The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

by Tony Warren

    There are few mysteries so steeped in controversy today as that of "The 10 lost tribes of Israel." When people use this phrase, they are referring to the ten tribes that rebelled against the Kingly line of David and became the northern kingdom [1]. But to declare them 'still lost' is a myth based on nothing that is biblically substantive. All references today to the lost tribes of Israel as a missing nation of people are extra-biblical. It is through this misnomer that many fables and unfounded theories have emerged about what happened to the people of the northern Kingdom. It seems, everybody wants to get in on the theoretical action. But while these legends and stories are sometimes amusing, and often innovative, it is important to remember they are born of the imaginations of men, and not based upon sound scriptural exegesis.

A Brief History

Between 1047 B.C. and 931 B.C., the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel thrived under Kings Saul, David, and then King Solomon. But towards the end of Solomon's reign, he fell into idolatry and God prophesied of the tearing apart of the Kingdom as judgment for these sins.

1st Kings 11:10-12

And as Prophesied, upon the death of King Solomon in 931 B.C., the Children of the northern tribes of Israel rebelled against Solomon's son Rehoboam, and followed Jeroboam. Thus the nation was divided into two kingdoms, north and south.

1st Kings 12:20-21

Judah and the tribe of Benjamin were the only tribes that remained loyal to Solomon's son Rehoboam, and these two tribes of the southern area became known as the kingdom of Judah (because Judah was the principle tribe). The 10 tribes to the north who were disloyal to Rehoboam, set up a separate kingdom under Jeroboam (who was not in the kingly line of the House of David). These Northern tribes became known as Israel, or in some instances Ephraim (because it was the principle tribe). For the next two centuries the people were divided into these two Kingdoms, yet almost immediately a remnant of the tribes to the north began to return to the southern Kingdom (because King Jeroboam turned the Northern Kingdom to idol worship). It is clear that the Levites and many of the other tribes who eschewed this evil, returned to what was now called Judah.

2nd Chronicles 11:14-17

Clearly, a remnant was returning to the house of David from Israel. When King Asa began to reign in 911 B.C., he turned again the hearts of the people to the Lord and did not the evil of his father. By 896 B.C., after Asa put away the idols out of all the land, even those who were not Hebrew came with them to the southern Kingdom out of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon. Again, there was a remnant returning, not the whole tribe.

2nd Chronicles 15:9-10

So it is pretty clear that a remnant from Israel was coming back to be under rule of the House of David. But the abomination of the northern tribes of Israel which started with Jeroboam, continued with his children and would not go unpunished by God. God sent the promised judgment to cut them off and cast them out of His sight.

2nd Kings 17:22-23

And in 722 B.C., Assyrian King Shalmaneser V, who ruled the vast empire to the north, invaded the Kingdom of Israel and subjugated [2] them. The Israelite inhabitants were exiled and dispersed into the outlying general area (what is today Syria, Iran and Iraq), as was the tradition of the Assyrians to prevent rebellion or revolt. But again, as prophesied, a portion of the tribes of Israel returned to Judah, as in B.B. 716. King Hezekiah who reigned in Judah now, called for the remnant to return.

2nd Chronicles 30:6

2nd Chronicles 30:10

Quite obviously (according to God) though these tribes were dispersed, they were neither lost, nor unaccounted for in God's Word. The wicked of them dispersed into the nations who mocked. They would not return, thus were cut off of God and eventually assimilated into the surrounding nations. But the remnant who humbled themselves before Hezekiah's call, did return. One would have to hold an irrational inherent bias in order to agree that portions of the northern tribes (Ephraim, Manasseh, Asher, Zebulon, Issachar) did come to Jerusalem for Passover, yet still insist that the tribes were still lost. That makes no sense at all. There is no mystery. A 'remnant' was restored (as was prophesied) to Judah. It was never meant for all the people people to return. It was never God's plan or Word of prophesy, to restore the whole people. The tribes returned as God intended, and were accounted for. And this can be very easily proven by scripture. In 633 B.C. in the 8th year of the reign of King Josiah, he walked after the way of the good kings and cleansed the "tribal cities" of the nation Judah.

