What the Bible says about
'Lost' Ten Tribes of Israel
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Conventional wisdom declares the house of Israel, the northern ten-tribes led by the half-tribes of Joseph, to be "lost." A recently released CD, Beyond the Sambatyon: The Myth of the Ten Lost Tribes, cites "evidence" of Israelite habitation or influence from Japan to the Americas to Pakistan and Nigeria. Yet in the end, its producers pooh-pooh the idea that Israelites (other than the Jews) even exist today, concluding they have either been absorbed into other nations or returned with the Jews from Babylon.
If we believe God, however, we cannot accept this rather facile conclusion. "The Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35), says Jesus, who also says, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24). He also sent his disciples "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6). Even his statement in John 10:16—"And other sheep I have which are not of this fold"—implies that He recognized that the bulk of ten-tribed Israel was not among the Jews of His day. Our Savior certainly did not think Israel had irretrievably disappeared!
The apostle James, Jesus' half-brother, wrote an epistle to the Israelites about AD 60: "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings" (James 1:1). If he addressed a letter to them, he would certainly have to know where they lived to send it!
Writing near the turn of the second century AD, the historian Josephus confirms that the Jews knew where Israel lived:
. . . the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [Media]; wherefore there are but two tribes [Judah and Benjamin] 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. (Antiquities of the Jews, 11.5.2)
Neither can we forget the prophecies of the end time, in which God promises to return them to the land of Israel. Jeremiah 50:19-20 is but a sample of dozens of similar prophecies throughout both testaments:
"But I will bring back Israel to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan; his soul shall be satisfied on Mount Ephraim and Gilead. In those days and in that time [the end time]," says the LORD, "the iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found; for I will pardon those whom I preserve."
The writers of the Jewish Encyclopedia seem to understand this:
If the Ten Tribes have disappeared, the literal fulfillment of the prophecies would be impossible: if they have not disappeared, obviously they must exist under a different name. ("Tribes, Lost Ten," vol. 12, p. 249)
If God is God, He must fulfill these prophecies. He promises,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God Himself told Ephraim to mark their way so that they could return one day to the Promised Land: "Set up signposts, make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, turn back to these your cities" (Jeremiah 31:21). How were they to do this?
One of the main ways involves the prophecy of Jacob about the tribe of Dan. "Dan shall be a serpent by the way, a viper by the path" (Genesis 49:17). A serpent or snake leaves a mark behind it as it moves over the earth; some snakes, like rattlesnakes, leave very distinctive trails. So does the tribe of Dan.
Though Joshua had allotted land to Dan in Canaan, the Danites found it to be difficult to hold and settle because of its proximity to the Philistines. They began to look elsewhere for living space.
And six hundred men of the family of the Danites went from there, from Zorah and Eshtaol, armed with weapons of war. Then they went up and encamped in Kirjath Jearim in Judah. (Therefore they call that place Mahaneh Dan [Camp of Dan] to this day. There it is, west of Kirjath Jearim.) (Judges 18:11-12)
Finally, they came to the city of Laish, in the far northern reaches of Israel, and they took it. "And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel. However the name of the city was formerly Laish" (verse 29).
And thus they have been naming places after their ancestor ever since! A good map of Europe will show dozens of place names carrying the name of Dan within them. The Don, Dnieper, Dniester and Danube rivers all flow into the Black Sea. The Romans knew the Rhine and Rhone rivers as the Eridanus and the Rhodanus. Denmark (literally, "Dan's Land") and Sweden are both northwestern European countries. The English escaped from Dunkirk (literally, "Dan's Church") during WWII. One can find similar place names sprinkled heavily throughout England, Scotland, and especially Ireland, where dun means "judge," just as dan does in Hebrew!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
2 Kings 17:6
When the Assyrians conquered the northern ten tribes of Israel and dispersed her population in the lands beyond the Euphrates, only the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained in the Land of Promise. Though the house of Judah had not yet forsaken Him, God began to raise up prophets to warn the southern kingdom that she was headed for the same fate as her sister Israel.
Through these prophets, particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea, God gives us directions by which we can find where Israel lives in the last days. Remember, all the following directions must be understood from the vantage point of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 3:12: "Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: 'Return, backsliding Israel,' says the LORD."
Jeremiah 3:18: "In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers."
Jeremiah 31:8: "Behold, I will bring them from the north country."
