Bible Question:

Whatever happened to the 10 tribes of Israel that were captured and taken away? Judah was returned after their capture, but I can't find in scripture what happened to Israel when they were captured.

Bible Answer:

There are at least three different opinions about the phrase “the ten lost tribes” of Israel. Some understand this to mean that some or all of the Anglo-Saxons are the ten lost tribes. This view is mere speculation and cannot be supported by scripture. Some believe ten of the tribes are lost because there is no clear traceable family lineage existing for many of them. One such person is Rabbi Jonathan Packman in Israel,

The first Jewish Diaspora is the one historians know least about – there are no traces of where these Jews dispersed to. The Diaspora of 720 BC was initiated when the Assyrians forced the Jews out of Israel. Ten tribes left the Promised Land and were never heard from or found. These are known as the 10 lost tribes.

The last view says that the Ten Tribes were never lost. We believe this last view is correct. The explanation follows.

Division of Israel Into Two Kingdoms

Before and during the reign of King Solomon, the term “Israel” referred to all of the Jewish people in the land of Canaan. The nation at that time was called Israel. But King Solomon sinned by not loving God and worshipping other gods. As a result, God responded by dividing Solomon’s kingdom into a northern and southern kingdom.

Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel . . . So the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant . . . However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen. (NASB) 1 Kings 11:9-11, 13

So the Lord kept the tribes of Judah and Benjamin for King David’s line and gave the remaining ten tribes to King Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:30-31).

Then Ahijah . . . said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes . . . (NASB) 1 Kings 11:30-31

The northern kingdom was called Israel and the southern kingdom was called Judah because it included two tribes: Judah and Benjamin (2 Chronicles 11:23).

Two Kingdoms Were Defeated and Deported

But neither the Kingdom of Israel nor the Kingdom of Judah learned from this. Israel repeatedly sinned by forsaking God and worshipping other gods. Consequently, God caused the Assyrian Empire to invade Israel (later known as Samaria and Galilee) and carry them away.

Then the king of Assyria invaded the whole land and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hosea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. Now this came about, because the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God . . . and they had feared other gods (NASB) 2 Kings 17:5-7

The Assyrians deported the northern Kingdom of Israel and mixed them with other captives to break down their national loyalty. This encouraged the Israelites to inter-marry and blur family lines of birth. Later God removed the southern Kingdom of Judah because they continued sinning and did not repent. They were taken away into Babylon by the Babylonian army.

And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For through the anger of the LORD this came about in Jerusalem and Judah until He cast them out from His presence. (NASB) 2 Kings 24:19-20

Now it came about in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it, and built a siege wall all around it . . . Then the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was led away into exile from its land. (NASB) 2 Kings 25:1, 21

Kingdom of Judah Returned

So Israel went into Assyrian captivity and Judah into Babylonian captivity. Seventy years later God moved the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to allow the Jews who were living in Babylon to return to the city of Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-5), and God stirred the Jews to move back.

Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. (NASB) Ezra 1:5

From this verse it appears that God returned only a portion of the tribe of Levi, and most of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin back to the Promised Land. At the time of Christ, the northern region of the Promised Land was called Samaria. The Samaritans and the “Jews” from Judah were at odds with each other. Israel was again dispersed in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem because Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah (Luke 19:43-44).

Lost Tribes of Israel Are Not Lost

None of the tribes are lost because some people from each of the tribes were living in the southern kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah, at the time the Assyrian army deported the northern kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel.

Now when we come to 2 Chronicles 15:9; 30:18; and 34:6, we discover that people from the tribes of Ephraim (son of Joseph), Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Naphatli, Simeon, and “from all the remnant of Israel” are present in the Kingdom of Judah. That means men, women, and children from each of the northern ten tribes were living in the southern kingdom at the time the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom. Those living in the southern kingdom were not taken captive and deported by the Assyrians. They were taken to Babylon. This means that the ten tribes were not lost. At least some of them lived in the kingdom of Judah.

Further, Luke 2:36 tells us that the prophetess Anna was from the tribe of Asher. This is one more example that the tribes were not lost. Nehemiah 11:20 tells us that men from all the tribes from the northern kingdom of Israel were living in the cities of Judah – the southern kingdom. The book of Nehemiah was written at the time the Jews were returning from Babylon. This means that none of the tribes have been lost.

Additionally, in James 1:1 we are told that the book of James was sent to the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:22-26). That is, none of them were lost even at the time of Christ.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
Greetings. James 1:1 (NASB)

All The Tribes Are Returning To Israel

Scriptures also predicted that the nation of Israel will return some day to the land. Not just a portion of Israel will return, but all of Israel. Their return started in 1945 and continues to this day.

And say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations, and they will no longer be divided into two kingdoms. (NASB) Ezekiel 37:21-22

The tribes are coming together and the end times are upon us.

If all of the tribes are not already in Israel, the book of Revelation reveals a wonderful fact. They will all be in the land some day before the end of the world comes. The book of Revelation tells us that God will seal 12,000 Jews from each of the twelve tribes of Israel in the end times (Revelation 7:4-8). The book of Revelation prophesies that 144,000 witnesses will be present in the tribulation. Here is a list of all of the tribes of Israel from Revelation 7.

And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: . . . Judah, . . . Reuben, . . . Gad, . . . Asher, . . . Naphtali, . . . Manasseh, . . . Simeon, . . . Levi, . . . Issachar, . . . Zebulun, . . . Joseph, . . . Benjamin . . . Revelation 7:4-8 (NASB)

Everyone of the tribes exists today some where in the world. Praise the Lord Jesus. Come quickly!


The experience of Israel and Judah are spiritual messages for us. God will deal with each us differently when we sin. Each day we receive blessings from Him. His blessings are rich and precious. He meets our daily needs in so many ways. Yet we often forget and become more interested in the things He gives us. We worship His gifts. We are not willing to serve Him because we are more interested in His presents. We fail to worship because we love the music He allows us to create, and the list can go on. So He disciplines us to get our attention because He wants our eyes only on Him. Let us ask Him to help us keep our eyes on Him.


Suggested Links:

Love In The Darkness!
Jesus’ Dedication