2nd Chronicles 34:5-7

2nd Chronicles 34:9

Again, the tribes neither lost nor unaccounted for in God's Word. Israel that transgressed were 'cut off,' but 'the remnant' returned. And likewise when Judah transgressed the laws of God as her sister Israel had, God also sent judgment against her and the land was invaded and conquered by the Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar some 136 years later. He destroyed their house and carried the people away captive into Babylon. The Temple was destroyed and they were subjugated until 539 B.C. when Babylon itself fell to King Cyrus of the Medes and Persians. Under Cyrus, again the remnant of exiled 'Jews and Israelites' returned to Jerusalem and construction on the Temple started[3]. And later in 458 B.C., Ezra returned to Jerusalem with more of the exiled Jews to reestablish the law. Both the house of Israel and Judah were represented in the remnant reestablished in Judah. Israel and Judah were now one people.

A False Dichotomy of Continuing Distinction

This remnant returning had to occur because the scripture prophecy was that the tribes of Israel and their southern brethren Judah would be reunited. This freeing by Cyrus [4] and reuniting to build again the temple prefigures the coming Messianic age when Christ would come and free the captivity, the 'true' deliverer of the lost sheep of Israel.

It has been falsely taught by some Theologians that there is a continuing distinction made in the scriptures between the Jews and the Israelites. The little ditty that is often quoted is, 'All Jews are Israelites, but all Israelites are not Jews.' This may be a catchy phrase, but it is simply a demonstration of a lack of thorough study of scripture. It is true that there was a distinction in the original splitting apart (as we obviously saw) of the kingdoms, but this distinction did not continue. The people were called Jews because the land in the south was Judea, for it principally encompassed Jerusalem. The word Judah is derived from this word Judea, and because of the division between the northern tribes and Judah (or Jerusalem) in the south, it was spoken of by God in this contrast of Kingdoms. i.e., Judah or Jerusalem, and Israel. However, when the remnant returned, they again became one body.

Ezra 7:12-14

Artaxerxes' decree specifically states that 'all they of the people of Israel' were free to return to Jerusalem, so why would anyone even attempt to argue that anyone from Israel was either excluded, or that they were somehow lost? A remnant assuredly returned, while the rest who were assimilated into other nations never did. Nor were they prophesied to. It is amazing that some Theologians surmise that because only a small portion or 'remnant' of people ever returned, that this somehow implies that the prophesy is not fulfilled. As if they all had to come back to qualify as a restoration. A Remnant is what was prophesied. That is the 'all' which Ezra 7 speaks about. An analogy would be like saying, 'because the promises were made to Israel, but only a remnant obtained it, the promise is made of non effect.' God doesn't work like that! No, the fulfillment is as God defines, not as man defines. And the fact is, God for His own purposes chose a remnant, that the type would prefigure the anti-type. It was ordained that only a remnant would return, the like figure fulfilled in Christ bringing back a remnant.

After the fall of babylon and the restoration of the remnant (of both) to Judah, that previous distinction is reconciled, as the nation Judah then became synonymous with Israel. One body, one stick joined from two! By 458 B.C. when Ezra returned to Jerusalem to establish the law, God (not man) was now not making any distinction between Israel and the Jews. If God is obviously not making a distinction, then why would man "insist" on continuing to do so?

Ezra 7:7

The fact is, God made it clear in scripture that the northern Kingdom was still identified with the southern Kingdom, even in the midst of the time of division.

2nd Chronicles 11:15-16

2nd Chronicles 21:1-2

The Israelites identified themselves with the House of David of Judah, and God makes sure that we understand this, for it was always meant to be. Theologians who insist that the division between Israel and Judah never ceased, or that it is continuing still in our day, are ignoring the scriptures which shows otherwise. It was never meant to be an ongoing division. Moreover, the God fearing kings from the southern Kingdom like Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah spoke of the 12 tribes and offered up sacrifices for them all [5]. This is God's doing and an indication that this separation was for God's own purposes.

