IN our opening chapter we read of God’s dealings with the patriarchs up until the birth of Jacob’s twelve sons. We saw God’s promise of a Redeemer was given to Judah, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.”1 On the other hand the birthright blessings were promised to Joseph.2 We early see the pre-eminence of Joseph among his brethren, and it is evident too, that Jacob had a very special affection for Joseph for he made him a coat of many colours.3 All this occasioned the envy and resentment of Joseph’s brethren, and the Bible tells how they sold him as a slave into Egypt.
There in Egypt, because of the Spirit of God resting upon him, Joseph attained great honour and became prime minister. The time came when great famine came upon the land, exactly as Joseph had forewarned, and eventually Jacob’s sons came to Egypt to buy corn, appearing before their brother Joseph whom they failed to recognise. Genesis 45 tells the moving story of how Joseph made himself known to his brethren and of the reconciliation that took place. As a result Jacob, his sons and the whole of their families, some seventy persons in all,4 made their home in Egypt. There they multiplied so rapidly that four hundred years later they numbered some two to three million souls.5
In 1453BC the twelve tribes of Israel, having suffered under the cruel oppression of the tyrant pharaoh, fled from Egypt in the Exodus led by Moses.6 At Mount Sinai the Lord “married” Israel, adopting them as His Kingdom, giving to them the Ten Commandments, and establishing with them His Covenant.7 After forty years wandering in the wilderness the tribes of Israel were ready to go into the promised land of Canaan. Before they did so, the Lord reminded His people of their solemn obligations.
“This day the LORD thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes, and His Commandment, and His judgments, and to hearken unto His voice: and the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His Commandments; and to make thee HIGH ABOVE ALL NATIONS WHICH HE HATH MADE, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be AN HOLY PEOPLE UNTO THE LORD THY GOD, as He hath spoken.”8
The book of Joshua relates the invasion of Canaan by the tribes of Israel and of the division of the land amongst them. The history of Israel from this time forward is a chequered one. After the death in 1388BC of Joshua, who had led the invasion of the promised land, “the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD ... and they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel ... whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.”9
In 1058BC the elders of Israel approached Samuel with a request that he give them “a king to judge us like all the nations.”10 Thus Saul became the first king of Israel. Upon Saul’s death the tribe of Judah anointed David as king but the remaining tribes of Israel made Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, their king. “But Abner ... took Ishbosheth the son of Saul ... and made him king over all Israel ... but the house of Judah followed David.”11
Thus for the first time we find Israel a divided people ruled by two kings, with Judah emerging as a separate kingdom. After seven years the breach was healed, David becoming king over the twelve tribes. “David ... reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.”12 His reign was followed by that of his son Solomon. Under his wise rule Israel attained a wealth and influence hitherto unknown, but in his latter days Solomon became an idolater, Jerusalem being filled with the shrines and altars of heathen gods. As a result the whole spiritual life of the nation became corrupt.
“And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel ... wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give ONE TRIBE to thy son for David My servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.”13
One day God sent his prophet Ahijah to a man named Jeroboam with the same message. “Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give TEN TRIBES to thee ... and unto his son will I give ONE TRIBE, that David My servant may have a light alway before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen Me to put My name there. And I will take thee [Jeroboam], and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel.”14
Thus on the death of Solomon in 938BC the twelve tribes became divided into two hostile nations. Solomon’s son Rehoboam came to the throne but so incensed the people that there was immediately a revolt against him. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained faithful to the throne. The other ten tribes broke away and set up Jeroboam to be their own king. From this time forward, the rival kingdoms of Israel and Judah fulfilled different destinies. The TEN tribes in the north called themselves ISRAEL and their kings ruled from Samaria. The TWO tribes in the south —Judah and Benjamin—called themselves JUDAH and their kings ruled in Jerusalem. Moreover, God clearly indicated that this division was ordained of Himself. God said to Judah, “Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from Me.”15
Here we must emphasize that Israel (the ten tribes) and Judah (the two tribes) had become two separate nations. The name Jew was only ever used in reference to the two tribes of Judah. In fact, the first time that the word Jew is used in scripture is when Israel was fighting the Jews.16 Clearly they were two separate peoples, as is evidenced by the fact that four books of the Bible (1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles) give us a detailed history of these two often hostile nations ruled by rival kings. Moreover, it is clear that the Lord regarded Israel and Judah as separate peoples hundreds of years before the division took place, for, “When Israel went out of Egypt ... JUDAH was His sanctuary, and ISRAEL His dominion.”17 Also, Jeremiah speaks of “the TWO families which the LORD hath chosen.”18
For the next 350 years, Judah had a succession of good and bad kings so that the nation fluctuated between times of apostasy and spiritual revival. On the other hand, Israel was ruled by a succession of increasingly wicked kings, so that the nation apostatized more and more, finally becoming more corrupt and idolatrous than the nations round about them whose ways they had learned.
