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


In the last words of the last of the post-Exilic prophets we have the expression "all Israel" addressed to the people in the land; and then the long period of silence sets in, lasting about four centuries, during parts of which Jewish national history is lost somewhat in obscurity. When the threads of that history are taken up again in the New Testament, what do we find? Is there one hint or reference in the whole book to an Israel apart from "that nation" of the "Jews," to whom, and of whom, the Lord and His apostles speak? There is, indeed, reference and mention of the Diaspora, "the dispersed among the Gentiles" (John 7:35), forming, as we have seen, the greater part of the nation, and some of them still settled in the ancient regions of Assyria and Babylon; but wherever they were, they are all interchangeably called "Jews," or "Israelites," who regarded Jerusalem, with which they were in constant communication, as the centre, not only of their religion, but of their national hopes and destiny.

The "Israelites" who in the time of Christ were dispersed among the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites (Acts 2), were as much one with the sojourners in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as the "Jews" in Bagdad, Persia, or on the Caspian Sea to-day, are one with their wandering brethren in London, Berlin, New York, or Australia, although they then, as now (apart from the Hebrew, which ever remains the sacred tongue, and thoroughly understood only by the minority), spoke different languages and dressed differently, and conformed to different social and family customs.

But let me give you a few definite passages from the New Testament in justification of my statement that the Lord Jesus and the apostles, equally with the post-Exilic prophets centuries before, regarded the "Jews" as representatives of "all Israel," and as the only people in the line of the "covenant, and the promises which God made unto the fathers."

(a) In Matthew 10 we have the record of the choice, and of the first commission given to the apostles. "These twelve," we read, "Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, 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." Of course, the merest child knows that this journey of the twelve did not extend beyond the limits of Palestine, but the "Jews" dwelling in it are regarded as the house of Israel, although many members of that "house" were also scattered in other lands.

In this charge of the Lord to the apostles, we see also, by the way, in what sense Israel is regarded as "lost." Now Anglo-Israelites are very fond of this word, but they use it in an unbiblical and unspiritual sense. The Ten Tribes, like the other Two, were, in the time of Christ, even as they still are, "lost"; but not because they have forgotten their national or tribal identity, but because they "all like sheep have gone astray, and have turned every one to his own way." Or, as Jeremiah pathetically puts it: "My people hath been lost sheep;, their shepherds [their false teachers and leaders] have t caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains; they have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten [not their national origin, but] their resting place"—viz., Jehovah, who is the true ‘dwelling-place of His people in all generations. It was this terrible fact of their spiritually lost condition which again and again moved our Lord Jesus to compassion for those multitudes which followed Him, because they were "distressed" or "plagued," and were scattered abroad as sheep not having a shepherd.

(b) On the first day of Pentecost, Peter, with the eleven, addressed the "men of Judaea," and the great multitude from among the dispersed "Jews," as "Ye men of Israel," and wound up his powerful speech with the words: "Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know assuredly that God hath made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts 2:14, 36). In chapter 3 of Acts, as "all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering," at the notable miracle in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Peter said: "Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this Man? . . . The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and 6f Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His servant Jesus, whom ye delivered up and denied before the face of Pilate when he had determined to release Him. . . Repent ye, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. . . . Ye are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham, ‘And in thy seed shall the nations of the earth be blessed.’"

From Acts 13 onward we find Paul among the "Jews" in the Dispersion; and how does he address them? By the same name as Peter addressed their brethren in Palestine: "Men of Israel, . . . the God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exhorted the people when they sojourned in the land of Egypt" (Acts 13:16, 17); and when he was at last brought to Rome "and gathered the chief of the Jews" in that city to him, he assured them that he had neither done anything "against the people, or the customs of our fathers," nor did lie come to Rome "to accuse my nation," but "because of the hope of Israel am I bound by this chain "—namely, "the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; as he had previously explained before Festus and Agrippa—unto which our Twelve Tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain" (Acts 28:17-20; 26: 6, 7).

Paul knew of no "lost Ten Tribes," but on his testimony the "Jews" in Palestine and in the Dispersion were the "Israel" of all the Twelve Tribes, to whom the "hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers" belonged.

(c) And, as it is in the Gospels, and in the Acts of the Apostles, so also in the Epistles. It would be easy to multiply passages, but one more must suffice.

The 9, 10, and 11 of Romans form the prophetic, or "dispensational," section of that great epistle, and was written for the special instruction of Gentle believers in the "mystery" of God with Israel. Now I cannot, of course, stop here to give an’ analysis of that wonderful and comprehensive ‘scripture, which is also a vindication of God’s ways with man; but there is not a hint or suggestion in it of a "lost Israel," apart from the one nation whose whole history he summarises from the beginning to the end, and which is now, alas I divided into the small minority—the "remnant according to the election of grace," who believe, and the majority who believe not, until the day of grace for the whole nation shall come, and "so all Israel shall be saved, even as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.’"

