The twelve sons fathered the Twelve Tribes of Israel. These tribes were displayed on the vestments of the Kohen Gadol (high priest).
Thus, the two divisions of the tribes are:
Division according to apportionment of land in Israel:|
The Tribe of Judah, the Tribe of Simeon, and the Tribe of Benjamin joined together to form the Kingdom of Judah and are traditionally considered the ancestors of most of today's Jews. The Tribe of Levi, was assigned hereditary religious duties and did not receive any tribal land (Joshua 13:33, 14:3). (Genealogical DNA tests link many modern men with the last name Cohen to a mutation on the Y-chromosome, which is interpreted as indicating their descent from Aaron, a Levite who was the brother of Moses and whose descendents were to receive status of priests.(Hebrew: Kohen, pl. Kohanim), (see Y-chromosomal Aaron)). The remaining tribes (Reuben, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, East Manasseh, and West Manasseh) are considered lost.
It has sometimes been inappropriately claimed that the Tribe of Simeon was a part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and was therefore part of the "Ten Lost Tribes." However, the Tribe of Simeon was never located in the Northern Kingdom (Joshua 19:1), Simeon's land was located entirely within the land of Judah. Apparently, Simeon's tribal distinctions were lost shortly after Canaan was settled by the Israelites when the Simeonites assimilated into and with the Tribe of Judah.
The phrase "Ten Lost Tribes" does not appear in the King James version of the Bible (leading to some of the questions about the use of the number). However, 1 Kings 11:31 states that the LORD will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give ten (10) tribes to Jeroboam.
" And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee" 1 Kings 11:31 KJV
" But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes." 1 Kings 11:35 KJV
The concept of the "Ten Lost Tribes" originally began in a religious context, based on Biblical sources, not as an ethnological idea. Some scientists have researched the topic, and at various times some have made claims of empirical evidence of the Ten Lost Tribes. However, religious and scriptural sources remain the main sources of the belief that the Ten Lost Tribes have some continuing, though hidden, identity somewhere.
There are numerous references in Biblical writings. In Ezekiel 37:16-17, the prophet is told to write on one staff (quoted here in part) "For Judah..." and on the other (quoted here in part) , "For Joseph..." (the main Lost Tribe). The prophet is then told that these two groups shall be someday reunited.
Moreover, 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:
And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. Ezekiel 37:16-17 KJV
There are also discussions in the Talmud as to whether the Ten Lost Tribes will eventually be reunited with the Tribe of Judah, that is, with the Jewish people.
These were the nine landed tribes Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben and Gad, and some members of Levi who had no land allocation. The Bible makes no reference at this point to the Tribe of Simeon, and some believe that the tribe had already disappeared due to the curse of Jacob. (Genesis 49:5-7)
Judah, the southern kingdom, had Jerusalem as its capital and was led by King Rehoboam. It was populated by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (and also by some members of Levi and remnants of Simeon).
In 722 BCE the Assyrians under Shalmaneser V and then under Sargon II conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel, destroyed its capital Samaria and sent the Israelites into exile and captivity in Khorason, now part of eastern Iran and western Afghanistan. The Ten Lost Tribes are those who were deported. In Jewish popular culture, the ten tribes disappeared from history, leaving only the tribes of Benjamin, Judah and Levi to become the ancestors of modern day Jews.
In 607 BCE the nation of Judah was conquered by Babylon. About 70 years later, in 537 BCE, the Persians (who had conquered Babylon in 539 BCE) allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. By the end of this era, members of the tribes seem to have abandoned their individual identities in favor of a common one.
On December 23, 1649, after Manasseh ben Israel, a noted rabbi of Amsterdam had been told by Montezinos that some of the Lost Tribes were living among the Native Americans of the Andes in South America, he wrote:
... I think that the Ten Tribes live not only there ... but also in other lands scattered everywhere; these never did come back to the Second Temple and they keep till this day still the Jewish Religion ...
