17.1. Claimed As Lost

Claims that the ten tribes have been “lost” are widespread and less surprising when they come from those who do not know the Bible:

As any careful student of Middle Eastern history knows, the “ten” tribes (scholars now doubt that there ever were exactly ten Northern tribes) are now extinct, and will never return.1 [emphasis added]

Following the conquest of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 721 BC, the 10 tribes were gradually assimilated by other peoples and thus disappeared from history. Nevertheless, a belief persisted that one day the Ten Lost Tribes would be found. . . . The descendants of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin have survived as Jews because they were allowed to return to their homeland after the Babylonian Exile of 586 BC. [emphasis added]2

What is more surprising, in light of both OT and NT passages concerning the tribes, is to see this same myth promulgated by those who should know better:

[Regarding Revelation Rev. 7:4+], Walvoord accepts this passage as proving that the twelve tribes are still in existence. This interpretation seriously complicates the book of Revelation by bringing in racial distinctions which no longer exist in the NT purview. It disregards the historical fact that ten of the twelve tribes disappeared in Assyria and the remaining two list their separate identity when Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70. . . . The number is obviously symbolic. [emphasis added]3

The northern tribes had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians and have become known as “the lost tribes of Israel.” The sole surviving identifiable tribe was Judah, and when this was conquered by Nebuchadrezzar, the captives became known as “Jews”—a word that developed from “Judeans.” The returning exiles were henceforth known as Jews, and the name Judah was loosely used to refer to the region they occupied. [emphasis added]4