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The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel is a well-documented semi-historical legend in Jewish history, and appears in sources from a number of ancient cultures. The factual history however, seems to be shrouded in much confusion.
The best known fact is perhaps that the (Neo-)Assyrian empire deported much of the population of Ancient Israel (the northern part of modern Israel, rather than the southern part of Ancient Judah) eastwards when they conquered the kingdom. This is much myth surrounding this deportation and the eventual destination of these people, with many modern ethnic groups claiming descent (often with minimal to no evidence) from the Ten Lost Tribes. Rabbinic folklore is also a source here, but I do not think most historians would accept it.
My question is, does there exist any hard historical evidence as to the fate of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel? Does modern scholarly research put a figure on how many Israelites were deported from their homeland, if indeed it was significant? The later diaspora of Jews, during Roman and later Arab occupation, is generally much better documented, and led to Jews migrating away as far as India, China, and eventually the Americas. This ancient deportation by the Neo-Assyrians, however, is what I am really wondering about.
Maybe I shall make it a comment, but it is not totally clear whether you mean (1) or (2):
(1) did 12 tribes exist or,
(2) yes we know 12 tribes existed, but where did 10 of those tribes disappear to?
Regarding issue (1), the answer is positive. Archeological excavations uncovered, within the territory of Israel, all 12 tribe-cities of all 12 tribes. I personally was on the excavated site of Dan, on the Dan river in the north of Israel. So regarding the pre-existance of 12 tribes, archeology says yes. This is a really fascinating archeological finding. It was facilitated by the fact that Bibles give exact or approximate places where the tribe-cities were located, and in many cases, topological names remained the same as given in the Bible. You can look up books about "Bible and archaeology", there are amazing books on this topic, or you can travel to Israel to visit those places.
Much more debate (and fantasies) were generated by issue (2) -- where they disappeared to.
Apparently they suffered intermixing and loss of identity. With the stengthening of central power in ancient Israel, boundaries between the tribes were becoming weaker and people intermixed. It is not really clear whether they intermixed with the rest of Israel, or outside (assimilation) during deporatation, or were they killed or enslaved during deportations.
Ancient Jewish History: The Ten Lost Tribes
The ten lost tribes refers to the legend concerning the fate of the ten tribes constituting the northern Kingdom of Israel.
The Kingdom of Israel - consisting of the ten tribes (the twelve tribes excluding Judah and Benjamin who constituted the southern Kingdom of Judah) - fell in 722 B.C.E. and its inhabitants were exiled by the Assyrians. In general, it can be said that these tribes disappeared from the stage of history. However, the passage in I Chronicles 5:26 to the effect that the ten tribes were there "unto this day" and the prophecies of Isaiah (11:11), Jeremiah (31:8), and above all of Ezekiel (37: 19) kept alive the belief that they had maintained a separate existence and that the time would come when they would be rejoined with their brethren, the descendants of the Exile of Judah to Babylon. Their place in history, however, is substituted by legend, and the legend of the Ten Lost Tribes is one of the most fascinating and persistent in Judaism and beyond it.
The belief in the continued existence of the ten tribes was regarded as an incontrovertible fact during the whole period of the Second Temple and of the Talmud. *Tobit , the hero of the apocryphal book of his name, was depicted as a member of the tribe of Naphtali the Testament of the 12 Patriarchs takes their existence as a fact and in his fifth vision, IV Ezra (13:34) saw a "peaceable multitude… these are the ten tribes which were carried away prisoners out of their own land." Josephus (Ant., 11:133) states as a fact "the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude and not to be estimated in numbers." Paul (Acts 26:6) protests to Agrippa that he is accused "for the hope of the promise made unto our fathers, unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God, hope to come," while James addresses his epistle to "the twelve tribes which are scattered about" (1:1). The only opposing voice to this otherwise universal view is found in the Mishnah. R. Eliezer expresses his view that they will eventually return and "after darkness is fallen upon the ten tribes light shall thereafter dwell upon them," but R. Akiva expresses his emphatic view that "the ten tribes shall not return again" (Sanh. 10:3). In consonance with this view, though it is agreed that Leviticus 26:38 applies to the ten tribes, where R. Meir maintains that it merely refers to their exile, Akiva states that it refers to their complete disappearance (Sifra, Be-Ḥukkotai, 8:1).
Their inability to rejoin their brethren was attributed to the fact that whereas the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (the Kingdom of Judah) were "scattered throughout the world," the ten tribes were exiled beyond the mysterious river *Sambatyon (Gen. R. 73:6), with its rolling waters or sand and rocks, which during the six days of the week prevented them from crossing it, and though it rested on the Sabbath, the laws of the Sabbath rendered the crossing equally impossible. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, however (Sanh. 10:6, 29c), the exiles were divided into three. Only one-third went beyond the Sambatyon, a second to "Daphne of Antioch," and over the third "there descended a cloud which covered them" but all three would eventually return.
