The History of the Ten "Lost" Tribes:
Anglo-Israelism Examined


A few words of explanation are needed by way of preface to this little book. More than twenty years ago, being often appealed to by friends for my judgment on Anglo-Israelism, or to answer questions which were addressed to me on this subject, I finally, after making myself acquainted with the positions and arguments by which the theory is supported, drew up a statement in the form of "A Letter to an Inquirer." This "Letter," somewhat amplified, was printed in the form of an appendix in my book, "The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew," whence by special request it was subsequently reprinted in pamphlet form under the title, "Anglo-Israelism, and the True History of the Ten Lost Tribes"—a separate edition of it having also been published in America. This pamphlet is now out of print, and, being appealed to by prominent Christian friends to bring out a new edition, I felt constrained before doing so to re-examine the whole question anew, and more thoroughly than before. To this end I have read through, with much inward pain I must confess, a number of the more recent Anglo- (or "British")-Israel publications, which for the most part are mere repetitions of one another. The result is the treatise now in the reader’s hands, which will be found to consist of three Parts.

In Part I. I have dealt with Anglo-Israel assertions and claims, and the arguments by which they are supported; in Part II., which is constructive in its character, and in which the greater part of my original "Letter to an Inquirer" will be found embodied, I have tried briefly to trace the true history of the supposed Lost Tribes; and in Part III., which is altogether new, I have further analysed some of the scriptural "proofs" of a separate fate and destiny of the Ten Tribes from that of "Judah," and have added notes and explanations on some of the more plausible points brought up by all Anglo-Israelite writers.

The epistolary form, which is retained in Parts I. and II., is accounted for by the relation of this new booklet to the original "Letter to an Inquirer," which is embodied in it.

Let me ask the reader’s Christian forbearance for any expressions in this little work which may be regarded as too severe. I would only say that if the unbiassed reader had had to wade through the amount of Anglo-Israel literature, with all its fearful perversions of Scripture and history, which the writer has had to do in the course of the preparation of this little work, he would most probably have felt as he did—the difficulty of putting a restraint upon his spirit so as not to use much stronger language. Toward the persons of the propagandists of this theory I have, I trust, no other feelings than those of Christian charity; but the theory itself I cannot help regarding, after a close study of its principles, as subversive of the truth, and as one of the dangerous delusions of these latter days.

After this little book was finished, an honoured friend in Brighton sent me the article by the late Dr. Horatius Bonar, which appeared in The Sunday at Home in 1880. I add it, with the permission of the proprietors of that magazine, as an appendix in the assurance that the testimony on the subject of so honoured and eminent a servant of God will be welcomed and carry weight with many.

October, 1915.




DEAR FRIEND,—I shall endeavour to comply with your request, and to give you in this Letter a few reasons for my rejection of the Anglo-Israelite theory. I can sincerely say that I am not a man delighting in controversy, and I only consent to your wish because I believe that you, like many other simple-minded Christians, are perplexed and imposed upon by the plausibilities of the supposed "Identifications," and are not able to detect the fallacies and perversions of Scripture and history upon which they are based.

The theory is that the English, or British, are the descendants of the "lost" Israelites, who were carried captives by the Assyrians, under Sargon, who, it is presumed, are identical with the Saxae or Scythians, who appear as a conquering host there about the same time. Or, to quote a succinct summary of Anglo-Israel assertions from a standard work:—

