Where are the Tribes of Israel

by Hermanus W. Smeenk


         In Genesis 28:14-15 the Eternal came to Jacob in a dream and promised him that   "Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."  In Jeremiah 31:35-37 the Eternal, speaking of the house of Israel and the house of Judah "Thus says the Eternal, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the Lord of hosts is His name): If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Eternal, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before me forever. Thus says the Eternal: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth be searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the see of Israel for all that they have done, says the Eternal."  After the death of Solomon in 920 B.C., the kingdom was split between the northern kingdom, ruled by Jereboam, consisting of the ten tribes and southern kingdom, ruled by Rehoboam, consisting of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin.  Jereboam quickly led Israel into idolatry being afraid that the tribes might go back to worship in Jerusalem and return to Rehoboam. After 200 years of living in idolatry, the Eternal cut off Israel, the northern ten tribes, and sent them into captivity. Speaking of Israel, the Eternal tells Hosea to call his son Loammi "...for you are not my people, and I will not be your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said them them, you are not my people, there it shall be said to them, you are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one hear, and they shall come up out of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel (God sows)." (Hosea 1:9-11) many other prophecies among which are from Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel are written on a recurring theme that the Eternal will bring back Israel and unite them with Judah in the holy land when He shall also establish His Kingdom (rulership) over them.

Jewish Fable?

         If the children of Israel would become as numerous as the dust of the earth or as the sand of the sea,[¹] where on earth are they now? Can we identify them from among the great mass of humanity that now inhabits the earth? Is there some identifying sign from which we can recognize them in the manner that we can identify the descendants of Judah, the Jews of today? The Jews are identifiable in large part by their religious practices and doctrines.  The vast majority of the Israelites left those practices and doctrines after the split between the northern and southern tribes of Israel. When Jesus sent His disciples out before Him, He told them to go the to lost sheep of Israel. The Apostles, Peter, James, John, Jude, preached to the Jews and also to the tribes of Israel as indicated by the opening address in their letters. In their day, the ten tribes were not yet very far removed from them. However, after their days the tribes seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Is it possible that all but the tribe of Judah just disappeared without a trace? Is the existence of the "lost" ten tribes merely a fable invented by the Jews to make them seem to be something more than they really are? Or are they still around in plain site but we just don't realize it?  Like the proverb "You can't see the trees for the forest?"

Identified by God

         We can know where the "lost" ten tribes of Israel are located today. The Eternal has provided a number of clues in the Bible that we can use to determine their location. As stated above, the Eternal has given numerous promises that He will never forsake his people and will again turn the captivity of Israel and Judah to bring them back to the Promised Land. Even a blind person can see by this that the Eternal has always known where the tribes of Israel are located and is watching over them even today. If the Eternal then knows their location He will also reveal that to those who have received His Spirit.  In I Corinthians 2:10-11 we read: "But the Eternal has revealed them to us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of the Eternal. For what man knows the things of a man but the spirit of man that is in him? Even so, the things of the Eternal knows no man but the Spirit of the Eternal." So, those that love the Eternal and have His Spirit share in His knowledge, but those that reject Him and His laws the Eternal said through Isaiah in Chapter 6:9-11 "...Go, tell this people, hear indeed, but understand not; and see indeed but perceive not.  Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, 'Eternal, how long? And He answered, until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate." Unless the Eternal removes this veil from your heart and from your mind, you will probably scoff at the words that follow because of unbelief. But without the knowledge of who and where the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel are, you will not be able to comprehend many of the prophecies that the Eternal gave for Israel during the last days. Nor will you be able to take any action to save yourself from the destruction that is coming upon all mankind not too many years from now.

The Promises to Abraham

         For those of you with an open mind and in whom the Spirit of the Eternal is working, we will now go to the Bible and see what the Eternal reveals so that we may know what He has hidden from the rest of the world. In Genesis are recorded a number of promises by the Eternal to Abraham and his descendants. In Genesis 12:2 the Eternal promises Abram (later changed to Abraham)"And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great and you shall be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless you, and curse them that curse you; and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Again, in Genesis 13:16, the Eternal expands His promise when He tells Abram "And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered." In Genesis 17:4 the Eternal continues to add to His promises to Abram and tells Abram:  "As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.  Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham: for a father of many nations have I made you.  And I will make you exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of you and kings shall come out of you. And I will establish my covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you, and to your seed after you." In Genesis 22:17 we find an additional promise by the Eternal after the Eternal had tested Abraham to see if he would offer his only son, Isaac, to the Eternal. But the Eternal stopped him before Abraham killed his son. As a result, the Eternal told him: "...That in blessing I will bless you, and in multipying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." The birthright, promises and blessings were passed down from Abraham to Isaac, and Isaac passed them to Jacob.