All agree that the tribes have to return to Israel. Even those who take the position that the tribes are still out there understand that without fulfillment of the return, we make scriptures void. Because biblically speaking, if the tribes of Israel have disappeared, then the fulfilment of the prophecies cannot take place. So we see only two options exist. That they either have returned, or that scripture is wrong and they don't exist anymore as a Jewish race. For there are not 10 unknown Jewish tribes out there in our day to return, or to become that one stick God speaks of. This is because they already have!

Ezekiel 37:16-17

The prophesy is clear, both Judah and Israel would be joined again as one. So where are these 10 tribes now? In reading Theological material you are likely to come upon every myth concerning the 10 'alleged' lost tribes of Israel that you can imagine. They are purported to be everyone from the British, the Japanese, the Scots, the American Indians, to the Mormons. But the claim that the tribes of Israel are now literally some other race is ludicrous. Biblically as well as rationally, for Jews are Jews. What happened to these 10 tribes is a matter of biblical record. What does the Bible have to say concerning Israel and Judah.

Jeremiah 50:4-6

Clearly, God at the fall of babylon prophesies of both Israel and Judah returning as lost sheep to the fold (a type, prefiguring Christ's gathering the children out of bondage at His coming). It is clear that both Houses were restored, and for any theologian to argue that only Judah was restored is to make a mockery of the plain text of Scripture. God is letting us know that all the tribes of Israel (without loss) is represented here. The Remnant as prophesied, not the whole body 'as imagined.' As also Ezra clearly illustrates.

Ezra 6:17

Ezra 8:35

This was not a split israel, sacrifice was offered for all of Israel that were there. Twelve bullocks, one for each tribe of the 'children of those who were carried away,' They have come out of captivity. After the Babylonian captivity the terms "Jew" and "Israelite" are used interchangeably. That is not rhetoric, that is a biblically illustrated fact! This was a shadow of Christ's coming to deliver Israel from bondage in freeing the captivity. To seek and to gather the lost sheep of the House of Israel.

The type Prefigured the True which was to Come

One of the primary questions is, why is it important to know what happened to the 10 northern tribes of Israel? Well, there are many reasons, not the least of which is that the lost tribes of Israel prefigures the lost sheep of Israel, who when Jesus Christ (the greater Cyrus) would come, would seek and return them to the restored kingdom, fulfilling the prophesy of the throne of David.

Acts 1:6

They were asking Jesus when Israel would again become a restored Kingdom. Unlike man today, they understood the literal Israel was not lost. And Indeed Christ had promised the 12 Apostles that they would sit judging the 12 tribes of Israel in the regeneration. They could hardly sit judging these tribes of Israel, if the 12 tribes were lost or not accounted for.

Matthew 19:28

It is pretty clear Jesus is declaring that when He sits to rule on the throne of His Glory, the apostles would also sit as Kings and priests unto God to rule. And Christ clearly identifies the time of His sitting to rule in His Glory as, "in the regeneration." The question then is, biblically speaking, when is the regeneration? ..when does Christ reign in His Glory?

Titus 3:5

John 17:4-5

1st Corinthians 15:25

This is when "the regeneration" occurs, according to God! What is the Regeneration? This is the Greek word [paliggenesia] taken from the root words [palin] meaning again or repeat, and [genesis] meaning a birth or nativity. In other words, to be born again. A spiritual nativity where they are made new by the Holy ghost. This is 'when' these apostles would reign as they sit on thrones to rule Israel. It is in the regeneration, or after being born again from the dead! Did they become kings and Priests unto God to sit and rule with Him when they were raised up with Christ by the Holy Ghost? The answer (according to scripture) is obvious.