"The supposed historical connection of the ancestors of the English with the Lost Ten Tribes is deduced as follows: The Ten Tribes were transferred to Assyria about 720 B.C.; and simultaneously, according to Herodotus, the Scythians, including the tribe of the Saccae (or Saxae), appeared in the same district. The progenitors of the Saxons afterward passed over into Denmark—the ‘mark’ or country of the tribe of Dan—and thence to England. Another branch of the tribe of Dan, which remained ‘in ships’ (Judges 5:17), made its appearance in Ireland under the title of ‘Tuatha-da-Danan.’ Tephi, a descendant of the royal house of David, arrived in Ireland, according to the native legends, in 580 B.C. From her was descended Feargus More, King of Argyll, an ancestor of Queen Victoria, who thus fulfilled the prophecy that ‘the line of David shall rule for ever and ever’ (2 Chron. 13:5, 21:7). The Irish branch of the Danites brought with them Jacob’s stone, which has always been used as the Coronation-stone of the kings of Scotland and England, and is now preserved in Westminster Abbey. Somewhat inconsistently, the prophecy that the Canaanites should trouble Israel (Numbers 33:55; Josh. 23:13) is applied to the Irish. ‘The land of Arzareth,’ to which the Israelites were transplanted (2 Esd. 13:45), is identified with Ireland by dividing the former name into two parts—the former of which is erez, or ‘land’; the later, Ar, or ‘Ire.’ *

* From the article "Anglo-Israelism"
in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

As to the Jews, quite a different history and destiny is marked out for them. They, as the descendants of Judah, are still under the curse. In fact, the Anglo-Israelite, by another and more mischievous method, is doing exactly what the allegorising, or so-called spiritualising, school of interpreters did. The method was to apply all the promises in the Bible to the "spiritual" Israel, or the Church, and all the curses to the literal Israel, or the Jews; but by this new system, while the curses are still left to the Jew, all the blessings are applied not even to those "in Christ," but indiscriminately to a nation, which, as a nation, is like the other nations of Christendom in a greater or lesser degree in a state of apostasy from God, though I thankfully recognise the fact that there are in proportion more of God’s true people in it than in any other professing Christian land.

I shall endeavour later on to show you the baselessness of the distinction which Anglo-Israelism makes between the ultimate fates of Israel and Judah, but let me first say that the supposed historical and philological "proofs" by which the theory is supported, most of which have no more basis in fact than fairy tales, are utterly discredited by competent authorities.

"Philology of a somewhat primitive kind," writes a prominent and learned Jew, "is also brought in to support the theory; the many Biblical and quasi-Jewish names borne by Englishmen are held to prove their Israelitish origin. An attempt has been made to derive the English language itself from Hebrew. Thus, ‘bairn’ is derived from bar (‘son’); ‘berry’ from peri (‘fruit’); ‘garden’ from gedar; ‘kid’ from gedi; ‘scale’ from shekel; and kitten’ from quiton (katon=‘little’). The termination ‘ish’ ‘is identified with the Hebrew ish (‘man’); ‘Spanish’ means ‘Spain-man’; while ‘British’ is identified with Berit-ish (‘man of the covenant’). Perhaps the most curious of these philological identifications is that of ‘jig’ with chag (hag=‘festival’).

"Altogether, by the application of wild guess-work about historical origins and philological analogies, and by a slavishly literal interpretation (or misapplication) of selected phrases of prophecy, a case is made out for the identification of the British race with the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel sufficient to satisfy uncritical persons desirous of finding their pride of race confirmed by Holy Scripture. The whole theory rests upon an identification of the word ‘isles’ in the English version of the Bible unjustified by modern philology, which identifies the original word with ‘coasts’ or ‘distant lands,’ without any implication of their being surrounded by the sea. Modern ethnography does not confirm in any way the identification of the Irish with a Semitic people; while the English can be traced back to the Scandinavians, of whom there is no trace in Mesopotamia at any period of history. The whole movement is chiefly interesting as a reductio ad absurdum of too literal an interpretation (or misapplication) of the prophecies."*

* Joseph Jacobs, B.A., in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

To this let me add the verdict of a prominent Christian scholar. Commenting on Edward Hine’s "Identifications of the British Nation with Lost Israel," Professor Rawlinson wrote that: "The pamphlet is not calculated to produce the slightest effect on the opinion of those competent to form one. Such effect as it may have can only be on the ignorant and unlearned—on those who are unaware of the absolute and entire diversity in language, physical type, religious opinions, and manners and customs, between the Israelites and the various races from whom the English nation can be shown historically to be descended."