The Birthright and Promises Passed to Jacob

         In Genesis 27 we read that when Isaac was old and his eyes grew dim, he told Esau, his firstborn, to bring him venison from the field and he would bless him.  Rebekah overheard Isaac and helped Jacob to receive the blessing instead. Jacob was successful in deceiving his father, and Isaac pronounced the blessing on Jacob. In Genesis 27:28-29, Isaac tells Jacob: "Therefore God give you of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty corn and wine. Let people serve you, and nations bow down to you; be lord over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you; cursed be every one that curses you, and blessed be he that blesses you." Now, when Esau found out that Jacob had stolen the blessing from him, he wanted to kill Jacob, but Rebekah heard and interceded with Isaac to send Jacob away to her brother, Laban, to find himself a wife (Genesis 27:35-46). When Jacob was ready to leave, Isaac pronounced the following blessings on Jacob in Genesis 28:3-4 where he tells Jacob: "And El Shaddai (the God Who Provides) bless you and make you fruitful, and multiply you, that you may be a multitude of people: and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your seed with you, that you may inherit the land wherein you are a stranger, which the Eternal gave to Abraham." On the way to Padanaram, Jacob had a dream in which the Eternal spoke to him (Genesis 28:14) saying:  "Your seed shall be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." In Genesis 35:11, when Jacob came back from Padanaram, the Eternal appeared to Jacob and provided Jacob with another detail of the promises. "And the Eternal said to him, I am El Shaddai, be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins."

The Birthright and Promises Passed to Joseph's Sons

         Now we come to Genesis 48 in which the Eternal leads Jacob to adopt Ephraim and Manasseh for a special purpose. That purpose was to make their descendants part of the tribes of Israel instead of Joseph becoming a tribe as his brothers each became the patriarch of a tribe. Now, because Reuben had lost the birthright because he had lain with Bilhah, Jacob's concubine.  Simeon and Levi also lost their opportunity to step into Reuben's place to receive the birthright because of their actions to avenge the rape of their sister, Dinah.  Thus the birthright goes to Joseph, and because the first born receives two portions above his brethren, Joseph's two portions go to Ephraim and Manasseh. Although Mannaseh is the first born, the Eternal inspires Jacob to put Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. In Genesis 48:15 Jacob blesses Joseph and said: "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked; the God who has fed me all my life long to this day; the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil; bless the lads. Let my name be named upon them. And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." Joseph saw that Jacob had placed his right hand on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh and tried to correct Jacob, but Jacob refused and said (verses 19-20): "...I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations. So he blessed them that day, saying, "By you Israel shall bless, saying, 'May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!' And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh."

         In Genesis 49:1 Jacob tells his sons to gather around him so he can tell them would is to befall them in the last days. We know that no man can foretell the future but, obviously, the Eternal inspired Jacob what to say. Of Reuben, he says that he shall be as unstable as water and would not excel. Simeon and Levi will both be scattered among the tribes of Israel. To Judah would go the sceptre until the Messiah comes to take it from him. Zebulun would dwell by the haven of the sea and would become a haven for ships. Issachar is a strong donkey or, in other words, a servant and he would bow his shoulder to bear a burden and become a band of slaves. Dan would judge his people and, like a serpent, leave a trail wherever he goes and a viper by the path that bites the horse's heels so that its rider shall fall backward. A troop would tramp over Gad, but he would triumph at the last. Asher would make rich dainties (foods) and Naphtali is a deer let loose, he uses beautiful words. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf. In the morning shall devour the prey and at night he shall divide the spoil.

         In Genesis 49:22-26 Jacob utters additional blessings on Joseph and his descendants. "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength. And the arms of his hands were made strong by the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the stone of Israel). By the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors. Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph. And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers." See also Deuteronomy 33:6-25 for the prophecy concerning Israel in the latter days that was uttered by Moses.

         Now let's summarize the birthright promises and blessings that were pronounced on Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his sons.

  1. Abraham's seed would be as numerous as the dust of the earth, sand of the seas, and stars in the heavens.
  2. Abraham's descendants would control the gates of their enemies.
  3. Isaac prophesied that Jacob’s descendants would enjoy great economic prosperity and would live in a land with great riches in minerals and water. Jacob’s descendants would also be a nation and a company of nations.
  4. Ephraim and Manasseh shared the double portion that Joseph received as his birthright. Ephraim would become a company of nations and Manasseh would become a great nation. Between the two of them they would enjoy great economic prosperity and power, but Ephraim would be the greater of the two.
  5. From Judah would come the lawgiver (the Messiah) and also a kingly line that would not end until the Messiah came to sit on David’s throne over Israel.
  6. Although the rest of the ten tribes did not seem to share in the prosperity prophesied for Ephraim and Manasseh, yet the prosperity of Ephraim and Manasseh would spill over on them because Ephraim was considered to be the firstborn by God and it was his responsibility as the first born to lead the tribes of Israel. This is borne out by the blessings and curses that were recorded in Leviticus 26:3-39 which apply equally to all the tribes of Israel.

