Ten Lost Tribes
|Tribes of Israel|
|The Tribes of Israel|
The ten lost tribes were the ten of the Twelve Tribes of Israel that were said to have been exiled from the Kingdom of Israel after its conquest by the Neo-Assyrian Empire circa 722 BC. These are the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, and Ephraim; all but Judah and Benjamin (as well as some members of Levi, the priestly tribe, which did not have its own territory). The Jewish historian Josephus (37–100 AD) wrote that "there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers".
In the 7th and 8th centuries CE, the return of the lost tribes was associated with the concept of the coming of the messiah.:58–62 Claims of descent from the "lost tribes" have been proposed in relation to many groups, and some religions espouse a messianic view that the tribes will return.
Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, a professor of Middle Eastern history, states: "The fascination with the tribes has generated, alongside ostensibly nonfictional scholarly studies, a massive body of fictional literature and folktale.":11 Anthropologist Shalva Weil has documented various differing tribes and peoples claiming affiliation to the Lost Tribes throughout the world.
The scriptural basis for the idea of lost tribes is 2 Kings 17:6: "In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away unto Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and in Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes."
According to the Bible, the Kingdom of Israel and Kingdom of Judah were the successor states to the older United Monarchy of Israel. The Kingdom of Israel came into existence in about the 930s BC after the northern tribes of Israel rejected Solomon's son Rehoboam as their king. Nine tribes formed the Kingdom of Israel, the tribes of Reuben, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, and Manasseh.
The tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Rehoboam, and formed the Kingdom of Judah. In addition, members of the Tribe of Levi were located in cities in both kingdoms. According to 2 Chronicles 15:9, members of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon fled to Judah during the reign of Asa of Judah (c. 911–870 BC).
In c. 732 BC, the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III sacked Damascus and Israel, annexing Aramea and territory of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh in Gilead including the desert outposts of Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. People from these tribes were taken captive and resettled in the region of the Khabur River system in Assyria/Mesopotamia. Tiglath-Pilesar also captured the territory of Naphtali and the city of Janoah in Ephraim, and an Assyrian governor was placed over the region of Naphtali. According to 2 Kings 16:9 and 15:29, the population of Aram and the annexed part of Israel was deported to Assyria.
Israel Finkelstein estimated that only a fifth of the population (about 40,000) were actually resettled out of the area during the two deportation periods under Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V and Sargon II.[page needed] Many also fled south to Jerusalem, which appears to have expanded in size fivefold during this period, requiring a new wall to be built, and a new source of water (Siloam) to be provided by King Hezekiah. Furthermore, 2 Chronicles 30:1–11 explicitly mentions northern Israelites who had been spared by the Assyrians—in particular, members of Dan, Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher, and Zebulun—and how members of the latter three returned to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem at that time.
The Hebrew Bible does not use the phrase "ten lost tribes", leading some to question the number of tribes involved. 1 Kings 11:31 states that the kingdom would be taken from Solomon and ten tribes given to Jeroboam:
And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee.
But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes.
According to Zvi Ben-Dor Benite:
Centuries after their disappearance, the ten lost tribes sent an indirect but vital sign ... In 2 Esdras, we read about the ten tribes and "their long journey through that region, which is called Arzareth" ... The book of the "Vision of Ezra", or Esdras, was written in Hebrew or Aramaic by a Palestinian Jew sometime before the end of the first century AD, shortly after the destruction of the temple by the Romans [in 70 AD]. It is one of a group of texts later designated as the so-called Apocrypha—pseudoepigraphal books - attached to but not included in the Hebrew biblical canon.:57
There are discussions in the Talmud as to whether the ten lost tribes will eventually be reunited with the Tribe of Judah; that is, with the Jewish people. In the Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin equates the exile of the lost tribes with being morally and spiritually lost. In Tractate Sanhedrin 110B, Rabbi Eliezer states:
Just like a day is followed by darkness, and the light later returns, so too, although it will become 'dark' for the ten tribes, God will ultimately take them out of their darkness.
