Were the Ten Tribes Lost?
Are the English-speaking nations the descendants of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel? Are they God’s chosen instrument for the blessing of all mankind? What do the facts and the Bible show?
WHAT happened to the ten tribes of Israel after their being taken captive in 740 B.C.? Did they become wholly extinct? Or did some members of them unite with the remnant of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah and thus survive? Or did they get lost to reappear as the ancestors of the English-speaking people of the world?
Among those who called the attention of Christendom to the ten “lost” tribes in times past was one David Reubini, a sixteenth-century impostor. Because of his scheme for freeing Palestine from the Turks he succeeded in gaining an interview with the pope and persuaded him that he was of the tribe of Reuben and that the other nine tribes also were extant. Reubini received letters of recommendation from the pope for his project. However, his prestige in Roman Catholic circles was short-lived when it became apparent that his messianic ambitions as a Jew were his chief concern!
On the basis of the theory that the British were descendants of the ten “lost” tribes many Jews emigrated to England in the seventeenth century. The modern apostle of this theory was one Richard Brothers, an Englishman, who in 1822 published a treatise entitled “Correct Account of the Invasion of England by the Saxons, Showing the English Nation to Be the Descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes.” Today well over two million persons hold to this theory and are known as Anglo-Israelites.
The Anglo-Israelite theory is that shortly after the Assyrians took the ten tribes captive in 740 B.C. the Scythians appeared for the first time in Babylonia and shortly thereafter showed up in the British Isles. A similar argument is made in behalf of certain other peoples, such as the “Khumri.” This is supposed to account for the dominating role that the British people have played in the past three centuries in politics, commerce and religion, and for their controlling one fourth of the earth’s surface and population until recent times. It is also claimed that the Hebrew and English languages are strikingly similar and that the love of liberty of English-speaking peoples goes back to these Israelites.
It is further held that the present royal family of England has descended from certain Danites who came to Ireland long centuries ago; that these brought with them the stone on which Jacob slept, and that this stone is the very one used when a king or queen is crowned in England, the Stone of Scone in Westminster Abbey.
The Anglo-Israelites put much stress on the similarity of names. The tribe of Dan is seen in such names as Danzig, Danube, Danish, etc. Jack is supposed to be a corruption of Jacob, and God’s words to Abram, “I will make your name great,” are said to be fulfilled in the name Great Britain. The “isles” mentioned in the Scriptures are taken to mean the British Isles.
The Anglo-Israelite theory also puts great confidence in the Pyramid of Giza as being of divine origin although their pyramid theories received a great setback in 1953, when something unusual was supposed to happen on the basis of pyramid measurements. The Anglo-Israelites also hold that, after the division of the nation of Israel into two kingdoms, Israel always refers to the ten-tribe kingdom and Judah to the two-tribe kingdom. The Messianic prophecies as well as those telling of Israel’s restoration and prosperity are made to apply to the English-speaking nations. Incidentally, the Anglo-Israelites are not agreed among themselves as to who in all are included in the descendants of the ten “lost” tribes, some including practically all the Nordic peoples of Europe while others only the English-speaking people.
ANGLO-ISRAELITE THEORY DISCREDITED
Regarding this theory The Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. I, p. 686, states: “It assumes that the English are descended from the lost 10 tribes of Israel; but the theory is untenable on any scientific grounds, for the tribes vanished through absorption in neighboring peoples and were not lost in any real sense.”
After summing up the arguments in favor of the theory, the Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. I, p. 60, states: “Altogether, by the application of wild guesswork about historical origins and philological analogies, and by slavishly literal interpretation of selected phrases of prophecy, a case was made out for the identification of the British race with the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel sufficient to satisfy uncritical persons desirous of finding their pride of race confirmed by Holy Scripture.” It also shows that the term “isles” does not refer to the British Isles, as the original word simply means distant lands, not islands.
And says another: “Using the same method of the similarity of names, it is possible to ‘prove’ that the American Indians are descendants of the ancient Greeks: the Kiowas came from Chios, the Croatans from Crotona, the Aleuts from Eleusis, the Chilkats from Chalkis! . . . Actually, there is no mystery about the fate of the Ten Tribes. Most of those exiled to Media died of harsh treatment; the Assyrians were the Nazis of their day; the few survivors intermarried with and were swallowed up by the natives of the region.”—Time, September 28, 1953.
NO TRIBES LOST
However, the strongest proof that the Anglo-Israelite theory is not true is found in the Bible itself, for it shows that at all times there were some of the ten tribes associated with the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. Thus we read that after the cleavage into two kingdoms King Rehoboam of Judah continued to reign over “the sons of Israel that were dwelling in the cities of Judah.” Also of King Asa’s reign, more than thirty years later, we read that because of his instituting reforms a “great number” from various tribes of Israel deserted to him because “they saw that Jehovah his God was with him.” So, long before Israel was led away captive, Israelites in great number were living in the kingdom of Judah.—1 Ki. 12:17; 2 Chron. 15:9, NW.