Ephesians 2:6

When the apostles were regenerated, born again from above, they were raised up in Christ to sit and rule with Him on His throne in heaven. When Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of David to rule the kingdom, this fulfilled the prophesy of the restoration of the Kingdom of David, and Christ sitting on that throne of Glory. As is clearly illustrated in Acts:

Acts 2:29-31

The Prophesy spake not of an earthly reign on the throne of David, but spake of the resurrection of Christ to sit in on His throne in heaven, and the apostles raised up with Him to sit in heavenly places to rule. The gathering of 'the remnant' of the tribes of Israel. The Old Testament restoring of the twelve tribes to the land of their fathers was the "type" which the Greater Cyrus fulfilled. The Restoration of the Kingdom of God which the Apostles asked about, was accomplished in Christ being the seed of David who reconciled the dispersed to God in one body 'one Israel,' united by the Lion of the tribe of Judah. This was accomplished by His death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne. The regeneration has the 12 sit to rule with Christ, this anti-type of the type is made clear in such verses as Matthew chapter 15:

Matthew 15:24

A very open testimony to the fulfillment that this was the Messiah, and He came to fulfill the prophesy of restoring the Kingdom of Israel. Not in literal Israelites lost in some foreign land, but Spiritual Israel lost in a foreign land, which the lost northern tribes merely prefigured. Some 'cut off,' but a remnant returning. This also seen in the angel speaking to Mary of His purpose and His reign.

Luke 1:31-33

Just as Acts 2 said that this prophesy spake of the resurrection of Christ to Heaven to sit on the throne of David. And note, the reign is not a 1000 year earthly reign, but was prophesied to be a reign forever over the house of Jacob. Only a reign in the regeneration, in Glory, on the throne of God, qualifies! This is the 'only' kingdom of which there shall be no end. The fulfillment of the prophecy.

Why are the tribes important? Because without knowledge of who they were, and how some were cut off, some returning (a remnant only), how the Temple is built again, how the nation is restored as one, etc., we do not understand the anti-type in Christ where the lost sheep of the house of Israel (a remnant only) return, the Temple is rebuilt, and the Kingdom restored.

Were the tribes present in Israel when Jesus Came?

A good question. Because according to biblical prophecy, the return of the lost tribes of Israel signals the coming of the Messianic Kingdom. And when Christ came, he restored Israel by freeing the captivity from spiritual babylon, and brought the lost sheep of Israel home. For this anti-type to take place (Matthew 12:29), the type had to have taken place (Jeremiah 50:4-6). The lost of Israel had to be delivered from bondage and restored.

Matthew 15:24-28

Was Jesus Looking all over the world for a lost race? Was He saying He came but for the house of Britan, of but for the house of japan, or but for the house of Ethiopia? No, it is quite obvious that the lost of Israel are not another particular race, they were right there in that nation. Others were considered dogs and swine! Yes, they eat of the crumbs off the masters table, but Israel was of the Jews. To the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles.

Matthew 10:5-7

So then, how are the tribes of Israel lost, when God identifies the lost as in that nation? They were lost in that they were separated from God, 'not' that they were a people who were not yet accounted for. He has come to restore the Kingdom to the lost sheep of Israel, not gentiles, not the dispersed in Samaria, but it's plain Jesus is addressing the Jews as Israel, his lost people. Jew and was Israel synonymous.

Why is something so clear, so difficult for the indoctrinated to receive? The New Covenant was promised to Israel and Judah [6], and when Christ established the New Covenant Church, He brought that promise to it's fulfillment. Jesus Christ came into the world to redeem Israel and bring the restoration of the Kingdom, and that is precisely what He did.

Luke 1:68-69

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people. There is no distinction anymore. When the remnant from those 10 tribes returned with the remnant of Judah with Ezra they continued as the nation, and we see that there is not again that distinction. Judea and Jews have become totally synonymous with Israel. This could not be true if God wanted Israel different from Jews. The terms are used interchangeably, as Jesus plainly illustrates all through His ministry.

The only real question about their fate is the one which man invents to satisfy his appetite for mystery, fables, legend and tradition. Any conquered land has it's inhabitants subjugated, killed, deported or they are absorbed into the populace. There is absolutely no reason to suspect that it was any different in this case. The 10 tribes were likewise dispersed after their captivity, and the remnant of them returned and were again made one nation under God.

Moreover, isn't it literally ridiculous to claim that the 10 tribes are still lost when the Bible itself unambiguously demonstrates the absurdity of this, by naming people who are from these tribes?

