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The Ten Lost Tribes Found


How odd of God to choose the Jews!
How odder still to lose them!

The initial Diaspora was said to have started in 722 BC when the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V conquered northern Israel, and carried off the mythical ten lost tribes, driving the ten lost tribes into surrounding areas of the Middle East. According to Assyrian documentation, the Assyrian king exiled from Transjordan and northern Israel some 200,000 people, and from the capital Samaria, 27,290 people. These exiles were not denied freedom of religion, and they were permitted to remain in large groups and continue their national existence in the cities to which they had been exiled.

The "Ten Lost Tribes" disappeared, not because of the Assyrian conquest, but because they never existed to begin with. There is no evidence other than Biblical claims that David, Solomon, or the vast and glorious empire over which they ruled ever existed. The quest for the Lost Tribes of Israel is aking to the quest for the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, or for Prester John.

The account of the Lost Tribes served two functions following the end of the Babylonian Captivity in 526 BC. The theological function lay in the contrast between the prosperity of those who had remained steadfast in the way of the Lord, and the historical oblivion of those of the Ten Lost Tribes who had strayed from the path of righteousness. The politcal function served to provide an explanation for the demise of the extensive territories claimed for the Davidic kingdom. But as the Davidic kingdom had no historical basis, neither did the Ten Lost Tribes.

Gary Greenberg notes that "If a King Solomon ever had such an extensive kingdom as described in the bible, it seems to have escaped the notice of both its subjects and its neighbors - the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Amorites, Canaanites, Edomites, Moabites. All of these nations, so far, remain mute on the subject of this Hebrew kingdom. History contains many rumors about mighty kingdoms that never existed, but rarely does one never hear of a great kingdom that did exist."

The 10 northern tribes of ancient Israel exiled by the Assyrians in the eighth century BC, might have been lost in another land as Deuteronomy poetically puts it, but they never vanished from the popular imagination. The story of the "Ten Lost Tribes" of Israel has been the center of speculation and curiosity for centuries, producing a vast litierature ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Beneath the story is a series of events that point in a very different direction regarding the fate of Israel's "Ten Lost Tribes" after their disappearance from the pages of history.

Some believed that the swarming Jewish population of Southern Russia was composed in large part of descendants of the Israelites expatriated in Northern Assyria and the regions south of the Caspian.

Falashas don't claim to be a 'lost tribe'. Because the Jewish haplotypes VII and VIII are not represented in the Falasha population, geneticists concluded that the Falasha people descended from ancient inhabitants of Ethiopia who converted to Judaism.

The Lemba are a southern African Bantu-speaking population claiming Jewish ancestry. Allele frequencies at four different Y-specific polymorphic loci, as well as extended-haplotype frequencies that included data from several loci, were analyzed in an attempt to establish the genetic affinities and origins of the Lemba. The results suggest that 50% of the Lemba Y chromosomes are Semitic in origin, 40% are Negroid, and the ancestry of the remainder cannot be resolved. These Y-specific genetic findings are consistent with Lemba oral tradi- tion, and analysis of the history of Jewish people and their association with Africa indicates that the historical facts are not incompatible with theories concerning the origin of the Lemba.

Film-maker Simcha Jacobovici claimes to have found them in places such as Afghanistan, China, Indonesia and India. He had been instrumental in reducing the number of the Lost from ten to nine, by documenting the "plight" of Beta Israel, the Ethiopian Jews.

The Book of Mormon suggests that the Native Americans are part of The Lost Tribes. Among Latter-day Saints, several theories have come into existence concerning the location of these lost people: the "Unknown Planet" theory, the "Narrow Neck" proposition (a sub-theory), the "Hollow Earth" theory, the "North Pole" theory, and the "Dispersion" theory. When the Hollow Earth theory was popular, ideas about the lost tribes of Israel wandering around the North Pole were popular. The 10 Lost Tribes of Mormon theology found their way there. The future return of the Ten Tribes from their unknown location is a major theme in LDS doctrine. This is in accord with Jewish expectations of the return of the mythical ten lost tribes under the leadership of a Messiah of Ephraim's lineage.

Members of the Bnei Menashe community of India trace their lineage to one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. In the remote northeastern Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram, which border Myanmar, some 1.5 million hill people call themselves the "Children of Manmasi" or "Menmasseh. They were converted to Christianity by British missionaries from the 1850s to about 1910. But their oral history, songs and traditions were clearly derived from the Hebrew Bible. They believed the tribe meandered through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China, before settling in northeast India. And in 1953, tribal leader Challianthanga had a dream in which his people returned to Zion. That led to a breakaway group of about 10,000 Bnei Menashe, who hewed to strict Jewish customs. In 2005, Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, recognized the Bnei Menashe as descended from the lost tribe of Manasseh.

In northeastern India, a small ethnic group claims to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. The fervor of the Kuki people persuaded the Chief Rabbi of Israel to approve their immigration to the Promised Land. Kuki men are traditionally fighters, so once in Israel most of them become soldiers, while their wives try to adjust to their new lives in the settlements.

In the valleys of West Bengal, where India meets Bangladesh and Burma, these Asian Jews say they were forced into exile in this remote valley almost 27 centuries ago. Today, they practice an archaic Judaism and claim to be one of the lost tribes of Israel referred to in the Old Testament, a little like the Ethiopian Falashas. Tensions have grown in recent years with the Indian and Burmese governments and for the Kuki people, the lure of a better future in Israel is stronger than ever. In recent years, some of them have been able to emigrate to Israel and make Aliyah. The men, who are traditionally fierce fighters, often join the Israeli army, while their families find a new home in the occupied West Bank settlements.

Clues from the Bible, archaeological remains and ancient historical sources combine to clear the misperceptions regarding who these tribes really were and why they came to be viewed as "lost". Mark Leuchter, a University of Toronto PhD in ancient Israelite religion, teaches at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. He argues that the ten "lost" tribes settled in southern Judea and were reintegrated into the Jewish population, with smaller numbers staying in Samaria. He supports his theory by noting that within two decades of the Assyrian exile, the population of Jerusalem tripled.



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Page last modified: 27-02-2017 19:49:38 ZULU