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"Lost Tribe" Returns to Israel

from the September 11, 2007 eNews issue

An Indian tribe called the Bnei Menashe, which means "children of Manasseh," have for many years claimed to be one of the "lost tribes" of Israel. They say they are the descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, who fled Israel on trade routes to India after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom. Earlier this month a group of 230 Bnei Menashe arrived in Israel – they came with tourist visas, but plan to seek Israeli citizenship. Approximately 1,000 Bnei Menashe have moved to the Holy Land since 1994, and there are about 7,000 who still live in India, who could eventually immigrate to Israel.

In March of 2005 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that all conversions performed outside of Israel would be recognized by the authorities under the Law of Return. Two months after the Supreme Court's decision, Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar publicly recognized the Bnei Menashe as part of the lost tribe of Manasseh. Since then, hundreds of members of India's Bnei Menashe community have formally converted to Orthodox Judaism. By converting, the Bnei Menashe will then be able to immigrate to Israel and obtain citizenship under the Law of Return. The Law of Return was passed five years after the end of World War II to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Israel.

There are many groups that believe the northern tribes, separated during the rift between Rehoboam and Jeroboam after the death of Solomon (and subsequently taken captive by Assyria in 722 BC), later migrated to Europe and elsewhere. The myth of the ten lost tribes is the basis for British-Israelism and other colorful legends, but these stories have no real Biblical basis. They are based upon misconceptions derived from the misreading of various Bible passages (2 Kings 17:7-23, 2 Chronicles 6:6-11).

The "tribe of Judah" (2 Kings 17:18) is used idiomatically for the Southern Kingdom. When encountering the tribal designations, it is important to distinguish between the territories allocated to the tribes and the people themselves. Before the Assyrian captivity, substantial numbers from the northern tribes had identified themselves with the house of David. The rebellion of Jeroboam and subsequent crises caused many to repudiate the Northern Kingdom and unite with the Southern Kingdom in a common alliance to the house of David and a desire to worship the Lord in Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 36 and 37 declares that Judah and Israel shall be joined as one in the regathering. This is true today. Ezekiel's famed vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones is unquestionably the monumental Biblical fulfillment of the 20th century. Beginning in the last half of the 19th century, the regathering, which climaxed in the establishment of the State of Israel, is one of the most irrefutable evidences that we are on threshold of God's climax for the nations.

For more information on this subject read the article titled "Mystery of the Myth: The Ten Lost Tribes" on our website (link below). Also our Expositional Commentary on Joshua contains a detailed exploration of this common misconception.


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