WHAT happened to the ten lost tribes? The Jewish people of today acknowledge that their brethren of Israel must be somewhere in existence. 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.”1 A War Office map of the Persian Gulf (third edition, 1941) shows the river Uzun rising to the south of Lake Urmia and flowing into the Caspian Sea, and the towns Abhar and Harau in the same area. From the Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha we learn that there were Israelite captives in Rhages and Ecbatana—modern Teheran and Hamadan in Iran.
But the Israelites did not long remain in the places of their deportation. The prophet Ezra, to whom we have already referred, wrote concerning them: “Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea [Hoshea] the king, whom Salmanasar the king of Assyria led away captive, and he carried them over the waters, and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt, that they might there keep their statutes,which they never kept in their own land. And they entered into Euphrates by the narrow passages of the river ... for through that country there was a great way to go, namely, of a year and a half: and the same region is called Arsareth.”2
The migration of the tribes of Israel from Halah and Habor to Arsareth is an historical fact. But they did not remain there. God had other plans for his people. “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD. For, lo, I will command, and I will SIFT THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AMONG ALL NATIONS, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”3 God said that Israel would be sifted among the nations yet never lost, and ultimately He would bring them to a new land of their own. “Moreover I will APPOINT A PLACE FOR MY PEOPLE ISRAEL, and will PLANT THEM, that they may DWELL IN A PLACE OF THEIR OWN, and MOVE NO MORE; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime.”4
Where would be the appointed place where Israel would dwell safely in a land of their own? What sort of land would it be, and where would it be located? God said, “But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a LAND OF HILLS AND VALLEYS, and DRINKETH WATER OF THE RAIN OF HEAVEN: a land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.”5 This promise of a land of hills and valleys, cared for by the Lord Himself, must refer not just to Canaan but also to the new land of their destination!
Their new home would also be in the islands of the sea. Many are the references in Isaiah in which the Lord identifies the islands with His people Israel. “Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the valleys, even the Name of the LORD God of Israel in the ISLES OF THE SEA.”6 “Sing unto the LORD a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the ISLES [Hebrew íéÌ¸à¸ = islands, coastlands], and the inhabitants thereof ... let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare His praise in the ISLANDS.”7
Why are the inhabitants of the islands to give glory to God? Why are these people exhorted to praise the Lord? Who are these people? God tells us the answer. “Listen, O ISLES, unto Me; and hearken, ye people from far ... Thou art My servant, O ISRAEL, in whom I will be glorified.”8 Here the Lord positively identifies the inhabitants of certain islands with the lost tribes of Israel. Is there any clue to their location? The answer is given us in many places in the Bible. “For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the REMNANT of Israel. Behold, I will bring them from the NORTH country, and gather them from the COASTS OF THE EARTH ... for I am a father to ISRAEL, and EPHRAIM is My firstborn. Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the ISLES AFAR OFF, and say, He that scattered ISRAEL will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.”9 “I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man ... They shall walk after the LORD [and] shall tremble from the WEST.”10 “He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them ... Behold, these shall come from FAR: and, lo, these from the NORTH and from the WEST.”11 What do these verses tell us? That God’s people, the remnant of Israel, is to be found the chief of the nations, in islands afar off, and situated to the north and to the west of their original home in Palestine. The only islands fitting this description are the BRITISH ISLES.
Can it really be true that part, at least, of the lost tribes of Israel are to be found among the British and kindred people? If so, then this people of Israel must in the last days12 be organized into “a NATION and a COMPANY OF NATIONS.”13 But that is precisely a picture of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Let us refer again to some of the marvellous promises of God made to the house of Joseph, and which we remember were unconditional. They were birthright promises conferred upon Israel because of Abraham’s obedience. God said that in the last days of this Christian dispensation, Israel would be a multitude (or fulness) of nations, so great in population as scarcely to be reckoned. They would be blessed with the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth. They would be ruled over by a dynasty of kings, they would break forth to the west, the east, the north and the south, they would possess the gate of their enemies, and they would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth.
