Book: America & Britain

Biblical prophecy overwhelmingly revolves around God’s chosen nation, Israel. Typically, other nations are involved only as they come into contact with and influence that key nation. But who is Israel? Is the modern Jewish nation known today as the “State of Israel” the same nation God established through the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Astonishingly, most people, including Christians, carelessly make this very assumption. In fact, one of the most significant misrepresentations in Judaism is the claim that the Jews are the sum total of the people of Israel.

Scripture, however, shows that Jews are actually descendants of the distinct nation of Judah, which was composed primarily of three of the twelve tribes that originally made up the ancient Kingdom of Israel. As for the remaining tribes, Jewish and Christian scholars alike have relegated them to the pages of history, claiming that their assimilation into various Gentile nations has rendered them nonexistent. A few Jewish scholars insist that the ten tribes were somehow reunited with the Jews and that all twelve tribes are collectively represented by those called “Jews” today. But not only is there no historical proof of such a reunion, the idea goes against the clear scriptural record. As this book will show, the “lost” tribes of Israel have not simply vanished; neither have they returned to Palestine. Rather, they migrated over time to new lands and, having lost their identity as Israel, became established nations with new names. Still, the Bible does speak of the ten tribe’s being restored to Palestine. As will be explained, such prophecies point to a future restoration not of the original “lost” tribes, but of their modern-day counterparts—nations that have descended from ancient Israel

As can be easily shown from the Old Testament, the original nation of Israel was composed of twelve tribes. Following the death of Solomon, the nation was divided into two kingdoms—north and south. The southern kingdom, referred to as Judah, the “House of Judah,” or by its capital, Jerusalem, was made up of three tribes—Judah, Benjamin, and Levi— blended as if one. In close proximity to Jerusalem, most of the tribe of Benjamin was politically part of Judah. The Scriptures also show that most of the tribe of Levi, because of their association with the temple, migrated to Judah after the kingdom became divided. Hence, in II Kings 17:18, Judah is said to be the “only” remaining tribe after the northern kingdom was removed—meaning it was the only full tribe left.

The northern kingdom, referred to as Israel, the “House of Israel,” or by its capital, Samaria, was composed of the remaining tribes. The half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (representing the tribe of Joseph) were each counted separately, thus making a total of ten tribes. For their evil in God’s eyes, the entire “House of Israel” was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in the eighth century BC and never allowed to return. The Israelites were resettled initially in areas north and east of the Euphrates River, while pagan peoples were brought in to replace them (II Kings 17:23-24).

By Jesus’ time the exiled northern tribes had long migrated out of the Middle East, and the land north of Jerusalem continued to be settled by Gentile “Samaritans.” Thus, in Matthew 10:6, Jesus instructed His disciples to take the message of the Gospel to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel,” which proves that both their identity and whereabouts were known to the early church. Jesus’ use of the term “lost” was merely indicative of Israel’s exilic, migratory status—as the so-called “lost” tribes of Israel had by this time migrated into parts of Europe, forming well established communities.

The southern nation of Judah—referred to as “the Jews” for the first time in II Kings 16:5-6, where they are actually at war with the northern nation of Israel—also went into captivity (II Kings 24:10, 14), only to return some 70 years later to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Ezra refers to the returning exiles—those of “Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites” (Ezra 1:5)—as “Jews” of Judah (Ezra 5:1). In the most literal sense, a Jew may be viewed as a direct descendant of the tribe of Judah (the term Jew is a derivative of the Hebrew Judah). From the post-exilic period on through the first century AD, a Jew was any Israelite indigenous to the land of Judah. Today, in common usage, one may be considered a Jew based not only on lineage but on adherence to the religion of Judaism.

Thus, all Jews are Israelites, but only some Israelites are Jews.

Meaningless Prophecies?

While the prophet Jeremiah dealt primarily with the nation of Judah, he also prophesied concerning the northern tribes, the House of Israel. For example, Jeremiah gives this promise from God, which deals with both Judah and Israel: “ ‘For, lo, the days come,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will turn back the captivity of My people Israel and Judah … and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave their fathers, and they shall possess it’ ” (Jer. 30:3). What is interesting about this passage is that when Jeremiah penned it the northern tribes of Israel had been in captivity for over a hundred years. The nation of Judah was indeed returned to the land God gave to their fathers—but the northern tribes of Israel have never returned.