Throughout the Middle Ages and until comparatively recent times there were claims of the existence of the ten lost tribes as well as attempts by travelers and explorers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and by many naive scholars, both to discover the ten lost tribes or to identify different peoples with them. In the ninth century ʮldad ha-Dani claimed not only to be a member of the tribe of Dan, but that he had communicated with four of the tribes. David *Reuveni claimed to be the brother of Joseph the king of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh who were settled in Khaybar in Arabia, which was identified with the Habor of II Kings. Benjamin of Tudela has a long description of the ten tribes. According to him the Jews of Persia stated that in the town of *Nishapur dwelt the four tribes of Dan, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, who were then governed "by their own prince Joseph Amarkala the Levite [ed. by N.M. Adler (1907), 83], while the Jews of Khaybar are of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh" (ibid., 72), as was also stated by Reuveni. Persistent was the legend that they warred with Prester John in Ethiopia, a story repeated by Obadiah of ⪾rtinoro in his first two letters from Jerusalem in 1488 and 1489. The kabbalist Abraham Levi the elder, in 1528, identified them with the Falashas (see ⪾ta Israel ). Abraham ⫺rissol gives a long account of them based upon conversations with David Reuveni not to be found in the latter's diary, while the most expansive is that of Abraham *Jagel , an Italian Jew of the 16 th th centuries, in the 22 nd chapter of his Beit Yaɺr ha-Levanon.
Jacob *Saphir (1822) cherished the hope that he would discover the lost tribes. He tells the story in great detail of Baruch b. Samuel, a Jew of Safed who, sent to seek them, had visited Yemen and after traveling through an uninhabited desert established contact with a Jew who claimed to belong to the "sons of Moses." However, Baruch was murdered before he could visit them (Even Sappir, 1 (1866), 41), and in the following chapter Saphir transcribes word for word the evidence given by a certain Baruch Gad to the rabbis of Jerusalem in 1647 that he had met the "sons of Moses" in Persia, who gave him a letter to Jerusalem. He concludes wistfully, "Were I able to give full credence to this letter… I would subject it to a meticulous analysis and wod learn from it matters of supreme importance, but the recollection of the fraud of Eldad ha-Dani brings suspicion upon Baruch the Gadite, for one supports the other… I have done my duty by putting the facts down and you may judge for yourselves and I will hear also what contemporary scholars say about it."
Various theories, one more farfetched than the other, have been adduced, on the flimsiest of evidence, to identify different peoples with the ten lost tribes. There is hardly a people, from the Japanese to the British, and from the Red Indians to the Afghans, who have not been suggested, and hardly a place, among them Africa, India, China, Persia, Kurdistan, Caucasia, the U.S., and Great Britain. Special interest is attached to the fantastic traveler's tale told by Aaron (Antonio) Levi de *Montezinos who, on his return to Amsterdam from South America in 1644, told a remarkable story of having found Indians beyond the mountain passes of the Cordilleras who greeted him by reciting the Shema. Among those to whom Montezinos gave his affidavit was *Manasseh Ben Israel , then rabbi of Amsterdam, who fully accepted the story, and to it devoted his Hope of Israel (1650, 1652 2 ) which he dedicated to the English Parliament. In section 37 he sums up his findings in the following words:
"1. That the West Indies were anciently inhabited by a part of the ten Tribes, which passed thither out of Tartary, by the Streight of Anian. 2. That the Tribes are not in any one place, but in many because the Prophets have fore-told their return shall be into their Country, out of divers places Isaiah especially saith it shall be out of eight. 3. That they did not return to the Second Temple. 4. That at this day they keep the Jewish Religion. 5. That the prophecies concerning their return to their Country, are of necessity to be fulfilled. 6. That from all coasts of the World they shall meet in those two places, sc. Assyria and Egypt God preparing an easier, pleasant way, and abounding with all things, as Isaiah saith, ch. 49, and from thence they shall flie to Jerusalem, as birds to their nests. 7. That their Kingdom shall be no more divided but the twelve Tribes shall be joined together under one Prince, that is under Messiah, the Son of David and that they shall never be driven out of their Land."
The Latin work was translated into English the same year it was published, and ran through three editions in as many years, and Manasseh Ben Israel used this "evidence" of the dispersal of the Jews throughout the world as an argument to Oliver ʬromwell in his appeal to permit the return of the Jews to England, then the only country which had no Jews. As long as this situation existed, the fulfillment of the prophecy that the coming (or the second coming) of the Messiah would take place only when the Jews were scattered in the four quarters of the world (section 35). Both through the translation and the correspondence which the story initiated between Manasseh Ben Israel and theologians in England, it played a significant role in creating the atmosphere which eventually brought about the return of the Jews to England.
A. Neubauer, in: JQR, 1 (1889), 14-28, 95-114, 185-201, 408-23 A. Hyamson, ibid., 15 (1903), 640-76 C. Roth, A Life of Menasseh Ben Israel (1934), 178-93 A.H. Godbey, The Lost Tribes, a Myth (1930) L. Wolf, Menasseh Ben Israel's Mission to Oliver Cromwell (1901), 17-56 D. Tamar, in: Sefunot, 6 (1962), 303-10. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Halkin, Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel (2002) T. Parfitt, Lost Tribes of Israel (2003) idem, Thirteenth Gate, Travels among the Lost Tribes of Israel (1987).
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What happened to the ten tribes that were taken captive by the Assyrians?
What happened to the 10 tribes who were taken captives by Assyrians? Did they ever come back?
Good question. There have been many speculations about what happened to the ten “lost” tribes of Israel. The answer is that our knowledge is a bit limited. Besides, it is most likely a complicated tale.
