The History of the Ten "Lost" Tribes/Part 3/Note 5

Note V.


One brief note more must be added on a point which all Anglo-Israel writers advance as proof positive in support of their theory. It is the promise that God made to Abraham, "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." The term "gate" (or "gates" as often mis-quoted) is taken to signify "strait," "port," or strategic maritime position and these writers grow quite eloquent in pointing out the many maritime points of vantage which are in occupation of the British as a fulfilment of this ancient promise to the chosen people.

Thus the writer of "Fifty Reasons" (W. H. Poole, D.D.), with which I have already dealt, asks (page 61) "What nation or people are now the gate-holders of the nations? We hold Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Acre, Suez Canal, Aden, Perim," and many other important maritime points which he enumerates, and concludes triumphantly "For 500 years Britain has been the gate-holder in the lands of those who hate her"—a very doubtful compliment this, by the way, to British rule over her acquired possessions.

But like many other Anglo-Israel "proofs" it has no basis in philology or in fact. The word שַׁעַר—Sha'ar ("gate") is used hundreds of times in the Hebrew Bible, but never once either literally or figuratively of a maritime "strait" or "port." The "gate" as being not only the entrance to, but as giving control or possession of the oriental (walled) city, often stands for the city itself. It was, moreover, the most public place of the city, where causes were tried and justice administered (Deut. xxi. 19; xxii. 15; Prov. xxii. 22; Amos v. 10–15); and where elders and judges, kings and princes "sat" officially for counsel or often to exercise authority and rule (Dan. ii. 49; Jer. xvii. 19; xxxviii. 7).

The promise that Abraham's seed should possess the gate of his enemies is idiomatic figurative language, equivalent to saying that they shall be victorious over their enemies, and take possession of their cities. This was fulfilled when at the conquest of Canaan the Israelites took possession of the land and thus assumed the position of lordship over the doomed nations who are spoken of as their "enemies."

We may notice, by way of contrast, that in Jer. i. 14–16 God threatens that as a punishment on Israel for their sin He would call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, and "they shall set every one his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem," which is equivalent to saying that the Gentiles would possess "the gate" of Israel—which as a matter of fact, they are now permitted to do by treading down Jerusalem and scattering the people until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.