The fact of the matter is that the so-called historical proofs, by which the theory is supported, are derived from heathen myths and fables,+ and the philology which traces "British" to "Berith-ish," and "Saxon" to "Isaac’s-son," etc., deserves no other characterisation than child-ish.

+ See Note 4 in Part III.

It is in a misunderstanding of Scripture, and especially of prophetic Scripture, to which the origin of Anglo-Israelism can be traced. Coming across some of the great and precious promises in the Bible in reference to Israel, for instance, such as that they should be a great and mighty nation, and rule over those who previously had been their enemies and oppressors, and overlooking the fact that these prophecies and promises refer to a future time, when Israel as a nation shall be restored and converted, and under the personal rule of their Messiah become great and mighty for God on the earth, evidence of their fulfilment has been sought in the present.

Now certainly these prophecies of might and prosperity are not now being fulfilled in the "Jews"—on the other hand, see how great and influential the British nation is in the world—ergo, the British must be the "lost" Israel of the "Ten Tribes"! The "history" and philology is, so to say, an afterthought of Anglo-Israelism, by which an effort is made to support the false postulate with which it starts. The Scriptural "Identifications" with which Anglo-Israel literature abound turn out on examination to be perversions and misapplications of isolated texts taken from the English versions of the Bible without any regard for true principles of exegesis.


Some of their interpretations can only be characterised as bordering on blasphemy. Let me quote a few examples:—

I. The glorious Messianic prophecy of the stone cut without hands which smote the Image of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2) is applied to the British people; and the British Empire, which is one of the Gentile world-kingdoms, is made to be identical with the Kingdom of God.

"We will see what is to be the future of the British Empire, or, in other words, the stone that smote the image. It is to become a great mountain and fill the whole earth. Our Colonial Empire, then, will continue to grow till it covers the whole world. We have tried to avoid extending our Empire many and many a time, and yet God has caused it to grow larger and larger, and I believe will still do so. We are already by far the greatest Empire there is, or ever has been, and we shall yet be far greater.

"The British Empire, again, can never be conquered. Daniel says, ‘The God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: it shall stand for ever.’ Consequently, we shall never be conquered; we must continue till the end of time—so that we are to continue to exist as the last kingdom or empire this world is to see."*

* "Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream" in "The British Empire of Ephraim." A whole collection of similar perversions of Scripture may be found in an excellent pamphlet by the late Pastor Frank H. White, called "Anglo-Israelism Examined"—unfortunately now out of print.

II. Messiah’s Throne of Righteousness and Peace is made out to be identical with the throne of England, and the English people are "the saints of the Most High," to whom all the kingdoms of the world shall be given.

"If the Saxons be the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. . . then the English throne is a continuation of David’s throne, and the seed on it must be the seed of David,+ and the inference is clear—namely, that all the blessings attaching by holy promise to David’s throne must belong to England. . . . To this end God is overturning, and will overturn, until the whole world shall be federated around one throne, and that David’s throne (which, according to the writer, is identical with the throne of England)—the only throne God ever directly established, and the only one He has promised perpetuity to. . . . This kingdom is the fifth kingdom to be set up in the latter days of those kings, says Daniel. The kingdom was never to be left to other people. . . . To her (that is, to England) was promised the isles of the sea, the coasts of the earth, the waste and desolate places—the heathen and the uttermost parts of the earth as a possession. Already, out of the 51,000,000 square miles which compose the earth, England, including the United States (Manasseh), now owns about 14,000,000, say, one-fourth. She bears rule over one-third of the people of the earth; she adds a colony every four years, on an average. At the present rate it will not be long before the kingdoms of this world will be given to the saints of the Most High [that is, according to the writer, the English people]. It is no marvel in the light of and instruction of prophecy that this throne and people should be so stable and prosperous." *

+ A beautiful specimen, this, of Anglo-Israel logic.

* "The Lost Ten Tribes," by Rev. Joseph Wild, D.D. A book containing twenty discourses which abounds in statements and "interpretations" as wild and unscriptural as this sample quoted from Discourse XVIII.

III. The smoke which ascends from the "blazing furnaces and steam engines" of London is identified with the Shechinah Glory, the visible symbol of God’s presence with His people.