First of all, it is not clear that there were ten tribes “lost” at all. Significant numbers from Levi, Simeon and Daniel almost certainly were living in Judah. If we add these to Benjamin and Judah, then there were at least four, and probably five tribes who were not fully deported by the Assyrians.
Add to this, when the Assyrians imported other peoples into what had been Samaria, creating what became the Samaritans, the fact is that this new people were semi-Jewish. They continued to use the Pentateuch and claimed direct descent from Israel, as is shown by the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Therefore, we can conclude that not all of the tribes living in Samaria at the time of the deportation were exiled, and some may have come back in the intervening years. The Samaritans seem to have been a mixed race, and that mix almost certainly included some from those supposed “lost” tribes.
Even if I am right, these former members of Issachar, Menassah, Ephraim, Naphtali and others seem to have lost at least some of their identity. We no longer see evidence of an identifiable group known as Reubenites or Gadites. So, even if their descendants held on to a form of their Jewish religion, to the extent that they lost their tribal affiliation, to the same extent the tribes became lost–perhaps not literally, but culturally.
I am not the expert in this–not even close–but as far as I know, there is very little known about where the exiles from the Northern Kingdom were taken. This is quite different than the exiles from Judea. We know that the exiles taken by Nebuchadnezzar settled in Mesopotamia and we have much literature from these Mesopotamian Jews. We also know when they came back, and even the names of many of the returnees from Judah, Levi and Benjamin. So, what did happen to those exiled by Sennacherib? Exactly where did they go and how many of them returned to the former Samaria? I am afraid that we will have to settle for not having a clear answer to this question. One suggestion is that many of these Jews migrated to Judah in 722 BC when Sennacherib conquered Samaria. There is some evidence for this, as we know Jerusalem grew greatly at this time, requiring Hezekiah to add an additional wall to the city of Jerusalem and to seek an additional water source for the growing population.
Jewish scholars tell us that many of them assimilated into the pagan tribes in Assyria. Probably this is true as well.
1. The number of tribes “lost” is not ten. It is more like seven or eight.
2. Probably many never actually left the region of Samaria.
3. Probably others returned from their exile. (evidence for 2. and 3. is found in the Samaritan people themselves)
4. Still others migrated to Judah.
5. Perhaps the single biggest number were assimilated into the pagan cultures into which they were taken.
What Happened To The Lost Tribes of Israel?
I’m wondering if there is more information about the lost 12 tribes? Which tribe would Ashkenazi Jews come from?
Thanks for your question. First off, there are 10 “lost” Tribes, not 12. There were 12 Tribes in total (kind of), not all of which were “lost.” Second, answering your question really requires a refresher course in Biblical history.
There were actually 13 Tribes. Eleven of these were named for 11 of Jacob’s sons, whose descendants constituted the populations of these Tribes. As per lyrics from the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (which is easier to recite than looking them up in their actual order of birth), “Reuben was the oldest of the children of Israel, with Simeon and Levi the next in line. Naftali and Issachar, with Asher and Dan. Zebulon and Gad brought the total to nine. (Jacob! Jacob and sons!) Benjamin and Judah, which leaves only one….”
Jacob may have had only one more son, Joseph, but there were two more Tribes: Ephraim and Menashe. These were named for Joseph’s sons (Jacob’s grandsons), each of whom was the progenitor of his own Tribe. A firstborn son normally receives a double portion but Reuben forfeited this when he disrupted his father’s marital arrangements (in Genesis 35). Jacob then gave the double portion to Joseph, who was the firstborn of his mother, Rachel.
So, here we have 13 Tribes – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Naftali, Issachar, Asher, Dan, Zebulon, Gad, Benjamin, Judah, Ephraim and Menashe. However, we only ever count 12 of them. Typically, this is done by omitting Levi. This is because the Tribe of Levi did not have a territory in Israel. Their job was to work in the Temple and they were supported by various tithes and offerings, as is explicit in Deuteronomy 18:1-2. Sometimes, however, Levi is included in the count. When this is the case, the Tribes of Ephraim and Menashe are typically combined into a single unit comprising all the descendants of Joseph. (These are the most common ways but there are others. For example, I Chronicles 27 lists the Tribal heads. This list includes Levi and it also counts both Ephraim and Menashe. In fact, it counts Menashe twice because the territory of Menashe was split geographically on opposite sides of the Jordan with a different leader for each section! Nevertheless, the count of 12 Tribes is maintained by omitting Gad and Asher.)
So, while we always speak of 12 Tribes, there were actually 13. As noted, Levi didn’t have any territory of their own they lived in various cities throughout the 12 territories though they were largely concentrated near Jerusalem because that’s where the Temple was.
After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam was approached by the people demanding tax relief. He decided to show them who was boss by refusing their demand. This backfired because ten of the 12 Tribes holding territory seceded and formed their own country. (This included Reuben, Simeon, Naftali, Issachar, Asher, Dan, Zebulon, Gad, Ephraim and Menashe.) The new, northern kingdom made up of these ten Tribes took the name Israel. The southern Kingdom – which included Levi, Benjamin and Judah – retained the Davidic dynasty, as well as the Temple in Jerusalem. They took the name Judah. (This all happened around 797 BCE, as described in I Kings 12.) The two kingdoms were initially at war. They eventually became allies but they never reunited.
