Q: Are the 10 Tribes of Israel Lost?
One of the most asked questions concerns the status of the 10 northern tribes of Israel. These tribes of the northern kingdom were defeated by the Assyrians in 722 BC. Thousands of Israelites were exiled to Assyria, and many were tortured to death.
The Assyrians resettled the cities in Samaria with Gentiles they had captured from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (2 Ki. 17:23–24). Jewish people in the land intermarried and eventually became known as Samarians (a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles). Since then, the 10 northern tribes became labeled as “lost”—a description the Bible never uses.
Over time, many theories, legends, and myths developed concerning these tribes. In the 19th century, literature started to appear, declaring the so-called 10 lost tribes had migrated into Western Europe, eventually settling in the British Isles. Claims were made that people within the United Kingdom descended from the “lost” tribes of Israel. This false belief became known as British-Israelism and Anglo-Israelism.
The truth is there is no such thing as the 10 lost tribes because they were never lost! For example, King Hezekiah invited the remnant of Israel to Jerusalem to keep the Passover with the tribe of Judah. Many came from the tribes of Asher, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Zebulun and identified themselves with the house of David (2 Chr. 30:1, 10–11, 25–26; 34:6–9). Most probably never left Judah.
Therefore, we can draw a number of conclusions:
1. Many Israelites fled the northern kingdom when the Assyrians invaded.
2. Remnants of the northern tribes became absorbed in the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC. The tribes of Israel were represented in Judah when the Jewish people returned to the land after the captivity (536 BC), for they are called “Israel” (Ezra 2:2).
3. When Jesus was dedicated in the Temple, Anna, from the tribe of Asher, was present (Lk. 2:36).
4. Jesus offered the gospel to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 10:6)—that is, to all the tribes in Israel at that time.
5. Jesus told His disciples they would judge the tribes of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom (Lk. 22:30).
6. Peter used the terms men of Israel and house of Israel (Acts 2:22, 36) synonymously on the day of Pentecost.
7. James wrote his epistle “to the twelve tribes” (Jas. 1:1).
8. John mentioned the existence of the 12 tribes during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 7:4–8).
9. All 12 tribes will possess the land promised in the Millennial Kingdom (Ezek. 48).
It is clear from Scripture there are no lost tribes of Israel.