Lost Ten Tribes

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(Redirected from Lost tribes of Israel)

Lost Ten Tribes, also referenced as the Ten Lost Tribes or the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, usually refers to ten of the tribes of the ancient Kingdom of Israel that disappear from the biblical account after the Kingdom of Israel was totally destroyed, enslaved and exiled by ancient Assyria.

This is a subject that is partially based upon authenticated and documented historical fact; partially upon written religious tradition and partially upon extreme speculation. There is no specific source that can be relied upon for a complete answer.


Background to controversy

Since at least the 17th Century, both Jews and Christians have proposed theories concerning the lost tribes. This is a subject that is partially based upon both ancient and modern theories that are not necessarily compatible with each other and in some instances actually hostile to each other. There is no specific source that can be relied upon for a completely objective historically authenticated answer.

From the point of view of Jewish tradition, it is held by some that in order to fully understand this subject one must first understand what happened to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Tanakh in Hebrew. (See reference section for a list of related articles.) An Ashkenazaic Jewish tradition speaks of the Lost Tribes as "Die Roite Yiddelech", "The little red Jews", 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". [Rosen, 1987]

These theories date to at least the time of Oliver Cromwell in the 17th Century and probably much earlier. There is no single source of information for these theories since many of them are incompatible with each other and they are not necessarily related by timeframe, by theory or even by religion since Jews have been among its advocates. What these theories all share in common is an agreement that at one time a Kingdom of Israel once existed in the disputed lands currently inhabited by the present-day state of Israel; Palestinians on the West Bank of the River Jordan; and some areas currently occupied by adjoining nations to these lands. How and why the tribes that once inhabited the Kingdom of Israel ever became "lost" to history, assuming that their whereabouts were or are not known, which in itself is not an agreed upon basis for discussion of this subject, is another matter which must be researched by following appropriate links. This article deals with the history of the theories and gives some basic details of those who have or who still are advocating such theories.

Varied claims

"There are quite a number of peoples today who cling to the ancient tradition that they are descended from the Jewish Lost Tribes: the tribesmen of Afghanistan, the Mohammedan Berbers of West Africa, and the six million Christian Igbo people of Nigeria. Unquestionably, they all practice certain ancient Hebraic customs and beliefs, which lends some credibility to their fantastic-sounding claims." (cited on p.217, 'Pictorial History of the Jewish People' by Nathan Ausubel, 1953 LCCN 52-10777).

On December 23, 1649, after Manasseh ben Israel, a noted rabbi of Amsterdam had been told by Montezinus that some of the Lost Tribes were living among the Indians in South America, he wrote to the English Puritan John Dury ...

... 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 ... (ibid, Nathan Ausubel)

In the 1600s Oliver Cromwell was petitioned by Manasseh ben Israel to allow the Jews to return to England. Up until that time the Jews had been excluded by law from participation in any form of normal life within England. Since Cromwell had totally severed the link between the Pope and organized Christianity to the point of executing the king; abolishing the monarchy and House of Lords; destroying the abbeys and even banning observance of Christmas due to its (disputed) pagan heritage, the way seemed open to reverse the edicts which had forced the Jews to either flee from England, go underground or be killed between the time of the first Magna Carta of 1215 and the Magna Carta of 1297.

The reason why Cromwell expressed an interest in the return of the Jews to England is because several other theories abounded at that time relating to 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 who would establish a final kingdom to rule the physical world for a thousand years. They supported Cromwell's Republic in the expectation that it was a preparation for the fifth monarchy - that is, the monarchy which should succeed the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman world empires. Mixed in with all of this was a background of general belief that the Lost Ten Tribes did not represent ethnic Jews who partially formed the ancient Kingdom of Judah, but tribes who maintained a separate capital at Samaria. Some have attemped to dismiss this complicated saga by stating that it is nothing but Supersessionism. However, the mythology behind these various competing theories is far more complicated, especially when Sabbatai Zevi, the false Jewish "messiah" and his supporters postulated that he represented groups in addition to those identified as being Jews. However, Zevi lost all credibility when he converted to Islam and became an apostate to Judaism in 1666.