In 1655, Manasseh ben Israel petitioned Oliver Cromwell to allow the Jews to return to England. Since 1290, Jews had been prohibited by law from living in England. One of the reasons for Cromwell's alleged interest in the return of the Jews to England was the abundance at the time of theories relating to the end of the world. Many of these ideas were fixed upon the year 1666 and the Fifth Monarchy Men who were looking for the return of Jesus as the Messiah who would establish a final kingdom to rule the physical world for a thousand years. They supported Cromwell's Republic in the expectation that it was a preparation for the fifth monarchy - that is, the monarchy which should succeed the Assyrian, the Persian, the Greek, and Roman world empires.
Mixed in with all of this was a background of general belief that the Lost Ten Tribes did not represent ethnic Jews who partially formed the ancient Kingdom of Judah, but tribes who maintained a separate capital at Samaria. Some have attempted to dismiss this complicated saga by stating that it is nothing but Supersessionism. However, the ideas behind these various competing theories are far more complicated, especially when Sabbatai Zevi, the "messiah" claimant and his supporters postulated that he represented groups in addition to those identified as being Jews. However, Zevi lost his credibility to all but the Donmeh when he converted to Islam and became an apostate to Judaism in 1666.
During the latter half of the 18th century, variations on this same theory were advocated by some who believed that the British Empire of nations was a manifestation of ancient prophecies recorded in the Book of Genesis predating both the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.
Others believe that the 'Lost Tribes' simply merged with the local population. For instance, the New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia states "In historic fact, some members of the Ten Tribes remained in Palestine, where apart from the Samaritans some of their descendants long preserved their identity among the Jewish population, others were assimilated, while others were presumably absorbed by the last Judean exiles who in 597-586 [B.C.E.] were deported to Assyria...Unlike the Judeans of the southern Kingdom, who survived a similar fate 135 years later, they soon assimilated..." . Some of the article and a similar article can be read online at Roads to Dystopia
The Nasranis of Malabar, India are of Hebrew or Israeli heritage but not much is known of their past to be certain that they are also of the 'Lost Tribes'. (Ref. Dr. Asahel Grant's 'The Nestorians or the Lost Tribes of Israel' for more about the Nazarenes and Nestorians).
The Beta Israel (also known as Falashas) are Ethiopian Jews. Some members of the Beta Israel as well as several Jewish scholars believe that they are descended from the lost Tribe of Dan, as opposed to the traditional story of their descent from the Queen of Sheba.
Persian Jews (especially the Bukharan Jews) claim descent from the Tribe of Ephraim. Persian Jews (also called Iranian Jews) are members of Jewish communities living in Iran and throughout the former greatest extents of the Persian Empire.
A book which corresponds with Pashtun historical records, Taaqati-Nasiri, states that in the 7th century a people called the Bani Israel settled in Ghor, southeast of Herat, Afghanistan, and then migrated south and east. These Bani Israel references are in line with the commonly held view by Pashtuns that when the twelve tribes of Israel were dispersed, the tribe of Joseph, among other Hebrew tribes, settled in the region. Hence the tribal name 'Yusef Zai' in Pashto translates to the 'sons of Joseph'. This is also described extensively in great detail by Makhzan-i-Afghani, a historical work from the 17th Century by Nehamtullah, an official in the royal court of Mughal Emperor Jehangir. A similar story is told by Iranian historian Ferishta.
This account is also substantiated by the fact that the Bene Menashe of India also have traditions which trace their wanderings as going originally from the Persian Empire to Afganistan. In their case, they then went to China, where they encountered persecution, then pressed on to India and Southern Asia.
The Bani-Israelite theory about the origin of the Pashtun is based on Pashtun traditions; the tradition itself is documented in a source titled Makhzan-i-Afghani, the only written source addressing Pashtun origins. It was written about 1612, by Nematullah Harvi, a scribe at the court of Mughal Emperor Jehangir of Hindustan. Nematullah compiled the book upon the instruction from Khan Jehan Lodhi of the Lodhi dynasty, a Pashtun noble and a courtier of the Emperor Jehangir.
Some sources state that the Makhzan-i-Afghani has been discredited by historical and linguistic inconsistencies. The oral tradition is believed to be a myth that grew out of a political and cultural struggle between Pashtuns and the Mughals, which explains the historical backdrop for the creation of the myth, the inconsistencies of the mythology, and the linguistic research that refutes any Semitic origins. There are also other sources who disagree strongly with the hypothesis of the Pashtun having Israelite origins.
