Will America be the first to be Saved?
(May 7, 2020, 13 Iyar 5780)
Adapted from "Joseph. The Israelite Destiny of America," by Yair Davidiy (2001, 2004).
A Midrash based on Biblical Passages opines that descendants of Machir son of Manasseh will be the first to be redeemed.
By "redeemed" we understand the intention to be identified as Israelites and re-united with Judah.
Machir represents the inhabitants of North America. The very name "America" is derived from a Latin permutation of the Hebrew "Ha-Machiri" which originally means "Descendants of Machir."
America. Land of Machirites
USA is Manasseh!
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To understand a little more concerning the Midrash in question we need to consider its Biblical background.
The region of Gilead was east of the Jordan River and south of Bashan. It was inhabited by the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the Half-Tribe of Manasseh.
[Manasseh was divided into two sections: One half was west of the Jordan River to the north of Ephraim. The other half was east of the Jordan.]
Before the Israelite conquest "half Gilead" had been possessed by Sihon, and the other half, separated from it by the river Jabbok, by Og, king of Bashan (Numbers 20). Both Sihon and Og belonged to the Amorites a branch of the Canaanite Race. After the two kings were defeated, the region of Gilead was allotted to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the eastern half of Manasseh (Deuteronomy 3:13; Numbers 32:40).
Jabesh (pronounced "Yabesh") Gilead was a settlement in Gilead in the area of Half-Manasseh east of the Jordan River.
At one stage (Judges chapters 19-21) in the time of the Judges in Ancient Israel there had been a Civil War with the Tribe of Benjamin fighting against the other Tribes. As a result of this war most of the Tribe of Benjamin was wiped out. The war had begun following the mass rape and subsequent death of the concubine of a travelling Levite. They had been journeying home from a visit to Beth-Lehem and stopped of in Gibeah of Benjamin for the night when they were attacked (Judges ch. 19). The Benjaminites refused to deliver the culprits up to the rest of Israel for punishment.
Judges (NKJV) 20:
But the children of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brethren, the children of Israel. 14 Instead, the children of Benjamin gathered together from their cities to Gibeah, to go to battle against the children of Israel.
A Civil War ensued. Benjamin lost. The Israelites had sworn not to let any of their number give their daughters to Benjamin. There remained 600 males from Benjamin who needed to get married in order to keep the Tribe of Benjamin in existence.
The inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead had not sent anybody to participate in the war against Benjamin. They had broken ranks with the rest of Israel and transgressed a communal oath. 12,000 warriors were sent to destroy the settlement of Jabesh-Gilead. Everyone in its was exterminated apart from 400 virgins. These were given to the remaining Benjaminites for wives (Judges 21:12). There remained 200 Benjaminites without women. It happened that once a year the young women from the Israelite town of Shiloh would go out and dance in the vineyards. The unmarried bachelors from Benjamin were advised to snatch wives from the women dancers (Judges 21:23). Shiloh was in the territory of Ephraim though it had some kind of connection with Benjamin from the beginning. Henceforth the curse was annulled and all the Tribes of Israel were allowed to intermarry with each other.
Later the settlement of Jabesh Gilead east of the Jordan was re-settled apparently by descendants of Machir from the Tribe of Manasseh. These may have been next-of-kin of the previous inhabitants. The people of Jabesh Gilead would therefore have been related to Benjaminites.
Later, Saul the first king of Israel was from also the Tribe of Benjamin. One of the first acts of Saul upon being made king was to save the people of Jabesh Gilead from the King of Ammon who was attacking them (1-Samuel chapter 11). The King of Ammon had demanded that the dwellers of Jabesh Gilead agree to have each his right eyes poked out in exchange for their lives and this would be "a reproach upon all Israel" (1-Samuel 11:2). Saul gathered together an army and marched all night and saved the people of Jabesh Gilead at the last moment. Saul reigned over Israel. Saul and his sons were eventually killed in battle against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa near Beit-Shean west of the Jordan but not far from its banks.
8 So it happened the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 And they cut off his head and stripped off his armor, and sent word throughout the land of the Philistines, to proclaim it in the temple of their idols and among the people. 10 Then they put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan.
11 Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and traveled all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth Shan; and they came to Jabesh and burned them there.13 Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
The Midrash (Perkei DeRabbi Eliezer, ch. 17; Yalkut Shimeoni, Psalms 60) comments on the above deed of the people of Jabesh Gilead in the territory of Manasseh east of the Jordan:
"Where do we learn about the duty of doing Acts of Kindness to those who are Mourning? We learn it from the people of Jabesh Gilead [who said to themselves]: 'Are we not obligated to repay kindness to the man who saved us from being disgraced by the people of Ammon?' Consequently all the valiant men amongst them stood up and went all night long till they reached the walls of Beth-Shean, as it says, "ALL THE VALIANT MEN AROSE, AND WENT ALL NIGHT, AND TOOK THE BODY OF SAUL" (1-Samuel 31:12).
God therefore said unto them, I will give you a reward in the future for I am destined in ingather Israel from the four corners of the earth, AND FIRSTLY HE INGATHERS THE HALF-TRIBE OF MANASSEH. This is written in Psalms (60:7) "Gilead is Mine, Mine is Manasseh", and after that He ingathers Ephraim, as it says, "Ephraim also is the strength of mine head" (Psalms 60:7).
By the "Half-Tribe of Manasseh" in the above case was meant that section of the Tribe of Manasseh (to which the men of Jabesh-Gilead belonged) east of the Jordan which was otherwise known as "Machir". The name "America" is derived from the name of "Machir" and Machir was the first-born son of Manasseh. The United States of America is a land dominated by descendants of Machir and derives much of its national characteristics from the Tribe of Manasseh to whom Machir belonged. It follows that if the Midrash is to be taken literally it may be indicating that Redemption is to come to those members of the Lost Ten Tribes living in America before it comes to other Lost Israelites!