The History of the Ten "Lost" Tribes/Part 2/Chapter 3


In the last words of the last of the post-Exilic prophets we have the expression "all Israel" addressed to the people in the land; and then the long period of silence sets in, lasting about four centuries, during parts of which Jewish national history is lost somewhat in obscurity. When the threads of that history are taken up again in the New Testament, what do we find? Is there one hint or reference in the whole book to an Israel apart from "that nation" of the "Jews," to whom, and of whom, the Lord and His apostles speak? There is, indeed, reference and mention of the Diaspora, "the dispersed among the Gentiles" (John vii. 35), forming, as we have seen, the greater part of the nation, and some of them still settled in the ancient regions of Assyria and Babylon; but wherever they were, they are all interchangeably called "Jews," or "Israelites," who regarded Jerusalem, with which they were in constant communication, as the centre, not only of their religion, but of their national hopes and destiny.

The "Israelites" who in the time of Christ were dispersed among the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites (Acts ii.), were as much one with the sojourners in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as the "Jews" in Bagdad, Persia, or on the Caspian Sea to-day, are one with their wandering brethren in London, Berlin, New York, or Australia, although they then, as now (apart from the Hebrew, which ever remains the sacred tongue, and thoroughly understood only by the minority), spoke different languages and dressed differently, and conformed to different social and family customs.

But let me give you a few definite passages from the New Testament in justification of my statement that the Lord Jesus and the apostles, equally with the post-Exilic prophets centuries before, regarded the "Jews" as representatives of "all Israel," and as the only people in the line of the "covenant, and the promises which God made unto the fathers."

(a) In Matthew x. we have the record of the choice, and of the first commission given to the apostles. "These twelve," we read, "Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Of course, the merest child knows that this journey of the twelve did not extend beyond the limits of Palestine, but the "Jews" dwelling in it are regarded as the house of Israel, although many members of that "house" were also scattered in other lands.

In this charge of the Lord to the apostles, we see also, by the way, in what sense Israel is regarded as "lost." Now Anglo-Israelites are very fond of this word, but they use it in an unbiblical and unspiritual sense. The Ten Tribes, like the other Two, were, in the time of Christ, even as they still are, "lost"; but not because they have forgotten their national or tribal identity, but because they "all like sheep have gone astray, and have turned every one to his own way." Or, as Jeremiah pathetically puts it: "My people hath been lost sheep; their shepherds [their false teachers and leaders] have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains; they have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten [not their national origin, but] their resting place"—viz., Jehovah, who is the true dwelling-place of His people in all generations. It was this terrible fact of their spiritually lost condition which again and again moved our Lord Jesus to compassion for those multitudes which followed Him, because they were "distressed" or "plagued," and were scattered abroad as sheep not having a shepherd.

(b) On the first day of Pentecost, Peter, with the eleven, addressed the "men of Judæa," and the great multitude from among the dispersed "Jews," as "Ye men of Israel," and wound up his powerful speech with the words: "Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know assuredly that God hath made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts ii. 14, 36). In chapter iii. of Acts, as "all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering," at the notable miracle in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Peter said: "Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this Man? . . . The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His servant Jesus, whom ye delivered up and denied before the face of Pilate when he had determined to release Him. . . . Repent ye, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. . . . Ye are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham, 'And in thy seed shall the nations of the earth be blessed.'"

From Acts xiii. onward we find Paul among the "Jews" in the Dispersion; and how does he address them? By the same name as Peter addressed their brethren in Palestine: "Men of Israel, . . . the God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exhorted the people when they sojourned in the land of Egypt" (Acts xiii. 16, 17); and when he was at last brought to Rome "and gathered the chief of the Jews" in that city to him, he assured them that he had neither done anything "against the people, or the customs of our fathers," nor did he come to Rome "to accuse my nation," but "because of the hope of Israel am I bound by this chain"—namely, "the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; as he had previously explained before Festus and Agrippa—unto which our Twelve Tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain" (Acts xxviii. 17–20; xxvi. 6, 7).

Paul knew of no "lost Ten Tribes," but on his testimony the "Jews" in Palestine and in the Dispersion were the "Israel" of all the Twelve Tribes, to whom the "hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers" belonged.

(c) And, as it is in the Gospels, and in the Acts of the Apostles, so also in the Epistles. It would be easy to multiply passages, but one more must suffice.

The ix., x., and xi. of Romans form the prophetic, or "dispensational," section of that great epistle, and was written for the special instruction of Gentle believers in the "mystery" of God with Israel. Now I cannot, of course, stop here to give an analysis of that wonderful and comprehensive scripture, which is also a vindication of God's ways with man; but there is not a hint or suggestion in it of a "lost Israel," apart from the one nation whose whole history he summarises from the beginning to the end, and which is now, alas! divided into the small minority—the "remnant according to the election of grace," who believe, and the majority who believe not, until the day of grace for the whole nation shall come, and "so all Israel shall be saved, even as it is written, 'There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.'"

But in the touching introduction to this section (Rom. ix. 1–6), in which the apostle gives utterance to his "great sorrow and unceasing pain of heart" because of the unbelief of his own nation, "his brethren and his kinsmen according to the flesh," for whose sake he had been wishing, if it were possible, even to be himself "anathema from Christ"—how does he call these unbelieving "Jews" who had rejected their Messiah, and were blindly persecuting His servants? Here are His words: "Who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen."

Now I must try to draw this very long letter to an end. I have not followed Anglo-Israelism in all its crooked paths of misinterpretation of Scripture and history; I have only shown you the baselessness of its foundations, and that the premises upon which the whole theory rests are misleading and false. I have also given you a summary of the true history of the tribes, which I trust may prove helpful to you in the study of God's Word; and the conclusion at which you and every unbiassed person must arrive on a careful examination of the facts which I have adduced is, that the whole supposition of "lost tribes," in the sense in which Anglo-Israelism uses the term, is a fancy which originated in ignorance; and that "the Jews" are the whole, and the only national Israel, representing not only the "Two Tribes," but "all the Twelve Tribes" who were "scattered abroad."