In the Jerusalem Talmud, Rabbi Shimon ben Yehudah, of the town of Acco, states in the name of Rabbi Shimon:
If their deeds are as this day's, they will not return; otherwise they shall.
An Ashkenazi Jewish legend speaks of these tribes as Die Roite Yiddelech, "the little red Jews", who were cut off from the rest of Jewry by the legendary river Sambation, "whose foaming waters raise high up into the sky a wall of fire and smoke that is impossible to pass through."
Apocryphal accounts concerning the Lost Tribes, based to varying degrees on biblical accounts, have been produced by both Jews and Christians since at least the 17th century.:59 An increased currency of tales relating to lost tribes that occurred in the 17th century was due to the confluence of several factors. According to Tudor Parfitt:
As Michael Pollack shows, Menasseh's argument was based on "three separate and seemingly unrelated sources: a verse from the book of Isaiah, Matteo Ricci's discovery of an old Jewish community in the heart of China and Antonio Montezinos' reported encounter with members of the Lost Tribes in the wilds of South America".:69
In 1649 Menasseh ben Israel published his book, The Hope of Israel, in Spanish and in Latin in Amsterdam; it included Antonio de Montezinos' account of the Lost Tribes in the New World. An English translation was published in London in 1650. In it Menasseh argued and for the first time tried to give learned support in European thought and printing to the theory that the native inhabitants of America at the time of the European discovery were actually descendants of the [lost] Ten Tribes of Israel. Menasseh noted how important Montezinos' account was,
for the Scriptures do not tell what people first inhabited those Countries; neither was there mention of them by any, til Christop. Columbus, Americus, Vespacius [sic], Ferdinandus, Cortez [sic], the Marquesse Del Valle [sic], and Franciscus Pizarrus [sic] went thither ...
He wrote on 23 December 1649: "I think that the Ten Tribes live not only there ... but also in other lands scattered everywhere; these never did come back to the Second Temple and they keep till this day still the Jewish Religion ...":118
In 1655, Menasseh ben Israel petitioned Oliver Cromwell to allow the Jews to return to England in furtherance of the Messianic goal. (Since the Edict of Expulsion in 1290, Jews had been prohibited by law from living in England.) With the approach of 1666, considered a significant date, Cromwell was allegedly interested in the return of the Jews to England because of the many theories circulating related to millennial thinking about the end of the world. Many of these ideas were fixed upon the year 1666 and the Fifth Monarchy Men who were looking for the return of Jesus as the Messiah; he was expected to establish a final kingdom to rule the physical world for a thousand years. Messianic believers supported Cromwell's Republic in the expectation that it was a preparation for the fifth monarchy—that is, the monarchy that should succeed the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman world empires.
Latter-day Saint Movement
The Book of Mormon is based on the premise that two families of Israelites escaped from Israel shortly before the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, constructed a ship, sailed across the ocean, and arrived in the New World. They are among the ancestors of Native American tribes and the Polynesians. Adherents believe the two founding tribes were called Nephites and Lamanites, that the Nephites obeyed the Law of Moses, practiced Christianity, and that the Lamanites were rebellious. Eventually the Lamanites wiped out the Nephites around AD 400, and they are among the ancestors of Native Americans.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) believes in the literal gathering of Israel, and the Church actively preaches the gathering of people from the twelve tribes. "Today Israelites are found in all countries of the world. Many of these people do not know that they are descended from the ancient house of Israel," the church teaches in its basic Gospel Principles manual. "The Lord promised that His covenant people would someday be gathered .... God gathers His children through missionary work. As people come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, receiving the ordinances of salvation and keeping the associated covenants, they become 'the children of the covenant' (3 Nephi 20:26)."
The church also teaches that
"The power and authority to direct the work of gathering the house of Israel was given to Joseph Smith by the prophet Moses, who appeared in 1836 in the Kirtland Temple. ... The Israelites are to be gathered spiritually first and then physically. They are gathered spiritually as they join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and make and keep sacred covenants. ... The physical gathering of Israel means that the covenant people will be 'gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise' (2 Nephi 9:2). The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh will be gathered in the Americas. The tribe of Judah will return to the city of Jerusalem and the area surrounding it. The ten lost tribes will receive from the tribe of Ephraim their promised blessings (see D&C 133:26–34). ... The physical gathering of Israel will not be complete until the Second Coming of the Savior and on into the Millennium (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37)."
