Thursday, November 20, 2014

THE SEARCH FOR THE TEN LOST TRIBES OF ISRAEL (5)

(Please scroll down read parts 1-4)
 
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PHYSICAL AND ETHNIC DESCENDANTS OF ISRAEL?

Discovery Claims in the East

If we may speak historically about the two views regarding what happened to the descendants of Israel, I think we must conclude that the belief that it must be the actual physical descendants of the Ten Tribes that are to return to the Promised Land that has resulted in the most speculative and unusual claims. This was especially true during the Medieval period, when there was a widely held belief among Christians that when the Ten Tribes were found, the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth would come.

Although the search for these lost tribes had become a Christian teaching by that time, the belief that the Lost Tribes should return to Palestine seems to be at first strictly a Jewish phenomenon.  For instance, the New Testament Apostles and Christian writers make no mention of the need for the return of the literal tribes of Israel in all of their teachings.

Indeed, it was at first Jewish explorers and religious leaders who began the search for the Lost Tribes.  Legends and myths abound of these adventures and make for very fascinating, if not somewhat incredulous tales.

The early Jews believed that the Ten Tribes desired to return from their exile, but the Lord prevented them from doing so by placing them on the other side of a great and legendary river called the Sambatyon.  This river churned with such fury that it was uncrossable, seething with rapids so powerful that the river would throw up huge rocks into the air so that anyone standing nearby would be in great danger of being crushed.  Besides that, there were mighty whirlpools that would swallow anything flowing down the river.

Only on one day out of the week was the river relatively placid and when a traveler could possibly cross.  Alas, that day was always the Sabbath, when the Ten Tribes, in their reverence for the day of rest, were forbidden to travel.

The early Jews then, began their search for their lost brothers, these Ten Tribes who were exiled beyond the Sambatyon.  There are, for instance, the stories of one Benjamin, who came from a town in Spain called Tudela.  Early in the twelfth century, Benjamin of Tudela set out on a several year journey with one of his purposes being a search for the lost tribes.  He tells of finding Jewish tribesmen in Persia and even the names of the tribes of Israel from which they came.  There were more descendants of the Ten Tribes that he claimed to have found in the Arabian Peninsula.

This search for the Ten Tribes continued by others and then spread until the Christian church also became involved.  This is not surprising, since there is a good deal of prophecy in the Bible that speaks of a reunited kingdom.  These Christians reasoned that if the tribes are to be reunited, then the ten lost tribes must be found.

Then there is also the fact that we all enjoy solving a mystery, and what happened to the Ten Tribes of Israel is one of history’s greatest mysteries.  However, in solving a mystery of history, there is no substitute for primary documents that verify the migrations and movements of a people, such as we have in Ezra, chapter two, concerning the return of the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  Lacking those documents, we are left to speculate.  Unfortunately, in the case of the Ten Lost Tribes, we have only speculation.

To the Jews, the return of the Ten Tribes to Palestine was closely linked to the appearance of the Messiah.  In the Christian community, it has sometimes also been linked to the return of the Christ.

When an importance that great is placed upon the matter, the temptation to exaggerate or fabricate claims of discovery is considerable.  This is not to say that all alleged links of peoples both in the past and in the present to the tribes of Israel are entirely without merit, but one must simply be careful and be very thoughtful in drawing up any conclusions.
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Next time we will look at a couple claims of discovery of lost tribes in Europe and the New World

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