When Jeremiah prophesied—about a century after Israel went into captivity—Israel lived to the north, and even in the end time, the Israelites will still live primarily in the north. North alone, however, could be rather vague, so God adds more detail:
Hosea 11:10: "They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west."
Hosea 12:1: "Ephraim [the leading tribe of Israel] feeds on the wind, and pursues the east wind [the east wind travels west]." This scripture implies that Israel migrated westward. Though this verse has a primarily spiritual meaning, its value as a clue to Israel's whereabouts is confirmed by
Isaiah 49:12: "Surely these shall come from afar; look! Those from the north and the west. . . ."
A line stretching from Jerusalem to the northwest cuts through much of Europe from Greece to the North Sea. Where along this line should we look for Israelites? We know that the line of David would continually rule over some part of the house of Israel (Jeremiah 33:17).
Psalm 89:20, 25: I have found My servant David. . . . Also I will set his hand over the sea."
David's dynasty would rule over a sea power somewhere to the north and west of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 31:10: "Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him.'"
Isaiah 49:1, 3: "Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar! . . . You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." (See also Isaiah 41:1, 8-9.)
Israel, headed by Ephraim, would inhabit islands and coastlands far from Jerusalem. This seems to eliminate any of the Mediterranean nations; they would be considered "near" to Jerusalem rather than "afar off." Now we are looking for a nation, dominating on the seas, living on islands and coastlands in the area of the North Sea. Are there any other clues?
Jeremiah 31:7: "For thus says the LORD: 'Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "O LORD , save Your people, the remnant of Israel."'"
In the end time, Israel is regarded as among the leaders of the world's nations. This narrows our search considerably. Yet, one bit of evidence still remains:
Genesis 49:22: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall."
Isaiah 49:20: "The children you will have, after you have lost the others, will say again in your ears, 'The place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell.'"
These verses hint very strongly at colonization of other lands because of burgeoning population and prosperity. Though many nations have colonized other lands in the past, only the nations of northwestern Europe have done it to a great extent.
Do any nations fit all these criteria? Only one: Britain! We should be able to find Israelites, primarily of the half-tribes of Joseph, the birthright tribes, in Britain.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
In Matthew 15:24, He says of His own commission, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Christ sent His apostles only to the scattered Israelites, most of whom had migrated into Europe centuries before. Acts 2:39 shows that they were not sent even to every last one of "the lost sheep" of Israel! Peter says, "For the promise [of the gift of the Holy Spirit] is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off [geographically and in time], as many as the Lord our God will call." Thus, the Father limits the preaching of the gospel to those He calls! The apostle urges them to save themselves from this "perverse generation," that is, those who were not offered God's Spirit (verse 40).
As we saw, Christ said that He was not sent to the Gentiles. So why did He send Paul to the Gentiles? (Romans 11:13). Is that not a contradiction? No, Christ does not contradict Himself. It was prophesied. Paul's commission was in addition to the other apostles' work; it did not negate or replace their going to Israel, for even Paul's commission included preaching to Israel (Acts 9:15).
The main thrust of the gospel is the work among the descendants of Israel, not the Gentiles! The world would have us believe that God stopped working with the "Jews," and the Gentiles became His chosen people. Nothing could be further from the truth! He sent only one apostle to the Gentiles but all the others to the people of Israel!
In Romans 9—11, Paul clearly explains why Christ sent him to preach among Gentiles. Because His own nation, the Jews (as well as the other tribes of Israel), rejected Jesus their Savior, He called a new people as the "Israel of God" (Romans 9:1-8; Galatians 6:16). God is very resourceful!
Paul quotes Moses, who prophesied of the Israelites' failure to keep faith with God. "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will anger you by a foolish nation" (Romans 10:19). Paul concludes: "I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles" (Romans 11:11).
That is why Paul was sent to preach to Gentiles. Romans 11:17-26 shows that God broke Israelite branches off the Abrahamic family tree because they did not believe Him. In their place He grafted in believing Gentiles, making them children of Abraham (see Galatians 3:29). In the future, God will graft back in the broken-off Israelites (Romans 11:23)!
The time of Israel's regrafting begins when God adds the "fullness of the Gentiles" to the church. This "fullness of the Gentiles" must be a very small number in comparison to all those called into the church. God tells Ezekiel, "For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel, NOT TO MANY PEOPLE of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you" (Ezekiel 3:5-6). The church has always been a "little flock" and the Gentiles in it even fewer.
'Go Ye Therefore Into All the World...'
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