Did the Ten Tribes of Israel get Lost?
1. After the Flood, Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth were commanded to repopulate and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1, 7).
2. Not long after, a rebellion was instigated by Noah's great grandson Nimrod. He began to build his own kingdom, beginning with a tower unto the heavens, and the great city Babylon, thereby keeping the people in one place. (Genesis 10:8-10; 11:1-4)
3. God stops the rebellion by confusing the language of the rebels and scatters them upon the face of the earth (Genesis 11:5-8, 9).
4. These rebels were scattered upon the face of the earth and became the nations, also called Gentiles. Each family was divided in its own land with their own language. (Genesis 10:5, 32)
5. Nine generations later in the line of Shem comes Abram, who is later called Abraham (Genesis 11:10-26; 17:5, Nehemiah 9:7).
6. God calls Abraham out from his country and makes covenant with him (Genesis 12:1-4, 5).
7. Abraham and some of his family begin their journey from the Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. The land of Canaan is where Ham's son Canaan migrated with his family when God scattered the rebels at Babel. This region was now populated with Canaan's descendants. (Genesis 11:31, Acts 7:2-4)
8. God promises Abraham, to make him a great nation, to bless him and to make his name great, to bless those that bless him and curse those that curse him (Genesis 12:1-4, 5). He promise to make his seed as the sand of the earth (Genesis 13:16) and as the stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5; 22:17) and that he would be the father of many nations and kings (Genesis 17:5-6). The Messiah would come through Him to bless all nations (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 26:4, Galatians 3:16)
9. God promises the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants for an everlasting possession (Genesis 12:7; 15:18; 17:7-8, Exodus 6:3-4)
10. God changes the name of Jacob to Israel and promises him the land that he gave to Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 35:10, 12).
11. Jacob and his family, are brought into Egypt, where he is promised to become a great nation (Genesis 46:2-4, Exodus 1:1-4, 5-7).
12. Israel is led out of Egyptian bondage by Moses and wander in the wilderness for 40 years and promises them the land of Canaan for their heritage. (Exodus 6:2-5, 6-8)
13. God said He would vomit them out of the land for disobedience, just like He cast out the people before them. (Leviticus 18:24-27, 28; 20:22)
14. God predicted that Israel would turn from Him, and would go into captivity among all nations. However, if they would repent, God would gather them back into the land as He promised their fathers. (Deuteronomy 30:1-4, 5-6, Matthew 24:31)
15. God tells Israel that they would be scattered to the nations from the land of Israel. However, God said He would not forget the covenant that He made with their fathers, even in the last days when they are in tribulation, He would bring them back from their captivity. (Deuteronomy 4:26-29, 30-31, Matthew 24:21, 31)
16. Under the leadership of Joshua the nation Israel enters the promised land. (Deuteronomy 3:28; 31:7, Joshua 1:1-4, 5-8, 9)
17. The 12 tribes of Israel receive their inheritance. (Joshua 11:23; 19:51)
18. God promises to never break the covenant of the land with them. (Judges 2:1)
19. Children of Israel serve the Lord all the days of Joshua. (Judges 2:6-8)
20. After the death of Joshua the children of Israel forsook the Lord. (Judges 2:10-13, 14-15)
21. The tribes of Israel are ruled by judges. (Judges 2:16)
22. The tribes of Israel desire a king like the other nations and choose Saul to be king over them. They are now called the “kingdom of Israel”. (Judges 21:25; 1 Samuel 8:5-8, 19-20; 10:18-19; 11:15; 12:12-13)
23. God rent the kingdom from Saul and gave it to David (1 Samuel 15:26-28; 24:4-5, 20)
24. Solomon rules over the Kingdom of Israel, but God gives him warning if they turn from following Him, He will cut them off out of the land of Israel (1 Kings 9:1-4, 5-8, 9).
Kingdom Divided (1 Kings 11:26-40)
The Kingdom of Israel was divided in the days of Solomon's son Rehoboam in about the year 975 B.C. Ten tribes followed Jeroboam (who was of the tribe of Ephraim) in his rebellion. The ten tribes were together called Ephraim because, for the most part, that is where they settled, in the land that was allotted to the tribe of Ephraim, north of Jerusalem and Judah. Their capital was first in the city of Shechem and later the city of Samaria. The region of their kingdom was also later called Samaria which was south of Galilee and north of Judea.
Jeroboam who led the rebellion set up altars in Bethel and Dan where they turned to idolatry and made golden calves to worship (1 Kings 12:25-33; 2 Kings 10:29; 2 Chronicles 11:15). How soon they forgot what happened when they made a golden calf to worship during their Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 32:1-35). Seventeen times we are told that the kings of Israel “departed not from the sins of Jeroboam ... who made Israel to sin.” The other two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were loyal to Solomon's son Rehoboam and Jerusalem was their capital.
