The “Lost Tribes” of Israel
Doctrinal Study Paper
January 1999, by the United Church of God
The search for the lost sons of the biblical patriarch Jacob has long since entered the folklore of history. His name was changed to Israel and he had 12 sons, culminating in the 12 tribes of Israel — 10 of whom virtually disappeared from the historical record some 700 years before the time of Christ.
Indeed the identity and whereabouts of the “lost 10 tribes of Israel” is one of the great mysteries of ancient world history. Where those Israelites went and who their descendants are today is shrouded in mystery and has stimulated great interest and periodic debate. The hope of tracing their movements and finding their present whereabouts has inspired many a curious searcher.
If there are lost tribes, then where are they today? From the Japanese to the American Indian to the Afghans and to other ethnic groups, almost every group of people outside the Middle East has at one time or another been so identified as the answer to the mystery by some enthusiastic seeker.
But the above peoples do not fulfill the biblical criteria, lacking many of the essential identification signs, and are not accorded serious consideration in our quest for the lost tribes. In true fact the peoples of northwestern Europe and the lands they colonized are the only legitimate contenders.
One key figure in the solution to this ancient mystery is the patriarch Joseph, whose story is told in the book of Genesis. He was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh were adopted by their grandfather as his own and their names count very heavily in the mystery.
Where are Joseph’s descendants today?
As unbelievable as it may sound to modern ears, we believe that Joseph’s progeny are found in those areas of the globe, which have been populated by the English-speaking or Anglo-Saxon peoples of modern times. We believe that they can be identified as the peoples of the former British Commonwealth of nations and the United States of America. In one important respect the story of the meteoric rise of the Anglo-American countries is the incredible ascent of Joseph written large on the pages of 19th and 20th century history. But even more vital is its significance and meaning.
Just as Joseph was sold into slavery, the 10 tribes of Israel found themselves removed from the land of their inheritance in the 8th century B.C.E. Thereafter, these northern tribes disappeared from the view of history (2 Kings 17:18). The trail they left is a mysterious, uncertain one. Consistent, hard and irrefutable evidence of their long northwesterly journey appears almost impossible to find.
However, the tell-tale signs that do exist, combined with a right understanding of biblical history and prophecy, confirm that the various national groups descending from the tribes or nations of Israel will exist prior to God’s intervention at the close of this age.
It is the avowed purpose of this study paper to examine the historical and biblical evidence that will help us determine the location of the descendants of ancient Israel today, establishing why America and Britain became great, and finally showing how this essential knowledge affects the future.