Book endorsed by David Barton claims American colonists were Ephraimites

Last week, I critiqued one of the central claims in the book, The Covenant, by Timothy Ballard. To help prove that the British and Americans are descended from the lost tribes of Israel, Ballard claims Genesis 49:22 as a prophecy of America. In fact, his rendering is tendentious and completely untenable. He also claims that Jeremiah 31 predicts the gathering of the Israelites in America. However, the text of Jeremiah 31 clearly designates where a future gathering will take place, and it is not America.
To fully understand Ballard’s claim, you should read the post on Genesis 49. His basis for seeing America in Jeremiah is his faulty reading of Genesis 49:22. When he claims Joseph’s posterity was a land “over the wall (he says this means over the Atlantic),” he begins his reading of Jeremiah on a false foundation. Ballard writes:

He [Jeremiah] declares that they will be gathered from “the coasts of the earth” (Jeremiah 31:8). (Recall that Joseph’s posterity was given a land “over the wall” of water and separate from the rest of the tribes of Israel. If they were to travel over this wall, of course they would begin at “the coasts of the earth.”) He further details this migration, stating that “Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion.” Jeremiah foresees them traveling from the “north country” (Europe?), being gathered from “the coasts” (the British Isles?), and delivered into this new land of its inheritance (America?), saying they will come “with weeping, and with supplication” (the historical record is clear on the difficulties faced by our American founders’ early migration and settlement).* (Kindle Locations 851-857).

Jeremiah 31 specifies where the restoration of Israel will take place. You can read the entire chapter here; I have selected verses which designate the specific elements of the restoration.

Jeremiah 31: 1“At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” This is what the Lord says:
I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful. Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.
There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim, ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’”

This chapter refers to a future time when the tribes of Israel, including Joseph’s descendants, will be restored to Palestine. Three locations are named here – Zion (Jerusalem) and the hills of Samaria and Ephraim) – and they are not in America.

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. 10 “Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’
16 This is what the Lord says: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord. “They will return from the land of the enemy. 17 So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord. “Your children will return to their own land.

It is very clear that this chapter pictures a return to the ancient homeland and not a new nation somewhere else. Verse 17 says that Ephraim’s children will return to their own land. There is nothing here about going elsewhere. The following verses make it even clearer where the restoration will take place.

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity,[c] the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals.
38 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.”

This prophesy is quite specific, referring to the “land of Judah” and “its towns.” Towers, gates, hills and valleys are named with precision. None of these locations are in America.
Another aspect of Jeremiah 31 which undermines the British-Israelism argument is in verse 27 where Judah and Israel are referred to as being planted together. According to the Ballard, the northern kingdom of Israel included the sons of Ephraim, who eventually became English settlers in America. In his book, he even calls the settlers “Ephraimites.” Ballard writes

And who were these chosen ones that would settle the New World? They were, for the most part, the European descendants of Joseph, even the Ephraimites, whose responsibility it would be to establish a national covenant in America, and then, building upon this covenant, usher in a renewal and expansion of Christianity. It was to be a covenant land that would bless Judah, help restore ancient Israel, and spread God’s truth and salvation. (Kindle Locations 1744-1752)

Clearly, Jeremiah 31 is about a return to the ancient homeland, and a restoration of the Jews, both Ephraim and Judah.  There is nothing in this passage that refers to a re-gathering anywhere else and no American covenant.
There are so many problems with Ballard’s approach to these texts that it becomes clear that he is interpreting them in light of Mormon theology and the Book of Mormon. In the first book, titled The American Covenant – the LDS version – the Book of Mormon is cited frequently.  As I pointed out on Friday, these references were removed as an aspect of a possible mission effort to expose non-Mormons to Latter Day Saint theology. Mormons see their membership as being primarily descendants of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  From the LDS church website:

On another occasion President Joseph Fielding Smith emphatically stated: “The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph.” (Improvement Era, Oct. 1923, p. 1149.)

Mormons view Joseph Smith as a direct descendant of Ephraim.

“It is the house of Israel we are after, and we care not whether they come from the east, the west, the north, or the south; from China, Russia, England, California, North or South America, or some other locality. … The Book of Mormon came to Ephraim, for Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite, and the Book of Mormon was revealed to him.” (Journal of Discourses 2:268–69.)

Essentially The Covenant is an elaborate effort to bring Mormon beliefs to the masses with Glenn Beck’s help. About the book, Beck gushed:

“I’ve been looking for a way to articulate this message for years. Ballard finally did it! Everybody needs to read this book, it is the key to restoring America.”

