The Chief Rabbis On The Lost Tribes
the records of the assyrian kings
as found on assyrian monuments
Excerpts from "Sacred Books And Early Literature Of The East,"
Charles F. Horne, editor. Parke, Austin, and Lipscomb, Inc.,
New York and London, publisher, 1917
Jewish scholarship for centuries has held that the ten tribes of the House of Israel have not reunited with Jewry since the breakup and dispersion of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The following information is an extract from A Short Study Of Esau-Edom by C.F. Parker, 1948, pp. 12-16:
It is important to bear in mind the fact that the Ten Tribes did not return to Palestine and unite with the Jewish nation. Many have been under the impression that they did so, but historical evidence of such a fact is entirely lacking, and it is the agreed testimony from various Jewish sources that the Ten Tribes have not united with Jewry. Josephus, in the time of Christ, wrote as follows:
“And when these Jews had understood what piety the king had towards God, and what kindness he had for Esdras, they were all greatly pleased; nay, many of them took their effects with them, and came to Babylon, as very desirous of going down to Jerusalem; but then the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country; wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers.” (Antiquities Of The Jews XI, v, 2)
There is no evidence of the Ten Tribes having been united with the Jews since Josephus’ day, and the Jews themselves are foremost in asserting this. In the words of D.A. Neubauer:
“The captives of Israel exiled beyond the Euphrates did not return as a whole to Palestine along with their brethren the captives of Judah; at least there is no mention made of this event in the documents at our disposal… In fact, the return of the ten tribes was one of the great promises of the Prophets, and the advent of the Messiah is therefore necessarily identified with the epoch of their redemption.” (Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. I -1888, pages 15, 17)
Dr. Neubauer appropriately headed his article: “Where are the Ten Tribes?” and stated the traditional Jewish belief that they exist somewhere unknown (although he himself did not accept this view); he cited the Apocrypha, the New Testament, the Talmud, and other writings to prove that: “The hope of the return of the Ten Tribes has never ceased amongst the Jews in exile… This hope has been connected with every Messianic rising.” (ibid., p. 21)
In the English translation of Professor H. Graetz’s History of the Jews, Jewish opinion concerning the completeness with which the Ten Tribes vanished from ken is expressed:
“The idols of Dan and Samaria and of other cities were taken to Nineveh, and the thousands of captives were scattered and settled in groups in thinly populated districts, the location of which is not definitely known, in Halah and Habor on the river Gozan, in the mountains of Media, and in Elam west of Persia. The house of Israel, that had endured for two hundred and sixty years, under the rule of twenty kings, vanished in one day, leaving no trace behind it, because it forsook its original elevating and invigorating teachings and followed the enervating vices connected with idolatry. What became of the ten tribes? Some believed they discovered them in the far east, some in the far west. They were deceivers and visionaries who claimed to be descendants of the lost tribes. Undoubtedly the ten tribes were absorbed among the nations and disappeared. Some of them, husbandmen, vintagers and shepherds, were allowed to remain in the land, and some of the nobles who lived on the border of Judah probably sought safety in that country.” (English translation by Rabbi A.B. Rhine, D.D., 1930, Vol. I, p. 146)
A concise statement of the official attitude of orthodox Jewry on the question of the Ten Tribes is to be found in the answer of the late Chief Rabbi, Dr. Hertz, to the following questions asked by the late Captain the Rev. Merton Smith in 1918:
1. Are the people known as the Jews throughout the world the descendants of Judah and Levi; or is there a known admixture of other tribes?
2. If so, in what proportion, and what authority is there for saying so?
3. If not, what has become of the other tribes, and where, according to your knowledge, are they?
4. If that is unknown, where were they when Judah last knew of them? Does the orthodox Judaism still look for the recovery of the Twelve Tribes at some future date?”
The Chief Rabbi’s answer to these questions is to be seen in the accompanying reduced facsimile of his letter.
To these expressions might be added the view of the late Dean Inge, who said: “The Assyrians deported most of the Ten Tribes in 720 B.C. They never returned, and foreigners from the East were brought in to replace them. The Babylonians deported only the upper and middle classes, leaving the mainly Canaanite fellahin on the land.” (Evening Standard, 26th January, 1939)
The Jewish Encyclopedia states the question rather nicely:
“As a large number of prophecies relate to the return of ‘Israel’ to the Holy Land, believers in the literal inspiration of the Scriptures have always laboured under a difficulty in regard to the continued existence of the tribes of Israel, with the exception of those of Judah and Levi (or Benjamin), which returned with Ezra and Nehemiah. If the Ten Tribes have disappeared, the literal fulfillment of the prophecies would be impossible; if they have not disappeared, obviously they must exist under a different name. The numerous attempts at identification that have been made constitute some of the most remarkable curiosities of literature.” (1925 ed., art. ‘Tribes, Lost Ten’)
Those who have read anything of the mediaeval Jewish travelers Eldad the Danite and Benjamin of Tudela will know that they endeavoured to find the lost Ten Tribes, without success. In Cromwell’s time the learned Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel was yet another who endeavoured to trace the still lost Ten Tribes, and recorded his view that Columbus had discovered them in the North American Indians! Within recent years Jewish writers have been unanimous in their testimony that the Ten Tribes have not yet joined them. The series of articles by Dr. A. Neubauer in the Jewish Quarterly Review, 1888, is a learned exposition of Jewish attempts down through the ages to find the lost tribes. So complete has been their disappearance from the pages of history that Dr. Neubauer concludes that they are to be found “nowhere,” and he abandons the attempt to discover them.
Historically, then, we have certain very clear outlines concerning the Israelitish origins of the Jewish nation. It was composed of parts of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Levi, and the House of David. Despite the Jews’ admission that they do not represent the Ten Tribes, it must be allowed that what appears to be an almost insignificant remnant of ten-tribe Israelites had either returned to Palestine or been left in the land from earlier days. In the New Testament we read of Anna the prophetess, of the tribe of Asher, who rejoiced in the coming of the Messiah. Any such remnants [of the ten tribes], however, have never been recognized by Jewish authorities as of anything more than the smallest numbers, insufficient to be considered representative of a tribal return.