Nevertheless, after the 10 tribes saw the abominations of Jeroboam, the Levites and other of the 10 tribes, who set their hearts to seek the Lord, returned to strengthen the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:13-16, 17).
The prophecy of Hosea was approximately 200 years after the kingdom of Israel, was divided after the reign of Solomon. His prophecy focused primarily on the 10 northern tribes of Israel who had committed great whoredom in departing from the Lord (Hosea 1:2).
The prophet Hosea was commanded by God to marry Gomer the harlot. His relationship with her signified the relationship between God and the rebellious house of Israel. She bare him 3 children of whoredom whose names are symbolic of what would happen to Israel.
The first child was a son whose name was Jezreel (Hosea 1:3-4). Jezreel means “God sows”, like that of scattering seed, saying, I “will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.” (Hosea 1:4) The kingdom of the house of Israel would come to an end and God would scatter them. Israel, like a stock of wheat, once beautiful and white in the field, at the end of its season is cut down, and its seed, some is ground to powder and baked in the oven and some is sown in the land which at a later date will spring forth to bear fruit once again.
The prophet Zechariah says, “And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.” (Zechariah 10:9) Many had been ground to powder and perished by the invading Assyrian armies. In recent times it may remind us of how many of them were consumed in the ovens of the Nazi Holocaust. But some had escaped and from there were scattered into the farthest reaches of the earth.
This is what the prophet Amos had to say, when he prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel:
“Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us. In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.” (Amos 9:8-15)
After the northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians, they became so thoroughly sifted among the nations that many have referred to them as the “10 lost tribes” of Israel. But we can be assured that they are not lost to God and He knows where all His people are. Although Israel would be scattered to the nations, there was yet the promise of restoration, “In that day” when God would “bring again the captivity of my people Israel”. He “will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them”. Those who reject any future that God has for Israel, and have replaced them with the church have said that Amos' prophecy was fulfilled in their return from the Babylonian captivity, but this is clearly not the case as James quoted these verses saying the rise of Israel was still future (Acts 15:14-17).
The “house of Israel” now only consisted of 10 tribes after the kingdom was divided. They became the northern kingdom also called Ephraim and were located in Samaria. They were soon to be taken into captivity by the Assyrians, which took place in 721 B.C. Many have claimed that since that time these ten tribes became “lost”. This is clearly not the case.
The Lord had decreed that they would be scattered among the nations, saying, “Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.” (Hosea 8:8) And again, “They shall not dwell in the LORD'S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.” (Hosea 9:3) And again, “My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9:17) Israel would keep their identity among the nations. The Scriptures are unmistakably clear that Israel should not be cast away forever, but blindness in part would happen to the Jew until the fullness of the Gentiles come in (Romans 11:1-36).
Although many of the 12 tribes did not return to their homeland after the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4), they still kept their identity in the land of their captors and of the Gentiles where they were scattered. Even a century later we read in the book of Esther, in the reign of Ahasuerus, king of the Medo Persian Empire, whose empire stretched from India to Ethiopia with over one hundred and twenty provinces (Esther 1:1), we read that the Jews remained a distinct people living among them, and Esther was one of them.
In the book of Esther, we find out how she saved the Jews from the evil plans of Haman who marked the Jews for extermination. “And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.” (Esther 3:8) So we can see at this time the Jews were scattered as far as India and Ethiopia, in every province under the Medo Persian Empire.
It is from this same region that “wise men came from the east”, looking for Him who was to be born “King of the Jews”. These same wise men were of the dispersed Jews, who still held to the Scriptures and knew of the prophecies regarding the coming of the promised Messiah (Matthew 2:1-2). In Israel at that time, many were expecting and “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25), even one named Anna, who was of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36) which was one of the alleged ten “lost” tribes. Their descendants had either returned with Judah and Benjamin after the Babylonian captivity, which is evident in the book of Ezra (Ezra 6:19-21), or else were of those “poor”, who were not taken captive during the Assyrian (2 Chronicles 30:6) and Babylonian captivities and left keep the land (Jeremiah 39:10; 40:7; 52:16).
Even after the kingdom of Israel was divided, Jeroboam refused the Levites from executing the priests office unto the LORD. Jeroboam set up idols in Dan and Bethel and made others priests. When the people saw these abominations, “the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem... And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong” (2 Chronicles 11:14-17).
Some of all the ten tribes of the Northern kingdom, those whose hearts desire was to serve the Lord, left the Northern Kingdom and strengthened the kingdom of Judah. This happened before the Assyrians took the 10 northern tribes captive. So 120 years later, when the Babylonians took Judah captive, there would have been a good representation of all 12 tribes. Furthermore, when Babylon ascended to become the great power of the region, their kingdom stretched beyond the old Assyrian Empire so any in those regions would have come under the authority of Babylon. And again, when Ezra and a remnant returned from their Babylonian captivity, we are told that there was representation of all the tribes of Israel (Ezra 6:19-21) that returned.