In other words, the key to restoring America is a Mormon slant on history and theology. How oddly disturbing, then, for David Barton to also endorse the book in an effusive manner:

The concept of what a covenant truly is and means is unfamiliar to most today, for it far surpasses any legal understandings or obligations with which our current culture is acquainted. God established a covenant with Abraham and his posterity, the Bible recounts not only the duties but also the remarkable benefits produced by that mutual accord. Tim Ballard documents the “extension” of that covenant re-invoked during the establishment of this nation… a covenant made between God and America’s early colonists and Founders. The Covenant not only shows the unprecedented blessings America has received as a result of obedience to God but also what every citizen today can do to honor our national covenant with God and thus ensure His continued blessings.

Given his endorsement, Barton seems to believe there is some relationship between the Abrahamic covenant and the arrival of the English to American shores. Barton’s endorsement probably means his evangelical followers will put stock in the Book of Mormon inspired interpretations of history.  If what some of Ballard’s fellow Mormons have said is true, this is exactly what Ballard and Beck hope to accomplish.
 

The Covenant: A Mormon Mission Tool?

Yesterday, I posted a reaction to The Covenant by Timothy Ballard. It was of interest to me initially because David Barton endorsed it in a manner that indicates he believes America entered a covenant with God when the first settlers came here.  Ballard believes that God signaled that covenant in Genesis 49 via a prophecy about Joseph. According to Ballard, American are descended from Joseph through Ephraim and therefore have a right to consider America a nation in covenant with God.
In reading through the book, I had the impression that Ballard’s book was an effort to communicate Latter Day Saint (Mormon) teachings without directly appealing to Mormon sources of authority (e.g., Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants). The use of Herbert Armstrong as an authority with the label Christian also made me think that Ballard is not an evangelical. Apparently, there is more of a deliberate effort to conceal the Mormon influence than I first thought.
According to two Mormon sources, Ballard is distancing himself from his first book, a two-volume set called The American Covenant. This first work was designed for a Mormon audience and is still being distributed by Deseret Book Company, a Mormon publishing house.
According to one of the sources, who claims to be a friend of Ballard, the new book which I wrote about yesterday was designed to be a missionary tool with the references to Mormon sources cut out.

I have read both books. I am great friends with the author Timothy Ballard, and he is a phenomenal researcher. I must let you know that “The American Covenant” was written for the LDS audience, and his newest book “The Covenant” promoted on the Glenn Beck programs was written for those outside of the Church. Also, Tim is encouraging many to read “The Harbinger” by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, because that book and it’s message also talks and teaches about this same great “Covenant” the God has made with America, and the condemnation that we are under for not keeping our part of that “Covenant.”
Tim’s first book that was released last October of 2011 was read by Elder Ballard. After reading the book Elder Ballard asked for Tim to meet with him. He did so, for a three hour visit. Elder Ballard said “that every American needs to read this great book, and counseled Tim to write another copy without the LDS doctrine in it for the main stream, and that through that endeavor it will become a missionary tool.” Tim complied, and the doors have been opening up for him. I promise you and everyone else you will not be disappointed, and these works will help wake up those that are in slumber. Tim also teaches what we must do as a Nation to renew that Covenant before it’s too late, and the full judgements come upon us!

I assume that “Elder Ballard” (who apparently is no kin to Timothy Ballard) is Apostle M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I understand it, this is the highest level of authority in the LDS church. If this quote is accurate, then it appears that the LDS church hierarchy is behind the effort to use the book and the arguments in it to convert others to LDS faith.
The stealth aspect of avoiding LDS labels is supported by this post by a LDS blogger and talk show host, Candace Salima.  In 2011, Salima interviewed Ballard about the Mormon version of his book and posted the videos on You Tube. However, when Ballard went on the Glenn Beck Show in May, 2012, he asked that the interviewed by removed from You Tube. Salima reluctantly agreed but her reaction suggests she was not happy about it.
On May 17, 2012, Glenn Beck interviewed Ballard about the new version without reference to Mormon scriptures. On May 22, a commenter on Salima’s blog asked her why the You Tube videos had been removed. Salima answered:

Mr. Ballard insisted I remove it. He doesn’t want any LDS references tied to his new book. I wasn’t happy with it, but went ahead and honored his request. Needless to say, I will not be interviewing him again.

In answer to another commenter who questioned the removal, Salima added,

It does, and saddens me. I feel Mr. Ballard’s first book was amazing and I’m glad I have a copy of it. I believe it’s being removed from everywhere, which is a shame.

Despite the efforts to obscure the missionary effort, there is at least one source left on the web where the Mormon basis for the theories in the book is clearly demonstrated. Ballard published an article dated October 30, 2012 in the LDS Meridian magazine which cites the Book of Mormon extensively.
To summarize, The Covenant may indeed be a kind of ruse; an effort to expose people to Mormon doctrines in a manner which isn’t apparent. Taking advantage of socially conservatives’ fear and concern about the direction of the nation, the book offers a nationalistic solution based on a tendentious reading of the Old Testament. If the quote on the LDS discussion board is accurate, then the effort goes to the highest levels of the church.
David Barton may not have known about this effort but he has become involved in this ruse via his endorsement.
 