But in the touching introduction to this section (Rom. 9:1-6), in which the apostle gives utterance to his "great sorrow and unceasing pain of heart" because of the unbelief of his own nation, "his brethren and his kinsmen according to the flesh," for whose sake he had been wishing, if it were possible, even to be himself "anathema from Christ "—how does he call these unbelieving "Jews." who had rejected their Messiah, and were blindly’ persecuting His servants? Here are His words: "Who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen."

Now I must try to draw this very long letter to an end. I have not followed Anglo-Israelism in all its crooked paths of misinterpretation of Scripture and history; I have only shown you the baselessness of its foundations, and that the premises upon which the whole theory rests are misleading and false. I have also given you a summary of the true history of the tribes, which I trust may prove helpful to you in the study of God’s Word; and the conclusion at which you and every unbiassed person must arrive on a careful examination of the facts which I have adduced is, that the whole supposition of "lost tribes," in the sense in which Anglo-Israelism uses the term, is a fancy which originated in ignorance; and that "the Jews" are the whole, and the only national Israel, representing not only the "Two Tribes," but "all the Twelve Tribes" who were "scattered abroad."


I have thought it necessary to enter all the more fully into this point, because even some otherwise sober-minded teachers and writers, who are not Anglo-Israelites, have fallen into some confusion in dealing with this subject; and no wonder, for already Josephus, who vaguely locates a separate multitude belonging to the Ten Tribes somewhere beyond the Euphrates ("Antiq." 11. 1, 2)—a Jewish tradition which locates a mighty kingdom of the Ten Tribes beyond the fabled miraculous river Sambation, which no one can cross because it throws up stones all the week, and only rests on the Sabbath; and the Talmud (Jer. Sanhedrin, 29, c.), which speaks of three localities whither they had been banished, viz., the district around the above wonderful Sambation, Daphne, near Antioch; and the third locality could neither be seen nor named because it was continually hidden by a cloud—all these show how early people’s minds became muddled on this subject.*

* It has also been supposed that the references by Agrippa in his remarkable oration (reported by Josephus, "Wars," 2,16.4)—to those who dwelt "as far as beyond the Euphrates," and to "those of your nation who dwell in Adiabene," upon whom the Jews might rely for help in their struggle against Rome, but would not be permitted by the Parthians to render them any assistance—were to some unknown settlements belonging to the Ten Tribes. But this is a mistake. These dwellers in Adiabene might or might not have belonged to the Ten Tribes, but they formed part of the known Dispersion and of "your nation "—the Jews.

Coming to the legends about the Ten Tribes in more modern times, Eldad Ben Mahli Ha Dani came forward in the ninth century claiming to give specific details of the contemporary existence of the Ten Tribes and of their location at that time.

"Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher were," according to him, "in Havilah; Zebulun and Reuben in the mountains of Paran; Ephraim, and half of Manasseh, in South Arabia; Simeon, and the other half of Manasseh, in the land of Chazars (?)." According to him, therefore, "the Ten Tribes were settled in parts of Southern Arabia, or perhaps Abyssinia, in conformity with the identification of Havilah. The connection of this view with that of the Jewish origin of Islam is obvious; and David Reubeni revived the view in stating that he was related to the king of the tribes of Reuben situated in Khaibar in North Arabia.

"According to Abraham Farisol, the remaining tribes were in the desert, on the way to Mecca, near the Red Sea; but he himself identifies the River Ganges with the River Gozan, and assumes that the Beni-Israel of India are the descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes. The Ganges, thus identified by him with the River Sambation, divides the Indians from the Jews. The confusion between Ethiopia and Farther India, which existed in the minds of the ancients and medieval geographers, caused some writers to place the Lost Ten Tribes in Abyssinia. Abraham Yagel, in the sixteenth century, did so, basing his conclusions on the accounts of David Reubeni and Eldad Ha Dani. It is probable that some of the reports of the Falashas led to this identification. According to Yagel, messengers were sent to these colonists in the time of Pope Clement VII., some of whom died, while the rest brought back tidings of the greatness of the tribes and their very wide territories. Yagel quotes a Christian traveller, Vincent of Milan, who was a prisoner in the hands of the Turks for twenty-five years, and who went as far as Fez, and thence to India, where he found the River Sambation, and a number of Jews dressed in silk and purple. They were ruled by seven kings, and upon being asked to pay tribute to the Sultan Salim, they declared that they had never paid tribute to any sultan or king. It is just possible that this may have some reference to the ‘Sâsanam’ or the Jews of Cochin.

