The Lost Tribes Of Israel

The unrest in the Middle East continues to prompt discussion regarding the state of Israel. Does the state of Israel have a special place with God? Many thnk so, including some of our past presidents. One fundamental principle needed in any study is to realize that our God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). God also has fulfilled every promise he ever made to Israel (Josh. 21:45).

An erroneous understanding of Israel has developed. Many believe that somewhere in the far distant past, after the kingdom of Israel was divided, ten of the tribes of Israel were lost to wander the earth. Before the end of time, these imaginary tribes will be recovered and returned to Palestine, the promised land of the ancient people of Israel. This is another dangerous and blatant false doctrine associated with speculative theories relative to the end of time.

In the Bible you will read of the northern kingdom being banished by Shalmaneser and Sargon around 722-718 B.C. (2 Kings 17). Dispensationalists and premillennialists claim these people have allegedly been wandering throughout the earth ever since, and are nearly complete as a nation. They supposedly have no real sense of their own identity but one day will miraculously come forth and restore all the promises God made through the prophets. These “Lost Tribes” have been, according to the theorists, in an obscure tour of the world as a nation of people. No one knows them; they have no government; no personal identity -- they are supposedly just “lost.” This is one of those little known facts of what some call dispensational or millennial doctrine.

Passages in the Old Testament that refer to a restoration of Israel are (mis)used to establish the visionary search for the “lost tribes” as a people. One of the scarce references to these lost tribes comes not from the Bible, but from what is called “Apocryphal Literature.” If you ever looked at a Catholic edition of the Bible, you probably saw a number of what are called “apocryphal” books added to their Old Testament. One of the books is the mystical book of 2 Esdras. The author of it wrote, “And whereas thou sawest that he gathered another peaceable multitude unto him; Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land in the time of Osea 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” (2 Esdras 13:39-40). Please keep in mind that while this sounds like something from the Bible, it is not. The Apocryphal books are no part of the the Word of God. Men have added them. And this is the only evidence which that even slightly support this lost tribes theory.

Another reference to the ten tribes of Israel comes from the historian Josephus. He was a Jew hired by the Roman Empire to write a history of the Jewish nation. He wrote “Antiquities of the Jews” and “Wars of the Jews.” They are both fairly standard works and are available today. Josephus says the ten tribes remained together as “the entire body of the people of Israel.” (Antiquities, XI, v. 2.) Josephus is by no means a reliable historian. On this very question he once reported that the ten tribes were taken out of Samaria (Antiquities, X, ix. 7), and then latter reported that they were taken out of Judea (Antiquities IX, xiv. 1). There is certainly no Bible evidence that they became a lost nation of ten tribes after they were scattered, remained that way, and are still wandering the earth somewhere.

Joseph Smith, Jr. (founder of Mormonism) claimed to have translated some fictional golden plates into the Book of Mormon and made reference to these “lost tribes.” On the title page of the Book of Mormon is the explanation of the “revelation” which was “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel...” Smith’s alleged “revelation” reported that “the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away” (1 Nephi 22:4).

Another Book of Mormon reference to them is found in 2 Nehpi 17:4 where Jesus allegedly interrupted a speech he was making to an audience unable to understand Him, and went to show Himself to these “lost tribes of Israel,” affirming that they were not “lost unto the Father, for He knoweth whither He hath taken them.” Please note that 1 repeatedly use the word “allegedly” because the Book of Mormon is no more the word of God than are the apocryphal books of the Catholic Bible. Just because it has a biblical ring (albeit very cumbersome to read) does not mean it is truly a revelation from Almighty God.

Another Book of Mormon reference to this imaginary nation is found in 3 Nehpi 28. In this chapter, Jesus is depicted as ready to return to the Father but pausing to grant final requests to His disciples. He turned to His disciples “one by one” and asked them to give their final wish. All but three requested to come to heaven with Christ after they completed their earthly missions. Three of them were heart broken, apparently, unable to speak, but Jesus read their hearts and granted them everlasting life in the flesh on earth.