Some believers in this doctrine limit the Israelite ancestry claim to the European royal families. Others believe that most of the nations of Western Europe are also descended from the Israelites. Though most believers in this doctrine link England with the tribe of Ephraim, there is very little consensus as to which tribes correspond to which people, and there is no formal central ecclesiastic authority managing the believers and the doctrines.
Due to the Restorationist tendencies of the adherents, there has rarely been a central head, recognized leadership, or organizational structure to the movement. This has led to a diverse set of professions and beliefs ancillary to the genealogical claims. Just as in many Christian Restorationist sects such as in the Church of Christ, as well as in older religions such as Judaism, the ancillary doctrines held by some can often be contradictory to those held by others. In a similar fashion to Judaism and to a lesser degree Islam, the central theme revolves around the genetic connection of the believers with Biblical characters such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Some adherents of this belief also believe that the Tribe of Dan gave rise to the nation of the Scots.
Some have promoted the notion that the Kurds represent a Lost Tribe. Some claims have been made regarding a genetic relationship between the Kurds and the Jews on the basis of a similarity between Kurdish Y-DNA and a Y haplotype that is associated with the Jewish priesthood. However, in genetic testing of the Y chromosome of 95 Muslim Kurds, only one sample (1.05% of the Kurds tested) matched the so-called Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH), consisting of six specific Y-STR values. Various misleading statements have associated typical Kurdish Y-DNA with that of the Jews. However, these attempts are based on several sources of confusion:
(1) The Cohen Modal Haplotype in its original form includes only six Y-STR markers, which with the scientific advances since that time, are now understood to be far too few to adequately identify a unique, closely related group that shares common descent from one relatively recent paternal ancestor. The same six marker values can be found by random mutations in other populations that are only remotely related. They are thus identical by state, but not Identical by descent. The 6-marker CMH cannot be used as a clear indicator of Cohen genetic ancestry, without additional data. Thus its presence should not be used as grounds for probable Jewish ancestry in a population.
(2) It is touted as a fact of great significance that the most common (modal) 6-marker haplotype of the Kurds is only one step from the CMH, but in fact, these same six marker values that were found to be the "Kurdish modal haplotype" can be seen in the data, in numerous sources, to be the most common haplotype amongst a wide variety of J2 Y chromosomes, wherever they may be found, in ethnic groups of the Middle East or in Europe -- thus, it is hardly an indication of a close relationship with the Cohanim priesthood, or with the Jews.
(3) The fact that the 2001 paper by Nebel found somewhat more similarity between the Y-DNA of the Kurds and the Jews than between the Jews and Palestinians does not point to a uniquely close relationship between the Jews and Kurds. This study did not compare Jews with other non-Kurdish Iraqis, or with the people of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, or other nearby lands. The available data indicate that these peoples are all closely related, with the Jews and Kurds just two of a diverse family of Middle Eastern peoples in this region.
Some writers have speculated that the Japanese people themselves may be direct descendants of part of the Ten Lost Tribes. There are some parallels between Japanese and Israelite rituals, culture, traditions, and language, which provide some evidence for this possibility. An article that has been widely circulated and published, entitled "Mystery of the Ten Lost Tribes: Japan" by Arimasa Kubo (a Japanese writer living in Japan who studied the Hebrew Bible), concludes that many traditional customs and ceremonies in Japan are very similar to the ones of ancient Israel and that perhaps these rituals came from the religion and customs of the Jews and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who might have come to ancient Japan.
Joseph Eidelberg's "The Biblical Hebrew Origin of the Japanese People" makes a similar case:
Late in his life, Joseph Eidelberg began analyzing ancient traditions, religious ceremonies, historical names, haiku poems, Kana writings and Japanese folk songs, discovering thousands of words with similar pronunciations, sounds and translations between Hebrew and Japanese. These discoveries are history in the making, giving credible new information on the meanings of many unknown Japanese words, numbers, songs and cultural traditions – and this book is the first time that these remarkable similarities are combined into a single consistent theory.