"During their wanderings in the desert His presence was manifested by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night; and during the captivity of the Two Tribes of Judah in Babylon He was with them, until, at the expiration of the seventy years, He stirred up Cyrus to release them. The same Lord still watches over the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in England, and continues to bless them. The same miracles that were wrought in Egypt were intended to foreshadow the realisation of God’s future dealings with the Israelites; and if a gigantic panoramic view of England could be taken from an elevation above the centre of the island at midnight, a temporal pillar of fire would be as remarkable from the blazing furnaces, the gas, the steam-engines, as the pillar of cloud and smoke arising from the same sources in the daytime, marking the chief position and prosperity of Israel."

* From an article in The Banner of Israel.

IV. Edward Hine, author of the forty-seven "Identifications," is the promised Deliverer who should come out of Zion.+

+ When preparing to re-write this little book I was told by a friend that I need not take much notice of the works of Edward Hine, as Anglo-Israelites themselves no longer attach importance to them. On inquiry, however, I found that this was not the case. His writings are still largely advertised and circulated, and many of the more modern Anglo-Israelite writers profess to draw instruction and inspiration from them. Beside which, even his most extravagant statements are more than paralleled in some of their most recent publications.

The following is taken from an article on Romans 11:25-27, which appeared in "Life from the Dead," which was edited by Edward Hine himself: —

"Are the British people identical with the lost Ten Tribes of Israel? And is the nation, by the identity, being led to glory? If these things are so, then where is the Deliverer? He must have already come out of Zion. He must be doing His great work; He must be amongst us. It is our impression that, by the glory of the work of the identity, we have come to the time of Israel’s national salvation by the Deliverer out of Zion, and that Edward Hine and that Deliverer are identical."

I have said above that Anglo-Israelism applies the promises given to converted Israel indiscriminately to the English nation. It does not stop even here, as the above extracts show, but goes on to rob Christ Himself of His glory by applying to the British people prophecies which belong, not even to Israel, but to Israel’s Saviour.

Thus, the address of the Father to the Son in Psalm 2:

"Ask of Me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession," will be found again and again in Anglo-Israel literature applied to the British nation. It also substitutes the British Empire for the Church. A favourite Scripture on which almost every Anglo-Israel writer fastens is Matt. 21:43: "Therefore I say unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof," taking it for granted that England is that "nation "—which, as a nation, is bringing forth the fruits of God’s kingdom.

Now I need not explain to you that this is an utterly unspiritual and baseless assumption, for it is the Church—God’s elect and converted people out of all nations—which is that "nation," which during the period of Israel’s national unbelief bears fruit unto God; as is clear from 1 Peter 2:9, where believers in Christ are addressed as "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (ethnos), that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."


Let me give you one or two more samples of Anglo-Israel perversion of Scripture and history:—

"The tribe of Benjamin has a singular special place in the history of Israel and Judah. Neither Old or New Testament can be well understood unless one understands the place of this tribe in Providence. They were always counted one of the Ten Tribes, and reckoned with them in the prophetic visions. They were only loaned to Judah about 800 years (read I Kings 11). They were to be a light for David in Jerusalem. God, foreseeing that the Jews would reject Christ, kept back this one Tribe to be in readiness to receive Him; and so they did. At the destruction of Jerusalem they escaped, and after centuries of wanderings turn up as the proud and haughty Normans. Finally, they unite with the other Tribes under William the Conqueror. A proper insight into the work and mission of Benjamin will greatly aid one in interpreting the New Testament. He was set apart as a missionary Tribe, and at once set to work to spread the Gospel of Jesus. Most of the disciples were Benjaminites. Then, after 800 years of fellowship with Judah, they were cut loose and sent after their brethren of the House of Israel. It was needful that the Lion and the Unicorn should unite."