One of their main Articles of Faith, which was written by Joseph Smith, is as follows: "We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." (LDS Articles of Faith #10)
Regarding the Ezekiel 37 prophecy, the church teaches that the Book of Mormon is the stick of Ephraim (or Joseph) mentioned and that the Bible is the stick of Judah, thus comprising two witnesses for Jesus Christ. The church believes the Book of Mormon to be a collection of records by prophets of the ancient Americas, written on plates of gold and translated by Joseph Smith c. 1830. The church considers the Book of Mormon one of the main tools for the spiritual gathering of Israel.
Historians generally concluded that the groups which were referred to as the Lost Tribes merged with the local population. For instance, the New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia states: "In historic fact, some members of the Ten Tribes remained in Palestine, where apart from the Samaritans some of their descendants long preserved their identity among the Jewish population, others were assimilated, while others were presumably absorbed by the last Judean exiles who in 597–586 BC were deported to Assyria ... Unlike the Judeans of the southern Kingdom, who survived a similar fate 135 years later, they soon assimilated ..."
The enduring mysteries surrounding the disappearance of the tribes later became a source of numerous largely mythological narratives in recent centuries, with historian Tudor Parfitt arguing "this myth is a vital feature of colonial discourse throughout the long period of European overseas empires, from the beginning of the fifteenth century, until the later half of the twentieth".:1, 225
However, Parfitt's other research indicated some possible ethnic links between several older Jewish Diaspora communities in Asia and Africa and the Middle East, especially those established in pre-colonial times. For example, in his Y-DNA studies of males from the Lemba people, Parfitt found a high proportion of paternal Semitic ancestry, DNA that is common to both Arabs and Jews from the Middle East.
His later genetic studies of the Bene Israel of India, the origins of whom were obscure, also concluded that they were predominantly descended from males from the Middle East, largely consistent with their oral histories of origin. These findings subsequently led other Judaising groups, including the Gogodala tribe of Papua New Guinea, to seek help in determining their own origins.
Ethnology and anthropology
Expanded exploration and study of groups throughout the world through archeology and the new field of anthropology in the late 19th century led to a revival or reworking of accounts of the Lost Tribes. For instance, because archeological finds of the Mississippian culture's complex earthwork mounds seemed beyond the skills of the Native American cultures known to European Americans at the time of their discovery, it was theorized that the ancient civilizations involved in the mounds' construction were linked to the Lost Tribes. They tried to fit new information into a biblical construct. However, the earthworks across North America have been conclusively linked to various Native groups, and the archaeologists now consider the theory of non-Native origin to be pseudo-science.[page needed]
Groups which claim descent from the Lost Tribes
Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan
There is a tradition among the Pashtuns of being descended from the exiled lost tribes of Israel. This tradition was referenced in 19th century western scholarship and was also incorporated in the "Lost Tribes" literature popular at the time (notably George Moore's The Lost Tribes of 1861). Recently (2000s), interest in the topic has been revived by Jerusalem anthropologist Shalva Weil, who was quoted in the popular press to the effect that "Taliban may be descended from Jews".
The traditions surrounding the Pashtuns being remote descendants of the "Lost Tribes of Israel" is to be distinguished from the historical Jewish community in eastern Afghanistan or northwest Pakistan which flourished from about the 7th to the early 20th century, but which has essentially disappeared due to emigration to Israel since the 1950s.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the theory of Pashtun descent from Israelites is traced to Makhzan-e-Afghani, a history compiled for Khan-e-Jehan Lodhi in the reign of Mughal Emperor Jehangir in the 17th century.
The Pashtuns are a predominantly Muslim Iranic people, native to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who adhere to an indigenous and pre-Islamic religious code of honor and culture, Pashtunwali. The belief that Pashtuns are descended from the lost tribes of Israel has never been substantiated by concrete historical evidence. Many members of the Taliban hail from the Pashtun tribes and they do not necessarily disclaim their alleged Israelite descent.
