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What Happened To The Lost Tribes of Israel?

Pricey Jew in the Metropolis-

I’m wondering if there’s more information about the misplaced 12 tribes? Which tribe would Ashkenazi Jews come from?



Pricey Crystal-

Thanks in your query. First off, there are 10 “lost” Tribes, not 12. There have been 12 Tribes in complete (variety of), not all of which have been “lost.” Second, answering your question actually requires a refresher course in Biblical history.

There have been truly 13 Tribes. Eleven of these have been named for 11 of Jacob’s sons, whose descendants constituted the populations of these Tribes. As per lyrics from the musical Joseph and the Superb Technicolor Dreamcoat (which is simpler to recite than wanting them up of their actual order of start), “Reuben was the oldest of the children of Israel, with Simeon and Levi the next in line. Naftali and Issachar, with Asher and Dan. Zebulon and Gad brought the total to nine. (Jacob! Jacob and sons!) Benjamin and Judah, which leaves only one….”

Jacob might have had just one extra son, Joseph, however there were two more Tribes: Ephraim and Menashe. These have been named for Joseph’s sons (Jacob’s grandsons), each of whom was the progenitor of his own Tribe. A firstborn son usually receives a double portion however Reuben forfeited this when he disrupted his father’s marital preparations (in Genesis 35). Jacob then gave the double portion to Joseph, who was the firstborn of his mother, Rachel.

So, here we’ve 13 Tribes – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Naftali, Issachar, Asher, Dan, Zebulon, Gad, Benjamin, Judah, Ephraim and Menashe. Nevertheless, we solely ever rely 12 of them. Sometimes, that is completed by omitting Levi. It’s because the Tribe of Levi didn’t have a territory in Israel. Their job was to work within the Temple they usually have been supported by numerous tithes and offerings, as is specific in Deuteronomy 18:1-2. Typically, nevertheless, Levi is included in the rely. When that is the case, the Tribes of Ephraim and Menashe are sometimes mixed right into a single unit comprising all of the descendants of Joseph. (These are the most typical ways however there are others. For instance, I Chronicles 27 lists the Tribal heads. This listing consists of Levi and it additionally counts both Ephraim and Menashe. Actually, it counts Menashe twice because the territory of Menashe was cut up geographically on reverse sides of the Jordan with a special chief for every part! However, the rely of 12 Tribes is maintained by omitting Gad and Asher.)[1]

So, while we all the time converse of 12 Tribes, there were truly 13. As noted, Levi didn’t have any territory of their very own; they lived in numerous cities throughout the 12 territories although they have been largely concentrated close to Jerusalem as a result of that’s the place the Temple was.

After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam was approached by the individuals demanding tax aid. He decided to point out them who was boss by refusing their demand. This backfired as a result of ten of the 12 Tribes holding territory seceded and shaped their own nation. (This included Reuben, Simeon, Naftali, Issachar, Asher, Dan, Zebulon, Gad, Ephraim and Menashe.) The new, northern kingdom made up of these ten Tribes took the identify Israel. The southern Kingdom – which included Levi, Benjamin and Judah – retained the Davidic dynasty, as well as the Temple in Jerusalem. They took the identify Judah. (This all occurred round 797 BCE, as described in I Kings 12.) The two kingdoms have been initially at conflict. They ultimately turned allies but they by no means reunited.[2]

The northern kingdom of the ten Tribes was “lost” once they have been conquered by Assyria. This didn’t happen abruptly; it occurred in waves. The Tribes on the other sides of the Jordan – Reuben, Gad and half of Menashe – have been the first to go, round 566 BCE, as detailed in I Chronicles 5. Zebulon and Naftali have been exiled by Assyria around 562 BCE, as described in II Kings 15. The rest of the northern kingdom was exiled round 548 BCE, as seen in II Kings 17. The modus operandi of Assyria was to relocate conquered peoples, mixing the populations in overseas lands to preclude the probability of rebellion and insurrection. This was how the ten Tribes obtained “lost.” (It was also how we ended up with the quasi-Jewish “Samaritans” who created a lot hassle within the second Temple interval.)

God has foretold via His prophets that the misplaced Tribes would ultimately be restored and the nation reunited. For example, in Ezekiel 37, God has that prophet write the names of the 2 kingdoms on two boards, which He miraculously merges right into a single board. This is also the theme of the music U’vau Ha’Ovdim, whose phrases come from Isaiah 27:13, “It will come to pass on that day that a great shofar will be blown and those who were lost in the land of Assyria will come, and those who were dispersed in the land of Egypt, and they shall worship Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” “Those who were lost in the land of Assyria” refers to the ten Tribes of the northern kingdom, whereas “those who were dispersed in the land of Egypt” refers to the southern kingdom of Judah, which was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar round 432 BCE, the survivors escaping to Egypt (II Kings 24-25).