The northern kingdom of the ten Tribes was “lost” when they were conquered by Assyria. This didn’t happen all at once it occurred in waves. The Tribes on the other sides of the Jordan – Reuben, Gad and half of Menashe – were the first to go, around 566 BCE, as detailed in I Chronicles 5. Zebulon and Naftali were exiled by Assyria around 562 BCE, as described in II Kings 15. The rest of the northern kingdom was exiled around 548 BCE, as seen in II Kings 17. The modus operandi of Assyria was to relocate conquered peoples, mixing the populations in foreign lands to preclude the likelihood of uprising and rebellion. This was how the ten Tribes got “lost.” (It was also how we ended up with the quasi-Jewish “Samaritans” who created so much trouble in the second Temple period.)
God has foretold through His prophets that the lost Tribes would eventually be restored and the nation reunited. For example, in Ezekiel 37, God has that prophet write the names of the two kingdoms on two boards, which He miraculously merges into a single board. This is also the theme of the song U’vau Ha’Ovdim, whose words come from Isaiah 27:13, “It will come to pass on that day that a great shofar will be blown and those who were lost in the land of Assyria will come, and those who were dispersed in the land of Egypt, and they shall worship Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” “Those who were lost in the land of Assyria” refers to the ten Tribes of the northern kingdom, while “those who were dispersed in the land of Egypt” refers to the southern kingdom of Judah, which was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar around 432 BCE, the survivors escaping to Egypt (II Kings 24-25).
Okay, so all the Tribes were lost except for Benjamin, Judah and Levi, right? Eh… it’s not so clear. Imagine if the entire population of the United States were exiled except for one small section: the Eastern seaboard. That means that Minnesota, Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio are all gone. Now think about the cities that remained. Don’t you think that a lot of people from Minnesota, Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio might have been visiting New York, Boston, Florida and the District of Columbia when the exile occurred? Similarly, Jerusalem was where the Temple stood. Not only is it reasonable to assume that representatives of all 13 Tribes were in Jerusalem (or elsewhere in Judah) when the ten Tribes were “lost,” it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise! (Disagree? See Metzudas David on I Kings 12:23, who backs me up on this, albeit in a different context.)
Unfortunately, our genealogical records took quite a beating in exile and we lost reliable family histories with the result that, for the most part, we no longer know our Tribes. Accordingly, Jews now come in three “flavors”: kohanim (priests) and Leviim (Levites – both from the Tribe of Levi), and Yisroelim (Israelites – i.e., everybody else). Any other differentiation of population, such as Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Yemenite, Yekke, Chasidishe, etc. is the result of further migrations that occurred over the centuries since the Romans destroyed the second Temple in 70 CE. But all of those populations contain descendants of all the types of Jews – kohanim and Leviim descended from Levi, and Yisroelim – largely but probably not exclusively descended from Judah and Benjamin.
Over the years, many outrageous claims have been made in attempts to identify various groups as descendants of the lost Tribes. “The British are descended from the lost Tribes,” “Native Americans are descended from the lost Tribes,” “the Japanese are descended from the lost Tribes,” etc. There is scant evidence to support these theories. (“The British get their name from the brit” – i.e., the covenant. Uh… no.)
That’s not to say that there have never been more credible claims. In the ninth century, the Jews of Babylonia, Tunisia and the Iberian Peninsula were visited by Eldad haDani (“Eldad from the Tribe of Dan), a traveler who claimed to come from a Jewish community in East Africa populated by the descendants of Dan, Asher, Gad and Naftali. (“What do you mean we were lost? We thought you were lost!”) There is a difference of opinion as to how legitimate he may or may not have been.
Even nowadays there are such claims that should be taken seriously. Many believe that the Bene Israel of Ethiopia (formerly referred to as “Falashas”) are descended from the Tribe of Dan and that the Bene Menashe of India are, as their name implies, descended from Menashe. These claims had enough halachic credence that Israeli chief rabbis recognized the populations in question as being of Jewish descent.
So that’s the long and short on the “lost” Tribes. God has told us that they would eventually be restored and that may already be a work in progress. In the messianic era, everyone’s Tribal affiliation will be clarified prophetically. (This last point is made by Maimonides in Hilchos Melachim 12:3 see there for the Rambam’s Biblical sources.)
JITC Educational Correspondent
 I have made an observation that the numbers 12 and 13 are often fungible in this way. (a) How many months are in the Hebrew year? Twelve. A leap year has 13 but instead of a unique month, we get an extra month of Adar, so 13 is still 12. (b) The name “Shemoneh Esrei” means 18 but there are 19 blessings in that prayer one was added later to the middle section of 12 blessings, so 13 is considered 12, at least as far as the name of the prayer is concerned. (c) What’s the age of majority in Jewish law? Either 12 or 13, depending on if one is a girl or a boy. The significance of this phenomenon, however, eludes me.
 Readers who are more familiar with the books of the early Prophets may be aware that the Tribe of Shimon did not have one contiguous territory. Rather, they had cities scattered throughout the territory of Yehuda. The question therefore arises as to how, exactly, they seceded with the rest of the ten Tribes. Rashi on I Chronicles 4:31 suggests that the residents of Shimon were forced out of Yehuda’s territory during the reign of King David, long before the schism that divided the nation. On the other hand, Tosfos Yom Tov infers from Mishna Sotah 8:1 that Shimon only broke away from Yehuda politically they remained in the same location geographically. (I find this latter position more difficult to understand given Tanach’s description of the blockades established by King Rechavam to keep the two nations separated physically.)