"It is further stated that in 1630 a Jew of Salonica travelled to Ethiopia, to the land of Sambation; and that in 1646 one Baruch, travelling in Persia, claimed to have met a man named Malkiel, of the tribe of Naphtali, and brought back a letter from the king of the children of Moses: this letter was seen by Azulai. It was afterwards reprinted in Jacob Saphir’s book of travels (Eben Sappir, i. 98).

"So much interest was taken in this account that in 1831 a. certain Baruch ben Samuel, of Pinsk, was sent to search for the children of Moses in Yemen. He travelled fifteen days in the wilderness, and declared he met Danites feeding flocks of sheep. So, too, in 1854, a certain Amram Ma’arabi set out from Safed in search of the Ten Tribes; and he was followed in 1857 by David Ashkenazi, who crossed over through Suakin to make inquiries about the Jews of Abyssinia." *

* Jewish Encyclopaedia.

But all these are legends and fancies. "We in this twentieth century," to quote the words of a Christian writer, "to whom there is no longer any part of’ the earth unknown, know that in no country whatever, however far from civilisation it may be, do the Ten Tribes dwell. The ‘travellers’ tales’ have been proved to be false; the Ten Tribes, as such, do not exist." In this connection I may quote Professor A. Neubauer, a prominent learned Jew, who sums up his studies in a series of illuminating articles on the subject which will be found in Vol. I. of The Jewish Quarterly Review, with these words:—

"Where are the Ten Tribes? We can only answer, Nowhere. Neither in Africa, nor in India, China, Persia, Kurdistan, the Caucasus, or Bokhara. We have said that a great part of them remained in Palestine, partly mixing with the Samaritans, and partly amalgamating with those who returned from the captivity of Babylon. With them many came also from the cities of the Medes, and many, no doubt, adhered to the Jewish religion which was continued in Mesopotamia during the period of the Second Temple."

Some Christian writers cling to the view that while some of the "Ten Tribes" amalgamated with the "Jews," there is nevertheless a distinct people somewhere, who are descendants of the Israel of the ancient northern kingdom, which is to be brought to light in the future, and, together with "Judah," will be restored to Palestine, and enter into the enjoyment of the promises. Thus the Nestorians, who inhabit the inaccessible mountains of Kurdistan (which is part of ancient Assyria), the Afghans, the North American Indians, and even the Japanese have been variously identified as that people; but this view rests upon what I believe to be a misconception of the meaning and scope of some of the prophecies.

It may be true that the Nestorians, and, the Afghans, and some other Eastern tribes are descendants of the original Israelitish exiles in Assyria, but having more or less mixed themselves up by inter-marriage with the surrounding nations, and having given up the distinctive national rites and ordinances, such as circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath, etc., they have, like many "Jews" in modern times (who gradually assimilate with Gentile nations), cut themselves off from the hope of Israel, and are no longer in the line of the purpose which God has in and through that "peculiar" and separate people.


In conclusion let me very briefly call your attention to the remarkable prophecy in Amos 9, which will show you that the view which I have enunciated in my letter is the only one in keeping with the sure word of prophecy.

The prophet Amos, though himself a Judean, his native village, Tekoa, being about twelve miles south of Jerusalem, was commissioned by God to prophesy more particularly to the northern or Ten-Tribed kingdom; and for that purpose he went and took up his abode in Bethel, which was the centre of the idolatrous worship set up by Jeroboam in opposition to the worship and service of the divinely-appointed sanctuary in Jerusalem. There his duty was to announce the coming judgment of God on the Israel of the Ten Tribes, on account of their apostasy. The last paragraph of his book (chap. 9:8-15), uttered not more than about seventy years before the final overthrow of Samaria in B.C. 721, is one of the most remarkable and comprehensive prophecies in the Old Testament, and this is the inspired forecast of the history of the Ten-Tribed kingdom which is given in it: "Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord. For lo, I will command and I will sift (or ‘toss ‘) the house of Israel among all the nations, like as corn is sifted (or ‘tossed’ about) in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of thy people shall die by the sword, which say: The evil shall not overtake or prevent us."

Here, then, we have the whole subject as to what was to become of the Ten Tribes in a nutshell.

(a) First, as a kingdom, they were to be destroyed from off the face of the earth, never to be restored; for its very existence as a separate kingdom was only permitted of God for a definite period as a punishment on the house of David: and when, after a period of about two hundred and fifty years of unbroken apostasy, it was finally broken up by the Assyrians, there was an end of it, without any promise of a future independent political existence.

