When I say that the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were never lost, I mean exactly that, for the Bible teaches exactly that. I do not deny that in the year 732 BCE, the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and deported many of the inhabitants to the region of the Khabur River system in Assyria/Mesopotamia. Nor do I deny that in the year 720 BCE Assyria again invaded Israel and carried off the majority of the population, but that there was a remnant left in the land.
Let’s examine the key text. 2 Chronicles 30 is set in the year 715 BCE during the reign of the great and good King Hezekiah. It was a time of renewal, reform and restoration of religious practice and worship in Judah. (2Ki 18:4; 2Ch 29:3-36).
2 Chronicles 30
1 Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel. 2 For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the Passover in the second month— 3 for they could not keep it at that time because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient number, nor had the people assembled in Jerusalem— 4 and the plan seemed right to the king and all the assembly. 5 So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people should come and keep the Passover to the LORD, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem, for they had not kept it as often as prescribed. 6 So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the LORD God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. 8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” ESV
V 1. “Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh…”
V 5. “So they decreed to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan…”
The key geographic and tribal terms to take note of are, all Israel, Ephram and Manasseh and from Beersheba to Dan.
All Israel would refer to the Northern Kingdom consisted of mainly what would become known as the Ten Lost Tribes as opposed to Judah the Southern Kingdom consisted of the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin and many Levites.
Ephraim and Manasseh, descended from the two sons of Joseph, held territory on both sides of the Jordan river are specifically mentioned.
The key territorial term from Beersheba to Dan refers to the settled areas of the Tribes of Israel between Dan in the North and Beersheba in the South. In more recent history the term contributed to the position that was used by British politicians during negotiation of the British Mandate for Palestine following World War I.
V 6. “O people of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria.”
This is the direct statement that there was a remnant of the ten tribes who eluded capture and were present in the land of their forefathers.
V 9. “For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him…”
Another direct statement that there were people taken into captivity, that there was a remnant which escaped capture and a hope for their return if they would turn to the LORD their God.
Let’s continue with verses 10-12.
10 So the couriers went from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. 11 However, some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD.
The Great and Good King reached out to the people who were not part of his kingdom even though he considered them as heirs of the covenant and the commonwealth of Israel, but alas the majority mocked his messengers and laughed them to scorn. This may sound familiar to some of my readers, but note this there were some who responded, men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem for the Passover. Although unconsecrated and thus ceremonially unclean, they nevertheless prepared their hearts and those of their families to the LORD and He is gracious and merciful and will not turn away His face from you, if you return to Him.
So in conclusion the Ten Lost Tribes were never lost. There were many people taken into captivity and this was the beginning of the Diaspora, the scattering of the seed of Israel amongst the nations, but God always maintains and sustains a remnant of His people who seek Him. God alone knows who are His and He will have mercy upon whom He chooses to show mercy, He will have compassion on whom He chooses to show compassion for He is the One God.
In closing I’d like to quote Hezekiah’s prayer,
“May the good LORD pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.”