The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel
For more than two thousand years, the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel have been a favorite topic of imaginative speculation. Groups from nearly every continent and race have been identified with the Ten Tribes.* (See the map below, Myths, Legends, and Traditions about the Ten Tribes. ) The reason for all this interest is a set of prophecies in the Bible that the Ten Tribes will one day return from their exile and be restored to their Jewish brethren, an event associated with the coming of the Messiah. But the many strange ideas that have grown up around the Ten Tribes should not distract us from their importance in Biblical prophecy, and their importance in understanding the Jewish roots of our faith.
* One recent teaching, Messianic Israel, also known as the Two House Movement, identifies the Ten Tribes with Christians of European descent. Its adherents call themselves Ephraimites or Israelites. Their teachings are a revival of Anglo-Israelitism, which claims that the British and the Americans are direct descendants of the Ten Tribes. Another group promoting this belief in recent years was the Worldwide Church of God founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.
The history of the Ten Tribes starts with ten of the sons of Jacob&mdashEphraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Gad, Reuben, and a portion of the tribe of Levi. Their descendants made up the ten northern tribes of ancient Israel. In the time of the prophet Samuel (11th cent. BC), these ten tribes were united into a single kingdom together with the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. This united kingdom was ruled first by Saul and then by David and his son, Solomon. But because of Solomon’s sin in worshiping other gods, God divided the kingdom into two parts. The Ten Tribes he gave to Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials (1 Kings 11:29-38). This new, northern kingdom was known as the Kingdom of Israel. The southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, ruled by the descendants of Solomon, formed the Kingdom of Judah.*
* This southern kingdom included the tribe of Simeon that at an early date had mixed in with Judah and lost its independent identity. The tribe of Levi, which had originally been settled in specially designated Levitical cities in both the north and the south, left the north after the split of the kingdom and resettled in the Kingdom of Judah (Num. 35:2-8, 2 Chron. 11:13-17).
To discourage the Ten Tribes from worshipping in Jerusalem, Jeroboam set up golden calves: one at Dan on his northern border and another at Bethel on his southern border (1 Kings 12:26-33). This compromised form of worship led the Ten Tribes away from obedience to God’s Law and eventually to the worship of the pagan god Baal and other false gods. For two hundred years, God sent prophets to warn them to turn from their wicked ways, but they ignored these warnings. Finally, because of their sin and rejection of their covenant with God, he sent many thousands of the people into exile by the hand of the Assyrians to what is today southern Iraq (2 Kings 17:7-23). Here, in fulfillment of prophecy, they mixed in with the local population and disappeared among the Gentiles, thus becoming the Ten Lost Tribes (Hosea 7:8).
Not all who were of the Ten Tribes, though, went into exile. Some fled south from the Assyrians and joined Judah (the sons of Israel living in Judah 2 Chron. 30:25, 31:6). Their presence is indicated by the many small villages that suddenly appear in the hill country of Judah at this time. Others remained in northern Israel where they mixed in with immigrants from Assyria to become the Samaritan people (2 Kings 17:24-41, 2 Chron. 34:9,21).
Even among those who went into exile, some maintained their Israelite identity. Some of these later joined the exiles of the southern kingdom of Judah when they returned from their Babylonian exile (Ezra 2:28, Neh. 7:32). The prophetess Anna, for example, who met the baby Jesus in the Temple, was from the tribe of Asher, one of the Ten Tribes (Luke 2:36). Yet others who maintained their Israelite identity were absorbed into the general diaspora (scattering) of the Jewish people in Greek and Roman times. Because of this, not all in the Ten Tribes were lost. Many were absorbed into the Jewish (the Judahite) people. As a result, the blood of all twelve tribes flows in the veins of the Jewish people today.*
* This is an important point against the teaching of Messianic Israel and other Anglo-Israelite groups. They claim that every appearance of the term Israelite in the Bible refers to themselves, and not to the Jewish people. In fact, the terms Jewish and Israelite are used interchangeably in the New Testament. In Romans, the apostle Paul calls himself and his Jewish kinsmen Israelites even though he is of the tribe of Benjamin, and therefore Jewish (Rom. 9:3,4,6 11:1). Examples of this kind can be multiplied. The Jewish people in the time of Jesus understood that they, as a people, were descended from all twelve tribes (James 1:1, Acts 26:7).
Yet the Jewish people never forgot those of the Ten Tribes that were lost among the nations. The belief that they would one day be restored (as one stick with Judah in Eze. 37:15-28) is a part of Biblical prophecy, and is believed by modern Orthodox Jews to be one of the signs that will identify the Messiah. As a result, there has been great interest among the Jewish people in the discovery of isolated pockets of descendants of the Ten Tribes and their return to Israel.
One of these groups, known as Mountain Jews, was discovered in the former southern Soviet Republics. When representatives from Israel went to meet them, they traced their departure from Israel in ancient times not to the Babylonian exile, but to the time of the Assyrians. This makes them part of the Ten Tribes. Most of these Mountain Jews have now returned to Israel. Other groups that retain an identity with the Ten Tribes and preserve Jewish customs and practices have been found in Ethiopia (the Falashas), Zimbabwe (the Lemba tribe), Afghanistan and Pakistan (the Pathan tribes), India (Kashmir), Burma (the Menashe tribe), China (the Chiang-Min), and Japan (the Hata).