Aspects of this theory are also sometimes cited by adherents of British Israelism, as one possible explanation of how the Ten Lost Tribes might have reached the British Isles. However, it should be noted that British Israelism takes many forms, and does not always use this hypothesis as its main narrative.
The belief that some Native Americans were a Lost tribe of Israel goes back for centuries and includes individuals like the 1782 President of the Continental Congress Elias Boudinot and Mordecai Noah, the most influential Jew in the United States in the early 19th Century.
The Book of Mormon, one of the religious texts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), claims that early residents of the Americas were actually descended from the tribe of Joseph, and particularly through Manasseh.
A Feb 16th 2005 article written by Sheera Frenkel was published in the Jerusalem Post about a Black Native American (see Howshua Amariel) who traced his roots through Cherokee lineage back to the Jewish people. "'There are millions of us, who want to return here to Israel,' he stated in the article, 'People say we are the lost tribe, but we are not lost, we know exactly who we are."
According to Amariel, he also demonstrated ancient knowledge by being the first to translate ancient Hebrew Torah to English at Tel Arad (the House of Yahweh). After Amariel’s statements there followed several articles and additional DNA evidence from various members the Cherokee Nation which linked to the Jewish people.
It is now believed by many that the exiled tribes, who were, according to the Second Book of Kings, transported to the region of Media in what is now northwestern Iran, most likely simply assimilated into the population of the area, losing any special sense of Israelite identity. There is also Biblical and Talmudic testimony that much of the population of the "lost" tribes was simply reunited with the rest of the Israelites when they, too, were exiled and, later, returned to the Land of Israel. However, many over the years, in order to hide their Jewish or Israelite identities during tribulations, crusades and continual exiles, have scattered around the whole earth and are believed to have assimilated into the mass population.
There is now genetic testing being done to representatives of at least two groups - the Lemba in Africa and the Bnei Menashe in India - in attempts to verify claims of descent from the "lost ten tribes". So far, there is nothing conclusive, though in the case of the Lemba, there is a definite link to Levite Hebrew ancestry, specifically Kohen.
We have reasonable grounds for regarding the Gimirri, or Cimmerians, who first appeared on the confines of Assyria and Media in the seventh century B.C., and the Sacae of the Behistun Rock, nearly two centuries later, as identical with the Beth-Khumree of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of the House of Israel.
It should be made clear from the start that the terms 'Cimmerian' and 'Scythian' were interchangeable: in Akkadian the name Iskuzai (Asguzai) occurs only exceptionally. Gimirrai (Gamir) was the normal designation for 'Cimmerians' as well as 'Scythians' in Akkadian.
In the photo of the Black Obelisk to the right, compare King Jehu's pointed Saka style headdress, which is similar to the captive Saka king seen to the far right on the Behistun Inscription. King Jehu of Israel was a successor to King Omri of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Some sources assert that the inscription connects the people known in Old Persian and Elamite as Saka, Sacae or Scythian with the people known in Babylonian as Gimirri or Cimmerian. This is important because the Assyrian's referred to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in their records as the "House of Khumri", named after Israel's King Omri of the 8th century BCE. Phonetically "Khumri", "Omri", and "Gimiri" are similar.
There are quite a number of peoples today who cling to the ancient tradition that they are descended from the Jewish Lost Tribes: the tribesmen of Afghanistan, the Mohammedan Berbers of West Africa, and the six million Christian Igbo people of Nigeria. Unquestionably, they all practice certain ancient Hebraic customs and beliefs, which lends some credibility to their fantastic-sounding claims.
In his 1953 work Pictorial History of the Jewish People, Nathan Ausubel compiled the following list of peoples connected in one way or another to this legend:
In the 1920s, Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Radio Church of God, later renamed the Worldwide Church of God, published the belief that the 10 lost tribes, after their captivity by the Assyrians, had eventually migrated to northern and western Europe and constituted large portions of the nations that now exist in those areas. This belief also formed a basis for his understanding of Bible prophecy and its fulfillment in the "latter days".