(Please scroll down to read parts 1-5)
HAPPENED TO THE PHYSICAL AND
ETHNIC DESCENDANTS OF ISRAEL?
Claims in Europe and the New World
The arrival to the Americas by the
Europeans during the 16th century brought a whole new wave of claims
of discovery of lost tribes.
In the eyes
of most of the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors in Central and South
America, the natives already living in these places were either to be conquered
and made subject to the rule of the conquistadors, or simply to be
exterminated. However, there were a few
of the newly arrived Europeans who had a heart for the indigenous people and came
to their defense.
Tribes in Central America
One of these was a missionary named
Bartholeme de Las Casas, who worked among the natives of the Caribbean as well
as those from the jungles of Peru, and especially among the Mayans of Mexico
and Guatemala. De Las Casas worked
tirelessly on behalf of the indigenous peoples to try to convert them to
Christianity, for, he said, “Their conversion is apt indeed, as I am convinced
the Indians (Mayans) originate in Ancient Israel. Indeed, I can bring proofs from the Bible
that they are of the Lost Tribes” (I do not know if de Las Casas indeed did bring
these proofs, as he called them, for I have not been able to find them
In the middle of the 17th
century, a Dutch Jewish scholar named Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel published a
treatise in a book he called The Hope of Israel on the Ten Lost Tribes
of Israel, whom he said lived in the Americas.
Menasseh ben Israel was inspired to pursue this subject after hearing
reports from the Portuguese traveler Antonio Montezinos who had been imprisoned
by the Inquisition in Cartagena, Colombia.
Montezinos escaped from prison, and as he fled his imprisonment, he
found his way to the Peruvian jungles where he claimed to have come in contact
with the descendants of the Ten Tribes.
Christian Theologians at that time
believed that when the Ten Tribes would be found, it meant that the tribes
would be soon reunited and restored to the Promised Land and that the Second
Coming of Christ would soon come.
In the year 1655, Rabbi Menasseh ben
Israel referred to the report of Montezinos and others to appeal to this belief
and to convince Oliver Cromwell of England that Cromwell could hasten the
return of Christ by allowing the Jews to return to England, where they had not
been allowed to live since the year 1290. In presenting his case to Cromwell, Menasseh
ben Israel made an association between the Hebrew word for “the end of the
Earth” and the medieval term for England, “Angle Terre,” which he then linked
to Biblical texts
concerning the scattering and salvation of the Ten Tribes ( as found, for example in Deuteronomy 28:64 and Isaiah 49:6). This he did to try to demonstrate to Cromwell
the importance of England in the plan of God.
Even to the present day, the teaching
is common among the Mormon churches of the Pacific Islands that the original
the Polynesian people are direct, blood descendants of Israel. Actually, they
believe that all of the Americas were first inhabited by a tribe of Israel that
they call the Laminites, but that these Laminites degenerated in their worship
(I am not completely certain what the official present-day Mormon teaching of
However, in 1911, a
letter from the First Presidency of the Mormon Church, written to the Maoris of
New Zealand, speaks specifically of the Polynesians and especially of the
Maoris. Here we learn that the Mormon Church believed that the Polynesians were
so blessed by God because, “The Lord … directed their course away from this
continent [America] to their island homes [Polynesia], that they might not be
left to be preyed upon and destroyed by the more wicked part of the House of
Israel whose descendants still roam upon this continent in a fallen and
It was, and perhaps is still taught in
many Mormon churches of the Pacific, that the original Polynesian people left
the Americas to preserve the purity of their place with God. Again, I do not
know for certainty that this is still the official teaching of the church, however,
I do know that the belief is not unusual among many Pacific Islanders that they
are direct literal and blood descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.
Tribes in Europe and Judah in England
Entire books have been written tracing
the resettlements of the Ten Tribes using local names as “evidence” and even
“proof” that some of the tribes settled in certain areas. Some of this evidence includes names such as the city of
Danzig in Poland, and the Danube River given as a confirmation that these areas
were settled by the Israelite tribe of Dan.
Then there are the claims of the
British-Israeli movement, which teaches that the Royal line of England is
actually the Davidic blood line, brought to England via Ireland. According to
this teaching, the royal line was brought to England through the daughter of
King Zedekiah, who was brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah.
Along with the princess, Jeremiah also is said to have
brought a three-hundred pound stone. For centuries, many of the monarchs of Ireland,
Scotland, and England have received their crown as they sat in the coronation
chair built above this this stone. According
to legend, this is the very stone which Jacob used as a pillow on the night
that he dreamed the dream of angels ascending and descending the stairway at
Although the story of how the stone
came to be found in the British Isles is a very long one and has various
versions, This Coronation Stone (also
known as The Stone of Destiny, The Stone Lia Fail, or
the Stone of Scone) had been placed in a special chair that had sat for
many years in the Westminster Abbey. The
stone now has recently (1996) been moved to Edinburgh Castle
Tribes in Japan and Ethiopia
Among other traditions is that a great
many people strongly believe that the people of Japan are actually descendants
of some of the Ten Lost Tribes and give some good reasons for their
conclusions. Among these reasons are hundreds of words and names of places in
Japan with no etymological relationship to the Japanese language, but which
have similar meanings of the corresponding Hebrew words.
And, of course, there is the famous
case of the Ethiopian Jews, the Falashas, or the Lemba, a southern African tribe
who claim to be descended from the Jewish race and carry a very strong
incidence of the same Y chromosome as the Jews of Israel. These would not be related to the Ten Tribes,
but to the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
Claims of links to the Ten Tribes range
from Africa to Kashmir in India to China to the Americas and to all points in
between. There are hundreds of claims, but the great majority of them that I have read seem simply too incredible for me to
consider as being possibilities. But of course, the possibility does remain
that some of these claims may have elements of actual fact. It is just that there is no way that we can
verify it. However, what we can see
is the zeal with which some people have searched for the lost tribes.
I have spent much more time on this
than I should have, but I did it for a couple of reasons. First, it is quite an interesting study, but
a subject for which I doubt if I should ever devote an extended writing. So, for interest’s sake, I had to include in
these posts at least some of what I found.
However, the second reason that I brought up some of these points is to
demonstrate how a pre-conceived and rigid interpretation of a Biblical doctrine
that is not completely revealed to us (such as eschatology), can lead not only
to poor hermeneutics, but a poor interpretation of history.
Next time, three covenants that God made with men, which in light of this subject, I think are important to understand