This story goes back to the times when the Israelites were taken into captivity by Assyria in 721 BC. This relates to the 10 northern tribes who were taken off into captivity and settled in Halah and Habor (2 Kings 17:6).
Note: all bible quotes are from the kjv unless otherwise stated.
The Twelve Tribes of Israel
The twelve tribes were from the descendants of Abraham. In 1868 BC Abraham had a son named Isaac by his wife Sarah. In 1807 BC Isaac and his wife Rebekah had twins, Esau and Jacob. Between 1723-1710 BC Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel) had 12 sons. 11 of these sons, along with his son Joseph`s son, Ephraim, were appointed land by Moses when Canaan was conquered and divided up. These became the 12 tribes of Israel. Ephraim, who was adopted by Jacob became one of the 12 tribes. Ephraim became a powerful leader and head of the northern tribes which later led to the name Ephraim being adopted as representation of the northern tribes.
Now that makes 13 tribes in all, but the Levites didn`t acquire a portion of land, they were appointed the priesthood of the tribes.
The Levites were given cities. They lived among all the tribes of Israel and they were given the city of Jerusalem also and authority over the holy temple.
The southern kingdom (known of as the House of Judah), consisted of Judah and Benjamin and part of the Levites, but always noted as the two tribes of Judah, or just Judah.
The northern kingdom (known as The House of Israel or Ephraim) consisted of the tribes of: Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Issachar, Asher, Zebulun, Joseph and Levi.
They separated into two nations after the death of king Solomon. Solomon`s son, Rehoboam became king and the northern tribes didn`t follow the harsh rule he imposed over them, this caused the nation to split into two separate states. Rehoboam, the king of Judah planned to war against the northern state to bring all the tribes back under a one king leadership, but God relayed a message to him not to fight and he backed off.
Here is how the bible describes the event:
ll Chronicles 11: 1-4
1 And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he gathered of the house of Judah and Benjamin and hundred and four score thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against Israel, that he might bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam.
2 But the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying,
3 Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, King of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying,
4 Thus saith the LORD, ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: for this thing is done of me, And they obeyed the words of the Lord, and returned from going against Jeroboam.
1 Kings 12:24
Thus saith the Lord, ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is of me. So they hearkened unto the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way, according to the word of the Lord.
As we can see in the two passages above this was part of God`s plan.
The northern tribes are conquered
When Assyria conquered Israel in 721 BC Israel consisted of two nations, split into a nation of the ten-tribe house of Israel (Ephraim) and the two-tribe house of Judah.
The northern nation of Israel was taken into captivity and this became the separation that would last until today, when they were separated from Judah completely, later to be referred to as the lost tribes of Israel.
When the Assyrian kingdom fell into decline, the ten tribes then decided to migrate to better lands and started their long and arduous migration which took several hundred years. In the passage below we see that God told them to mark their way.
Set thee up waymarks, make the guide-posts: set thine heart toward the high way. Even the way by which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to thee thy cities.
Archaeology can attest to the migration of the Israelites of this period through the landmarks and cultural artefacts unearthed and various forms of written stone records discovered relating to the period.
In Genesis 48 we see that Jacob tells Ephraim, the leader of the ten northern tribes, that he will become a nation that would consist of a series of nations whose people will be so vast that it would be difficult to number.
Genesis 48: 17-19
And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father`s hand, to remove it from Ephraim`s head unto Manasseh`s head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put the right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: howbeit his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
So, we see in this passage that the ten lost tribes migrate and become many nations somewhere in the world. They have not disappeared from existence but grown into a mighty nation or group of nations closely related.
Babylon the new world empire
Some years later in 612 BC Babylon became the next world empire and in 597 BC the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Jerusalem, plundered and destroyed the temple and the Jews were carted off into Babylonian captivity.
After the house of Israel being taken into captivity by the Assyrians, the Israelite nation consisted of the House of Judea only, commonly referred to as the Jews.