Now God had clearly warned Israel of the consequences of sin, the transgression of His Commandments.19 God said they would go into captivity, and this is precisely what happened. The first deportation of Israel people took place during the reign of Jehu (843&Ndash;815BC): “In those days the LORD began to cut Israel short: and Hazael [king of Syria] smote them in all the coasts of Israel; from Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the GADITES, and the REUBENITES, and the MANASSITES, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.”20
The king of Assyria at this time was Shalmaneser III. On his black obelisk in the British Museum he is pictured receiving tribute from “Jaua of Bit-Humri”—the Jehu just referred to. To their Assyrian captors Israel were the House of Omri, Khumri or Cymry (as Wales is called); to the Phoenicians they were the House of Isaac, Beth-Sakai, Sacae, or Saxons. These and many other names show us where Israel went.
The next deportation took place a century later during the reign of Pekah (739&Ndash;731BC): “In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon and Abel-beth-maachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of NAPHTALI, and carried them captive to Assyria.”21
A few years later his son Shalmaneser V came against Samaria. In 722BC after a three-year siege the city fell to his successor, Sargon II, who completed Israel’s deportation into Assyria. From an inscription we know that Sargon took 27,280 people. The Bible says, “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. For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God ... they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He made with their fathers ... and they left all the Commandments of the LORD their God ... therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and REMOVED THEM OUT OF HIS SIGHT: there was NONE LEFT BUT THE TRIBE OF JUDAH ONLY.”22
It is curious that the sacred writer says that only the tribe (Hebrew èáYØ1), and not the house (äËYî⇐), of Judah was left, suggesting that the tribe of Benjamin was deported too. The fact is that in 701BC, only 21 years after the fall of Samaria, Sennacherib continued the invasion of Palestine and took all the fenced cities of Judah, where the Benjaminites lived. “Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of JUDAH, and took them.”23 On his prism, now in the British Museum, Sennacherib tells how he captured 46 fenced cities of Judah and deported 200,150 inhabitants.
The land of the northern kingdom was left empty until 670BC. Then “the king of Assyria [Esarhaddon] brought men from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.”24 These people followed a mixture of religions25 and were despised by the Jews.26
Thus we see that the whole of the Northern House of Israel was taken captive into Assyria. They were placed in Halah and Habor on the River Gozan, and were dispersed throughout the cities of the Medes. It is vitally important to realize that the Israelites never returned to their own country. The Bible is emphatic on this point: “The LORD removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria UNTO THIS DAY.”27 Later we shall quote from various other sources to establish this point.
But what of Judah, the Jews? Would they learn the lesson of Israel’s deportation and captivity? Unhappily they did not. Just before the final deportation of Israel, Judah enjoyed a great spiritual revival under their godly king Hezekiah (715&Ndash;686BC). There was a further revival under the boy-king Josiah (638&Ndash;607BC), but for the most part “they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”28 Isaiah was one of those who prophesied during this time, also Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Jeremiah.
Finally, in 604BC, some 120 years after Israel had been taken captive into Assyria, Judah was invaded and taken captive into Babylon. The prophet Ezekiel was among the first group of Jews carried into Babylon, but Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem until its destruction and then, with a remnant of the poorest of the people, went into exile in Egypt.
The Jews remained in Babylon for 70 years until, in the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, they were permitted to return to their own land. Thus the Word of the Lord was fulfilled, for God had said through His prophet Hosea, “I will no more have mercy upon the House of Israel; but I will UTTERLY TAKE THEM AWAY. But I will have mercy upon the House of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.”29
When the time came, a remnant of Judah, calling themselves Jews, returned to their own land without the need of arms or men, so marvellous was the fulfilment of God’s promise. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah we are told how 42,360 of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi were permitted to return to their own land and there rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. “Then rose up the chief of the fathers of JUDAH and BENJAMIN, and the priests and the LEVITES, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem ... Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city ... the whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women.”30
So here we see that the Jews, a remnant of the House of Judah, that had been carried captive into Babylon, returned again to repopulate their own land, but Israel did not return. The Bible emphatically states that it was those of the Babylonian captivity which had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, and they alone, who returned. Those who returned were JEWS of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with some Levites. THE TEN TRIBES DID NOT RETURN.
As Dr Werner Keller, author of the best-selling book The Bible as History, says, “The people of the Northern Kingdom and their kings with them disappeared, were absorbed into the population of these foreign lands, and never emerged again in history. All investigation into what became of the ten tribes who had their home there has so far come to nothing.”31
But were the Ten Tribes really lost? What if the Bible tells us where to find them?