Secondly, the Scriptures leave no doubt that both Israel and Judah were involved in the return from Babylonian captivity. Perhaps not many of the ten-tribe kingdom returned, but not many of the two-tribe kingdom did either, that is, comparatively speaking. Thus we read: “For though thy people, Israel, be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them shall return.” (Isa. 10:22, AS) It would seem therefore that the some 55,000 that returned to Palestine were only a small part of the number of Israelites living in Babylon at the time Cyrus issued his liberation decree.
That the return from Babylon was understood to be a representative return of all the twelve tribes is apparent from a number of facts. For example, we find far more references to Israel than to Judah in the postexilic books of Ezra and Nehemiah. We should not find any references to Israel if the Anglo-Israelite theory were correct. Then again, we repeatedly find the expression “all Israel” applied to the returned exiles, in just the same style that Nehemiah speaks of King Solomon’s being made king over “all Israel.” (Ezra 2:70; Neh. 13:26) And that the returned exiles considered themselves as one, as representatives of all the twelve tribes, is further seen by their presentation at the temple’s inauguration “as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.”—Ezra 6:17, NW.
This uniting of the two kingdoms was foretold in prophecies that had a miniature fulfillment at that time: “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them with it, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in my hand. . . . I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” Then also the prophecy was true that “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.”—Ezek. 37:19, 22; Isa. 11:13, AS.
And thirdly, the fallacy of the Anglo-Israelite theory is further demonstrated by the Christian Greek Scriptures, in which the Jews are referred to as Israel some seventy-five times. Jesus repeatedly stated that he was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” not just to the lost sheep of the house of Judah, but to all twelve tribes. There is also record of a prophetess Anna, “of Asher’s tribe,” serving at the temple. And when Jesus was impaled on the torture stake we find the terms “King of the Jews” and “King of Israel” used interchangeably.—Matt. 10:6; Luke 2:36, NW; Matt. 27:37, 42.
Consider: if only those of the two tribes had returned to Palestine, why would Peter on the day of Pentecost say: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God” made this Jesus Lord and Christ? And if ten of the twelve tribes had gone to the British Isles and were lost, why would James, under inspiration, address his letter to the twelve tribes? Note also Paul’s words: “Our twelve tribes are hoping to attain to the fulfillment of this [resurrection] promise by intensely rendering him sacred service night and day.” How could Paul make such a statement if ten of the twelve tribes were lost and no longer trying to serve God?—Acts 2:36; 26:7; Jas. 1:1, NW.
PROMISES TO SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
An Anglo-Israelite writes: “Every Briton is born to a great inheritance, and therefore a great responsibility.” But God’s Word shows that ties of flesh are no grounds for boasting: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman” in the Christian congregation. Yes, “from now on we know no man according to the flesh.”—Gal. 3:28; 2 Cor. 5:16, NW.
The Scriptures further show that Jesus proved to be a stone of stumbling and “a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel.” Jesus’ words, “Your house is abandoned to you,” apply to the temple of both the houses of Israel; all twelve tribes were rejected and not just the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin.—Isa. 8:14, AS; Matt. 23:38, NW.
The law arrangement was but a “shadow of the good things to come,” it was merely a “tutor leading to Christ.” (Heb. 10:1; Gal. 3:24, NW) As it was replaced by a “new system of things,” so natural Israel was replaced by spiritual Israel. The promised seed of Abraham is not the ten “lost” tribes any more than it is the two tribes. The inspired apostle Paul identifies the Seed as Christ, and says to Christians: “If you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed.” (Gal. 3:16, 29, NW) At Revelation, chapters 7 and 14, we see that this seed of Abraham consists of the Lamb of God and a spiritual Israel of 144,000 members. These “will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”—Rev. 20:6, NW.
Anglo-Israelites may apply Isaiah 54 to English-speaking nations, but the apostle Paul under inspiration applies that prophecy to God’s wife or heavenly organization that brings forth so many spiritual children in God’s due time that she has to spread out her tents. (Gal. 4:26, 27) Anglo-Israelites may apply the prophecies regarding the “Rock” and “Stone” to Britain and the United States, but the inspired apostle Peter applies such prophecies solely to Christ Jesus. (Acts 4:11, 12; 1 Pet. 2:7, 8) Anglo-Israelites may arrogate to themselves Isaiah 43:10 (AS), but the facts show that no worldly nations but only the Christian witnesses of Jehovah are serving as Jehovah’s witnesses.
Today the English-speaking nations are losing the initiative to the Communist nations and the end of their domination of world affairs may be in sight. But even if such is not the case, the fact remains that the political corruption, the economic instability, the adult and juvenile delinquency and the religious hypocrisy and confusion of the English-speaking nations are glaring proof that by no stretch of the imagination can the marvelous prophecies telling of endless peace, great prosperity and happiness and the triumph of righteousness by means of the Messiah and spiritual Israel be applied to them.
No, the ten tribes of Israel were not lost to reappear as the English-speaking nations. Many of them were found right along with the two-tribe kingdom before, during and after the Babylonian exile down to the time of Jerusalem’s desolation of A.D. 70, since which time no descendant of Jacob can prove to which tribe he belongs. And God’s prophecies concerning Israel’s restoration and prosperity apply to his spiritual Israel, a heavenly organization whose head is Jesus Christ.