Yet the fact remains that thousands among the Ten Tribes intermarried with Gentiles and lost their identity as Israelites. In the vast multitude of pagan peoples, they were a tiny minority. Yet genetically speaking, their descendants now include the entire human race.* Does this descent of the Gentile nations from the Ten Tribes have prophetic significance? One of the most interesting prophecies relating to the Ten Tribes was given by Jacob when he pronounced a blessing over Ephraim, ancestor of the largest and most important of the Ten Tribes. Jacob said, his [Ephraim’s] descendants will be the fullness of the nations (Gen. 48:19). This is the only place in the Old Testament that this unusual phrase the fullness of the nations (in Hebrew, melo ha’goyim) appears. Unfortunately, it is often translated a multitude of nations, which hides the true meaning: that Ephraim will be identified with all the Gentile nations of the earth.
* The rapid (exponential) multiplication of ancestral lines through history, combined with the historical interbreeding of human populations, guarantees that fractional descent from the Ten Tribes (as well as from every other human group) is spread across the entire world’s population.
The apostle Paul mentions this fullness of the nations in a passage that shows it to be filled with prophetic meaning. In Rom. 11:25, in speaking of the present partial hardening of Israel to the gospel, he says that this will take place while the fullness of the nations comes in (Rom. 11:25). This is in the famous passage about the olive tree of faith into which Gentile believers have been grafted. In other words, the fullness of the nations coming in refers to Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus and being grafted in to Israel (as in Eph. 2:12,19). By quoting Genesis here, Paul identifies this salvation of the Gentiles with the prophesied return of the fullness of the nations descended from Ephraim. In other words, the salvation of the Gentiles is the prophesied return of the Ten Tribes.
Elsewhere, both Peter and Paul quote Hosea’s prophecy in which the northern kingdom of Israel (the Ten Tribes) is renounced by God and cut off from being his people. But in that same prophecy, a future restoration is promised: In the place that it is said to them, You are not my people, it will be said to them, You are sons of the living God (Hos. 1:10, also 2:23 Rom. 9:24-25 1 Peter 2:10). Both apostles apply this prophecy, originally given to the Ten Tribes, to Gentile Christians. They understood that Gentile Christians, by accepting Israel’s Messiah and joining themselves to Israel’s God, fulfill the prophecies that Messiah would gather in the dispersed remnant of Israel (the Ten Tribes).
In ancient times, as in recent years, some have misunderstood these teachings to imply that Gentile Christians, having been grafted into the olive tree of Israel, must obey the Law of Moses. A dispute about this same issue led Paul to some heated words with Peter in Antioch (Gal. 2:11-). As a result, a meeting was held in Jerusalem to resolve the issue (Acts 15). The decision of the council, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, was that Gentile believers should not be required to observe the Law of Moses (Acts 15:19-20,28-29, see also Gal. 5:1-3). This was despite the fact that, as we have already seen, these same Gentile believers were identified by the apostles with the Ten Tribes. The apostles clearly did not believe that descent from the Ten Tribes meant that Gentile Christians must obey the Law of Moses. On the contrary, Gentile Christians are free from the Law of Moses (Acts 15:10,28). This same logic can be seen in the later decision of the Jewish rabbis that those descended from the Ten Tribes are Gentiles with regard to the Law of Moses: in other words, that the Ten Tribes are not under the Law of Moses ( Yeb. 16b.9, Yeb. 17a.3-4 ).
Because of Acts 15, Gentile believers, though they may be descended from the Lost Tribes, are under no requirement to obey the Law of Moses.* As a result, their unity with Jewish believers in Jesus is a unity based not on the Jewish Law, but on serving and obeying the Jewish Messiah.**
* Other than the exceptions noted by the Council&mdashno idolatry, no immorality, no eating of blood (Acts 15:20,29). Gentile Christians are also required to obey all the commandments of the Law of the Messiah (the New Testament), which repeats all the moral requirements of the Law of Moses, though not its ritual and ceremonial requirements.
** This is exactly the implication of the prophecies in Ezekiel (see below) that the union of Ephraim (the Ten Tribes) and Judah (the Jewish people) would be in King Messiah (Eze. 37:22,24), and on the basis of a new and everlasting covenant (Eze. 37:26). The modern Messianic Israel movement, by contrast, seeks a unity with the Jewish people based on the Law of Moses, which they believe will draw the Jewish people to Jesus. But from the rabbis’ point of view, they cannot fully obey the Law unless they convert to Judaism. This, however, would compromise their faith in Jesus. On the other hand, if they don’t convert, they will never be considered legitimate in the eyes of Rabbinical Judaism. They are seeking an earthly and fleshly restoration with the Jewish people, while the Bible is pointing toward a spiritual restoration by faith in Messiah.