Before proceeding further, there is an important time factor involved in the fulfilment of the birthright promises to Joseph which we must consider. God promised that if Israel would obey His laws and keep His Commandments, He would make them “high above all nations.”14 He would bless their land, destroy their enemies, exalt them above all the people of the earth. On the other hand, the Lord warned Israel of the consequences of disobedience. “But if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these Commandments; and if ye shall despise My statutes, or if your soul abhor My judgments, so that ye will not do all My Commandments, but that ye break My covenant ... then I will punish you SEVEN TIMES more for your sins ... and if ye walk contrary unto Me, and will not hearken unto Me; I will bring SEVEN TIMES more plagues upon you according to your sins ... and if ye will not be reformed by Me by these things, but will walk contrary unto Me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet SEVEN TIMES for your sins ... and if ye will not for all this hearken unto Me, but walk contrary unto Me; then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you SEVEN TIMES for your sins.”15
What does this seven times chastisement suggest? It is important to remember that the Bible is its own interpreter. We do not have to depend upon human interpretation to understand the Bible. The Bible explains and interprets its own symbols. In scriptural terminology, the word time (or times) is often used for year. In the book of Revelation, we find that a period of three-and-a-half times is the same as 1,260 days.16 But God said He would punish Israel for a period of seven times, which must therefore be the same as 2 × 1,260 or 2,520 days. Now on the scriptural basis of a day for a year17, this seven-times punishment must signify a period of 2,520 years. We conclude, therefore, that from the time of Israel’s captivity in Assyria the nation must be punished for 2,520 years before entering into the birthright promises.
Now Israel went into captivity in Assyria in 722BC, and 2,520 years from that date brings us to AD1799. Therefore we should expect Israel to become a great nation and a company of nations, entering into a period of unprecedented wealth and influence, from about the year 1800 onwards. It was at precisely this time that Britain and America began to emerge as the leading nations of the world. 1801 was the year of the first official census of the population of Great Britain; also in that year Ireland was joined to England and Scotland to form the United Kingdom. Then in 1803 the US government was able to buy from France the huge tract of land extending from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Canadian border. This purchase of Louisiana and other French-held territories doubled the size of the United States at the stroke of a pen!
How does America fit into the picture? We remember that the promise to Jacob of “a NATION and a COMPANY OF NATIONS” was to be fulfilled through Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. It was they who would be called by the name Israel.18 But Manasseh was to become “a PEOPLE”—the greatest single nation on earth—while Ephraim, his younger brother, would become “a MULTITUDE [FULNESS] OF NATIONS,”19 a unique Commonwealth.
The fact that the dying Jacob passed on the birthright to both grandsons jointly, then finally prophesied of each separately, suggests that Ephraim and Manasseh were to be closely associated over a long period of time, and then finally to separate. This was so in the case of BRITAIN and AMERICA. America was first settled by British emigrants in 1620 and consisted originally of only thirteen states. Then in 1776 came the Declaration of Independence whereby the United States of America became separated from Britain.
From this time, these two insignificant nations of Britain and America began to expand and develop into the two greatest nations in the world. Britain in particular became a great colonial power, establishing a world-wide Empire, unique in human history. Notice that this took place after the loss of the American colonies, just as prophesied of Israel in the Word of God: “For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away. The children [colonies] which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other [colony, i.e. America], shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.”20 It was after the loss of the American colonies that Britain became a vast world Empire spanning the earth. No less than twelve million people emigrated from Britain during the nineteenth century.
Here it is to be noted that for the most part there was no question of an aggressive and warlike nation dispossessing the peoples of other lands. In fact, it seems as though Britain never had a colonial policy, and that her role as a great Empire-builder was fulfilled but reluctantly. Rather it would be true to say that men were impelled by a sense of adventure and high purpose, a compulsion of destiny, to explore far-off lands and to develop the natural resources of the territories they discovered.
The Bible says, “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.”21 This means that in permitting the nations of the world to populate the earth, the Lord appointed bounds to their lands so that space should be provided to accommodate His Israel people. It is a fact that most of Britain’s colonies were empty lands until their discovery by the pioneers. Then with the advent of British colonial rule came the development of natural resources, the growth of industry and commerce, the construction of roads and railways, the provision of educational and medical facilities. Thus Britain, under God, brought the nations of the world and the peoples she embraced, all the benefits of Christian civilization based upon divine law.
In the next two chapters we will examine in detail some of the further prophecies relating to Israel in this New Testament dispensation, and we will see whether Britain does indeed possess the marks of the Israel people as the evidence thus far suggests. We shall confine ourselves to the scriptural evidences of Israel. If Britain is indeed to be identified with God’s chosen people Israel, then we should expect that EVERY sign of that identity will be readily recognized in the British people. We shall not need to distort the scriptures or put upon them any interpretation which differs from the obvious and apparent meaning. We will take the scriptures exactly as they are.