We read again in the book of Acts, that many Jews from other lands wherein they were born, who were identified as “devout Jews”, came to the feast of Passover and Pentecost in Jerusalem. Perhaps they also come expecting the Messiah, seeing that Daniel's prophecy of Weeks would present the Messiah at this time (Daniel 9:24-27). We read, “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” (Acts 2:5) By this time, the Jews had spread far and wide, to “every nation under heaven”. We are also given a sampling of the nations from where they had come (Acts 2:8-11).
That these consisted of the 12 tribes is evident, for some later became believers, to whom James wrote saying, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” (James 1:1) Peter, the apostle to the Jews, also wrote to them who were scattered in the five provinces of Rome, many of whom had become believers in Christ (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Paul believed the twelve tribes existed in his day (Acts 26:7). When Paul travelled through Asia and Europe evangelizing, he found the Jews so numerous, that in all the noted cities of the Gentiles they had synagogues in which they assembled for the worship of God. So, “after his manner was” (Acts 17:1-2), whenever he entered a new city, he would go to the Jew first, to their synagogue, to preach the gospel (Acts 13:14-16).
The Jews were again scattered in AD 70 and 135 AD by the Romans. Over the next 18 centuries they faced fierce persecutions under the Byzantium Empire, Mohammad, the Crusades, and faced expulsions from many countries, Spain, Bavaria, France, Italy, England, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, and others. Surely it was fulfilled as Moses said, “And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life” (Deuteronomy 28:65-66).
In more recent times in the 19th and 20th centuries, we learn that there were still millions of Jews in these same regions of Europe and Russia. At this time, they were facing fierce persecutions and pogroms in Russia. From 1880 to 1920 more than 2 million Jews fled Russia, the majority to the USA (over 1.7 million). Only a small remnant at that time fled to Israel (45,000). By 1941 it is estimated that there were 4.855 million Jews that remained in Russia. Several million of these perished in the Nazi Holocaust. From 1920 to 1948, only 52,000 fled to Israel from Russia, however, since the 1970s, over 1.1 million Russians of Jewish origin immigrated to Israel. The majority of Jews who fled from the Russian pogroms and the Nazi holocaust fled to the USA, where around 50% of the worlds Jew remain till this day.
So this whole idea that the 10 tribes of Israel became lost is totally nonsense. It is evident that they would keep distinct from the nations (Numbers 23:9), right until the time of the end, wherein the tribulation we find 144,000 of them being sealed of the 12 tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:4-8). When we get into the millennium the twelve apostles were promised by Christ to sit over and judge these same twelve tribes (Luke 22:30), whose names are inscribed on the gates of the Millenial Temple (Ezekiel 48:31-35), as well as the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12).
And above all, when it was announced to Mary that she should bear the Christ child, she was told that “he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:33) The first time the “house of Jacob” is used in the Scriptures is when Joseph brought his family to live in Egypt, and “all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” (Genesis 46:27) It is from Jacob who came the twelve tribes of Israel where in Egypt they grew to be a great nation. These are the “children of Israel” (Exodus 19:3-6) and called by the name Israel (Isaiah 48:1) and synonymous with the “house of Israel” (Jeremiah 2:4). But as they wandered away from the Lord, because of their sin and transgressions, the Lord hid “his face from the house of Jacob” (Isaiah 8:17).
From that time, many had prayed that the Lord would make His face to shine upon them, and this He did, when in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, and made His Salvation “manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 1:10), who “hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Nevertheless, for the most part, Israel was blinded because of unbelief, “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So Israel had been set aside and once again scattered to the nations (Luke 21:24) because they did not recognize the time of their visitation. The prophetic clock stopped for Israel and will not resume again until the 70th Week of Daniel, which is the “Time of Jacob's Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:3-6, 7, 24, Daniel 12:1) in the "latter days", also refered to as the "great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21, Deuteronomy 4:26-29, 30-31) .
But now, God would fulfil His promise to be a light unto the Gentiles (Acts 13:47), to take out of them a people for His name. After which time He would restore Israel (Isaiah 49:6, Acts 15:14-17), after they repent and acknowledge their sins (Acts 3:19-21, Hosea 5:15).
Their return unto the Lord would only take place after their great affliction, that would not only come upon them, but the whole world during the Day of the Lord. Only then shall Israel be saved, when they are gathered back into their land. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God.” (Ezekiel 28:25-26)
Listen to the marvlous words of the prophet Ezekiel concerning that day. “And I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward. And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done unto them, and hid my face from them. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name; After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid. When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations; Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 39:21-29)