All of us have experienced that feeling we have when we realize that the way we have always seen something turns out to be wrong. I am embarrassed to admit one particular example in my own life. It involves the ten lost tribes of Israel. These tribes made up the northern part of the chosen people of God.
For years I was told, and simply accepted, that these tribes were taken by the Assyrians into captivity in 722 BC. These tribes never returned to the land of Israel. The few who were left in the land married pagans and became the Samaritans. The rest were absorbed among the nations. These tribes basically ceased to exist as Jews.
The southern part of God’s people became known as Judah. Judah was made up of two tribes. They too went into captivity, but to Babylon. They returned 70 years later and kept their Jewish identity. They were not lost to history.
In my ignorance, I saw these 12 tribes as blocs. There were monolithic. All in the ten northern tribes were taken away or intermarried and were thus lost. The two southern tribes all retained their Jewish identity and were saved from extinction. It amazes me that I had such a narrow view of things.
That is not how the world works. How many of the Jews in the northern tribes had moved to the south before the Assyrian captivity? How many fled to the south when the Assyrians attacked the north? How many remained in the north and survived the attack and moved to the south when given the opportunity? These would not have been taken into captivity or intermarried with pagans in the north. All these Jews would have become citizens in the south and been a part of the Jews that belonged to Judah. They would be a part of the Jews who were not “lost” to history. In other words, the ten lost tribes of Israel were no more lost than the two southern tribes.
We have seen this throughout history. When there are wars, refugees flee to neighboring countries. People flow between borders constantly. We are presently seeing this in Ukraine today.
I was a little jolted recently when I realized how simplistic my former view was in this area. In Jer 41:5, we are told that 80 men had come from the north to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem in the south. We can assume women and children were a part of this group as well, so the number was even greater. The problem is that this occurs almost 150 years after the Jews in the north had been defeated by the Assyrians. I didn’t know what to do with all these people. What category do they belong in? They weren’t supposed to be there. I thought they had been lost forever.
We are not told. Perhaps they were Jews who had lived in the south but had migrated to the north after the Assyrians left years before. These would have included Jews who had previously been living in the north, members of the northern tribes, who had earlier fled from the violence. What is striking is that they still are coming to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. They are mourning the loss of the temple there. Such Jews existed. It is a certainty that some would have migrated to the south at various times during the years since 722 BC. Farmers, for example, would move if better land was available in the south.
In Rev 7:4-8, we are told that God will seal 144,000 Jews in the last days. These include Jews from the ten “lost” tribes. Sometimes I am asked how that can happen. Didn’t all those tribes disappear to history? Didn’t they cease to exist? After all, they were all either taken to Assyria or became Samaritans.
For a long time, that was a difficult question. But it was because of my simplistic view of history. Those ten tribes were not lost. They exist, just like the two southern tribes do.
Even if you have always recognized what I didn’t, this is a simple lesson for all of us. We all have preconceived notions of things in the Word of God. These things can hinder us from interpreting certain parts of the Scriptures. We need to be willing to change what we think is correct. These 80 men from the north were screaming out to me that my view of things was defective. May we all allow the Word of God to do that for us.