacob prophesied that the ruler-ship shall not depart from the Tribe of Judah. David and all the Kings after him, including Messiah was from the Tribe of Judah. It could be because Judah was a dominant Tribe with the right to rule.
FAQ 02 – Why is the House of Israel called the House of Israel if it had only 10 tribes?
The reason could be, that they were the Majority, with 10 tribes. In some instances, the House of Israel is also known as Ephraim(Hos 6:10 ; 11:12 ; Eze 37:16). Ephraim was a son of Joseph. According to Josh 17:17/1Chr 12:30, the tribe of Ephraim, were a great people. (Also read, Hos 5:12,14 ; Judg 10:9). Jeroboam, the 1st ruler of the House of Israel after the division, was also from the tribe of Ephraim(1King 11:26)
FAQ 03 – Do we have to be physical descendants to be His? (Also read the Definition of Israel)
Whether you are a physical descendant or not, when you accept God Almighty, you become part of His people with the right to the inheritance given by God (Eze 47:22,23, Eph 2:12). Remember, that the House of Israel got scattered to the furthest corners of the earth. Because of this, anyone could be a physical descendant. Even if you are not, we can still be adopted into His People. Remember how Ruth, a “Moabite” woman, the great grand mother of David and from whom Yeshua, our Savior also proceed, became part of Israel. In Ruth 1:16, she says to Naomi, for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God, my God“. The important thing is to accept our maker with the right heart.
I hope that this post gives you a short glimpse to one of the main subjects in Scripture – The 2 Houses of Israel which showcases God and His plan to bring a people for Himself out of all nations. Most of the Parables as well as phrases that Yeshua uttered can be easily understood by having a knowledge of the back of the Book. Reading the New Testament alone, keeping aside the History of God can, and have, led to a lot of misunderstandings in defining who we are and what God is doing in the last days. The parable of the prodigal son, is such an instance, where the correct meaning cannot be understood without knowledge of the Scriptures. Start searching, start reading, start learning, for yourself. Do not believe anyone’s words. Believe only in His Words. May He lead you to the whole Truth!