Several years ago while teaching a class on the biblical significance of the return of Israel, James D. Tabor made reference to an interesting, but not so well known passage from the book of the prophet Jeremiah.
“Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” (Jeremiah 32:37–41 ESV)
This is a remarkable passage and predicts the gathering of scattered Israelites from all the countries into which they were driven. In this text, Yehovah promises to bring Israel back and make them dwell safely in the land promised to their forefathers. Referring to the oft-repeated covenant language, we are told that “they shall be my people and I will be their God.” It also speaks of an everlasting covenant that Yehovah will make with His people and of a promise to do good to them. It says further that He will rejoice in doing good and then qualifies this by stating, “I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and soul.” It is this phrase that should give us pause. The one thing that Yehovah promises to do with all his heart and all his soul is to gather scattered Israel and to plant them in the land in faithfulness!
A search of the Hebrew Bible however reveals that the phrase heart and soul appears eighteen times. In the Hebrew Bible, it occurs seven times in the 2nd person masculine singular (Deuteronomy 4:29, 6:5, 10:12, 26:16, 30:2, 6, 10), nine times in the 3rd person masculine plural (Deuteronomy 11:13, 13:4, Joshua 22:5, 23:14, I Kings 2:4, 8:48, II Chronicles 6:38, 15:12, 34:31), once in the 1st masculine singular (II Kings 23:25), and once in the 1st common singular (Jeremiah 32:41).
What is interesting is that among these occurrences is a series of 9 things, recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy, that returning Israel must do with all their heart and all their soul.
I highly encourage the reading of these passages in context. When taken as a whole they present a sort of map for returning Israel. Here are those passages in the order in which they appear.
“But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV)
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV)
“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 11:13 ESV)
“you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:3 ESV)
“This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 26:16 ESV)
“and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deuteronomy 30:2 ESV)
“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV)
“when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:10 ESV)
“Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.””
(Joshua 22:5 ESV)
““And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.”
(Joshua 23:14 ESV)
“that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’”
(1 Kings 2:4 ESV)
“if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name,”
(1 Kings 8:48 ESV)
“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”
(2 Kings 23:25 ESV)
“if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name,”
(2 Chronicles 6:38 ESV)
“And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul,”
(2 Chronicles 15:12 ESV)
“And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.”
(2 Chronicles 34:31 ESV)
The restoration of all of Israel is predicted in the Hebrew Bible. See for example James D. Tabor’s, Restoring Abrahamic Faith.
According to Tabor (2008), “There are over forty separate sections of the Hebrew prophets that deal specifically with this theme of the full restoration of ALL twelve of the tribes of Israel. (Isaiah 8:17-18; 11:12-13; 14:1-2; 27:12-13; 43:5-7; 49:5-6; 54:1-8; Chapter 60; 66:19-21; Jeremiah 3:12-18; 16:14-18; 23:1-8; 29:10-14; Chapters 30, 31, 33; 50:4-7; Ezekiel 11:14-21; 16:60-63; 20:33-44; 34:11f; Chapters 36, 37; Hosea 1:10-11; 2:14-23; 3:4-5; Joel 2:30-3:21; Amos 9:8-15; Obadiah 17-21; Micah 2:12-13; 4:1-6; 5:1-15; 7:15-20; Zephaniah 3:19-20; Zechariah 2:10-13; 8:1-13; 10:3-12.” (*)
The return of scattered Israel to the land begins from the places in which they find themselves. Presently, many people who formerly thought of themselves as Gentiles are feeling an irresistible draw towards the One God and the ancient Torah. Could these returning ones be the Lost Tribes of Israel? Could you be a literal descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
According to the prophets, though lost and scattered among the nations, Israel will begin the journey home. The search begins with a quest for the God of our fathers – a search that requires all of our heart and all of soul.
(*) Tabor, J. D. (2008). Restoring Abrahamic Faith (3rd ed.). Charlotte, North Carolina: Genesis 2000