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The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel

28 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS SEPTEMBER 1984 THE LOST TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL By Dr. Aziz Ahmad Chaudhri DISPERSAL OF THE LOST TEN TRIBES King Solomon was succeeded by his son Rehoboam in 920 B.C. During his reign Jeroboam rebelled and the Hebrew nation became divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel including all ten tribes except Judah and Benjamin which comprised the southern Kingdom of Judah also known as Judea. Samaria became the capital of Kingdom of Israel and Jerusalem was capital of Kingdom of Judah. Now Assyria became a threat to the political power of Israel. Assyrians under Tiglath Pileser III (745-727 B.C.) invaded and con- quered Israel and carried some inhabitants to Assyria. Thus began the captivity and deportation of the Ten Tribes. There was a revolt against the Assyrians, as a result Shalmanser IV invaded the country. He was followed by Sargan who successfully completed the seige and carried almost all the remainder of the Ten Tribes into captivity from which they never returned. The captive tribes were deported to Assyria, Mesopotamia, and Media. Henceforth, these ten tribes were known as the ‘Lost Tribes’. The Kingdom of Judah became a tributary of Assyria but it escaped destruction. Assyrian power was followed by the Babylo- nian Empire of Chaldeans. The Judean Kingdom refused to submit to Babylon as it had to Assyria. The Babylonian King Nebuchad- nezzar invaded and destroyed the Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C. Jerusalem was sacked, Solomon’s temple was burned and most of inhabitants of Judah were made captives and deported to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was extremely cruel to captives, both of Judah and of Israel, who as a result of the defeat of Assyrians became his prisoners. Cyrus the Great, the founder of Persian Empire, conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and next year he issued a proclamation emanci- pating the Jews. About fifty thousand Jews returned to Palestine led by Zerubbabel. Later, a group led by Ezra also returned. Contrary to the decree of Cyrus, all the Jews were not allowed to return as it was feared that by so doing it would depopulate his possessions. SEPTEMBER 1984 LOST TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL 29 Thus a great majority remained in captivity. Among Persian kings, Darius Hystapis invaded India with a large army. His kingdom extended to Afghanistan in the east. The Persian Empire was broken up by the Bactrians, the Sytheans, and the Par- thians. The Parthian empire extended westward from Jehlum River in India. At times considerable portions of Afghanistan and Nor- thern India were under a single rule. In the 4th century B.C. came the conquests of Alexander the Great. History tells us that Assyrians and Babylonians led their armies up to Afganistan (or Bactria) and the adjoining regions in the northeast, but Persians, Greeks, Sythians, and Parthians entered India also. In India most of these conquests remained confined to Northwestern regions, viz., Punjab and Indus Valley. With the varying fortunes of great empires which flourished in the East and with their wars and advancing armies, Israelite tribes in Assyria and Babylon, which did not return to Palestine, became dispersed further east. In those early days one of the objectives of war was the amassing of a great population for manual labor and the creation of new centers of civilization and trade. In this way, walled cities were constructed, canals were excavated, huge palaces and other great monuments were built. Thus in the ancient world the movements of people were generally compulsory. Sometimes these settlements for the captives were made in the territories which had become depopulated due to destruction and dispersal. It is this process which displaced the captive Israelite tribes further East to regions of Afghanistan and the adjoining regions of Balkh, Bokhara, Samarkand, Khorasan, and Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan and the adjacent region of Kashmir which is now divided between India and Pakistan. The people of Afghanistan and Kashmir trace their origin to Bani Israel (children of Israel or Israelites) and thus are desendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel. The remnants of Israelite tribes, of course, were still to be found in Mesopotamia and in countries further west. It is a significant fact that the Jews in Palestine, Arabia, Turkey, Mesopotamia, and Persia, call themselves ‘Yehudi’ (Jews) while those from Persia on- wards call themselves ‘Bani Israel’ (children of Israel). Dr. Joseph Wolff1 writes that he came across Israelites in Persia, Kurdistan, Khorasan, Kokand, Bokhara, and Samarkand. He esti- mated that in Bokhara they were ten thousand in number. Dr. Wolff mentions that among the Israelites of Bokhara there was a strong 30 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS SEPTEMBER 1984 tradition that some of the ten tribes were also to be found in China. Francis Bernier,2 writing in 1664 A.D., mentioned that certain Jesuit fathers of his time had come across Israelites in China and Tibet. Apparently they had entered these regions from India. In India itself we have Bani Israel in Bombay and on the Malabar Coast. Thus, the ten tribes never returned to Palestine. The return of these ten tribes is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament. On the contrary it is stated: “So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.” (II Kings, 17:23) Zachariah, speaking of Israel in the 4th year of King Darius, said that God had scattered them among all the nations and that no man had passed through or returned to their own land. It would be correct to say that after this the Old Testament and Western historians lose all traces of the Ten Tribes. Sir Thomas Holditch writes in ‘The Gates of India’, “with the final overthrow of the Assyrian Kingdom, we lose sight of the Ten Tribes of Israel who for more than a century had been mingled with the people of Mesopotamia and Armenia. At least history holds no record of their national existence.” (p. 49) Ignoring the vague speculation of some western writers, the whereabouts of the ten tribes have remained a mystery to them and it has indeed baffled them. In the Apocryphal Second book of Esdras, it is stated that the Ten Tribes had not returned to their own land but had left their place of captivity for a place which was’farther away from their own land and they travelled for a year and a half to go to this place which is called ‘Asareth.’ (11 Esdras 13:36-39) In a book known as Tabagat-i-Nasiri, it is stated that in the time of Shansabi dynasty, a people called Bani Israel (children of Israel) usedto live in Asareth and were engaged in trade. Thomas Ledlie in his book, More Ledlian, writing on the origins of Afghans, gives strong reasons for connecting Asareth with Hazara District in the NWF Province of Pakistan which adjoins the territory of Kashmir. Josephus records a speech of King Agrippa to the Jews wherein he exhorted them to submit to Romans: “What! Do you stretch your hopes beyond the river Euphartes? SEPTEMBER 1984 LOST TEN TRIBES OF ISRAEL 31 Do any one of you think that your fellow tribes will come to your aid out of Adiabene? Besides, if they would, the Parthians would not permit them.” (Josephus, Antiq., XI, V:2) It is apparent from this oration by a King of the Jews that even at that tune, the ten tribes were captive beyond Euphrates and under the Parthians. Even Josephus himself tells us that so late as his time, (1st century A.D.), the ten tribes “were still beyond the Euphrates, an immense multitude and not to be estimated by numbers”. St. Jerome, who wrote in 5th century A.D., while discussing the ‘Dispersion of Israel’ in his notes on Hosea, said: “Until this day the ten tribes are subjects to the Kings of the Per- sians, nor has their captivity ever been loosened.” Again in another connection he wrote: “The ten tribes inhabit at this day the cities and mountains of Medes”. Dr. Alfred Edersheim in his book, The Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah, writes about the ten tribes: “In general it is of greatest importance to remember in regard to the Eastern Dispersion that only a minority of the Jews, consisting in all of about 50,000 originally returned from Babylon, first under Zorobabel and afterwards under Ezra (537 B.C. and 459 B.C. respectively). Nor was their inferiority confined to numbers only. The wealthiest and more influential of the Jews remained behind. According to Josephus with whom Philo substantially agrees, vast numbers, estimated at millions, inhabited the Trans-Euphrates provinces … the great mass of the ten tribes was in the days of Christ, as in our own times, lost to the Hebrew nation”, (p.8,16) JESUS AND THE LOST TEN TRIBES As these lost ten tribes had not returned by the time of Jesus, He spoke of them as “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and as “the children of God who are scattered abroad” and as “other sheep”. Thus we read in the Gospels: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24) “But to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:52) “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice and there shall be one 32 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS SEPTEMBER 1984 fold and one shepherd.” (John 10:16) In these quotations he alludes to his future journey to the East, in the post crucifixion period, in search of these lost tribes of Israel and to preach them. Jesus, in post crucifixion period, left Palestine and travelled eastwards through Iraq and Persia to Afghanistan and later entered Northwest India and eventually settled in Kashmir for the reason that most inhabitants in Afghanistan and Kashmir were Isreaelites, descendents of lost tribes. REFERENCES 1. Dr. Joseph Wolff, Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara in the years 1843-1845, 2. Francis Bernier, Journey to Kashmir, the Paradise of the Indians, p.171. A CHARACTER SKETCH OF THE PROMISED MESSIAH (continued from page 24) may be. Often the other members of the assembly get completely tired of the story, and begin to yawn and show other signs of weari- ness, but no movement of the Promised Messiah betrays any feeling of annoyance and vexation He always answers mildly questions about religion and about his own claims, no matter however rudely one speaks to him on these subjects. His endeavor is to coolly bring his point home to the enquirer. One day there came to our mosque a man from Central India who was proud of his learning and professed to have seen much of the world. He spoke very insolently to the Promised Messiah concerning his claims and shortly after commencing his con- versation with him, said to him, “You are a liar. I have seen many such impostors and carry many deceivers like you under my arms.” Though he went on speaking very insolently, yet there appeared not a wrinkle on the face of the Promised Messiah. He listened very calmly and when it was his turn to speak, he replied to him very mildly and coolly.