This is one of the famous blunders of the Book of Mormon that every Mormon is obligated to believe. It erroneously claims that the gift Christ gave the apostle John (John 21:21-23) was everlasting life in the flesh on the earth. These three imaginary Nephites were commissioned to minister to these lost tribes (3 Nehpi 28:29) and Mormons have to believe they are still alive somewhere on earth doing their work among the ten lost tribes of Israel. These lost tribes became the basis for the Mormon view of the American Indians and their ancestry. (Further study of this Mormon view can be found in a speech by Orson Pratt called “Gathering of Israel, Etc.”, Journal of Discourses, Volume 18, pages 16-29.) A series of books called Journal of Discourses is a record of the speeches and documents that come from official Mormon authorities and is recognized as a source of valid information among Mormons.

It is fundamental to realize that all references to the lost tribes of Israel as a nation of people are non-biblical, not scriptural, and exist only in apocryphal and pseudo-revelations. There is no other evidence anywhere to support the idea that the ten tribes constitute a nation wandering semi-intact around the world somewhere.

One fairly interesting speculation about the lost tribes includes Columbus, discoverer of the new world. Columbus was an avid reader of Marco Polo’s accounts of travel in the East. He also read Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly’s Image of the World but “owed most to ‘the prophet’ Esdras.’ In the mystical writings of Esdras he believed he had found the lost ten tribes when he first encountered Indians on the North American continent.” (Source Encyclopedia Britannica, 31st Edition, Volume VI, page 111).

One may confidently affirm the following proposition: The lost tribes do not exist, never have existed as a nation, from the time they were scattered and became a nonentity. The sense in which they are “lost” is they lost their identity and ceased to exist as a nation.

The biblical background for the origin of the “lost tribes” idea is 2 Kings 17. Due to repeated idolatrous practices God’s anger burned against Israel so fiercely that He put them out of His sight (verses 18, 20, and 23). Notice: “For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jereboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.” (Verses 22 and 23.) This is tantamount to saying they ceased to exist as His people. While no longer a nation, they remained ethnic Israelites. They simply were not God’s nation as long as they remained impenitent idolaters.

According to the false millennial and dispensational view their theory require that these tribes disappear from our view, but not from God’s. The facts are that at the time of Christ, Israel continued to exist as a nation formed by twelve tribes. When Jesus announced His mission He sent His disciples to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and restricted them from going to any Gentile or Samaritan city (Matt. 10:5).

It is quite obvious that the house of Israel returned to God’s favor for a while and the whole nation of Israel ceased to be divided and became one nation again. This is certainly the condition Israel was in at the time Christ came and sent His disciples to preach. Matthew 10:5-6 reads, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Since they were restricted from preaching to Gentiles and Samaritans, but required to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, obviously the house of Israel was neither Samaritan nor Gentile. The disciples preached to the lost sheep of the “House of Israel.” If the Israel had ten tribes off in obscurity they could not have been preached to by the disciples of Christ.

The “House of Israel” was only lost in the spiritual sense. The millennial theory argues the restoration of these ten lost tribes, alleging that they are geographically lost. This is wrong. The House of Israel was never geographically lost even during and after captivity. They could always be located geographically.

When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he preached to people “dwelling in Jerusalem, Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). He addressed them as “men of Judea” (verse 14) and “men of Israel” (verse 22). He called them the “children of Israel” (Acts 10:36). The dispensationalists make an arbitrary distinction between the supposed “Ten Lost Tribes” and the “House of Judah,” but on Pentecost, no such distinction existed. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of all Israelites, the nation of Israel and the nation of Judah, ceased to exist.

The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were spiritually lost at the time of Christ and those who obeyed His gospel became His disciples and were saved. That is the only sense in which any of the tribes were ever “lost.” The one thing all students of Scripture must remember is that those who disobey God and rebel against Him will meet the same destiny as the Jews. God makes no distinctions in people on ethnic or racial bases. All who will be saved must come to Him on the terms of faith in Christ that leads to complete submission in obedience. But it is perennial folly to continue searching for some non-existent nation of people just to bolster up a false theory.

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