God Will Continue To Be With Israel

         God promised that no matter how much Israel sinks into idolatry he would never cast them off (Jeremiah 51:5) and He would multiply them into many millions. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 11:16 God promises that where ever Israel may be scattered, He will be there to provide them a sanctuary. In Jeremiah 30:11 we read "'For I am with you' says the Lord, "to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you, but I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished." When Abraham offered his son Isaac the promises that God had made to him became irrevocable. Many of the prophecies were for the end time (latter days) wherein we now live (see the bible study “When will Christ return?”). If God meant what He told Abraham and His prophets concerning Israel and if we can believe some of the fantastic prophecies in the Bible, then we should be able to identify the latter day Israelites merely by looking at the nations in the world and see which nations fit the description of the prophecies.

Identification Marks Of Israel

         We would look for a people spread among ten or more nations that share a common appearance, standards and moral values. We would also look for these same nations to be economically well off and enjoying great prosperity and wealth, whether that be mineral wealth or wealth from the land and sea. We would also need to find which of these nations controlled the gates of their enemies for almost 200 years. In Leviticus 26 God promises Israel blessings on the one hand and cursings on the other. If Israel disobeys God and after He has punished them a number of times but they still continue to disobey Him, God tells them in Leviticus 26:18 “And if you will not yet for all this listen to me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.” This warning by God has been interpreted to mean that He would withhold His blessings for a period of 7 times or a total of 2,520 years (one year for every day of 7 years of 360 days per year). The last of Israel was driven from the Holy Land by the Assyrians in 721 BC. Adding the 2,520 years to the 721 we come to the year 1800 AD. From this time forward we would expect certain nations to grow rapidly and become very powerful and prosperous.

         Based upon the foregoing, which nations fill that description? None of the nations in Asia fit this description, neither do the nations in Africa and South America. But the nations in North America and Western Europe do. As a matter of fact, England was known at one time as Great Britain. (British comes from the Hebrew B’rith (covenant) and Ish (man), so people of the covenant). Great Britain developed into a Commonwealth of Nations, it’s empire stretched around the world. It became the most powerful nation in the world after it defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. The United States, too, suddenly became a great and powerful nation shortly after the turn of the 19th century when it purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. In addition, it also purchased the territory of Alaska. These two territories increased the wealth and size of the United States immensely. Also, between themselves, these two nations controlled the most strategic narrows and straits in the world among which are the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez and Panama Canals, the Strait of Hormuz, the Dardanelles, the Bering Strait, Taiwan Strait, Korea Strait, Dover Strait, Denmark Strait, Straits of Florida, Davis Strait, Hudson Strait, Strait of Malacca, Torres Strait, and Bass Strait.

          For many years the United States was considered to be the melting pot of the world. Why? Because many of the people that came to the United States were of the same background, from the tribes of Israel. (The great influx of people from Asia, Central and Latin America, and Africa do not readily mix with the North Americans. They are a distinct and separate people and live in their own communities.) A great flood of people from many nations immigrated to the United States during the 1800s and 1900s, most of who came from Western Europe. Western Europeans also immigrated to Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. These nations were all part of Great Britain at one time. Reviewing what I have covered thus far should convince anyone that the modern day Israelites could be found in northwestern Europe, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the United States. Reflecting upon the prophecies concerning Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, one can readily see that Ephraim became England (a company of nations) and Manasseh became the United States (a great nation). What’s more, the whole world looks to these two as the leaders and the most powerful nations in the world. Even as Joseph fed the nations around Egypt during the famine, so do his modern descendants. They’ve even sent corn and rice to their greatest enemies, Russia and China. No other nations have been able to do as much for the nations of the world as has England and the United States. The whole world has been blessed by these nations as God promised Abraham when He told him that “in his seed the whole world would be blessed.”

Many Prophecies Pronounced Against Latter Day Israel

         There are many other proofs for the identification of Israel from secular sources. However, the biblical prophecies are adequate to identify the latter day Israelites by those who believe in the bible and have an open mind to accept God’s Word. To be able to understand the prophecies for the latter days it is necessary to begin with an understanding of the location of Israel. Many prophecies concern the latter day Israelites and if we are to escape the calamity that has been prophesied for the end time we must be able to see that those prophecies have been recorded for and about us and not some other people. With this in mind there should be an urgency in our thoughts to turn from our ways and to go back to the teachings of old rather than to continue in our own ways which God hates!! Continue to read the next chapter titled  "Why Do We Need Atonement?"


¹The Eternal was not talking literally here but was comparing the dust of the earth and the sand on the seashore by saying that even as there is an uncountable number of dust and sand on the earth so also would Abraham's seed be an uncountable number.

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