A number of genetic studies refute the possibility of a connection, whereas others maintain a link.:117 In 2010, The Guardian reported that the Israeli government was planning to fund a genetic study in order to test the veracity of a genetic link between the Pashtuns and the lost tribes of Israel. The article stated that "Historical and anecdotal evidence strongly suggests a connection, but definitive scientific proof has never been found. Some leading Israeli anthropologists believe that, of all the many groups in the world which claim to have a connection to the 10 lost tribes, the Pashtuns, or Pathans, have the most compelling case."
Some traditions of the Assyrian Jews hold that Israelites of the tribe of Benjamin first arrived in the area of modern Kurdistan after the Neo-Assyrian Empire's conquest of the Kingdom of Israel during the 8th century BC; they were subsequently relocated to the Assyrian capital. During the first century BC, the Assyrian royal house of Adiabene—which, according to Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, was ethnically Assyrian and whose capital was Erbil (Aramaic: Arbala; Kurdish: Hewlêr)—was converted to Judaism. King Monobazes, his queen Helena, and his son and successor Izates are recorded as the first proselytes.
The theory of Kashmiri descent from lost tribes of Israel was first suggested by Al-Biruni, the famous 11th-century Persian Muslim scholar. According to Al Biruni, "In former times the inhabitants of Kashmir used to allow one or two foreigners to enter their country, particularly Jews, but at present they do not allow any Hindus whom they do not know personally to enter, much less other people."
François Bernier, a 17th-century French physician and Sir Francis Younghusband, who explored this region in the 1800s, commented on the similar physiognomy between Kashmiris and Jews, including "fair skin, prominent noses," and similar head shapes.
Cochin Jews are the oldest group of Jews in India, with roots that are claimed to date back to the time of King Solomon. The Cochin Jews settled in the Kingdom of Cochin in South India, now part of the state of Kerala. As early as the 12th century, mention is made of the Jews in southern India. The Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela, speaking of Kollam (Quilon) on the Malabar Coast, writes in his Itinerary: "...throughout the island, including all the towns thereof, live several thousand Israelites. The inhabitants are all black, and the Jews also. The latter are good and benevolent. They know the law of Moses and the prophets, and to a small extent the Talmud and Halacha." These people later became known as the Malabari Jews. They built synagogues in Kerala beginning in the 12th and 13th centuries. They are known to have developed Judeo-Malayalam, a dialect of Malayalam language.
Since the late 20th century, some tribes in the Indian North-Eastern states of Mizoram and Manipur have been claiming that they are Lost Israelites and they have also been studying Hebrew and Judaism. The chief rabbi of Israel ruled in 2005 that the Bnei Menashe was recognized as part of a lost tribe, allowing aliyah after formal conversion.
Beta Israel of Ethiopia
The Beta Israel ("House of Israel") are Ethiopian Jews, who were also called "Falashas" in the past. Some members of the Beta Israel, as well as several Jewish scholars, believe that they are descended from the lost Tribe of Dan, as opposed to the traditional story of their descent from the Queen of Sheba. They have a tradition of being connected to Jerusalem. Early DNA studies showed that they were descended from Ethiopians, but in the 21st century, new studies have shown their possible descent from a few Jews who lived in either the 4th or 5th century, possibly in Sudan. The Beta Israel made contact with other Jewish communities in the later 20th century. In 1973 Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, then the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, based on the Radbaz and other accounts, ruled that the Beta Israel were Jews and should be brought to Israel; two years later that opinion was confirmed by a number of other authorities who made similar rulings, including the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Shlomo Goren.
The Igbo Jews of Nigeria variously claim descent from the tribes of Ephraim, Naphtali, Menasseh, Levi, Zebulun and Gad. The theory, however, does not hold up to historical scrutiny. Historians have examined the historical literature on West Africa from the colonial era and they have elucidated diverse functions that such theories served for the writers who proposed them.
Speculation regarding other ethnic groups
There has been speculation regarding various ethnic groups, which would be regarded as fringe theories.