The captivity of the House of Judah was accomplished by 586 BC, but was subsequently overturned 70 years later. Jeremiah, as a young man, began to prophesy in Jerusalem around 629 BC, the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign (Jer. 1:2). The House of Israel, however, had long been taken into captivity—with the fall of Samaria taking place in 722 BC.

Notice that Jeremiah’s message from God is “concerning Israel and concerning Judah” (Jer. 30:4)—both houses. Focusing on the northern tribes of Israel, he writes: “ ‘O My servant Jacob, do not fear,’ says the LORD. ‘Do not be terrified, O [House of] Israel. For lo, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. And Jacob [Israel] shall return [to their own land], and shall be at rest, and be quiet, and none shall make [them] afraid [again]” (verse 10). Obviously, this passage has never been fulfilled through the original tribes that went into Assyrian captivity. Why? Are the “lost” tribes permanently lost? Have they ceased to exist? How is this prophecy to be fulfilled?

As we will see, the House of Israel eventually migrated far from the lands of their captors to become established in new lands—where they reside to this day. Thus, this passage can only refer to a future captivity and a future restoration. Indeed, as will be brought out later, Jeremiah 30 refers to a time of national trouble (verses 7-8) that is soon to come upon the nations of modern Israel—descendants of those “lost” ten tribes—as well as on modern Judah, the Jews.

The fact is, such prophecies—and there are scores of them—cease to have meaning if we assume that the “lost” tribes of Israel no longer exist. After all, something that no longer exists cannot be restored. But what if they do exist, today, as modern descendant nations of those tribes—still prophetically carrying the name “Israel” or “Jacob”?

Like Jeremiah, the prophet Ezekiel prophesied about Israel’s future long after they had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians. As a youth, Ezekiel was one of the thousands of Jewish captives taken into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar—about 130 years after the northern kingdom went into exile. Yet Ezekiel’s message was primarily aimed at the House of Israel (Ezek. 3:1, 4, 5, 7, 17, etc.). The phrase “house of Israel” occurs 78 times in the book, while “house of Judah” occurs only five times. Similarly, there are three prophetic references to the “whole house of Israel”—a phrase uniting all 12 tribes (Ezek. 37:11; 39:25; 45:6). For example, notice this promising passage where God foretells of the restoration of both the northern and southern kingdoms from a yet future exile:

“ ‘And the [Gentile] nations shall know that the house of Israel was exiled for their iniquity. Because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them and gave them into the hand of their enemies, and [their men of war] all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have done to them, and hid My face from them.’

“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Now will I again bring back the captives of Jacob [Israel], and will have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for My holy name after they have borne their shame and all their sins by which they have sinned against Me when they dwelt securely in their land and no one terrified them. When I have brought them again from [among] the people, and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the LORD their God Who exiled them among the nations. But I have gathered them to their own land, and have not left any of them there’ ” (Ezek. 39:23-28).

Similar to the prophecy of Jeremiah 30, this passage speaks of a future captivity on the whole House of Israel—on the modern, descendant nations of Israel and Judah (the modern Jews). It is impossible for this passage to refer to the initial exile of the northern tribes in 722 BC, for they were already in captivity—and had been for about 130 years—when the prophecy was given. It can only refer to a future captivity and subsequent deliverance. Thus, modern-day descendants of the House of Israel exist today, somewhere on this earth—and God warns through Ezekiel that they will yet again face national captivity.

Of particular interest are the aptly-called “watchman” prophecies of Ezekiel. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel. Therefore hear the word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me” (Ezek. 3:17). The instruction is repeated in chapter 33: “And you, son of man, I have set you as watchman to the house of Israel. Therefore you shall hear the Word from My mouth, and warn them from Me” (verse 7).

But how and when did Ezekiel fulfill this command if the House of Israel was long gone by his time? The answer is that he never did—for Ezekiel himself was a captive in Babylon, held there with the Jews in exile. Even if Ezekiel had been able to travel to the areas where the northern tribes had been taken, there would be no way to effectively deliver his warning message. At this time the Israelites were still scattered and had just begun to migrate out of the various areas of their captivity. The whole concept of a “watchman” is based on warning an intact, established nation (see Ezek. 33:2, 6-7)—not a scattered people.

Clearly, Ezekiel’s message could not have been intended for the ancient Kingdom of Israel—for that ten-tribe kingdom had long since vanished. Thus, it becomes obvious that 1) the so-called “lost” tribes of Israel are not truly “lost” at all—they do indeed exist; and 2) scores of vital prophecies—almost all of which deal with the end time—have been carelessly misapplied to the modern Jewish nation of “Israel” (Judah) when they were, in fact, specifically written concerning the latter-day descendants of the House of Israel.

