The Ten Tribes of Israel: Were They Lost?

Read Part 1.

A detailed refutation of the various explanations of Israel’s northern tribes is impossible within this format. The great Hebrew Christian scholar, David Baron, in his work The History of the Ten “Lost” Tribes has provided the most detailed and accurate answer to the question. The following is a summary of his main points with a few personal observations. The fallacy inherent in all of the theories is simply this: the tribes were never lost, but continued as part of the main body of the Jewish people. Consider the following five points:

1. At the time of the disruption of the united kingdom in 930 B.C., faithful Israelites from all the northern tribes joined their brethren in the south and continued their identity as part of the kingdom of Judah. Two books in Scripture that are strangely ignored by British-Israelites are 1 and 2 Chronicles. These books make it clear that the tribes in the north continued their existence as part of Judah after 930 B.C. Consider 2 Chr 11:14, 16: “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 Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.” These verses provide irrefutable proof that many godly individuals out of “all the tribes of Israel” rejected Jereboam’s idolatry and joined the southern kingdom. During the reign of Asa, others followed from Ephraim and Manasseh (2 Chr. 15:9). Thus, it is evident that the kingdom of Judah absorbed many from the northern kingdom through the years.

2. Although it is often assumed that all of the northern kingdom went into the Assyrian captivity, Scripture teaches that Israelites continued to live there after the captivity of 721 B.C. Again, Chronicles helps us in this regard. At Hezekiah’s invitation, many from the north settled in Judah after the destruction of the northern kingdom (2 Chr. 30). Even later, in 622 B.C., more godly Israelites came to Jerusalem to help repair the Temple (2 Chr. 34:9), and later to celebrate the Passover (2 Chr. 35:17–18). If the northern tribes had become lost, how could these representatives have joined in worship in Jerusalem one hundred years after the Assyrian destruction? A reading of the Chronicler’s account forces one to the conclusion that not all of the Excavations have revealed that the population of Judah rapidly increased after the fall of the northern kingdom as a result of the many refugees mentioned in 2 Chr. 11:14–16. In the annals of the Assyrian Sargon, he describes how he he carried away only 27,290 people and 50 chariots. Since estimates of the population of the northern kingdom are around 500,000, around one-twentieth of the population was deported, primarily the leaders from the area around Samaria. The ten tribes, therefore, were never lost because they were never completely deported! Their kingdom was destroyed, but most of them stayed, with some around Samaria intermingling with new immigrants to form the Samaritans (2 Kings 17:24–41).

3. When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity in 536 B.C., the Chronicler viewed the restored community as the remnant of all Israel, both north and south, and not just the tribe of Judah: “Now the first inhabitants who dwelt in their possessions in their cities were the Israelites, the priests, Levites, and the Nethinim. And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh” (1 Chr. 9:2–3). According to these verses, we should look to find Ephraim and Manasseh, not in England and America, but in Jerusalem following the return from Babylon. Furthermore, the people at that time viewed themselves as part of all Israel, for they offered “twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel” (Ezra 6:17). Although British-Israelism confidently asserts that Judah and Israel are always separate and distinct, a concordance shows that in the Book of Ezra the restored community is called “Jews” only eight times and “Israel” fifty times. The writer viewed the terms as interchangeable, both terms applying to the same people after the captivity.

4. The NT clearly indicates that in the first century “Jews” still maintained their tribal identities—some of whom were members of those supposedly lost tribes. Consider, for example, the aged Anna who beheld the baby Jesus in the Temple. Luke 2:36 states that she was of the “tribe of Asher.” When Paul spoke of his Jewish brethren, he spoke of a common promise and a common hope: “Unto which promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God day and night, hope to come” (Acts 26:7). James addressed his epistle “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (Jas. 1:1). He made no distinction between Judah and the ten tribes. All Jews were part of a common body, the only difference being that some were in the land of Israel and some in the Diaspora. Evidently, members of all the tribes existed both inside and outside the Promised Land.

The NT uses the term “Jew” 174 times and the term “Israel” 75 times, clearly applying them to the same body of people. Paul referred to himself as both a “Jew” (Acts 22:3) and an “Israelite” (Rom. 11:1), and he never distinguished between Jews and Israel, as British-Israelism does. If the so called lost tribes indeed resurfaced as the British people, and if Jeremiah eventually traveled to Britain to establish David’s throne there, one would expect some trace of these matters to be mentioned in the NT. The silence of the NT writers in this regard, however, is deafening! The NT refers to only one group of people who descended from Jacob: “Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 9:4–5).

5. Biblical prophecy also indicates continuing tribal distinctions. Although Jews today do not know from which tribe they are descended (with the exception of the Levites), Scripture affirms that God knows. Such passages as Rev. 7:4–8 and Ezekiel 48 declare that representatives of restored Israel will be present in the Tribulation and also in the Millennial Kingdom.

Summary

On the basis of Scripture, history and archaeology, there is no such thing as the ten lost tribes. What was lost was the separate existence of the kingdom of Israel in the north. The tribes, however, continued to exist in the body of the southern kingdom with the terms “Jews” and “Israel” applied to all of the covenant people after the captivity. Furthermore, any claim that some ethnic group descended from the ten tribes rests on shaky biblical and historical foundations. British-Israelism, in addition to distorting the Scriptures through its preconceived bias, fosters national pride and fuels the white supremacist, anti-Semitic groups that spread their poisonous propaganda today. Satan’s attempts to destroy the Jewish people have taken various forms in history, from the days of Pharaoh and Haman and to the murderous plans of Hitler. Now the evil one promotes the lie that the Jews are not truly the Jews, thus robbing Israel of its promises and covenants and transferring them to the Anglo-Saxon race!

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David R. Brumbelow's picture

Dr. Will Varner,

Very good, informative article.

Still, it's a lot more fun to imagine them coming to America 3,000 years ago and building the Central and South American pyramids, etc. 

Your sound, biblical argument has taken all the fun out of it.  :-) 

David R. Brumbelow

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