Luke 2:36

Here we have God himself speaking of a tribe in Israel which man in his 'arrogance' denies was in Israel and declares lost, yet to return. Asher was one of the 10 tribes of Israel. How then is the tribe lost? Obviously not in God's eyes, but in man's fables. Does this man Phanuel of the tribe of Aser not exist? Does his daughter Ana come from a tribe in a hole in the ground? No, quite obviously by the Word of God the tribes were still in Israel. Else the passage is nonsensical, and we cannot believe anything.

Even the Apostle Paul spoke of a united 12 tribes in the present, when he spoke of the promise of Christ.

Acts 26:6-7

Paul is speaking of Israel, and there is not the slightest hint of a lost portion, or tribe. Only in the minds of men were these tribes mysteriously lost. ..and that for their own purposes.

Acts 4:36

Here again we have a man Joses who is of the tribe of Levi, while man claims this tribe is still lost! Paul himself is of the tribe Benjamin, so how many tribes are there? God numbers the tribe of Levi (revelation 17) as one of the 12 tribes sealed of God. Obviously not lost according to the 'authority' of God's Word, and one of the 12. Likewise Aser, clearly one of the 12 as demonstrated in Revelation chapter 7. That is to say, if we receive the Word of God as authority over myths and legends.

The indoctrinated retort, 'that's all is well and good, but what about the distinction between the Jews and Israel?' ..the moral of the story being, some things people want lost, even when they cannot be lost. As God (not I) clearly shows, after the restoration of the dispersed from captivity we find the terms 'Jews and Israel,' are synonymous. They are used to identify the exact same people, and this would be biblical confusion if we are to believe these theories. The New Testament writings call the same people Jews and Israel. A distinction is ludicrous. In Ezra after the restoration, the exact same people are called of God "Jews" and "Israel," and the exact same thing in Nehemiah [7]. And so, truly, where is the mystery? These Theologians are missing the point. Judea is a figure of Christ, without which none of them are Jews in God's defining of the term. And Christ being the Lion of the tribe of Judah, is what restores the kingdom and makes men Jews. It's not in their blood line, but in His.

Romans 2:28-29

The fact of the matter is, the New Testament gives no hint of alleged lost tribes of Israel. And the terms "Hebrew," "Jew," and "Israelite" were and are used synonymously for the same people, as Paul himself so clearly demonstrated in his ministry [8]. We can only say, What distinction? Shall man put asunder what God has joined? Therefore we must conclude that by the preponderance of biblical evidence, there is no continuing distinction made today between Jews and Israel, and that the tribes of Israel were present in Israel when Jesus came to her.

The end of it all? God's Israelites are by Grace, not Race! The unconditional promises made to Israel have been fulfilled in Abraham's Seed! Not seeds as of many, but Seed as one one, Christ (galatians 3:16). Those who are in Christ are the blood-bought Israel of God, and these are those who constitute God's Elect, or Chosen people. Lost, but now found. Bound, but now free. Brought out of captivity in the Son Israel, called out of Egypt. This Son is not a geographical area nor a race, but Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:8

The Gift which is Salvation, freedom from bondage to Satan, freedom from serving sin, restoration of the Kingdom to Israel by the making of Christ to ascend on High, a King, reconciling the lost sheep of the house of Israel to God. The fulfillment of the prophesy of the eternal restored Kingdom, which has no end.


[1]. 1st Kings 11:35-37
[2]. 2nd Kings 17:5-6 "Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes."
[3]. The Second Temple was partially rebuilt and rededicated in 515 B.C.
[4]. King Cyrus was specifically identified in Isaiah chapter 45 as the anointed servant of the Lord (a type of Christ). He being the anointed King, set free the Jews and sent them to rebuild Jerusalem as a house for the Lord prefigures Christ (acts 15:15-17).
[5]. (2nd Chronicles 15:8-15; 19:4; 29:24; 35:18)
[6]. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
[7]. In the book of Nehemiah the word "Jew" is used eleven times and "Israel" twenty-two times, referring to the same people.
[8]. The Apostle Paul calls himself a Jew in Acts 21:39 and 22:3, an Israelite in Romans 11:1, and a Hebrew in Philippians 3:5.


Copyright 2000 Tony Warren
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