The prophecy of the coming together of Ephraim (the Ten Tribes) and Judah (the Jewish people) as one stick (in Eze. 37:15-23) is therefore a prophecy of the end-time reconciliation of Gentile Christians (the Ten Tribes) and the Jewish people in the Messiah (Eze. 37:22-26 Micah 5:3). This reconciliation, initiated in the time of the apostles, was sidetracked for many centuries by Christianity’s rejection of its Jewish Roots and its conversion into a purely Gentile and often anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic religion. But God is renewing the community of believers in Jesus (Yeshua) through the restoration of Jewish Christianity (Messianic Judaism) and the growing movement among Gentile Christians to reconnect with Christianity’s Jewish roots. But our physical unity (being joined together in the land of Israel, Eze. 36:24) awaits the coming of Messiah, when all Israel will turn in repentance to Jesus (Zech. 12:10-13:1 Matt. 24:30 Rom. 11:26-27), and Gentile Christians will be welcomed into the commonwealth of Israel in which we now stand by faith (Eze. 37:24-25 Zech. 14:16 Eph. 2:12,19).
What About the Ten Tribes?
When Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom, without a doubt many fled to Judah—the southern Kingdom. Plus, there was intermarriage within the tribes. My point being, that every tribe to some degree has been preserved. Luke 2:36 says that Anna the prophetess came from the tribe of Asher and this was over 700 years after the Assyrian captivity.
Glen does get one thing right. At about 6:20 in the clip, he says, “I am not the guy to go to on [Middle East History].” Sadly he then went on to teach utter nonsense with an air of authority.
Summary of the Throne of David
From biblical, historical and present-day evidence, some 45% of all Jews in the world now reside in modern Israel. These people are essentially from the tribe of Judah (house of Judah), but some must also be from the tribes of Benjamin and Levi. The ‘ten lost tribes’ or ‘house of Israel’ (Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Ephraim and Manasseh) are now scattered throughout the nations. Strong biblical, archaeological and historical evidence associates the British Isles with the continuing throne of David (the scepter). Similar evidence also suggests that the British Isles is closely associated with the birthright given to the tribe of Ephraim. In other words, Britain could be closely associated with the blessing of a “multitude of nations” (see later).
For a discussion on the relationship between Ephraim, David’s enduring throne and the British Royal throne, see Joseph Wild, 1882.
From Ethiopia to America
The kabbalist Abraham Levi, saw, in 1528, the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes in the Falashas, black population of Judaic religion living in Ethiopia. But it’s unlikely. Ethiopia and Egypt have always had close relations, and the Hebrews have long been numerous in Egypt: some of them quite naturally converted a group of Ethiopians to their religion.
The most fantastic hypothesis was put forward in the 17th century by a traveler from Amsterdam, Antonio de Montezinos. Returning from a trip to South America, he says that Indians in the Andean Mountains welcomed him by reciting the Shema, a prayer made up of three verses from the Torah. Menasseh ben Israel, rabbi of Amsterdam, is won over by the story of Montezinos. He publishes in 1652 a book, Hope of Israel, in which he writes: "The West Indies have been inhabited for a long time by a part of the Ten Lost Tribes, passed on the other side of Tartary by the Strait of Anian" (Current Bering Strait). Naturally, no later exploration confirms this dream. In his Two Journeys to Jerusalem, published in Glasgow in 1786, it was in the North American Indians that the Englishman Richard Burton (Nathaniel Crouch) recognized the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Whoever wants to follow him must admit that the religious practices of the Hebrews who became Sioux have notably evolved!
Are the “Lost 10 Tribes” of Israel Really… Lost?
June 14, 2013 by David Dunlap
In the year 2000, NOVA/PBS produced and aired a special entitled the “The Lost Tribes of Israel.” This television special concluded that tribal peoples in Africa are the lost tribes of Israel! For many years the late Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the World Wide Church of God, taught that the so-called lost ten tribes were no longer Jewish people but the Anglo-Saxon people of Great Britain and the United States. The “Christian Identity Movement”, a growing white-supremacy hate group, teaches that the white people are the lost ten tribes of Israel. Down through history various ethnic groups in Japan, China, Afghanistan, and Persia have been identified as the lost ten tribes of Israel. What does the Bible teach? Who are the alleged lost ten tribes of Israel today? Allow us to first examine the meaning of the phrase the “Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.”
The Meaning of the Phrase “Lost Ten Tribes of Israel”
In 930 B.C., soon after the death of Solomon, the united kingdom of Israel ruptured into two separate kingdoms, commonly referred to as the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Within three hundred and fifty years, both of these kingdoms would fail in their stand against idolatry and would be conquered by foreign nations. The northern kingdom, consisting of ten tribes, was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.
Their kinsmen, in the southern kingdom of Judah, (consisting of the tribes Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin) were conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Some of these exiles returned under Zerubabbel and reestablished their presence in the land of Israel in 536 B.C. However, since there never was a formal return of the northern tribes to reestablish their kingdom, they have been popularly referred to as the lost ten tribes of Israel. Until modern times, Jewish tradition held that all the population of the northern kingdom was deported by Assyria, never to be heard of again they are considered the ten lost tribes.
The Theory of British-Israelism
The theory called “British-Israelism” has gained a loyal and persistent following among many in Great Britain and the United States over the last one hundred years. This view, when it was first propounded in nineteenth-century England, drew a great deal of interest. The basic idea is that the lost ten tribes of Israel captured by the Assyrians are, in reality, the Saxon people, or Scythians, who surged westward through Scandinavia into Europe. These people were the ancestors of the Saxons who invaded and settled England. This theory maintains that the Anglo-Saxons are thus the lost ten tribes of the nation of Israel.
