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published: 10/8/13

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The 10 Lost Tribes of Israel



What are the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel?

The Lost Tribes of Israel refers to the 10 Israelite tribes that were taken captive by the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC and were subsequently lost to the historical record.

For over two millennia, people have speculated about the possible continued existence of the 10 tribes within other nations or even speculting that they are somehow "hidden" and may one day resurface.

History of the Lost Tribes

The history of the tribes of Israel begins in the book of Genesis. Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, had twelve sons. These twelve sons of Jacob would become the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Through the rest of the Torah (i.e. the first five books of the Bible - Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), these groups grow from large famiies, into clans, and eventually into tribes.



When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, as recorded in the book of Joshua i.e. (the sixth book of the Bible), the tribes were each apportioned land, except for the Levites because as priests they were unable to own land.

The tribes of Israel dwelt in the Promised Land for approximately 300 years before the rise of the monarchy. The tribes of Israel were united under their first three kings - Saul, David, and Solomon. Under the reign of Solomon, however, the kingdom of Israel became divided and it soon split in two - north and south. The north retained the national name “Israel” and the south adopted the tribal name of “Judah.”

In time both Israel and Judah was be taken into captivity by the Assyrian Empire and the Babylonian Empire, respectively. Israel was taken first followed by Judah a generation later.

The Lost Tribes

The "lost tribes of Israel" are those that dwelt in the north, which were nine tribes plus the Levites. The following is a list of the northern tribes:

1. Reuben

This tribe’s land was located west of the Dead Sea.

2. Issachar

This tribe’s land was located southwest of the Sea of Galilee.

3. Zebulun

This tribe’s land was located southwest of the Sea of Galilee.

4. Dan

This tribe’s land was located on the coast, in central Israel.

5. Naphtali

This tribe’s land was located northwest of the Sea of Galilee.

6. Gad

This tribe’s land was located west of the Jordan River and north of Reuben.

7. Asher

This tribe’s land was located in northwest Israel on the coast.

8. Ephraim

This tribe’s land was located in central Israel, south of West Manasseh.

9. Manasseh

The tribe’s land was divided; West Manasseh was on the west side of the Jordan River and East Manasseh was on the east side of the Jordan River.

The Tribes After Exile

After the north, “Israel,” was taken into captivity, the historical records of their activities and locations are sparse. Assyrian records fail to mention the tribes of Dan, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, or West Manasseh. The post-exilic books of the Bible (i.e. parts of Kings and Chronilces, as well as Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther) do, however, mention people who trace their lineage to these tribes.

While there is no record of tribes from the north returning after exile, only tribes from the south (i.e. Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon) some speculate that some members of northern tribes fled into the southern kingdom of Judah to avoid being taken into captivity upon Assyrian invasion. When the “south” returned from exile a generation later, this theory suggests, there were members of the north that returned with them.

Some people have tried to link the lost tribes of Israel with certain people groups that exist today. Speculation has connected the lost tribes with groups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The theories are often porous and DNA evidence has so far shown no genetic relationships exist.

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