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17. Ten Tribes Lost

Sooner or later, one is bound to encounter the claim that certain of the tribes of Israel have been lost to history forever. The meaning of lost varies with the different claims. Some claim that the “lost tribes” completely died away without descendants. More often, the tribes are said to have been lost through assimilation with other non-Jewish people groups, having remained separated from the other tribes indefinitely. In other cases, the “lost tribes” are held to be temporarily lost. That is, they migrated to other locations, but retained their identity or even transmogrified into other people groups which one would not normally associate with the Jews (e.g., Anglo-Saxons, Native American Indians). The legend of the “lost tribes” maintains that after the civil war of Jeroboam and Rehoboam which separated Israel into a divided kingdom, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom were captured by Assyria and deported from their land and either dwindled away or migrated elsewhere and remained separate from the other two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) in the Southern Kingdom. The continued promotion of this legend in our own day rests upon the following flawed elements:
  1. The idea of a precise “surgical” separation between the tribes of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.1
  2. The tribes of the Northern Kingdom, having been taken by Assyria, never intermixed or returned and are no longer are a part of the Jewish nation today.
  3. A desire to substitute some other group in the line of OT promises made to Israel.2
  4. Legends and speculation.
  5. The use of scriptural passages out-of-context.3
  6. An unwillingness to examine clear biblical evidence to the contrary.
As we shall see, the biblical record makes plain that none of the tribes were “lost” in the sense maintained by this legend. Instead, those tribes which are held to have been “lost” or located exclusively outside of Israel are seen to be in Israel in NT times.

Notes

1 “The entire tribe of Simeon was located within the boundaries of the Southern Kingdom, and continued to reside there after the division of the Kingdom of Solomon. Joshua Jos. 19:1 states clearly that the Simeonites had their inheritance within the boundaries or inheritance of Judah. From 1Chr. 1Chr. 4:24-43 we learn that the Simeonites continued to dwell in the Southern Kingdom and were there in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah.”—Roy L. Aldrich, “Anglo-Israelism Refuted,” in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 93 no. 369 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, January-March 1936), 53.

2 Many groups which promote the “lost tribes” idea are practitioners of Replacement Theology. “There are those who say that the ten tribes are lost; that is, the tribes have popped up in Great Britain from where they spread to the United States. This is a nice theory which ministers to the pride of many folk who would like to believe that they are members of the lost tribes, but this idea of ten lost tribes is entirely man-made. You will not find it in the Word of God.”—J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1981), 2K. 17:6. These groups are avid supporters of the idea that they are “Israel” and “Jews” so far as the promises are concerned. One can only expect they will be quick to distance themselves from their Jewish claims when the next wave of Anti-Semitism washes upon their shore!

3 “The Scripture speaks of those who handle the Word of God deceitfully. Mr. David Baron in his book on the Anglo-Israel question, gives this advice: ‘When reading Anglo-Israel literature, always verify your reference and study the context and you will find that the Scriptures quoted in them are either misapplications or perversions of the true meaning of the text.’ ”—Aldrich, “Anglo-Israelism Refuted,” 45.