This viewpoint is based upon some misunderstood Scriptures relating to the birthright of Joseph (Genesis 49:26) and the promises to his sons Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:20). British-Israelism maintains that the lost tribes of Israel left landmarks on their trek across Europe. Thus, the Dan and Danube Rivers, as well as the city of Danzig and the country of Denmark, are clear indications to them of the tribe of Dan! The term “Saxon” is supposedly a contraction of “Isaac’s sons” while the term “British” is actually derived from the Hebrew words for “covenant” (berith) and “man” (ish)! 1 These linguistic arguments have been rejected by every reputable Hebrew and biblical scholar as absolutely without basis.
The original proponents of British-Israelism were evangelical and orthodox in the rest of their theology. Some still exist, not as a separate denomination, but as a small movement which is found in a variety of churches. What should cause real concern, however, is the way this teaching has been adopted into the teaching of two groups which are out of line with the main tenets of biblical Christianity. The first of these groups is known as the World Wide Church of God, founded by the late Herbert W. Armstrong. Armstrong made British-Israelism an important part of his teaching he also denied the deity of the Holy Spirit and the reality of eternal punishment. Armstrong’s teaching also imposed Old Testament laws on the believer as a means of salvation. Herbert W. Armstrong died in 1986, at 93 years old however, much of this teaching lives on in the printed page and recorded messages.
Another group that has adopted British-Israelism is the “Identity Movement” of white-supremacy. They teach the Satanic character of Zionism, a world-wide Jewish conspiracy, and the superiority of the white race over Jews, Asians, and those of African descent. These groups have often led demonstrations against so-called Jewish control of money and the media, and committed acts of violence against Jews and Jewish symbols. 2 In the United States there are an estimated 50,000 followers of the reputed “Christian Identity Movement.”
What Does the Bible Teach About the Lost Ten Tribes?
Over the last one hundred years, a number of very respected Bible scholars have researched this crucial subject. Respected Hebrew scholar Dr. David Baron (1857-1926) wrote a leading book on the subject entitled The History of the Ten Lost Tribes in 1915. Dr. Baron’s brilliant and thorough refutation cannot be improved and, up to the present day, has never been rebutted. Dr. David Baron and other researchers concluded that the so-called ten “lost” tribes of Israel were never lost, but continued as a part of the main body of the Jewish people. These researchers drew their conclusions from a number of important biblical facts.
1. In 930 B.C., Many from the Northern Kingdom of Israel Joined the Southern Kingdom of Judah
At the time of the disruption of the united kingdom in 930 B.C., faithful Israelites from all of the ten northern tribes joined their kinsmen in the south and continued their identity as part of the kingdom of Judah. Two books of Scripture that detail this historical event are 1 and 2 Chronicles. These books make it clear that the ten northern tribes along with the two southern tribes continued as a nation in the tribal allotment of Judah.
2 Chronicles 11:14, 16 states, “For the Levites left their suburban lands and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD…and after them, out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of their fathers.” These verses provide irrefutable proof that many godly individuals out of “all the tribes of Israel” rejected Jeroboam’s idolatry and joined the southern kingdom. During the reign of King Asa, others followed from Ephraim and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 15:9). It is clear from Scripture that many from the so-called lost ten tribes of Israel traveled south to Judah and Jerusalem, forming one region that consisted of Israelites from all the twelve tribes of Israel.
1. Walter Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, Anglo-Israelism, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1982). p. 299
2. Viola Larson, Identity: ‘Christian’ Religion for White Racists, Christian Research Journal, (Fall, 1992), pp. 20-28
3. Biblical Archeologist Magazine, vol. VI, 1943, p. 58
4. David Baron, The History of the “Lost” Tribes, (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1915),
David Baron, The History of the Ten “Lost” Tribes, (University of Michigan Press), 95 pages.
Where are the lost tribes of Israel today?
Consider the following regarding the the lost tribes of Israel. Why would God bless and allow the United States and the British Commonwealth (as it used to be called) to become the two greatest nations the world has ever known yet say absolutely nothing about them in the Bible?
As we draw closer to Jesus' Second Coming, does it make any prophetic sense that America would be totally absent from fulfilling any of God's end time prophecies?
The reason why most people cannot understand Bible prophecy and God's plan of salvation is that they do not know the identity of modern Israel. Because the vast majority of Christians simply do not know where the descendants of the lost tribes live today they are clueless regarding even a basic framework of the events to transpire in the very near future.
Most of God's promises contained in the Old Testament refer to "lost" Israelite descendants or tribes. He has also made some promises to Gentile nations, but the vast majority of them involve Israel.
The two sons of Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh, who were born in Egypt when Joseph ruled there under the Pharaoh, have received most of the physical blessings that God promised. The other English speaking nations have also received physical blessings, but nowhere near as much as the United States and British Commonwealth.
Below is a list of the major countries where the children of Israel migrated to after their captivity. Although this information is based on historical and linguistic evidence, not all migrations are known with absolute certainty.
Research indicates that those descended from Jacob are among the world's wealthiest nations and occupy the world's choicest land. God will make very sure these nations have the good news message of the Kingdom proclaimed to them before the return of Jesus.