(b) But when it was destroyed as a kingdom, what became of them as a people? This prophecy tells us: "Saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord "—that is, they are to return to the house of Jacob. They are to form part of the one family made up of all the descendants of Jacob without distinction of tribes. But as one house of Jacob, or "of Israel" (as the next verse interchangeably calls them), something terrible and unique is to befall them; and what is it? To be "lost" some two thousand six hundred years, and then to be identified with the Anglo-Saxon race? Oh no! this is what was to happen: "For lo, I will command and I will sift (or ‘toss’) the house of Israel among all nations, even as corn is tossed about in a sieve "—or, in the words of Hosea, another prophet, who spoke primarily to the Ten Tribes, "My God will cast them away" (not for ever, as the whole book shows, but for a time), "because they did not hearken unto Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations."

I draw your attention all the more to this point, because a good deal has been made by some writers of the expression in Isa. 11, where Israel is called "outcast," from which they infer that "Israel" is to be found somewhere in one place, in contradistinction to the "dispersed of Judah." But this is a fallacy. In Jer. 30 Judah and Israel are together called "an outcast," but it by no means implies that they are therefore to be sought for and found in one particular region of the world.

It is clear from the prophecies of Amos and Hosea, which, as we have seen, were primarily addressed to the Ten Tribes, that if they were in the first instance "cast out" by force from their own land, as the word in the Hebrew means, it was with a view that they should be "tossed about" and "wander" among "all nations."

Now note, Anglo-Israelism tells you to identify the Ten Tribes with one nation; but if you are on the line of Scripture and true history, you will seek for them "among all nations."

And which people is it that is known all over the earth as "the tribe of the weary foot and wandering breast"? Anglo-Israelites call them "Jews" in the limited sense of being descendants of "Judah"; but God’s Word tells us that it is "the house of Israel," or "the house of Jacob "; and, as a matter of fact, since "Judah" joined their brethren of the Ten Tribes on the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans in B.C. 588, the two have kept on their weary march together, "wandering among the nations." Eastward and westward (only a remnant of all the tribes returning to the land for a time), nowhere finding ease for any length of time, nor do the soles of their feet have rest—even as Moses, at the very beginning of their history, and long before the division among the tribes, prophesied would be their united experience in case they apostatised from Jehovah their God. And thus they will continue ever more mixed up and intermingled among themselves, with all genealogies lost, and not one of them either east or west being able any longer documentarily to prove of what tribe or family he comes—until the day when He that scattered Israel will gather him, and by His own Divine power and omniscience separate them again into their tribes and families.


My last words on this subject must be those of warning and entreaty. Do not think, as so many do, that Anglo-Israelism, even if not true, is only a harmless speculation. I consider it nothing short of one of the latter-day delusions by which the Evil One seeks to divert the attention of men from things spiritual and eternal. Here are a few of its dangers:—

I. It goes, sometimes to the length of blasphemy (as shown in the extracts I have copied for you at the beginning of this letter), in misinterpreting and mis-applying Scripture. One of its foundation fallacies is that it anticipates the Millennium, and interprets promises—which will only be fulfilled in that blessed period, after Israel as a nation is converted—to the British nation at the present time. But by this process it distorts and confuses the whole prophetic Scripture.

II. It fosters national pride, and nationalises God’s blessings in this dispensation, which is individual and elective in its character.

Its proud boastful tone, its carnal confidence that Britain, in virtue of its supposed identity with the u lost "tribes, is to take possession of all the " gates" of her "enemies" and become practically mistress of the whole globe, is enough to provoke God’s judgment against the nation, and to make the spiritual believer and every true lover of this much-favoured land tremble. It diverts man’s attention from the one thing needful, and from the only means by which he can find acceptance with God. This it does by teaching that "a nation composed of millions of practical unbelievers in Christ, and ripe for apostasy, in virtue of a certain fanciful identity between the mixed race composing that nation and a people carried into captivity two thousand five hundred years ago, is in the enjoyment of God’s special blessing and will enjoy it on the same grounds for ever, thus laying another foundation for acceptance with God beside that which He has laid, even Christ Jesus."

After all, in this dispensation it is a question only as to whether men are "in Christ" or not. If they are Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, their destiny is not linked either with Palestine or with England, but with that inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled and which fadeth not away; and if they are not Christians, then, instead of occupying their thoughts with vain speculations as to a supposed identity of the British race with the "lost" Ten Tribes, it is their duty to seek the one and only Saviour whom we must learn to know, not after the flesh, but in the Spirit, and without whom a man, whether an Israelite or not, is undone.

III. Then, finally, it not only robs the Jewish nation, the true Israel, of many promises in relation to their future by applying them to the British race in the present time, but it diverts attention from them as the people in whom is bound up the purpose of God in relation to the nations, and whose "receiving again" to the heart of God, after the long centuries of unbelief, will be as "life from the dead to the whole world."

Continue to Part III...