Author endorsed by David Barton claims founding of America was prophesied in Genesis

Tracking down a claim that David Barton views America as a covenant nation, a commenter provided a link to Timothy Ballard’s book, The Covenant: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel.  Barton endorsed Ballard’s book in a manner which indicates that he agrees with the central concept of America having a covenant with God. About the book, Barton wrote:

The concept of what a covenant truly is and means is unfamiliar to most today, for it far surpasses any legal understandings or obligations with which our current culture is acquainted. God established a covenant with Abraham and his posterity, the Bible recounts not only the duties but also the remarkable benefits produced by that mutual accord. Tim Ballard documents the “extension” of that covenant re-invoked during the establishment of this nation… a covenant made between God and America’s early colonists and Founders. The Covenant not only shows the unprecedented blessings America has received as a result of obedience to God but also what every citizen today can do to honor our national covenant with God and thus ensure His continued blessings.

This quote leaves little doubt that Barton believes America is a covenant nation. However, there is much more to this book than a claim that the English settlers made a pact with God. Ballard asserts that the arrival of the Europeans in the New World was prophesied in Genesis, and furthermore that the British are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. This belief, sometimes called British Israelism, is commonly held by Mormons and adherents of Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. For Ballard (who is Mormon), this belief has political consequences. He believes the country that is now America was destined to be settled by the descendants of Joseph and Ephraim due to promises made in Genesis 49. I am going to examine the basis of this claim later in this post, but first I want to provide some quotes from Ballard’s book which illustrate his positions.
At locations 1164-1167 of the Kindle edition of the book, Ballard writes:

…this study of ancient scripture and modern history will lead us to the powerful conclusion that modern-day citizens of the United States have fulfilled ancient prophecies—they have become the American Covenant-makers. Consequently, the story of the American Covenant—including the promised blessings and obligations given through Abraham to Ephraim and on to George Washington and others—becomes our story.

Speaking of the lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Ballard writes:

Indeed, Joseph/Ephraim was led out to become a multitude of people. They were led to the north country, to the coastline, to the isles of the sea. They were carried over the wall of water to another land. That land is America. (Kindle Locations 1028-1030)

Ballard quotes Herbert Armstrong as an expert on the subject of the lost tribes, saying

The renowned Christian pastor/author, and founder of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert Armstrong, has perhaps studied this issue as much as any other Christian writer. (Kindle Locations 617-618)…
Indeed, as Pastor Armstrong noted, Joseph/Ephraim “never returned to Jerusalem from Assyria, where they were driven with the ten tribes after 721 B.C., and were never again mixed with the Jews from that time!” Instead, they would become completely independent and inherit a new promised land. They would inherit America. (Kindle Locations 631-634).

It is jarring to read Armstrong referred to as a Christian, given that his heterodox views and his frequent criticisms of orthodoxy have been rejected by the church he founded. The full story of the journey of the World Wide Church of God becoming the evangelical Grace Communion International can be read on the church’s website.
Ballard cites Armstrong to help him summarize his contention that the British are related to the lost tribes.

In the final analysis of these Old Testament promises, and with the advantage of historical hindsight, it is difficult to argue with Pastor Armstrong: “God did cause the birthright nations—and them only—to become suddenly the recipients of such national wealth, greatness and power as no nation or empire ever before had acquired! Together they—the British and Americans, descendants of only one tribe, Joseph—came into possession of more than two-thirds—almost three-fourths—of all the cultivated resources and wealth of the whole world. It sounds incredible!… The most amazing fact of all history is this sudden skyrocketing from virtual obscurity of two nations to the most fabulous wealth and economic power ever possessed by any people. Britain became Great Britain—a gigantic, stupendously wealthy commonwealth of nations—the United States, the greatest nation of history.” (Kindle Locations 1057-1065)

Eventually, Ballard addresses how Americans can keep the covenant by recognizing their place in Israel’s history.

Indeed, what is American history if not Old Testament history? American history, after all, is the story of a chosen people, with ties to the blood and promises of Israel, who were given a promised land by covenant. It is a story of this people’s struggle to live righteously as a nation so as to be blessed with the covenant blessings (liberty, protection and prosperity) required to realize God’s work and glory. It is a story of war against evil and oppression. It is also a story of miracles and conversions. It is a story of prophecy and fulfillment, a story of God’s efforts to save His people. And at the core of this story is the one thing that ties all elements together, the one thing that, if adhered to, will allow the blessings of liberty, protection and prosperity to thrive, thus securing the opportunity for salvation for this and future generations. At the core of this story is God’s holy covenant, the American Covenant. (Kindle Locations 6116-6123).