During the latter half of the 18th Century variations on this same theory were advocated by some who believed that the British Empire of nations was a manifestation of ancient prophecies recorded in the Book of Genesis predating both the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. In the 19th Century factions of the Pentecostal church and others who predated Jehovah's Witnesses advocated similar beliefs. A fascinating book concerning the biography of Pastor Charles Taze Russell (founder of the group that became Jehovah's Witnesses), and subtitled An Early American Christian Zionist was written in 1990 by David Horowitz, who for many years led the United Israel World Union.

David Horowitz

David Horowitz was the founder of the United Israel World Union and one of eight children of Cantor Aaron and Bertha Horowitz whose family immigrated to the United States in 1914. He first went to the land of present-day Israel in 1924 as an ardent Zionist. He married and moved to Poland in 1927 where he lived with his wife's parents during her pregnancy and played a part in trying to rescue Jews from the Nazi death machine as it rolled across Europe. He moved to the USA in 1943 where he became an accredited correspondent to the United Nations and founded the United Israel World Union. The purpose of his organization was to preach a universal Hebraic faith for all humankind based on the Decalogue and the other universal commandments of the Torah. The hallmark of the organization was Isaiah's prescription that:

My house will become a house of prayer for all peoples ...

This is the same verse that Herbert W. Armstrong used for his reason to build the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California, and Armstrong once announced a plan to assist in the building of a Jewish/Christian/Islamic center at Mount Sinai with the blessings of both Egyptian and Israeli leaders.

Nathan Ausubel

In his 1953 work 'Pictorial History of the Jewish People', Nathan Ausebel compiled the following list of peoples connected in one way or another to this legend:

Herbert W. Armstrong

In the 20th Century Herbert W. Armstrong compared all of the tribes of Israel to the populations of individual states within the USA. He would explain that not all American citizens are Californians, but that all Californians are American citizens. He therefore did not distinguish between the tribe of Judah and the other tribes who appeared to have become "lost" to history. Consequently Herbert W. Armstrong established many links between his Radio Church of God and the present state of Israel, while Stanley Rader who was a Jew, often served as mentor and always as right hand man to Herbert W. Armstrong. It should also be noted that Herbert W. Armstrong took great pride in his personal relationships with Israeli leaders and he provided students for many years from his own Ambassador Colleges to join students from Hebrew University in archeological digs in Israel. The work of Herbert W. Armstrong was not unknown to David Horowitz who held the belief that ...
... the idea that the "Lost Tribes of Israel", though scattered among the nations, and having lost their identity, would be part of the masses of "Gentiles" who would turn to the Hebrew faith, and join the Jewish people in pioneering a Messianic age.

Other views

  • Arthur Koestler authored a controversial book called The Thirteenth Tribe concerning the identity of the Tribe of Judah, which historically was one of the tribes of Israel. Although that subject matter may be associated with this subject, it is not suggested that Koestler's Thirteenth Tribe is a part of the Lost Ten Tribes.

Antisemitic interpretations

There are various factions who have attempted to create totally different and sinister meanings to the term Lost Ten Tribes. These groups seem to have also emerged during the 19th Century at about the same time that the word Aryan was being advanced as a replacement for the term Indo-European with respect to linguistics. The term was misapplied to a fantasy race of supermen who then became identified with Germany and pagan Nazi ideology. Other groups who clung to a form of Christianity, such as the Ku Klux Klan and Skinheads, found a need to identify their groups with the Lost Ten Tribes in order to set themselves apart from mainstream Christianity whom they despised for their liberal and humanitarian ideas. This interpretation created a problem for these groups since they could no longer accept Jews as being related to the same family origins and the same biblical history which recorded the division of the united Hebrew Kingdom into two competing factions. To create this distinction it became necessary for groups mainly identified with the Christian Identity movement to invent a totally new history that removed Jews from the human race, for similar reasons to such notorious historical figures as Heinrich Himmler. Among the well-known believers of such ideas have been individuals such as the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

See also


  • The Face of Survival: Jewish Life in Eastern Europe Past and Present by Riff, Michael. - Valentine Mitchell, London, 1992. - ISBN 0853032203.
  • The Recipe (published as epilogue to The Face of Survival) by Rosen, Moses, 1987.
  • Pictorial History of the Jewish People by Ausebel, Nathan, Crown, 1953.

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