Without a doubt, these passages from Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak of a full future restoration of the entire Kingdom of Israel—north and south. But such a restoration can only be possible if the northern tribes of Israel still exist—otherwise the Bible itself is false. Israel, then, aside from the Jews, must exist today under a different name!

How the House of Israel Lost its Identity

Many scholars are convinced that the northern tribes of Israel have literally disappeared from history. The Jewish historian Alfred Edersheim, for example, wrote: “No notice has been taken of those wanderers of the ten tribes, whose trackless footsteps seem as mysterious as their after fate…. Still, the great mass of the ten tribes was in the days of Christ, as in our own, lost to the Hebrew nation.”1 This, of course, flies in the face of Jesus’ clear instruction to His disciples to actually go to the “lost” sheep of the House of Israel. Jesus and the disciples obviously knew where the northern tribes had resettled centuries after their initial captivity.

Similarly, the Jewish sage Heinrich Graetz writes, “The kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel had in one day disappeared, leaving no trace behind. The country vomited out the ten tribes as it had [earlier] vomited out the Canaanitish tribes. What has become of them?... [There] can be no doubt that the ten tribes have been irretrievably lost among the nations.”2

But have the northern tribes of Israel really become “irretrievably lost” among the nations?

The prominent Jewish historian Josephus notes that while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, joined by the Levites, were still located in “Asia” (a term that typically included Palestine), “the ten tribes are beyond [the] Euphrates till now [when he wrote, about 100 AD], and are an immense multitude….”3 This indicates that the whereabouts of the northern tribes were known in Josephus’ time.

The prominent Jewish historian Josephus notes that while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, joined by the Levites, were still located in “Asia” (a term that typically included Palestine), “the ten tribes are beyond [the] Euphrates till now [when he wrote, about 100 AD], and are an immense multitude….”3 This indicates that the whereabouts of the northern tribes were known in Josephus’ time.

“Speak also to the children of Israel, saying, ‘Truly you shall keep My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations [enabling you] to know that I am the LORD Who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath therefore, for it is holy to you…. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever…’ ” (Ex. 31:13-14, 16-17).

Of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, Ezekiel recounts: “And also I [God] gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. But the house of Israel [all 12 tribes] rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes, and they despised My ordinances, which if a man does, he shall even live in them. And they greatly polluted My Sabbaths… (Ezek. 20:12-13). As this passage shows, Israel had a tendency to disregard God’s Sabbath even as they journeyed in the wilderness prior to possessing the Promised Land.

Much later, after the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the northern ten tribes fell into the same idolatrous practices—including gross Sabbath-breaking (verse 30). It was their blatant disregard for God’s Sabbath that eventually led to their captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. (Note that the remainder of Ezekiel 20 refers to a yet future captivity—and regathering—of those same tribes.)

Meanwhile, God warned the southern nation of Judah that Sabbathbreaking would result in their captivity as well (Jer. 17:21-22, 27). But they would not obey. As history records, the Jews were consequently taken captive by the Babylonians. After their return to Palestine 70 years later, the Jews still had difficulty keeping the Sabbath holy. Nehemiah warned them, asking, “What evil thing is this that you do and defile the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do this, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us and upon this city? Yet you bring more wrath upon Israel [Judah] by defiling the Sabbath” (Neh. 13:17-18).

Ultimately, however, the Jews continued to keep the Sabbath—at least outwardly, as their spirit and intent were often wrong. Thus, they never lost the sign that identified them as God’s people. But unlike the Jews, the House of Israel lost sight of the very sign—the seventh-day Sabbath—that would have identified them as God’s chosen people. They never repented of that grave sin, never reaffirmed that all-important identifying sign.

Long prior to captivity, Israel had abandoned the Sabbath and turned to wholesale idolatry—forgetting the true God. Then, in exile, scattered among the nations, Israel all but forgot their own national identity. Without the identifying Sabbath sign, they became indistinguishable from the nations among which they had been placed. Even today, the modern nations of the House of Israel do not know their true identity and have long been unrecognizable to the world as Israel.