The Persian Empire
In 538 BC Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians and the Persian Empire became the second great empire in the ancient world. During this period, Cyrus, the king of Persia, let the Jews go back to their homeland, to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem that the Babylonians destroyed previously. From the destruction to the start of rebuilding of the temple the period of exile was 70 years. (Jeremiah 29:10)
But the bible states that the returning exiled Jews consisted of only descendants of the southern tribes, the house of Judah. Nothing is mentioned of descendants of the ten northern tribes, the house of Israel. The returning Jews were of the house of Judah only. The number of the returnees was 42360. (See Ezra 2:64 and Nehemiah 7:66).
So, what became of the house of Israel?
Hosea gives some specific information on the matter.
Hosea 1: 6-11
6, She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, call her name Lo-ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel, that should in any wise pardon them.
7, But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and I will not save them by bow nor by sword nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.
8, Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.
9, And the Lord said, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.
10, Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, ye are the sons of the living God.
11, And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint themselves one head, and shall go up from the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
What does Ezekiel say about the northern kingdom?
Ezekiel chapter 37: 11, 16, 17, 21, 22, 26.
Verse 11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.
Verse 16 And thou, Son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.
Verse 17 And join them for thee one to another into one stick, that they may become one in thine hand.
Verse 21 And say unto them. Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
Verse 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
Verse 26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them: it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
Ezekiel is proof that the ten lost tribes of Israel exist by the fact that they will be reunited again at the end times. The dry bones represent the nation of Israel.
The two sticks clearly show that God is referring to the whole twelve tribes of Israel, the two divided nations that will again come together as one.
The children of Israel will be gathered from all the nations, meaning that they are scattered around the world, but they will be brought home to the holy land.
The house of Judah was brought back to the holy land in 1948, three years after the second world war had ended. In that year David Ben Gurion, the future prime minister of Israel, declared a new state of the house of Judah, it was named the state of Israel. (More information on this later).
The house of Israel (the ten lost tribes) is yet to come home and be reunited with the two southern tribes.
Sometime in the future this will happen and they will have one king, or one prime minister rule over them. As Ezekiel, verse 22 above states: they shall become one nation again and never be divided into two nations. This clearly refers to the end times by the fact that they shall become one nation again forever.
Another interesting point to make is that in verse 26 above, God says that he will set his sanctuary (temple) in the midst of the Jewish community forevermore. This indicates that the temple of Solomon will be built again, for a third time, in the holy city of Jerusalem.
God makes a new covenant.
Jeremiah 31: 31-34
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Jeremiah is clearly speaking about the end times here when all the tribes of Israel will come together never to be separated again. There will be no need to preach about God anymore because this event will happen after the tribulation and the whole world will have witnessed proof of who God is. There will be no doubt.
Hebrews 8: 10-12
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Here in Hebrews we see the same prophesy repeated. It’s understood that the apostle Paul wrote the book in AD 67, around 700 years after Jeremiah first prophesied. Paul was reiterating what was to come in future events. As this prophesy has not yet been fulfilled it relates to sometime in the future.
Where are the lost tribes now?
From 721 BC, when the northern tribes of Israel were taken into captivity by the Assyrians, until the present day (2020) there is a span of 2741 years.
So, where are they now? We know that they are still around because the scriptures tell us that they will be reunited again at some later time in history, a time not yet reached. The scriptures also tell us that they will have grown so vast that they are too many to number and that they will consist of many nations.
From the point of migration after the fall of Assyria it is suggested that they gradually moved West and settled in various countries, namely: Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, North Africa and other parts of western Europe.
As these nations grew, they in turn migrated to various places including America. As the British Commonwealth formed this expanded into Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries, correlating with the fact they would become many nations and difficult to number due to their masses.
Modern day Israel
On the 14th of May 1948, in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion declared a Jewish state to be known as the State of Israel.
Over the following years the Jews were gathered from around the world. The Jews that had kept their identity as being from the southern tribes, the nation of Judah.
There was much debate as to what name to use. Some suggested Judea instead of Israel but it was rejected because it referred to the territory that was not covered in the treaty. Even though Judea was the original birth place of the Jews and the name Jew was widely accepted as a recognizable name for the nation that survived as such, even when in exile.
They had formed a new state for the first time in nearly 2000 years and the State of Israel once again, jumped out of the history books and came into existence, even without the lost northern tribes. Maybe it was named Israel for future times when all tribes will be united again under one leader.