Some writers have speculated that the Japanese people may be the direct descendants of some of the Ten Lost Tribes. Parfitt writes that "the spread of the fantasy of Israelite origin ... forms a consistent feature of the Western colonial enterprise. ... It is in fact in Japan that we can trace the most remarkable evolution in the Pacific of an imagined Judaic past. As elsewhere in the world, the theory that aspects of the country were to be explained via an Israelite model was introduced by Western agents.":158
In 1878, Scottish immigrant to Japan Nicholas McLeod self-published Epitome of the Ancient History of Japan. McLeod drew correlations between his observations of Japan and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy: The civilized race of the Aa. Inus,[sic: read Ainus] the Tokugawa and the Machi No Hito of the large towns, by dwelling in the tent or tabernacle shaped houses first erected by Jin Mu Tenno, have fulfilled Noah's prophecy regarding Japhet, "He shall dwell in the tents of Shem.":7
The Lemba people (Vhalemba) from Southern Africa claim to be the descendants of several Jewish men who traveled from what is now Yemen to Africa in search of gold, where they took wives and established new communities. They specifically adhere to religious practices which are similar to those in Judaism and have a tradition of being a migrant people, with clues that point to an origin in either West Asia or North Africa. According to the oral history of the Lemba, their ancestors were Jews who came from a place called Sena several hundred years ago and settled in East Africa. Sena is an abandoned ancient town in Yemen, located in the eastern Hadramaut valley, which history indicates Jews inhabited in past centuries. Some research suggests that "Sena" may refer to Wadi Masilah (near Sayhut) in Yemen, often called Sena, or alternatively to the city of Sana'a, which is also located in Yemen.:61
In 1650, a British minister named Thomas Thorowgood, who was a preacher in Norfolk, published a book entitled Jewes in America or Probabilities that the Americans are of that Race, which he had prepared for the New England missionary society. Parfitt writes of this work: "The society was active in trying to convert the Indians but suspected that they might be Jews and realized that it had better be prepared for an arduous task. Thorowgood's tract argued that the native populations of North America were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes.":66
In 1652 Hamon L'Estrange, an English author writing on topics such as history and theology published an exegetical tract called Americans no Jews, or improbabilities that the Americans are of that Race in response to the tract by Thorowgood. In response to L'Estrange, Thorowgood published a second edition of his book in 1660 with a revised title and included a foreword written by John Eliot, a Puritan missionary to the Indians who had translated the Bible into an Indian language.:66, 76
Scythian/Cimmerian theories and British Israelism
Adherents of British Israelism and Christian Identity both believe that the lost tribes migrated northward, over the Caucasus, and became the Scythians, Cimmerians and Goths, as well as the progenitors of the later Germanic invaders of Britain.:26–27
The theory first arose in England and then spread to the United States.:52–65 During the 20th century, British Israelism was promoted by Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God.:57
Tudor Parfitt, author of The Lost Tribes: The History of a Myth, states that the proof cited by adherents of British Israelism is "of a feeble composition even by the low standards of the genre",:61 and these notions are widely rejected by historians.
- Assyria and Germany in Anglo-Israelism
- Black Hebrew Israelites, groups of African Americans who believe that they are descendants of the ancient Israelites
- British Israelism
- Christian Identity
- Groups claiming affiliation with Israelites
- History of the Jews in Afghanistan
- History of the Jews in Africa
- History of the Jews in China
- History of the Jews in India
- History of the Jews in Japan
- History of the Jews in Kurdistan
- Jewish diaspora
- Jewish ethnic divisions
- Jewish history
- Khazar hypothesis of Ashkenazi ancestry
- Mormonism and Pacific Islanders
- Shavei Israel, an organization which seeks to find "lost Jews".
- Theory of Kashmiri descent from lost tribes of Israel
- Timeline of Jewish history
- United States in Prophecy
- Joseph Wolff—the so-called "Eccentric Missionary", the son of a rabbi who converted to Christianity, and set off on extensive travels through Asia in search of the Ten Lost Tribes in 1828
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