Okay, so all the Tribes have been lost apart from Benjamin, Judah and Levi, proper? Eh… it’s not so clear. Think about if the complete population of the USA have been exiled apart from one small section: the Japanese seaboard. That signifies that Minnesota, Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio are all gone. Now think about the cities that remained. Don’t you assume that quite a bit of individuals from Minnesota, Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio may need been visiting New York, Boston, Florida and the District of Columbia when the exile occurred? Equally, Jerusalem was where the Temple stood. Not only is it affordable to assume that representatives of all 13 Tribes have been in Jerusalem (or elsewhere in Judah) when the ten Tribes have been “lost,” it might be unreasonable to anticipate in any other case! (Disagree? See Metzudas David on I Kings 12:23, who backs me up on this, albeit in a unique context.)

Unfortunately, our genealogical data took quite a beating in exile and we misplaced reliable household histories with the end result that, for probably the most half, we not know our Tribes. Accordingly, Jews now are available three “flavors”: kohanim (clergymen) and Leviim (Levites – each from the Tribe of Levi), and Yisroelim (Israelites – i.e., everyone else). Some other differentiation of population, corresponding to Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Yemenite, Yekke, Chasidishe, and so forth. is the end result of further migrations that occurred over the centuries because the Romans destroyed the second Temple in 70 CE. But all of these populations include descendants of all the kinds of Jews – kohanim and Leviim descended from Levi, and Yisroelim – largely but in all probability not solely descended from Judah and Benjamin.

Through the years, many outrageous claims have been made in makes an attempt to determine numerous teams as descendants of the lost Tribes. “The British are descended from the lost Tribes,” “Native Americans are descended from the lost Tribes,” “the Japanese are descended from the lost Tribes,” and so forth. There’s scant evidence to help these theories. (“The British get their name from the brit” – i.e., the covenant. Uh… no.)

That’s to not say that there have never been extra credible claims. In the ninth century, the Jews of Babylonia, Tunisia and the Iberian Peninsula have been visited by Eldad haDani (“Eldad from the Tribe of Dan), a traveler who claimed to come from a Jewish community in East Africa populated by the descendants of Dan, Asher, Gad and Naftali. (“What do you mean we were lost? We thought you were lost!”) There’s a difference of opinion as to how respectable he might or might not have been.

Even nowadays there are such claims that must be taken significantly. Many consider that the Bene Israel of Ethiopia (previously referred to as “Falashas”) are descended from the Tribe of Dan and that the Bene Menashe of India are, as their identify implies, descended from Menashe. These claims had sufficient halachic credence that Israeli chief rabbis acknowledged the populations in question as being of Jewish descent.

In order that’s the lengthy and brief on the “lost” Tribes. God has advised us that they might ultimately be restored and which will already be a piece in progress. Within the messianic era, everybody’s Tribal affiliation might be clarified prophetically. (This last level is made by Maimonides in Hilchos Melachim 12:three; see there for the Rambam’s Biblical sources.)


Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

JITC Instructional Correspondent


[1] I’ve made an remark that the numbers 12 and 13 are often fungible on this method. (a) How many months are in the Hebrew yr? Twelve. A intercalary year has 13 however as an alternative of a singular month, we get an extra month of Adar, so 13 continues to be 12. (b) The identify “Shemoneh Esrei” means 18 however there are 19 blessings in that prayer; one was added later to the middle part of 12 blessings, so 13 is taken into account 12, no less than so far as the identify of the prayer is worried. (c) What’s the age of majority in Jewish regulation? Either 12 or 13, relying on if one is a woman or a boy. The significance of this phenomenon, nevertheless, eludes me.

[2] Readers who’re extra conversant in the books of the early Prophets may be conscious that the Tribe of Shimon did not have one contiguous territory. Slightly, that they had cities scattered throughout the territory of Yehuda. The question subsequently arises as to how, precisely, they seceded with the remaining of the ten Tribes. Rashi on I Chronicles 4:31 means that the residents of Shimon have been pressured out of Yehuda’s territory in the course of the reign of King David, lengthy earlier than the schism that divided the nation. However, Tosfos Yom Tov infers from Mishna Sotah eight:1 that Shimon only broke away from Yehuda politically; they remained in the identical location geographically. (I discover this latter place more obscure given Tanach’s description of the blockades established by King Rechavam to maintain the two nations separated bodily.)

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