Did Jesus gather in the scattered of Judah and Israel?

This is the third of a series of responses to the claim that Jesus did not meet any of six authentic Jewish messianic criteria. 

In his book, ‘Twenty-six reasons why Jews don’t believe in Jesus,’ Asher Norman writes:

“THE THIRD MESSIANIC CRITERIA IS THAT [MESSIAH] WILL BRING THE JEWISH PEOPLE BACK TO ISRAELNot only did Jesus fail to bring the Jewish People back to Israel, the Jews were expelled from Israel shortly after Jesus lived. This is the opposite of what this messianic prophecy requires.

ISAIAH: “He will arise a banner for the nations and assemble the castaways of Israel; and He will gather in the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:12)

ISAIAH: “It shall be on that day that Hashem will thresh, from the surging [Euphrates] River to the Brook of Egypt, and you [Israel] will be gathered up one by one, O Children of Israel. It shall be on that day that a great shofar will be blown, and those who are lost in the land of Assyria and those cast away in the land of Egypt will come [together], and they will prostrate themselves to Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:12-13)

JEREMIAH: “I will return the captivity of Judah and captivity of Israel, and will rebuild them as at first.” (Jeremiah 33:7)


Jesus did not return the Jewish People to Israel and he is therefore eliminated from Messianic consideration.”

(Twenty-six reasons, pp. 66-67)



God promised the Land of Canaan to Abraham himself and to his seed after him as an ‘eternal possession’ (see Genesis 13:15 & 17:8, in which ‘you’ in the singular refers to Abraham as the principal heir).

The fact that neither Abraham, Isaac nor Jacob obtained the Land, but dwelt there as strangers (Exodus 6:4), shows that God has not yet fulfilled His promise to them personally. The Talmud claims that this proves the resurrection of the dead (i.e.so that God may yet fulfil His promise in the future): [1]

“MISHNA. All Israel have a portion in the world to come … But the following have no portion therein: He who maintains that the Resurrection is not intimated in the Torah …

… It has been taught: Rabbi Simai said, “Whence do we learn resurrection from the Torah? From the verse, ‘And I also have established my covenant with them [the Patriarchs] to give them the land of Canaan: ‘you’ [collectively] is not said, but to give them [personally]; thus resurrection is proved from the Torah.”

A footnote in the Soncino edition explains: “The promise [to give the Land to the original heirs] could be literally fulfilled only by the Patriarchs’ resurrection.”

That the patriarchs themselves understood God’s promise in this way is hinted at in the fact that Jacob and Joseph both arranged for their bodies to be taken from Egypt and buried in their Land of Promise (Genesis 49:29-32, 50:24-25).

The patriarchs will moreover need to be raised up immortal in order to receive the Land as an ‘eternal possession’. As the New Testament also explains:  flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:50). God told the prophet Daniel before he died in exile: “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance” (Daniel 12:13).

We thus understand that God’s promise to give Israel the Land is ultimately intended for the resurrection.

Israel’s tenure under the Law

By contrast to the eternal inheritance at the end of the mortal age, there was a further basis for Israel’s possession of the Land – that being under the Law. The Land would serve as a place where Israel could live under God’s protection, free from pagan influence, to worship Him! God commanded Pharaoh: “Let my people go so that they might worship Me” (Exodus 8:1).

Israel’s possession in terms of the Law was thus expressly conditional, as it clearly states: “if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Leviticus 18:28).

“ `Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations” (Leviticus 20:22-24).

Also in Leviticus 25, where it provides for the redemption of Land, God warns Israel: “`The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (verse 23).

Israel soon fell into idolatry and unfaithfulness. At the time of Elijah only 7000 Israelites remained who had not worshipped Baal (1 Kings 19:18). Ahaz and Manasseh, both kings of Judah, practiced idolatry to the extent that they gave their sons in the fire as sacrifices to Molech (2 Chronicles 28:1-4; 2 Chronicles 33) – and so also did many of the Israelites (2 Kings 17:17).

Ezekiel prophesied that Israel had become worse than the surrounding nations which had been driven from the Land before them (Ezekiel 5:6-7).

It was obvious that the ‘eternal possession’ promised to Abraham would not be obtained under the Law. After God’s grace and long-suffering over many generations, and His persistent warnings through the prophets, Israel was exiled to Assyria and Judah to Babylon. At the same time Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed (see 2 Chronicles 36:15-19).

This was not however the end of Israel, nor of the plan that God would accomplish through that nation. After seventy years of exile in Babylon, God would bring Israel back to the Land:

“This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)

The Torah not only predicted Israel’s exile, but also provided for her return:

“After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time – if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God and provoking him to anger, I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you. There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath” (Deuteronomy 24:25-31).

“You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their fathers’ sins they will waste away. But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers – their treachery against Me and their hostility toward Me, which made Me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies – then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26:38-42).

Why was the exiles’ return linked to Messiah?