"God said to Abraham, ‘In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed’; and more, ‘and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.’ Israel, being scattered and cast off, became a blessing to the world. They gave to the surrounding nations the only true idea of God, for in their lowest condition and idolatry they preserved the name and knowledge of Jehovah, and Christ sent His disciples after them through one of their own tribe—namely, Benjamin—telling them not to go into the way of the Gentiles, nor into the cities of the Samaritans, ‘but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ To these sheep Christ declares He was sent. Where were these sheep? They were scattered about in Central Asia—in Scriptural language, in Cappadocia, Galatia, Pamphylia, Lydia, Bithynia, and round about Illyricum. From these very regions came the Saxons; from here they spread abroad North and West, being the most Christian of any people on the face of the earth then, as now."*

* Both these extracts are taken from "The Lost Ten Tribes"—the book referred to in a previous note—by Joseph Wild.

It is difficult to characterise statements like these given out by Anglo-Israel writers in ex cathedra style for the consumption of the ignorant and credulous. But—

I. This "history" of the tribe of Benjamin (which may be taken also as a fair sample of their "histories" of Dan, Manasseh, etc.) is entirely the product of the perverted ‘fancy of the writers, and is without a vestige of historic basis for its support. The only reference given in the first extract is 1 Kings 11. Now that chapter gives the account of God’s warning to Solomon, and of the announcement that in the reign of his immediate successor the kingdom would be rent from the house of David. "Howbeit," we read, "I will not rend away all the kingdom, but will give one tribe to thy son (i.e., Rehoboam) far David My servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, . . . that David My servant may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to put My Name there."*

*Kings 11: 13—36.

The "one tribe" which during the time of the schism would be left to the house of David is, of course, not Benjamin, as the writer of the above extract supposes, but Judah, "with which Benjamin was indissolubly united by the very position of the capital on its frontier." This is seen from verses 31, 32 of the same chapter, where the Ten Tribes "are given to Jeroboam," and the remaining two of the twelve are called "one tribe."

It is, of course, a pure invention also, of the fairy-tale type, that Benjamin as a tribe received Christ while the Jews rejected Him, or that Benjamin became "the missionary tribe," or that "most of the disciples were Benjamites." Not one single tribe as a tribe, or even one local community as a community, received Christ; but the "as many" of His own "as received Him" were "Jews," which, as we shall see farther on, were the representatives of the Israel of the whole "Twelve Tribes scattered abroad," and the Twelve Apostles (though Paul, indeed, was a Benjamite) were in a way representative of all the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

II. Then note the absurdities and contradictions of Anglo-Israel assertions. "Israel," you are told—by which is meant the Ten Tribes—while themselves idolaters and sunk so low as not only to forget their origin, but, as another exponent of the theory has it, lapsed "into a state of semi-barbarism like the first pioneer settlers in North America"; and, being without records, in a brief period lost all memory of their former name and condition* became, while in such a condition, "a blessing to the world, and gave to the surrounding nations the only true idea of God"!

* "Israel in Britain," by Colonel Garnier, page 6.

And what shall be said of the terrible perversion of such a plain and beautiful Scripture as Matt. 10:5, 6? In the introduction to that chapter (Matt. 9:36-38) we read how our Lord Jesus, beholding the multitudes which were pressing around Him, was moved with compassion for them because they fainted (or rather, according to the now accepted reading, "were harassed," "plagued "), "and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd." Then, after saying to His disciples that the harvest truly is plenteous but the labourers are few, and commanding them to pray the Lord of the harvest that He may send, or thrust forth, labourers into His harvest, He calls the twelve individual Jewish disciples, and commissions and empowers them to go forth on the definite mission of mercy to their countrymen, warning them not to go beyond the bounds of the land "into the way of the Gentiles," nor even within the bounds of Palestine to visit "the cities of the Samaritans," but to confine themselves exclusively "to the lost sheep of the House of Israel "—that is, to their own Jewish people, who (as we shall see) are throughout the New Testament called alternately "Jews" and "Israel." This is all plain and obvious; and we know, as a matter of fact and history, that the ministry of John the Baptist, and of our Lord Jesus, and of the Twelve Apostles, until after His ascension, was confined to the "Jews" in Palestine. Anglo-Israelism, however, is able by some fiction to transform the Twelve Disciples into the tribe of Benjamin, and "the lost sheep of the House of Israel" into a medley of Gentile nations located "in Central Asia," and other specified regions, who, though unknown to themselves to be Israelites in origin, and mistaken by the Apostles in their subsequent missionary journeys for "Gentiles," were really the "lost Ten Tribes," alias "the Saxons," and progenitors of the English! And these are only a few typical samples of the so-called "historical proofs" and Bible interpretations on which the whole theory rests. I must now pass on to another part of the subject, but let me, before doing so, earnestly commend to you whenever you come across Anglo-Israel literature to keep in mind the good advice of a well-known Bishop to his clergy—"Always verify your references"—and I would add, "study the context"—and you will find that the Scriptures quoted in them are either misapplications or perversions of the true meaning of the text. In fact, there is not a Scripture, however sublime and glorious its import, and however plain and obvious its meaning, which does not become distorted and perverted in Anglo-Israel hands.*

