Chapter 5 of Akiva and Ephraim
Â In the same extract above from the Jewish Encyclopedia it was mentioned that, in his extensives traveling, among the many countries visited by R. Akiva, first on the list stood Parthia. This was not an accident. What is so special about Parthia that caught our attention? We have to remind our readers that after the death of King Solomon in c. 931 BCE, the United Kingdom of Israel had been divided into two politically independent states: The Kingdom of Israel in the North with its capital city of Samaria, consisting of the Ten Tribes; and the Kingdom of Judaea in the South with the capital city of Jerusalem, consisting of the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and most of Levi, commonly known to the World as the modern day Jewish People. This division took place in circa 930 BCE (I Kings 12:19; II Chronicles 10:19). It had been initiated and designed by God Himself (1 Kings 12:15, 24). He had specific reason for doing this. In the End Times, when He will reunite, ingather and redeem all the families of Jacob, we shall fully understood in detail the Divine wisdom of the Creatorâ€™s Plan.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel had lasted 209 years (930 BCE-721 BCE). The Israelites were taken into Assyrian captivity in circa 721 BCE and somehow mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth. They became known as the legendary â€˜Ten Lost Tribes of Israelâ€™. Since then world history has been dealing with the Nation of Judah, from the former State of Judaea, who later were called Jews.
The Ten Tribes of Israel were forced by the Assyrians in the time of King Sennaherib to go into Exile. They were placed in the Median cities of Halah, and Habor, by the river of Gozan (2 Kings 17:3-6). Nobody knows the exact geographical locations of these places. The celebrated Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius, who wrote in the 80s CE, recorded: â€œThe Ten Tribes are beyond the Euphrates until this day, and are an immense multitude whose numbers cannot be estimatedâ€ (Antiquities of the Jews, book XI, chapter 5:2).
The Parthian Empire (247B.C.-224 C E) was located east of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and included the territories of Mesopotamia, Seleucia, the northeast region of present day Iran, the Persian Gulf, and the area south of the Caspian Sea. Why would R. Akiva visit Parthia? Because he was perfectly aware of the existence of the Ten Tribes of Israel in Exile and knew their exact location! But what would the Israelites have to do with the Parthian Empire? According to the authors Steven M. Collins, â€œParthia: The Forgotten Ancient Superpower and Its Role in Biblical Historyâ€ and Yair Davidiy, â€œOriginâ€, â€˜the Parthians were Israelites who descended from the Ten Tribes of Israel after their relocation to Asiaâ€™.
Imperial Parthia â€“ a hidden and forgotten ancient Superpower in Asia had become one of Romeâ€™s greatest enemies. They never lost territory to the Romans, nor did they lose any wars waged by Rome. Parthia â€“ an Israelite Empire raised in Asia. Their relationship with the Romans had not been always peaceful and stable. At the times those two Empires were warring with one another in pursuit of territories they were both interested in. Bar Kokhba and R. Akiva may have believed that a strained relationship between the Parthians and the Romans may still have existed. They hoped that the Jewish Revolt would find full support from the Parthians. These expectations were not to be realized. Parthia had a large Jewish community. The Jews east of the Euphrates kept in close contact with Jerusalem and faithfully dispatched the Temple Taxes. The International gatherings of pilgrims to Jerusalem on the Jewish Festivals included Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and many travelers from Mesopotamia.
â€œThe Ten Tribes are beyond the Euphrates until this day, and are an immense multitude whose numbers cannot be estimatedâ€: This statement of the celebrated historian simply means that the Israelites were Parthians, since the Euphrates River had long been the recognized border between the Roman and Parthian Empires. That is why R. Akiva went to his brethren in Parthia, sincerely hoping to get what he wanted i.e. military support for the Jewish Revolt from the strong Parthian army which would enable them to defeat the Roman Empire and establish a Messianic Kingdom of Peace and Justice. Surprisingly, R. Akiva got the shock of his life. The Parthians refused to cooperate with R. Akiva. They were indifferent to the cause of the Judeans and were not interested in their Revolt.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â R. Akiva tried to persuade the Israelites of Parthia to take side with the Judeans and help them in the war against the Romans. He used the best of his ability to present the most powerful arguments to win over their trust and brotherhood, to incline their leadership to yield to his appeal. He reminded the Israelites of their long history beginning with the Patriarch Abraham and Sarah, the Exodus from the Egypt, Moses, receiving the Divine Torah on Mount Sinai and its Laws, the blessings and curses of God, the conquest of Â Canaan under Joshua, the times of Judges, the glorious Israelite Kingdom of David and Solomon, the division of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judea, defeat and the Exile of the Ten Tribes of Israel by the Assyrians, the places of their migrations and how some of them had become the Parthians.
Nothing would have helped. It was a crying voice in the desert. The Israelites did not heed him. They did not mind giving some money, weapons and necessary supplies but categorically refused to send the army or any military units to fight against the Romans. R. Akiva could not believe what he had heard and seen. His own kindred people, sons of their common father Jacob, were totally ignorant of their national heritage, of the God of their fathers and His Laws, of the Hebrew Bible and the Prophecies. The fate of the Jews was not interesting to them. They were preoccupied with their everyday problems and concerns, with their own gods and beliefs, with their Imperial Power and politics, with their own wars, borders, and the unity and wellbeing of their Empire. And,besides, the Parthians were at peace with the Roman Empire who had given them back disputed territories east of Euphrates, so they did not want to break the peace treaty and recommence rivalry and bloody wars with their mighty neighbor.
Having witnessed their attitude towards the Jews and their refusal to help in the planned military Revolt against the Romans, and realizing that this could have meant disaster, collapse of his vision of a free and independent Judea, the magnificent Third Temple, the Messianic Word, dreams and aspirations of all his life, R. Akiva Â could not forget and forgive. R. Akiva in his outrage and disappointment cursed them: â€œThe Ten Tribes will not return. Just as a day passes and it will never return so too, they will be exiled never to return.â€ In his severe sentence he even denied the Ten Tribes to be present at Judgment Day and merit life in the World-To-Come (Lev. 26:38; Deut.28:29; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 110b).Â The Rabbis of the Talmud did not like what R. Akiva said. Rabbah b. Bar Hana said in R. Johanan's name: â€œ[Here] R. Akiba abandoned his love, for it is written, Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep mine anger foreverâ€ (Sanhedrin 110b).
From ancient times the Ten Tribes had been known as rebellious, violators of the Commandments, a stubborn and hard-hearted people. They had worshipped idols, gods which cannot save, and brought forth â€˜strange childrenâ€™ of mixed ancestry. â€œThey and their fathers have transgressed against Me even unto this very dayâ€ (Ezekiel 2:3).
But there was a time when they had known their God and lived by His Divine Laws. It was they who had received the Divine Revelation of the Torah from the hands of the Almighty at Mount Sinai. They are still His chosen People. The Almighty has never broken the Covenant with them. As a loving father, He wants the children of Israel to repent and come back to Him.
"All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. You, O Israel, My servant, whom I have chosen. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help youâ€ (Isaiah 41:8-11).
The possibility of national repentance of the Israelites was known to them throughout the earlier history of this nation.
â€œFinally, they cried out to the LORD for help, saying, "We have sinned against You because we have abandoned You as our God and have served the images of Baal" (Judges 10:10).
Judah and Israel need each other. They have to reunite and be one nation again. That is what Almighty wants, and eventually that is precisely what will be done! (Jeremiah 3:18; Ezekiel 37:22-28).