The same prophets who announced that God would return a remnant of the Jews after their punishment in Babylon, also spoke in rich and vivid terms of Messiah’s coming. Based on this, there was probably a strong and widely held expectation that the return from Babylon would immediately usher in the Messianic Age. But this was not what God intended. 

To clarify His plan, God gave the prophet Daniel a vision of great importance, in which the sequence and timing of events from the exile to Messiah, was clearly shown.

From Babylon, where Daniel was in exile with the rest of the Jews, he turned to God with all of his heart and confessed the sins and rebellion of his people – thereby satisfying the condition God had stated in the Law for their return (see Leviticus 26, quoted above).

Daniel, reading from Jeremiah’s prophecies, understood that the exile would end after seventy years. But this would NOT coincide with Messiah’s coming. God revealed to Daniel: “Seventy sevens have been decreed for your people and for your holy city …” (Dan. 9:2 & 24). This period is understood as 490 years within which God’s plan to restore Israel would be completed and Messiah would come.

Seventy sevens are determined upon your people and upon your holy city to finish the transgression and to make full the measure of sins, to make atonement for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to prince messiah shall be seven sevens and sixty two sevens: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troubled times. And after sixty two sevens shall messiah be cut off, and have nothing: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and its end shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall make a covenant with many – one week, and in the middle of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and offering to fail (Daniel 9:24-27).

The sequence of events, according to the time-line given to Daniel, was that:

  • The Jews would return to the land and the city be rebuilt (after 7 x 7 years).
  • Then Messiah would come and be ‘cut off’ –  but not without making final atonement for sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness! (after a further 62 x 7 years)
  • After this the city and the sanctuary would again be destroyed.

History followed this exact sequence, as Norman correctly states.

The ultimate fulfillment of the ingathering

How do we reconcile Daniel’s prophecy with the clear message in Isaiah 11 that Messiah would ‘gather in’ the lost of Israel?

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit … the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth”  (Isaiah 11:1-12).

Isaiah speaks here of a further ingathering (“the Lord will reach out his hand a second time”) that would take place at the time of Messiah, and would thus be in addition to the return from Babylon in Daniel’s time. This would be more wide-spread in its scope, extending to the four quarters of the earth, and also involve the nations (Gentiles) who would ‘rally to him’ (i.e. to the Messiah).

While many Christians believe this to be fulfilled in the recent migration of Jews to the land of the Patriarchs and culminating in the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948, this is clearly mistaken.

To restore Israel back to the Land when its future sins would require it to forfeit it once more, and be driven out into exile all over again, would be of no lasting benefit. This dilemma is borne out in the event to which Norman refers: “the Jews were expelled from Israel shortly after Jesus lived”. At that time, Jerusalem and the Temple were once again destroyed and many Jews taken captive by the Romans – as predicted in Daniel’s vision – 40 years after Messiah’s coming.

By Messiah’s coming, however, the absolute prerequisites for Israel’s eventual ‘eternal possession’ of the Land, i.e. to finish the transgression, make full the measure of sins, make atonement for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness, would have been achieved. Once forgiveness of sins is obtained, and everlasting righteousness for all who believe, the inheritance can never be lost again!  It is in this manner (i.e. by achieving reconciliation with God and the ‘eternal possession’ of the Land promised to Abraham), that Messiah ‘gathered in’ the remnant of Israel and the scattered of Judah “from the four quarters of the earth”.

Despite his being ‘cut of’, Jesus sent out his disciples to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is also what he promised in Matthew 24: “I will send out my messengers … and they will gather the chosen ones from the four winds” (verse 28). (See our detailed exposition of Matthew 24.)

As the gospel spread throughout the Diaspora, all who believed out of the scattered children of Israel were thus forgiven, reconciled and ‘gathered in’.  Like Daniel, these will all rise at the end of days to receive their allotted inheritance. Faithful Gentiles will be included among them, for as the prophet Zechariah was shown:

“‘Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people’” (Zechariah 2:10-11).

Moreover Ezekiel prophesied:

“’You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,’ declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezekiel 47:21-23).

Because the faithful of all generations will receive the promised inheritance in the resurrection (Hebrews 11:40), the resurrected Messiah is described as ‘the first-fruits from the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). His resurrection guarantees the resurrection for all who are destined for immortality, which is why Paul told the Jews at Pisidian Antioch: “what God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus” (Acts 13:32-33).

Thus it is written: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever” (Ezekiel 37:24-25).

Postscript – concerning the other prophecies quoted by Norman

Of the three prophecies quoted by Norman, only Isaiah 11 refers to the Messiah. The other two speak of the return at the end of the seventy years of the Babylonian exile:

  • Isaiah 27:12-13. Isaiah prophesied that God would thresh for his people from the Euphrates River to the Brook of Egypt. These rivers mark the area to  which Israel was scattered by the Assyrians and Babylonians, and from which it was returned at that time.
  • Jeremiah 33 speaks first about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians(verses 4-5) and then promises that the exiles will return from Babylon (verses 6-7).




[1] Bab. Sanhedrin, 98b.