Ballard believes the covenant allows freedom of religious conscience but requires believers to keep the Old Testament commandments. There is much, much more that I could write about but I want to use the rest of this post debunking the key Scriptural claim Ballard makes. He claims that the prophecy of America as a covenant land is found in Jacob’s words to his sons in Genesis 49. Specifically, Ballard claims that Jacob’s address to Joseph contains the key predictions. Ballard says

Before Jacob-Israel died, he gathered his twelve sons—twelve carriers of the covenant—around him. There, he gave answers to these questions. To Judah, he promised that the Messiah would come through his tribe—a prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament. And to Joseph he promised a land where the covenant would be restored. He promised a nation that God would raise up for His purposes in the last days. He promised America. (Kindle Locations 665-668).

According to Ballard, the key passage in Genesis 49 predicting America to be the promised land is Jacob’s words to Joseph. According to Genesis 49:22-26, Jacob said:

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob…[T]he Almighty…shall bless thee with blessings from heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the head of him who was separate from his brethren. (Kindle Locations 669-674)

Ballard then explains why this passage, especially the references to branches running “over the wall” and “everlasting hills” mean Jacob was speaking of America.

Jacob’s blessing also indicates that Joseph’s “branches” (posterity) would “run over the wall.” Exodus 14:22 uses the word “wall” to mean great waters. As such, it can be inferred that the above-referenced promises to Joseph’s posterity were connected to a land across the seas from the Old World. Jacob’s concluding words to his son substantiate this by indicating that Joseph’s people would be “separate from [their] brethren.” We are also told that this land would extend to “the utmost bound” (to a distant place?). In addition to being located far away, and across the sea, the blessing suggests that the land would also contain “everlasting hills.” The longest mountain range in the world—the Andes—stretches 4,300 miles and resides in the Americas. The second longest mountain range in the world—the Rockies—stretches more than 3,000 miles through North America, boasting widths of up to 300 miles and ages of up to 3.3 billion years. (Kindle Locations 690-697)

Incredibly, Ballard offers a spurious inference from Genesis 49:22 to make his case that Joseph’s descendants would eventually cross the Atlantic Ocean and found America. He also offers some verses from Jeremiah which I will take up in a future post. However, the inference about the Joseph’s land being “over the wall” is used at least 12 times to drive home his contention that the tribe of Joseph’s son Ephraim migrated to the British Isles and then to the New World.
What is Ballard’s basis for assuming the image of branches running “over the wall” refers to the Atlantic Ocean? In the citation above, Ballard says that “Exodus 14:22 uses the word “wall” to mean great waters.” Thus, he interprets the Genesis passage as predicting that the descendants of Joseph would go beyond a great body of water. However, this is wrong on at least two counts.
First, note the use of the word wall in Exodus (adding verse 21 for context):

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall (chomah) of water on their right and on their left.

The word wall here is used to describe the appearance and function of the water. It looked like a wall and functioned as a wall. The meaning of the word wall is not changed based on the substance used to create it. For instance, Jeremiah 15:20 uses the same word (chomah) in reference to a “wall of bronze.” By Ballard’s logic, wall would then sometimes mean bronze, and Joseph’s descendants would have to go beyond bronze somehow.
Second, and more important in the analysis of the text, the Hebrew word for wall used in Exodus 14:22 is not the same word as is used in Genesis 49:22. The word for wall (shur) in the Genesis passage is used only three other times in the Old Testament, each time to mean “a wall” or “walls,” never water. The word can also refer to Shur, a region of Palestine bordering Egypt (that makes sense for Joseph as a description of his influence outside of Palestine), and the root of the word is “shor” — an ox or a herd of oxen. There is nothing about water or bodies of water in any usage.
There is another problem with this passage as a proof text for seeing America in Jacob’s poem. There are three different wordings of the verse in three different Hebrew texts – the Septuagint, the Masoretic and the Samarian Pentateuch. While I don’t want to take time to go into the differences and what they might mean, it is worth noting that precision is not possible with this verse. See this article for more on the different texts.
Ballard’s inference from Genesis 49:22 is crucial to his case. As noted, he refers to it 12 times in the book as the key prediction of America as covenant land given to Joseph and Ephraim. Since this inference is faulty, his entire argument is reduced to asserting that America must be a covenant land because the nation has been blessed.
It is distressing that both Glenn Beck and David Barton would throw their weight behind a book which rests on so many faulty assumptions and questionable authorities (e.g., Herbert Armstrong).
….
Ballard on the Glenn Beck Show