There is perhaps no subject that has been open to more speculation and unrestrained conjectures than that which has been called the search for the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
Outside from any speculation, the short history of what is actually known about these tribes is this: The Jewish patriarch Jacob (later named Israel) became father to twelve sons, each of whom multiplied into a separate tribe. Each of these tribes was allotted an area of the Palestine region of that day in which to live.
Together, these tribes formed a united kingdom, first under Saul, then their king David and later under David’s son, Solomon. However, under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, things did not go so well. The northern part of the kingdom, which consisted of ten of the twelve tribes, seceded from the southern two tribes. These ten northern tribes formed a separate nation. The kingdom that was composed of the two southern tribes was generally called “Judah” and the northern kingdom of the ten tribes was “Israel.”
As time progressed, both nations fell into apostasy against the Lord God, but the rebellion was much more rapid and pronounced in the northern kingdom of Israel than it was in the southern kingdom of Judah. As a judgment against this disobedient people Israel, God allowed an invasion of the Assyrians from the north to sweep in and defeat the Israelites in the year 722 BC, carrying the great majority of the defeated ten tribes into exile in Assyria.
The southern kingdom of Judah remained true a little longer to their commitment to God, but they, too, eventually abandoned their faith to the point where God sent yet other invaders, this time the Babylonians, to occupy and defeat them. The kingdom of Judah had consisted of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. These two tribes, like the northern ten, were in great measure deported to the nation of those who defeated them in battle, in this case to Babylonia. This deportation took place after the fall of Judah in the year 586 BC.
Many of these Jews from the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were later allowed to return to Palestine, where they were able to retain their national and ethnic identity. However, the northern ten tribes never did return from Assyria, not at least in an organized manner or in considerable numbers, and their tribal identities were gradually lost. These then, have become the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
These Ten Lost Tribes were neither the first nor the last of ethnic groups to be lost to history. There have been many cultures and peoples of the world that have passed through their time in history – some of them leaving extraordinary archeological evidences of their existence, but then vanishing from our memories. These are the great mysteries of the peoples and nations of the history of the earth and they all make for fascinating study.
However, no population has gathered greater interest than the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Why is this so? It is because these ten tribes are included in many of the prophecies of God that have been recorded in the Bible. The prophetic calendar of the last days, at least as it has seemed to some, is dependent upon the reemergence of these tribes.
(Next time I will look at some of the prophecies regarding the return of these ten tribes. There will be several [perhaps a dozen] parts to this post)