Many speculations have been indulged in with reference to these ten tribes. But we believe that all, except the number that probably allied themselves with Judah and shared in their restoration under Cyrus, are finally lost.
"Like the dew on the mountain, Like the foam on the river, Like the bubble on the fountain, They are gone, and for ever."
Mattaniah, the uncle of Jehoiachin, was now made king over what remained of the kingdom of Judah, under the name of Zedekiah ( 2 Kings 24:17 ; 2 Chr 36:10 ). After a troubled reign of eleven years his kingdom came to an end ( 2 Chronicles 36:11 ). Nebuchadnezzar, with a powerful army, besieged Jerusalem, and Zedekiah became a prisoner in Babylon. His eyes were put out, and he was kept in close confinement till his death ( 2 Kings 25:7 ). The city was spoiled of all that was of value, and then given up to the flames. The temple and palaces were consumed, and the walls of the city were levelled with the ground (B.C. 586), and all that remained of the people, except a number of the poorest class who were left to till the ground and dress the vineyards, were carried away captives to Babylon. This was the third and last deportation of Jewish captives. The land was now utterly desolate, and was abondoned to anarchy.
In the first year of his reign as king of Babylon (B.C. 536), Cyrus issued a decree liberating the Jewish captives, and permitting them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and the temple ( 2 Chronicles 36:22 2 Chronicles 36:23 ; Ezra 1; 2). The number of the people forming the first caravan, under Zerubbabel, amounted in all to 42,360 ( Ezra 2:64 Ezra 2:65 ), besides 7,337 men-servants and maid-servants. A considerable number, 12,000 probably, from the ten tribes who had been carried away into Assyria no doubt combined with this band of liberated captives.
At a later period other bands of the Jews returned (1) under ( Ezra 7:7 ) (B.C. 458), and (2) ( Nehemiah 7:66 ) (B.C. 445). But the great mass of the people remained still in the land to which they had been carried, and became a portion of the Jews of the "dispersion" ( John 7:35 ; 1 Peter 1:1 ). The whole number of the exiles that chose to remain was probably about six times the number of those who returned.
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.
[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
Bibliography InformationEaston, Matthew George. "Entry for Captivity". "Easton's Bible Dictionary".