Whatever Happened to Them?
Almost 140 years before the southern kingdom of Judah went into Babylonian captivity, the northern kingdom of Israel was taken into Assyrian captivity. And, whereas the kingdom of Judah returned to the land, there is no corresponding record of the kingdom of Israel doing the same. This has led to much speculation on the present identity of the lost tribes of Israel, which make up ten of the twelve tribes of the ancient Hebrews.
A number of years ago, Herbert Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God were known for their teaching that England and America were the lost tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Mormonism also plays on the continued existence of the lost tribes. Myriad speculations have been made as to the location of these tribes at various places all around the globe.
Actually, there may be some remnants of the ten tribes in some areas of Asia. In an age of genetic findings, some way may even come along in the near future to identify some of these people. However, there is no solid evidence that I have ever seen for anyone to claim to be from these tribes. Most assertions should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.
Everywhere we turn, there seems to be someone else who is ready to claim to be from one of the lost tribes. Some of them may be but we should be careful. We are warned twice in the book of Revelation of those who "say they are Jews, and are not" (Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9). I think this should caution anyone from making this claim from weak or circumstantial evidence.
Also, although it may have happened, there is no need for the ten tribes to have survived outside the kingdom of Judah. Let me explain. Godly people of the northern tribes at different times immigrated to the kingdom of Judah in order to escape the paganism of the kingdom of Israel. Consider the following:
- When Jeroboam became king of the newly split-off northern kingdom of Israel, he established false gods (golden calves) in Dan and Bethel to keep the people from returning to Jerusalem in Judah. However, many of the godly people in the northern tribes migrated to Judah in order to maintain the proper worship of God. 2Chronicles 11:16 states, "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." Notice that they came out of all the tribes of Israel. The next verse says that they strengthened Judah by their migration.
- This occurred again during the reign of Asa (2Chronicles 15:8-9). They came for a feast but many probably stayed. They came from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon. The Bible says that they "fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him." (2Chronicles 15:9). This must also have included people from tribes other than those mentioned in the passage.
- A third migration occurred when Hezekiah held the Passover feast shortly before the destruction of the northern kingdom in 2Chronicles 30:1-11, 18. Again, they came to the feast but many certainly stayed. They came from Asher, Manasseh, Zebulun, Ephraim and Issachar (2Chronicles 30:11, 18).
- In these passages, six of the ten tribes are mentioned by name (2Chronicles 15:9; 2Chronicles 30:11, 18). Dan does not need to be mentioned because it is not found in the tribes in Revelation 7. Yet, in 2Chronicles 11:16, we are told that people came out of "all the tribes of Israel." The ten lost tribes were never totally lost.
- Even in the time of Christ, they are not lost. Anna of Luke 2:36 was of the tribe of Aser (i.e., Asher). This is over 700 years after the fall of the northern tribes and the "loss" of the ten tribes. Most likely, the Jews of today represent all twelve of the Biblical tribes (minus Dan). There is no need to find the lost tribes. Those in Samaria intermarried to the extent that God no longer considered them true Jews. The same has probably happened to the lost tribes who were taken into captivity. But though they were lost in captivity, they were preserved within the southern kingdom.