“Lost” Israel Not Utterly Destroyed

When we honestly examine the biblical record, it becomes clear that the so-called “lost” tribes of Israel are not really lost at all. Rather, it is their identity as Israel that has been lost. Thus, as we search for the “lost” tribes, we should not look for a Sabbath-keeping people called Israel. Indeed, as the exiled northern ten tribes wandered from the Middle East, they were known by other names—such as Cimmerians, Scythians, Celts, Saxons, etc.— names historians have not readily linked to ancient Israel. It is not surprising, then, that most scholars and researchers deny the survival of the “lost” tribes of Israel. They have not known where to begin looking!

When Jesus sent the twelve out to preach the Gospel, He said: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter into a city of the Samaritans [Gentiles who displaced the northern tribes]; but go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). Jesus and His disciples knew the whereabouts of the “lost” northern tribes—and that they, in fact, were the “house of Israel.” Why do we hear almost nothing of the original apostles after about 60 AD? After taking the Gospel to the Jews and the major areas of Asia Minor, did the apostles take the Gospel to the northern tribes where they had become reestablished in new lands? During the years immediately preceding the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, we hear nothing of Peter and James? Why? Had they gone, as Christ instructed, to the “lost” tribes of Israel?

Prior to the House of Israel going into captivity, the prophet Amos quoted God as saying:

“ ‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful [Israelite] kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth [it would vanish as a kingdom]; except that I will not completely destroy the house of Jacob [Israel],’ says the LORD. ‘For lo, I will command, and I will shake the house of Israel among all the nations, as one shakes with a sieve, yet not a grain shall fall to the earth [that is, the Israelites as a people would not be utterly lost or destroyed]” (Amos 9:8-9).

As a nation, the northern kingdom vanished in captivity and was later “sifted” among numerous countries. But it was not utterly destroyed. Writing during the Jews’ captivity in Babylon (some 130 years after the fall of Samaria) Daniel as well refers to those of Israel who were afar off, scattered throughout many nations (Dan. 9:7)—but not destroyed. Through Amos’ prophecy—which in a dual fashion refers to Israel’s ancient captivity as well as to a future captivity on their modern descendants—God also shows that the nation would not be amalgamated with other peoples. After suffering decades of harsh punishment in captivity, significant numbers of Israelites would migrate toward the northwest, reestablishing themselves in various areas. Over time they would reemerge intact, as a handful of related clans—yet largely ignorant of their own true identity!

Contrary to misinformed scholars, the ancient House of Israel was not “irretrievably lost”—for in His mercy God has decreed that they would not be utterly destroyed. In fact, their modern descendants comprise several of today’s major nations. Moreover, the House of Israel will ultimately be reunited with the House of Judah in the latter days. Notice this wonderful prophecy from Ezekiel 37:16-22.

“And you, son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For [the southern Kingdom of] Judah and for his companions, the children of Israel.’ And take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and all the [northern] house of Israel, his companions.’ And join them to one another [to form] one stick. And they shall become one [nation] in your hand.

“And when the children of your people shall speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what do you mean by these?’ Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the [northern] tribes of Israel, his companions, and I will put them with him, even with the stick of [the House of] Judah, and will make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand.” ’

“And the sticks on which you write shall be in your hand before their eyes. And say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the [Gentile] nations where they have gone [into their final end-time captivity], and will gather them on every side, and will bring them into their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land on the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king over them all. And they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” ’ ”

This prophecy has never been fulfilled. It cannot apply to Israel of old—for the northern tribes of Israel vanished, and have never been restored to their land or rejoined to their Jewish brothers. This prophecy can only be understood as a future regathering of both the northern and southern tribes of Israel into one united kingdom at the end of the age.

Thus, the northern House of Israel does exist! But where?

Are we really to believe that all of the far-reaching prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hosea, etc.—not to mention the detailed “blessings and curses” of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28—apply solely to the tiny Middle Eastern Jewish nation called “Israel” today? Indeed, scholars have made this very assumption—which has caused them to totally misunderstand Bible prophecy.

Again, the identity of the modern-day descendants of the northern tribes of Israel is the key to unlocking biblical prophecy. As we will see, the records of both Scripture and history give positive proof of the identity of these peoples. This understanding will bring the entire panorama of end-time prophecy into sharp focus!


1. Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pp. 14, 16

2. Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, vol. 1, p. 265

3. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, bk. 11, ch. 5, sec. 2. The phrase “beyond [the] Euphrates” would have meant beyond the headwaters of the Euphrates—across the Caucasus Mountains. The Israelites, by Josephus’ time, had migrated out of the Middle East and had mostly resettled in areas around the Black Sea. The apostle James also plainly confirms that the ten tribes had not disappeared from history. He addresses his epistle “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1).