* See samples in Note 1 of Part III.

Here are one or two samples. Anglo-Israelism is based for the most part on the false supposition of a separate calling and destiny of the Ten Tribes from that of Judah:—

"The natural seed of Abraham," we are told, "is divided in the Bible, the word Israel standing generally for the Ten Tribes, and Judah for Two Tribes. These divisions have separate paths appointed them to walk in through the centuries. ‘All the House of Israel wholly,’ ‘the whole House of Israel,’ ‘all the House of Israel,’ have a special work. The Ten Tribes are especially called in the Scriptures the seed of Abraham. Sometimes ‘My chosen’; again, ‘Mine inheritance,’ and ‘My servant.’ God, in referring to them in their scattered state, and of His gathering them together, says (Isaiah 41:8): ‘But thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen; the seed of Abraham My friend—thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art My servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away."*

* "The Ten Lost Tribes," page 12.

I shall show later on that it is not true to say that the word Israel stands "generally" for the Ten Tribes, and Judah for the Two Tribes. "Generally," the name Israel stands for all the descendants of Jacob, whose name was changed by God Himself to "Israel," though in the historical books, especially in 1 and 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles, and in a few passages in the Prophets, it is used to describe the northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes in contradistinction to the southern kingdom of Judah. But its use in the more limited and temporary sense as ‘applied to the Ten Tribes can always be clearly discerned from the context. But in order to support the assertion that "these two divisions have separate paths appointed them to walk through the centuries," it is affirmed that the designations "All the House of Israel wholly," "the whole House of Israel," "My chosen," "Mine inheritance," and "My servant," are especially applied in the Scriptures to the "Ten Tribes" in contradistinction to Judah. Now this is utterly baseless, as any intelligent Bible-reader will find if he takes the trouble to look up all the passages where these expressions are used.*

* "All the House of Israel wholly" is found in Ezek. 11:27, and is used of those of the southern kingdom who were already in captivity, as contrasted with those who were still with Zedekiah in Jerusalem and Palestine. The parallel to Ezek. 11 is Jeremiah 24, where the two parts of the nation—those already in captivity and those still in the land—are also contrasted under the symbol of the two baskets of figs, one of which was "very good" and the other "very evil." When Peter, for instance, said, "Let all the House of Israel know assuredly that God hath made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ," he addressed the "Jews" in Palestine, as every one knows. "My chosen," or "Whom I have chosen," apart from its use as applied to the priests and Levites, is used sixteen times of Zion and Jerusalem, and just as many times of the whole nation. Deut. 7:6; 14:2; Psalm 33:12; Isaiah 41:8,9—may be turned up as examples. "My servant" is used seventeen or eighteen times in the second half of Isaiah, and when not directly applied to the Messiah, as in 42:1; 49:3-7; 52:13 and 53:11—is a designation of the whole people; and it must be remembered that Isaiah prophesied primarily "concerning Judah and Jerusalem." The term as a designation of the people is also used five times by Jeremiah in the same inclusive sense, i.e., of the whole nation.

Continue to Part II...